Caroline Flint: Cameron's pledges on global warming were only hot air

Share
Related Topics

A few days after the last election, David Cameron made a bold promise: to lead the greenest government ever. In opposition, Cameron brandished his green credentials to show the Conservative Party had changed, and prove he was in touch with young people and everyone who cared about the environment. Arctic photo-shoots were hastily arranged, complete with huskies. The public were exhorted to "vote blue and go green". Eighteen months later, as Chris Huhne, the Climate Change Secretary, jets off to Durban for the latest round of negotiations, all that remains is a trail of broken green promises.

The stakes at Durban could not be higher. We have to make progress on a binding legal global agreement to cut carbon emissions and deliver on climate finance. But the omens are not good. Since the election, Cameron has failed to make a single speech, or attend a single conference, on climate change. He's snubbed next year's landmark Rio+20 conference, even though it was re-arranged to allow him to attend. In Europe, the Government has cosied up with extremists, and opposed controls on oil extracted from tar sands – a notoriously high polluting fuel, which almost every other European country wants to tackle. This, and its lax attitude to arctic drilling, are turning the UK into a clearing house for the world's dirtiest oil projects.

In the Autumn Statement last week, Cameron and George Osborne showed they would rather pander to the Tea Party tendency in the Tory Party – the rump of Tories who either don't believe in climate change or don't think it's worth bothering about – than get serious about tackling climate change. Osborne revelled in his contempt for environmental protections. The funding for carbon capture and storage was quietly shelved. The Green Investment Bank delayed yet again. For all Huhne's handwringing and synthetic clashes with Cabinet colleagues, the Government's failure to deliver on its promise to be the greenest ever is as much his responsibility as anyone else's.

The tragedy, for our economy as much as our environment, is that, far from being a threat to growth, the transition to a low-carbon economy is a huge opportunity for the UK: 800,000 people work in the "green economy", and the global market for low-carbon goods and services could be worth £4trn by 2015, with the potential to create 400,000 new jobs. Last year, when Labour left office, the UK was ranked third in the world for investment in green growth. Today we are 13th, while countries including India and Brazil race ahead. Investment that should be coming to the UK, supporting its jobs, growth and industry, is now going overseas.

At a time when growth is flat-lining and unemployment is rising, the solar industry is actually growing and creating jobs. When we introduced Feed-in Tariffs, there were only 3,000 people working in 450 firms in the sector. Today there are more than 25,000 people, working in 3,000 companies, with the potential for many more. But thousands of jobs and businesses in the industry will go, and nearly nine out of 10 families will be prevented from having solar power – and more control over their energy bills.

The Government has abandoned the centre ground and is completely out of touch. Its lip service to the green agenda was nothing more than a cynical rebranding exercise to trick people into believing the Tories had changed. Even Steve Hilton, Cameron's closest strategist and the architect of his decision to embrace green issues, now admits he's not sure he believes in climate change. Someone should tell David Cameron that a husky is for life, not just for Christmas.

Caroline Flint is Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes