It's great that Gordon Brown and David Cameron have got into a bidding war on green issues. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greenest of them all? Well Ming Campbell actually, but I am really pleased that Labour and Conservative parties are now engaging with these issues as well.
I joined Friends of the Earth at university in 1973. The issues then were about finite natural resources, but the overall concept that we have to live in balance with nature remains the same. Meanwhile Mrs Thatcher talked about the "great car economy" and boasted that she never took a train when she was Prime Minister.
Labour was in thrall to the producer interests of the unions in smokestack industries. So the current all-party emphasis on the environment is totally to be welcomed. I just hope Mr Brown and Mr Cameron can fend off the inevitable push-back from their unreconstructed supporters. The publication of the Climate Change Bill is a further step forward. But we need more than warm words if we are going to stop global warming.
The Labour government has presided over a 3% rise in carbon dioxide emissions while green taxes have fallen as a percentage of GDP. So far the Liberal Democrats are the only party to have put forward substantial proposals on environmental taxes. The ‘green tax switch’ we propose would cut taxation for low and middle income earners and increase taxation on those who pollute.
It would not raise the overall tax burden, but would change the balance of it, so we penalise the production of harmful greenhouse gases more and penalise work less. Climate change is the biggest challenge currently facing the world. I hope that we can build the strongest possible consensus between the political parties about what we need to do to tackle it.