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Chris Huhne Attacks George Osborne As A ‘Green Economy Denier’

Chris Huhne will today attack George Osborne as a ‘green economy denier’ and a ‘curmudgeon’ for blocking the headlong rush towards green energy.

The Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary will say renewable energy can be the ‘third industrial revolution’ after the dawn of heavy industry and the hi-tech revolution.

His words are a calculated rebuke to the Chancellor, who told the Tory Party conference earlier this month that he would not let the UK rush ahead of the rest of the EU in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Osborne warned that going more quickly than the rest of Europe would make British firms uncompetitive and damage the economy. But Mr Huhne will turn on the Chancellor, saying: ‘We are not going to save our economy by turning our back on renewable energy.’

In what will be seen as a provocative attack, the Energy Secretary will throw the Chancellor’s claims – that the UK needs to move in concert with other countries because Britain alone produces just 2 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions – back in his face.

Mr Huhne will tell the annual conference of the renewables industry: ‘Yes, climate change is a man-made disaster.

‘Yes, the UK is only 2 per cent of global carbon emissions. But if we grasp the opportunity now our businesses and economy can be much more than 2 per cent of the solution.’

The Energy Secretary will claim that £1.7billion in renewable energy investment this year will create 9,000 jobs. And he will attack what he calls ‘an unholy alliance of short-termists, armchair engineers, climate sceptics and vested interests who are selling the UK economy short.’

He will say: ‘I want to take aim at the curmudgeons and faultfinders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables. The climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short.

‘Renewable energy technologies will deliver a third industrial revolution. Its impact will be every bit as profound as the first two.’

Mr Huhne last week gave the go-ahead for a regime of subsidies for offshore wind farms. Today he will call on foreign companies to build more wind farms in the UK. He will say: ‘I can today assure you that this Government has resolved that we will be the largest market in Europe for offshore wind.’

Sources close to Mr Huhne insisted that the Energy Secretary was doing nothing more than ‘restating Government policy’ but made clear that they think the Government needs to be more positive about green energy.

‘We need to send the right message to the CEOs of companies who might invest here. It’s time to go out and sell the benefits of investing in the UK to global manufacturing.’

Mr Huhne came under fire from allies of Mr Osborne. Simon Less, head of environment and energy at the right of centre think tank Policy Exchange, said, ‘Chris Huhne’s words are unhelpful and deeply worrying.

‘Conflating those who want to see cost-effective carbon emissions reduction – in other words policies that can be sustained and so will deliver our long-term carbon targets – with climate science deniers, is insulting.’

Daily Mail, 26 October 2011

Huhne speech set to annoy Osborne

Financial Times, 26 October 2011

By Jim Pickard, Political Correspondent

Chris Huhne is set to infuriate some Tory coalition partners today by dismissing “green economy deniers” who are sceptical about renewable energy projects.

In an outspoken attack, the energy secretary will criticise what he calls “an unholy alliance of short-termists, armchair engineers, climate sceptics and vested interests” standing in the way of green power.

The Lib Dem minister will insist that there is a three-party political consensus in Britain over the need to switch from carbon-heavy sources of power such as coal into solar and wind.

But his words are likely to be seen as a coded critique of George Osborne, who told the recent Tory conference that Britain would cut carbon emissions “no slower but also no faster” than other European countries. “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business,” the chancellor said to applause.

Mr Huhne will point to more than 100 announcements this year that add up to nearly £1.7bn of investment in the green industry, creating more than 9,000 jobs.

“Renewable energy technologies will deliver a third industrial revolution,” he will say in a speech to the renewables industry.

On Tuesday night Greenpeace warned of a power struggle within Whitehall over the environmental agenda. “It is increasingly clear that there’s a green war at the heart of government,” the group said.

Simon Less, head of energy at Policy Exchange, the centre-right think-tank, said Mr Huhne’s words were “unhelpful and deeply worrying”.

“Conflating those who want to see cost-effective carbon emissions reductions – in other words policies that can be sustained and so will deliver our long-term carbon targets – with climate science deniers is insulting,” he said.

Instead there should be more focus on cheaper actions such as improving energy efficiency and switching from coal to gas, nuclear and “emerging” new technologies, Mr Less argued.

The use of the phrase “climate change denier” is likely to prompt irritation among MPs who want to combat climate change but who worry about the effectiveness and cost of renewables.

Andrea Leadsom, a Tory backbencher, said in February that those who criticised onshore wind energy used to be “denounced as a ‘climate change denier’ “. “I sincerely hope those days are over,” she wrote then.

John Redwood, a former minister, wrote last week that carbon dioxide policies were now adding nearly 10 per cent to total energy bills. “This is going to get bigger if current policies continue,” he argued. “Energy is now hot politics. People want a break from high and rising bills.”