Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Cameron: Meeting the challenge of climate change

Speech in Oslo, Norway

"The Norwegian and British people share many characteristics.

A sturdy sense of independence.

An identification with the sea.

A sensible and practical approach to life.

We also share something else - a strong awareness of our social responsibilities.

In the 21st century this finds expression in an increasing concern for the environment.

Whether it is at a global, national or local level, all of us, as leaders and decision makers, must play a part in making the green agenda central to everything we do.

The modern green agenda is composed of many different issues.

Recycling and waste disposal.

Protecting and enhancing the beauty of public spaces.

Energy conservation.

Food quality and healthy living.

Pollution of our air, rivers and seas.

Toxic chemicals and biodiversity.

But, when we discuss the environment, one issue overrides all the others.

I'm talking about climate change, the focus of my visit to Norway.

My aim today is to set out the scale of the climate change challenge…

…then to explain - in the light of our response to climate change so far - the overall approach which I would take as Britain's Prime Minister.

It is an approach based on six principles, each of them essential for an effective, long-term climate change strategy.

As well as setting out the broad principles which will inform my approach, I will also propose some specific ways forward for the UK…

…in particular a new framework for carbon pricing, and a new emphasis on decentralised energy.

Finally, I will explain why I believe that tackling climate change is a key part of my ambition for the Conservative Party to lead a new green revolution.

Above all today, I want to recapture climate change from the pessimists.

Of course it presents huge challenges. Of course the issues are complex. Of course it will require us to change.

But when I think about climate change and our response to it, I don't think of doom and gloom, costs and sacrifice.

I think of a cleaner, greener world for our children to enjoy and inherit.

I think of the almost unlimited power of innovation, the new technologies, the new products and services, and the progress they can bring for our planet and all mankind.

And I think of the exciting possibilities that may seem a distant dream today - changing the way we live to improve our quality of life.

So I want us to get positive about climate change.

Sometimes, it feels as if rational debate on the subject is sandwiched between two extreme and negative views.

The sceptical views of some economists amount, albeit unwittingly, to a suicide note for the planet.

But the despairing views of some environmentalists suggest that they have already written mankind's obituary.

That's not how I see it.

I passionately believe that we should see this great challenge of our times as a great and exciting opportunity to shape a better and happier future.

SCEPTICS

But I want to begin by addressing the concerns of the climate change sceptics.

There are some who still say that climate change isn't happening - or at least not on any sort of scale to worry about.

Others say that even if it is happening, it's got nothing to do with mankind's activities.

And there's a third group who say that it's either too late or too costly to fight it, so the best thing we can do is learn to live with it.

Let me deal with these arguments in turn.

To those who say that nothing serious is happening to our climate, I say look at the evidence from where I've just been.

I'm just back from Svalbard where I saw for myself the effects of global warming on the Scott Turner glacier.

At the Ny-Alesund Arctic research station I saw three more glaciers, all of them retreating at an accelerating rate.

The best overall measure for assessing changes in a glacier is its yearly mass balance.

Two of the glaciers closest to Ny-Alesund have been measured for their mass balance for longer than any others in the High Arctic, and their results show consistently negative mass balance almost every year since 1967.

The last five years have been the most negative yet.

And this pattern in being repeated, on a far bigger scale, all over the Arctic.

Temperatures have risen by 2 degrees centigrade in the past thirty years.

Over the last thirty years, the average amount of summer sea ice has decreased by 1.3 million square kilometres.

Both winter and summer sea ice are at their lowest levels since records began.

When I asked someone at Ny-Alesund what was to the north of where we were, the answer came: "This year the sea and then the ice of the North Pole."

"Why do you say this year?" I asked.

"Because usually it's just the ice."

Some have argued that a series of warmings which took place around the 1930's show that the current warming we are experiencing is nothing exceptional.

But as I learnt from a glaciologist at Ny-Alesund, that's a superficial view.

It's true that some parts of the planet got warmer in that period but not all.

In fact a number of Arctic research stations reported a drop in average temperatures during that time.

Whereas in the current period of warming, there has been a consistent rise in temperatures right across the Arctic.

And the change in temperature predicted over the next 100 years is not two or three degrees but four to seven degrees.

I've seen it for my self, and I've interrogated the experts - that's the reason for going to the Arctic - to understand climate change.

The temperature is rising faster. The effects here are more pronounced. And the consequences of those effects - the melting of the ice - are potentially catastrophic for the rest of the world.

I'm enormously grateful to WWF for arranging this visit.

It was great to meet their experts who understand so deeply the impact climate change is having, and whose important works underpins WWF's call for action.

But climate change is not just affecting the Arctic.

In the Antarctic Peninsula in 2002, an area of the ice shelf about the size of the English county of Cornwall or the US state of Rhode Island disintegrated over just 35 days.

Glacial coverage in Peru has fallen by a quarter in the last 25 years, and the famous snows of Kilimanjaro are disappearing before our eyes.

Measured across the globe, the ten hottest years on record have all been since 1990.

Perhaps some of these facts, places and statistics seem a bit remote.

So let's get more specific. Hurricane Katrina in the US. Water shortages in the UK leading to hosepipe bans in April. Storm and flood losses in Britain that cost £6.2 billion between 1998 and 2003, double the amount in the previous five years.

In London, the Thames Barrier, designed to be raised once every six years, is now being raised six times a year.

The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser has said that if one flood broke through the Thames barrier it would cost London £30 billion in damages - that's 2% of our current GDP.

We are witnessing more and more unusual and unpredictable weather events.

According to the international insurance firm Munich Re, before 1987 there was just one weather event worldwide that caused an insured loss of over $1 billion.

Since 1987, there have been 46.

Those who say that all this has nothing to do with mankind should also check the facts.

There is a clear correlation between increases in global temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

For billions of years, the world has benefited from a natural 'greenhouse effect', which has kept global temperatures around 30 degrees warmer than they would otherwise have been.

But since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from 280 parts per million to 380 parts per million today.

In parallel, global temperatures have been rising fast.

Of course it's true that global temperatures have risen and fallen over millions of years. But the point is that right now they are rising at an unprecedented rate.

This is not a natural phenomenon. It has been caused by the way we live.

Scientists are fiercely independent people. But on this subject they agree.

In May last year, the national science academies of each G8 nation, together with those from Brazil, China and India, signed a joint statement on the need for a global response to climate change.

They agree not just on the fact of global warming, but on the need for urgent action.

They argued that "It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions."

They want prompt action now, not hand-wringing.

To those who say it is too late to avert catastrophe, I say that it is our duty to try.

It is possible to take a lead and make a difference.

We can change how we get around; we can change how we build our homes; we can change our lifestyles, change our industrial processes, change our working practices.

It's called progress.

It's what mankind has always done.

And if we press ahead in tackling climate change, we'll be accelerating progress, not holding it back.

So to those who say that it's too costly to tackle climate change, that the risks aren't worth it and we should try to live with it, I say this.

We have the ingenuity and the creativity to make this work to our advantage.

We can turn the costs of tackling climate change into benefits - not vague benefits way into the future, but real benefits, right here, right now.

Our attitude to climate change must match the scale of the challenge.

THE SCALE OF THE CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGE

Scientists are warning that climate change could get a lot worse.

They talk of "non-linear" events. These may sound academic, but you wouldn't want to experience one.

What they mean by "non-linear" events are those outside the normal course of events - sudden triggers of rapid and irreversible climate change.

The inconvenience currently being caused across large areas of Britain by hosepipe bans due to abnormally low winter rainfall would be the least of our worries.

If the melting of the Arctic permafrost continues, vast quantities of methane - a greenhouse gas twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide - could be released.

As the polar ice caps melt, the earth's ability to reflect the sun is reduced, leading to an uncontrolled spiral in temperatures.

As melting Arctic ice dilutes the North Atlantic, so the thermohaline current - the Gulf Stream - begins to switch off.

There is evidence that it is already weakening. The Hadley Centre estimates that a complete shutdown of the Gulf Stream would lead to a drop of 5 degrees in average UK temperatures.

Elsewhere on our planet, the problem could be rapid increases in temperature.

If the Amazon rainforest can't stand the heat and begins to die back, it will change from being one of the world's great absorbers of carbon dioxide to being a massive source of greenhouse gas.

The consequences are grave for all of us, but it's the world's poorest people who are most at risk.

This is a vital point. An effective response to climate change is not an alternative to making global poverty history, it's an essential part of it.

Climate change threatens fatally to undermine international efforts to eliminate world poverty.

Supplies of clean water are becoming more scarce throughout the world, but particularly in Africa.

According to the UN, 14 countries in Africa are already severely affected by drought, and a further 11 countries will join them in the next twenty five years.

The Stockholm Environment Institute has estimated that by 2025 the proportion of the world's population living in countries with significant water stress will increase from around 34% in 1995 to 63%.

The World Health Organisation believes that at least 150,000 people are already dying prematurely as a direct result of climate change.

The United Nations has estimated that the havoc wreaked by climate change could create up to 50 million refugees.

So, as the scientists have said in their understated way, we do indeed need "prompt action".

In the context of the responses we have seen so far, what form should this action take?

I believe we can learn from the record of the British Government.

That record shows clearly that rhetoric is not enough.

In the UK, the British Government set a target of a 20% cut in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2010, and a 60% cut by 2050.

These targets sound great. They exceed our obligations under Kyoto. But they don't mean very much unless we match them with the right action to ensure that the targets are met.

Sure enough, on current projections, the UK will only cut carbon emissions by 10% by 2010, missing both our domestic and our Kyoto target.

Indeed, for the past three years, carbon emissions have risen.

So we've got to do better. And I believe that an effective, long term response to climate change should be based on six essential principles.

SIX ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES

1. International partnership

The first principle is international partnership. Climate change is a global phenomenon. We need global co-operation to tackle it.

The EU accounts for 14% of the world's carbon emissions; the US accounts for around a quarter and China and India for around 18%.

I believe it's clear and fair that all those who contribute to the problem should contribute proportionately to the solution.

But since there is such strong evidence that the problem is getting worse, it is equally clear, and fair to say that the actions taken to date have been inadequate.

That is not a reason for giving up; it's a reason for trying harder.

While the need for international action underlines the difficulty of achieving progress, it also points to the opportunity.

It's become fashionable in certain circles to dismiss the Kyoto agreement. That's a mistake.

Kyoto provides a model for international partnership on climate change, and we should build on it. Its achievements may be modest so far, but it is extraordinary that it exists at all.

We now need to intensify the search for an effective, equitable international agreement to succeed the current Kyoto targets from 2012.

This should include setting binding targets for the developed world, whilst encouraging China, India, (both of them parties to Kyoto) and other rapidly developing nations to adopt lower carbon pathways to growth.

Binding targets are crucial. They are the essential foundation for emissions trading systems, providing the certainty and stability for markets to drive the implementation of low-carbon technologies in an economically efficient way.

So I think it's time we challenged our Prime Minister to spell out clearly his intentions in this area.

Tony Blair speaks as if Kyoto expires in 2012.

It doesn't: 2012 is simply the end of the first round of Kyoto targets.

And we need to know from Tony Blair - and perhaps more importantly, Gordon Brown - what his strategy is for the future.

Are they committed to a clear and transparent international framework for carbon emissions?

Are they committed to binding targets?

And are they committed to a level playing field internationally, with absolute caps on emissions?

Without these commitments, the British Government's credibility on climate change will always be in doubt.

2. We need targets as well as technology

The second principle for an effective, long-term climate change strategy is an explicit recognition that we need targets as well as technology.

New technology - clean, green and, importantly, profitable - will be essential for delivering effective solutions to climate change.

There are so many exciting developments already well underway, such as the exploration of hydrogen's potential in the US.

It's important for developed countries to move to these new technologies as they become available and affordable.

For developing countries, it's absolutely vital that they are taken up as part of the development process - as the basic building blocks of development are installed.

But without the incentive provided by political frameworks and international agreements, the investment needed in new technology will not come fast enough on a sufficient scale.

So, on a macro level, targets provide an overall framework for markets to work.

But on a micro level, targets can encourage and incentivise particular outcomes - as we have seen, for example, in the uptake of unleaded petrol in recent years.

That's why I disagree with those who believe that technology alone will provide the solution to climate change. It won't.

The argument that we have to choose between a solution based only on technology and a solution based only on restrictive international treaties is false. We need both.

3. A belief in green growth

The third principle underlying my approach is a profound belief in the possibility and opportunities of green growth.

We have to liberate ourselves from the myth that we have to choose between protecting the environment and promoting prosperity.

It is too often assumed that achieving a stable climate will necessarily, and only, involve painful decisions.

It is true that the longer we go on without taking effective action, the harder the choices we will face.

But it is simply not true to say that tackling climate change will inevitably lead to a reduction in our standard of living or quality of life.

In fact, it's the other way round.

There's a direct connection between environmental protection and wealth creation.

You only have to look at past performance to see the connection working in a negative way.

Countries that fall behind economically cut corners environmentally - the Soviet Union and Communist-era Eastern Europe being perhaps the best examples.

We have to make it clear that we want, we need - and crucially, that we have the ability to achieve - economic growth and a sustainable environment…

…indeed that one supports the other.

That's what I mean by green growth.

It can happen in so many different ways…

…energy efficiency leading to cost reductions for business…

…the need to reduce carbon emissions prompting the re-appraisal of industrial processes to make them more efficient…

…new market opportunities opening up as consumers demand cleaner, greener alternatives.

The worldwide market in environmental services is already worth $515 billion and is growing fast.

BP has demonstrated that focusing on energy efficiency within its own business can add substantially to the bottom line - over $650 million to date.

Over 15 years, Dupont reduced its Global energy consumption by seven percent, reduced its emissions by 70 per cent and in the process saved the company $2 billion.

So I want us to change the terms of the climate change debate.

I want us to talk about benefits as well as costs.

About opportunities as well as obligations.

And to inspire and encourage positive action through a radical but realistic vision of green growth.

4. An acknowledgement of the role of markets

My fourth principle is an enthusiastic acknowledgment of the role of markets.

Markets are vital for tackling climate change because, through price signals, they enable people and organisations to make rational decisions.

By setting the right market framework, we can achieve the right outcomes with the greatest possible efficiency and the least possible regulation and centralised direction.

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a great example.

It already includes binding targets; it encourages industry to cut emissions, and spurs investment in clean technology.

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme uses a market mechanism to cut emissions in the most efficient way possible.

Unfortunately, the UK Government does not seem to have grasped the fact that the whole point of the Emissions Trading Scheme is to tighten the cap on emissions over time.

Last year, whilst Tony Blair claimed to be leading the world on climate change, the UK ended up in court after the Government increased the amount that British industry was allowed to emit.

This year, the Government can't even agree on a limit at all, and has come up with a range which, at the top end, will actually lead to an increase in emissions from UK industry.

The Emissions Trading Scheme presents the best opportunity we have to cut carbon across borders.

It is also a test-case for a larger, possibly world-wide, carbon trading scheme.

We urgently need to make it work it better, and here I challenge the Government to set the emissions cap for the Scheme at the more ambitious end of the range it has outlined.

We need to press the case for aviation, the fastest growing source of climate change emissions, to join the scheme.

And we need national governments to take a lead at home.

The UK has its own Emissions Trading Scheme.

But it is voluntary, contains no binding targets, and tends to reward companies at the taxpayer's expense for doing what they would almost certainly do anyway.

If we are to have a domestic emissions trading scheme, we should have one that works.

Above all, however, British business and consumers are crying out for government to provide clear political leadership to make green markets work.

Government, as a partner to UK business, is failing to provide the necessary regulatory and fiscal frameworks, appropriate advice, support, direction and advocacy.

As John Duggan, Chief Executive of Gazeley, one of Europe's largest commercial property companies, recently complained, "government hasn't filled that void, and business is being left to fill it."

He went on to say: "What I really do feel is that government has to change the name of the game. There has to be a cohesive strategy, ideally cross-political, to deal with these huge issues, so there are financial incentives and disincentives to reward some behaviours and discourage other behaviours, so we can move the whole agenda along. We will create the environments of the future, either through action or inaction. We have a choice."

I couldn't agree more.

Mr Duggan's views echo those expressed last year in a letter signed by 13 of the UK's business leaders.

They pointed out that current UK levels of investment in low carbon technologies were not nearly sufficient to meet the scale of the challenge, and called for a step change.

They said that required a strong policy framework, in the absence of which it would be difficult for their boards and investors to accept the high up-front costs of the investment needed to bring low carbon technologies on stream.

Normally, I'm all for politicians keeping well out of the way of business. But it is quite clear that the business community is looking for strong political leadership on climate change, and I intend to give just that.

As Jonathon Porritt has said: "Capitalism is the only show in town". We need market solutions to climate change; and we need politicians to put the systems in place which will enable markets to deliver green growth.

5. Political Consensus

My fifth principle is the need for political consensus on climate change.

There are two very good reasons for this.

The first is the long term nature of the challenge.

Carbon dioxide emitted today will stay in our atmosphere for a hundred years.

The impact of the decisions we make today will last vastly longer than the lifetime of any one government or political leader.

We have to get this right for the long term, and we can't let short term political calculation get in the way. That would be a betrayal of future generations.

The second reason we need a consensus approach is the reality that some of the actions we will need to take for the long term interest may require tough and painful choices in the short term.

I've already explained my confidence in the opportunities for green growth, and my belief that we need to focus on the benefits as well as the costs of tackling climate change.

But I cannot pretend that there will be no difficult adjustments along the way.

And we will have a far greater chance of persuading people to make those adjustments if there is a strong political consensus behind them.

I welcome Gordon Brown's speech on climate change. We must build an international consensus around tackling climate change, and we are glad that the Chancellor has joined us in working towards that.

But it is time for Gordon Brown to join the domestic consensus on the environment.

I'm proud that the Conservative Party in Britain is leading the way in forging just such a consensus.

We recently reached agreement with the Liberal Democrat and Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties on a long term cross-party framework for climate change, including a commitment to binding year-on-year reductions in carbon emissions.

And I regret that the Labour Government has so far resisted our invitations to join this cross-party agreement…but we live in hope.

6. A spirit of shared responsibility

The sixth and final principle that will inform my approach to climate change is perhaps the most fundamental of all.

We have to recognise that we're all in this together; that we have a shared responsibility to tackle climate change.

Government - national and local - business, the voluntary sector, families and individuals all must play their part.

Let me give you two examples.

Local authorities

Right now, we're in the final stages of our local election campaign in England.

My Party is campaigning on a simple platform: Vote blue, Go Green.

That's because local government has a crucial role to play in tackling climate change.

It can do so through its procurement policies, by controlling its own emissions, by insisting on high standards of energy efficiency in new housing, and by increasing recycling rates.

Local authorities controlled by the Conservative Party have led the way in developing green solutions.

In Bromley in south London, the council collects used cooking oil from local restaurants and turns it into biodiesel fuel to power council and local hospital vehicles.

Shropshire County Council has reduced carbon emissions by switching its energy to 100% renewable sources, including the burning of sewage gas, and is planning a 40% cut in emissions over 1990 levels by 2010.

And Woking Borough Council in Surrey isn't waiting for a global solution to climate change.

It has pioneered innovations to reduce carbon emissions through the use of combined heat and power sources of energy; developing environmentally friendly energy from waste, and a 30% improvement in home energy efficiency.

There are many other examples I could give you….and of course many you could give me, like the exciting energy project at Nydalen that I will visit this afternoon, a great example of Hoyre's leadership on climate change at the local level.

And I can today announce that we will be holding a Local Green Energy Summit to share environmental best practice in local government worldwide.

I hope to see some of you there.

Individuals

Shared responsibility for tackling climate change also extends, of course, to the individual.

Individual citizens can and must play their part, through the daily choices they make.

I try to do my bit.

I've been known to cycle to work.

My new house will have a combination of solar panels, a wind turbine, energy efficient lightbulbs and a renewable electricity supplier.

But like everyone I realise that there is more that I could do.

There are many things we can all do which don't cost much and can even save us money in the long term.

Eco-friendly homes aren't just better - they're cheaper.

Our governments should help here, by providing much better information and focused incentives to encourage people to change...

…whether through the tax system, or through support for innovative products and services, like green mortgages which encourage home-owners to make their homes more environment-friendly in exchange for financial rewards.

Our Policy Review will investigate all these options.

So these six principles:

…international partnership…

…the need for targets as well as technology...

…a belief in green growth…

…faith in the power of markets…

…political consensus…

…and shared responsibility….

…form the basis of the overall approach I would take to climate change.

SPECIFIC WAYS FORWARD FOR THE UK

But I would like to conclude by proposing two specific ways forward for the UK: decentralised energy, and a new framework for carbon pricing in our economy.

Decentralised Energy

Unlike Norway, which is blessed with so much hydro-generation, in Britain, the electricity sector is the biggest single contributor to UK carbon dioxide emissions.

And emissions from the electricity generation sector have actually risen by 15% since the Labour Government came to power.

Globally, this sector contributes close to 40% of climate change emissions, and therefore has to be a major focus for our efforts to tackle the problem.

We must support international initiatives, such as Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism, to encourage cleaner energy projects in developing countries.

But I believe that we in Britain will only be able credibly to show international leadership on energy if we do so at home.

The British model of electricity generation and supply was devised in the 1930s and 1940s around remote coal plants, which survived the reforms of privatisation almost intact.

This system wastes two thirds of primary energy inputs and perversely rewards increased energy consumption.

Research suggests that Decentralised Energy may offer the best way to unlock and harness the potential of renewable energy technologies.

It's generated on a smaller local scale…

…is closer to, and could even be produced by, the communities and consumers it serves…

…and also has the benefit of delivering energy to consumers in a far more efficiently.

There is a large family of technologies currently at our disposal including:

Gas-fired Combined Heat and Power...

Biomass Combined Heat and Power (including syngas and biogas)…

Photovoltaic technology…

Hydrogen fuel-cell Combined Heat and Power…

Wind turbines, on or offshore…

Small-scale hydro…

And in development, wave and tidal energy.

Decentralised energy also includes dedicated heating technologies such as solar thermal, and the geo-thermal borehole technology such as the one at Nydalen Business Park which I will be going to see later today.

Geo-thermal power is just one of many emerging sustainable technologies which countries across Europe are adopting and developing, and which could play a far greater role in the provision of UK energy.

However, our Government has singularly failed to match its words with deeds, and Britain is lagging behind.

This is crazy…we should be viewing this sector as an opportunity for British industry to lead the world.

It should be a time of huge excitement and expansion for green energy suppliers; with attractive innovations turning into real commercial benefit for individual companies, and real competitive advantage for our economy as a whole.

Carbon pricing

Tackling climate change will require genuinely fresh thinking.

We must not be afraid of using the tax system and market mechanisms to encourage investment in, and take up of, clean new technologies which will transform the way we do business, create new markets, and reduce our impact on the planet.

We must make sure that the various methods we use amount to a coherent whole, ensuring that carbon is priced effectively.

It isn't the job of government to pick technologies. It isn't the job of government to tell people how to live their lives.

It is the job of government to set a rational framework within which producers and consumers recognise the environmental cost of carbon because it comes home to them as an actual money-cost.

I have asked our Quality of Life Policy Group and those involved in our Energy Review to develop just such a framework for carbon pricing right across the British economy, ensuring that the overall effect of the framework is fiscally neutral.

Activities which produce more carbon emissions will cost more; those that produce fewer emissions will cost less. And the net effect will be neutral.

The Climate Change Levy

One particular aspect of our new framework for carbon pricing will be the development of a more effective replacement for the UK's Climate Change Levy.

When I point out that UK climate change emissions have risen under Mr Blair's Government, all he ever says is that we opposed the Climate Change Levy, as if the Climate Change Levy were the complete and only answer to climate change.

The Climate Change Levy is a tax on energy consumed by business.

It fails to make sufficient distinction between energy produced from low carbon sources and energy produced from high carbon sources.

The Climate Change Levy should therefore be replaced by a Carbon Levy which better distinguishes between high and low carbon production of energy, and which retains fiscal neutrality.

I have asked our Quality of Life Policy Group and those involved in our Energy Review to recommend what form the new Carbon Levy should take, as part of a package of measures to price carbon and to deliver lower carbon emissions across the economy.

In particular, I have asked the group to consider whether the Carbon Levy should operate as a business tax (like the Climate Change Levy) or as a market mechanism, in which low carbon energy production and business use is encouraged through tradeable credits.

So let me make it clear: under a Conservative Government, the Climate Change Levy will be replaced by a more effective method of reducing carbon emissions, as part of an overall framework of carbon pricing right across the economy.

A CONSERVATIVE AGENDA

I know that eyebrows have been raised in some quarters by the prominence which I have given to environmental issues ever since I became Leader of the Opposition.

I also know that my commitment to the green agenda has caused a recent flurry of activity in Gordon Brown's Treasury.

It's just a pity that his latest Budget failed to take the agenda forward in anything but the most timid of ways.

I welcome the competition. It's good for the cause of environmentalism.

But I'm confident it's a competition that the Conservative Party will win.

We'll win because of our values. As our name implies, we are the natural party of conservation. And our traditional values uniquely enable us to take a lead in meeting the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

First, we have always supported order and security. We believe in an orderly society.

In this century, the notion of an orderly society will need to extend to embrace the threat of disorder created by climate change. It will need also to recognise that the order that we can arrange for ourselves is subject to the order imposed by nature.

Second, we believe in enterprise. In the context of tackling climate change, the spirit of enterprise has never been more needed. We will need all our reserves of scientific knowledge, commercial skill, industrial imagination, and creativity to turn the biggest threat we face into the biggest opportunity we have seen.

Third, we understand the power of markets, and how they work. We know that markets will have a crucial part to play - internationally and nationally - in driving down carbon emissions and creating green, sustainable growth.

Fourth, we know that well targeted, straightforward regulation can help create new markets and opportunities for business, whiles raising environmental standards and reducing pollution. It was, after all, a great Victorian Conservative, Benjamin Disraeli who was the first to recognise this.

We also know that complex, ill-directed, unclear and burdensome regulations, of the type that Labour have made their speciality, are the enemy of enterprise.

Fifth, we recognise that incentives can produce much more positive results than penalties. To paraphrase the words of one senior industrialist: "Show me a tax, and I will set a whole floor of accountants on finding out how to avoid it. Show me an incentive, and I will employ a whole floor of people to work out how to maximise the benefit".

Finally, we understand that the state does not have all the answers, and that where government is concerned, more often means less.

Yes, we need political leadership; but we also need to encourage individuals to play their part. And here is another ground for optimism.

I do not believe that most people want to think of themselves as polluters. Given a clear and simple choice between damaging the environment for themselves and their children, and doing the right thing, I think most of us would rather do the right thing.

But the key word here is "simple". If the steps we are encouraged to take to protect the environment seem complicated or expensive, more often than not we won't take them.

So, working with NGOs and local groups, we need to offer clear, practical advice about the many small steps all of us can take towards a more sustainable future.

Conservatives have long believed in trusting people.

I sense that, hidden amid the underlying concern that millions of people feel about the future of the planet, there is a hunger for action and a passion for change.

It will be the job of a Conservative government to enable people to play their own part in meeting the challenge of climate change."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech