When David Cameron was a newly elected leader seeking to rebrand the Conservative Party, a decade ago now, one gesture he made to demonstrate his green credentials was to have solar panels installed in his London home.
This was at a time when the Labour government was scrambling for ways to reduce the output of greenhouse gases. One measure was to introduce what were called “feed-in tariffs”, under which homeowners who installed solar panels were paid for the electricity those panels generated – even if they were using it themselves – and could sell the surplus to electricity companies at a premium rate.
It was one of many incentives the Government introduced to encourage the proliferation of clean energy. Another example was the subsidy for wind farms – which survived while the Conservatives needed Liberal Democrat support to stay in office, but will end in April 2016. All this was designed to lead by example, and build what Mr Cameron himself would try to term “the greenest government ever”.
These measures were sensible and necessary – but they did add to the size of every home’s electricity bill, which left the same Government open to attack by climate-change sceptics who believe that the risk from global warming has been invented or exaggerated by scientists with an agenda.
Now it emerges that, though Mr Cameron’s reputation as a green leader has since suffered, some concerted efforts in this area must have been successful, for the budget for renewable energy projects is already overspent by a fifth, or £1.5bn. This opens up an unpalatable choice between loading yet more cost on to household electricity bills, or falling back on increased reliance on fossil fuels that add to the greenhouse effect.
It is, unfortunately, one of those dilemmas in which the right course is the one that is going to cause the greater immediate hardship.
The attractive short-term option would be to ignore global warming in pursuit of cheap electricity, but that would be the wrong course due to the incalculable and irreversible damage that man-made global warming threatens to do to our planet. The Government must do what is right, and face the political consequences.Reuse content