Yesterday, the Conservative Party made the most serious contribution to the environment debate of any political party in this country. The final report of our Quality of Life Policy Group is a blueprint for a Britain that leads the world in fighting climate change and improving people's quality of life.
The report is about three things. First, optimism for a brighter future. Yes, the challenges are huge and change necessary. But when I think of climate change and our response to it, I don't think of doom and gloom. I think of the power of innovation. In Germany, 10 times more people are employed in their renewable energy industry than in ours: those jobs could be over here. And I think all the things that will improve our quality of life: lower congestion, cleaner air, warmer homes, cheaper bills and healthier food.
Second, recognising the need for incentives, not penalties. If we are to take the fight to climate change, we need massive cultural change. But this won't happen with just a system of penalties and punishments. Gordon Brown just doesn't get this. Last December, he raised an extra £1bn a year by doubling air passenger duty. But he offered nothing in return. The Conservative Party recognises that to bring about cultural change, we need to use incentives. That means making sure all new green taxes are replacement taxes, matched with tax reductions elsewhere.
To enforce this, we will establish a "Family Fund", home to all additional revenues from taxes on pollution. This money will only be used to pay for reductions in other taxes. What's more, to make sure it is accountable, the "Family Fund" will be independently audited.
The third thing yesterday's report is all about – and I am all about - is social responsibility. All of mankind has contributed to climate change and all of mankind must take responsibility in combating it. Of course, of all the responsibilities, Government's is the most important. It must take the tough decisions.
If Gordon Brown were really serious about tackling climate change, he would commit to binding annual emissions targets, increasing green taxes as a proportion of total taxation and reforming air passenger duty to encourage cleaner planes. He hasn't done any of these things. We will.
But social responsibility also means businesses, local communities and the media stepping up the plate. In this respect, I applaud The Independent for unfailingly keeping the issue alive in the minds of its readers.
Our generation understands that when it comes to our quality of life, climate change is the defining issue. It now falls to us to take the decisive steps to deal with it. I am proud that the Conservative Party is rising to that challenge.Reuse content