Coffee House

Tory greens make hard-headed pitch for environmentalism

26 February 2014

6:02 PM

26 February 2014

6:02 PM

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. He focused on the way man relates to the environment, the need for Conservatives to protect nature for future generations, and ‘the dangers that the environment faces’. But it was only in the question-and-answer session afterwards that Gove talked about man-made climate change. He said:

‘Climate change is something which you need to prepare for by having appropriate measures to mitigate and that’s really important, but it’s also the case as we know and as George Osborne pointed out just last week that man and his activities are clearly having an influence on the climate and in making sure that we take appropriate steps to deal with it, we need to be guided by the science and we need to make sure that we’re hard-headed.’

The minister added:

‘It seems to me unarguable that man has an impact on the climate. It seems to me unarguable that climate change can have a devastating and damaging impact on societies and economies that are even less developed. And therefore it seems to me unarguable that we should seek first to lessen the impact that man might have on the climate, and secondly invest appropriately in measures to mitigate and protect individuals and societies from the impact of climate change.’

It is important that Gove thinks that it is unarguable that man has had an impact on climate change. But it’s also interesting that neither he nor Paterson felt it was necessary to talk about it in their essays, or Gove in his speech. So the CEN has engineered a clever unity across the party on ‘green’ environmental issues, but that alliance only hangs together if you don’t talk too much about anthropogenic climate change.

But beyond the language that ministers use, this launch and its pamphlet is another example of the attempt by Tory greens to re-sell their beliefs to the rest of the party using language that all Conservatives appreciate. This isn’t green fluff or crap or anything else that involves hugging huskies: it’s hard-headed and rooted in Tory tradition. We saw that recently with the 2020 group’s report on waste which deliberately steered clear of talking about greenery while making the case for a sustainable economy, while Greg Barker argued in his Coffee House interview that there was still room for ‘hard-headed’ Tory approaches to climate change. And this pamphlet is called Responsibility and Resilience: What the Environment means to Conservatives and includes a number of appeals to the Conservative heritage on protecting the environment. Those greens aren’t going in the shredder just yet.

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Show comments
  • littlebunny1

    The Labour Party took the dredgers for river dredging in Berkshire and sold them off for scrap in 2003 … dreadful people and they say they “care”… and to see how many paedophiles are in The Labour Party … not so caring , but truly horrifying .

  • Daniel Maris

    Claiming to protect the environment while you invite 500,000 people each year into a small corner of your country is sheer hypocrisy.

  • Eyesee

    Wouldn’t it be great if any talk of climate change was just about that and not, actually, about the possibility of increased political power and extra taxes. The position remains as it was discerned in the 1960’s; that contrary to expectation, Man’s output of greenhouse gases, primarily CO2 (they even related to the correct substance then), was too little to have any global effect. In addition to this position, arrived at by study using scientific method rather than the current fad for ideological politics, was the observed facts. Usefully, in the 50 years since, we have seen the usual variability of the climate but any increase has been limited to about 0.8 degrees. And it has only been in the last few years that we have been taxing ourselves to death, so I’m pretty sure that the climate gods have not responded to the priests demands for tribute. Maybe the ‘green’ agenda isn’t really about climate, but something else entirely. But what could be achieved by increasing state power, taxation, regulation and general interference with peoples’ daily lives? What kind of people would want a country run by a small elite, with absolute power? (Only because they know better and have our best interests at heart!)

  • dalai guevara

    Oh my word, has one not been bleating about Conservative Greens one’s entire life? What a sensible move, Mr Gove. Yet, and this is the thing, the last but critical part of the quote appears to contain a disputed logical flaw.
    Will the anti-envirowacko denier loons point out what they believed it was and shout him down in true anti-envirowacko denier loon fashion?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …nope, no matter which nickname you use, it’s still impenetrable gibberish, lad. Suggest you go with the Cyrillic.

      • dalai guevara

        Tovarishch, you really are a tedious bore. Why not internalise Isabel’s subscribed medication or indeed go straight to Roger Scruton’s piece? You ought to know by now that your attempts to conflate everything will not wash, not with me.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …no, still disjointed gibberish, lad. The Cyrillic. You should go with the Cyrillic. And stick with one nickname, too. That might possibly help.

  • toco10

    Excellent!Even if we stop driving cars,turn off all the lights and close all our airports to domestic and international traffic the UK’s contribution to climate change would amount to the odd five p on a Leicester Square underground station platform.The US,India,Germany,Russia…… would just laugh.

  • Cis


    should bring up Dr Moore’s evidence to the US senate. Calm, cool, dispassionate, and grounded in science rather than iffy computer models.

  • colliemum

    Well, if this statement doesn’t show that they ahve it ar*e-over-teakettle then I don’t know: “And therefore it seems to me unarguable that we should seek first to lessen the impact that man might have on the climate, and secondly invest appropriately in measures to mitigate and protect individuals and societies from the impact of climate change.’”
    So – first ‘lessen’ something which is or isn’t taking place, nobody knows except AGW religionists, and then (if there’s money left, which there won’t be) protect people? That’s exactly what they’ve been doing since 1997 – and that’s exactly why we have the floods in Somerset and the Home Counties.
    Or do these fervent politicians really believe that more wind farms = less rain?

    • itdoesntaddup

      The Dutch used to use their windmills to power pumps in the polders. These days the power comes from Maasvlakte coal fired power stations, or natural gas from Groningen, or diesel from Pernis.

  • Peter Powell

    As a voter of the conservative party because they are a doing party and they seemed to be taking ‘green crap’ more seriously and feeling like i was flat out lied to by david cameron i read this and thought maybe the conservative party are not all bad. then i read the comments and thought nope nothings changed. Vote blue go green dont make me laugh.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    So Gove is hysterically in support of going bombs away in Syria, and helping the islamofascists slaughter Christians, and he’s also a Mother Gaia loving global warmingist envirowhacko.

    Maybe it’d be best if he walked over and sat down next to the Millipede?

    • Geronimo von Huxley

      Man, this is insane man!!!!! Is this what you do all day man??? I told you before man in a two party system man you’re either with us man or you are AGAINST us man!!! Are you against us??? Man, insane!!!!

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Ohhhhhh Nuuuuuuurrrrrse ?!?

        Can we have his afternoon sedation now, please?

      • Kitty MLB

        Leave him alone! fruit Bat, and for heavens sake
        stop saying MAN !!!

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    Why would it matter whether *long term weather* change had an anthropogenic component and how would it affect our response to events?

    Does anthropogenic degradation of the environment not feature?
    Why confound the former with the latter when exploring causality?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …the only thing an ignorant and poorly educated socialist nutter like you can explore is your government benefits, lad.

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        Where did that come from? A governmental (cap-ex) tarmac allowance? Where do I apply?
        The rest, as far as we can tell, is an FM & Maintenance cost item.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …nope, you’ve slipped back into the impenetrable gibberish again, lad, and we’ll need the translator again.

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            …nope, you slipped into gibberish there. What ‘government benefits’, ‘lad’?

            Is anthropogenic degradation of the environment not relevant? Why confound this with a potential anthropogenic component in long term weather events when exploring causality?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …nope, still impenetrable gibberish, lad. Perhaps you should stick to the one nickname, and it might all make more sense. I doubt it, but you never know.

  • A_Libertarian_Rebel

    So while Ed Miliband openly promises, in effect, to apply more flawed Green taxes to the energy costs of both consumers and the businesses that employ them, this is the best the Cameroons can come up with?

    Meanwhile, disappointing imprecision from Gove as Education Secretary. Apart from the rejection of scientific method implicit in asserting that a scientific proposition is “unarguable”, the majority even of climate-sceptics don’t dispute that man has *an* impact on climate, albeit probably a minimal signal undetectable in isolation in the “noise” in a chaotic system.

    The salient questions are, though: how much?: what would be involved in attempting to mitigate it?: would it make any significant difference anyway?: and what are the economic costs and benefits of attempting reversal or mitigation, as opposed to adaptation?

    Until the Conservatives can focus on hard-nosed assessment and base policy on the results, rather than nebulous pale Green feel-good fluff, the votes will continue to haemhorrage. Deservedly.

    • Makroon

      I like Gove, but where did he find this towering arrogance, that without a shred of scientific education or understanding, he can censoriously pontificate on subjects about which he knows nothing ?
      Is he really so out of touch that he is unaware that there is NO scientific consensus on AGW ? He is surrounded by toadies, just like Cameron.
      Talk to some geologists for God’s sake !!

      • the viceroy’s gin

        He’s a typical Camerluvvie, just like you. You types just assert, and not much more. That’s why Dave’s head is headed for a spike.

  • Fergus Pickeranus

    the climate crisis is too dangerous of a situation to be left in the hands of the Right wing parties like the Conservatives. Only the Left, led by Ed Miliband combined with the economic genius of Ed Balls can save the planet from the damage caused by Right wing neglect of the planet

    • Cis

      Crisis? What crisis?

      Read what Dr Patrick Moore (no, not that one!) told the US senate yesterday. It needs to be on billboards everywhere.

      • Kitty MLB

        The Greenpeace founder? Dr Patrick Moore.
        Hmmm !

        • Cis


          His path diverged from Greenp… years ago. This is where he stands on climate Scientology.

  • HD2

    It’s ‘Man’, not ‘man’ when referring to the sum of all humans on the planet.

    And Gove has no science education beyond Standard Grade level (having taught in Scotland, Higher Grade is roughly equal to a dumbed-down English O-level when Gove sat those exams).

    So, much as I admire him greatly, his scientific credibility is near-zero.

    Since the UK produces around 0.17% of the 8% of Man-made CO2 (92% being entirely natural) it’s clear to anyone and everyone that the UK can’t make any difference whatsoever.

    100% of our electrical power supplied by nuclear and ‘renewables’ or 100% from coal and it’ll not make one iota of difference.


    Raising the price of (particularly commercial) power in the UK will make a significant difference to our economy, driving high-energy industries away to other countries who have cheap, filthy power and so taking their taxes and employment with them.

    To no useful benefit whatsoever to planet Earth.

  • Kitty MLB

    For gods sake! Can we just stop talking about ‘ green crap’
    and get back to blue Conservatism . This rainbow of colours
    gives one a migraine and Tory green environmentalism sounds
    like another bandwagon they thing is popular.
    As many of us have said elsewhere ( one does repeat themselves)
    Yawn….Floods have been happening for quite a while now and
    ‘climate change ‘ was causing issues in the 6 th century.
    We have no influence over the weather, but we did regarding building
    houses on area’s susceptible to flooding -what are they going to do about that.

    • David Lindsay.

      Fix the Greedy Buiders.
      And the Lazy Planners.

      Serious consideration
      3:36 PM on 1/2/2013
      Flooding occurs in low-lying areas such as flood plains. Flood plains exist either side of a river. You may have noticed that flooding rarely occurs on the top of a hill!

      When greedy builders want to build, they buy cheap land SUCH AS FLOOD PLAINS. This land is cheap because it is likely to FLOOD at some time.

      Nevertherless, planning permission is normally granted despite objections from the Environment Agency because planning departments of Councils are generally ILL-INFORMED and OVER-PAID clowns.

      The plight of home-owners who have experienced flood damage is caused ENTIRELY by dodgy builders and WORTHLESS planning departments NOT by governments (either Labour or Conservative).

      Solution? Make builders pay compensation to people who have bought their houses and which have subsequently flooded. PROBLEM SOLVED!

      • Badmoon11

        Do you really not see a correlation between the wettest winter for at least 250 years and the flooding? How would more responsible building have stopped the rain?

  • sarahsmith232

    used to think gove could lead, presumably ’cause i’m an idiot, Raab for PM.

    • Kitty MLB

      I am a huge supporter of Michael Gove, and he is in the job
      that he excels in! would be wasted as PM.

      • sarahsmith232


  • Frank

    Very hard to believe that this will get them any votes.

    • andagain

      But it might help them avoid loosing some. A voter saved is a voter earned…