Giles Parkinson, editor of Climate Spectator, writes: Few people are expecting Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to travel the Road to Damascus on climate change and clean energy policies any time soon, but perhaps the Road to Birmingham may do the trick.

Two things might have struck Abbott as he arrived at the Tory Party annual conference being held in the Midlands city: The first, that he was among the youngest of delegates; the second, that they were all celebrating “green growth” day. And no, this was not about creating standing green armies to pick up rubbish from nature strips — this was about the transition to a low carbon economy.

He would have heard a speech from Oliver Letwin, the former shadow Chancellor and now minister of state, who vilified the UK’s Labour Party for not being green enough, and for making little progress towards reducing Britain’s dependence on hydro-carbons. “We’re not as green as we need to be,” he declared.

The Tories, on the other hand, have pledged that they will be the greenest government ever, and the Tory ‘Green Deal’ – to be introduced in Parliament before the end of the year will provide a “new, radical way of making energy efficiency affordable to all, reducing household energy bills at no upfront cost to the householder. It will hugely reduce the energy demands of Britain’s households and create a whole new industry – with new jobs in every part of the country,” he said.

And he went on: “Our smart grid and the roll out of smart meters will transform the way energy is supplied and used. Our incentive for renewable heat will bring forward the generation of heat from waste and other renewable sources – a crucial part of cutting carbon and maintaining energy security.

“Our transformation of the Climate Change Levy into a proper Carbon price will pave the way for low carbon power stations, including a new generation of self-financing nuclear power. Our Green Investment Bank will support the next generation of British green technology investment – helping to re-balance the economy and generate new jobs and economic growth across the UK.

“Our system of feed-in tariffs will encourage micro-generation, stimulate diversity and decentralisation of our power supply, and turn hundreds of thousands of houses into sources of energy. Our high-speed rail network will bring Birmingham and London into the same travel-to-work area, and provide a real low carbon alternative to the aeroplane.

“Our support for electric cars and plug-in hybrids means that Britain is now the natural home-base for a new growth industry, which will begin to cut the link between cars and carbon.”

Hopefully, Abbott was listening.

This post first appeared on Climate Spectator.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey