Britain must become a zero carbon nation by 2050, Ed Davey
, the secretary of state for Climate Change and Energy, said today. And so the country must stop burning unabated coal.
“Coal is the near-term climate change problem,” he said. “In a low carbon transition over the next couple of decades, it involves a lot of oil and gas – the question would be: do you want British oil and gas or Putin’s oil and gas. What we have to get after, hard and fast, is coal.”
The Liberal Democrat said his party would ban the burning of coal for power – the most carbon intensive fuel – without Carbon Capture and Storage by 2025, and completely decarbonise the power sector by 2030.
Greenest Government Ever
“The problem is the hurdle was not very high. This has been the best, but that is not good enough. The issue is urgent. We want to make sure the environment is right at the top of the next government’s agenda.”
The general election in May will deliver the Parliament that will take us to 2020, the target date for many of the UK’s environmental commitments and widely calculated to be the last period in which the world economy can implement sufficient decarbonisation programmes to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
In the lead up to this pivotal election, all major parties set out their views during the hour-long debate on the environmental agenda and debated the Aldersgate Group’s Manifesto
, published on 2nd December of last year.
Green Magna Carta
Davey said his party would deliver a “green Magna Carta” with five new laws should it form a coalition at the next general election. This would include a Zero Carbon Bill, a Green Homes Bill, a Green Transport Bill, a Zero Waste Bill and finally a Nature Bill.
Davey also promised to encourage low carbon innovation, set up an Office of Resource Management, to reduce Council Tax for 10 years for more environmentally-conscious homes and take on the major problem of air pollution.
Rt Hon Gregory Barker MP
, Prime Minister’s Climate Envoy, Conservative, reminded the audience that he was with David Cameron in 2006 when the Tory leader travelled to Norway to ‘hug a husky’
in order to “draw the attention of the political class to climate change”.
He argued the Tories had much to be proud of, citing the Green Investment Bank, slashing the government’s own energy consumption by 13 percent across Whitehall, and the Green Deal.
“When we came into government this country had 40MW of solar,” he said. “We pushed value for money. Now there are 700,000 homes, over a million poeple, who have solar panels and we are generating 5GW of power.”
‘Above Our Rivals’
Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, claimed that Labour was “head and shoulders above our rivals on this agenda”.
Reynolds added Cameron had led “the greenest Conservative government ever” but said the party had apparently made a u-turn with no new climate action champions being promoted through the ranks. He also noted that Cameron’s “green crap” comments
undermined the public’s confidence.
“I look at the Conservative benches and I do not see anyone coming through who can drive this agenda. The Conservative party which looked like it was going to embrace this agenda has sadly moved away from it,” he argued.
No New Taxes
Reynolds argued that green taxes, and regulations, could change behaviour and help reduce carbon emissions. However, he added: We have a difficult financial situation. I can pledge you no new taxes this evening and my Treasury team would be livid if I did.”
The Shadow Energy Minister also stressed that “tackling climate change means leaving a substantial amount of fossil fuels in the ground – and the market has recognised that.”
“Having said that, there is going to be gas as part of our heating for some time to come,” he said. “I don’t think there is any particular role for government for directing investment.”
Davey said he had been closely tracking the Carbon Tracker Initiative
. “What you really need to do is make sure there is greater transparency and discloser for investors,” Davey said.
“Investors need to make these decisions, not me. If there is full disclosure for oil companies, a bank or some other institution the investor can see and decide whether they want to take the risk on those assets … There is much greater risk with companies with big coal assets.”
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, failed to attend following a disasterous radio interview
earlier that day, which she blamed on a heavy cold. “She is ill and unfortunately not able to take part,” an event organiser said.
Photo: Business Green via Creative Commons