'Saloon bar politics' by Ukip could harm Britain's climate change credibility and drag Tories to right on environment, warns minister

Energy Secretary blames recent upturn in climate change scepticism on a sustained campaign by 'vested interests'

The rise of Ukip risks fuelling climate change scepticism as Conservative politicians embrace the populist “saloon bar” politics of Nigel Farage’s party, the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, has warned.

Mr Davey blamed a recent upturn in climate change scepticism on a sustained campaign by “vested interests” supported by some sections of the media, and warned it could damage Britain’s credibility in the global debate on global warming.

“There is a danger, with Ukip peddling an anti-climate-change message, that the right of the Conservative Party might also be dragged that way,” the Liberal Democrat minister told The Independent.

“Public support is chipped away if the populist politicians refuse to  engage with the evidence of the science and just ignore it. Theirs [Ukip] is a saloon bar opposition to anything that challenges the status quo. Saloon bar politicians want to give you easy answers – they don’t want to say that things here have to change,” Mr Davey said.

Mr Davey made his comments less than a week after David Cameron appointed George Eustice, a prominent opponent of onshore wind farms and a former Ukip party member, as his new adviser on energy and climate change issues.

And his warning comes at a time of escalating tension within the Tories between the Prime Minister’s modernising allies  and more right-wing activists, following comments attributed to party co-chairman Lord Feldman, describing party members as “swivel-eyed loons”. Lord Feldman has denied making such comments.

Asked if he thought Chancellor George Osborne – with whom Mr Davey has had some well-documented disagreements – was among the climate sceptics, Mr Davey told The Independent: “I’ve never seen evidence to that effect.”

Mr Davey would not comment on who he thought was leading the charge at Ukip. But he said: “Nigel Farage does encapsulate a lot of what Ukip stands for... Ukip have not got some detailed analysis or thought-through position on this [climate change], like so many other things.”

Ukip is sceptical about the existence of man-made climate change and would scrap all subsidies for renewable energy. It would also cancel all wind farm developments, preferring fracking and nuclear power.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Any Questions last October, Mr Farage attacked Mr Cameron for “this loopy idea that we can cover Britain in ugly, disgusting, ghastly windmills and that somehow our energy needs will come from that”.

Mr Davey said climate change scepticism was “nonsense”, adding:  “Given that the evidence is pretty overwhelming and given the risk, why wouldn’t you act? That’s what I find so odd about the climate change sceptics.

“I’m concerned about the general public who are getting conflicting messages and understandably they’re not sure who is telling the truth. You get less prestigious scientists claiming they have evidence, but when the evidence is analysed, you see it doesn’t quite say what they were suggesting,” he said. Mr Davey added that tackling climate change is a global issue, rather than a UK or European one.

“I want Britain to play a lead role as a persuader for change globally. The damage that the anti-science people place to that is that the UK’s voice globally will be weakened,” he said.

Growing climate scepticism in the UK will also make it harder for Mr Davey to increase the amount of  energy that Britain generates from low-carbon sources such as wind  and solar, which are often more  expensive than using fossil fuel-powered gas and coal plants. Mr Davey  defended the Coalition’s often-derided record on green energy, saying  the Energy Bill that is currently passing through Parliament represented a ground-breaking achievement,  providing a strong legal and financial framework upon which to build  a secure, low-carbon electricity supply.

In contrast to some of the  comments made by the Tories and Ukip, Mr Davey said that he would happily live next to a wind farm. “It depends where they are. Some windfarms look good and some are inappropriately sited,” he said.

Mr Davey also warned that shale gas would not provide the answer to all of the UK’s energy needs. Shale gas is produced by the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has been linked to earthquakes and water pollution.

The UK potentially has vast quantities of shale gas, although it is not yet known how much of this can be extracted on a commercially viable basis.

However, Mr Davey said that even if there was to be a shale gas revolution, it would still be necessary to substantially increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources.

Ukip energy spokesman Roger Helmer, said; “Both in the UK and across Europe climate scepticism is setting in. There is a lot of pressure from European business to relax pointless and vastly expensive energy policies”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own