If David Cameron was never planning to make a keynote speech on green issues then he can’t have cancelled it.
That is Downing Street’s reaction to news earlier this evening that the prime minister is no longer making a pro-environmental oration on Thursday during a gathering of 23 energy ministers from around the world.
The curious thing, however, is that the expectation among NGOs, Whitehall officials, special advisers – and yes, some Downing St personnel – was that Cameron was going to do so.
So what should we make of this? The steer from the centre is that while Cameron may have mulled a setpiece speech it was only ever considered. And ultimately he decided it was more useful to do a roundtable with executives and politicians – and issue a press release on the side – rather than a grandstanding speech. This wouldn’t require the work of five speechwriters, was how one aide put it. (Although you might argue, that’s what speechwriters are for).
Anyway, Cameron has managed to dodge the “cancellation” headlines as he is still kind of going ahead. But for the renewables industry the confusion is not being taken as a major sign of encouragement.
Meanwhile a debate is going on behind the scenes about who should be the next chair of the climate change committee, the statutory group making sure Britain edges towards its carbon reduction promises. My colleague Pilita Clark revealed a while ago that former Tory MP John Gummer was vying with former CBI chief (and former FT editor) Sir Richard Lambert for the post.
My latest intelligence on this is that DECC is about to send its recommendation to Downing Street for approval. The department has favoured Sir Richard for the reason that he is not a Tory and has credibility with industry given his former job – where, not incidentally, he pushed the CBI down a more green path than before. Yet appointing him would annoy some green groups and some right-wing Tories who remember that the FT backed Labour in the 1992 election. I’m told that the prime minister himself is minded to choose Gummer and “the fat lady hasn’t sung yet” on Lambert’s appointment.