This autumn’s Energy Bill looks set to be a fight between “past and future”, between those for whom climate change is a high risk demanding action and a sizeable hard core of climate change deniers. In Parliament, this means around 100 MPs and a Lords’ “caucus” – Ed Davey’s “Tea Party tendency” within the Conservative Party. Ed Miliband is arguing that, “To attract investment, governments must cover that risk and commit to a clear goal of decarbonising the power sector by 2030.” In Brighton, the Liberal Democrats have now adopted a motion to decarbonise the energy sector by 2030.
Ed Miliband argued that the British economy is “desperately in search of new sources of growth”. Writing in the Green Alliance bulletin, Inside Track, he comments: “If government was the only agent for change, a shift towards a more responsible, sustainable capitalism would be far harder. I will not deliver change alone but by building a coalition of business leaders from companies large and small, politicians, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, investors, employees, consumers, citizens, and trade unions. Such coalitions come along rarely in politics but when they do they make real change possible, driving out old orthodoxies and establishing new ways of conducting our lives together.”
Lib Dem conference motions on the environment played a significant part in the Party’s schedule in Brighton, covering aviation, a CO2 target to decarbonise the energy sector by 2030, and allowing the Green Investment Bank (GIB) to borrow immediately.
At a Lib Dem fringe meeting, the CBI also set itself apart from the Chancellor’s ambitions for a new “dash for gas”. John Cridland was willing to support an energy supply carbon target for 2030. He argued that the UK will need to increase gas power station capacity in the coming years, but large-scale deployment of new gas plants would jeopardise carbon targets. He said a CO2 target must pass two tests – it must serve a specific and necessary purpose; and must not lead to delays in the passage of the Energy Bill, if sufficient numbers of Conservative backbenchers oppose the target.
That’s the Lib Dems, who have pushed the green economy back to the centre of politics. Now it’s Labour’s turn.