Deputy prime minister ratchets up coalition tensions and slams Labour
Nick Clegg has ratcheted-up tensions between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives over green energy policy accusing the Tories of “economic myopia” in their desire to roll-back green policy.
The coalition’s relationship has been strained by the prime minister’s recent promises to “roll back” green levies on energy bills to ease the pressure on consumers.
It prompted Liberal Democrat energy secretary Ed Davey to promise to fight cuts “like a tiger”
Speaking at an event for sustainability campaign group Green Alliance, Clegg said: “If we want to keep up, our green industries need maximum political support.
“My coalition partners talk a lot about winning the global race. Well this is one area where we are in pole position and it would be a huge mistake to take our foot off the pedal now [it is] economic myopia of the worst kind.”
Clegg also blasted Labour’s plans to freeze energy bills as a “con” and said the policy undermined the party’s other stated green policies.
He said: “Labour have undermined what was their one and only green pledge – a decarbonisation target – with a policy that would damage the very industry needed to deliver it. They’re abandoning the environment to score a few populist points.”
The deputy prime minister said that consensus on green policy between the political parties had “fallen away” and argued that when struggling to return the economy to growth was the right time to keep sustainability at the forefront of government policy.
He said: “There is a perfect symmetry between the nature of our economic recovery and our environmental responsibilities.
“We are a nation learning to live within our means. We have been forced to shift our sights to the horizon, so that we think not just of quick profits today, but of lasting prosperity tomorrow, driven by responsible business and sustainable growth.”
His speech comes as the Committee on Climate Change published a report saying there was “no legal or economic basis” to slacked the UK’s carbon reduction targets for the late 2020s.
Chancellor George Osborne secured an agreement with the Lib Dems in 2011 to review the targets in early 2014 and is known to be keen on rolling them back fearing they disadvantage British businesses because EU wide targets are lower.
But he will struggle to get agreement to slacken them without the support of the Committee, which acts as an independent watchdog over green policy.