Does the government still support the Climate Change Act?
- 14 Nov 2012, 13:34
- Robin Webster
Does the government remain committed to long-term targets for
emissions reductions contained within the Climate Change Act?
4 News last night energy minister John Hayes made the case that
the UK already has enough onshore wind power built or in planning
to meet our renewables target.
That, according to Hayes will be "job done" for onshore wind -
and maybe even for renewables as a whole. Meanwhile, an undercover
video from Greenpeace featured in the Guardian shows MP Peter
Lilley apparently claiming various politicians have been maneuvered
into "key positions" in government, in order to get the UK "off the
hook" on its green commitments. But what does that mean?
Lobbying to undermine the Climate Change
group Greenpeace released an undercover video last night
showing Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris outlining how he
encouraged James Delingpole to stand as an anti-wind candidate in
the Corby by-election. Heaton-Harris then suggested that he and
Delingpole would be meeting with energy minister John Hayes.
The video also shows prominent Conservative MP Peter Lilley -
one of the few MPs to vote against the
Climate Change Act in 2008 - claiming that chancellor George
Osborne has maneuvered people into positions of power within
government in order to undermine the government's green
"Basically I think Osborne wanted to get
people into key positions who could begin to get government off the
hook of the commitments it made very foolishly".
The recent appointment of John Hayes as energy minister and
Owen Paterson as environment secretary attracted widespread
attention - both are known for their long-standing opposition to
wind power. Greenpeace also records Lilley saying:
"...we could well see, certainly
amendments to the Climate Change Act, cease to make it legally
binding, make it advisory".
It's not clear when Lilley talks about getting "government off
the hook of … commitments" he's referring to the Climate Change
Act, but it seems possible.
No more wind?
Meanwhile, in an interview with Channel 4 yesterday, Hayes
repeated his opposition to expansion of onshore wind. Hayes
"...in respect of onshore wind, with
what's built, with what's consented, and with a small proportion of
what's in the planning system we will have reached our ambitions
with respect of the renewables target"
As we have discussed
before, Hayes may well be right. In order to meet the EU target
that says renewables should provide 15 per cent of energy
generation by 2020, the government needs to increase the capacity
of a variety of different technologies - including onshore
wind, offshore, bioenergy and tidal power.
The government has projected that onshore wind "could contribute
up to around
13GW" by 2020. Only around 2GW of the roughly 7.5GW of onshore
wind currently in the planning process would need to be built in
order to meet this level.
The slightly strange aspect of this argument is Hayes isn't
actually saying anything different to
Ed Davey, or indeed the Prime Minister,
about actual deployment of onshore wind. All three agree that the
government is still committed to meeting its 2020 EU renewable
energy target - and they don't appear to disagree on the amount of
onshore wind that will be needed to achieve that.
What about the Climate Change Act?
On Channel 4 news, Hayes references comments made by David
Cameron in the House of Commons a few weeks ago.
"There has been no change towards
renewable energy. Let me explain exactly. We have a big pipeline of
onshore and offshore wind projects that are coming through. We are
committed to those, but all parties will have to have a debate in
the House and outside about what happens once those targets are
Hayes says the Prime Minister "invited all parties to think
about where we went next" after the renewable energy target was
met, adding "I endorse his view entirely".
Hayes also says:
"...In respect of the targets we have
for renewables, when we take into account what's built, what's
consented, what's in the planning system now, we'll certainly have
achieved … it will be job done. Clearly we are going to have to
look at where we go next, and that's what I am saying".
It's hard to tell from this whether Hayes means that it will be
"job done" just on onshore wind or on renewables as a whole.
He doesn't mention the Climate Change Act, which sets a legally
binding target of an 80 per cent reduction in UK emissions by 2050.
In order to achieve this, the UK will need to keep expanding the
amount of electricity that it gets from renewables.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) lays out the following
possible scenarios for development
of renewables up to 2030 in order for the UK to be on track to
meet its Climate Change Act targets:
According to the CCC, then, there is a scenario where there is
little or no expansion of onshore wind after 2020 and the UK is
still on track to meet its carbon targets - the second column on
But all scenarios require a considerable expansion of power
generation from other renewable sources. So, in light of his
Channel 4 interview, does Hayes support this?
With Lilley's comments about the Climate Change Act in mind, it