Here’s how green politics works now in our ruling coalition. We’ve just had two good examples of said politics at work this weekend, so it’s not a bad sample to look at.
Story is started by some of the madder / climate change denying newspapers that you are going to have to have ‘up to £10,000’ of insulation and energy efficiency work done on your house if you replace your boiler or add a conservatory. The fact that this is not true, that the proposals as they stand would not cover conservatories but only home extensions, and that the works consequent on a new boiler would amount to perhaps £300 financeable under the ‘Green Deal’ doesn’t really count for much when a good story is at stake. The claims then migrate to the Sunday broadsheets, which are full of nameless Tories briefing that ‘it will be stopped’ (whatever it actually is). No-one stands up for the real proposals which are modest and sensible, and have, by the way been previously advised by the Climate Change Committee itself, which has been concerned that, without widespread but relatively cheap home insulation improvements over the next few years, many of the projected savings in energy use (and hence adherence to climate change targets) would literally go out of the window. Indeed, they are placed firmly at the door of favourite man to hate right now, yes the man who as the broadsheets serially reminded us ‘resigned as Energy Secretary to fight a court case that he perverted the course of justice’ – Chris Huhne. So it can’t ever have been a good idea can it?
Roll forward a couple of days: No 10 sniffs the air, and realises that there could be a problem. Cue David Cameron, who we are rapidly realising, has the attention span of a goldfish, to opine that he ‘didn’t understand how it got into the consultation document in the first place’ (your Government put it there, Dave) that it is ‘bonkers’ and ‘it will not happen’. [‘And, another thing about this that’s very important is…oh look, there’s a really juicy worm over there….what were you saying?’] So that’s the end of a policy that actually was quite well thought out, joins up existing programmes with some added value and potentially contributes substantially towards energy efficiency and emissions targets. Pathetic really.
Hats off, incidentally to the Times environment correspondent Charles Clover (£), who did produce a very good op-ed piece about the policy over the weekend. But that was on p. 23 of the Sunday Times and not p.2, so it doesn’t count.
On-shore wind turbines
Also the subject of some rather longer term briefing and destabilisation by the same group of Conservatives who, probably, have been briefing about the so-called Conservatory Tax. Energy Minister Greg Barker, over the same weekend appeared to give an interview to one of the same broadsheets (the Sunday Times) suggesting that there is to be a ‘change in policy’ on wind turbines, since ‘the wind we need’ onshore is already being built developed or in planning.
No such thing, of course, since the policy of having a large number of turbine applications in the planning, development or construction phase (almost 7300) sufficient to make onshore winds planned contribution to 2020 renewable energy targets remains exactly on track. As does the present policy of equivocating on what happens AFTER 2020, where there is precious little indication of what support or assistance will be available to onshore wind to enable the industry to plan for a regular flow of work over the longer term. That is a problem for future investment, but not one for the next stage of on-shore wind development. Everything remains exactly as it is. But Greg, who does pass the goldfish test, will no doubt be pleased about the headline ‘no more windfarms’ he achieved with his obfuscatory interview. Indeed, he tweeted on Monday about the ‘spurious ST headline’ so he knows what this is about.
And the moral of all this? Well, Greg Barker looks like he is a bit smarter than some in keeping policies intact. But the fact of the matter is that the Government as a whole are now buckling seriously and possibly catastrophically in the face of some concerted mischief making on green policies by an alliance of disgruntled cabinet ministers, climate change deniers in the press and many of its own backbenchers who think all this is a costly mistake and wish it had all never happened. Not a good weekend at all for the ‘Greenest Government ever.’