Party conference season comes to a close with little to please green business

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October 14, 2014

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Cut consumption at work

Labour

Ed Miliband gave a headline pledge for the Labour party to be a, “world leader in Green technology by 2025”, creating one million new green jobs by 2025, if elected. This was goal three of his six-goal plan for Britain’s future. This pledge was expanded upon with two policies:

1. Remove the carbon from electricity by 2030

2. Insulate five million homes.

The Labour leader argued these policies would secure our economy for the future but questions must be raised over the security of jobs in insulating homes, which will end once this goal is achieved. Yet, transitioning to carbon-free electricity will bring permanent jobs in renewable technologies.

Miliband was also chastised for his omission of crucial elements of his speech on tackling the deficit. This will do little to reassure those in green business already persuaded that Labour cannot be trusted with the country’s accounting, although perhaps unfairly. However, Miliband was deferential to his Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, who set out a series of measures to plug the current gap in spending in an earlier speech to conference.

Overall, the intent to invest in green business is very welcome, but it is a little early to be impressed when so little of the detail has been fleshed-out.

The Conservatives

The Conservative conference was distinctly lacking of messages for green business. All the Prime Minister said was that Britain would be,”leading not following on climate change”. Business Green has made much of this silence, particularly as it came just one week after Cameron’s address to the UN Climate Summit.

Pledges on the environment will not excite traditional Conservative support. This may well explain the lack of discussion. However, given the Conservatives look to be gearing up to an election promising tax cuts, Cameron may want to help voters lower their energy bills. This could have been an effective response to Labour highlighting a, “cost of living crisis”.

Obviously, the Conservative conference gives us nothing to shout about. However, Cameron may well feel the need to respond to his environmental critics in the near future; particularly as he has at least indicated in his conference speech that Britain would be leading the way on climate change and that will not happen without direction.

The Liberal Democrats

As part of the party’s bid to distance themselves from their coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats have tried to emphasise their green commitments. Nick Clegg proclaimed “It’s not green crap to us”, itself a reference to the Prime Minister’s reported response to environmentally motivated levies on energy bills.

As a contribution to the party’s green focus, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, announced an extra £100 million to help households reduce their energy bills. This will expand the existing Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.

Unfortunately, this policy is missing the mark.Its provisions are welcome, but the policy ignores LED lighting and several household water-saving measures. These could provide additional carbon and monetary savings, and much more simply than installing cavity insulation as an example. We are optimistic as the policy framework is already laid down. However, we would like it used to its full potential.

UKIP

UKIP remain climate change sceptics. Head of the party’s policy unit, Tom Aker, has publicly confirmed that the party would shrink the Department for Energy and Climate change and has a commitment to abolish the Climate Change Act. The conference itself made no mention of climate change.

This is disappointing. UKIP clearly have no interest in developing a burgeoning new market in green energy and sustainability. The party have, similarly to the Conservatives, outlined a series of tax cuts which they would implement if they were elected. They, therefore, recognise that voters are feeling the pinch financially. UKIP’s climate scepticism need not be a barrier to them helping homes reduce their energy costs. They could do much more in this regard with no conflict of interest.

The Green Party

Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, strayed from a green agenda in her conference speech. With the party already polling strongly with traditional support, she focused on attracting the left-wing of Labour Party support.

Nevertheless, her party are still committed to a series of green policies. With particular reference to saving energy, the party are committed to continuing to insulate homes. We would welcome additional policies on cutting emissions with energy efficient appliances.

Overall

We can see from this conference round-up that all the main parties are still missing the mark on cutting energy and water consumption. Nothing much has been outlined to help encourage households or businesses reduce their consumption on a daily basis. This is particularly disappointing as it would have an easily measurable and positive effect on cutting carbon emissions. Yet, we are not pessimistic. This is because existing policy can be easily expanded upon with the right intent.

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