William Hague, the foreign secretary, has warned the prime minister that Britain’s green technology companies and potential exports are being undermined by the failure of ministers to make the case vigorously for low carbon growth. Mr Hague pleaded with Mr Cameron to take the lead by making a speech on the subject; in the event the prime minister’s long-heralded “green speech” was downgraded.
In a private letter to David Cameron, Mr Hague urges him to promote “a stronger narrative on low carbon growth”, which he argues will help persuade potential customers such as China to embrace a new economic model.
Mr Hague has emerged as one of the government’s greenest ministers and he will today tell the CBI employers’ group that he sees low carbon technology as one of Britain’s most promising export sectors.
Although Mr Hague’s aides deny he is criticising colleagues, his letter – seen by the Financial Times – appears to be a warning that the Tory party’s hardening rhetoric on green issues is causing economic damage.
George Osborne, the chancellor, captured the new mood on the Tory right when he told last year’s Conservative party conference: “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business.”
Conservative MPs have also condemned what one called “wind turbine Toryism”, claiming that Mr Cameron’s promise to lead Britain’s greenest-ever government was forcing up energy prices and holding back the economy.
Mr Hague delivered his counterblast on March 19. In a letter marked “restricted”, the foreign secretary said a greater domestic focus on low carbon growth would “give our commercial diplomacy more purchase” in countries like China.
He added: “It is also essential for our climate diplomacy. We will not secure a binding climate agreement in 2015 unless the idea of low carbon growth becomes dominant across the major economies before then.
“We can leverage this. But our diplomacy will only succeed if it is rooted in our own domestic narrative.”
Mr Hague pleaded with Mr Cameron to take the lead by making a speech on the subject; in the event the prime minister’s long-heralded “green speech” was downgraded in April into some opening remarks at a conference.
The foreign secretary says the government has credibility in the field through the creation of the Green Investment Bank, electricity market reform and the “green deal” to improve energy efficiency, but he clearly believes the government is too timid in proclaiming these achievements.
Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, was warned by manufacturers in Asia during a trip in March that the British government was sending out mixed signals on green energy.
Mr Hague’s green credentials have been lauded by the Liberal Democrats but will raise eyebrows on the Tory right, for whom green issues have sometimes been ranked alongside gay marriage and Lords reform as being distractions to the main task of reviving the economy.