Caroline Lucas: Green Deal disaster sums up chaotic coalition
EXCLUSIVE: Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has labelled the Green Deal an "absolute disaster" which epitomises a so-called green Government that has failed to deliver on a raft of environmental policies.
Speaking to edie in the aftermath of a heated panel debate between the four main political parties earlier this week, Lucas said the coalition's Green Deal, launched at the start of 2013, has caused "untold damage when it comes to insulating people's homes".
"The Green Deal has been an absolute disaster because, as we predicted at the time, the interest rates were far too high to encourage people to take it up," Lucas said. "Under this Government, there has been an 80% drop in insulation measures provided for the fuel-poor."
Her comments came shortly after Energy Secretary Ed Davey had dismissed criticism of the Green Deal as "scandalous" and "simply not true" during Monday's panel debate, which was hosted by the Green Alliance. "I do not think insulating one million people's homes in the last two years is an embarrassment," Davey said.
But, according to Lucas, the initiative has in reality been a "regressive measure" that has pulled people into fuel poverty due to its funding method, via the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). "Davey's protestation that, under this Government, home insulation has been a positive achievement, is disproved by the facts," the Brighton MP said.
Lucas went on to say that, despite it only being a few short weeks since the cross-party letter on climate change was signed, the Government's approach to fighting climate change remains "completely unjoined-up".
She said: "Everybody has agreed that climate change is a national priority but in the Budget we saw yet again the Government giving yet more tax breaks to fossil fuel exploitation; more subsidies for North Sea extraction of gas and oil."
She also claimed the Government was "hell-bent" on setting up a fracking industry, which is "one of the most perverse things they could possibly be doing." She reiterated that what the UK really needs to meet its climate change targets is policy certainty for renewables - particularly as the Contracts for Difference (CfDs) scheme ends in 2020.
Lucas sympathised with solar producers feeling sidelined by the recent CfD auction. "What they [solar producers] needed were policies better-suited to their energy source and they needed policy certainty beyond 2020. More than anything, investors are crying out for policy certainty. I think they are right to be pretty frustrated and what we are seeing is a Government that, instead of promoting renewables, is actually undermining them by the policies they are proposing."
Lucas concluded by outlining her support for a new independent body to govern the wealth of environmental issues facing the next Government. "It's clear that leaving it with DECC or Defra just doesn't work," she said.
This is the second time in the space of the month that the Green Party has expressed its dissatisfaction with the Government's green policies. In another exclusive interview with edie, Green party leader Natalie Bennett said that the labelling of the coalition as the 'Greenest Government Ever' had become a "sick joke".