Tom Baldwin and Ben Webster
Labour and the Tories clashed over their green credentials yesterday as David Cameron was accused of failing to confront climate-change deniers inside his party.
The Conservative leader made his pitch for eco-voters when he announced plans for a new generation of neighbourhood parks on derelict land. But he immediately came under attack from Labour, which pointed out that a number of Tory candidates were openly sceptical about man-made global warming.
Despite Mr Cameron’s slogan of “vote blue go green”, a recent survey found that only 22 per cent of Conservative candidates in winnable seats strongly supported Britain’s target of generating 15 per cent of Britain’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.
David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary, recently warned that the policy of tough targets to cut carbon emissions, supported by Mr Cameron, was “destined to collapse”.
At a Climate Question forum in London yesterday, Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, repeatedly clashed with his Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green counterparts.
He said that the Tories had been “just found wanting” in dealing with climate-change deniers and that local authorities controlled by the party had too often opposed onshore wind farms. But Greg Clark, the Shadow Energy Secretary, said: “Maybe it’s a symptom of being in Whitehall too long, but Ed must recognise that there are different opinions in the country. I disagree strongly with deniers, but the way is to convince them of the case.”
Challenged over the views of Marcus Wood, the Conservative candidate in Torbay who has expressed scepticism about climate change, Mr Clark said: “I have never heard of him.”
Labelling people who oppose wind farms as antisocial is counter-productive, added Mr Clark. “This kind of lecturing from Westminster and officials in Whitehall doesn’t work.”
He detailed Conservative plans for dealing with the “climate emergency”, which include a “green deal” for every home to improve energy efficiency and a nationwide introduction of “smart meters” by 2016 — four years earlier than Labour proposals.
Labour’s opponents dismissed the Government’s “feeble” record on renewable energy and improving air quality after 13 years in power.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat climate-change spokesman, said that it was too late for Mr Miliband to claim that Labour cared about the environment. “Ed talks a good talk, but renewables targets are not met, fuel poverty not met, air quality targets not met,” he said. “The Government hasn’t delivered.”
Mr Miliband responded that Lib Dem opposition to nuclear power left a “massive hole” in their climate change strategy, which he contrasted with Labour’s willingness to take “tough decisions” on meeting carbon emission targets.
But Mr Hughes reiterated his view that nuclear power was too expensive and would undermine investment in renewable energy.
He said that his party had a clear commitment to a zero-carbon Britain and would create a green economy with 100,000 jobs, and £10,000 for each household to cut emissions.
“This is a fantastic opportunity, and this is the reality of this election, that for the first time in my lifetime there could be in government a party which has a commitment at every level to the green agenda,” he said.
Darren Johnson, of the Green Party, which hopes to win its first seats in this election, warned that a “massive transformation” of the economy was needed, and said thast the scale of the challenge was huge because of decades of “dithering and inaction”.