UK PM Cameron skims over climate in key speech

UK Conservative leader devotes one line in hour-long speech to climate change as he sets out election priorities

Conservative leader David Cameron hugging a husky in 2006. Climate change was low priority in his party conference speech (Source: WWF)

Conservative leader David Cameron hugging a husky to highlight the threat of global warming in 2006.  (Source: WWF)

By Megan Darby

UK prime minister David Cameron gave climate change only a passing mention in a speech setting out his stall for the 2015 general election.

At last week’s UN climate summit in New York, Cameron said climate change was “one of the most serious threats facing our world”.

At the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday, he claimed the UK was “leading, not following on climate change”.

That was the sole allusion to the matter in an hour-long speech.

Cameron opened with a patriotic segment, welcoming Scotland’s decision to stay in the UK. He went on to attack Labour “hypocrisy”, promise tax cuts and declare an aspiration for full employment.

It was a rousing speech that was favourably reviewed by pundits and went down well with the party faithful.

But environmental commentators were dismayed at the absence of green growth from Cameron’s narrative.

Early on in his party leadership, Cameron famously travelled to the Arctic with WWF to highlight the damage caused by global warming.

He promised to lead “the greenest government ever” and modernise his party, reaching out to the centre ground.

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That was less evident this week, with the Conservatives responding to the growing popularity of UKIP, a right-wing party campaigning to get Britain out of Europe. Two Tory MPs have defected to UKIP.

By contrast, Labour leader Ed Miliband made green growth a core plank of his address last week, in what is the last party conference season before the next election.

He said there was “no more important issue for me when I think about my children’s generation than tackling global climate change”.

However, he was criticised for forgetting to mention the country’s financial deficit, as he spoke without notes.

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