Environment policies under attack include the green deal incentive that offers insulation to homeowners
The green deal, the government’s big policy initiative for fighting climate change, is supposed to plug one of Britain’s biggest sources of carbon emissions – draughty, fuel-poor homes.
Far from being a Liberal Democrat invention, it bore the imprimatur of David Cameron himself. One FTSE100 business leader who visited No 10 dared to joke about the name, only for the prime minister to explain that the label was his own idea.
So for Tories to fight publicly for the policy to be ditched – days after its launch by the Conservative climate minister, Greg Barker – is a big step. It reveals yet deeper fault-lines in the Tory party on green policy.
“The fighting about green policy has been intensifying for months,” said Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser at Greenpeace UK. “There is a sense that the government is strategy-less – there are a lot of senior [Tories] who are just looking for places where they can pick holes in climate policy. Cameron needs to take charge.”
Billions of pounds of investment and the potential for hundreds of thousands of green jobs hang in the balance as companies stall investment while they try to figure out what the government’s policy direction might be.
Potential investors in offshore wind suggested the overwhelming message was that Cameron needed to be more decisive. “Our investment is on hold until we have certainty and clarity regarding the policy environment,” said Magued Eldaief, managing director of General Electric.
Three of the “big six” energy utilities, and retailers such as M&S and Tesco, which were expected to be among firms offering the green deal, failed to turn up to the fanfare launch amid doubts they would take part. Studies have questioned whether the scheme can work, as the loans could be too expensive.
Meanwhile, Britain is losing out in the race to develop green industries, as disappointing figures for investment show: the UK managed less than $10bn last year, seventh in the world according to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts, compared with $48bn in the US.