11 May 2015, 12:09
The sigh of relief from across the green business community was almost audible. With the bizarre and ultimately doomed appointment of climate sceptic Owen Paterson as Environment Secretary casting a long-shadow there was genuine concern David Cameron could use his unexpected majority to push action on climate change down the agenda with the appointment of a Secretary of State disinclined to take decarbonisation seriously. It is not as if he didn't have plenty of ambitious ministers with minimal interest in climate change and hostility towards clean technologies to choose from.
With one Tweet those fears, not to mention concerns the whole Department of Energy and Climate Change could be for the chop, were quelled. The appointment of Amber Rudd as the Energy and Climate Change Secretary is not simply just reward for an able and collegiate politician who has just increased her majority in a marginal seat, it is also great news for the green economy.
Rudd has repeatedly put herself on record as warning that it is vital to take action on climate change, because of the "devastating impact it could have nationally and internationally" - a braver and more principled position than it should be for an ambitious Conservative politician given the manner in which this analysis is loudly rejected by some of her own colleagues.
More importantly, she has a coherent sense of how environmental protection and climate action fits into modern Conservatism having previously identified herself as a "Thatcherite when it comes to climate change", fond of quoting the Iron Lady's famous assertion that "The core of Tory philosophy and for the case for protecting the environment are the same: No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy-with a full repairing lease".
As a former banker, city headhunter, and financial journalist she also understands instinctively that it is business and innovation that represents the last best hope of delivering steep cuts in global carbon emissions.
Perhaps most importantly for green businesses, energy utilities and investors, Rudd has experience at DECC and a mandate to broadly continue with the current low carbon policy regime.
Both the FT and Telegraph have already run articles arguing current policies are failing and calling for a fundamental overhaul of UK energy policy that dilutes the current focus on decarbonisation. Climate sceptic backbenchers will lap up this analysis and use it to demand a wider re-think. However, Tory sources this morning indicated the green economy should not worry too much about this analysis given the leadership's commitment to long term emissions reductions remains solid. Rudd's appointment underlines that commitment and means Cameron has passed the first test of whether he will stand by his pre-election commitment to continue to drive the decarbonisation of the British economy. Significant changes to the previous government's electricity market reform programme and energy efficiency strategy would now come as a major surprise.
It is important to remember Rudd's appointment is anything but a sinecure and her commitment to tackling climate change is no guarantee this government will do so effectively. She faces numerous daunting challenges, several of which are made harder by a manifesto that lacked sufficient ambition on environmental issues and paints the Conservatives into a contradictory corner where they hymn the virtues of low cost decarbonisation while blocking low cost onshore wind farms and offering little in the way of new thinking on low cost energy efficiency measures.
The Paris Summit is just the most high profile of a series of early tests, which also include the finalisation of long-running nuclear negotiations with EDF, the need to jump start the UK's carbon capture programme, and imminent spending cuts at DECC. Crucial negotiations with the Treasury and Number 10 on the next wave of emissions targets and clean energy funding also present a major challenge, as does selling fracking to an increasingly suspicious public. Rudd's previous role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor may result in more collegiate relations with the Treasury than DECC has experienced over the past five years, although it may also fuel fears the Treasury brake on green economic progress will become even more pronounced.
All these challenges will need to be overcome while coping with the impact an EU referendum will have on investor confidence and battling with a constant drumbeat of opposition to green policies from parts of the press and some of Rudd's own colleagues.
However, these valid concerns are for another day. For now green business leaders will welcome the fact that the new Secretary of State is as committed to tackling the threat presented by climate change as they are. Just as they will welcome the fact the Prime Minister wants an Energy and Climate Change Secretary who takes both topics seriously. The green business community and the Conservative leadership won't always agree on how best to slash emissions, bolster UK climate security and enhance clean tech competitiveness, but Rudd's appointment makes it clear the goal remains a shared one.
Those sighs of relief across the green economy have just turned to cheers with the news Eric Pickles has been replaced as Communities Secretary by Greg Clark, bringing an end to a period in which Pickles sought to undermine pretty much every environmental policy he had a hand in. In contrast, Clark has won plenty of plaudits from green groups in the past and is well regarded for his rational, evidence-based approach to policy-making. Add in confirmation Liz Truss is continuing at Defra and the climate sceptic wing of the party has been well and truly locked out of the main environmental briefs.
As former Climate Change Minister Greg Barker wrote on Twitter this afternoon it is "shaping up to be a v progressive, pro green agenda reshuffle".
For those green business still smarting at the imminent halt to the UK's onshore wind farm industry and the Tory manifesto's limited ambition on energy efficiency the fact these policies will be enacted by Ministers who understand the urgency of the climate crisis may prove cold comfort. But there is little doubt Cameron has today exceeded the green communities' expectations with a reshuffle that puts the party's modernisers in charge of the UK's environmental policy framework.
08 May 2015, 14:41
People will be forgiven for thinking the post of Energy and Climate Change Secretary is cursed. Ed Davey was today one of the most high profile victims in the brutal Lib Dem cull; his predecessor Chris Huhne was forced to fall on his sword and make his way directly to jail; his predecessor, Ed Miliband, has just seen his dreams of Number 10 go down in the most unexpected of flames.
It will be of little comfort to either Ed Davey or Ed Miliband as they reflect today on political careers gone awry, but they did the green economy a significant service over the past five years.
Davey, who less than 24 hours ago may have harboured realistic ambitions of being the next Lib Dem leader, can look back on a record of considerable achievement at DECC. There were inevitable missteps and it remains to be seen how effective the electricity market reform programme ultimately proves, but it cannot be denied Davey helped deliver a trebling in renewable energy capacity, continued improvement in the UK's energy efficiency, and put the Green Investment Bank on a stable footing. Scare stories about blackouts also proved wide of the mark and after a woeful start the Green Deal is finally showing some signs of life.
Most importantly, in his fierce battles with George Osborne's Treasury Davey locked in the decarbonisation path for the rest of the decade and beyond by helping to secure a strong fourth carbon budget and over £7bn of funding for clean energy through to 2020. Davey was also scientifically literate enough to know none of this was enough when set against the scale of the climate challenge and even indicated that he understood the tension between cutting emissions and maximising fossil fuel production - a realisation that is all too rare among politicians. Moreover, like his Tory colleague Greg Barker, he achieved all this while remaining that rarest of things: a frontline politician who very few people have a bad word to say about.
Miliband's gift to the green economy is perhaps less clear cut, but no less significant. He laid the policy foundations for much of the decarbonisation that is now underway during his own stint at DECC and brought a genuine commitment to climate action and the green economy to the Labour leadership, even if he did not talk about it enough in public.
One of the upsides of the environment not featuring heavily in the election campaigns means that as the Lib Dems and Labour rake over the wreckage it is highly unlikely the green aspects of either parties' pitch to the country will cop much of the blame. In fact, I'd expect quite the opposite conclusion to be drawn. In a thoughtful blog post on Labour's disastrous showing, Labour List's Mark Ferguson argues the party's campaigning has become too narrowly focused on the NHS and inequality and needs to take steps to better represent working people. It is a similar analysis to that of the Blue Labour grouping and demonstrates there is a clear opportunity for the old party of heavy industry to harness the job-creating potential of modern, green industry as a core campaign message.
Miliband started this thinking, but never went far enough; it is critical his successor, whoever it may be, builds on it. The green economy and the promise it brings is one part of the Miliband agenda that needs to be strengthened, not ditched. This is not a New Labour or Old Labour issue, it is a highly popular part of the economy that promises good, well-paid jobs through innovation and investment. It should be a crucial part of a centrist Labour pitch to the whole country.
Labour, the few remaining Lib Dems, the SNP and the other opposition parties also need to recognise they now have a crucial role to play in ensuring the green economy builds on the success it has enjoyed in recent years under Davey.
In a gracious acceptance speech, David Cameron vowed to serve as a One Nation prime minister while delivering on the Conservative manifesto, a manifesto that includes the retention of the Climate Change Act but is light on the detail of how to ensure its long term carbon targets are met. The Prime Minister will need all the help he can get to push a credible green economic programme past climate reckless backbenchers and pollutocrat donors who will already be preparing to try and seize the whip hand over Number 10.
It might seem strange to call for cross-party co-operation following the election of a majority government following the most bruising campaign in living memory, but that is precisely what the green economy might yet need, particularly if the mixture of devolved powers to Scotland and Tory backbench hostility to environmental policies combines to create a two-speed green economy in the UK.
Davey, Miliband, and the green Tories they worked with over the past five years, including David Cameron, have helped put the green economy on a stronger footing than many people realise. When the dust settles, their respective parties may need to work together once again to ensure their good work does not go to waste. After all, that is what One Nation politics, be it from the left or right, is all about.
08 May 2015, 10:23
Something truly historic and genuinely shocking has happened in the past few days. That's right, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the monthly global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.
Meanwhile, on a small archipelago off the coast of Europe, David Cameron pulled off the biggest political shock in a generation and is now odds-on to deliver the first Tory majority government since that last electoral surprise in 1992, albeit with a wafer thin majority that may eventually see him long for the parliamentary stability of the Major years.
For all the immense challenges Cameron now faces - delivering his promised EU renegotiation and referendum, holding the union together when it is pulling apart at the seams, identifying the unfunded spending and tax cuts he promised, navigating ever louder (and entirely justified) calls for electoral and constitutional reform - it is the response to the ongoing global climate crisis that will one day be seen to define his generation of world leaders.
There are plenty of climate scientists who reckon by the end of this parliament global greenhouse gas emissions need to be peaking in readiness for a vertiginous decline.
Cameron knows this and in those quieter moments when he is allowed to present himself as the One Nation Tory Moderniser he instinctively remains - and this morning promised to become once again - he is committed to playing his role in delivering the global green industrial revolution. But green businesses and campaigners will this morning look at the result and wonder how many of those quieter moments he will be granted over the next five years. Cameron's commitment to the Climate Change Act may be solid, but his commitment to the policies required to deliver on it has already been shown to be flaky.
Does he have the nerve, the authority and the political nous to face down climate sceptic backbenchers whose votes could be crucial? That is one of the many unanswered questions of this election for green businesses.
But first, the good news. Even if GDP is not, in the words of Boris Johnson, going gangbusters, there are signs the green economy is. Renewable energy capacity trebled over the past five years and is on track to hit a 20 per cent share by 2020. The electric car market is booming and a host of low carbon infrastructure projects, from new nuclear reactors, to CCS demonstration projects and giant offshore wind farms are in the pipeline.
The Conservatives remain committed to expanding the ultra-low emission vehicle fleet, rolling out rail electrification programmes, delivering smart meters to every building, and enhancing biodiversity protection rules, especially for marine habitats. The Tory manifesto may not have been as overtly green as the Lib Dems or Labour's, but it is not without its strengths. Moreover, the bulk of the energy industry is celebrating this morning (and share prices are jumping) as the prospect of a potentially investment-disrupting energy price 'freeze' is buried with Ed Miliband's political career.
However, if businesses can see investment and policy certainty on a number of fronts, it is tempered by chronic uncertainty on a host of other important issues.
Whoever takes up the reins at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (assuming of course it is not merged back into another department in pursuit of George Osborne's steep Whitehall spending cuts) faces one of the most daunting in-boxes in Westminster.
Within the next 18 months they need to finalise a new carbon budget for the late 2020s, secure a new Levy Control Framework for supporting clean energy projects beyond 2020, tackle the ongoing problems with UK energy efficiency policies and the scandal that is fuel poverty, sort out the future of the Renewable Heat Incentive, clarify the detail of the Tory 'halt' to onshore wind farms, address fracking protests and planning objections, support the reform of the EU emissions trading scheme, ink the long-awaited deal with EDF to deliver a new nuclear power plant, dish out the similarly long-awaited £1bn of CCS demonstration funding, execute a smart meter rollout that has many informed observers worried, weigh in on debates about the UK's illegal air pollution, potential airport expansion, and resource insecurity, and represent the UK at an international summit that plenty of people regard as the most important in the history of human civilisation. No pressure, then.
Each of these policy debates could yet be resolved in favour of a more environmentally sustainable, climate resilient, and technologically competitive economy. But there is little doubt the battle will be intense and there are legitimate fears that if the right wing media continues to position action on climate change as an unjustified cost a Conservative government will throw green policies to the fossil fuel addicted wolves. Will the party focus on a competent programme of cost-effective decarbonisation or a chaotic programme of contradictory policies and climate politicking?
These hard policy choices will be further complicated by three over-arching realities that promise to repeatedly dilute Cameron's best intentions towards the green economy and further undermine investment certainty: Europe, austerity, and the Tory backbenches.
The first two years of the parliament will be dominated by the build-up to an EU referendum and, if the Scottish referendum is anything to go by, the following two years will be dominated by the fallout. Emissions targets, air pollution rules, waste and recycling directives, biodiversity and habitat protections, all face an ambiguous future. The likelihood is the UK will stay in the EU or leave and be forced to keep many of these rules through a trade agreement, but for now uncertainty rules.
Meanwhile, cuts to unprotected departments mean DECC, Defra and related departments such as Transport, Business, and Communities will all face extremely tough decisions over what green initiatives remain and which will be cut. They will all be wary of the backlash that results when cuts to something like flood protection are shown to be ill-conceived.
Finally, every green policy or programme the Conservative government pursues will face vocal opposition from those on its own benches who cling to the idea that anything to do with climate change is a Commie plot. Add in the fact that if Cameron does need additional votes his first port of call is likely to be the DUP and party management becomes as crucial to the Tory green vision as the formation of that vision in the first place. Will the Lib Dems and Labour be responsible enough to work with the Conservative leadership on some of these issues to sideline the few climate sceptic voices in parliament or will they be granted influence that is in complete disproportion to their numbers?
What, if anything, can green businesses do to navigate this uncertainty and deliver the policy victories that will help the low carbon economy build on its recent successes?
As always, more needs to be done to demonstrate that clear majorities of the public support clean technologies and are in favour of decarbonisation. Yesterday may have proven once again that you can form a government with the support of barely a third of voters, but a true One Nation Conservative Party has an obligation to represent the country as a whole on these issues.
Similarly, green businesses need to recognise policy is only part of the story and not get too disheartened if some green policies are shelved. It is a scandal the Conservatives will now scupper a popular, successful and cost-effective industry in the form of the onshore wind energy sector. But the march of clean technologies is a global trend whereby costs are falling and green products are becoming normalised all the time. Divestment, community energy, smart grids, solar cells, these are trends and technologies that continue to go from strength to strength, regardless of the political weather.
Finally, those Conservatives tasked with presenting the party's green policies in recent months have repeatedly declared that their focus is on cost-effective decarbonisation. Green businesses need to take this at face value, reach out to those remaining green Tories (they may seem as rare as a happy badger this morning, but they do exist) and demonstrate how decarbonisation is already being delivered in a cost-effective manner and will only become more cost competitive in a way fossil fuels will not. They could start by pointing out how the Conservatives are missing a trick in failing to take action on energy efficiency much more seriously. The Tory manifesto says they will improve one million homes over the next five years; Labour claimed to have a plan to upgrade 2.5 million homes at negligible extra cost - regardless of the final result, it is worthy of consideration.
Most of all though, green businesses and campaigners need to cling to the hope that the David Cameron who once declared that climate change is one of the most serious challenges the UK faces, who once declared he wanted the UK to be the most energy efficient economy in Europe, who once declared he would lead the greenest government ever, has it in him to tackle the climate challenge that will one day define the history books of this most unpredictable of political eras.
06 May 2015, 06:25
Taken at face value there is a lot in the Labour pitch to appeal to both green businesses and those progressive corporations that want to see the UK build a greener and more competitive economy. If the party does form the next government and delivers on its energy and environment manifesto promises then it will comfortably take the "greenest government ever" mantle from the current coalition, building on its clean energy successes while accelerating progress in some of the key areas where the Conservative-led administration has not gone far enough.
The green package put forward by the opposition is not perfect, but the promise of power sector decarbonisation, a beefed up Green Investment Bank, a significantly strengthened energy efficiency strategy, and a renewed focus on the natural world and biodiversity protection demonstrates how the party has embraced the economic and environmental case for green investment. This vision has also been packaged in a way that suggests Labour now understands the appeal of green policies to centrist voters. It is highly likely the party's buffed up green credentials have played a role in Labour's little acknowledged but remarkable transformation from the government that was roundly defeated under Gordon Brown to the opposition that, in the face of a near-monolithically hostile print media, is still in the running at this late stage.
Significantly, Labour's green policies have been backed by pretty unstinting support from across the party. Ed Miliband's instinctive understanding of the importance of the green economy has been long-standing and well-documented. But what has been as important is the extent to which leading figures, such as Ed Balls and Chuka Ummuna, who were once pretty quiet on the concept of climate action, have made it clear that they support this agenda. Throw in a generation of young Labour MPs who see green industry and climate justice as absolutely core to modern social democracy and the old party of coal miners and carbon intensive industry looks greener than at any point in its history.
Even more significantly given the state of the polls, Labour's green package is one of the few areas where it should be easy to make common cause with the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens, if the parliamentary maths demands it. In fact, where there are differences on the centre-left over environmental policy it is likely a Labour minority administration or coalition would find itself under pressure to be more rather than less ambitious.
So where's the catch? Why haven't more green businesses, both publicly and privately, followed Ecotricity's Dale Vince in endorsing the idea of a Miliband premiership?
Labour deserves more credit than it has been getting for being so competitive at this election, but the same concerns over the party's economic record and judgement that have undermined its campaign and blocked its route to a majority have bled into any consideration of its environmental offer.
Miliband's speech on capitalism's 'predators' and 'producers' that fuelled the belief the party had become 'anti-business' was never as controversial as it was made out to be by the spin operation from the Conservative/Murdochian media wing, but Labour made a grave strategic error in failing to reach out to the 'producers' who embody progressive capitalism. The attack on businesses' weaknesses should have been more than matched by equally effusive praise for businesses' strengths. What praise there was never cut through and the green and responsible businesses that may have had some sympathy for Miliband's analysis were never harnessed. Consequently, the reputation of Miliband's Labour as a party that never met a corporate tax or business regulation that it didn't like was cemented. Similarly, the energy price 'freeze'/'cap' may have played well on the doorstep, but it further fuelled the perception of Labour as overly statist and anti-market.
Many green businesses and entrepreneurs have found themselves in the awkward position of being broadly supportive of Labour's green industrial policy (and deeply sceptical about the Conservative's mixed messages on the environment and reckless gamble on EU membership) while seeing this support tempered by nagging doubts about whether Labour truly understands how business works. There is something of an injustice here, given there are plenty of high profile Tories who similarly have no real experience of the business world and have little understanding of how capitalism needs to transform itself if it is to continue to prosper, but that is the centre-left's cross to bear. If Miliband does fall short, his failure to address these legitimate concerns and convince the public that he has a compelling vision that can tackle the deficit and improve lives through business led innovation, ingenuity and investment will be one of the major reasons.
However, the sad reality is that polling day is not a seamless exercise in electing a dream government, it is a messy 24 hours of compromise and hard choices. In a largely dispiriting and narrow campaign none of the parties have done nearly enough to explain how they would respond to the complex climate-related challenges that will only intensify during the next parliament. How will the next government tackle the carbon bubble implications of UK fracking and North Sea oil and gas expansion? Where will it set the next round of carbon targets? How much money will it make available for clean energy projects post-2020? How will it make the UK more climate resilient? Where will it stand on divestment? How will it ensure our leading businesses are ready for higher carbon prices and ever more competitive clean technologies? How will it deliver UK clean tech firms capable of holding their own on the global stage with the Teslas and Apples and Yinglis of this world?
No one has so much as attempted to answer these questions, but by putting forward a relatively clear cut decarbonisation programme Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and Greens have at least created the impression they know these questions exist. In contrast, the Conservative campaign has created the impression the party is barely aware of these questions and wishes they would just disappear.
As I argued at the start of this series of blog posts the impact of policies and political machinations on green business and technology is too often overstated. But the fact remains the biggest policy threat to the green economy at this election comes from the plausible scenario whereby voices from the right of British politics who are deeply sceptical about the case for decarbonisation become a dominant force in the next government. Rather than pushing these voices to the margins David Cameron has given them succour with a Tory energy and environment strategy that throws the wind energy industry under a bus and seeks to fudge too many of the big issues the UK's green economy faces.
That is why, for all the deep-seated concerns about Labour's economic credibility, many within the green economy will be hoping that whatever the precise outcome of the election the next government has a mandate to sideline those who would deprioritise green industries and ensure the under-reported success story that is the UK's green economy continues to go from strength to strength.
05 May 2015, 00:40
With just a couple of days to go until the polling booths open we remain in the staggering position whereby a Conservative Party that stands a very good chance of being returned to government remains the great mystery of this election campaign.
Is this the party whose long term plan has the economy ‘going gang-busters' or the party of slowing GDP growth? Is this the party of fiscal responsibility or unfunded NHS spending pledges and tax giveaways? Is this the party of optimistic sunlit uplands or bare-knuckle character assassination of opponents? Is this the party of business and strong governance or the party of destabilising EU referendums and constant in-fighting? Is this the Conservative and Unionist Party or the party willing to play fast and loose with the entire concept of the Westminster government representing every part of that union? Is this the party that regards a coalition agreement with nationalists as despicable or the party that would happily work with UKIP? Perhaps most damagingly for David Cameron, is this the party that bridles at the suggestion it is led by patrician and aloof Old Etonians who have no idea what living with poverty really means or is this the party when quizzed about how it plans to deliver on its pledge to slash the welfare bill offers a response that can be best translated as "don't you worry your little heads about it, we'll find a way"?
The answer to these questions is all of the above. All political parties are guilty of their evasions and contradictions, and it would be great if Labour and the Lib Dems were more transparent about their own spending plans and coalition preferences. But never has a mainstream party been able to present such a confusing picture of itself to the electorate and still have power well within its grasp.
Despite the Conservative leadership's clear reluctance to talk about energy and environment issues, this identity crisis is particularly apparent when it comes to the party's now vexed relationship with green issues.
Is this the party of low cost decarbonisation or the party that wants to effectively ban the cheapest form of renewable energy and scale back energy efficiency programmes that offer the lowest cost carbon savings? Is this the party that proudly proclaims a trebling in renewable energy capacity (in conjunction with the Lib Dems) or the party where ministers have expressed open hostility to wind and solar farms? Is this the party of enhanced biodiversity protection or the party of badger culls and eviscerated foxes? Is this the party of competence or the party that (again in conjunction with the Lib Dems) could not even give away £1bn of carbon capture funding and a diamond-plated nuclear deal? Is this the party that wants British business to lead in the ‘global race' or the party that does not want the UK to lead on clean tech? Is this the party of climate action or the party of climate scepticism?
Again, you've guessed it, the answer is all of the above.
The deep splits at the heart of modern Conservatism's approach to the environment and the green economy - splits that were somewhat papered over by Cameron's ‘vote blue, go green' persona - create a serious headache for green business leaders mulling who to vote for.
The reality is the Conservative Party is not the polluter friendly bogey-man of environmentalist nightmares that many green campaigners believe it to be. The manifesto commitment to retain the Climate Change Act means a Conservative government is similarly wedded to accelerating the pace of decarbonisation through massive investment in offshore wind power, solar, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, green vehicles and energy efficiency measures. The so-called "Green Tories" may be much less influential than they were in 2010, but the Conservative leadership is, for now at least, still opposed to the flavour of Tea Party climate scepticism offered by UKIP. Some parts of the green economy would continue to prosper under a second Cameron term. Add in the pro-business, low tax, instincts of the Conservative leadership and contrast it with Labour's self-defeating failure to effectively court the business community and there are good reasons why some green investors, entrepreneurs and executives will back Cameron and co.
However, the failure of the Conservative manifesto to provide much credible detail on how decarbonisation would be achieved, coupled with the bizarrely effusive backing for all things fracking, and the arbitrary move to "halt" onshore wind farm development, has left many questioning how serious the party is about growing the green economy.
Jobs will be lost in the wind energy sector in the event of a Conservative victory and many within the solar, energy efficiency and waste industries fear previous hostility from Tory ministers could quickly be translated into damaging policies if those ministers are returned to office and given free rein. These fears are further fuelled by the complete lack of appetite in Tory ranks for wrestling with big picture environmental issues, such as the carbon bubble, divestment, the need for climate adaptation, and the transformational impact clean technologies are already having.
More worrying still, there is a nightmare scenario for green businesses that still looks entirely plausible: a Conservative government with a wafer thin majority or the need to rely on others to get its programme through could find itself under constant pressure from UKIP and UKIP-friendly Tories to water down further those green ambitions it retains.
Could Farage demand a drastic dilution of climate policies as a condition of keeping Cameron, or perhaps George Osborne, Boris Johnson or Theresa May, in Number 10? Would a Conservative leadership that never completed Cameron's foolishly abandoned modernisation effort have the nerve to face down the head-bangers and their climate sceptic demands? These are questions that no one who cares about the UK's green economy, or indeed the UK's standing in the world, wants to find out the answers to.
A vote for the Conservatives holds out the prospect of a second coalition with the Liberal Democrats (the Financial Times and Economist's preferred option) where it is to be hoped the junior partner would embolden the Tories' green instincts and block policies that appear deliberately designed to harm the green economy in pursuit of a few thousand UKIP waverers. But it also holds out the prospect of a government that would complete the transition from Cameron's green progressivism to the sort of climate reckless identity politics embodied by Australia's Tony Abbott and Canada's Stephen Harper.
It would have been great if Cameron had more categorically ruled out such a transformation with a more explicit green agenda, but the Crosby playbook left no room for such long-term strategic thinking and the failure to modernise left the Prime Minister with minimal sway over many of his backbenchers. Consequently, those green business types considering re-electing a Conservative government cannot be entirely sure what type of government it is they are electing.
ABOUT JAMES' BLOG
Previously known as the BusinessGreen Blog, James' Blog features musings, observations and occasional rants from BusinessGreen editor James Murray
Browse posts by date