The first 100 days , The Greenest Government Ever?

BBC News environment correspondent Richard Black’s analysis of the Coalition Government’s first 100 days in office raises some important points – not least the central one of how do you assess how you are the ‘greenest Government ever’? This is David Cameron’s now much quoted and questioned claim made within a few days of becoming Prime Minister. As Black rightly raises the question, should the litmus test be taken on the level of carbon emissions reductions achieved under this administration or on how successfully its policies to preserve our biodiversity deliver? I suspect when Cameron first uttered the words “I want this to be the greenest Government ever”, he meant it in the narrowest sense possible (i.e. on how well his Government departments would deliver on carbon emissions reductions). Since most of these are going to see their budgets slashed by 25 per cent, on that measure, the claim hardly seems ambitious. What’s going to prove far trickier is making this country and economy the greenest ever – certainly within this five-year term of office.

Take our 26 million existing homes, for example, the single biggest source of UK emissions. We should already be at the stage of retrofitting thousands of them a week to make them energy efficient, yet we are still at the research and testing stage of this mass-scale green makeover.

The ‘Green Deal’, the central plank of the Government’s green policy, which will help homeowners up and down the country carry out these improvements through a ‘pay as you save’ scheme, meanwhile, is not expected to come on-stream until the end of 2012 at the earliest.

There is real concern also over whether or not the Government is going to introduce the Renewable Heat Incentive, which will reward those who generate heat from renewable sources, and was set to come in next April.

Its committed itself to establishing a Green Investment Bank, but questions remain about whether it will be established quickly enough and will have the funding necessary to deal with the scale of the job in hand. The Green Investment Bank Commission reported in June that as much as £550 billion worth of investment could be needed to meet UK climate change and renewable energy targets between now and 2020. 

Making his own conclusions on the Government’s first 100 days in office, CBI director-general Richard Lambert described Government policy on climate change and energy security this week as being on ‘amber light’. Drawing his remarks from discussions from CBI members, Lambert’s main concern seems to be around the energy mix – too much wind and not enough carbon capture and storage and nuclear – and creating the right framework to encourage private investment to make the switch to a low carbon energy system, neither of which it seems the Coalition Government has managed to convince the business community it has addressed sufficiently.

This Government is only 100 days into its administration and it’s keen to be judged after the full five years on what it achieves in its term of office. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have that long on this pressing issue.

However the story feels very different outside the policy circles in London. In the West Midlands our members can see the existing support structures and help to move towards a low carbon economy being removed rapidly before a replacement structure, no matter how small is in place. Already some national Government Departments, such as BIS, are wondering how to deliver business support effectively through over 50 plus emerging local enterprise partnerships instead of 9 regions. SWM are currently providing advice to other devolved administrations in the UK around low carbon who also cannot believe what is happening in England, outside London.


Article available at Greenwise