Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Greens 'more relevant than ever'

Caroline Lucas: "This government has betrayed the people of Britain"

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has said its policies and values are "needed more than ever" during the economic downturn.

Ms Lucas told her party's spring conference that environmental concerns could not be discarded as a "luxury" because of the recession.

Instead, investment in green industries could create thousands of new jobs.

The government had "betrayed" the environment by not "taking the lead" on the issue, she told party members.

'Genuine alternative'

The Greens offered a "genuine alternative" to other parties at Westminster, Ms Lucas told activists in Blackpool.

Unlike them, the Greens had predicted the "cocktail" of "irresponsible" policies which she said had caused the recession.

Suggestions that the UK could not afford to meet its environmental objectives in full or should modify its outlook because of harder economic times was "bogus".

We know in hard times we are needed even more
Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader

"There are people who peddle the line that during a recession, green issues must take second place," she said.

"As if the environment or social justice was a luxury that could be given up like that expensive cappuccino on the way to work.

"We know in hard times we are needed even more. Let's be clear. The Green Party is needed more than ever."

Labour had lied to the public over claims that its policies would help preserve the environment, she said.

The government's support for new coal and energy plants and its backing for a new runway at Heathrow airport showed these promises to be hollow, she continued.

On the other hand, her party was proposing a genuine "green new deal" to put environmental industries at the heart of the economic recovery.

"For years we gave been pointing out the benefits to society that would come with a sustained investment in green measures like renewable energy and energy efficiency," she said.

A programme of domestic energy saving could create up to 140,000 jobs alone, she added.

Ms Lucas has been leader of the Green Party since last year, when it ended its policy of having two joint conveners.

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