4 Jun 2014

Coalition parties show their true colours on green policies

Nick Clegg famously mocked the Conservative party’s environmental posturing by saying you could only turn blue into green by adding yellow.

But the colours have failed to mix in Wednesday’s final legislative offering from the coalition.

Today’s Queen’s speech is more of a yellow-blue ripple than an agenda for green growth.

Take home building. Lib Dems are taking pains to emphasise the inclusion of allowances for improving the feasibility of “zero-carbon” developments.

But there’s a conservative measure included too that exempts small developments from low-carbon targets.

Low-carbon home experts told me that is a “massive loophole” through which less sustainably-minded home builders might avoid making energy efficient homes.

Read more: Fracking for shale gas given green light by Ed Davey

Choosing instead making to make less efficient, cheaper ones and pocket the profits.

And remember green homes aren’t just about protecting the polar bears. Heating and lighting them costs a fraction of a Victorian terrace house at a time when energy bills going up.

In the same infrastructure bill there are details that make it harder for developers to build on-shore wind farms – the bĂȘte noir (or should that be bĂȘte vert) of the Tory back benches.

But planning for building projects of “national significance” (that’s things like power stations, roads and, to be fair offshore wind-farms) will be sped up.

But that’s announced alongside a very green Lib-Dem conference pledge of a 5p levy on plastic bags.

Read more: Q+A: is fracking the answer to our energy needs?

And where a loophole opens up for unsustainable housing, another is closed for opponents to fracking.

Last year anti-fracking campaigners were preparing a full scale legal assault on the government’s shale gas agenda by exploiting ancient trespass laws.

The plan was to mobilise landowners neighbouring fracking wells to block horizontal drilling under their land. But Wednesday’s infrastructure bill now closes off that option.

The Conservatives aspired to be the greenest government ever. But even after mocking them, it seems the Lib Dems can’t claim to have left much any more than a tinge of green on the Coalition’s legacy.

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