Coalition can live up to its claim to be the 'greenest government ever' says Lib Dem Energy Secretary

Ed Davey promises a bold election manifesto to counteract the Greens' surge

Jane Merrick
Sunday 01 March 2015 01:00
The Lib Dems are proud of their record in setting up new onshore wind projects
The Lib Dems are proud of their record in setting up new onshore wind projects

The Coalition can live up to its claim to be the “greenest government ever” said Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, yesterday. But voters must keep the Liberal Democrats in power to ensure the environment remains top of the Government’s agenda.

Nick Clegg and Mr Davey will launch “five green laws in five days” this week to make clear to voters they are keeping up the pressure on the environment, after repeated clashes with the Tories over the last parliament. The Lib Dems will launch a manifesto pledge to double the amount of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 as part of a Zero Carbon Britain Bill.

The pro-environment push by the Lib Dems will be seen as a clear attempt to counteract the “Green surge” after Natalie Bennett’s party overtook Mr Clegg’s in membership figures and closed in on the polls. But the Lib Dems are capitalising on the turbulence caused by the Green Party leader last week when she came unstuck in an interview trying to explain her housing policy.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, Mr Davey said the Greens were unable to form part of a Coalition after the election because, he claimed, they would not have the seats or the credibility.

In a bold assertion, the Energy Secretary said the Coalition could stand by Mr Cameron’s prediction, in 2010, that it would be the “greenest government ever”. Mr Davey added that this was despite the best efforts of Conservative ministers such as Eric Pickles and Owen Paterson, a leading climate change sceptic, to undermine it.

Mr Davey said: “The last Labour government was not very green. They had a shocking record for the first two parliaments and the effect was an energy crisis. This coalition has done all the hard stuff on energy and climate change. We have a much better record on energy and climate change than Labour. We are the first to admit we would have liked to have been even greener. But it is more difficult where you don’t have control [in Tory-led ministries].”

He added: “We are upping the ante on the green agenda. We have done a really cracking job particularly at DECC [the Department of Energy and Climate Change], expanding renewables, energy efficiency, climate change issues. And that is despite quite a few battles with the Tories.

“It is quite clear we need to drive a clear legislative programme. We are ready to go into coalition negotiations saying that the environment is so important to us. We have got the policies in place to deliver it, stay the course and push them through.”

Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, is behind the pro-environment push by the Lib Dems

Mr Davey said that the coalition had more than doubled renewable electricity, created the world’s first low carbon electricity market, and led the way on onshore wind farms.

However, Mr Davey has clashed with George Osborne over carbon emission targets. Critics also point out that the Lib Dems have also signed up to shale gas, while a report by the Environmental Audit Committee last autumn gave the coalition a “red card” on the environment, for failing to reduce air pollution, protect biodiversity and prevent flooding.

Mr Davey refused to refer to the Lib Dems’ plans as a “red line” in any coalition negotiations but added: “This is about what is on our manifesto front page.”

Asked about the threat of votes going from his party to the Greens, Mr Davey said: “Look at the next Parliament. Who is likely to be in the next government with the seats? The Lib Dems have a very good chance. I think it will be better than expected. No one seriously thinks that the Greens will be in government.

“Labour have a poor record, their policies would be counter-productive. The Tories cannot be trusted on the environment. We would not have been the greenest government ever if it hadn’t been for the Lib Dems.”

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