Once again, Osborne is the obstacle to green action

Today’s Times reports how:

The Chancellor has infuriated No. 10 and Cabinet colleagues by refusing to endorse a key component in the policy to boost renewable energy.

In an extraordinary move last week George Osborne was rebuked by David Cameron’s aides for failing to come on board for a key green policy.

At a meeting on Monday the prime minister’s most senior official, Jeremy Heywood, gave a dressing down to an Osborne adviser over the Chancellor’s failure to rubber stamp the new price that power companies will pay for renewable energy such as solar, wave and wind power.

Osborne has form on this, for it was he who went missing during the vigorous government debates over how much power the Green Investment Bank would have, stalling progress by skipping key meetings.

As in that case, this isn’t a simple case of green Liberal Democrats versus non-green Conservatives, for there are those in Conservative ranks pushing for stronger green action too. In the case of the Green Investment Bank, that combination was enough to overcome George Osborne’s intransigence. We’ll see what happens this time round…

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  • Alex Sabine 11th Oct '11 - 1:30am

    And indeed there those in Lib Dem ranks pushing to water down green initiatives too, as we saw earlier this year with Vince Cable’s (partially successful) attempt to blunt the government’s carbon reduction targets.

    Might it be that the “intransigence” you accuse Osborne of simply reflects a concern that some of the more unilateral climate change policies could inhibit the recovery, and a determination to give the government a credible growth agenda? I don’t think this is an inappropriate preoccupation for the Chancellor of the Exchequer (nor indeed for the Business Secretary), particularly given the anaemic state of the world economy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it’s both necessary and feasible to reconcile a dynamic economy with environmental sustainability. But while there are some “win wins” (better home insulation, say), sometimes these two objectives diverge, and we cannot wish away the inevitable trade-offs by waffle about “green jobs”, a “green recovery” and so forth.

    Given that there are inevitable trade-offs between these competing desirable objectives, it is not unreasonable that they should be reflected in debates about the direction of policy between ministers with different portfolios and interests to represent.

    Thus I don’t find it either surprising or alarming that a Tory Chancellor and Lib Dem Business Secretary should also be making common cause in urging a big relaxation of the planning laws, but that many ministers, MPs and councillors from both coalition parties are opposed to them.

  • I largely agree with Alex that there is room for debate between ministers with different portfolios, though I would come down strongly on the green side. My concern is that missing meetings and refusing to sign off policies that are agreed on is a) childish, b) makes a mockery of things like collective decision-making, and c) sends a signal of unclear intentions which is destabilising for businesses trying to invest in green tech. If he doesn’t agree with the targets, by all means engage in a vigorous cabinet debate. But once it’s been agreed, it’s time to live with it.

  • Terry Gilbert 11th Oct '11 - 4:19pm

    Pickles and Hammond aren’t exactly covering themselves in glory, either!

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