The greenest government ever

In: Uncategorized

15 May 2010

Both the new British prime minister has claimed the Liberal-Conservative coalition is going to be the greenest government ever. I fear he is probably right.

David Cameron made the claim in front of civil servants at the Department of Energy and Climate Change with Chris Huhne, the new minister, at his side – although it was already made in the Conservative manifesto. The prime minister committed the government to the green economy, tackling climate change and energy security. He also announced support for the 10:10 campaign on climate change – including a 10% reduction in carbon emissions in its first year.

Geoffrey Lean, a veteran environmental commentator, endorsed the claim in his column in the Daily Telegraph where he accepted that: “the election and its tumultuous aftermath may well lead to a thoroughgoing greening of British politics”. He went on to outline some of the implications of this statement:

“the coalition agreement between the two parties has no less than 20 environmental commitments, nearly twice as many as in any other area. Unsurprisingly, it pays particular attention to the low-carbon economy, vigorously promoting energy saving and renewable energy over fossil fuels, high-speed rail and electric cars over air travel. Heathrow’s third runway will be scrapped, no new ones will be built at Stansted or Gatwick, and there will be tougher curbs on coal-fired power stations.

“Nuclear power, too, may suffer. The two parties have agreed to differ on it; the concordat allows a “national planning statement” to go before Parliament which paves the way for new plants, although Lib Dem MPs will be able to abstain. And it also promises to establish a floor price for carbon emissions, a key request of the nuclear industry.

“Yet this measure will benefit the renewable sector even more than the nuclear barons, and the new Government – unlike the old one – will make it a clear priority. The Tories are less enthusiastic about the atom than Labour, and the new Government will deny it subsidy; something nuclear power stations have historically needed in order to be built. “

In essence the green government will mean a green packaging for austerity and hostility to any large-scale innovation.

* It is worth noting that the election also brought in Caroline Lucas from Brighton Pavilion constituency as Britain’s Green Party MP. However, given that green ideas are so embedded in the mainstream it is hard to see her making much difference.