Monday, 5 July 2010

Will the coalition live up to David Cameron's promise to be the “greenest-ever government”? - Geoffrey Lean

Will the coalition live up to David Cameron's promise to be the “greenest-ever government”? Right now, the signals are mixed, says Geoffrey Lean, Environmental Correspondent at The Daily Telegraph.

In theory it should be. As the Prime Minister pointed out the day after the election, creating low-carbon prosperity is one of the things on which both partners most agree. He and key senior colleagues are really committed to this, perhaps even more so than Nick Clegg. And – especially after the budget – the Lib Dems really need to deliver on the low-carbon agenda if they are to retain the support of their constituency.

One good sign is that there is to be an immediate Energy Bill. This will implement a manifesto promise to provide householders with loans to introduce energy saving measures to be paid back out of the savings made. The ministerial team at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, led by Chris Huhne, is impressive - and Cameron went out of his way to show them his wholehearted support when visiting the Department as one of his first engagements. Even George Osborne has promised to make the Treasury “a green ally, not a foe.”

Yet the cuts may mean that, in practice, the Government falls far short of its intentions. It has already scrapped grants helping householders install renewable energy at home, without putting anything in its place. And it has failed to endorse a Labour commitment to introduce a 'Renewable Heat Incentive'(a kind of feed-in tarrif for heat) because of lack of support from that 'green ally', the Treasury. There is also concern that cuts may decimate grants for farmers to safeguard nature by farming in environmentally sensitive ways - tragic for wildlife and the countryside. What happens to these and, above all, the Renewable Heat Incentive, will give us some idea of how green this government is really going to be.

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