From the TUC

Set a carbon target for the Energy Bill

17 Sep 2012, by in Environment

A week before Party conferences, Lord Deben, new head of the Committee on Climate Change, publicly warned the Coalition its ambivalence over a low carbon or a gas-fired power system is “damaging prospects for low carbon investment.” He advised the Government to set a “clear carbon objective” for its Energy Bill. Just how will the Party conferences address climate chnage? At the Lib Dems, Danny Alexander will call for measures to “boost the green economy”, but he wants a “target range” for carbon cuts. The Conservatives haven’t shown their hand yet. But alleged climate sceptic Owen Patersen, the new environment secretary, will front the Conservative’s debate on environment, energy & climate change on 9 October.

Putting a carbon target at the head of the Energy Bill is likely to be one of the key battlegrounds this Autumn. Business Green described Lord Deben’s letter to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey as “staggeringly blunt”. It confronts the Chancellor’s vision of the UK as a “gas hub”, and in its stead advises a carbon target for 2030:

  • Extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity (i.e. without carbon capture and storage technology (CCS)) in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets.
  • Unabated gas-fired generation could therefore not form the basis for Government policy.
  • the cases for low-carbon business development, capital allocation, innovation and supply chain investment are undermined, damaging prospects for required low-carbon investments.

The Government should therefore “set a clear carbon objective” for the Energy Bill this Autumn to reduce carbon intensity of power generation to an average of 50 g carbon dioxide emissions per kilowatt hour (Kwh) of electricity generated by our power system in 2030.

So, on Monday 24 September, Danny Alexander is due to move a Lib Dem motion to kick start growth and jobs in the short term and to boost the green economy.” He wants to see “certainty and confidence among businesses to invest in renewable energy by:

  • Strengthening the Green Investment Bank and sticking to the promise of giving it borrowing powers once the national debt is falling as a proportion of GDP.
  • Establishing a target range of 50–100g of CO2 per kwh for the decarbonisation of power sector by 2030 in addition to existing carbon emission reductions.

Carbon Brief points out that the Government has never accepted a carbon targte for its Energy Bill. But meeting our binding climate change commitments for 2030  requires the carbon-intensity of the electricity we use to fall over the next 18 years from today’s rate of 500g of carbon dioxide produced per kilowatt-hour of electricity, to just a tenth of that, 50g per kilowatt-hour, by 2030. At present, the average carbon intensity of gas-fired power stations is about 405g/Kwh, and 850g/Kwh for coal.

Neither coal nor gas fuel is viable in the future without carbon capture and storage. It’s a massive challenge. Putting the “50g” target at the head of the Energy Bill is likely to be one of the key battlegrounds this Autumn.

There’s much to commend the Lib Dems stance on climate change, not least the call in a further motion on “negotiating a legally binding climate change agreement by 2015.” But there’s no room to politically fudge our domestic climate change targets.