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Ed Davey speaks at the Lib Dem party conference
© LUKE MACGREGOR/Reuters/Corbis
INTERVIEWS
5 March 2015 6:00

The Carbon Brief Interview: Ed Davey

Leo Hickman

Leo Hickman

03.05.15
Leo Hickman

Leo Hickman

05.03.2015 | 6:00am
InterviewsThe Carbon Brief Interview: Ed Davey

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, has been the UK’s longest-serving secretary of state for energy and climate change since taking office in February 2012. The Liberal Democrats have been in coalition with the Conservative party since the last general election in 2010.

 Here, Davey discusses a wide range of issues: his vision for a zero-carbon Britain by 2050; why the Treasury’s economic modelling assumptions are “rubbish”; why some Conservatives are “crazy” about fracking; why the proposed Hinkley C nuclear plant would be value for money; why the world needs to get off fossil fuels within “30-40 years”; why maximising North Sea oil doesn’t contradict low-carbon objectives; what form of energy he’d invest his own money in; and why energy bills would have been higher if a Conservative had been in charge of his department since 2010 instead of a Liberal Democrat…

CB: This week, you’ve been setting out the “Green Magna Carta” and the Lib Dems have pledged for the UK to be zero-carbon by 2050. What does that mean exactly and how do you intend we get there? And how are we going to pay for that?

ED: The Green Magna Carta is going to be on the frontpage of the Lib Dem manifesto. It’s basically five green bills and I had that idea because I wanted to make sure that we could build on the success that we’ve had here in energy and climate change, in our department, but also fill in the gaps in other departments, DCLG [Department for Communities and Local Government], DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] and others, to really take forward the environment and climate change agenda, very strongly in the first half of the next Parliament, with a big legislative agenda. So, we’ve got the green transport bill, the zero waste bill, the green homes bill, a nature bill and a zero-carbon Britain bill. The zero-carbon Britain is about raising our ambition. I think the climate change science says we’ve got to act even more urgently than we thought when we passed the Climate Change Act. So, therefore, you should actually be more ambitious. And in it will contain a number of things. A power sector decarbonisation target, building on what I put in the 2013 Energy Act. We’ll want to apply emission performance standards to existing coal power stations so they do get all turned off, unless they’re abated with carbon capture and storage from the middle of the next decade. We’ll want to extend the borrowing powers of the green investment bank. So, we will use that bill to both increase ambition and catalyse the policies that we’ve been putting in place to make sure they’re even more effective. You ask how much it will cost. Well, no one actually knows the answer to that question, but my answer is less than people expect, because I think we can do more on energy efficiency. We saw from the auction of the CFDs [ contracts for difference] just last week that the costs of offshore wind are coming down faster than people expected, the costs of onshore wind are continuing to tumble, the costs of solar are continuing to tumble. So, green energy is becoming actually cheaper, more quickly. And when I look around the technical innovations that are happening, whether it’s on carbon capture and usage, whether it is on thing like tidal lagoons, a whole range of different areas, I’m more confident that we can meet these ambitious targets more cheaply.


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CB: The Treasury’s modellers are saying decarbonisation will have a negative impact on GDP going forward. However, other modellers  say the opposite. What do you feel, kind of extending on that point? That it’s actually going to be an economic burden, or an economic opportunity to pursue aggressive decarbonisation?

ED: Well, I had a long chat with Nick Stern, who used to be the government’s chief economist, and he said that one of the problems with the Treasury’s approach – and this is a guy who was in the Treasury – is that they don’t do dynamic modelling very well. So the impact of innovation, of which we’re seeing huge amounts, they just don’t, sort of, almost recognise it. The fact that you can be more productive, that you can be cheaper, you know that Treasury just doesn’t, sort of…

CB: Why? Do you get a sense of what that blockage is? Why is it there in the Treasury? 

ED: Because they’re ultra-cautious. I mean, you, I have to say it’s rather counter against the facts, because we’ve seen in all technology areas, or most technology areas, massive reduction in prices. Just think of mobile phones, just think of your personal computers. And we’re seeing that in energy. Look at the way solar costs have plummeted. I mean it’s one of the most exciting things to happen in human development. But I doubt it’s in the Treasury computer, the Treasury model. So, I take a lot of what I hear from those guys with a pinch of salt. They’re right I guess to ensure we’re disciplined. I actually agree that we should worry about the impact of going green on people’s bills, and we should have discipline, we should have budgets. But, then, to say you can never get the cost down, which is a sort of an underlying assumption, of course, is rubbish. We saw in the auctions we’ve got more green power for the green pound than we expected. And that’s really good news.

CB: So, given your experience with the 4th carbon budget, what advice would you give to your successor when the 5th carbon budget advice is published by the Committee on Climate Change in December?

ED: Well, it’s no secret the 4th carbon budget was a bit of a war. A war of attrition almost. When I got into office I realised it was a major issue that I needed to ensure that the 4th carbon budget was kept to if we’re going to be serious about climate change. I think if we had revised it like some people wanted, it would have sent a very, very negative signal to the UK’s commitment, and, indeed, I think seriously undermined the Climate Change Act. So, it was evidence based, my position, it wasn’t based on making it up and I won the argument. But I planned a long time, I just didn’t wait for the week we had to do it. We planned for two years to make sure we won that argument, and we saw action here, and action in Europe to ensure that we could prove that keeping to the 4th carbon budget was a sensible thing to do. So, I guess my advice is as follows. First of all, listen to the Climate Change Committee. Parliament has put them there, with the skills and expertise they have, to give very clear guidance. And a secretary of state of Energy and Climate Change, a government that doesn’t heed the advice of the Climate Change Committee, has to have an extraordinarily good reason and I can’t for the life of me think of what that might be. So, I think we have to listen to the Climate Change Committee. Secondly, if there are people in the next government who don’t wish to go with the advice of the Climate Change Committee, I think you’ve got to go back to the evidence. Look at the evidence, look at what’s happening internationally, look at the climate change science. I cannot believe that climate change science is going to suddenly say, well, we don’t have to do this as quickly as we should. And I’d also really strongly urge that if we are making fast progress, that’s not a reason for going slow. We have been making a lot of progress, actually. Carbon Brief has been publishing figures recently showing that last year, 2014, our carbon emissions fell very significantly. And you know coal usage last year was down dramatically to almost levels last seen in the middle of the 19th century when Britain was in the middle of the Industrial Revolution. So, we’re making progress. But that’s not a reason for going slow. That’s a reason for celebrating that and saying: you know what, therefore, we can afford to do more, with budgets, with caps, not throwing money at it, being very, very vigorous and robust, but making sure that we stick to our promises.

CB: You’ve talked about the zero-carbon goal for the UK in 2050, but on the global scale, in the run-up to Paris and some of the negotiations, there’s obviously a discussion around the net-zero goal, or a long-term goal globally. The EU wants 60% by 2050 against 2010. The IPCC suggests that should be followed by net-zero by 2080-2100, for the 2C. What are your thoughts, or the UK’s thoughts, or even the EU’s thoughts, on this kind of long-term, some people are phrasing it a net-zero goal? Some people are saying 2050, other people are saying different dates. What’s your view on this?

ED: Well, we’ve had a number of debates in the department about this issue, about the long-term goal for the UN. I’ve debated it with ministers from around the world, obviously in Europe, and also the Chinese, Indians and Americans and a few others. I have nothing against having a long-term goal. We have a long-term goal in the UK. I guess my, if I have one warning or caveat, and this is not meant to be opposing the idea, what I don’t want it to do is to undermine effort now. Undermine the work we need to do to be ambitious this decade and next decade. It’s helpful to have a long-term goal, so I want to make sure, you know, if that’s where people want to go that we did and it was an ambitious goal, which reflected the science. But I guess I believe the priority for Paris has to be two things: first of all doing as much as we can pre-2020 for mitigation, for reducing carbon emissions then, and with still five years to go, we need to be more ambitious now. But in the run-up to 2025-2030, we’ve got to up that ambition, and we’ve got to have a treaty which allows for reviews and ratcheting up, so we can continue to do as much as possible, not as little as possible.

CB: Where, as we’ve seen in Lima, climate finance is still – you co-chaired one of those sessions in Lima, with your South-African colleague – is climate finance, putting money on the table, essentially, going to be the roadblock in Paris? How important is that? Unpicking that?

ED: Climate finance is incredibly important, and the UK, with others, have, I think, been pretty upfront about putting money on the table, capitalising on the Green Climate Fund. So, there is a lot of money out there. I think the debate on climate finance, though, has to recognise that climate finance can be both public and private. It can be public money that facilitates and unlocks private, whether that’s through guarantees, that’s through underwriting, that’s through joint projects, and, therefore, there are some people I listen to at the UN who think that if climate finance is private money it’s somehow not climate finance. Well, I don’t think we can accept that. Climate finance is going to have to be both. And, actually, the more you can mainstream this into normal business, into the normal works of a normal market, the quicker we will tackle climate change. No one suggests, I presume, that when you build a power station now, a maybe not green power station, that somehow that should be taxpayer funded, through some international slush fund. The whole point of climate finance is to enable the replacement of dirty power, dirty transport, by clean power, as quickly as possible, and as efficiently as possible, and that can come through private climate finance flows. And we saw in Lima that actually there’s quite a lot of private climate finance happening now. And that’s not trying to get out of our responsibilities. That’s actually trying to meet them. We’re going to have to move the world from the fossil fuel world that we’ve developed over two-and-a-half centuries, to a non-fossil fuel [world] in 30-40 years. It’s going to be a huge amount of private capital.


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CB: On that related point, the divestment movement – if you want to call it that – is growing is momentum and the narrative is developing. You’ve got the Bank of England inquiring into stranded assets. Should all asset managers and banks disclose their fossil fuel holdings?

ED: I’m strongly in favour of greater transparency, greater disclosure and reporting requirements, ultimately, on companies and banks and financial institutions. I think it’s necessary for investors to have full knowledge. I am not saying that, therefore, people should disinvest from fossil fuel companies. They should make those decisions themselves looking at the risks. But if you look at the risks of investing in coal, that’s got to be, I would have thought, people would need to be a little more worried about investing in coal than perhaps they were 10 years ago. The Carbon Tracker Initiative have suggested that in order to keep within 2C that 82% of coal reserves will need to stay underground. [Davey is referring to research from University College London, which Carbon Brief covered.] So, no doubt, there are a number of companies and banks whose balance sheets have quite a lot of coal assets. Well, if they are degrading in their value then it’s important that investors are aware of that. How do I see this working? I don’t see this working overnight, but gradually as people shift their portfolios to manage the risk. It’s what portfolio management is all about, when people who have managed trillions of dollars manage those risks. It’s about small shifts. Small shifts on a global scale, we are talking about huge amounts of money. That’s why this is so important. That’s why we need to sort disclosure. Because it can actually ease the route to transition and it’s a natural market route. I think this is far more significant than people have hitherto recognised. I think potentially a game-changer. And if you look round the world you can see the Brazilians are on to this, South Africans are on to this. I don’t think the Brits can claim ownership. I very strongly back what Mark Carney has been saying on this and my officials will be working with the Bank of England now. The Bank of England has made climate change research one of its key, key long-term [inaudible, but likely “strategies”]. And I strongly, strongly welcome that. But this needs to a global thing. I think it needs to be an issue discussed ahead of Paris and at Paris. Because I think it plays very much into the debate about climate finance.

CB: So, would the Liberal Democrat party refuse money from coal interests, or even extending to fossil fuel interests?

I doubt there’s going to be a lot queuing up to give us any money, if I’m honest with you. [Smiles] I do want to make this distinction, though, between coal, and oil and gas, because we are going to need a lot of oil and gas over the next 30 or 40 years. Hopefully, used more efficiently. Hopefully, in gas’s case, used with carbon capture and storage. But, there is a lot of nonsense talked about how quickly you can get out of fossil fuels. As I said earlier, we’ve taken two-and-a-half centuries to get to where we are. We can’t go out of it overnight. What we need to do is, in a methodical way, to keep our economies growing and decarbonise in a sensible way: we need to get out of coal as quickly as possible. Or unabated coal as quickly as possible. I’m being really clear about that. Oil and gas, we need to phase out when we can. But we’re not there yet. I mean does anyone seriously think that the 30 million-odd vehicles in the UK are suddenly going to go all electric overnight? And if they were, that they can be powered by clean electricity? I mean, come on. It’s going to take a bit longer than that. So they need oil and gas for quite some time as we build up renewables, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency, nuclear and so on. So, I just think people need to look at the numbers and work out that there is a role for oil and gas in the next few decades and actually, in a well developed plan of decarbonisation, that’s environmentally sensible.

CB: There’s a sentence that your department published – the Energy Development Unit published this in a booklet in 2013 – and I quote: “One of DECC’s key goals in support of the government’s growth agenda is to maximise the value of our indigenous oil and gas reserves on our way to a low-carbon future.” So, you don’t think that contradicts itself?

ED: No, I don’t. That’s one of the points I want to make and I feel very strongly about this. I’ve had some discussions with environmentalists. Look at our carbon plan that our department has published. They haven’t complained about it when we published it. What it shows to meet our 2050 objectives, very ambitious objectives for reducing climate change gases – which I want to be even more ambitious on – but to meet those, it shows we will need a lot of oil and gas along that way. We’ll still be burning oil and gas in 2050. Look at the facts. My question to them is: do you think it’s better environmental policy to survive on, and to rely on, oil and gas that comes on a ship from Qatar, passes the Straits of Hormuz, and arrives here, and the energy that used in that? I don’t think so. It’s much more carbon friendly to use indigenous forms of oil and gas. Do we really want to depend on Putin and Putin’s Russia? Or, indeed, parts of the Middle East for our oil and gas? I don’t think we do. And, therefore, we just need to look at the evidence. One of the things that I’m very keen on Carbon Brief for is that you are an evidence-based publication. And going for the evidence is critical. And I say this because environmentalists need to recognise that evidence is our biggest friend. It’s our friend against the climate change deniers. It’s our friend against vested interests. But when evidence says things we feel a little uncomfortable, like actually we’re going to need a lot more oil and gas in the next few years, if that’s what the evidence says then we should go with that.

CB: So, why are you giving capacity payments to coal – which you have described as “the climate destroyer” – when the Lib Dems have pledged to phase out coal by 2025?

ED: I’m glad you’ve asked the question because there’s an awful lot of nonsense that’s been written about this. As we transition to coal going, we still have to keep the lights on. And the capacity market contracts are mostly one-year contracts, so there are not going to extend the life very long. But it takes a while, by the way, to build an offshore wind farm. [Clicks fingers] We don’t build ’em like that. It takes a while to build an offshore wind farm. It’s takes a long time to build a nuclear power plant. CCS [carbon capture and storage] is not exactly speeding through. So, as we have that, we’re going to have other things on the system. Now, clearly gas expansion is part of that answer because it’s an awful lot cleaner than coal. But even that takes time. So no coal power station has got a long-term contract and the capacity market and the payments that have gone to a few coal power stations is no way inconsistent with getting rid of coal off the system totally by 2025. No way at all. What do people want? That the lights go out? If people think that the lights going out is going to help the environmentalists’ cause they are living in cloud cuckoo land. One of things that the opponents of those of us who are passionate about climate change try to make out is that we’re irresponsible, that we’ll play fast and loose with our economy, fast and loose with energy supplies. One of the best ways of doing that is showing that the evidence is with us. Sometimes that means taking decisions to keep a power station on a bit longer than you would ideally like because actually that’s the only way we’re going to get through what is an incredibly challenging system. Just look at the figures: 30-40% of our electricity from coal, another 20-30% from gas, 20% from nuclear, eight of our nine nuclear power stations going to be out of service by the middle of the next decade, all the coal has got to be. That is dramatic change. So, I make no apologies for during that transition, where we’re spending huge amounts of money, rightly, on low carbon, that we have to manage that transition.

CB: The Contracts for Difference auction results had solar and onshore wind coming out as a lot cheaper than nuclear. Is Hinkley value for money?

ED: Yes, it is. And again, useful to be able to put this into context. If people look at how we are going to have to decarbonise, we all focus on the power sector like the way you’ve just been describing. The big challenge we’re going to have in the power sector [is] to replace all this electricity generation that is coming offline, whether it’s nuclear or coal. But we’ve also, over the same three or four decades, do the same for heat. That’s mostly fossil fuels, either gas or oil, solid fuel in some places. Now, the main options in renewable heat involve electricity, so we need more green electricity to replace that fossil fuel heating. And then you’ve got transport: 30 million vehicles, more or less, currently powered, the vast majority, by petrol and diesel. Replacing that, that’s going to be a huge amount of low carbon electricity. So when you just look at that – just do the numbers, just think – when you realise that, it’s going to be a massive market for low carbon. Relying on one or two technologies looks pretty dumb to me.  The risk of climate change happening is so severe, the risk of it being disastrous for the UK and elsewhere is so severe, that it is absolutely reckless to take any low-carbon technology off the table at the moment. You need to look, that’s one of the reasons I’m so keen on onshore wind, I’m so keen on offshore wind, on tidal lagoons, and why I have changed my mind on nuclear. Nuclear has some real advantages, and I think if you care about climate to dismiss nuclear is a really really huge mistake. Let me give you one example. To replace Hinkley Point C’s 3.2 GW of power is about four or five thousand wind turbines. Now that’s a lot of land. Or a lot of sea. So the one advantage that nuclear has – it’s a genuine practical advantage – is that power’s coming from a concentrated area. I just think it makes sense, and is less risky for our economy and for the climate, if we have a mixed low carbon: with renewables, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, interconnectors to Norway to bring hydropower to the UK at the flick of a switch, possibly interconnectors to Iceland to bring geothermal. We have to have a mixed approach to that and I am delighted that solar power costs are coming down. I am delighted that onshore wind costs costs are coming down. It proves the case that I and the Liberal Democrats have been making for a long time, but I don’t think that we should then write off nuclear.

CB: Do you think fracking is being hyped?

ED: Oh, God, yes. I mean I say there are three type of commentators on fracking. There are those people who say it is the Devil’s work and we should not see any fracking at all, despite the fact that people have been fracking for about a century and a half, and those same people probably consumed fracked goods, and therefore supped with the Devil, no doubt. There are those people who think it’s the silver bullet. I call them the “frack-baby-frackers” – some part of the Conservative party who, you know, would frack every bit of croquet lawn if they possibly could. I think they’re crazy. I mean, you know, they make these ridiculous ideas, not backed by any evidence, that something [fracking] will transform the British economy and massively reduce prices. No evidence for that, whatsoever. I’m a bit of a cautious guy. I look at the evidence, come back to the evidence. The evidence says we need gas as we decarbonise. Do you want Putin’s gas, do you want Middle East gas, or do you want gas from Britain? If we have gas for Britain, shale, conventional, non-conventional, onshore or offshore – guess what? We can regulate it a lot better than the gas we’re going to get from abroad. So we can cut down on methane emissions and make sure health and safety and other environmental issues are dealt with more effectively. Now, I don’t know how much shale gas we’re going to get. All I do know is that environmentalists who oppose this, actually should look at the evidence. They should look at the evidence for the impact on climate. They should look at the evidence for the impact on these other issues which we have been studiously, carefully, putting in some tough regulations, and, therefore, I think our approach has been the prudent one. No one says we’ve gone hell for leather for it. I mean the biggest criticism that I get is that I have not gone faster, the biggest criticism that I get is that I’m regulating too much. I’m very happy to have that criticism, and, you know, some people say that we’ve been investing huge amount in shale – absolute rubbish. There’s been a few hundred million spent on shale, there’s been tens of billions of pounds spent on renewables.

CB: So, if you had, let’s say, a thousand pounds in your pocket today and you wanted to go and invest it in one of these domestic energy sources, would you put your money in fracking? Would you put it in solar? Would you put it in an onshore windfarm? Where would you put your nominal thousand pounds?

ED: Energy efficiency. I’d probably do it in printing leaflets. Now, you may think that’s a politician before an election, but I tell you what it’s about: giving people information about how they can save energy is the cheapest way of helping people. It’s one of the reasons I set up something called the Big Energy Saving Network, working with the CAB and AgeConcern to give people advice, particularly people who are vulnerable and fuel poverty advice, because you can save big money just by making a few changes, maybe switching companies, maybe some basic energy efficiency advice. So that’s how I’d like to spend my £1,000. But, if you say I’m trying to duck the question, I’m not going to duck the question. But I’m making sure that it’s energy efficiency that is my number-one investment. If I had to choose, it would be renewables, and, within renewables, it would be solar. I have been really, really impressed by how solar costs are coming down, and that’s good for the UK, but, boy, is it good for the poorest in our world, in Africa and Asia. These people will be able to use solar as their lowest form of electricity ever. This will unlock human development, for hundreds of millions, if not billions of people. And they will be able to play their part in the world, but in a low-carbon way. That is so exciting.

CB: The Met Office, would the Lib Dems sell it off?

ED: No.

CB: Do we invest enough in climate science in this country?

ED: No.

CB: OK, Kingston and Surbiton, your constituency, how much does climate change come up on the doorstep?

ED: Not a huge amount, it is fair to say. I get regularly emailed, and sometimes postcard campaigns, with people who are members of green NGOs. And I very much welcome that, even though sometimes some of those green NGOs aren’t quite as factual as they ought to be, um, no names, [whispers] Friends of the Earth. And I sometimes would like them to be a little more balanced, tell the full story. But, nevertheless, it gives me the chance to engage, and I love engaging with people about this. The green agenda is what got me into politics in the first place. When I was eighteen between my gap year and university I read Seeing Green by Jonathon Porritt, and then went and read stuff by a guy called James Robertson and Paul Ekins, the young Paul Ekins, and a number of others. And got very involved in the green movement at university. Never joined the Green Party because I just thought the Green Party was rather mixed-up in its underlying philosophy and it remains rather mixed-up, but eventually joined the Liberal Democrats when we were four per cent in the opinion polls. And the reason I joined the Liberal Democrats then, well, actually it was back in 1989 when the Greens beat us at the European elections. I didn’t join the Greens because I didn’t think they had the best environmental policies. I thought the Liberal Democrats did have then, and that’s one of the reason I’m so proud to be a Liberal Democrat, and deeply proud of the work I’ve done in this job, because tackling climate change, and getting on the front foot on the environment, is probably the most important thing we can do. There may not be lots of votes in it, right, there may not be lots of votes in it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

CB: So, what would have happened, after the 2010 election, say the Tories had won, and a Tory walked in and sat in your chair in this department. What would have happened in this department, do you think?

ED: Less onshore wind, for sure. Fewer regulations on energy efficiency, and, therefore, less energy efficiency. And, by the way, as a result of both those things, higher energy bills. And that’s the argument I make that what we’ve done as Liberal Democrats in this government is that we’ve contributed to a greener result and a cheaper result.


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CB: In 30-40 years time, if you look your grandchildren in the eye, will you say that you did enough as secretary of state on climate change?

ED: You can never do enough. Not at this moment. I tell you what I’m proudest of, I’m proudest of the work that I did at the European Union level. Actually, in the UK, there’s a degree of consensus that we should tackle climate change, we’ve got the Climate Change Act. But across Europe, that hasn’t been the case. There are countries without climate change legislation. Until we got the deal last year, the October European Council for the 2030 targets, only 5 EU countries had post-2020 targets. And I led – and I can genuinely, personally, say this – I personally led all the work in the European Union. I set up the Green Growth group, which brought together lots of like-minded ministers on climate, obviously the Germans, the French, the Italians, and the Spanish, but the Nordics, in particular, have a very good relationship, particularly the Danes and the Dutch, and we worked really well together over a concerted period, building relationships. Not doing Europe in a way that some people do, may I say the Conservatives or Labour ministers, where they are just transactional. If you want to lead on Europe you have got to build relationships. Relationships between ministers and other ministers. Relationships between officials. And if you do that, if you give the time and effort to it, you can win. You can win the argument, and you can drive ambition, and though the Green Growth Group, through the Green Growth platform, which got businesses involved as well, we won the argument. I remember I had a meeting with Connie Hedegaard, a good friend of mine now, the former Climate Change Commissioner. When I said that the UK position was to go for a 2030 target with at least 40 per cent, she smiled at me, one of Connie’s lovely smiles, which seemed to imply: “You’re terribly naive, Edward.” Guess what? We got at least 40 per cent. That didn’t happen through just turning up. That happened through a lot of work. I am deeply proud of the officials in my department, who played a really big role in that, and who led the way. That doesn’t solve climate change. But what it means now is that Europe is in a much stronger position now, a united and ambitious position, which we need to defend and not allow be undermined by anybody, enables us to go to the UN table, to lead. So, that’s the thing I’m probably proudest of, and it may sound esoteric to some people, “the EU target”, but, actually, it’s really very important.

CB: You’ve spelled out your successes, but there’s nothing you would list down as a failure or a regret in your tenure here? 

ED: I wish that we could have been even tougher on the Tories. They have been a constraint, particularly on energy efficiency regulations, I would say. I would say that I wish I had identified some of this and acted on some of my suspicions about the Green Deal earlier. I think the Green Deal’s been a bigger success than people think, not least the Green Deal assessment, but the Green Deal finance package always needed strengthening and I probably should have acted on that. But Eco‘s been a fantastic success. I meant the truth is we met our energy efficiency targets earlier than expected. One million homes made more energy efficient in just two years, through Eco and the Green Deal. But I wish I’d possibly done a bit more on that. One of the constraints for me has been the financial situation. You know we haven’t been awash with cash in government and that’s been a restraint as well. So, yeah, I’d, of course, like to have done more, but I think the record is a pretty good one. But it doesn’t end here. It’s one of the reason why I pushed very hard with the Lib Dems to make the Green Agenda part of our top five priorities, and I don’t think any of the other parties are there.

CB: Who have you most enjoyed working with: John Hayes, Michael Fallon, George Osborne, or Eric Pickles?

ED: Charles Hendry. [Smiles]

CB: Thank you very much.

ED: Thank you.

Main image: Britain’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey speaks speaks during the Liberal Democrats annual conference in Brighton, 2012.

The interview was conducted by Leo Hickman and took place on 4 March 2015 at 3 Whitehall Place, London.

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