Campbell sets out environmental challenge
In a hard-hitting speech in Norwich today, Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats, spelt out the Liberal Democrat challenge on the environment. He criticised "A failure of nerve from the government. And a surfeit of spin from the Conservatives."
In stark contrast to Tory leader David Cameron, Sir Menzies highlighted the fact that climate change is impacting on Britain now. He visited Winterton on the Norfolk coast - an area at serious risk from rises in the level of the North Sea.
Sir Menzies sets out five points that David Cameron must agree to as a "minimum test of commitment". He has written to the Tory leader today in an attempt to clarify the actual content of Mr Cameron's policies.
The five principles are:
Green taxes must be used to change behaviour. They have fallen as a proportion of national income from 3.6% in 1999 to 3% today. The proportion should be rising not falling.
Green taxes - including excise duty on fuel - should not fall in real terms from year to year.
There should be a substantial increase in the top rate of Vehicle Excise Duty.
The climate change levy should be reformed into a universal carbon tax - including household emissions as well as business emissions.
We should stop subsidising pollution from air travel - Air Passenger Duty should be restructured as a tax on aircraft emissions not passengers.
Sir Menzies said:
"These steps are common sense and they do not require eighteen months of deliberation by a policy review. Indeed, some of them may well require votes during the debates on the Finance Bill.
"I have written to David Cameron today, making clear that, provided we can reach agreement on these five points, the possibility exists of a strong cross-party agenda to reform our tax system so that it rewards green behaviour.
"But let me make it clear: these principles are a minimum test of commitment. Without these simple but serious steps, a cross-party agreement on climate change is impossible.
"Let me also add to the government: anyone who believes there is a moral dimension to climate change would have no difficulty in embracing these ideas.
Supporting action to tackle climate change now, Sir Menzies said:
"We must press for international agreement on effective targets but we should not wait for agreement to act ourselves. We all have a role to play. We can turn down the thermostat, we can insulate our lofts better, we can buy energy efficient light bulbs.
"Those who buy cars can switch to driving environmentally friendly cars. We can drive less. We can fly less.
"I am determined that we shall not throw away in one generation the precious heritage of the centuries, and that we shall all play our part in rising to this challenge.
"I am determined that we account to our children and grand children for what we did not what we said."