Sunday, 18 October 2009

A greener shade of blue?

Would a Conservative Government offer a greener shade of blue future? Simon Brammer from the Ashden Awards took part in a number of ‘climate clinic’ fringe events at last week’s conference in Manchester.

It seems, not too long ago that political parties were arguing over who could be the most eco-friendly, that theme did not seem so strong at this conference. Remember Cameron’s roof wind turbine bling? There were some big issues such as their opposition to Heathrow expansion (Stansted and Gatwick too) as manifesto commitments and the pledge to a high-speed railway to link north and south.

At a smaller level, Oliver Letwin underlined the need for a new smart electricity grid and home meters that allow householders and businesses to know in real-time what they are using and indeed, what they might be selling back to the grid. Of course, Labour has already announced feed-in tariffs for electricity, which will go ahead from April next year and the heat equivalent a few years after that, but what of energy efficiency – perhaps the ‘lowest hanging carbon fruit’?

Well, Greg Clarke (Ed Miliband’s shadow) pledged to find enough funding to provide £6,500 of energy efficiency improving measures to every home in the land. However, by my back-of-the-envelope calculations that would mean finding more than £150 billion and where will this cash, given the current competition to see who can cut the most, come from? Well that remains to be seen.

When asked about how much cash they would put on the table at Copenhagen to assist developing countries to adapt and mitigate the impact of climate change, we were referred to the Shadow Chancellor. The Shadow Chancellor chose not to comment.
There is clearly a growing understanding among the more senior members of the party of the ‘Stern effect’. That is, if we don’t do something about climate change, the future costs would be an unimaginable proportion of our GDP. However, many of the other party members I spoke to thought that reducing the national debt was of a much higher priority and that the public had ‘gone cold’ on the environment. Perhaps E.ON's recent shelving of plans for Kingsnorth tell a different story.

A greener shade of blue? Let’s wait and see.

Simon Brammer

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