The environment matters. A lot. But not as much as whether politicians are getting one up on each other. This is why so much political reporting of environmental policy is cast in terms of the changing image of this party or that minister – a priority most clearly, and unattractively, distilled by the phrase “green credentials”.
Journalists have worked tirelessly to turn this phrase into a brain-deadening cliché. Over the past decade it’s grown much more popular than other types of credentials politicians might want:
(I single out the Guardian not because I think it’s particularly guilty of cliché-mongering but because its search facility helpfully gives numbers of uses by year.)
The surge really gets going in 2006, as new Tory leader David Cameron decides that the environment is a useful issue to campaign on, and as the Stern Review produces its report for Gordon Brown. Usage falls back a bit towards the end of the decade as the economy becomes a more pressing issue, but the phrase remains popular.
And it remains horrible. Sorry, I’ve no better argument against it than that. Anyone who uses “green credentials” to mean anything other than biodegradable ID cards deserves to be put in thumbscrews.