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Buckingham Liberal Democrats

World Environment Day message from Chris Huhne MP

June 6, 2007 7:55 AM

I'm taking the opportunity of World Environment Day today to update you on the progress we have been making as Britain's greenest major party.

Although we have heard a lot from both David Cameron and Gordon Brown about the importance of climate change, hard solutions have been conspicuous only by their absence. All the parties are agreed about the need for a climate change bill to set a long-term framework for our efforts to decarbonise the economy, but targets are only part of the answer. If targets solved problems on their own, we would be the best governed country in the world. Only the Liberal Democrats have brought forward any significant plans to change our behaviour. So far we have laid out three mini-papers that have dealt with particular aspects of the problem of carbon emissions.

1) Green Tax Switch: If we do not tackle the problems caused by cars and planes there can be no serious plan to reduce emissions. With a steeply graduated vehicle excise duty, newly purchased low carbon cars would pay nothing while gas-guzzlers would pay £2,000 a year. Our reforms of aviation duty would levy a tax on the emissions - whether a passenger or freight flight - regardless of the number of passengers. That would encourage fuller flights and a shift to fuel efficient aircraft. The details are at:

http://www.libdems.org.uk/media/documents/parliament/green_switch_180506.pdf

2) Greener Homes: Our average energy bill is £385 a year more than the average bill in Sweden, even though January temperatures there are 7 degrees Celsius lower than ours. We want low carbon building standards for all new homes by 2011, and a comprehensive upgrading plan for our existing housing stock. That would fund serious cuts in carbon emissions with energy mortgages and change the incentives on energy companies to make more money by selling less, not more, energy. You can read the detail here:

http://www.libdems.org.uk/media/parliament/Climate%20Change%20Starts%20at%20Home%20Policy%20Paper.pdf

3) Greener Electricity: We have also set out firm proposals for generating our electricity without resort to nuclear power which, with all its costs and risks, would tend to compete with, rather than complement, renewable energy. Renewables need to be matched with a variable power source, like gas-fired or coal-fired stations, rather than inflexible nuclear which is either on or off. That is why our mini-paper stresses the importance of carbon capture and storage as the only intermediate solution before a fully renewable world. You can read the details here:

http://www.libdems.org.uk/media/documents/parliament/Energy_MRV_Paper_Final%20Final1.doc

Journalists sometimes ask whether I am annoyed that the Conservatives or Labour are picking up our ideas such as the green tax switch - taxing pollution more but cutting income tax - but I am a firm believer that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Moreover, we will go on setting the pace on policy simply because the other parties do not understand the urgency of the challenge or have the team commitment so clearly shown by ours. We will bring forward comprehensive plans to tackle climate change for this autumn's conference and I believe this paper will set the national agenda just as assuredly as did our backing of green taxes.

Voters know which party has been concerned with green issues for longest, and they know a fake when they see one. I firmly believe that, as climate change rightly soars up the political agenda, people will go for the original and not the copy.

Yours ever,

Chris Huhne MP

Liberal Democrat shadow environment secretary