The Energy Bill: the government is not listening


by Reggie Norton, Operation Noah Board member

The UK has taken another step backwards in the fight against climate change.

In June, the House of Commons defeated an amendment to the Energy Bill setting a decarbonisation target which aimed at reducing emissions for the production of electricity to 50 grams per Kw hour by 2030.

An enormous effort by businesses, NGOs and others was mounted to get the House of Lords, at the Report stage of the Bill, to pass a similar amendment, tabled by Lord Oxburgh.

Last week (on October 28), this was defeated by a narrow majority of 14 votes. It was hoped that enough Liberal Democrats would vote against the government to pass the amendment, but only one, Lord Lester, did.

This means that the government will not consider setting a target date until 2016, after the fifth  carbon target has been set. However, there is no legal guarantee that a target will even be set in 2016: the actual target could be set at any level, to be met at any date and without taking into account the Committee on Climate Change’s advice.

Photo by Dimitris Pallas on Unsplash

This is a very unsatisfactory situation given the fact that the government must legally reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 and – as agreed at the COP meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 – must also contribute to keeping world average temperature below 2 degrees C above the pre-industrial temperature.

The Lords’ decision has been heavily criticised by the business community as well as by NGOs and others.

Peter Young, Chairman of the Aldersgate Group of green businesses, said that peers ‘had missed a major opportunity not just for UK green businesses, which gave us a trade surplus of £5 bn last year, but to global businesses and investors poised to create jobs and contribute to growth here in the UK’.

Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, said: ‘By voting against a clean power target the Lords are saddling us with an Energy Bill that’s bad news for bill payers, the economy, and the climate – letting the Big Six off the hook.’

The situation is, moreover, exacerbated by George Osborne’s support of gas rather than renewables, thus adding to fossil fuel emissions. Yet this is while climate scientists keep reminding us that time is running out – and that the longer we delay to do what is required to reduce emissions the costlier it will be to correct matters.

When politicians refuse to take leadership on climate change, we need to look for other ways to make a difference. That is why the campaign for disinvestment in fossil fuel companies is so vital and so urgent.

Comments from Greenpeace

Friends of the Earth statement

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