Apparently this time it's for real.
According to those shadowy figures who give political journalists their seemingly psychic understanding of ministers' thoughts Gordon Brown has really gone green this time.
The spin doctors insist that if the prime minister's attitude to climate change has in the past been somewhat equivocal, yesterday's speech marks a very real and very important shift in attitude that once and for all brings him down on the side of the environmentalists and green businesses.
According to The Guardian's chief sage, Polly Toynbee, recent reports that ministers were planning to wriggle out of EU targets to source 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 finally brought the long-running battle between Defra and BERR to the boil. An argument ensued at a "stocktaking" meeting to discuss the targets and Defra carried the day. Brown ruled that the target must stay and must be met – end of.
The question now is how to hit targets that only a couple of weeks ago were deemed so demanding by ministers at BERR that they had to be watered down?
The signs from Brown's speech were heartening. There was very little in the way of new announcements - besides the eye catching commitments to phase out single use carrier bags and toughen car fuel efficiency rules further - but when all the government's various initiatives and targets were set out in one speech you began to get the sense that maybe this time the rhetoric will be followed by action.
For example, the plans for expanded carbon trading mean a price signal on emissions will impact almost every sector of the economy within the next few years; the launch of the tendering process for a carbon capture and storage project will make the UK one of the first countries to adopt the technology; the commitment to remove planning barriers and improve subsidies for offshore wind, wave and tidal power projects will help the UK finally tap into its massive renewable energy potential; and Brown's focus on green jobs and opportunities rather than costs should help get businesses and the public onside.
And yet despite these initiatives it is hard to avoid the impression that the government's carbon emission reduction programme looks more than a little lopsided.
The commitment to necessary regulation is there in abundance, while Brown's evoking of the Post-War Marshall Plan suggests there is a willingness to raid the public purse to help build the low carbon infrastructure required, but where government policy remains a good deal less clear is in the support and incentives it will offer businesses to help them make the low carb transition.
As Toynbee observed today, "Brown resists intervention in markets, but industry needs a kickstart".
Where the government does intervene in markets its record is mixed. For example, only the most loyal Whitehall apparatchik can continue to argue that the Renewables Obligation subsidy mechanism is as successful as the far simpler feed in tariff that has made Germany a world leader in green energy.
Meanwhile, plans to expand carbon trading will help drive adoption of low carbon products and processes, but without a concurrent attempt to incentivise greener business models many firms will argue that they are being hit with extortionate new costs while the government does little to help them change their operations.
One of the key challenges for the government's low carbon strategy will be to keep businesses onside, particularly over the next five to ten years when European firms look like they will inevitably face higher costs and tighter regulations than many of their competitors in China, India and possibly even the US.
To do this there has to be an indication that government is willing to help with the low carbon transition, and if that means titling the market in favour of the green market leaders while continuing to hammer away at the laggards then so be it.
Initiatives like the £1bn public-private Energy Technologies Institute to help bolster clean tech R&D are a step in the right direction, but when you consider Brown's speech came on the same day that German chemical giant Bayer pledged to spend not that much less on green R&D you realise that the government's fund is an order of magnitude too small.
What is needed is a real helping hand for all green business products and practices in the form of massive tax breaks. If the government must make the lost tax revenue up from somewhere it can do so by increasing tax on the polluting activities all businesses now know they must wean themselves off.
Only yesterday, I was speaking to an IT exec who bemoaned the lack of government support for green technologies such as video conferencing that are just on the edge of commercial viability and simply need a little push. He added that even where there were tax breaks for products such as energy efficient cooling systems most firms had little idea of how to access them.
If the government was to impose and, just as importantly properly promote, a wide ranging tax incentive programme incorporating everything from solar panels to hybrid cars and triple glazing to LCD lighting then not only would businesses find it easier to justify green investments, but they would also get the impression that the government was on their side and willing to help with the technological revolution Brown demands.
Economists of the Brown School might argue that market forces can and will drive this revolution without intervention, just as they did the IT revolution twenty years ago – and they'd be right. But the fact is that without intervention this revolution will take years and decades that the scientists insist we don't have.
If Brown is as serious about climate change as his speech suggests then it is time to break with his convictions and give the invisible hand of the market a sizable shove in the right direction.
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