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Oliver Letwin: A real programme for green growth and energy security

It's a real pleasure to be able to talk with Caroline and Greg - not about what we would do if we were in the government, but about what we are doing now we are in government.

Of course, our government is a coalition - and we are working with Liberal Democrat colleagues, in particular Chris Huhne who is passionate about reducing carbon-dependency.  But I can tell you from personal experience that coalitions on carbon are nothing new.

When I took on the Opposition carbon brief, just after the 2005 election, it seemed clear that the most urgent necessity was to form a coalition in favour of the Climate Change Act. I am glad to say that we had no difficulty agreeing with the Liberal Democrats.
 
But Labour refused to join in.  So, eventually, I went with Peter Ainsworth, who had then taken over the brief, to see Mr David Miliband.  We had no luck.  But he did go so far as to say that he didn't expect he could prevent consensus breaking out.
 
Well, consensus has broken out.  Over the course of the last five years, we've achieved consensus about aims on the environment in general, and carbon in particular.
 
The bad news is that during those same years - indeed, during the last 13 years - we've made very little progress as a nation towards reducing our dependence on hydro-carbons.
 
The result? We're not as secure and we're not as green as we need to be.
 
Why? It really is a sad tale of Labour's failure - on independence from fossil fuels, on renewables, on carbon capture and storage, on securing our energy supplies, on recycling and on fuel poverty.
 
Carbon reduction and energy security are amongst the greatest challenges facing Britain, yet Labour spent thirteen years tinkering around the edges with green gestures.  Despite strong rhetoric, it took the longest and deepest recession for sixty years for Labour to achieve any significant reduction in the UK's carbon emissions.
 
A real programme for green growth and energy security
 
In May, David Cameron pledged that the coalition government would be the greenest government ever.  When he said that, he didn't mean we're going to have the biggest targets, or the biggest aspirations.  He really meant we're going to be the greenest government ever.  And here's how.
 
Our 'Green Deal' - which will 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.
 
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 rebalance 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.
 
Light at the end of the tunnel: our vision
 
All of this fits together in one coherent vision.  The smart grid and smart meters will enable our families to reduce demand at times when electricity is in short supply. And our electric and plug-in hybrid car fleet will act as a national battery - taking power from the grid to charge cars when energy is plentiful, returning power to the grid when energy is in short supply.
 
As a result, our system will be able to handle increasing amounts of intermittent energy supplied from renewable sources.  Our feed-in tariffs will help bring more of that renewable electrical energy forward. Meanwhile, our incentive for renewable heat will give us a huge expansion of anaerobic digestion, enabling us to produce huge supplies of home-produced, low carbon gas.  This domestic low carbon gas, combined with our increased gas storage, will make our gas supplies more secure.
 
Our increased home-production of electricity from renewables, clean CCS coal and nuclear power, will further strengthen our energy security.  And our Green Investment Bank will help the capital to be raised for the massive investment all of this involves.
 
In other words, this is a programme that is the result of careful thought and real planning. It is not for tomorrow or the day after, but for the long-term. And it starts now.
 
In the next five years, our strong, united coalition government will take the crucial steps that set us on the road to a secure, low carbon, green growth Britain. Not the slogans and missed targets of the last 13 years, but coherent action to achieve lasting change.
 
Creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs.
 
Becoming a world-leader in new green technologies.
 
Taking our place as Europe's manufacturing centre for green cars.
 
A government that works together in the national interest - fulfilling its obligation to future generations by reducing pollution, increasing energy efficiency, securing energy supplies and providing stable energy prices for decades to come.

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