Environmental groups pressure government on energy

Green is working

Environmental groups gathered outside Parliament yesterday (18 October) to voice their concerns over reported attempts to ‘water down’ renewable energy commitments.

Around 250 representatives from renewable energy companies, trade associations, environment and development charities, as well as the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) and faith groups lined up outside the Treasury building to call on Prime Minister David Cameron to ‘step in and get all parts of his government to start taking the green economy seriously’.

Led by the Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) Coalition of organisations such as Friends of the Earth, RSPB and Oxfam, representatives were asked to wear green hard hats and hold banners saying ‘Green is working’, a play on Saatchi & Saatchi’s 'Labour isn't working' advert used by the Conservatives in 1979.

Speaking in support of the ‘hard hat call’ made outside the Treasury yesterday, Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group (a coalition of environment agencies, NGOs, think tanks and industry representatives), said: “Leading businesses across the country recognise that green is working by reducing energy costs and creating new market opportunities. During a period of slow economic recovery, the green economy has been booming, contributing a third to UK growth last year.

“However, mixed messages from government are undermining the potential for future growth, innovation and exports. We need more workers in green hard hats, as these represent the jobs and industries of the future.”

‘Green quad’

The gathering came as the ‘green quad’, Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Chancellor George Osborne and Lib Dem Chief Financial Secretary Danny Alexander met with Energy Secretary Edward Davey for crisis talks about the future of the UK energy industry. The talks come after ‘growing concern’ about the rising costs of energy bills and follow ongoing disputes over the role the low-carbon energy industry should play in the future of the UK’s energy landscape.

‘Decarbonise’ letters

The government has come under mounting pressure over its commitments to decarbonise the energy market. Earlier this month, the Aldersgate Group handed in a letter to Downing Street calling on the Prime Minister to stand by the Climate Act and ‘step in to ensure his government doesn't lock the UK into decades of polluting fossil fuels’.

Sent on 8 October, the letter, addressed to George Osborne and signed by 55 signatories including EDF Energy, Microsoft, PepsiCo, and Triodos Bank, asks government to include a target in the forthcoming Energy Bill to decarbonise the electricity market and include shipping and aviation emissions in the UK's carbon-cutting targets.

It was joined by a letter from seven electricity and nuclear technology firms, warning that unless government steps up its green commitments, they will withdraw all plans for any future investment in the low-carbon energy sector in Britain.

‘Environmental Taliban’

George Osborne has also come under fire for reportedly labelling climate change campaigners as the ‘environmental Taliban'.

Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace, Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB and David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK have now written to the Chancellor asking him to either ‘confirm or deny’ the story, which appeared in the Independent yesterday (18 October) and if accurate, specify which ‘individuals, MPs, Ministers or organisations [he is] likening to the Taliban’.