Friday, 20 September 2013

Lib Dems back Davey's dash for fracking and nuclear

Lib Dems back Davey's dash for fracking and nuclear 

This article first appeared on Sustainable Building e-bulletin, 20 Sept. published by Newzeye Ltd
Ed Davey.jpg
Ed Davey insisted in his keynote speech to the Liberal Democrats' annual conference in Glasgow that his party's determination to press for a green agenda was keeping the coalition to its post-election promise three years ago to make the Government the greenest ever.
He strongly attacked his Cabinet colleague, Conservative environment secretary Owen Patterson, for his opposition to wind energy development, but he himself promoted fracking and nuclear power, winning support from the conference in a vote.
He told delegates: "I've been cautious on shale. Avoiding hyperbole. Weighing up the evidence. Insisting on firm regulation. I've been fracking responsible." Lib Dem conference delegates cringed. Several spoke out strongly against these twin policy positions in the set-piece conference debate.
The Lib Dems argue they are working for a "stronger, greener economy, creating thousands of green jobs," by investing in renewables, having helped set up the Green Investment Bank, and insulating homes for no up-front cost through the Green Deal.
But the Green Standard report* on the comparative  environmental performance of the main political parties issued by the Green Alliance - an umbrella for non-governmental environmental lobby groups - between the Green Party and Lib Dem conferences, says of the Lib Dems: "The Liberal Democrats have won some significant battles on climate change. But they need to develop a bolder and more holistic approach to environmental sustainability in government, particularly for the natural environment, if they wish to continue to claim to be a ‘green' party.
"The leadership must defend the fourth carbon budget and deliver an energy framework compatible with decarbonisation. The importance of the environment for ensuring economic renewal should be heard from all senior Liberal Democrat ministers... The party needs to realise its ambition for localism, and address the lack of resources and expert support available for the local councils and local enterprise partnerships that are trying to go green."
The Green Standard also criticises the Lib Dems for having not found a strong voice on the natural environment or demonstrated an impact from within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
At a fringe meeting on 16 September sponsored by the Nuclear Industry Association on Green Growth Powering Britain: How the low carbon transition can contribute to economic recovery in Britain?, Ed Davey said the old fashioned model of power generation was too focussed on the short term, without any planning on the future, and argued for a renewed emphasis on the supply chain to help attract the billions of pounds of investment needed to ensure growth in the UK.
He took credit for setting up the ‘green growth' group in the European Union for ambitious countries to share their approaches to transitioning to a low-carbon economy.  Reaching a high level political agreement by March or April 2014 was achievable, he claimed, and revealed he had already approached Ed Miliband to allow Labour assess his climate strategy, as Labour  could lead the next government post May 2015.
Deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, Maf Smith, said there was a lot of work happening on the Energy Bill to make sure low-carbon technology was given a level playing field against higher carbon technologies.

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary at trades union Prospect, stressed that the union was not affiliated to any political party while welcoming the U-turn decision on nuclear power by the Lib Dems. Kirsty Alexander from the NIA thanked Davey for steering through the vote on nuclear power, and said how delighted the industry was. Davey in reply said the party should no longer apologise for supporting nuclear power in the face of climate change.  
The Lib Dem conference debates on green policies and economic development were based on two detailed reports -prepared by steering groups - on Green Growth and Green Jobs: Transition to a Zero Carbon Britain (Policy Paper 109) and A Stronger Economy in a Fairer Society: Enabling Every Person to Get on In Life.
The Green Growth paper includes sections on Reducing Energy Demand, Decarbonising Electricity, Heat, Decarbonising Transport, Tackling Emissions from Industry, Agriculture and Land Use, Putting Consumers at the Heart of the Zero Carbon Transition, and the International Climate Framework
The paper stresses that "the Liberal Democrat vision for a zero carbon Britain will deliver green growth and green jobs. We aim to improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, by developing and commercialising new technologies in areas such as renewable energy, carbon capture and storage and low carbon modes of transport. Moreover, investment in low carbon and environmental technologies will improve the UK's energy security and resilience, reduce dependence on imports of fossil fuels and protect consumers and businesses from oil and gas price shocks."
The paper argues Lib Dems would improve energy efficiency in domestic buildings by:
o   Transforming the Green Deal into a comprehensive one-off programme to bring all homes up to the EnerPHit standard by 2050, focusing initially on households suffering from fuel poverty and homes in off-gas-grid areas.
o   Offering differential final stamp duty rates on home transactions.
o   Providing incentives to local authorities to reduce council tax rates for those who can demonstrate significant improvements in a home's EPC ratings.
Additionally, the policy would "target energy efficiency improvements in commercial, services and public sector buildings by, for example, stepping up measures to ensure compliance with energy standards in new non-residential buildings....[and] would encourage and empower domestic consumers to reduce energy use by pressing for improvements in the EU energy efficiency labelling scheme, promoting the smarter use of energy in households and taking further measures to help people to pay greater attention to the way they use energy.
On reduction in energy demand the paper argues "energy efficiency belongs at the heart of a zero-carbon economy....previous Conservative and Labour governments have neglected the role that energy demand reduction can play in managing our energy system. Yet measures that reduce demand can contribute in a more cost-effective way to meeting energy and climate goals than supply-side measures."
It also points out that Britain has some of the least energy efficient buildings in Europe, despite evidence showing that investing in energy efficiency can produce returns of up to 20% a year.
The Working Group on Transition to a Zero Carbon Britain includes Dr Duncan Black, former special advisor to Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, Fiona Hall MEP, Duncan Hames MP, Lord Teverson and Simon Wright MP
In the paper on a Stronger Economy, Lib Dem party leader Nick Clegg writes "We need a strong, sustainable, and balanced economy to create jobs and opportunities that last....
We have laid the foundations for green growth..." claiming "On fair taxes, the environment, education, civil liberties and in other areas, a Liberal Democrat majority government would have delivered so much more."
The paper stresses "We want to compete on the basis of high skills and of green technologies and products which cut pollution and make the best use of increasingly scarce natural resources...." adding " We have begun the process of refitting our economy for the low-carbon era. We have reformed the energy market.... and we are investing in renewable electricity and heat, making homes and businesses more energy-efficient - and thereby cutting their energy bills - and creating green jobs that are sustainable for the long term."
It adds that "Government must also set out its own investment strategy, to underpin a new, balanced and low-carbon economy. Energy supply will be crucial. A quarter of Britain's power stations will reach the end of their useful lives over the next decade. This is an opportunity to realise the enormous potential Britain enjoys for renewable energy, helping to achieve both security and independence of supply."
It also emphasises that "A framework should be developed to ensure environmental objectives are pursued consistently across government."
By playing a constructive role in the European Union we can ensure that change benefits Britain, the paper further  states,  in particular "we want to see the completion of the single market, for example in energy, to open more opportunities for UK businesses to export."
In a criticism of both their Coalition partners and Labour, the paper robustly notes that "The growth model which Labour pursued, urged on by the Conservatives, until the financial crash in 2008 was completely unsustainable. An economy dependent on risky financial schemes, a housing boom and an explosion of consumer debt was always vulnerable to collapse. And the economy wasn't environmentally sustainable, either.
"We must ensure that our prosperity is based on solid and sustainable foundations. We need more green growth, more growth in manufacturing and technology and less reliance on financial services, and more growth in high-skilled, high-pay employment. We need a planning system which supports growth while protecting and enhancing key social and environmental assets. Low-carbon and environmental investment offers the UK a chance to create new jobs and prosperity - a route out of recession and towards a modern and competitive economy. Green technology, infrastructure and service companies now account for almost 10 % of UK GDP and employ almost a million people... No sectors are as well placed to give the economy the boost it needs in the short term and the competitive strength it needs in the long term."
It also re-iterates: "We need to expand the Green Deal to insulate homes and cut energy bills - creating thousands of new jobs in the process, and helping to end fuel poverty."
The working group is chaired by former Treasury chief secretary and currently education minister, David Laws MP, and includes Nick Clegg, business minister Jo Swinson, other MPs including party chairman Tim Farron, Duncan Hames, Dr Julian Huppert, and Jenny Willott as well as Sharon Bowles MEP, Baroness Brinton and Lord Shipley. 

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