Tom Burke: I do not doubt that the Prime Minister believes that climate change is a serious problem and that something must be done about it. Nor do I doubt that the Government believes that building a low carbon energy system in Britain will be good for the economy. What is much less clear however is that their ideas about how to do this are any more thought through than their ideas about how to leave the EU. I was asked to speak this morning about the wider context against which the clean growth strategy should be judged and to say something about its feasibility. I will focus on three main aspects to that wider context: the political; the scientific and the economic. The political context is shaped by the Paris Agreement. This has put the world on the right road to tackling climate change. But it does not take us far enough, or fast enough, down that road. This was recognised at the time it was signed so the political challenge now is to use the mechanism built in to the Agreement to raise its ambition. And to do so far faster than at present. The reason for this is that the science is becoming ever more alarming. The science of how the climate works is no longer in question anywhere. We now have a very good understanding of how human activities are impacting on the climate. There were 21 separate arbitrary changes to the Government’s low carbon energy policy as, in the aftermath of the 2015 election, hugging a husky gave way to green crap. Time and money was wasted on pursuing the Government’s inexplicable obsession with nuclear power: the slowest and most expensive way to decarbonise electricity. On-shore wind, the cheapest of renewables, was effectively banned if local communities objected but local opposition to fracking for gas was over-ridden at every turn. Nothing chills energy investment quicker than this kind of policy incoherence. And let me be clear about where the blame lies. We mostly forget that there are two parts to government, the political part and the administrative part; the politicians and the civil servants. Ministers have recently taken to blaming policy failure on their civil servants. I am in no doubt that the policy failure in building a low carbon economy are entirely the fault of politicians who have often seemed far more concerned with the right Daily Mail headline than with the right policy.
Tom Burke 12th July 2018 read more »
Chris Stark has been the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) since April 2018. The CCC is the UK government’s official climate change advisor. He was previously the director of energy and climate change for the Scottish government and before that worked across Whitehall, including in the Treasury.
Carbon Brief 12th July 2018 read more »