In a recent joint statement signed on Valentines Day, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg confirmed that they recognise that climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world. The three men said that climate change threatens not just the environment but also security, prosperity and poverty eradication. They have promised to end coal burning for power generation in the UK – unless it uses new clean-up technology. For those of us that want a Government that takes environmental issues seriously this should be good news, providing of course it is the Party leaders who get their way and not backbenchers like Conservative Peter Lilley. He was speaking on Tuesday as part of a political debate which was meant to focus on how the next Government will replace the UK’s polluting power stations with green alternatives but instead used his time to suggest that politicians of all parties including his own have “enormously exaggerated” the effects of global warming. He claimed that there is an “extraordinary arrogance” surrounding the true cost of developing and supporting renewable energy technology, pointing out that the potential costs of implementing the Climate Change Act could be twice the amount of the maximum financial benefits for the UK.
The joint statement whilst reassuring is also reminiscent of the promise to Scottish voters to return greater powers to the nations democratically elected leaders. This was not followed through as effectively as many of us expected. According to a recent poll of 833 environmental industry professionals by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA). The Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour leaders earned just 23% of the vote combined, when these professionals were asked who the trusted on the environment. Of this 23% Miliband scored worst on 6% and Cameron was out ahead on 10%. Whilst no one including Natalie Bennett expects the Greens to achieve more than a few seats in the next Parliament, nevertheless she was seen by 51% of these professionals as being the leader they would trust on the environment. It is not a surprise that the Greens were the strongest on this poll, but it is disturbing how far behind the other mainstream parties are. This for me shows how vital it is that we see the number of Green MPs increase in May and that they manage to influence the decisions of whichever Party forms the next Government. A good example of why this is important is in the announcement this week as a flagship response to affordable housing by David Cameron. As this account reports, in committing to 200,000 affordable homes, at the expense of zero carbon standards, the running costs of these homes to the residents will be much higher than would otherwise be the case and the environmental impact of these homes will also be damaging. This comes at a time when large sums are being committed to retrofitting environmental mitigation into many of our nations existing homes. It is vital that compromises on quality are not made in a short sighted attempt to save a small amount of money on these new homes (even assuming they are built!).