climate change politics

George Osborne on climate change

Something a little strange happened on the Conservatives’ website last week. The archive of speeches was removed, from 2000 to 2010, deleting the party’s public record of promises made before the general election. I’m not of conspiratorial bent myself, but many think it’s a deliberate effort to hide them. Whatever the motivation, it has prompted a whole lot of digging around to find speeches and excerpts and re-post them – especially the quotes about how the internet has democratized information and made politicians more accountable.

Anyway, among those quotes were some that I hadn’t seen before: George Osborne talking about climate change, and how a Tory chancellor would be a force for environmental good. Reading them now, they are quite extraordinary:

Quite frankly, when it comes to environmental policy the Treasury has often been at best indifferent, and at worst obstructive… How telling that Alistair Darling has not given a single major speech on the environment for two years now. That attitude is going to change if the government changes.

I want a Conservative Treasury to be in the lead of developing the low carbon economy and financing a green recovery. For I see in this green recovery not just the fight against climate change, but the fight for jobs, the fight for new industry, the fight for lower family energy bills and the fight for less wasteful government…

In a Conservative government, the Treasury will ensure that the Export Credit Guarantee Department will never again support “dirty” fossil fuel power stations. Instead it will go out of its way to target and support green technology companies – and this long-term framework of certainty will help British companies raise finance and export their technologies around the world…

Under a Conservative government, the Treasury will no longer be the cuckoo in the nest when it comes to climate change. If I become Chancellor, the Treasury will become a green ally, not a foe…

A Conservative government will green our economy and green the public sector. We will do what it takes to build the green companies and technologies of the future. We will help create the jobs the country needs. And we will drive behaviour change throughout the public sector and beyond. The Treasury needs to be at the heart of this historic fight against climate change. If we form the next government, it will.

That was from November 2009. If you follow the politics of energy and climate in Britain, then those words will ring as hollow for you as they do for me. If you don’t follow such things, I’ll let Johnathon Porritt sum up the reality of Osborne’s promised green chancellorship, as one of Britain’s senior environmentalists:

The only words I can use to express my feelings about this government are that I have a deep sense of disappointment and depression. The spuriousness of Cameron’s short-lived embrace of the green agenda prior to the election – it’s shocking to see how cynical a politician can be…

Osborne seems to be implacably hostile. It’s baffling to me that most of the language we get from the Chancellor is negative to hostile rather than interested to enthusiastic. I just cannot understand that. There is something deeply disturbing going on in the Osborne brain that he just refuses to embrace the power of the green economy to drive prosperity.


  1. Hi, there !

    Acctually, Britain is the best country in Europe on reduced CO2 emissions. No other European country has done as well. This is based on official statistics.

    Eastern Europe did pretty good from 2008 – 2012. That was simply because of the Financial Crisis; a significant lower production lead to significant lower emissions.

    Half of Norway’s emissions is sequestered in the growth of the Norwegian forest. At any Instant, half of the CO2 emitted in Norway is captured by trees. (The government did nothing to achieve this!) This means that the forest in Norway (including soil) increases in biomass all along.

    Britain is the only country in Europe with some sort of significant achievment on the part of government in reducing CO2 emissions 😊


    Dag Sjåvik

    Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2013 13:57:19 +0000

    1. This is despite, rather than because of George Osborne!

      I’m really only looking at one politician here, rather than the performance of government overall. And if you factor in the decline of manufacturing and the CO2 of imports, it’s not quite such a success story.

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