Four steps behind a green economy
Yesterday MPs backed a Conservative motion to “accelerate green growth”. Today, the Committee on Climate Change told government that progress towards cutting carbon emissions was “a quarter of that required to meet future carbon budgets.” With some 100 Conservative MPs apparently in the climate sceptic quarter, a measure of the government’s dilemma lies in this exchange in the debate:
Conservative MP Laura Sandys: The International Energy Agency states that the fossil fuel sector is currently subsidised by $480 billion.
Peter Lilley (Con): In what form?
Laura Sandys: In all sorts of forms…
Mr Lilley: Rubbish!
The blunt conclusion from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is that, “It is crucial now to move from the policy development phase to delivery.” Greenhouse gas emissions falling by 7% in 2011, but less than one per cent is due directly to proactive carbon lowering measures. David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the CCC, focused on the lack of investment in renewables and energy efficiency measures.
Lack of investment in renewable energy and low carbon power technologies means “only a third of the annual investment required in onshore and offshore wind by the end of the decade. The anti-wind-farmers like Mr Lilley are clearly having an impact on investment. And there has been slippage in the demonstration programme for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The CCS programme “should now proceed as a matter of urgency.”
As the TUC has pointed out in its comments on the Energy Bill, the government’s Electricity Market reforms need a clear carbon objective. Detailed design issues must be resolved to encourage investor confidence. It is crucial that the programme to fund CCS demonstration proceeds urgently, with projects selected by the end of 2012 and contracts signed by the end of 2013. Within this, there should be at least one gas CCS project.
The CCC also highlights energy Efficiency and Renewable Heat in homes and workplaces. Despite good progress on loft and cavity wall insulation, there remain around 7 million lofts and between 6 and 7 million cavity walls to insulate. Progress on solid wall insulation has been limited to date. Investment in residential renewable heat remains very low. Incentives should be strengthened to increase delivery rates under the Green Deal & Energy Company Obligation, the CCC says.
As Caroline Lucas commented in the debate:
“I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way to me for a second time, but I cannot let pass what she has just said about the Government’s “consistent and constant” green energy policies, because they have been the exact opposite.”
Alan Whitehead added,
“The green economy is not just about underwriting one form of energy out at sea, but about putting the entire economy on a green footing in terms of resources, energy and demand, and including our homes and our vehicles.”
The Government clearly has to move from motions to actions. The last word, then, to the independent CCC:
“Whereas when we first highlighted the need for a step change there was a lead-time of several years, this has now elapsed. Therefore the step change is needed urgently if we are to remain on track to meeting future carbon budgets. In other words, it is crucial now to move from the policy development phase to delivery.”