The Unfinished Green Revolution
LEADING ARTICLE Climate change
One of the most pleasing aspects of this election campaign is the fact that climate change has become part of the discourse of mainstream politics. All three of the major parties have signed up in their manifestos to cut our national carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.
They have also developed credible policies to help achieve that, which their respective environment spokesmen were pushing yesterday. Labour proposes to establish a green infrastructure bank and to promote home insulation. The Tories want to speed up the introduction of smart household electricity meters and to create incentives for communities to host on-shore wind farms. The Liberal Democrats pledge a tougher aviation tax and measures to encourage the household micro-generation of energy.
None of the manifestos are perfect on the environment. Labour's green credentials, in particular, are undermined by its backing for a new runway at Heathrow airport. And many rank-and-file Conservatives are still sceptical of the climate change agenda. Some also question whether the Liberal Democrats' aversion to nuclear power sits easily with their arguments about the urgency of the need to bring down emissions. But it would be unreasonable not to acknowledge that British politics has travelled a considerable distance on this issue. In the 2005 general election campaign, global warming barely got a mention. Now it is debated between serious politicians such as Ed Miliband, Greg Clark and Simon Hughes.
Yet, despite this manifest progress, there remains a strong sense in which the main parties are still shying away from the implications of their commitments. The various schemes for green energy production and conservation in the party manifestos are all laudable. But the sort of major shift in public behaviour that will be needed to reduce our carbon emissions will only come when the environmental cost of carbon emissions is factored in to what consumers pay for their goods and services. …