Environmental leaders slam Cameron's speech as 'hot air'

Prime Minister David Cameron has come under fire from leading environmental figures after what was heralded as a keynote green economic speech was downgraded.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State Edward Davey, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Minister of State Greg Barker at the third Clean Energy Ministerial event in London

Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State Edward Davey, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Minister of State Greg Barker at the third Clean Energy Ministerial event in London

Reacting to the speech made by Mr Cameron at the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in London yesterday (April 26), green NGOs, businesses and politicians have disputed claims that new policies and reforms enacted by the Coalition have been responsible for driving the UK's green economy.

Labour shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint MP criticised the PM for failing to deliver a "proper" speech, saying it demonstrated the Government's real lack of support for the green economy.

Slamming Mr Cameron's speech as "hot air" she said that the government has not disguised the fact it hasn't backed green businesses and jobs.

"With the British economy plunged back into recession because of this Government's failing economic policies, the Clean Energy Ministerial, with businesses and investors flying in from all over the world, was the perfect opportunity to bring new jobs and industries to the UK.

"The fact that David Cameron can't even be bothered to make a proper speech shows that the Government has missed yet another open goal", she said.

Despite Mr Cameron saying he "passionately believed" that the growth of renewables was "vital" to the UK economy, the resounding message from industry is that a lack of consistency and moves to offer tax breaks for fossil fuels by the Government means that its assertion of a green image doesn't stack up.

Green Party environment spokesperson Penny Kemp told edie that the speech was indicative of a government which is "all show and bluff" and showed that it had no intention of putting in place a framework of "serious sustainable policies".

Ms Kemp said: "It's meaningless if Government policies are so relentlessly skewed towards profit at any cost that their environmental policies are put on the back burner.

"With the chancellor offering tax breaks to fossil fuels and calling environmental regulations a burden, Cameron's promises seem undermined from within. A green economy and a profitable Britain are not mutually exclusive."

As a result, the Green Party is calling for investment in green industry, which it says will create jobs, cut emissions and stimulate the economy.

WWF said the minister's speech should have boosted investor confidence in renewables and provided policy clarity to businesses.

However, WWF chief executive, David Nussbaum, who visited the Artic with Mr Cameron six years ago and chaired a CEM briefing yesterday featuring energy minister Greg Barker, said this wasn't achieved.

He said: "We were led to expect a major policy intervention on the environment, a keynote speech, from the Prime Minister this week, only for his speech to be suddenly downgraded; what we got today was a damp squib."

Mr Nussbaum also said that the UK Government had failed to understand the scale of the challenge and opportunity offered by renewables, while in contrast ministers from countries such as Germany and Demark clearly did. "They are talking in terms of hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the renewable energy sector, whereas the PM today was only talking about a few hundred", he said.

Renewable Energy Association (REA) chief executive Gaynor Hartnell agreed, saying that while the association welcomed the recognition the PM gave to renewables that he failed to recognise the true job potential of the sector.

She said: "Renewables account for 110,000 UK jobs, seven times more than David Cameron thinks."

Furthermore, Mr Nussbaum added that while the WWF agrees with comments made by the PM that renewables must be "financially stable" that businesses and investors need consistent messages from across government.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) executive director Andy Atkins echoed this thought saying businesses and organisations are still waiting for the PM to "spell out" how the Government is going to support the green economy, which is growing despite the recession.

Meanwhile, green energy supplier Ecotricity was even more scathing in its criticism, with founder Dale Vince saying the Government is riding on the success of inherited renewables policies, such as the Renewable Obligation and Feed-in Tariff.

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said: "There have been no new policies from the Coalition that have resulted in this increasing capacity - this success is inherited - and he surely knows that."

CBI director for business environment Rhian Kelly said that in order to restore investor confidence that "clear ambition from government, greater consistency and to establish market conditions" was needed by government.

Carys Matthews


You need to be logged in to make a comment. Don't have an account? Set one up right now in seconds!

© Faversham House Group Ltd 2012. edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.