Political parties make pitch for the environment vote

Matthew Farrow, EIC

Labour, Lib Dems and the Tories set out their stalls at the Environmental Industries Commission’s packed annual conference. Matthew Farrow reviews events.

The second of December saw close to two hundred business people, politicians, journalists, academics and civil servants attending the 2014 Conference of the Environmental Industries Commission. 

The General Election is barely six months away, and the environment slipping down the political agenda  - Desiree Lopez, managing Director of market research firm TNS showed polling data which indicated that only 3% of the electorate saw the environment as a major issue. So it was apposite that the theme of the conference was how to ensure that the sustainability and environmental agenda remains prominent whoever forms the next Government.

"Given the uncertainty surrounding next year’s election, many of the non-political speakers emphasised the need not for Government policy making but for greater ‘bottom up’ action to secure environmental progress."

All three main political parties had speakers at the conference, and in different ways all made a pitch for the support of the environmental technology and services industries which EIC represents.

Shadow Environment Minister Barry Gardner argued that the cross-party consensus on climate change and the environment had been lost and that of the two main parties only Labour remained fully signed up to environmental improvement.  He emphasised that action to improve air quality would be a key element of Labour’s election pitch in this field, and reiterated Labour support for the EIC proposal of a national framework of Low Emission Zones across British cities.

His Government opposite number Lord de Mauley was robust however in rejecting the notion that the Conservatives had lost ground on the environment.  In response to questions about the recent speech by his former boss, ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, calling for the repeal of the Climate Change Act, the Minister was forceful and direct, saying that Mr Paterson ‘is no longer the Secretary of State’ and hence did not speak for the Government.  Lord de Mauley then went further to say that a re-elected Conservative Government would not repeal the Climate Change Act.

Lib Dem adviser Duncan Brack gave a detailed explanation of the party’s thinking on green issues, and explained that in the event of coalition negotiations in the aftermath of the May 2015 Election, part negotiators would prioritise a small number f issues.  Although these had not yet been finalised, at least one would be environmental policy based, possibly around energy efficiency.

Given the uncertainty surrounding next year’s election, many of the non-political speakers emphasised the need not for Government policy making but for greater ‘bottom up’ action to secure environmental progress.  Julia Groves, CEO of Trillion Fund, a crowdsourcing investment vehicle for renewable energy, urged the adoption of ‘green ISAs’ to enable the public to make a direct impact on the sustainability of investment flows. 

Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, argued for more employee involvement in making firms sustainable.  Mark Watts, CEO of the global cities network C40 looked at the role of city leaders in developing innovative environmental initiatives, while CBI Director General John Cridland pointed out the role that SMEs could play by adopting energy efficiency measures.  John also reaffirmed the CBI’s commitment to green issues, saying that ‘business gets it’ and had not been blown off course its low carbon and sustainability commitments by economic problems.

Presentations from the EIC conference are available at  For details of next year’s conference please contact Judith Herdsman at

Matthew Farrow is executive director of EIC