Chancellor George Osborne says Conservatives are a party of the future, but will rely on 19th century fuels to power the economy—and presents no plan to deal with climate change
George Osborne sent a clear message to the markets and the party faithful that the environment and climate change were no longer part of the Conservative agenda.
The chancellor of the exchequer called on the British electorate to forget the lessons of the past and to rely on fossil fuels to fire the engine of the economy. He also made no reference to the future risk of climate change.
Osborne promised that the Conservative government would decide on a new airport runway in the South East, support high-speed rail, build further nuclear power stations, encourage fracking for shale gas, and support genetically modified crops.
He delighted the ageing party faithful by also promising a further £25 billion a year in cuts to public spending, while abolishing, from today, the 55 per cent tax on inheritance from pensions.
Osborne made reference to the bronze-with-gold-finish statue in Birmingham of the Golden Boys of the industrial revolution—Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and William Murdoch—who contributed to the steam engine and invented gas lighting.
“We will tap the shale gas, commission nuclear power and renewables, and guarantee our energy for the future,” Osborne said. “We will build the high-speed rail, decide where to put a runway, and support the next generation with starter homes in a permanent help-to-buy.”
He added: “We must learn from the past, not be the past. Decide or decline. That is the choice.”
The speech came just hours after Liz Truss, the secretary of state for the environment, fisheries and food, made just two references to climate change during her speech—compared to three mentions of “cheese” and four of “apples.”
Truss also hinted that her department would favour climate change adaptation rather than mitigation, through the reduction in use of fossil fuels.
She told the conference that Britain is “now leading international efforts to tackle climate change”, before adding: “I am determined that our flood defences will always be strong enough to protect us against the ravages of a changing climate.”