A group of modernising pro-green Tories will today launch a fight-back within the party when they publish a manifesto outlining plans for a £5bn-a-year boost in economic growth, creating 300,000 jobs, by pursuing environmentally friendly policies. In a sign of their determination to challenge Tory climate-change sceptics after a leading minister said that David Cameron was getting rid of “green crap”, the modernisers will say that the most successful economies of the future will embrace both the environment and competitiveness.
The publication of the manifesto by the 2020 group of Tory MPs came after the former Conservative environment secretary Lord Deben launched an offensive on climate-change sceptics.
In a series of tweets Deben – the father of green Tories in his days, and formerly known as John Gummer – said he hoped the sceptics would stop insulting pro-green campaigners and accept that they were denying science.
Echoing comments by the Prince of Wales, who depicted climate-change deniers as the “headless chicken brigade”, Deben tweeted: “If we accept advice of 95% of scientists & they’re wrong, we’ve cleaned atmosphere. If we deny them & they’re right, we’ve buggered the planet.”
The 2020 group of modernisers, many of whom feel as strongly as Deben about climate change, have cast their arguments in purely economic terms and have been careful not to use the words “green” or “sustainable” in their manifesto.
This is a deliberate tactic hammered out at a private meeting with Cameron following his alleged “green crap” comments to try to win over George Osborne – who put the brakes on the “Vote Blue, Go Green” approach when he said in his speech to the 2011 Tory conference that Britain would go “no slower but also no faster” than any other EU country in carbon emission cuts.
The 2020 group’s biggest proposal is to boost profits for manufacturers by £5bn a year, creating 300,000 jobs, by tightening the rules on waste products. The group proposes that laws banning valuable products, including mobiles phones, from being put in landfill, be extended to cover plastics, wood, textiles and food.
Laura Sandys, the Conservative MP for Thanet South, who chaired the work preparing for the 2020 manifesto, said: “By making sure things go further – and actually ensuring they travel round the economy rather than being dumped – we must ensure that waste is seen as a resource and not a liability. Only about 17% of everything we call waste today is really waste.”
Sandys said that restrictions would be placed on putting food in to landfill. “It would be taken away – you wouldn’t have to have it at home. But it would be used in anaerobic digestion and utilised in food-to-energy.”
The modernisers also call for a rethink away from what Sandys calls the “British Leyland” mentality, which says that the strength of an economy is measured solely by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the size of an economy.
“We are going to have to look at what we are really achieving and not what I call British Leyland metrics,” Sandys said. “British Leyland produced a lot of cars. It had a lot of GDP. Nobody wanted the cars but nobody seemed to care.
“If we are going to be competitive we can’t replicate an old-fashioned 19th century business model. We are going to have to be in the new world which looks at resources in a very intelligent way. We focus on labour productivity when the developing world is looking at resources in an intelligent way.”
The modernisers say that their approach could involve a fall in GDP, as they press for a more efficient approach to the use of energy, but said that illustrated some of the problems with the standard economic measure.
Sandys said: “If energy prices go up, which they have, GDP goes up. If we reduce our energy consumption, or we bear down on the price, GDP will go down but our margin will go up. If you spend a pound on energy it is a very dead pound.
“There is a very short supply chain and on the whole it is primarily imported. If you go out and spend a pound that will be much more productive because there will be a value-added supply chain. That pound will travel faster round the economy than the pound that goes on energy.”
The approach of the modernisers is summed up by Tom Burke, chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, who said it was wrong to put “the environment and the economy at opposite ends of a see-saw”.
Pursuing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology could create a new industry worth between £15bn and £35bn by 2030 employing tens of thousands of people, a report from the industry and trade unions has found.
It could also eventually cut energy bills by about £80 a year, according to the study by an independent consultancy for the CCS Association, which represents the industry, and the TUC.
CCS involves removing carbon dioxide from power stations and large industrial installations, compressing it and piping it under the ground. While proponents say the method is technically feasible, there are no commercial projects on power stations around the world as yet, though there are some small-scale trials.
If the UK is to carry on using fossil fuels such as coal and gas beyond 2030, it will be essential to cut greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with carbon budgets and the need to tackle climate change.
According to the report from the CCS Association, which represents the industry, and the TUC, the market for CCS could be worth between £15bn and £35bn in total to the UK by 2030.
This could also reduce energy bills by 2030 by about £80 a year for households by then, according to the report – however, this calculation is very uncertain given the difficulty of forecasting energy prices even a few years out.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “CCS offers a way to meet our environmental targets, while creating thousands of skilled, well-paid jobs and transforming regional economies. New CCS plants would create thousands of new jobs and safeguard many more in energy-intensive industries such as steel, chemicals and cement.
“This is a great opportunity to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and bring new R&D, design and construction jobs to areas such as Yorkshire, the north-east and Scotland.
“But without stronger government backing the UK risks losing its competitive advantage and all the jobs and economic activity that CCS could bring.”
Each large-scale plant would create about 1,000 to 2,500 jobs in the construction phase, though only a few hundred while in operation. The CCSA envisages between 15 and 25 plants by 2030, suggesting between 15,000 to more than 60,000 construction jobs. The report does not estimate how much investment this would require, but few expect plants to be built for less than £1.5bn to £2bn.
A crucial further component of the economic benefit will be the supply chain, including steel manufacturers and companies involved in making infrastructure such as pipes and cement.
What is certain is that any vision of a large CCS industry will require billions in public and private investment that have so far not been forthcoming. The government has been promising sums ranging from £1bn to potentially £5bn for almost 10 years, but nearly all of the projects that have been brought forward have been withdrawn, as their feasibility has been questioned.
After protracted planning, the last Labour government finally kicked off a competition for public funds in 2007, which was carried on in a modified form by the coalition.
But by late 2011, all of the bidders had pulled out. The competition, under which £1bn in total will be made available, has subsequently been restarted and was winnowed down to two projects last spring. These are at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, led by Shell and SSE; and the White Rose project in Yorkshire, spearheaded by Drax, Alstom and BOC.
When the projects are in operation, they will not receive a specific subsidy but could benefit from the government’s electricity market reforms, under which low-carbon generation projects may gain an economic advantage in selling their energy in the market.
A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “CCS has the potential to make an important contribution to the UK’s decarbonisation efforts.
“We have put in place one of the best offers to support the technology in the world, with £1bn of capital funding available, operating support through the contracts for difference in our electricity market reforms and a £125m R&D programme.”
A final decision is not expected until late 2015, at which time both, one or neither of the projects could gain the go-ahead. It could then take five years to become operational.
Lord Browne, former chief of BP and now a venture capitalist and chairman of the fracking company Cuadrilla, expressed scepticism over the future of the technology last week. In 2005, he led BP into one of the first CCS proposals, at Peterhead, but it was later halted.
He told a meeting of the thinktank Policy Exchange: “CCS is a very interesting idea – I tried to do the first CCS [in the UK] but there was a gap between what it would cost and what we could afford.
“There are very few places in the world where CCS could be made to work. I would not rule it out but I would not rule it in.”