Conservative Conference: ‘Disappointing’ start for ‘greenest Government ever’

Environment Secretary Liz Truss gave a 'lack of detail' on how to tackle the UK's environmental challenges, while Chancellor George Osborne offered no mention of the solutions needed to slash carbon emissions.

Those are the views of green groups following speeches made on day two of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham today (29 September).

While Osborne may have won the party’s ageing supporter base with new plans to scrap the pension ‘death tax’, he did not win much favour from Friends of the Earth campaigner Donna Hume.

“Barely days after David Cameron touched down from the UN Climate talks, his Chancellor is promising more roads, more airports and more fracking – with no mention of the solutions needed to slash emissions,” said Hume.

“By pledging support for polluters, the Chancellor is not just making a mockery of the Government’s environmental commitments; he’s throwing away the chance to create thousands of jobs in new green industries.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about tackling climate change, his Government must choose renewable energy over dirty shale gas and oil, and make good on Liz Truss’s promise to protect homes from flooding by filling the half billion pound hole in UK flood defence spending.”

Lack of detail

Meanwhile, Truss – who replaced Owen Paterson as the new Environment Secretary in the latest Cabinet reshuffle – gave no more insight on the Coalition’s approach to air quality control, instead choosing to talk about the ‘success story’ of British farming, with ‘cutting edge technology’ at ‘every stage of the supply chain’.

This disappointed Environmental Industries Commission director Matthew Farrow, who said: “Whilst we appreciate food and farming are important parts of Liz Truss’s brief, there was a disappointing lack of detail on how to tackle our wider environmental challenges. 

“She rightly highlighted the work the Government are doing to build better flood defences and improve water quality but there was little said on improving air quality, which has become so vitally important and which sees an estimated 29,000 premature deaths a year in the UK alone.

“Defra also needs to think carefully about how we are going to meet the 50% recycling targets for 2020 given the recent stalling of recycling rates. We will be encouraging Ministers to set out a more robust plan for action in the forthcoming Conservative manifesto.”

The Conservative Party conference comes less than a week after the Labour equivalent, which saw party leader Ed Miliband pledge to create one million green jobs as part of a 10-year plan to make Britain a global leader in clean technology and renewable energy, if Labour wins the next General Election in 2015.

Prime Minister Cameron is expected to speak at the end of the four-day Conservative Conference, on Wednesday. Follow @edie for live updates and stay tuned for a full report from the Conference in our next weekly newsletter.

Luke Nicholls

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