Conservatives pledge to combat climate change, but encourage the use of private cars

In the run-up to the general election on June 7, the Conservative party has announced that if it were voted into government, it would combat climate change, establish more sustainable house construction, and protect sensitive land around water courses, but would also encourage the use of private cars.

According to the Conservative party, under a continued Labour government the price of fuel would rise to £6 per gallon. The Conservatives have announced that they will cut the price of petrol and diesel by six pence per litre, although, Conservative Environment Spokesman Damian Green MP explained to ediethat he believes that this will not increase pollution. “The increases in petrol price we have had have not lead to a decrease in car use or a decrease in congestion,” he said, explaining that the effect of the high tax has been merely to transfer money to the treasury. In order to cut vehicle pollution, a Conservative Government would further cut taxes on cleaner fuels and vehicles, though the size of the cut has not yet been decided, said Green.

“For most people the car is a necessity,” said Shadow Transport Minister Bernard Jenkin. “The freedom to travel is a fundamental human right and should not be punished with even higher stealth taxes. Conservatives will stand up for people’s right to drive.” This policy has, naturally, outraged environmentalists who also claim that the party’s plan to raise the speed limit by 10 miles per hour on motorways will do nothing for fuel efficiency.

However, public transport would also be improved under the Conservatives, according to their manifesto, including a revival of the railway industry in order for it to achieve airline standards of service and safety.

Fear has been expressed by environmental groups that a new Conservative government would take up the mantle of the previous Tory administration and return to an over-enthusiastic road-building policy, and, according to the party’s election manifesto, this appears to be the case. The manifesto states that the party would instigate a “sensible roads programme emphasising priority on local bypasses”. However, according to Green, the Conservatives are prepared to spend more money on each development. “There’s a lot that can be done in terms of tunnelling,” he said. “We would be prepared – much more than all governments in the past – to protect landscapes.”

The Conservative party is also keen to protect landscapes through an increase in greenbelt land, and would bring in a new ‘blue belt’ designation in order to protect sensitive land around rivers, wetlands, lakes, canals and coastline. In conjunction with this, the party is keen to promote inner-city regeneration and development on brownfield sites. New Regeneration Companies, initially announced in the party’sBelieving in our Citiesdocument, launched at the party’s conference in October last year, would be used to encourage such development involving both local communities and private sector expertise and investment in the process.

The manifesto states that the party is keen to tackle climate change, and would meet the commitments made by successive British governments through a comprehensive package of emission permit trading, energy conservation, tax incentives, and greater encouragement of renewable energy and cleaner energy generation. The climate change levy would be scrapped under a Conservative government, and replaced by a compulsory emissions trading scheme for businesses, with the demands for emission cuts by companies raised over the years, said Green. The party is looking at a range of energy conservation measures, both industrial and domestic, he explained, including schemes designed to encourage builders to incorporate energy conservation into new developments.

In order to aid renewable energy generators, the Conservatives have launched a commission composed of representatives from all forms of renewable energy to investigate and propose solutions to the difficulties faced by this industry. The party also states that it will review the future of nuclear energy and its possible role in contributing to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

Conservatives also aim to cut pollution through a moratorium on new incinerators and a focus on increased recycling, making doorstep collection services available for every household, using funding from the landfill tax.

Further environmental benefits could also be gained through a reform of the Common Agriculture Policy, cutting the total amount of money available to farmers through subsidies, and focussing the remainder on sustainable agricultural practices, says Damien Green. “We would rebalance it so that the environmental goods bought by the CAP would be much higher in the mix,” he said.

This is the second in our weekly series on the election promises of the political parties. Last week we covered the Liberal Democrat party, described as the strongest party on the environment, and next week we will be covering the Labour party’s election commitments.

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