Monday, October 31, 2005

Cameron calls for climate change consensus

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday October 31, 2005

Guardian Unlimited

Conservative leadership challenger David Cameron today called for a cross-party consensus on climate change to take the "Westminster party dogfight" out of the issue, as his campaign took a green tinge.

Visiting the Eden Project in Cornwall, the shadow education secretary said that, as prime minister, he would set up a national audit body to monitor year-on-year reductions in carbon gas emissions.

The putative "carbon audit office" would be independent of government, and Mr Cameron said he would seek support from Labour and the Liberal Democrats for the idea, as his campaign - well in the lead in all polls so far of Conservative party members - sought to rebut critics' claims that he would be a victory of style over substance.

Mr Cameron declared that if he were leader, climate change would be a "priority, not an afterthought" for the Conservative party. Tomorrow, the environment ministers of the G20 group of developing nations meet in London to discuss progress on the G8 Gleneagles summit agenda on climate change.

Mr Cameron met the centre's founder, Tim Smit, before touring the attraction's two biomes - the world's biggest greenhouses, which contain tropical rainforests and plants from around the world.

The 39-year-old shadow education secretary rejected criticism that his campaign represented "style over substance".

He said: "I've set out very clear plans in every important area. On the economy, how we should share the proceeds of growth between public spending and tax reduction.

"On the environment, I've set out today the steps we need to take to make this a cross-party issue where we can agree things for the long-term good of the country.

"I've been absolutely consistent as a modern compassionate Conservative saying the party needs to change, saying that we've lost three elections in a row and if we don't make changes we'll lose a fourth election."

Mr Cameron said his carbon audit office would act as watchdog for a new statutory framework with specific year-by-year requirements for carbon cuts.

It would perform a role in checking carbon emissions similar to that played by the Monetary Policy Committee in monitoring and forecasting inflation.

In Cornwall ahead of a trip to Manchester and the North-west tomorrow as part of his country-wide canvassing of party members, the shadow education secretary also stressed that his battle to become the next Conservative leader was not yet won.

Asked whether a series of polls showing him convincingly ahead of his rival David Davis meant the race was effectively already over, Mr Cameron said: "No, not at all. It's got another five weeks to run.

"I'm enjoying this. I think it's a worthwhile and good exercise, not just to listen to members of the Conservative party, but also to listen to members of the public about what they want from their politicians.

"One thing I think they particularly want is politicians who take the right decisions for the long-term interests of the country.

"That's why I'm talking about the environment today, and how we ought to try and take some of the issues about climate change out of the normal party dogfight in Westminster."

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron took his support in the parliamentary Tory party to the psychologically vital triple figures, with the announcement of 10 new backers who formerly supported Dr Liam Fox.

With only 198 Tory MPs in Westminster, that brings his support to more than half the parliamentary party.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the MPs - including arch eurosceptic Bill Cash - write that Mr Cameron has "huge talent, intellectual ability and sound judgment".

The MPs are: Peter Bone, David Burrowes, Bill Cash, Stephen Crabb, Robert Goodwill, Stephen Hammond, Daniel Kawczynski, Brooks Newmark, Gary Streeter and Desmond Swayne.


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