Friday, 18 December 2015


Telegraph 12/12/15

 Now the Paris summit has ended, it's more important than ever to separate  energy and climate change policy

 By Owen Paterson

 What was the point of the Paris Climate  Change summit? Ostensibly the politicians and officials met to discuss  the effects of global warming and how to mitigate them.  Climate change is certainly a useful political tool. International  heads of state burnished their credentials as they spoke in Paris of  their intent to protect the world from rising temperatures.

Locally  too, the words "climate change" can be politically expedient. Indeed,  as Cumbria is left considering the aftermath of the floods - which  broke records in terms of river height and wrought havoc emotionally  and financially - politicians and officials have been quick to blame  climate change. It is, frankly, a cheap way to abdicate any  responsibility for the devastating effect of flooding.

I say this because last year, 17 senior climatologists published a  paper in which they said that blaming climate change for flood losses  turns the losses into a global issue - thereby putting them beyond the  control of national institutions. The evidence also suggests that  rainfall in Cumbria last weekend only marginally overtook much older  records, if at all. Indeed, the frequency of such floods in the past  three decades, according to scientists from Lancaster University, is  not unusual and has fallen markedly from the mid-20th century.  My point is that this dreadful flooding could easily have happened  even if the climate were not changing, since it is largely caused by  landscape changes. And the measures the world has taken against  climate change have not and will not significantly change the risk of  flooding in Cumbria.

So what, then, have these 21 years of exchanging hot air on the  subject actually achieved? Very little in terms of restricting global  emissions -just look at India and China - but as far as Britain is
concerned, they have had a devastating effect on our energy policy.  Back in 2011, the world pledged to produce binding legal targets on  emissions for all countries at this Paris meeting. But that ambition  has been abandoned in favour of vague "intended" national promises.  Each country must now set its own energy policy. So China and India -  in fact any country - can continue to burn fossil fuels at will.

Apart from Britain. We are left uniquely isolated and vulnerable as  the only country in the world with a legal target for reducing  emissions, thanks to our Climate Change Act of 2008. No other country  will be breaking its own law if it misses its target. But we have a  binding target to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. We have  repeatedly boasted that we are setting the world an example - but the  world seems disinclined to take notice.

Lucky for us, then, that Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy  and Climate Change, is beginning to dismantle the disgraceful legacy  of her three predecessors, Ed Miliband, Chris Huhne and Ed Davey,  which has delivered no significant cuts in emissions while risking  blackouts, killing jobs in the aluminium and steel industries, hugely  inflating cost and worsening fuel poverty.

Her recommendations make a good start, but there is much further to go  if she is to rescue the British economy from an impending energy  crisis.

The 2050 target commits us to decarbonising our electricity,  abolishing gas as a fuel for cooking and heating our homes, and  converting two thirds of our cars to electric. These aims come at an
astronomical cost. Since wind does not significantly reduce emissions  (because of the need for back-up when it is not blowing) and because  solar power is useless at night and in winter, it would mean a vast investment in nuclear power, equivalent to building a new Hinkley Point every three years for 35 years. That's neither feasible nor  affordable.

So while it is great news that the Government is killing wind  subsidies onshore and abandoning the costly pipe dream of carbon  capture and storage, we must go further and get rid of offshore wind
subsidies (the most costly of all) and "biomass" subsidies.

By calling for an acceleration of the development of shale gas and by  embracing the idea of small modular nuclear reactors, the Government  is insuring that gas will for many decades be the most affordable and  cleanest of the fuels available to the world. But our dash for wind  power so distorted the electricity market that it has actually  prevented the construction of efficient and cheap combined-cycle gas  turbines.

So, in the wake of the noncommittal Paris climate talks, we need to  make sure we decouple energy policy from climate change policy, and  restore resilience to the system. Specifically, it is vital that the  2008 Climate Change Act, Ed Miliband's most pernicious legacy, be  suspended and eventually repealed. Clause 2 enables the Secretary of  State to amend the 2050 target, which could have the immediate effect  of suspending it. To avoid failure in 10-20 years' time, that decision  must be taken now.

0wen Paterson MP was secretary of state for the environment from  2012-2014

1 comment:

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