Government is in retreat from green agenda as Financial Times reveals deep cuts to subsidies for household solar panels.
“Vote blue, go green” was the slogan with which David Cameron rebranded his Conservative party for the 21st century. He was the first Tory leader for many years to show a personal enthusiasm for tackling climate change.
When the Tories entered coalition with the environmentally minded Liberal Democrats, there were high hopes that blue plus yellow would equal green.
However, concerns that the government is in retreat from that agenda will be reinforced by Financial Times revelations of deep cuts to subsidies for household solar panels.
“FITs [feed-in tariffs] have made a significant contribution to the green economy of 25,000 jobs,” said Daniel Green, chief executive of the HomeSun solar supplier. “If the government decides to reduce funding, the payback will become so low that only the very rich with a spare £10k and an eco-conscience will be able to afford solar.”
Fears of a cut are already denting investor confidence, according to Bruce Davis, retail director of Abundance, a community investment company. “We know of several community initiatives across the UK who were considering using the generation of renewable energy . . . and who are now either stopping development or considering pulling out altogether,” he said.
Ministers can still point to several environmental “triumphs” – not least the pledge to set up a Green Investment Bank to lend to the sector. They have also committed Britain to tough carbon reduction targets.
Elsewhere, their green credentials are fading fast. In his March Budget, George Osborne promised to introduce a “carbon floor price” giving investors greater certainty on renewables. Yet the chancellor is now drawing up measures to alleviate the impact on energy-intensive industries.
During the Tory conference, he also boasted that he had insisted on an opt-out clause for carbon reduction targets. If, by 2014, the European Union was not hitting its own carbon targets, Britain would be free from any obligation to reach its own “carbon budgets”, he said to applause.