Writing exclusively for BusinessGreen, Ed Davey says the Liberal Democrats have helped deliver the "greenest government" ever and will continue to champion the low carbon agenda
It is no secret that in coalition we have had to fight tooth and nail to ensure this has been the greenest government ever. We haven't gone as far as we would have done had it been a Liberal Democrat majority government, but I am immensely proud of our record. From the creation of the UK Green Investment Bank, the first of its type in the world, to the doubling of investment in renewable energy, nearly tripling electricity from renewables, creating thousands of green jobs and agreeing an ambitious climate change target with our EU partners, we have kept the environment on the agenda and delivered time and time again.
We have also protected the natural environment. We have planted a million trees in the most ambitious planting programme since the 1970s. We are introducing a 5p charge on the plastic bags that cause such devastation to our countryside and wildlife. And we have invested in low carbon transport, from ultra low emission vehicles, to cycling schemes across the country and the biggest investment in the railways since Victorian times. That's because to us, the environment is not just about one government department, or one policy area. It cannot just be about energy, or just about making cars more environmentally friendly. It has to span every policy area and every government department.
It is with this bigger picture in mind that the Liberal Democrats have designed our Five Green Laws for a greener Britain. And we have put them right on the front of our manifesto, sending a clear signal that this will be a priority for us in the next parliament.
Through the Five Green Laws - the Nature Bill; the Heating and Energy Efficiency Bill; the Zero Waste Britain Bill; the Zero Carbon Britain Bill; and the Green Transport Bill - the Liberal Democrats are nailing our green credentials to the mast. We have put the environment at the heart of a radical programme for government that will safeguard the environment for future generations. It will include new rights to access green space, new marine and coastal reserves, the roll out of an electric vehicle charging point network, ambitious waste reduction plans and new regulations to boost energy efficiency and renewable heat to cut bills.
The Liberal Democrats understand that Britain can't fight climate change alone. We are instinctively internationalist and look to work collaboratively on global problems. Thanks to our leadership, the UK has played a key role in drafting a new international climate change treaty that will, for the first time, include legally binding carbon emissions targets for all signatories. In the meantime, with UKIP snapping at their heels, the Conservatives are putting both the UK's energy security and our ability to tackle climate change at risk by entertaining calls that we should leave the EU.
The Conservatives have also moved away from onshore wind, which is an extraordinary u-turn from the days when David Cameron had a wind turbine on his roof. They say they support the Climate Change Act, and yet refuse to tell us how they will decarbonise our economy. Onshore wind is part of a broad energy mix, but it is a big part, and it is the cheapest, large scale renewable at the moment. By rejecting it, the Conservatives are effectively telling the public that they will increase bills.
While everyone knows the Tories have been an obstacle to the Liberal Democrats' ambitions for the environment, people have forgotten that Labour failed to deliver on these important areas when they were in government. And their current manifesto doesn't look like it will help. They have missed the opportunity to set out a full plan for the environment across the breadth of the issues. Their plans on energy efficiency lack ambition. In fact, Labour is focused almost entirely on energy prices, leading to some weak policies which will undermine efforts to go green.
Liberal Democrats see our duty to protect our environment for future generations as a central political and moral challenge. This is not something we can, or should, try to sidestep. That is why we will always champion this agenda. It's something that we fought for in this government and we'll continue to fight for after the election.
Ed Davey is Energy and Climate Change Secretary and Liberal Democrat candidate for Kingston and Surbiton