Yesterday Nick Clegg set out the Government’s agenda on energy efficiency and the role of a green economy in delivering growth. Important announcements on energy efficiency, tackling fuel poverty and helping consumers find the best tariffs all caught the media’s attention. But for me the real story is that the Liberal Democrats remain the champions of plans to build a green economy.
Nick was right to attack those who say that there is a zero sum game between economic growth and protecting the environment. As the Liberal Democrats have argued for decades, it isn’t about choosing – the two go hand in hand. Now more than ever businesses and consumers need to go green.
The low-carbon transition has the potential to be a major source of jobs and growth for the UK. This is not a pipedream. Today in the UK there are more people working in the environmental services industries than there are in teaching. Green industries, backed by the new Green Investment Bank, will be vital to securing growth in the future. We should be aiming to make the UK into the number one destination for green investment, getting behind British jobs and businesses in a new low-carbon economy and giving investors the certainty they need, rather than frightening them off with damaging scare stories.
Too often in this country we still treat the environment as an afterthought, a “nice to have”. Instead we must follow our proud Liberal Democrat tradition of environmentalism and fight to ensure there is always a green strand of thinking running through Government policy. Only that way will we leave an environmental legacy we can be proud of. As Liberal Democrats we should be ambitious in our environmental aims and vocal in our support of the wider benefits of the green economy to the UK. But of course words are not enough – our time in Government will be judged on the actions we take today and in coming months.
I welcome the fact that Nick will be making more speeches on green issues, including the natural environment, in the coming months. There must be no rowing back from this government’s commitment to being the greenest government ever. We need to show leadership on the environment and that’s exactly what this speech did.
* Andrew George was Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives until May 2015.