Something strange is happening in the world of green Conservatism. After the PM decided to take out the ‘green crap’ last year, greeny Tories might have been forgiven for beating a bit of a retreat and licking their wounds. Well, if they did, they didn’t take much time to do it: now they’re fighting hard with a new vision for Green Toryism. Today the Conservative Environment Network re-launched with a pamphlet called Responsibility and Resilience which argues that true Conservatism is the best worldview for environmental policy. It contains quite an interesting mix of voices, from Zac Goldsmith to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who has written an essay on natural capital.
Goldsmith opened the launch by arguing that Conservatives had recently given ground to the Left on climate change because ‘they saw the solutions the Left were developing in response to the environmental crisis and they didn’t like those solutions, so rather than develop their own, they thought we’ll leave that reaction to the Left, we’ll walk away and it is a tremendously, extraordinarily unimpressive reaction to the problems, it’s a bit like saying because we don’t like the way communists managed their economy, we’re going to leave the economy to them’.
He did praise a ‘really exciting time’ for Conservative environmentalism around the 2010 general election, but added:
‘In spite of that early enthusiasm, it would be dishonest of me to pretend that I don’t think that the momentum is slowing, much of that is down to the really unhelpful rhetoric that we’ve seen at all levels, I would say, of the party.’
It’s impressive, therefore, that Owen Paterson, regularly accused of being a climate change sceptic, has seen fit to join in the launch of the CEN. But there was a clue in the speech that Education Secretary Michael Gove then gave to the launch: Gove didn’t mention climate change.