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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 September 2007, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Opposition on the Environment
On Sunday 09 September Andrew Marr interviewed Zac Goldsmith

Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Zac Goldsmith
Zac Goldsmith

ANDREW MARR: Whenever we look upwards at the weather these days we're likely to mutter about global warming.

It is perhaps the single biggest issue that politicians and the rest of us now face.

And the Tories' leading green campaigner is the environmentalist would-be MP Zac Goldsmith.

His quality of life report is the last of the Conservatives' big policy reviews and is published later this week. Zac Goldsmith, welcome.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Let's start by talking about that, because looking at today's papers there's a lot in your report about how we can have greener homes. What proportion of the emissions come from homes and houses?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Well, I mean it's about 50 per cent plus another 10 per cent...

ANDREW MARR: From the lot? We don't talk about it very much.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: It's huge, it's a big, big part. I mean there's been a lot of emphasis recently on new homes setting new standards which is quite easy actually, but it's a very small part of the problem.

We have about 23-25 million homes in this country, I forget which figure, and that's actually where the focus has to be. So what we've tried to do is find a single strategic, straightforward, honest solution that's actually going to deliver a rapid change in the standards of those homes.

ANDREW MARR: Just give us a few of the practical details.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: I mean, the key thing, and probably the biggest idea there, obviously there's a suite of measures, but the big idea really is that to upgrade your home is always going to be a disruptive process.

So the best time to do that is at the point where it changes ownership, if you buy or sell a home, that's when you're going to be removing your furniture, carpets, curtains, whatever, repainting the building. At that point it makes sense to make these various changes.

So we're saying that we should offer very generous stamp duty reductions, rebates, if your home is passed on in the best possible condition. And I think if you do that it becomes less of an ethical decision and more of an investment, a financial decision.

ANDREW MARR: The best possible condition - recycling water for gardening and waste?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Yes, we have, I mean it's not an area we've talked about in the papers today, but yes, in terms of water standards, you know, we're way behind other countries in terms of the bathroom appliances and water efficiency. But the principle focus is on energy and we can achieve massive reductions with very little investment.

And from the home owner's point of view that does lead pretty quickly to energy savings, bill savings, but in order to make that happen, because most people aren't, you know, the savings aren't so big that it's going to drive people to make these changes unless they're driven by ethical concerns which is why you need to have this stamp duty rebate. It has to be a no brainer for ordinary people.

ANDREW MARR: So if your house is green the stamp duty is zero when you pass it on?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Well we're saying if it's zero carbon, which is actually pretty difficult, but it's a sliding scale, we're saying enough of a reduction that it would actually become an obvious thing to do for all home owners.

ANDREW MARR: Almost every house in this country has a chimney on top which is now redundant. Are we going to see every house eventually having a windmill on top?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Well I don't know, the jury's out actually on the small turbines. I'm absolutely certain that technology would improve consistently, but at the moment there's a lot of studies being done.

The BRE for example, the Building Research Establishment, is undergoing a huge review of this process and they're going to come to some kind of decision in the next few months. But I don't think it's really our job to pick the technologies anyway.

What we have also suggested and it's been discussed in various papers today, is that to encourage people to generate their own energy in their homes we want to move closer towards the German system. Germany is way ahead of the game on this.

ANDREW MARR: Sorry, just explain this.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: This is a German model where there's one town called Freiburg - excuse the pronunciation - which has got about 200,000 homes which generates more solar power than the whole of Britain.

And it's because they have a system where home owners who generate their own electricity are guaranteed a price for that electricity for a minimum of ten years. It means that actually the payback is such a short period of time, between six and ten years, depending on the technology, that it actually becomes an investment rather than an ethical or status symbol.

ANDREW MARR: And these very, very nice-looking plasma television screens - bad news?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Well we are talking a lot about appliances, and in my view, and I've always felt this is, that you could shout from the rooftops, you can have as many Live Earth concerts as you want, telling people they need to get the best possible appliances, they need to upgrade their light bulbs and all the rest of it. And we do know there are huge savings to be made.

If every light bulb was efficient in this country we'd save the power equivalent of about two nuclear power plants, and the same applies obviously to a lot of different appliances. But I don't think it'll happen simply through appealing to people.

ANDREW MARR: No, no, you have to do that.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: I think it's the government's job to raise the standards, and none of these manufacturers are going to want to lose access to this market.

They'll pretty quickly catch up and obviously the secret is not to put the standards so high that we're actually going to make it impossible for people to meet those standards.

ANDREW MARR: Would you actually outlaw some high energy wasteful appliances?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: We'd raise the standard to such an extent that obviously business could adapt, we wouldn't want to go ahead of the technology because it would have a counterproductive impact.

But appliances beneath that standard would no longer have access to this market over a given period of time. So stand-by, for example. We have the technology now that you can develop stand-by mechanisms which switch themselves off after a given period of time, so, and I think it makes sense.

I mean, you know, the number of people who leave their televisions on stand-by, their mobile phone chargers and so on, plugged in while they go off on holiday or disappear for the weekend. Whatever it is enormous amount of waste that actually doesn't benefit anyone. I think most people would quite like to have that mechanism included in their television sets, whatever it is.

ANDREW MARR: There's a story in a couple of papers today that there's been a big battle about your proposals for green taxes.


ANDREW MARR: And in effect you've lost that battle. That the Conservatives are not going to go for swinging green taxes after all because it's too damaging electorally.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: I mean, look, I read that also, and there's one paper - I haven't seen the other paper that you're referring to - but the Mirror talks about a big bust-up that supposedly happened last night. But, I mean what can I say, it is a total fabrication.

There's an absolute commitment from the party to raise more revenue on the back of pollution and use of scarce resources. (talking over each other) . The second part of that equation is not my role, but the pledge is there and there's an absolute commitment to that. I mean it's just, it is a fabrication.

ANDREW MARR: Under new Labour, I think I've got the right figure, the cost of motoring, driving, has fallen in real terms by 15 per cent. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Well I think in relation to public transport, rail and so on, it's a bad thing.

ANDREW MARR: So you'd make motoring more expensive?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: In four or five days' time we're going to be telling a big story about the work we've done on transport.

I think it's the most interesting part of the work we've done actually, largely thanks to Steven Norris who is encyclopaedic on these issues. And we've developed a programme which I'm really looking forward to talking about but it not something I want to talk about now...

ANDREW MARR: It's a very simple and straightforward question. Should motoring become more expensive?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Well, I long to be able to talk about the transport work we've been doing. There's nothing I'd like to do more and I can only say that if you can face having me back in the next week or the week after, you can grill me as much as you like on transport issues...


ZAC GOLDSMITH: ...but I can't talk it about it now, we really, you know, the homes and energy's at the first part of this story, there are lots of other issues but transport is really the second big story we're going to be telling. Our report just...

ANDREW MARR: Sorry, you're not going to go back on what you were saying last time you were on, which was that, you know, that flying and so on is going to be a bit more expensive. There are some tough choices and you as a party are not going to dodge it.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: Absolutely. You cannot be serious about climate change or quality of life issues in my view, unless you address these very, very difficult issues in relation to short-haul flights and so on. But I don't want to go into details now because they'd be out of context.

There's a lot of speculation as you say in the newspapers on this issues on this issue and I would love to be able to respond, but it's not the right time.

ANDREW MARR: Let's talk a little bit about the party more generally, because you're the candidate in Richmond Park and you're hoping to enter parliament for the Conservatives.

It's been a bit of a rocky summer, one of the points being made by some people - Nigella was referring to it a moment ago - is that there are still too many, I'll put this politely, toffs and old Etonians at the top of the party, and that it's quite hard for people like yourself to say to people on low or medium incomes, you've got to make sacrifices.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: But I don't see it about sacrifice. I mean I think that if you can make these kind of shifts a sensible thing to do on an ordinary basis, as opposed to an ethical move, I don't see where the sacrifice is.

Obviously there are carrots, and we talk a lot about the carrots today, the stamp duty rebate, the VAT shift in emphasis and so on. They're going to be balanced by sticks but I don't think that translates into paying for ordinary people.

In the Mail on Sunday today we talk about increasing landfill tax for example. But the point of that is to encourage producers to stop producing so much waste. We always talk about consumer waste as if we generate the stuff, but most people don't want it. Most people don't...

ANDREW MARR: Don't like the plastic bags, don't like the wrapping and all that.

ZAC GOLDSMITH: We don't want the packaging. Actually that is a producer problem not a consumer problem. There needs to be a shift in emphasis there. So yes, there are sticks and carrots but they're balanced throughout the report. And I don't think this is a painful agenda.

I think if you break down our report into the ten key ideas and subjected them to a nation opinion poll, a national referendum, I think we'd get a nod of approval on all of them. I really believe that.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Now, as a parliamentary candidate, and as an advisor, would you be happy to see a general election this autumn?

ZAC GOLDSMITH: I think so. If you'd asked me two or three months ago I would have probably pretended I thought it would be a lovely idea.

But the truth is we're at the end process now of a massive, probably the biggest ever policy review any opposition party has ever engaged in. And we're developing on the back of that a truly exciting programme manifesto. So I say bring it on.

ANDREW MARR: Bring it on!

ZAC GOLDSMITH: ...bring it on!

ANDREW MARR: All right, Zac Goldsmith, thanks very much indeed for joining me.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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