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Ainsworth: If the environment is sick, the economy will follow

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, Shadow Environment Secretary, Peter Ainsworth said:

"My generation grew up with danger. The danger of nuclear war.

We knew the whole world could go up in smoke at the press of a single button.

That was the Cold War.

It was the responsibility of that generation to see us through safely.

Now we face a threat of even greater danger. It is, if you like, our Hot War - global warming.

It is now our responsibility to ensure safe passage through this new challenge.

The quality of the debate we have just had reflects the urgency of the threat.

Our fragile Earth is warming at an alarming rate.

It is a recipe for tragedy, instability and conflict on an unimaginable scale.

Last week, David Miliband took time out in his speech to attack us. So did the Lib Dems.

We are not in that business.

On this issue I have no time for silly party political arguments.

We will never rise to the challenge of climate change if we sink to trading insults with each other.

It's too important for politics as usual.

We are all in this together, and we must work together;

In recent months, David Cameron has placed this issue firmly at the top of the national political agenda.

That is true leadership.

But the plain truth is that the scale of the collective effort to date has been nowhere near equal to the task.

We need to redouble our efforts.

First, we want the Government to introduce a Climate Change Bill in the next Queen's Speech; to commit to binding annual cuts in carbon; and to report each year on progress.

Second, we need a new body, independent of politics, to monitor the changing science of climate change, assess the risk, and make recommendations about the action government needs to take.

Together, these proposals will change the culture in Whitehall, so that the environment will be truly at the heart of policy making.

Next, we must embrace the idea of green growth.

It's beginning to happen.

Responsible industrialists recognise their duty to the environment, and are beginning to invest in clean, new technologies and products.

Technologies that not only help save the planet, but also make great commercial sense.

Britain should be at the forefront of this Green Industrial Revolution.

Today however we are at the bottom of the EU renewable energy league table.

This is not good enough. It must change.

We are missing out on a huge and growing world market

We are also putting at risk the competitiveness of all UK business as we struggle to cut the rising costs of energy and waste.

We can find opportunity in change;

And people, government and markets working together will be the power to make that change happen.

We can't just leave it to technology.

We need political will and direction.

And because climate change is by definition a global challenge, we need a global response.

A new global framework.

The Kyoto Treaty proves that it is possible for countries to work together to combat climate change.

But we must go further.

I have asked the Quality of Life group to draw up plans for a new, market-based, global trading system for carbon emissions as the successor to Kyoto after 2012.

We need to lay the foundations of an authoritative, international body; one which commands the trust of developing, rapidly developing and developed countries in equal measure.

This body will run in parallel with the World Trade Organisation, ensuring that the action we take around the world is fair and effective.

A new way of bringing the nations of the world together to keep the Earth alive.

A way of harnessing the power of the market to deliver green growth across the world.

This is ambitious.

I make no apology for that.

We need to be ambitious if we are to rise to the challenge.

Ambitious for Britain. Ambitious for our environment.

Our own climate change emissions have risen in recent years.

Efforts to curb them have been piecemeal and half-hearted.

The Climate Change Levy is a tax on industrial use of energy. It's not a tax on carbon.

We will replace it with a Carbon Levy which does what it says on the label.

Some people seem to think that the only answer to climate change is to slap on higher taxes.

That's wrong.

We accept that Green taxes should rise as a proportion of total tax.

But we need rewards as well as penalties.

And we know that, if carefully targeted, responsible regulation can help industry to deliver the clean technologies of the future.

Our efforts to tackle climate change must be systematic; we need to use every tool at our disposal in ways that reinforce each other.

We must get rid of the contradictions.

It's no good banging on about sustainable communities and then imposing top-down house-building plans without a thought for the infrastructure to sustain them.

And it's no good Ministers bleating about climate change and then supporting a trebling of airport capacity, when aviation is the fastest growing source of climate change gasses.

That's nonsense.

And we must stop the obscenity of our taxpayers' money being used to destroy the rainforests.

There's a big role for Local Councils, too; taking a lead in the communities they serve.

Remember Vote Blue - Go Green?

It worked.

Tandridge Council, in my own constituency, has installed solar panels on the roof of its offices.

I want to see much more of that sort of thing.

Protecting the environment is a social responsibility, not just a State responsibility.

We all have a role to play.

It's about the choices we make as individuals and as communities.

It's about the way we travel;

It's about the cars we buy;

It's even about where we buy our fuel.

Some oil companies have seen the future and are investing heavily in clean technologies.

Others are investing in think-tanks whose purpose is to deny that climate change exists.

So we can make choices.

Choices about the energy we save, and consume, and whether it comes from renewable or polluting sources;

Choices about what we throw in the bin and about what we recycle;

And choices about the food we eat.

British farming is under unprecedented stress.

Farmers are exposed, as never before, to the forces of globalisation.

British farmers produce some of the best food, to the highest animal welfare and quality standards in the world; and they maintain a rich, varied and beautiful landscape.

By choosing to buy local food we can cut down on wasteful food miles and carbon emissions; and by buying British we can help save the countryside that we love.

It's all about the choices we make.

We can choose to ignore the evidence of climate change.

We can choose business as usual.

We can choose to go on regarding the Earth's gifts as an infinite, exploitable resource.

Or we can choose to start trying to live within the planet's natural limits.

That does not mean wearing hair shirts and going back in time to a miserable life - it means going forward, as mankind has always done, shrugging off obsolete technology, and treading lightly while enjoying, all the more, the beauty that surrounds us.

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. If the environment is sick, the economy will follow.

We understand that the economic cost of not tackling climate change will be infinitely greater than the cost of taking action now;

We accept that this is an issue which crosses national boundaries and traditional Party political divisions;

An issue that demands a new kind of politics.

It demands new leadership, courage and vision.

A new direction."

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