By Tim Montgomerie
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At the Manchester Party Conference George Osborne appeared to become a multilateralist on climate change. This is what he told the Tory Conference:
"We know that a decade of environmental laws and regulations are piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies. Yes, climate change is a man made disaster. Yes, we need international agreement to stop it. Yes, we must have investment in greener energy. And that’s why I gave the go ahead to the world’s first Green Investment Bank. But Britain makes up less than 2% of the world’s carbon emissions to China and America’s 40%. We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business. So let’s at the very least resolve that we’re going to cut our carbon emissions no slower but also no faster than our fellow countries in Europe. That’s what I’ve insisted on in the recent carbon budget."
Tomorrow he has a chance to show that the shift is more than rhetorical. There is talk of special help for energy intensive businesses. The DECC minister Greg Barker MP has been to Germany to study how that country protects its important manufacturing industries and, not for the first time, Mr Osborne may embrace another aspect of the German model.
He should also aim to protect poorer households by slowing the introduction of expensive renewable energies. Some words on shale gas exploration would be very welcome.
He may have to fight Chris Huhne who is, The Sunday Telegraph reported, wanting to spend £1 billion over the next three years fighting climate change in Africa. Action to help poor nations adapt to climate change would, I wage, win the approval of Nigel Lawson (this would include drought resilient seeds and early warning systems for extreme weather events). Action to fight climate change would be futile and fail the test of Bjorn Lomborg – to use today's scarce resources on more sensible development priorities including vaccinations, freeing up world trade and improving women's education.
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