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« David Cameron's parliamentary support reaches 100 | Main | David Davis focuses on education (again) »

Comments

Ian Sider

"Completely agree - it is a good thing. We must stake our claim to this issue, take it seriously, have convincing solutions. A "powerful new body" isn't one of them!"

Dear Buxtehude -- glad you're signed up to the green conserative cause, but there is a very sound argument for a "powerful new body" which is to make sure that the carbon abatement plans that Parliament has democratically implemented actually get implemented. Just as politicians used to monkey around with the interest rates for short term political gain, so will they do the same with any long-term commitment to reduce emissions.

If the private sector is to make the necessary investments in clean energy technologies, then they need to be sure that ministers won't suddenly discount the price of carbon. Hence the rationale for an MPC style body.

If anyone has a workable alternative, I'd very much like to hear it.

Michael McGowan

Some of the contributors to this blog should read an article that the FT's Martin Wolff wrote a few years back on climate change. Wolff can hardly be accused of being a neocon but he made the point that not only were Kyoto-style targets doomed to failure and crippingly expensive (hence the rock solid bipartisan opposition to them in Congress) but the money could be much better spent in terms of alleviating the impact of climate change. Oliver Letwin and David Cameron would be well-advised to read that article.

loyal_tory

For a while it looked like the Cameron campaign would make up for having no tax proposals as the tax burden in this country heads for a 25-year high by being tough on regulations but now it seems that is except when it involves trying to impress the media that the party has moved to that nebulous destination "the middle ground."

At least we now know Cameron's reason for keeping quiet about policy. We don't want policy in our party decided to please the media. It is the job of the Conservative Party leader to communicate the right policies, not create them to buy sympathetic coverage. It became clear today that this is not going to work.

Note to Cameron: successful Tory leaders do not pander in this way. This is a continuation of the cynical years of 1992-2005, not the fresh start we were promised. Winning requires finding the best way to say what needs to be said, not saying what people want to hear to become likeable. At least now we know how he intends to change party policy to keep the media happy.

Derek

I'm with Deckchair, Michael McGowan, and Buxt. Unless all the main nations of the world can agree, which looks exceedingly unlikely, then restricting our own economy in this way is like shooting ourselves in the foot, while India, China and the US etc steam ahead.

Personally I have little or no faith in the ability of commissions to accurately measure and control the emission of anything. The statistics produced will be about as reliable as the EU audit.

Daniel Vince-Archer

"The money could be much better spent in terms of alleviating the impact of climate change."

But Michael M, this will do nothing to address the growing problem of climate change. The result would be endlessly increasing investment in curing the symptoms of the problem rather than addressing the causes of the problem, which will be far more cost-effective and far less damaging in the long-term. What you're saying is akin to arguing that it's ok to play with matches if you've spent lots of money on fire extinguishers, when in reality it is so much cheaper, easier and safer to not play with those matches in the first place.

"At least we now know Cameron's reason for keeping quiet about policy."

You might also like to consider how successful Cameron was when he did have something to say about policy - i.e. when he was Head of Party Policy Co-ordination with a key role in drafting the 2005 manifesto.

Rob

"If anyone has a workable alternative, I'd very much like to hear it."

How about, forget about this pointless quango, scrap kyoto, then reduce regulation and taxes on industry, creating a much more dynamic economy that will help drive research and initiative through competition and helping technology improve quicker at the same time as being good for the economy as a whole. Then the new technology, in time, will lead to cleaner sources of energy. Lets try and be a bit more optimistic people! For so called 'modernisers' you are a pessimistic bunch.

Yet another Anon

There needs to be more acceptance that climate changes caused naturally, caused by human activity and that for which the causes are either mixed or not clear will occur and all political parties should be considering how to deal with this - changes in precipitation, in amounts of UV light reaching the ground and in temperature and the nature of the seasons affects animals and plants, birds can fly in and seeds get blown into the country and carried by birds but what about other animal life - climate change may mean that many species are unable to adapt fast enough and it may even be neccessary to consider deliberately establishing plants and animals suitable for a new climate or genetically modifying such organisms to adapt them to the new situation.

In addition should building be taking place in flood plains, is it maybe time to consider deurbanising many low lying areas and building high - world sea level rises could be anything up to 100 metres on average and the British mainland is tilting because of changes in the weight on the UK due to the melting of the glaciers at the end of the Ice Age - roughly the North West is rising (some of the Scottish Islands aren't linked to the mainland and so some are not - some are even dropping in level) and the South East is sinking by a small amount every year, groundwater levels in London are rising - it may well be desirable to relocate Parliament to somewhere high and dry such as Buxton, Macclesfield or Farnborough.

buxtehude

Ian Sider, yes I do agree that green issues should be part of the Conservative platform. But I worry at your suggestion (and Cameron's) that we need a new body "to make sure that the carbon abatement plans that Parliament has democratically implemented actually get implemented."

If Parliament wants to do something, it must make sure it gets done. How many bodies do you need to keep creating? The Electoral Commission is there to ensure that the electoral process is safeguarded, but its recommendations are ignored when they don't suit the government.

So do you have another new body on top of that?

Either Parliament has the will, or it doesn't. The comparison with interest rates is not apposite. Interest rates are an instrument that is potentially adjusted on a monthly basis. It therefore used to be, by its very nature, liable to becoming a creature of short-term political interest.

But carbon emission targets are not adjusted month by month. Nor are they noticed by the public in the same way. If the government wants to stick to the targets, or ignore them, will not be affected in the same way.

buxtehude

Anyway, why not let "powerful new bodies" do everything else? They could set tax rates too. They could sort out the pensions crisis. They could oversee policy development in general. Why, they could even decide who should be a parliamentary candidate, and indeed the leader.

We are a democracy. That's why we don't set up "powerful new bodies" whenever something is controversial or tricky. But maybe Cameron just wants to be an attractive figurehead?

Yet another Anon

Targets will achieve nothing, what there needs to be is a focus on moving away from non-renewable fossil fuels and reductions in emmissions of Greenhouse Gases will likely occur as a result, history is littered with targets that are never met - Dubya is not signing up to Kyoto but is on the other hand pushing the development of renewables and embarking on a massive nuclear power programme. The US Congress and the American people would not have supported him if he had signed up to a number of targets anyway and he knows it.

There is a problem with Hydro-Electric in that it turns out that the rising and falling water levels allows plants to grow in the reservoirs and then die as the levels on the reservoirs change and as the vegetation rots it produces Methane so there renewable sources of energy aren't neccessarily environmentally friendly and adoption of such technologies has to be research based not simply on blind faith.

EU Serf

Love it

.....Added to that the rate of technological discoveries has been slowing year on year since the late 1800s and there is no way that something is just going to spring up out of the blue......

Wasp has been living in some parallel universe whilst the rest of us have been enjoying increasingly comfortable lives driven by accelerating technological change.

Those who think this is a good idea, read Lomborg, please.

Another piece of proof if it were needed that Cameron is not much of an improvement on Our Dear Leader.

Green Tory

Credit where it's due. Cameron has spotted that lots of people think this is an important issue, but they don't trust politicians because they keep flip-flopping, won't answer questions and are obsessed with spin. Establishing an armslength body like this could be the most revolutionary step since Ted Heath set up the Dept of the Environment.

wasp

No technological change has not accelerated.

Technological advances were at their most rapid during the C19th. Most of the changes that have happened since have been adaptations of pre-existing technology.

Given that Germany has recently stopped its windmill programme because they are rubbish and that the potential for geo-thermal,wave and tidal power is exceedingly limited. We are left with the fantasy of hydrogen power and fuel cells. The only realistic technology is fuel from waste / biofuels.

The technology agenda is a pathetic and cowardly excuse for doing nothing.

Daniel Vince-Archer

"Establishing an armslength body like this could be the most revolutionary step since Ted Heath set up the Dept of the Environment."

The difference is that the Environment Secretary and his/her Ministers (unless they're taken from the Lords) are elected and well-paid to make the decisions that matter on the environment, supported by an army of well-paid, unelected, unaccountable but (supposedly) politically neutral civil servants, NOT to fritter away even more of the taxpayers' money by palming off their responsabilities onto an unelected, unaccountable quango, which will either be ignored or stuffed full of pro-government yes-men. If the Environment Secretary (or Shadow Environment Secretary, for that matter) and his/her staff aren't capable of doing their job, they should be replaced by people that are capable instead of dodging their responsibilities by shifting their workload onto an unelected, unaccountable quango.

Daniel Vince-Archer

Sorry, 'responsabilities' should read 'responsibilities'.

Michael McGowan

There are good reasons for being environmentally conscious. Reducing air and noise pollution and disease. Minimising landfill and non-biodegradable waste. Not becoming reliant on energy sources in unstable parts of the world. Reducing global warming is not one of them....yet DC is marching down that cul de sac because it is fashionable to do so. Even if you accept the (highly controversial) science of climate change, the whole approach based on targets would require astronomical expenditure in order to reduce temperatures many decades hence by a fraction of one degree. Even that assumes worldwide co-operation on this issue....which there won't be because China and India, the US and Australia don't accept these targets or the exorbitant cost associated with meeting them.

Simon C

Back from Sunny Spain, to discover, on reading DC's speech, that it contained a bare fraction of the insight and detail that is to be found on our Editor's 10-point briefing on this self-same subject several months ago. (Tim, perhaps you could put a link in?).


This is not an issue I feel qualified to be too emphatic about. My sense though is that the science is not as clear-cut as the more vociferous greens would have us believe. I am intrigued by the way that the language has moved over time from "global warming" to "climate change" - and possibly now to "abrupt climate-change". It smacks more of goalposts being shifted rather than the clarity that comes from better understanding.

But this whole area of policy is inextricably enmeshed with our long-term energy requirements - and there was scarecely a mention of that in DC's speech. Still in mourning as I am for Liam Fox's campaign, I should point out that, had he remained in the race, his next speech would have been on energy policy. I would like to have heard it.

I am naturally sceptical, though, of commissions & reviews. Too often they are used as an excuse for indecision & inaction.

In passing - the Southern Atlantic coast of Spain - the Costa de Luz, west of Gibraltar - is covered with wind turbines. Not a pretty sight. Does any one know how much energy they generate & how the real cost compares with other sources of power? The wind farms there are on such a large scale, dwarfing any I have seen over here, that they must provide a reasonable a reasonable evidence base & cost comparator. There is always an issue of separating the real cost from subsidy.

Ian Sider

First a response to Rob:

"How about, forget about this pointless quango, scrap kyoto, then reduce regulation and taxes on industry, creating a much more dynamic economy that will help drive research and initiative through competition and helping technology improve quicker at the same time as being good for the economy as a whole. Then the new technology, in time, will lead to cleaner sources of energy."

Without a mechanism to price in the cost of carbon, the market will reward the cheapest source of energy not the cleanest. In the absence of a breakthrough on the scale of cold fusion, fossil fuels will remain the cheapest option. In particular, the Chinese and Indians, sitting on top of massive coal deposits, will find that the cheapest energy source is also the dirtiest. Even if we find an reasonably economic method of carbon capture and storage, it will still be more expensive than building coal plant without CCS. And that brings us back to the need to price in the cost of carbon, which will require regulation, and international treaties (if we want a globally consistent price of carbon).

Now a response to Buxtehude:

"We are a democracy. That's why we don't set up "powerful new bodies" whenever something is controversial or tricky."

Our climate change commitments would be arrived at democratically. But it is precisely because of their long-term nature that an objective mode of implementation is vital. It's no use ministers dropping targets overnight (as Labour have done repeatedly) after businesses have made major investments on that basis.

Finally a response to Yet Another Anon:

"Targets will achieve nothing"

Demonstrably false. The progress that has been made on renewables and energy efficiency is down to the targets required of Kyoto signatories. It is not enough progress, of course -- but then the targets aren't ambitious and their implementation subject to political whim. As for US progress on climate change, that has been made due to targets set at state level (such as California's draconion clean car legislation).

buxtehude

"Credit where it's due. Cameron has spotted that lots of people think this is an important issue, but they don't trust politicians because they keep flip-flopping, won't answer questions and are obsessed with spin."

Yes, it could possibly win a few green votes (though I doubt it), but it might just as easily lose a few votes (which I also doubt). The important thing is, it's wrong.

"Establishing an armslength body like this could be the most revolutionary step since Ted Heath set up the Dept of the Environment." Obviously it wasn't revolutionary enough, or we wouldn't need Cameron's "powerful new body". And do you think the Environment Agency won Heath any votes?

michael

Bux, it would help change the impression of Conservatives as caring too much about tax, immigration, europe etc. What wins votes, is not so much individual policies, but how they contribute to the brand. People cast their votes as a reflection of their own values and aspirations.

I like the way Cameron is broadening out his "sharing" message. This is clearly a theme which will run through policies and help provide that elusive narrative we've been missing for too long.

It's great stuff.

loyal_tory

But when are we going to hear about some conservative policies that contribute to the brand/sharing narrative?

Everyone wants a sharing narrative in addition to one that reflects people's individual concerns. The question is what content should that include? Davis's lack of imagination is one problem. But Cameron's lack of conservative ideas is too. That is also a big problem.

We get vague aspirations that encompass multiple policy positions when we ask about conservative content and then suddenly a policy commitment arrives that could have been made by the other two parties.

Rob

Responding to Ian Sider's response to me-

thats exactly why further tax incentives for cleaner technologies and research would be used. Simple as that.

Ian Sider

The reason why its not as simple is that, Rob, is that investment in energy infrastructure is a long-term commitment. Business is not going to gamble on tax incentives that may be shortlived. Incentives, whether linked to tax or not, need to be embedded within a longterm policy framework of the sort that Oliver Letwin envisages.

John Coulson

Testing 1, 2, 3

Henry Cook

To those who call this initiative a 'quango', its only a 'quango' in so much as the Bank of England is a 'quango', and giving the Bank control of interest rates hasn't exactly been a disaster has it?

I'd also point out that even if people don't think this is the best way to tackle climate change, it is still essential for us to reduce significantly our reliance on fossil fuels, as they will run out eventually. This plan is a clear long-term strategy, the benefits of which will be felt 50 years in the future. As fossil fuels become rarer and their prices soar, we will be in an excellent position if we have already moved onto other energy sources and most other countries are squabbling over the scraps of oil that remain.

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