Lib Dems vote in favour of 2030 target

  • 24 Sep 2012, 13:00
  • Robin Webster

The Lib Dem conference this morning apparently 'overwhelmingly' passed a motion in favour of decarbonising the UK power sector by 2030, following a series of statements from politicians over the weekend on the subject. Such a target could feasibly be included in the energy bill, due to be debated by parliament in a few weeks' time.

Back in 2008, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended that the government achieves a "substantial decarbonisation of the power sector" by 2030 in order to meet carbon targets specified in the Climate Change Act. Specifically, the CCC said it would be necessary for the average amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of electricity generated (kilowatt hour) to be less than 50 grammes.

The political commitments and the Lib Dem vote, set the stage for a political fight about whether the target will be included in the forthcoming energy bill - probably the biggest issue in UK climate politics right now.

Here's a quick summary of who has said what, and what it might mean:

Danny Alexander

The motion was proposed by Lib Dem Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander. Alexander kicked off the conference on Saturday by criticising Conservative attacks on green policies in a front-page interview with the Guardian.

According to the FT, which trailed the intervention back in August, this is significant because Alexander has until now been seen as "completely loyal" to his boss, chancellor George Osborne, who clearly doesn't have much time for the idea of a 2030 target.

Alexander said:

"...what I'm really surprised at with these Conservative critics is they're getting in the way of growth for our economy, and getting in the way of green growth. And I think that is really bad news for people around the country who will want to see the Government making sure they've got a prosperous future with well-paid jobs for their families."

Ed Miliband

Not to be outdone, Labour leader Ed Miliband then called for a " clear goal to decarbonise" the power sector by 2030.

In an article in Green Alliance's journal Inside Track, Miliband harks back to his time as secretary of state for energy and climate change, writing:

"At a time when the British economy is desperately in search of new sources of growth, the potential for a green industrial revolution is huge. This is the time to stand proud and declare that we want to lead the world in the low carbon, resource efficient technologies of the future."

He adds:

"To attract the investment we need, governments must cover that risk and commit to a clear goal of decarbonising the power sector by 2030, as the independent Committee on Climate Change has recommended."

BusinessGreen has the full story.

Ed Davey

Back to the Lib Dems. On Sunday, energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey criticised anti green energy lobbying in the Tory party, which he argues is undermining investor confidence. Davey suggests that Osborne will "continue backing the green agenda", but also criticises "some of these people on the margins" who are lobbying the chancellor to abandon it.

Davey subsequently announced to the conference yesterday that he's "not for turning" on the green economy, and explicitly endorsed a 2030 target.

2030 vote - how many grammes?

The Lib Dem motion may lend weight to the target, and it certainly clarifies where opinion lies in government. But as is often the case, the devil is in the detail.

The motion calls for a target of 50g-100g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour by 2030. BBC correspondent Roger Harrabin observes on Twitter that this is a "little more slack" than the CCC's recommendation, which was 50, not 50-100.

Harrabin also Twitters:

"Davey's people say any target has to be wiggly enough to persuade business to come on board, or Tories won't buy it."

Where is this all going?

The general consensus in the media up to now seems to have been that George Osborne is implacably opposed to the 2030 target. So it remains to be seen whether these political interventions have any impact on the final draft of the energy bill.

Intriugingly, Harrabin adds:

"...Treasury phoned me several times last week to assure me that Osborne supports Climate Change Act "

Perhaps Osborne is feeling the pressure on this issue after all?

Expect to hear more on this over the rest of conference season, and this issue will presumably finally play out when the energy bill is debated in Parliament and finalised - in a few weeks time.

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