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Osborne speech reveals Conservative split on environment

Last modified: 03 October 2011

Houses of Parliament, UK

Image: Andy Hay

The RSPB has responded to mixed messages coming from Conservative ministers over the environment, with George Osborne shrugging off the UK’s green responsibilities.


In his speech to the Conservative Party conference today (Monday, Oct 3) Mr Osborne claimed a ‘decade of environmental laws and regulations are piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies’.


He went on to compare Britain’s carbon emissions with those of China and the US before commenting, ‘We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business’. He concluded his discussion of the environment in his speech by vowing, ‘we’re going to cut our carbon emissions no slower, but also no faster, than our fellow countries in Europe’.


This comes in sharp contrast to environment minister Caroline Spelman’s assertion at the party conference that ‘going green is both a moral imperative and an economic imperative’.


Martin Harper, conservation director said: “The message from Mr Osborne here is clear – when it comes to the environment he is happy if we simply do the bare minimum needed to get by.


“This is an extraordinarily grudging nod to our green responsibilities and shows that the chancellor is putting the needs of the economy firmly before the needs of wildlife and the environment.


“Compare this with Caroline Spelman’s enlightened views on the economic and moral reasons for protecting our environment and it is obvious that we have a government which is split on green issues.


“The Government’s own senior advisors have concluded, through the National Ecosystems Assessment, that if we ignore the environment we risk damaging the long term health of our economy. It seems that Mr Osborne didn’t get that memo.


“This is such an important issue, and the public response to the planning and forestry debates have shown how strongly people feel about wildlife and green spaces. More than ever we need a joined up government which recognises that the needs of people and the economy must be balanced by the needs of the environment.”

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