King's Speech – what was said (not said) about the environment
It is a day of history and ceremony – it is always a great day to see how splendid the Palace of Westminster is.
But this might be where the celebration ends for the environment. Given the well-known opinions of King Charles in relation to the environment, nature and climate change there is a clear disconnect on his duties and opinions.
The speech though seemed a bit light on detail. It is said this is to be a long term for the future, but this is likely to be the last King’s Speech of this Government and on balance it seemed rather lack lustre on how the country’s long-term future will be secured from these plans.
There is undoubtedly a focus on the economic, but there was a lack of detail on how that will progress so there is to be more detail in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
But if there is to be securing our long-term future, then bringing in more detail on how we transition to net zero and how we have environmental protection and climate change adaptations and how we make bring this to the heart of all decisions could have been achieved.
So what has been proposed from and environmental angle?
There will be a new bill regarding energy security by bringing in new oil and gas licences. The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill will be introduced, but 75% of North Sea Oil and Gas is exported. So, will a new bill deliver energy security for the country? It seems this is a wrong direction for the Government to take and is now a clear dividing line between the Government and opposition parties.
The Government is framing this around making energy cheaper for households and removing the cost of the transition to net zero, but why is this always a choice for households instead of the Government to make it easier for the renewable energy sector to gain traction?
Setting up North Sea oil and gas as a ‘greener’ alternative to other oil and gas is also a strange dynamic; the bill will bring in a key test that carbon emissions must be lower than that imported. But how much lower does this need to be to classed as ‘green’.
It was interesting to note that even though we cannot hold ourselves to account, there will be a new proposal to hold other countries to account for their environmental credentials.
But nothing further for flooding and sewage, nothing more for the renewable energy sector, nothing more for the environment. There is nothing in terms of delivering new housing for younger generations.
All of which will be disappointing for those struggling to get on the housing ladder and those wanting a cleaner water environment.
Given all of this, it is interesting to see the stark contrast with the 2019 Conservative manifesto. Why is this important? It is this manifesto which is supposed to be guiding THIS Government. The slogan being ‘Vote Blue – Go Green’.
To remind ourselves of some of the commitments:
Conservation is, and always has been, at the heart of Conservatism. Our government’s stewardship of the natural environment, its focus on protecting the countryside and reducing plastic waste, is a source of immense pride. But today, the climate emergency means that the challenges we face stretch far beyond our borders.
We want to get Brexit done so that we can get on with our work of making Britain the greatest place in the world to live, to go to school, to start a family, to own a home, to start a business – with the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth.
The oil and gas industry employs almost 300,000 people, of whom four in 10 work in Scotland. We believe that the North Sea oil and gas industry has a long future ahead and know the sector has a key role to play as we move to a Net Zero economy. We will support this transition in the next Parliament with a transformational sector deal.
We will support clean transport to ensure clean air, as well as setting strict new laws on air quality.
Today’s speech was underwhelming in terms of fulfilling this pledge to say the least.
Read our comments on leasehold reform and renters' rights which was announced today in parliament.