Gore and the Green Alliance

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

What follows is Steve Martin's recent posting to the SHED-SHARE network:

Al Gore poses a crucial question: Is David Cameron really willing and able to lead on climate change?

Al Gore is puzzled by David Cameron and the UK political scene, and it has nothing to do with porcine relations or the inherent democratic flaws in the system of House of Lords patronage. Instead, Gore is bemused by the gaping chasm between the Prime Minister's rhetoric and action on climate change and the self-defeating volte faces that define UK energy and climate change policy, to which the only possible response from the UK's battered green business community is ‘you and me both, mate'.

Gore's intervention, delivered this morning at an event hosted by Green Alliance, is surprising only in its forthrightness. The former vice president's analysis of the way the UK government is at risk of squandering a hard-earned reputation for leadership on climate change, as well as historic reputation for leadership in the world's great economic and cultural transitions, is entirely unsurprising. In lamenting the way the UK appears to be making the wrong choice between the "hard right and the easy wrong" he elegantly skewers the manner in which Ministers have repeatedly allowed short term political concerns to override the long term need to provide a stable policy base from which to decarbonise the UK economy.

Crucially, it is an analysis that is increasingly widely shared, and not just by the climate campaigning scamps who this morning sprayed clean graffiti solar panels on the pavement outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). CBI director general John Cridland was this morning just as critical of the UK government's bonfire of green policies and the "worrying signal" it sends businesses, while the Committee on Climate Change's (CCC) politely brutal critique of the manner in which the government opted to obliterate long-standing green policies without having replacements lined up fueled impressions there has been "a weakening of the policy framework" leaves no doubt it shares the concerns of both the business and NGO community.

As the CCC letter makes plain today, there is only so much longer the government can keep parroting the same line about its desire to deliver cost effective decarbonisation in response to this largely justified criticism. Ministers need to urgently deliver their new strategy and hope it is ambitious and credible enough to help business leaders forget about the way in which the transition from the previous government's climate policy framework to this government's policy framework has risked annihilating investor confidence for a generation.

The problem is there are worrying indications the new strategy will struggle to fully address the concerns of the CCC, or anyone else for that matter. Reading between the lines of the policy proposals and rhetoric coming out of the Treasury and DECC in recent months it appears the government is edging towards a new decarbonisation strategy that rests heavily on unproven UK domestic gas reserves, unproven carbon capture technology, unproven and costly new nuclear projects, scaled back renewables deployment, well-meaning but underfunded attempts to bolster energy efficiency, and an ideological resistance to many of the standards, safeguards, incentives, and infrastructure funding that is now driving low carbon development in many other leading economies.

The government may have a surprise up its sleeve and there is little doubt Amber Rudd and her team are serious when they say they want to ensure the UK lives up to its climate change commitments while honouring the tight spending restrictions the Treasury has imposed upon it. But Number 11's seemingly implacable resistance to the idea that there are huge hidden costs attached to the failure to invest now in building low carbon infrastructure and competitive clean tech industries means it is highly unlikely the relatively modest sums of funding that are needed to ease the impact of the recent policy shake up on the green economy will be forthcoming.

There is more on all this here, and these are related articles ...

Climate watchdog demands clarification on UK strategy, as Al Gore says he is 'puzzled' by renewables policy rollback
UK must 'unleash' private sector to deliver low-carbon future
100 Days of Dave – Whatever happened to the husky?
'Davos Man' seeks climate change opportunities

Stephen Martin can be reached at: esmartin@talktalk.net


I had all this in mind as I read Jonathan Ford's recent Inside Business column for the FT: "Green electricity drive leaves generating capacity in the red".

Ford's point is that the rapid increase in renewable capacity (whose marginal generating costs are essentially zero) has made gas-fired generating uneconomic, with £500m being lost by thermal generators in 2014.  Because of this, small thermal generators, including new ones, are being closed, mothballed, or not built, thus putting the provision of stand-by capacity in doubt.

As a committed supporter of the shift to renewable electricity, I am distraught at how successive governments have mismanaged, not only this, but the reliability of electricity supply as a whole.  My critique, however, is not quite the same as Gore's.


Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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