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Climate lobbyists 'biggest threat'

Published 23/05/2015

David Cameron's former chief strategist Steve Hilton has attacked climate change lobbyists
David Cameron's former chief strategist Steve Hilton has attacked climate change lobbyists

David Cameron's former strategy adviser Steve Hilton has launched an outspoken attack on climate change lobbyists, accusing them of being "the biggest threat to the environment today".

Mr Hilton said the green debate was dominated so completely by a "bureaucratised" global warming industry that the more urgent problem of biodiversity loss and the destruction of natural habitats caused by agriculture, logging and economic development was being overlooked.

In his new book, More Human, Mr Hilton gives his support to the radical "Half Earth" proposals of biologist EO Wilson, who advocates setting aside 50% of the planet for the conservation or restoration of nature.

He calls for a "fundamental rethink (of) humanity's relationship with the natural world which we inhabit, moving the pendulum back towards the system of our ancestors in which we benefit from nature while simultaneously giving back to and co-existing with it".

Speaking to the Press Association, Mr Hilton said: "There has been an incredible takeover of the green agenda by the climate change agenda. I think that's completely wrong and it has got to the point where I think the climate change activists and climate change movement are actually putting the environment at risk.

"It has turned into this huge global bureaucratised, industrialised movement captured by the big green lobbyists and big businesses that see money in climate change and in delivering new systems and industrialised processes to reduce carbon emissions by a certain amount.

"I just think that while all that is going on, right in front of our eyes, we are seeing the mass extinction of species around the world, we are seeing the loss of biodiversity that will never be recovered.

"Our planet is being destroyed by the things that we are doing and you don't hear a peep on that from some of these climate change activists. They are so obsessed with carbon dioxide and climate change that they are turning a blind eye to massive destruction of our environment that is happening right now. I think that's incredibly dangerous."

Mr Hilton was the "blue-sky thinking" adviser behind Mr Cameron's "modernising" agenda as leader of the opposition before the 2010 election, with the development of the "Big Society" initiative and the environmental focus which saw him observing the impact of global warming in the Arctic on a husky-drawn sled.

He denied that this agenda had fallen by the wayside since his 2012 departure for California, where he has worked at Stanford University and become CEO of tech start-up Crowdpac.

"I think that the agenda that David Cameron ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party on and put into the 2010 manifesto was something that was consistently delivered through the last five years. Now that he has got his own majority, I think we will see him going further and faster in that direction," said Mr Hilton.

Asked whether he thought the Conservative "modernising" agenda would survive Mr Cameron's departure, the PM's former adviser said: "There has always been much broader support for the kinds of reforms that David Cameron proposed in opposition and then implemented in government than I think people realise.

"I think there is broad support for these kinds of deep changes to how government works and how public services are organised throughout the government and the parliamentary party. There are plenty of people who want to see radical change."

Mr Hilton said Mr Cameron's surprise announcement he would retire as PM by 2020 was "clearly a good thing to do, in that he won the election and that was part of the election argument", adding: "I'm delighted he won and I'm delighted he was able to tell people his future plans."

Mr Cameron's Queen's Speech on May 27 would clearly focus on the agenda set out in the Tory manifesto, said Mr Hilton. But he added: "Over the course of this Parliament I hope that there will be ideas from More Human that will find their way into policy, focused on the argument at the heart of it that what we need to do is get power out of the hands of big centralised bureaucratic institutions and put it much more closely in the hands of people."

Mr Hilton's return to the UK political scene to promote his book and take up a role as visiting scholar at think-tank Policy Exchange has seen him float a number of controversial ideas, including banning factory farming, paying bankers the same salaries as civil servants and barring children from owning smartphones to stop them viewing online pornography.

He accepted that some might see his proposals as extensions of state intervention into individuals' lives, but insisted that "the mainstream Conservative position has always been that it is perfectly reasonable to have certain forms of regulation and government intervention".

A smartphone ban would be "a very sensible and practical proposal", he insisted.

"If we as a society don't think it is OK for children to drink under-age or smoke under-age or have sex under-age, I also think it is OK that we don't think it's right for them to watch hardcore porn under-age.

"We would never allow children to go into a sex shop and buy this kind of material, but we are allowing them to view it on their smartphones.

"There's tonnes of great content on the internet that's not just harmless but actually helpful for children and it's great for them to view that supervised by an adult. What I'm talking about is when they are not supervised by a parent or a teacher, and that's why we need to focus on mobile internet-enabled devices."

Mr Hilton has made a deeper impression on popular culture than most backroom advisers, through the character of Stewart Pearson in political satire The Thick of It, widely thought to be based on him, and the cult Twitter feed @SteveHiltonGuru, which portrays him as the sunglasses-wearing Svengali pulling the strings behind the scenes of the Cameron administration with his trademark hashtag #winning.

The real Hilton said he had not kept up with all of The Thick of It "but the bits I've seen made me laugh, including the portrayal of me".

He denied rumours that he himself created his Twitter alter ego, saying: "I wasn't really following it until I arrived here, and now I myself am on Twitter - though with not nearly the success of SteveHiltonGuru - I have today sent out the question, 'Who is this SteveHiltonGuru?' It's certainly not me."

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