UEA Climategate row put people off acting on climate

Consumers have been put off taking action against climate change partly by the 'climategate' scandal at the University of East Anglia, the director general of the Confederation of British Business (CBI) said today.

Richard Lambert said public trust in the science has been shaken for several reasons, including the leaked email saga, which began at this time last year and saw private messages from UEA scientists leaked on to the internet.

But, speaking at the CBI climate change summit in London, he said despite this, businesses needed to continue to help the country 'raise its game' in this area or face undermining the UK as an attractive place to invest.

'Without consumer support, there is not going to be much progress,' said Mr Lambert, who has been director general of the organisation, which represents 240,000 businesses, since 2006.

'Of course there are obvious reasons for this disappointment, some of them temporary.

'The first and much the most important is the global banking collapse and subsequent recession.

'The second reason for slow progress to date is that public trust in the science of climate change has been damaged by the view that its consequences have been overstated or even manipulated. Leaked emails from the influential Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia caused considerable controversy at the Copenhagen summit.

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'Around the same time, the UN's intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted it had made a mistake in asserting that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.

'All this, together with public scepticism about 'greenwash' adds up to another reason why consumers have been slow to modify their patterns of behaviour.'

Mr Lambert also said the government had slowed down the pace of progress in the UK with some changes to central policies which take time to 'bed down'.

But he added that: 'Business needs to demonstrate to its customers that this agenda will benefit the budget of families, and that switching to a low carbon economy is not a necessary punishment but an opportunity for a better quality of life.'

Mr Lambert, who will step down from his role in January to be replaced by John Cridland, the current deputy director general, was giving a keynote address at the conference.

Also on the agenda is a head to head debate between well know sceptic Lord Lawson, chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and author of An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming and the government's former chief scientific advisor, Sir David King.