Nick Clegg will today tell George Osborne he must “wake up” to the green agenda, warning the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the slow rate of economic growth cannot be used as an excuse to abandon the coalition’s environmental credentials.
The Deputy Prime Minister will use his speech to the Liberal Democrat spring conference to attack Tories, including Mr Osborne, who claim “we have to choose between boosting growth and being green”….
Seeking to distance the Lib Dems from their coalition partners, Mr Clegg will insist: “Our party is the green party of government.” He will announce that he is to lead the UK delegation to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June.
Senior Lib Dems have been dismayed by Mr Osborne’s attacks on the green agenda and the suggestion that it could curtail growth. In his autumn statement, the Chancellor said he was “worried” about the combined impact of green policies on energy-intensive industries. “If we burden them with endless social and environmental goals – however worthy in their own right – then, not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer.” But Mr Clegg will today deliver a withering riposte, saying his response to Mr Osborne’s anti-green rhetoric cannot be broadcast “before the watershed”.
The imminent departure from No 10 of Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s policy guru who championed Tory green policies in opposition, has added to the sense of unease about the coalition’s commitment to the environment. Mr Cameron boasted that he would lead the “greenest government ever”, but there are concerns that the slower than expected rate of economic growth over the past 23 months has seen a shift in the rhetoric.
A senior Lib Dem said: “There can be no rowing back from this government’s commitment to being the greenest government ever. The Lib Dems will help keep the Tories honest on their green promises in opposition that they now appear to be wobbling on.”