Tim Farron: It’s time for a green industrial revolution

Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron has called on the UK Government to spur a new "industrial revolution" of clean technology to help the country reduce net emissions by 100% by 2050.

Speaking at a Policy Exchange event in London this morning (22 February), Farron also poured scorn on the Government for “pandering” to climate-denier Donald Trump, and criticised the Conservatives for “leaving out” the cheapest forms of clean technologies from the UK energy mix.

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale invoked the Victorian era of building and called for a new Industrial Age, saying: “The low-carbon and no carbon economy will be underpinned and driven by industries which will be worth trillions globally in the next few decades.

“It is a new industrial revolution. We can do as the Victorians did and lead it, prosper from it, and stand tall across the globe as a consequence.”

Farron’s own party committed to a range of ambitious green pledges in its 2015 general election manifesto; from boosting technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and electrifying transport, to advancing the circular economy and accelerating the wider use of biofuels to help mitigate deforestation.

The Lib Dems have also pledged to pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to bring net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero by 2050, and Farron is keen to bring businesses on the decarbonisation journey.

“We are putting together a plan with the help of experts to show exactly how that ambition will be achieved – our very own, Liberal Democrat roadmap to a Zero Carbon Britain,” he said. “It will focus not just on energy sources, but on how all businesses can be sustainable and help meet our targets.”

A lot to answer for

The Government has come under fire in recent months over its treatment of renewables, with subsidies falling for onshore wind and solar, as the latter faces a susbstantial hike in business rates. Farron believes this move will “damage” the solar industry across the UK, and also lambasted the “disastrous plan” to sell of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) “just as it is getting established”.

“Theresa May has promised to stand up for every corner of Britain,” he said. “But from the Western Isles to Swansea Bay, she is causing uncertainty among clean businesses and holding back jobs and growth.

“When Ed Davey and the Liberal Democrats ran the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) the wrestling match was between us and the Treasury, and we usually won. Now it is between Greg Clark and Number 10, and nice guy though he is, he loses every day.

“Theresa May has a lot to answer for. The cheap energy future is low-carbon and no carbon. Failing to invest now will cost us more in the future.”

Unravelling consensus

While Farron outlines a Lib Dem vision of a zero-emission future, the current global political environment has spread anxieties that environmental progress could be stalled, particularly in the light of President Trump’s vow to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement and embolden a waning coal industry.

Across the Atlantic, the Government’s much-anticipated Brexit White Paper provided assurances that the nation will remain a “leading actor” on climate change and environmental policy post-Brexit.

Nevertheless, the Bill was severely criticised by senior politicians failing to recognise the environmental “dangers” of the UK’s impending EU departure, and sparked resignations from Labour frontbenchers including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Shadow Secretary Clive Lewis. According to Farron, the current state of disarray in Western politics leaves major countries in danger of falling behind on climate action.

“The consensus is unravelling,” Faron said. “We have a climate change denier in the White House; which provides a reason or an excuse for other countries to backslide a little too. We have a Tory Government that went from hugging huskies to dismissing intelligent environmental policies as ‘green crap’, and a Labour Party that has no coherent vision for the environment, industry or the economy.

“The Prime Minister choosing to pander to President Trump hardly makes us any more optimistic that her next choices on climate change will be wisdom over transparent political short-termism.”

George Ogleby

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