Ed Davey on Boris Johnson’s climate plan: “The Conservatives have wasted five years”

The Liberal Democrat leader has warned that the Tories’ new ten-point green programme does not go far enough.

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As Boris Johnson unveils his government’s ten-point climate plan, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has warned that the measures do not go far enough and has accused the Conservatives of wasting time. 

In an interview with the New Statesman’s Spotlight policy supplement – available in full in next week’s issue – Davey, who was energy and climate change secretary during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, warned that Tories “have wasted five years, and we have got no time to waste”. He added: “My fear is that what they are going to do is going to be nowhere near ambitious enough.” 

Johnson’s plan, presented as a “green industrial revolution”–  the same language Labour used in the party’s 2019 general election manifesto – includes measures such as bringing a ban on petrol and diesel car sales forward a decade to 2030, a pledge to quadruple offshore wind power by 2030, a £525m investment in new nuclear power, and investments in carbon capture and storage and hydrogen. Downing Street said the plan, which will cost £12bn and create an estimated 250,000 jobs, will boost the Conservatives’ “levelling up” agenda.    

[see also: Why a new ten-point green plan won’t clean up the Conservatives’ act ]

The government has said the £12bn figure includes £8bn of new spending, but Labour has warned that only £4bn is new. Caroline Lucas MP, the former leader of the Green Party, noted on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the total sum was lower than the government’s pledge to spend £27bn on road building

The Liberal Democrats’ green economic recovery plan would involve an investment of £150bn, £50bn more than its 2019 election pledge. 

“The reason we increased that since the election was because of Covid,” Davey said. “We are now facing, unlike pre-December 2019, possibly the worst economic recession for 300 years, I mean it's dramatic. So if you are going to respond to that and give people hope, give businesses a reason to invest, [then] use it as a moment to fast-track the transition, because [if] you know there's a climate emergency, then you've got to upgrade your plans.” 

The Liberal Democrat leader said he was concerned that the Conservatives view action on the climate as “more of a PR thing. They see it as a clever political strategy, where some of us actually believe it is really important, in and of itself.” 

Davey, who approved the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant as energy and climate change secretary, added that “time and evidence have moved on” regarding the role of nuclear power in the transition to net-zero carbon emissions. 

Asked about the government’s response to Covid-19, Davey said it had been “really incompetent on almost every level” and described the “care homes error” as “almost criminally negligent”. The committed EU supporter also described the ongoing negotiations over a Brexit trade deal as “frankly chaotic and incompetent”.  

See the full interview in the Spotlight supplement and on the NS website next week

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Alona Ferber is Special Projects Editor at the New Statesman.

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