Cameron could cash in on Labour failures, says aide

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A senior Tory has urged David Cameron to beef up his policies on the environment to expose Tony Blair's failures and enable the Tories to outflank Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the issue.

Tim Yeo, the former shadow environment and transport secretary, said: "Tony Blair is all talk and no action on climate change. He has talked a good game but he hasn't done a lot.

"The environment reaches out to all kinds of people, young and old, and across political boundaries. It is a natural Conservative issue. David [Cameron] would score a really big hit by saying it would be right at the centre of his policy-making and the Tory party's next election manifesto.

"It would be another way of showing this is a different Tory party. It would show we have turned our back on the last eight years. We can capture moral policy and international leadership on it."

Mr Cameron, who is the favourite to become Tory leader next month, has promised to set up a cross-party commission to create a consensus on measures to combat climate change, to implement statutory annual cuts in carbon emissions and to create an independent carbon audit office.

While Mr Yeo said he was encouraged by these policies, he urged Mr Cameron to be bolder. "Setting up a commission sounds a tiny bit as though we are going to think of some policies, some of which will be painful, but we aren't going to say what they are just yet.

"I think the public is ready to accept this is not a cost-free option. The Government has been a bit dishonest by saying you can have cheap energy, security of supply and meet your green commitments."

Mr Yeo, who is backing Mr Cameron in the contest with David Davis, said: "One of the things he will be judged by in mid-term is whether we have increased our appeal to young people. They will be looking for explicit policy commitments. It is not enough to say this is very important and we are going to do better at it than the Government has."

The former environment minister said the Tories should support a new generation of nuclear power stations; raise the tax on forms of transport that are high carbon emitters while cutting tax on low emitters; speed up the introduction of low or zero carbon emission residential and commercial buildings; and require local authorities to take account of climate change when making decisions such as the site of new homes. Mr Yeo also endorsed a new tax on aviation fuel.

He said: "The era of cheap flights to the Mediterranean is going to coming to an end. It is unsustainable. Of course, people don't want it. It is going to put up the price of flying. But equally, if we don't tackle aviation, we will have no credibility at all on climate change."

He said it was "deplorable" that Mr Blair had failed to use Britain's spell in the presidency of the G8 and European Union to put climate change at the top of the international agenda.

Mr Yeo also criticised the Prime Minister's failure to push George Bush into action on climate change and played down the importance of the dialogue he has started with the US, China and India, which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol.

"He has given the Americans a cop out to hide his own failures," Mr Yeo said.