UK climate policy under threat

June 4, 2012
by phil
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The UK government’s climate policy is undergoing a slow sacrifice at the alter of commercial interests.

Today’s revelations that the UK government has been secretly doing the bidding of the “Big Six Energy Companies” by arguing against action on energy efficiency and renewable energy at the EU level is just the latest in a long string of evidence that our government is prepared to pander to the whims of business rather than protect our common future. [Update: on June 14 The Guardian reported that the UK government was successful in watering down EU energy efficiency targets].

The recent publication of the Draft Energy Bill appears to light a flame underneath the UK’s hard-fought for Climate Change Act by advocating pointlessly weak standards for the efficiency of new electricity generating plants. Even worse, the bill gives a get out clause for new coal plants as long as companies say they might capture and store some (unspecified amount) of their carbon emissions, somewhere, somehow at some unspecified point in the future.

The draft energy bill came days after the Independent on Sunday printed a frank assessment of the government’s environmental record. That article alone provided sufficient evidence that the “greenest government ever” aspiration had been dumped in the coalition’s post-election policy bin. Key points:

  • Lack of leadership from Prime Minister on environmental issues
  • Treasury blind to potential green shoots of growth
  • Lack of urgency and ambition in relation to the Green Investment Bank
  • A £3bn tax break in March to help oil firms drill new deep wells off the north of Scotland
  • Weak, mixed signals to fledgling renewables industry and investors
  • Attempt to privatise forests
  • Possible reversal of commitment not to expand Heathrow airport

Today’s revelations start to fill in the wider picture of the UK’s influence on climate policy beyond the domestic arena, adding to what we already know, for example, about the UK’s indefensible support of the Canadian government in its promotion of oil from the tar sands in Europe.

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