Conservative Conference: Cameron disregards Paris climate talks

Prime Minister David Cameron effectively ignored energy and climate change at the Conservative Party Conference, despite the crucial Paris climate talks being just a few weeks away.

Giving his closing speech at the Conference in Manchester today (7 October), Cameron reiterated that tackling climate change is “at the centre of the Conservative Party’s mission” – his only ‘green’ mention.

Instead, affordable homes, social mobility and an outspoken attack on Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn took up the majority of Cameron’s hour-long speech. 

The Prime Minister’s speech follows that of Chancellor George Osborne on Monday, who confirmed plans to establish a new independent body to fast-track the building of new energy and transport infrastructure across the UK. The new National Infrastructure Commission will be led by Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis, who “big improvements” to the UK’s energy systems are needed.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd then took her time in the spotlight to give her full backing for the cutting of subsidies for onshore wind and solar, insisting that “renewable energy can stand on its own two feet”. Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Liz Truss outlined her plans to turn Britain’s countryside into an “economic powerhouse”, highlighting the role of business in protecting and enhancing the UK’s environment.

Paris questions

But none of the Tory MPs gave mention to the COP21 Paris climate talks, which take place from 30 November to 11 December and are widely regarded as the one of the biggest meetings of our generation.

The Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change Lord Bourne recently underlined that the Conservatives “will do everything in their power” to secure a strong, internationall-binding deal in Paris, but the lack of mention from all Tory MPs at this week’s Conference leaves green groups and businesses with more questions than answers.

Domestically, the Conservative Party’s self-proclamation as the “Greenest Government Ever” has been branded a “joke”. Since May’s General Election, the Tories have overseen significant subsidy cuts for onshore wind and solarthe scrapping of a tax exemption for renewable energy; the postponement of the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction; the removal of zero-carbon homes standards; and the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank.

When assessing the Tories’ somewhat unexpected triumph at this year’s General Election, Cameron said “Britain and Twitter are not the same thing”, but – as with last year’s Conservative Conference – sustainability professionals, green groups and NGOs have taken to social media to condemn the lack of green credentials within the Prime Minster’s speech.

Commenting on Cameron’s speech, Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “David Cameron mentioned the words security and safe 14 times in his speech, yet climate change, one of the biggest threats humanity is facing, got just one timid nod.

“The word energy wasn’t even uttered. This silence speaks volumes about a government that has no energy plan other than chipping away at ever cheaper clean technologies.”

Luke Nicholls

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