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Laura Sandys: Privatised GIB must preserve green and brave values

laura-sandys For many the auction of a very large and successful asset built and shaped by Conservatives between 2010 and 2015 is going unnoticed. Evidence that sometimes what government designs, creates and builds delivers excellent value to the tax payer. So you might be surprised that the very young Green Investment Bank (GIB), the world’s first investment bank dedicated to greening the economy, is about to be sold.

The bank has been a great economic Conservative success story shaped by our commitments to the green agenda. It has already stimulated investment across a wide range of modern technologies and energy solutions. The question energy and low carbon developers and entrepreneurs are asking is will its success continue to thrive in the private sector?

This timing coincides with the Prime Minister announcing at the UN this week she was ratifying the Paris Climate Change agreement and follows the Conservative Government reasserting its commitment to emissions reduction targets and carbon budgets. These commitments mirror Greg Clark’s new industrial strategy. He wants that strategy to “capitalise on our strengths while constantly seeking new opportunities that will determine how we make our way in the world .” The Bank can and must continue to play an important part of that industrial policy whether in government hands or not. It has established itself as part of the low-carbon “eco-system” and needs to play an on-going part in modernising our economy through new technology and low carbon investments.

We start from a good place thanks in part to the GIB and the leadership it provided. Turnover in the low carbon sector now exceeds £120 billion more than twice that of UK car manufacturing and the food and drinks industry. But we must do more.

The sale of shares in GIB will allow it to raise more capital for UK green infrastructure investment at scale. Beyond the immediate cash injection it will be free to borrow and also invest in a less restrictive range of green assets than presently.

As the Government’s National Infrastructure Commission has made clear wind solar and hydro will continue to be important but a new priority should be building a modern energy system. The current centralised model with losses in generation transmission and distribution is completely unacceptable and so last century. Helping to re-risk and pump prime new technologies and new businesses are crucial to deliver us a modern clean energy system and in particular focus on productivity and greater efficiency.

But voices in the wider low carbon community are right to be asking questions. While few are questioning its sale – whole or in part – most are much more committed to the ambition of the bank than who or how its owned. They are asking how can Government ensure that in the private sector the GIB remains a champion for the green, the clean and the modern? The answer is that whoever takes the reins of the Bank it is crucial that they are committed to maximise the wider industrial value of the bank for the benefit of UK plc. They must be able to demonstrate two important “values” that we should expect from the new owner.

First they will not only rely on investing in well established low carbon technologies but novel innovative solutions – we need it to stay brave. Second, they continue the Bank’s commitment to the British green technology and industrial sector. The Government’s new industrial strategy is about UK plc prospering and the Green Investment Bank under new ownership has to show it will put the British green investment growth first. The UK needs to take a lead as it has in the past in the innovation required to transition our economy from the old to the modern – let us ensure that one of our newest successful institutions goes from strength to strength amplifying its ambition not diluting its mission.

The author was Conservative MP for South Thanet 2010-2015

Conservative MPs welcome UK Paris commitment

Theresa May has announced that the UK will complete the domestic procedures needed for ratification of the Paris Agreement ‘before the end of the year.’ She told the UN General Assembly that the UK will “play our part in the international effort against climate change … In a demonstration of our commitment to the agreement reached in Paris, the UK will start its domestic procedures to enable ratification of the Paris agreement and complete these before the end of the year.”

The news has been welcomed by Conservative Environmental MPs. A statement from Caroline Ansell MP, Richard Benyon MP, James Berry MP, James Heappey MP, Jeremy Lefroy MP, Rebecca Pow MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, and Lord Barker of Battle said:

“This is terrific news. The UK, and Conservative ministers, played a strong part in securing the Paris Agreement. The world is moving to a more productive, efficient, low carbon economy. With China, the US and over 50 other countries ratifying, it is clear the Agreement has widespread support. 

“The UK government led the way to a sustainable economy through the Climate Change Act and a number of other mechanisms. It had committed to ratifying as soon as possible, and we are very pleased to see this happening. We are confident it lays the foundation for a better future, and we look forward to the economic dynamism it will unleash.”

Commenting on the announcement, Sam Barker, Director of the the Conservative Environment Network said:

“Thatcher and Reagan led the development of the Montreal Protocol: it is right that a new generation of Conservatives lend their support to this treaty for environmental action. UK ratification was never in doubt: it is great that the Prime Minister has made it a priority. 

“With the global framework set, we can get on with the innovation and change needed to deliver sustainable prosperity for all.”

Notes – Caroline Ansell MP (Member of the Environmental Audit Committee) Rebecca Pow MP (Member of the Environment Audit and Environment Ctte), Jeremy Lefroy MP, (Member of the International Development Ctte) James Heappey MP (Member of the Energy and Climate Change Ctte), Richard Benyon MP (former Environment Minister), Zac Goldsmith MP (Member of the Environment Audit and Environment Ctte), Lord (Greg) Barker (former Energy & Climate Change Minister, and UK Climate Envoy).

Tweets have gone out from Nick Hurd and Greg Clark at BEIS

Conservative MPs encourage the PM to put her ‘personal stamp on Environment Policy’

Today, 36 Conservative MPs have written to the Prime Minister reaffirming the Conservative commitment to environmental action, and calling for bold and exciting action in the coming months and years.

The letter in full

Dear Prime Minister,

Conservatives have always been in the vanguard of environmental protection. Conservatives first created the great, reforming Department of the Environment in 1970. Conservatives delivered the landmark Clean Air Act in 1956, and the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1981. Conservatives published the UK’s first comprehensive environmental strategy This Common Inheritance in 1990.

Our 2015 manifesto commitment to establish a network of giant marine reserve in partnership with our overseas territories amounts to the single biggest conservation measure of any Government, ever. We committed to a continued crack-down on the illegal wildlife trade, to continued support for the Climate Change Act, and to cutting emissions as cost-effectively as possible.

Integral to Conservative philosophy is a deep cultural commitment to handing on a better world to our children. Lady Thatcher gave voice to this, “The core of Tory philosophy and for the case for protecting the environment are the same. No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy—with a full repairing lease.”

Over the coming months, you will be expanding your vision for the nation. As with previous Prime Ministers, we urge you to put your own personal stamp on Environment policy. We hope that as part of your vision, you will set out an ambitious plan for restoring the natural environment at home and around the world.

In particular, we urge you to:

  • Reaffirm our manifesto commitment to creating a Blue Belt of protected waters around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories, including as a first step around the Pitcairn Islands and Ascension Island.
  • Commit to continued and thorough application of the EU’s Birds, Habitats and Bathing Water directives until equivalent UK legislation is enacted. We should incorporate in a new Nature Act the protections and powers we need.
  • Take advantage of the repatriation of the Common Agriculture Policy by shifting subsidies in favour of paying farmers for delivering services for the environment and public good.
  • Restate our commitment to fishing to maximum sustainable yield: a hard-won, UK-led reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Leaving the European Union poses risks and opportunities. With determined leadership the Government can overcome the risks and take full advantage of the opportunities to ensure our living environment flourishes for future generations. This will demonstrate that it is Conservatives who will deliver on prosperity and environmental protection. We have every expectation that you will provide that leadership.

Yours sincerely,
Zac Goldsmith, Richard Benyon, Alex Chalk, Andrew Mitchell, Anne Main, Ben Howlett, Bernard Jenkin, Caroline Spelman, Charlotte Leslie, Cheryl Gillan, David Warburton, Derek Thomas, Flick Drummond, Heidi Allen, James Gray, Jason McCartney, Jeremy Lefroy, Jo Churchill, Kevin Hollinrake, Kit Malthouse, Marcus Fysh, Maria Caulfield, Matthew Offord, Neil Carmichael, Neil Parish, Nicolas Soames, Oliver Colvile, Paul Scully, Peter Bottomley, Richard Graham, Sarah Wollaston, Scott Mann, Stephen Hammond, Tania Mathias, Victoria Borwick, Will Quince.

 

Sam Barker, new Director of the Conservative Environment Network, said:

‘British people have a proud history of protecting wildlife. We have a once in a generation opportunity to create new, British, environmental protection, and to target any taxpayers’ money where taxpayers want it to go. Reshaping subsidies will create new income streams for farmers. A new Nature Act will help us restore landscapes and wildlife, and be a fitting continuation of the Conservative’s 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act.

‘This won’t stop at our borders. Already the UK is working with our Overseas Territories to protect vast swathes of marine life through the ‘Blue Belt’. Furthermore it is British exports in technology, services, and high tech manufacturing that will help the world get richer and restore the environment.

‘Lady Thatcher was always clear that we hold the earth on a full repairing lease. Theresa May will have a similarly bold vision for how Britain will fulfil the terms of that lease, at home and around the world. We look forward to her setting it out in due course.’

Zac Goldsmith said: “Done properly, Brexit is a massive opportunity for our environment. We are urging the PM to put existing EU environmental protections into British law and to honour the green manifesto commitments we made before the election in full. But more than that, Brexit allows us to repatriate and reform the environmentally disastrous Common Agriculture Policy to make sure farm subsidies are there to pay for environmental and public services. The upside is enormous. I am thrilled that so many colleagues have put their names to this letter calling on the PM to make Brexit work for our precious environment.”

Conservative Environment Network welcomes new Director

The Conservative Environment Network has welcomed Sam Barker as its new Director.

Sam joins CEN from Tearfund, an international development charity where he led on policy and government affairs. Prior to that, Sam worked in UK think tanks on health and social policy, and as an adviser to Conservative Minister Rt Hon. Stephen O’Brien MP. Sam lives in Cambridge with his family, and grew up in Manchester, the West Midlands and Cumbria. Speaking about his appointment, Sam said:

“I’m delighted to be leading the Conservative Environment Network into the next phase of its development. British people want to make a honest living, live somewhere nice and do well by our families and friends. We want to eat well, breathe fresh air and enjoy our countryside at work or play.

“By focusing on environmental stewardship, we can deliver a more productive manufacturing and financial economy and a more resilient rural economy. We will strengthen our trading relationships and shape a more stable world. We will manage costs for consumers. By reducing both our environmental and our fiscal deficits we will leave a better legacy for our children and grandchildren.”

“Throughout the centuries conservatives have had a long tradition of protecting and enhancing the environment. The Network embodies and enhances that tradition.”

The Conservative Environment Network was founded in 2008 by Ben Goldsmith, Peter Ainsworth and others. CEN is an independent organisation which gives voice to conservative approaches to environmental stewardship. CEN prefers decentralised, free market, and growth-oriented mechanisms for managing human interaction with our environment.

Activity by the Network includes the publication of ‘Responsibility and Resilience’. This collection of essays makes the case that true environmentalism enhances resilience and competitiveness and facilitates competition. Furthermore, this tradition of conservative thought and action reaches back through Baroness Thatcher to Disraeli and Burke.

The Network has also been involved in successful campaigns. Notably, CEN helped achieve a Conservative manifesto commitment to establishing a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine reserves in partnership a number of our Overseas Territories. CEN has also worked to ensure that the UK’s transition away from coal-based energy generation is done well.

Ben Goldsmith, Chairman and co-founder of the Conservative Environment Network said:

“The conservative tools of competition and the free market are powerful enough to deliver the environmental security and economic resilience we need for a stable society. We must hand on to the next generation a more dynamic economy, more beautiful landscapes and localities, and a cleaner environment. This will not be achieved unless interventions work with the grain of human aspiration and behaviour.”

“The Conservative Environment Network will partner with and urge on the government as it makes progress on securing our environment. I am thrilled by Sam’s appointment and the next phase in the Network’s life.”

Responsibilty & Resilience: What the Environment means to Conservatives

With contributions from Michael Gove MP, Roger Scruton, James Wolfensohn, Sir Stuart Rose, Sir Ian Cheshire, Paul Polman, Kathyrn Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Download full publication here

Press Release

Executive Summary