Geoffrey Lean: Is it Gordon the Big Green Engine now?

The IoS environment editor is pleased to see No 10 shift on the environment

Share
Related Topics

Almost unnoticed, something momentous has happened. It could even turn out to be the most hopeful development for both the economy and the environment in a generation, and set Britain on track for a new industrial revolution, powered by clean energy.

Over the past two weeks the Prime Minister, his predecessor and the Leader of the Opposition have all insisted that any future growth must be green – as have world business leaders. Indeed Gordon Brown and David Cameron have gone further, making it clear that otherwise there may well be no growth at all.

This is not what is supposed to happen at this ominous stage of the economic cycle. For months the commentariat have been telling us that green concerns will inevitably slip down the agenda as times get tough. But there has been an unexpected, if overdue, paradigm shift: the environment and the economy are now recognised to be interdependent.

David Cameron was first up. Two weeks ago he said: "For the sake of our future prosperity ... we must go green." Four days later, the chief executives of 100 big companies ranging from Dupont to Deutsche Bank called for tough measures to slash carbon dioxide emissions "to drive forward the next chapter of technological innovation" and kickstart "a green industrial revolution". On Friday, Tony Blair resurfaced in Tokyo to call for "a new and green economy". But, for once, Gordon Brown upstaged the old ham, and showed himself more in tune with the zeitgeist.

Brown, in a surprisingly stonking speech, said that "the global low carbon economy will be a key driver of our economic prosperity". It would bring a "fourth technological transformation" to follow those historically wrought by the "steam engine, the internal combustion engine and the microprocessors".

In perhaps the boldest move of his premiership – and one of the few in which he has actually delivered the change he promised on entering No 10 – he launched a detailed, ambitious strategy for a 10-fold expansion of renewable energy in just 12 years.

The initiative springs from a day in October when a hand-wringing Business minister John Hutton – no natural fan of renewables – complained about having to meet an EU target to get 15 per cent of our energy from them by 2020. With unwonted decisiveness, Brown told him that the target must be met even though, as Downing Street admits, it is "at the limits of achievability". And he followed through. Hutton's notoriously recalcitrant department was reorganised and able officials brought in to manage the strategy. Sceptical departments, like Defence and Transport, were sat upon, and the whole Government brought behind the change.

Most media coverage of the new strategy concentrated on possible increases in fuel bills. But Downing Street has largely shrugged it off on a rare high at having for once initiated something new and important. And who knows? If it happens, and starts a trend of creating real change, it might breathe new life not just into the economy and the environment, but into the increasingly moribund Brown premiership itself.

React Now

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

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Silhouette of clubber dancing Hacienda nightclub  

A comedian has opened an alcohol-free nightclub. Is he having a laugh?

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
A doctor injects a patient with Botox at a cosmetic treatment center  

Why do women opt for cosmetic surgery when there is such beauty in age?

Howard Jacobson
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape