No. 10 is tellingly refusing to deny the report in today’s Sun that David Cameron has ordered aides to “get rid of all the green crap”. A Downing Street spokesman merely stated that “we do not recognise this at all” (a classic non-denial denial). In reference to the environmental levies imposed on fuel bills, a Tory source earlier claimed of Cameron: “He’s telling everyone, ‘We’ve got to get rid of all this green crap.’ He’s absolutely focused on it.” The source added: “It’s vote blue, get real, now – and woe betide anyone who doesn’t get the memo.”
Those words are strikingly at odds with Cameron’s recent declaration in Sri Lanka, following Typhoon Haiyan, that “I’m not a scientist but it’s always seemed to me one of the strongest arguments about climate change is, even if you’re only 90 per cent certain or 80 per cent certain or 70 per cent certain, if I said to you there’s a 60 per cent chance your house might burn down do you want to take out some insurance? You take out some insurance. I think we should think about climate change like that.
“Scientists are giving us a very certain message. Even if you’re less certain than the scientists it makes sense to act both in terms of trying to prevent and mitigate.
“So I’ll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The evidence seems to me to be growing. As a practical politician I think the sensible thing is to say let’s take preventative and mitigating steps given the chances this might be the case.”
The comments are also, of course, the diametric opposite of Cameron’s pledges in opposition. Since you won’t find them on the Conservative website, here’s a reminder of the PM’s past greenery.
He told Newsnight on 3 October 2006: “We’ve said publicly, we’ve committed that we think green taxes should take a bigger share of overall taxes.” And similarly declared on The Politics Show on 29 October 2006: “I think green taxes as a whole need to go up.”
It’s also worth pointing out again that the recent surge in energy prices owes more to higher wholesale prices and profiteering by the big six than it does to environmental levies. Of the £112 of “green taxes and green regulations” recently attacked by Cameron, the majority are energy efficiency measures designed to aid vulnerable households, including the Energy Company Obligation (£50), the Warm Home Discount for pensioners (£11) and smart meters and better billing (£3). Of the average energy bill of £1,276, just £50 (4%) is accounted for by green taxes in the form of the Renewables Obligation (£30), the Carbon Price Floor (£3), the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (£8) and feed in tariffs (£7).
The Tories could transfer the cost of these measures (which are forecast to reduce bills by £166 by 2020) from consumer bills to general taxation, as the SNP has pledged to do, but Labour will reply that the government is merely giving with one hand and taking with one another. For that reason, the party believes that it is Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices that will have “the longest shelf-life”.