Prime minister David Cameron only mentioned climate change in passing in his final party conference speech before the 2015 general election.
Though Cameron told the UN that climate change “is one of the most serious threats facing our world” only last week, in his key address in Birmingham, the Conservative leader offered just one line on the environment.
While speaking of the UK’s position on the world stage, Cameron declared that his government “is leading, not following, on climate change“.
However, while laying out his party’s priorities ahead of next year’s vote, the prime minister made no specific pledges on the environment and gave scant mention to energy. This is despite his promise to lead “the greenest government ever” shortly after coming to power.
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“Looks like David Cameron did a Miliband and forgot something in his speech… the environment,” Greenpeace UK said on Twitter.
Critics say that while Cameron may personally believe in the importance of tackling climate change, his speech proves he does not have the backing of his party. Many Tories are outspoken climate sceptics, including the former environment secretary Owen Paterson.
On Tuesday, chancellor George Osborne was similarly criticised for pledging to encourage the exploitation of the UK’s shale gas reserves.
Environmental groups noted that Osborne’s words did not match up with Cameron’s rhetoric last week, when the prime minister talked about phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Donna Hume said, “By pledging support for polluters, the chancellor is not just making a mockery of the government’s environmental commitments, he’s throwing away the chance to create thousands of jobs in new green industries.
“If the prime minister is serious about tackling climate change, his government must choose renewable energy over dirty shale gas and oil.”
On the other hand, Labour leader Ed Miliband dedicated a section of his party conference speech to green growth last week.
The opposition leader committed to increasing investment in renewable energy and promised to double the number of green jobs across the UK.
While not unveiling any specific new policies, Miliband reasserted his party’s intention to expand the powers of the Green Investment Bank and introduce a national energy efficiency programme.
“You see the environment isn’t that fashionable any more in politics as you may have noticed with David Cameron. But it matters. It’s incredibly important for our economy,” he said.
“And there is no more important issue for me when I think about my children’s’ generation and what I can do in politics, than tackling global climate change.”
Photo: UK Department for International Development via Flickr