UKIP's Nigel Farage on wind farms, global warming and Charles Darwin
His political views have been criticised for being 'offensive' and controversial, so it comes as little surprise that Nigel Farage's environmental ideologies are equally unorthodox. Leigh Stringer talks to the UKIP leader about the Government's environmental strategy and his connection to Charles Darwin.
A self-proclaimed "environmentalist", the leader of controversial political party UKIP says that he voted green in 1989 at the European elections, and did so for two reasons.
"Firstly, I thought a lot of what [founder and director of Forum for the Future] Jonathon Porritt was saying at the time about the global environment rung some bells with me. Secondly, they were Euro sceptic when nobody else was," he adds.
Living in the south east of England, Farage is a clear devotee of the British countryside and coasts. He's a keen sea angler and has an impressive knowledge of flora, fauna and butterflies, which he developed through his father, a "fanatical lepidopterist".
These interests, says Farage, is why he is a big supporter of the Campaign for Rural England and has a vetted interest in the Government's environmental policies. However, the idealism of the movement in the late eighties has morphed into an entirely new concept, he says.
"My view on what the environmental movement has become takes me a very long way away from my sympathetic support for all the environmental organisations that I had 20 years ago. I have seen something that has become politicised, urbanised and is full of profound deep ignorance and above all something that has become an industry".
Farage says this new industry has managed to "bully weak minded politicians into making a series of decisions that actually aren't good for biodiversity, sustainability or the environment".
"I'm an enthusiastic sea angler, so I 'm desperate to see proper sustainable fishing methods in our seas and I'm heartbroken by what the common fishing policy reform has done, not just to our fish stock but to our under ten meter inshore sustainable fishing industry at the expense of the big fleets.
"I don't hunt but I find the hunting ban objectionable for the simple reason I don't want the Government telling me I can't go out to hunt. But there are misconceptions about the hunting community, that they're all murderers. But actually, no one loves the countryside more than the hunting community. Without hedges there is no hunting," he says.
However, his adoration for the countryside has led to a strong opposition of wind turbines, which he labels "expensive" and "spoilers of the Great British landscape".
"When I first saw wind energy I thought ok, it works. But it doesn't work. It needs continuous back-up, it costs a fortune and god only knows what the cost of land will be.
"I am vehemently opposed to wind energy but if we can find sustainable energy from tidal power for example, given my background as an environmentalist, I'd go for it," he says.
His criticism of wind energy isn't the only issue Farage has with the Government's environmental strategy, however. The science behind "man's" impact on global warming is becoming less clear, according to Farage, and he suggests that "settling with current science" is a mistake when establishing environmental policy.
"I am not saying that man is having no influence on the climate, although as the years go by it looks increasingly unlikely. To be told that the science is settled [on global warming] is hard to accept. Where I grew up, our back wall joined onto Down House where Charles Darwin wrote [On the Origin of Species] and 150 years on, the science isn't settled over Darwin and I can tell you science is never settled.
"The whole point about science is that it's a dynamic thing. So we've reached this view that the science is settled and we've decided to put in place a series of measures to tackle climate change, which meant a whole series of ludicrous targets to reduce carbon dioxide.
"So where are we 15 years down the road with this experiment? Well, CO2 emissions are still going up, a lot of very rich people are becoming richer, especially land owners, and we are spoiling our landscape and our seascape with turbines".
The Government's focus, Farage claims, is misdirected and it should be looking outside of "just reducing CO2 emissions".
"It's odd to focus on carbon dioxide. I'm an environmentalist; I'm against carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide and toxins in our rivers. Yes, I'm all for pollution controls but to obsess with carbon dioxide, which as I understand it, is a perfectly natural occurring phenomenon, strikes me as strange," he says.
Leigh Stringer, edie energy and sustainability editor