Climate and energy policy may not be the most talked about issue from candidates in the run up to the election; in the current economic climate the focus has been shifted elsewhere in the scramble for crosses on paper, but what might the future hold for environmental issues under a new government? This week we have seen the odds on a Tory government cut considerably, so what would a Tory government offer to those worried about climate policy?

In fact, on the face of it, Conservative policies are not dissimilar to Labour. Both parties propose energy saving measures like home insulation, which is a very cost effective way of reducing energy bills. Nuclear policy and the approach to renewables (especially wind energy) are also similar. Both also look to carbon capture and storage, which requires considerable development to be used on a large scale.

While some would argue that it doesn’t go far enough, or that nuclear is an unacceptable path to take, some of the Tory policies are surprisingly green. Micro-generation of energy is even given pride of place in their climate change and energy policy. Decentralisation of energy is something we would have only seen in Green Party policy ten years ago, but now is considered a mainstream policy option. While there is no denying that Conservative policy could go much further in its approach, the realists would conclude that it is in fact a considerable step in the right direction.

Whilst these are definite strides forward compared to Conservative policy of the past, it is clear that a substantial proportion of Conservative members of parliament do not share the same views on these issues.

In fact, the party is split over its attitude to climate change issues. Tim Montgomerie, editor of conservativehome website, says 6 members of the shadow cabinet are sceptical on their own low carbon policies. Other polls of Tory candidates show that climate change is in fact one of the least important considerations of the next government. David Cameron has repeatedly stated how he wishes to follow through on this energy policy; with these considerable dissenting views, this may not be possible.

On an international level, the EU announced recently that it was willing to make further concessions on emission cuts in Bonn, which has been backed by the current UK government. While the EU seems to be taking a leading role in reviving the shambolic climate negotiations, will a future conservative government, which looks to be considerably more Euro-sceptic than Labour, be so quick to back the EU’s stance on emissions reduction?

This may all come down to how much David Cameron will be willing to push the issue, will he risk a split in his party over Climate Change issues, when public opinion on the importance of Climate Change mitigation is waning? Is it really as important to him as he seems to have suggested in recent months?

Of course, whilst many of us hold Climate Change close to our hearts, it is fair to say that the coming election will not be won through a glittering climate policy; this means that it could prove very easy for the Conservatives to renege and give in to the climate-sceptic wing of the party. The election of course, could yet surprise us, but if the current polls are to be believed we could see a fascinating early rift in the new government, which could decide how we tackle climate policy in the coming decade.

Alan Bouquet 12/04/10

Advertisements