Monday, 16 August 2010
Turns out the Coalition has no respect for the Green Agenda either
At just over 100 days the coalition’s “ethical foreign policy” moment has begun to set in. That is where the highfalutin policies that they were at liberty to espouse and pontificate about at length, while in opposition, are quietly sidelined when the realities of government set in.
Green groups are aghast that a flagship policy, called for in opposition by both Lib Dems and Tories (and which they last year tried to force on the Labour government), will now be ditched, and won't feature in the coalition's first energy bill.
Their criticism of the government's seemingly faltering commitment to green issues follows news last week that nature reserves could be sold off as countryside protection measures also bear the brunt of budget cuts in the Department for the Environment. So there you are, the English will have The Lake District plc!
Introducing a so-called "environmental performance standard" (EPS) for power companies would have restricted greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas plants and encouraged companies wishing to build to use more efficient technology.
Its introduction was personally championed by David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg when in opposition; their opposition to Kingsnorth coal fired power station became something of a cause célèbre (and even features in the coalition agreement). E.ON’s proposals for Kingsnorth were, however, supported by energy companies and Tory backbenchers. So are we getting a sniff of dirty energy money combined with the usual backbench awkward squad?
Now government sources confirm they will not be bringing forward legislation in the autumn and will instead spend the summer working on "the larger picture". They will open a consultation on the idea in the autumn with the results being presented to parliament as a white paper next year.
Green campaigners believe this is noncommittal for a policy both parts of the coalition said could be implemented immediately when in opposition. Gee these Green’s are naive if they thought that things promised in opposition would actually happen.
They believe a delay in the introduction of the standard until next year with a few years for the legislation to pass through the Houses and for it to be set up raises the possibility of new coal-fired power stations slipping through the system.
Or possibly it may not happening at all and if the EPS is abandoned it would almost certainly re-open the debate about what the industry needs to change and encourage utilities to push forward with their original plans for a whole new fleet of filthy coal stations in the UK (the first to be built here for 30 years).
The consequences would be that the battle of Kingsnorth could be re-fought. But this time with Dave and Nick on the other side!
Along with opposition to the third runway at Heathrow, introduction of the EPS to bind the construction of new power plants was a key policy for both the Tories and Lib Dems.
Though the plan had Cameron and Clegg's support during their time in opposition, Cameron's party was not convinced. At the time, the amendment put him on a collision course with his backbenchers, who remain hugely sceptical of his green agenda, and he did not impose a three line whip on them when they voted on the proposal.
What a great example of the fine words bandied in opposition being totally subsumed in the real world of big (dirty) business and political reality. No surprise that the Tories did it. But the Lib Dems? I wonder if they will have a voter left by the time the AV referendum comes round.