By Mat Hope • Tuesday, October 3, 2017 – 10:58
Environment secretary Michael Gove said he is convinced “climate change is a danger” but that efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions must not come at the expense of economic growth.
He told the Conservative Party conference today that “climate change is one of the biggest challenges and threats to biodiversity in the UK”, but pursuing climate policy must not come “at the expense of the economic growth that we also need in order to make sure that our country and other countries are resilient and can deal with the consequences of climate change”.
Gove made the comments at a fringe event hosted by his former staffer Henry Newman from Open Europe, the self-professed “premier thinktank of the Eurosceptic world”.
Gove said that he wanted to use his position to ensure the environment was protected, while not blocking activities that could be good UK business.
He said: “I take a view towards the natural world and environment which is driven by a desire not just to conserve but to enhance the beauty and the resilience and the wonder of the natural world.
“But it’s also the case that I do think we need economic growth as well. Because unless we have economic growth then we can’t provide the resilience against extreme climate events and the more equitable distribution of goods that are necessary for us all to enjoy the natural world.”
“Now, the balance is the critical thing. How do we ensure a recognition that we need economic growth doesn’t turn into capture by big business and lobby groups? And how do we ensure that proper reverence for the environment doesn’t turn into the deployment of the precautionary principle so extreme that you never allow anyone to do anything new for the first time? You have to strike that balance.”
That means ensuring the UK’s animal welfare standards were never lowered, as well as using Brexit to reform EU policies including the Habitats Directive and fisheries restrictions, Gove explained.
When Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Gove Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), some green groups cleaimed her decision was like putting the “fox in charge of the hen house” due to his patchy record on climate change while education secretary.
Referring to his controversial efforts to cut climate change from the national curriculum during that time, Gove said:
“When we were thinking about how to deal with climate change in the curriculum, I wanted to make sure it was done on a properly rigorous and scientific basis, and that people understood the physics of climate change.