Nick Clegg has issued a clear warning to David Cameron that he will not allow any scaling back of the coalition’s green ambitions in the face of criticism from the Conservative Party.
Speaking in his keynote address to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, the Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister pledged to “hold [the Conservatives] to their promises” on environmental issues and dismissed the Conservatives’ “vote blue, go green” strategy as nothing more than a “PR exercise”.
He praised the UK’s green economy for “growing strongly right now” and “leading the world”, creating billions of pounds of investment, thousands of new jobs, and “clean energy we produce ourselves that never runs out”.
However, Clegg warned that the Conservatives’ commitment to the green agenda had been “ruined” by Chancellor George Osborne’s speech at his party’s conference last year in which he suggested environmental policies and economic growth were not compatible.
“We will not succeed,” Clegg warned, “unless we can see off that most short-sighted of arguments: that we have to choose between going green and going for growth. Decarbonising our economy isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a fantastic economic opportunity.”
He vowed to fight any attempt by the Conservatives to row back on their previous commitment to green policies. “Going green means going forward,” he said. “Let the Conservatives be in no doubt, we will hold them to their promises on the environment.”
He also quipped that “you can’t vote blue and go green – to make blue go green you have to add yellow”, before admitting that it was a “terrible joke”.
The speech contained no new green policy commitments but set down a marker ahead of an autumn period during which a host of crucial environmental policies will be debated at the top of government.