British industry really hates the carbon floor price. I mean really hates it. Martin Temple, chair of the EEF, spoke for many manufacturers last night when he eviscerated the government's energy policy, calling for urgent action to tackle "the raft of green levies and charges that push bills up above almost any other nation in Europe". His chief executive, Terry Scuoler, went further still suggesting the organisation's lobbying over energy costs was its most vigorous political intervention in decades.
Both the EEF and the CBI have now mobilised their biggest lobbying guns in calling for a freeze in the carbon floor price, an extension to the compensation fund for heavy industry, and, perhaps most ominously for the government's green energy policy framework, a full review of the impact of other green policies, such as the Renewable Obligation. Anyone hoping that the flood-induced renewal of the political commitment to tackling climate change might translate into some climate policy consensus has very quickly been left disappointed.
Of course, neither the EEF nor the CBI are against action to tackle climate change, quite the opposite. Both organisations stress that they remain fully committed to decarbonisation and the building of a low carbon economy, at the same time as opposing many of the flagship policies designed to deliver exactly that. This is not necessarily the contradiction it sounds. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms that can be made about the government's low carbon policy framework and there are valid concerns about the way in which high UK energy prices could result in "carbon leakage" as companies move overseas in pursuit of lower energy costs.
Many environmentalists, myself included, have huge respect for the transformation that has taken place at the CBI and the EEF with regards to environmental issues over the past decade. Both organisations understand the need to build a low carbon economy and have undertaken numerous important initiatives to help support its development. The UK is lucky to have progressive mainstream business groups that are a million miles away from the corporate dinosaurs of the Sir Digby Jones era - anyone doubting that should look at the unreconstructed lobbying against any and all environmental regulations undertaken by many of the CBI's US and European cousins.
But the simple fact is that the proposed freeze in the carbon floor price that the CBI and EEF advocate would result in the UK burning more coal, increasing emissions, and weakening the investment case for clean energy and energy efficiency. How can a government that is committed to cutting emissions and driving green investment countenance such a move?
Like so many critics of environmental policies, the CBI and the EEF are much better at diagnosing policy problems than they are at prescribing serious solutions. That is not to say that there aren't problems with the current approach, the most obvious of which being the impact of energy costs on competitiveness. But the question has to be how can that problem be addressed while we continue to cut emissions and drive green investment? Not which green levy can we get scrapped in this budget?
The CBI and EEF have said they want the carbon price floor frozen and more cash found to help industry cope with the impact of the frozen levy. But such a move would require answers to numerous questions if it is to go ahead. How do you stop emissions increasing as coal becomes more attractive? What, as Policy Exchange's Guy Newey has pointed out, do you do about the impact on clean energy investment - introduce yet more technology-specific subsidies? How do you ensure that yet another change to carbon prices doesn't torpedo long term investor confidence at a time when we need to mobilise £110bn of investment in clean energy? What, having frozen the carbon floor price, do you do about the fact that European energy prices are still structurally higher than they are in the US and China - cut yet more taxes? Politically, how do you convince the Lib Dems to sign off on a policy that will tarnish their green credentials just over a year from an election? And where, given that it has repeatedly cut corporation tax, does the business community think the cash-strapped Treasury should raise the revenue that it would have got from the increasing carbon floor price? Income tax? VAT? Capital gains? Thought not.
To my mind the CBI and EEF are yet to provide credible answers to any of these questions. However, that begs another question. What does an environmentally responsible industrial strategy actually look like? How do you address the real problems presented by competitiveness issues - and anyone doubting that they exist should have heard Temple's tale earlier this week of a steel plant with a £75m energy bill that is set to rise year-on-year and which increases by £1m every time it miscalculates the so-called Triad mechanism and keeps operating during peak periods - without compromising emission reduction efforts?
The obvious answer put forward by the CBI, the EEF, and others is to sort out the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) and deliver an international treaty that ensures all nations are doing their fair share to cut emissions. The government should be doing all it can to deliver on both of these fronts, but even in the best possible best case scenario a reformed EU ETS and global climate change deal is not going to come into effect until 2020. In the meantime the government should be looking to ramp up green ambition domestically, not water it down.
So what can be done? The first step should be to continue to increase the carbon price floor as planned, in order to encourage a shift away from coal generation and drive investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. But that commitment should be accompanied by an explicit pledge, potentially legally backed, to retire the tax as soon as the EU ETS is adequately reformed.
Such a move would help drive continued investment in the low carbon transition, but it would also result in worsening competitiveness issues. As such the government needs to get a better sense of what these issues are and draw up a plan to deal with them. I know the British political class is often accused of a having a nasty case of inquiry-itis - the tendency to hide behind a public inquiry whenever a tough political decision has to be made. But the debate over the extent to which green policies impact industrial competitiveness is characterised by so much smoke and mirrors that a full independent inquiry would prove extremely useful. There are too many anecdotes about unnamed companies being hit by high energy costs or considering leaving the UK, and not enough hard and fully independent evidence about the true impact of these policies and the relative energy costs in other countries. Such a review could also look at whether it makes sense to consolidate the numerous different carbon taxes imposed on companies and assess how the Triad mechanism can be improved using smart grid technologies to better manage peaks in energy demand.
Where there is evidence of real and compelling competitiveness pressures relating to energy costs (and remember energy is not the sole issue that determines competitiveness) the government should extend and increase the compensation funding available for affected companies. The fact is Germany's industrial sector benefits from much more government largesse to help it cope with high energy costs and the British government should not be penalising UK firms attempting to compete with Europe's manufacturing powerhouse.
You could argue that it is inefficient to increase a tax on carbon only to increase the compensation to help companies cope with the increased tax. But it is better to address competitiveness issues where they arise, rather than offer blanket benefits to coal power plants and industrial facilities that have no intention of relocating and can cope with the higher carbon price by investing in new technology.
Moreover, a government that is truly committed to building a low carbon economy could earmark some of the compensation fund to support the kind of tax breaks, incentives, and research and development spending that is needed to develop the next generation green industrial technologies that are required to deliver real decarbonisation. The EEF is already doing some fascinating work in this area to identify the new technologies that will be needed to cut emissions from key industrial processes, while Interface's New Industrial Model highlights how manufacturers can cut emissions and embrace clean technologies in a cost effective manner, but initiatives like this undoubtedly needs more financial support.
Unfortunately, this approach begs one final question - how to fund it? That, ultimately, is the question that makes life in the Treasury so challenging. But if the UK is committed to both decarbonisation and not hampering its industry with uncompetitive energy costs then the cash has to be found from somewhere. Recycling some of the increased revenues from the carbon floor price is an option, as is throttling back on the generous tax breaks handed to the oil and gas industry or actually delivering an increase in fuel duty at a time when our cars are more efficient than ever? Giving the perennially promised tax avoidance crackdown some real teeth could also deliver real results.
Either way, the Chancellor will need to find the money from somewhere, because in doing so he could go a considerable way to winning over both the green economy and the energy intensive industries that are currently so angry with his carbon floor price.
Bravo to Tim Cook. The news that the Apple chief executive verbally smacked down questions from climate sceptic group National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) over the IT giants high profile investment in clean technologies is to be applauded.
He may have visibly lost his temper at the recent shareholder meeting when pushed on the economic rationale for the company's pledge to source 100 per cent of its power from renewables and NCPPR's assertion that Apple should focus solely on profitability, but his responses were sound.
"When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI," he said, arguing the same rationale applied to worker safety and environmental issues. He then added the kicker, suggesting to NCPPR that he had no interest in working with shareholders whose only consideration was financial performance. "If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock," he said.
As an impassioned defence of the 'triple bottom line' and the argument that a company's values should extend beyond the simple maximisation of short term profit, it was hard to beat. I've been arguing for years that business leaders who profess to care about climate action should use their influence and political capital to challenge the toxic climate sceptic and turbocharged libertarian version of capitalist thinking that threatens the long term health and prosperity of both their organisations and the wider economy. It is great to see Cook do just that and more business leaders should be willing to follow his lead. It is about time UK business leaders who know action on climate change is critical called out the journalists and politicos who are undermining clean tech innovation, UK competitiveness in growth markets, and the long term resilience of the economy.
However, while Cook's intervention is to be welcomed, the line of attack he opted for represented something of a missed opportunity. And I suspect that once his temper subsided Cook realised this himself.
The Apple boss was right to argue ROI should not be the sole determining factor in corporate decision-making, but in so doing he forgot to also argue that action to tackle climate change and other long term risks is often still informed by the need to deliver ROI. Issues relating to environmental performance, workers' rights, and access for the disabled are absolutely informed by the pursuit of long term return on investment, it is just that progressive firms like Apple understand that the short term costs associated with acting in a responsible manner on each of these fronts delivers huge long term gains in terms of reputational kudos, access to new markets, operational efficiency, technological innovation, and risk mitigation.
This is particularly apparent with green corporate investment where energy efficiency measures cut costs, renewable energy technologies reduce exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices and tackle climate risks, and greener supply chains help lower reputational risks that can impact sales and staff retention. Regardless of what he said, Cook does consider "the bloody ROI" when making decisions to step up investment in clean technologies.
However, in focusing solely on the ethical case for green action Cook gave the NCPPR precisely the answer it wanted, as evidenced by its counter-attack accusing Apple of being cavalier with its investors' interests. "Too often investors look at short-term returns and are unaware of corporate policy decisions that may affect long-term financial prospects," the group said, in a response dripping with the irony of an organisation that dismisses climate risks warning others about long term financial prospects. "After today's meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change. The only remaining question is: how much? The company's CEO fervently wants investors who care more about return on investments than reducing CO2 emissions to no longer invest in Apple. Maybe they should take him up on that advice."
They absolutely should take Cook up on his advice, because responsible businesses who take long term risks and opportunities seriously want shareholders who do likewise. However, as is evident from Cook's previous comments on Apple's fast-improving green performance, he knows that he is more likely to convince shareholders of the wisdom of his approach if he highlights both the financial and the ethical case for stronger environmental action.
No doubt, NCPPR will give Cook the chance to explain how the "bloody ROI" is still crucial to the green economy soon enough. He should relish the opportunity to explain to this most blinkered of organisations another one of the many ways in which it is wrong.
The green economy has never been busier. The past six months has seen a surge in activity, both domestically and internationally, as green investment mobilises, policies start to bear fruit, and new clean technologies and business models mature.
Whether it is the surge in solar investment, the embrace of comprehensive sustainability strategies by blue chip firms, or the re-emergence of political debate over the response to climate change, evidence is mounting that as the economy recovers the green economy is edging ever closer to centre stage. This must be what the industrial revolution felt like in the 1780s or what the IT revolution felt like in the late 1970s. Not so much the calm before the storm, as the frenzy of activity before the economic revolution.
In such an eventful climate, keeping track of the management trends, technologies, and policies that will shape this revolution is more important than ever, to both the competitiveness of your organisation and the success of your career. That is why just under a year ago we launched BusinessGreen Plus with a vision of marrying BusinessGreen's award-winning news coverage with the kind of in-depth analysis and comment that green executives need to prosper in such a fast-moving market.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that BusinessGreen Plus has in recent months become ever more central to what we do. We still provide readers with the main green business news stories free of charge each day, but now over half of our content provides the in-depth insight only available to BusinessGreen Plus subscribers.
As a result many of the UK's top green businesses and organisations, including Sky, PwC, Centrica, Solarcentury, RBS, Carbon Trust, and DECC, are now BusinessGreen Plus subscribers, benefitting from the best coverage available on every aspect of the green economy, as well as full access to the entire BusinessGreen archive of articles and priority invites to all BusinessGreen events.
Now we want to go further still and ensure that all businesses, small and large alike, can join the BusinessGreen Plus community. As a result, as of today we are offering an annual subscription for just £199, a saving of £50 on the normal price of £249. That means you can get access to all of BusinessGreen Plus for under £3.85 a week, or less than a large cup of coffee, albeit a pretty posh cup of coffee.
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It has been a good few weeks for the UK's green economy. The green bond and green IPO market is warming up nicely, investment in solar farms is booming, renewable energy output is soaring and the EU is poised to introduce major new green corporate reporting rules that will only benefit progressive businesses. Yes, there are concerns over the future of offshore wind, biomass and nuclear projects and, yes, EY's report showing the UK slipped down the league table for attracting clean energy investors is worrying, even if we remain in the top five locations for investment. But speaking to green business execs since the turn of the year, it is evident that the combination of an improving economy and an improving policy environment means there is more confidence in the sector than at any point in the last five years.
Moreover, as today's report from the Globe group of legislators proves, the UK is not alone. More than 60 countries made progress with climate change legislation last year and there are now nearly 500 "climate laws" on statute books around the world. With President Obama promising more ambitious action on climate change, the EU committing to cutting emissions at least 40 per cent by 2030 and China's government increasingly concerned about the smog crisis gripping the country, more favourable clean tech policies are on the way in the world's biggest markets. The green economy is about to have "a moment". It is "a moment" that is likely to last decades.
Best of all for British firms, the UK's political class is finally talking about climate change again with the three main parties competing to present the most compelling approach for tackling the problem. It is depressing that it has taken major floods and the wettest winter on record to convince the party leaders to talk about an issue they all agree represents a serious and escalating threat to British prosperity and security, but those committed to building a more sustainable clean economy will take succour wherever they can find it.
The past few weeks has seen Labour's Ed Miliband finally give voice to his long-standing commitment to tackling climate change, while also asserting that it is Labour, with its plans for a decarbonisation target, promised increase in flood defence spending and pledge to tackle the UK's continued reliance on coal power, that would deliver tangible action on climate change if elected. We have also seen Nick Clegg highlight the Lib Dem's achievements as both a driver of the coalition's climate change policies and a check on climate scepticism in Conservative ranks. And we have seen David Cameron again assert that "man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces".
Perhaps most important of all, Cameron has not been the sole Conservative voice issuing this warning and making the case for action to cut emissions. In the past few days, George Osborne, Eric Pickles, David Willetts and Michael Gove – all of whom have in the past been regarded as ambivalent at best on the need for climate action – have made the case for more effective action. Gove's revelation that he is a "shy green" who believes it is "unarguable that we should seek first to lessen the impact that man might have on the climate, and secondly invest appropriately in measures to mitigate and protect individuals and societies from the impact of climate change" feels particularly significant, given his position as a rising star on the right of the party.
This public re-emergence of a political consensus on the need for ambitious action to tackle climate change is hugely welcome in that it both provides businesses with greater certainty over the future direction of travel and introduces some much-needed competitive tension between the political parties as they seek to deliver the policies that are urgently needed to enable a step change in the rate of decarbonisation. But the big question for green businesses and investors is, how will this renewed political interest translate into policy action?
It is increasingly evident two positive developments for the green economy – one near term and one medium term – are now all but guaranteed.
Firstly, in the short term the controversial review of the fourth carbon budget promises to be a non-event. There is no way that the David Cameron who believes "man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces" can credibly sign off on a watering down of the UK's carbon targets for the 2020s, and there is no way the George Osborne who will almost certainly have to find more money for flood defence spending in his next budget can make him.
The new collection of essays from the Conservative Environment Network may question the effectiveness of centralised carbon targets, but it would be politically toxic for the prime minister to row back on his commitment to a Climate Change Act he proudly voted for, particularly following his recent comments on the importance of tackling climate change.
Moreover, even if he wanted to relax the fourth carbon budget, it is hard to see how he could. The beauty of the Climate Change Act is that it is flexible, but not that flexible. To change the budget for the period between 2023 and 2027 the government would have to justify the decision to water it down, win a vote in parliament and withstand an almost inevitable judicial review. There is no way these barriers can be overcome. The Lib Dems could not vote for it, green-minded Tories could not vote for it, and the independent Committee on Climate Change would argue against it. It is not an exaggeration to say that even pursuing a weakening of the budget could both bring down the coalition and make Cameron's comments on climate change look like the worst kind of political hypocrisy. The fourth carbon budget is as close to being locked down as it ever will be and businesses can start planning for the UK halving emissions against 1990 levels by 2027.
Second, the medium-term impact is that ambitious climate change policies will play a more central role than expected in the manifestos for next year's election.
We know with a high degree of confidence that Labour will commit to a decarbonisation target in the power sector, tighter restrictions on coal emissions, more spending on flood defences, a new approach to energy efficiency, continued support for nuclear, renewables and CCS, and tentative support for shale gas. We also know that the Lib Dems will put forward a package of measures designed to build on the progress the coalition has made through the Energy Act, Green Investment Bank and other measures, even if the precise details remain sketchy at this stage.
However, a big question mark still hangs over how Cameron will resolve the huge tension between his commitment to tackling climate change and the continued hostility from many within his party towards such action. The recent 2020 Group report on resource efficiency and the Conservative Environment Network essays on Responsibility and Resilience offer plenty of good ideas for how this might be done. But even among those Tories who want urgent action on climate change, there are significant divisions between those who want smart, targeted policies to drive investment and tackle waste and those who want over-arching free market mechanisms and regard anything that smacks of state intervention as anathema. Equally, there are similar divisions between those who want urgent action to cut emissions now and those, some of whom remain sceptical about the potential scale of climate impacts, who want to focus on climate adaptation and deal with rising emissions at a later date.
Whenever you see this kind of ideological and political tension, the most likely outcome remains a triangulation strategy and it is easy to envisage a Conservative manifesto that supports emissions reduction at the same time as slamming wind farms, that promotes "cheap" savings from energy efficiency while promising to cut "green levies" on energy bills, and that promises detailed policies to improve resource efficiency but talks only vaguely about climate change. You could see triangulation already underway this week as Cameron hymned the oil and gas industry one day and warned about the impacts of climate change the next. Such an approach is definitely preferable to the sidelining of climate issues that has held sway at the top of the Conservative Party in recent years, but it is also pretty obvious that you can't triangulate your way to a genuinely low-carbon economy.
However, that one concern aside, the past few weeks have left the green economy in an encouraging position. Investment and confidence is undoubtedly starting to build again as the economy strengthens and clean technologies mature. Long-standing predictions that the second half of this decade will be characterised by an explosion in the deployment of low carbon technologies and business models look increasingly prescient. Meanwhile, the combination of floods and economic opportunity – the old drivers of fear and greed – has finally forced our political leaders to push climate change and the green economy back up the agenda. The competition between the parties to deliver a successful new phase in the UK's decarbonisation strategy will benefit us all. Like I say, it has definitely been a good few weeks for the UK's green economy.
Welcome to the global fight to tackle the catastrophic risk that is man-made climate change, it is great to have you on board.
The entire green business and NGO community will have been delighted to hear you assert this week that you believe "climate change is happening [and] that it's caused by human beings".
This is a hugely welcome intervention, not least because your previous reluctance to speak publicly on this issue had fuelled speculation your friend and adviser Lord Lawson had convinced you climate change isn't a serious threat. Your colleagues on the green wing of the Conservative Party - those who once convinced you to assert that "if I become Chancellor, the Treasury will become a green ally, not a foe" - always maintained you were fully committed to delivering action on climate change. But you'll no doubt be aware your insistence the UK should not lead efforts to cut emissions and your team's willingness to brief the press about your hostility to green policies has fuelled speculation you do not regard climate change as a major issue. It is good to know this is categorically not the case, even if it has taken catastrophic floods for you and your colleagues to start talking about climate change again.
It is also good to know that you want to see action taken to "do what we can to prevent" climate change. This is a hugely welcome development, although I will admit to a twinge of concern at your throw away suggestion that "if we can't prevent" climate change we need to mitigate against it through adaptation measures. Improving climate resilience is essential and your decision to approve cuts to flood defence spending will no doubt go down as one of the coalition's biggest errors, but succumbing to the belief that we "can't prevent" climate change and should focus on adaptation is a one-way ticket to the kind of 4C world that it will be virtually impossible to adapt to. Having clearly committed yourself to action on climate change now is not the time for even a scintilla of defeatism.
Most of all though, it is great to hear that you have a vision for how the UK should decarbonise - it is a vision the entire green economy and almost every green NGO can get on board with. When you say "let's try and do this in as cheap a possible way as we can", you will find almost every environmentalist in the country will be nodding along in agreement.
I have to inform you that you are mistakenly under the impression that people somehow disagree with this over-arching strategy. We can perhaps quibble over the use of the word "cheap", as delivering something as important as the re-engineering of our economy on the cheap risks a shoddy transition that does not harness the technological and business innovation that will maximise economic, environmental, and health benefits. But if you substitute in the term "cost-effective" then the entire green economy is on your side with this vision.
Businesses and NGOs alike understand that a green transition will only be achieved if the cost of clean technologies continue to fall and the short term costs associated with green infrastructure investment are kept as low as possible. Again, we can argue that the polluting technologies that have driven climate change are themselves too cheap and should be made to meet the full cost of their impacts - that we should price the externalities associated with fossil fuels, as your Treasury economists would put it. But regardless of the outcome of this debate there is an acceptance that the cost-effectiveness of the low carbon transition needs to be maximised at every turn.
Consequently, there is the potential here for the restoration of the kind of political consensus on climate action that has been sorely lacking for much of this parliament. A consensus whereby the leaders of all main parties compete to find the best way to drive a cost-effective low carbon transition that will tackle climate change risks, deliver economic growth, and improve the UK's competitiveness. Having visited China and no doubt heard about its world leading clean tech sector you will be all too aware of the urgency with which the UK must seize this economic opportunity.
Unfortunately, your comments yesterday revealed one small potential flaw in your climate change strategy. If you want to deliver a cost-effective low carbon transition you need to pursue policies that deliver a cost-effective low carbon transition - and sadly, to date, the evidence that you are willing to do this is decidedly patchy.
You chose to highlight two areas where you think decarbonisation can be delivered in a "cheap" manner - fracking and nuclear power - and accuse critics of these two approaches of being "ideological" in their opposition. Specifically, you stated: "Let's not be too theological about which technology we use - let's get the right mix. For example, there are people in the green movement who oppose civil nuclear power for I would think rather ideological reasons but it's clearly a low-carbon source of energy generation. Equally shale gas has done incredible things to reduce US carbon emissions and there are parts of the environmental movement who don't like that, again for rather ideological reasons. I would say let's see more fracking and shale gas in Europe, in the UK and in China."
Now you are right that some environmentalists can be a little "ideological" in their efforts to ensure the planet remains habitable for civilisation, and in some instances this ideological rigidity can prove unhelpful. But it is wrong to dismiss all opposition to fracking and nuclear as "ideological" when much of the criticism aimed at these two technologies is driven by your central concern: cost effectiveness.
There is, as you will be well aware, an argument that says shale gas can act as a low cost "bridge" fuel as we transition to a low carbon economy, I have some sympathy for this argument. But there is also an argument that if we invest too much in a new generation of gas infrastructure it could become a stranded asset as many climate scientists believe we need to secure steeper cuts in emissions over the next two decades than can be delivered by a heavily gas reliant economy. Shale gas can probably play some role in a low carbon economy, but engineering a shale gas boom could end up proving extremely costly from both a financial and climate perspective.
Equally, there are long-standing arguments that claim next generation nuclear technologies can deliver deep cuts in emissions at a low cost - again, I have some sympathy with these arguments. But there are also concerns that when you consider all the costs associated with nuclear it is anything but "cheap". In fact, simply judging nuclear using the strike price support levels you have approved shows that it is more expensive than onshore wind power, is almost certainly going to be more expensive than solar power by the early 2020s, and is definitely more expensive than energy efficiency measures.
Which brings me to another crucial issue. There are plenty of cheap and cost effective technologies and policies that will drive a low carbon transition, but the fact is your record on supporting these technologies and policies is decidedly mixed.
Take energy efficiency. Every available analysis shows energy efficiency measures are not only the most cost effective way of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, they also help to tackle fuel poverty and lower energy costs. And yet your government's changes to the ECO energy efficiency scheme effectively cut spending on such measures, while you have failed to provide the similar Green Deal scheme with the financial backing it needs if it is to have a national impact.
Or take flood defences. The past few weeks have made abundantly clear that investments in flood defences are cost-effective in the long run, but your government cut the budgets for such schemes and is still imposing significant job cuts on the agency tasked with tackling flood risk.
Or take wind and solar farms. Onshore wind farms are the lowest cost form of renewable energy and solar PV projects offer the fastest falling cost reduction curve, but your government has undermined welcome support for these technologies with barely concealed hostility from Ministers and a planning regime that is not fit for purpose.
Or take the promise of a decarbonisation target for the power sector. You have blocked its early adoption in order to aid continued investment in fossil fuels, despite the independent Committee on Climate Change concluding it is a cost effective policy that will help keep the UK on track to meet its carbon targets.
Or take carbon pricing and environmental taxes. Many of your favourite think tanks and economists will tell you that the most cost effective way to deliver action on climate change is to put a consistent and rising price on carbon emissions and let the market determine the least cost means of decarbonising. It is clear you understand this principle and have taken some positive steps to price carbon, but then you allow your officials to raise the prospect of cuts to the carbon floor price and deliver virtually no progress on the coalition's promised shift from income to environmental taxes.
Unfortunately this list could go on and on, but I am sure you get the idea.
You may be right to argue that nuclear power and fracking can help deliver "cheap" reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and responsible green businesses will happily engage with you in this debate. But there is a much wider array of technologies and policies that can also deliver cost effective emission reductions. Some of these, like energy efficiency, are obvious. Others, such as research and development funding for innovative renewable technologies, subsidies for clean energy, grants for electric vehicles, or tougher emissions standards on coal plants, might not appear to be cheap at first glance, but they are absolutely cost effective when set against the scale of climate change risks and the fact these policies are all designed to bring down the cost of emerging clean technologies.
As Chancellor of the Exchequer there is a huge opportunity for you to use the next Budget "do what we can to prevent" the climate change you acknowledge is man-made. Despite plenty of setbacks, your government has already made significant progress in driving investment in clean technologies and ensuring the UK continues to play a leading role in the global green economy. Now is the time to build on this progress with a new wave of cost-effective green policies. Policies that prioritise energy efficiency and low cost renewables, support research and development that will bring down the cost of next generation clean tech, increase the use of environmental taxes, regulations and incentives to encourage green investment (if you haven't read it yet, the recent report on resource efficiency published by your colleagues in the 2020 Group has some good ideas on how to do this), and enhance climate resilience.
The harsh reality of politics is that if you don't embrace these policies your rivals will, as they realise voters who are reeling from floods and are hugely supportive of the green economy will reward politicians who offering a compelling plan for tackling climate change.
The onus is on you to engage fully with all these technologies and policies as you pursue the most cost effective means of delivering the decarbonisation we urgently need. Because if ideological opposition to fracking and nuclear is not helpful, nor is ideological opposition to renewables and clean technologies. If you want to join the fight against climate change, this is the place to start.
ABOUT JAMES' BLOG
Previously known as the BusinessGreen Blog, James' Blog features musings, observations and occasional rants from BusinessGreen editor James Murray