Our events at Conservative Party Conference 2023
Manchester Central | Sunday 1 - Wednesday 4 October
Join us at Conservative Party Conference where we'll be hosting an extensive programme of fringe events to debate environmental issues and conservative solutions.
All of our events will be held in Manchester Central Rooms 3 & 4 at the main entrance of the conference centre. You can also find us at our stand in the main hall.
We'll be updating this webpage with even more speakers as we announce them.
Sunday 1 October
12:00 - 13:00 | Wind and solar: energy saviours or a blight on our communities?
To reach our environmental and energy security objectives, we will need to build lots more zero-carbon energy. Ramping up cheap solar and wind across the country will cut bills and power economic growth, but what will be the impact on local communities? Could new and exciting community engagement methods pave the way to more energy? Is the planning system the stick in the mud? Is there a way for onshore renewable projects to benefit local areas and address legitimate concerns at the same time?
Speakers: Lee Rowley MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities); Vicky Ford MP; Tom Bradshaw (Deputy President, National Farmers Union); Cathal Hennessy (Head of Onshore Renewables Development, RWE); Lynsey Jones (CEN).
13:30 - 14:30 | Tackling air pollution: a direct route to freedom or a roadblock to liberty?
Nobody likes sitting in traffic. A day that starts and finishes with boredom, wasted time and petrol, and a face full of pollution isn’t a good one. Since local authorities began to roll out networks of cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods, some complain they are spending even more time stuck behind the wheel. Others describe a transformation to a quiet and more pleasant community where residents of all ages feel safe to get around easily. Can both be true? Is it possible to wean ourselves off car dependency while preserving individual choice? And is the idea of making active travel and public transport a natural choice for shorter journeys an expensive pipedream or the solution to congestion?
Speakers: David Simmonds MP; Cllr Emma Marshall; Matthew Lesh (Director of Public Policy and Communications, Institute of Economic Affairs); Imo Martineau (Head of UK Portfolio, Clean Air Fund); Henry Gregg (Director of External Affairs, Asthma and Lung UK); Caitie Gillett (CEN).
15:00 - 16:00 | Is free trade good for the environment?
Free trade can enable a more efficient use of resources, and provide consumers with imports like better green technology or cheaper food. But many argue the imperative to strike trade deals has made us compromise on standards. Is a race to the bottom on key environmental standards an inevitable outcome of free trade deals? Or can we leverage trade deals to raise environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards both at home and abroad?
Speakers: Lord Ben Houchen (Tees Valley Mayor); Robert Courts MP; Phoebe Clay (Director, Unchecked UK); Ben Ramanauskas (Fellow, University of Oxford); John Flesher (CEN).
16:30 - 18:00 | How can we restore nature to these once Wild Isles?
Nature is a defining part of our national identity, inspiring the poetry of William Wordsworth and the speeches of Margaret Thatcher. But as the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, future generations that call these isles home risk never truly experiencing the wonders afforded by our once rich natural inheritance. Wild Isles, the new BBC natural history series starring Sir David Attenborough, premiered earlier this year and showcased the challenges threatening our wildlife and why the British Isles are so important globally for nature. This event will provide an opportunity to see exclusive excerpts from the series and hear a panel discussion on what more can be done to restore our Wild Isles for generations to come.
Speakers: Thérèse Coffey MP (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); Theresa Villiers MP; Hilary McGrady (Director General, National Trust); Cllr Joe Porter; Aisling McGarrigle (Ocean Climate Policy Officer, Blue Marine Foundation); Sam Hall (CEN).
19:00 - 21:00 | Great British Farmers' Market 2023
Brexit has provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design a new farming policy and a growing number of Great British farmers are choosing to adopt these nature-friendly practices to reduce their reliance on expensive imported fertilisers and strengthen their soil. Visit our Great British Farmers’ Market to pick up some sustainably farmed treats and to hear from farmers about why sustainable farming is good for our food security and their bottom line.
Speaker: Thérèse Coffey MP (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Sam Hall (CEN).
Monday 2 October
09:30 - 10:30 | Reduce, reuse, recycle: CEN councillor networking breakfast
Conservative councillors are doing a huge amount to tackle waste and boost resource efficiency in the UK. At the same time, this Conservative government is rolling out the biggest reforms to waste policy in a generation. Join us for breakfast to meet fellow Conservative councillors, and hear about the exciting projects they are leading on locally, and how local authorities can prepare for the waste and resources measures in the Environment Act that will directly impact them.
Speaker: Rebecca Pow MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Sam Hall (CEN).
11:00 - 12:00 | Nudge zero: can we save the planet with behaviour change?
Reaching net zero will involve vast upgrades to our infrastructure and businesses shifting to low carbon technologies. The government will have to continue to make big changes to how we power our economy, heat our homes, and travel. But how will this impact our everyday activities? What actions are the public willing to take to do their bit to save the planet? How do we avoid nanny state interference and instead give people tools to take personal responsibility? Will we have to stop eating meat or stop going on holidays abroad? Is there a way of getting to net zero that doesn’t involve us all drastically changing how we live?
Speakers: Lord Martin Callanan (Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance); Katherine Fletcher MP; Mark Lund (Chair, Smart Energy GB); Katy King (Deputy Director of Sustainable Future Mission, Nesta); Eamonn Ives (Head of Research, The Entrepreneurs Network); Sam Payne (CEN).
12:30 - 13:30 | Corridors of flower: increasing access to nature in the UK
From bumblebees to grand oak trees, our local parks provide a home for nature that communities enjoy and benefit from too. Local authorities have a vital role to play in ensuring nature is close to where people live, but also well managed to create additional benefits for health, well-being, and carbon capture. Local Nature Recovery Strategies are an important new tool for councils to expand and join up nature across their counties, but how can we ensure they have a tangible impact on local decision-making? And can increased access to nature come at the expense of biodiversity conservation? This panel will explore how to improve access to nature, and the role that local partnerships can play.
Speakers: Rebecca Pow MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); Chris Grayling MP; Ben Goldsmith (Chair, CEN); Dr Simon Dowell (Conservation Science and Policy Director, Chester Zoo); Cllr Abi Brown; Kitty Thompson (CEN).
14:00 - 15:00 | Can we rely on private finance to build a resilient net zero future?
Net zero is a huge growth opportunity, but will require lots of investment. Estimates suggest that this needs to reach £50 billion per year, stretching across all sectors including housing, energy, nature-based solutions, and transport. Private finance should be able to deliver much of this investment. But how can the government create demand for these financial products? Are government targets enough to draw investment to the UK? How can our savings, pensions, and insurance policies help us to reach net zero? And in the run up to the next election, how can the Conservatives show that private investment is able to match Labour’s commitment to borrow an extra £28 billion a year to tackle climate change?
Speakers: Anthony Browne MP; Josh Buckland (Partner, Flint Global); Sarah Gordon (Visiting Professor in Practice, Grantham Institute); Charlotte Clark (Director of Regulation, ABI); Lynsey Jones (CEN).
15:30 - 16:30 | Turning the tide on pollution in our seas
Although water quality has improved in recent years, the seas surrounding our United Kingdom are still polluted with plastic, chemicals, and sewage. This threatens not just our natural environment and wildlife but also the economies of our coastal communities which rely on tourism and healthy fish stocks. The government is taking action to tackle these sources of pollution, but what is the truth about the water quality around our coastline? What more can individuals, councillors, businesses, and the government do to restore our seas and coasts?
Speakers: Sally-Ann Hart MP; Anna Firth MP; Steph Spyro (Environment Editor, Daily Express); Lawrence Gosden (CEO, Southern Water); Kitty Thompson (CEN).
17:00 - 18:00 | Green industrial revolution: is the UK winning or losing?
The USA and EU are stepping up their offer to green businesses with new tax cuts and subsidies. The UK has long led the world with its net zero industries, but now risks falling behind in the global race. Can we afford a new green industrial strategy? Should we let US taxpayers subsidise cheap offshore wind components in Britain? Or do we need jobs and investment to deliver levelling up and reinforce public support for net zero, especially as other fossil fuel jobs decline?
Speakers: Claire Coutinho MP (Secretary of State at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero); David Duguid MP; Chris Skidmore MP; Laura Sandys (CEO, Challenging Ideas); Chris O'Shea (CEO, Centrica); Lynsey Jones (CEN).
19:00 - 21:00 | The conservative environmental leadership reception
From Edmund Burke to Margaret Thatcher, conservatives have long believed it is our duty to protect the environment for future generations - and led the way. It was the Conservative Party that passed the 1956 Clean Air Act following the Great Smog, created the Department for the Environment, and enshrined the UK's net zero by 2050 target in law. But today, faced with war abroad in Ukraine and regional economic disparities at home, conservative environmental leadership means more than tackling climate change and nature's decline. It means security and prosperity through British renewables, net zero industries and green technologies and innovation.
Speakers: Theresa May MP (Former Prime Minister); Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands); Duncan Clark (Head of UK Region, Ørsted); Sam Hall (CEN).
Tuesday 3 October
09:30 - 10:30 | Is net zero flight ready for takeoff or will the green agenda clip aviation’s wings?
Flying is one of the most carbon intensive activities we do, but it also enables trade and allows us to explore new cultures and countries. Should people pay more if they fly more to reduce the environmental impact? Do we need to restrict flying to save the planet or can UK-manufactured technology propel us to net zero? Has the UK got its head in the clouds by ignoring demand reduction? Can we decarbonise aviation unilaterally and what are the economic opportunities from leading the way?
Speakers: Baroness Charlotte Vere (Minister for Aviation); Richard Graham MP; Helena Bennett (Head of Climate Policy, Green Alliance); Matt Gorman (Chair, Sustainable Aviation); Graham Simpson MSP; Lynsey Jones (CEN).
11:00 - 12:00 | Is burning wood for electricity a waste of taxpayers’ money or a climate solution?
The UK needs more affordable, clean, secure energy sources to lower household bills and meet our climate goals. But experts are increasingly questioning whether biomass power - burning wood pellets for electricity - can meet these objectives. The next generation of biomass power stations with carbon capture and storage attached (BECCS) could reduce the emissions from burning wood. However, these potentially lower emissions are not without concerns regarding the cost of the technology and the sustainability of sourcing wood pellets from abroad. Before issuing billions in subsidies, the UK must ask: is investment in BECCS good value for money? Can the sustainability of wood pellets be guaranteed? Are there alternative routes for reaching net zero?
Speakers: Selaine Saxby MP; Maxwell Marlow (Head of Research, Adam Smith Institute); Dr Daniel Quiggin (Senior Research Fellow, Chatham House); Mark Sommerfeld (Deputy Director of Policy, REA); Kate Norgrove (Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, WWF); John Flesher (CEN).
12:30 - 13:30 | Regenerative agriculture: can farmers go green without going into the red?
Critics of the government’s new farm payment schemes argue that the policy is putting food production out to pasture in favour of nature restoration. But leading food businesses along with a growing number of British farmers, are adopting regenerative agriculture which tries to combine profitable food production with environmental improvement. Is this greenwash or a green success story? What will it mean for our food security and for farmings’ bottom line? Will we need more farmland in order to put more aside for nature? Join us to find out.
Speakers: Mark Spencer MP (Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries); Selaine Saxby MP; Martin Lines (CEO, Nature Friendly Farming Network); Lee Reeves (UK Head of Agriculture, Lloyds Banking Group); David Exwood (Vice President, National Farmers Union); Jordan Lee (CEN).
14:00 - 15:00 | Can building more sustainable homes turn NIMBYs to YIMBYs?
From protecting green spaces to the more complex issue of nutrient neutrality, house building is often said to be in conflict with our environmental aspirations. But this doesn’t have to be the case. By building more sustainable houses and protecting nature, we can give more people a decent place to call home and protect quality of life for ordinary people and future generations. So are these two core conservative goals really in conflict? Could building beautifully and sustainably quell concerns and turn the tide on our low house building numbers?
Speakers: Trudy Harrison MP (Minister for Natural Environment and Land Use); Bim Afolami MP; Rob Boughton (CEO, Thakeham Homes); Nicholas Boys Smith (Director, Create Streets); Cllr Jane MacBean; Jordan Lee (CEN).
15:30 - 16:30 | Feeling the heat: how far can we adapt to the effects of climate change?
The UK is already feeling the effects of climate change. The 2014 floods caused £1.3bn worth of damage, while last year’s heatwaves caused an estimated 2800 excess deaths. With global temperatures continuing to rise, the UK will face more regular and more severe climate impacts. What does a future of over 1.5 degrees global warming look like for Britain? What are the impacts going to be on our health and the NHS? How can we adapt and what should the balance be with cutting emissions? Or should we, as some claim, switch our focus to adapting to rising temperatures instead of trying to cut emissions at all?
Speakers: Theo Clarke MP; Ryan Henson (CEO, Coalition for Global Prosperity); Zoë Knowles (Fellow, Create Streets); Beck Smith (Associate Director of Policy, Wellcome Trust); Fin McCarron (CEN).
17:00 - 18:00 | Licence to drill: has North Sea oil and gas had its day?
The transition away from fossil fuels is in full swing, with massive investment switching from fossil fuels to renewables on a global scale. Unable to control the price of Britain’s own oil and gas, the government has hit the sector with a windfall tax to pay for energy bill support. Meanwhile, the debate around whether or not to provide new exploration licences and their compatibility with our net zero target rages on. This panel will discuss what comes next for North Sea energy firms, as its oil and gas basin enters its twilight years.
Speakers: Peter Aldous MP; Tessa Khan (Founder and Executive Director, Uplift); Charles Hendry (Former Energy Minister); Simon Horner (Director of Strategy and Public Affairs, Green Finance Institute); Sam Payne (CEN).
18:30 - 19:30 | Do votes grow on trees? The environment at the next general election
The countdown to the general election has begun. Significant progress has been made since 2019 on tackling climate change, biodiversity loss, and air pollution. A strong environmental record is becoming ever more important for winning a general election, but with Labour making high-profile green pledges the Conservatives will need to offer a strong policy platform on the environment in 2024. In particular the party needs new policy ideas for delivering their environmental goals without matching Labour’s plan for an extra £28bn of green borrowing. This event will be a chance for our panel to set out their policy priorities for the election and to discuss the key themes and ideas.
Speakers: Richard Holden (Minister for Roads and Local Transport); Jo Gideon MP; Sarah Mitchell (CEO, Cycling UK); Sam Richards (CEO, Britain Remade); James Cowling (Co-founder, Next Gen Tories); Sam Hall (CEN).
20:00 - 22:00 | CEN’s Quiz of the Year
Our annual conference quiz will bring together all groups within our network, from grassroots supporters to MPs. The quiz will cover a range of topics including politics, general knowledge, and the environment with each round being hosted by politicians in CEN’s network.
Speakers: Tom Tugendhat MP (Minister for Security); Mims Davies MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions); Jo Gideon MP; Meghan Gallacher MSP; Cllr Joe Porter.