Today our Co-ordinator, Andy Durling, sent a letter to Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne, in response to Stephen’s recent letter to him explaining why he does not feel able to support Tim Yeo’s amendment to the Energy Bill, an amendment that would oblige the UK government to achieve a decarbonisation of the electricity power sector by 2030, as recommended by the Committe on Climate Change, the government’s own official advisor on climate policy:
Thank you for your letter of 16th May regarding your position on Tim Yeo’s amendment to the Energy Bill.
I have nothing but respect for the fact that you have been a member of Greenpeace for over 25 years, and I fully accept that you have a genuine concern for environmental issues, as evidenced by your strong support for the Friends of the Earth Bee Cause campaign, for which we, in our group, are extremely grateful. However, it is worth pointing out that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – together with a very wide range of civic groups and businesses – are as one in calling for MPs to support Tim Yeo’s amendment because it is so crucial in ensuring that Britain does have a clean energy future beyond 2020. You yourself write that you “have always understood the potential benefits of having a decarbonisation target within the Energy Bill”, yet you are willing to sacrifice this principle – despite it being Liberal Democrat party policy – on the altar of compromises made within the Coalition government, compromises that were presumably made behind closed doors without public consultation and presumably without your participation nor knowledge. Your loyalty to the Coalition is purchased at the cost of what just about everybody else wants: namely, a clear signal from government that the UK will take seriously the commitment it has under the Climate Change Act of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The Committee on Climate Change, the government’s own official advisor on its climate goals and the routes necessary to achieve them, has already identified, after exhaustive analysis, that the most cost-effective way of ensuring that the target will be met is by setting a 2030 target for the decarbonisation of the electricity grid. The path from 2030 to 2050 is then far more achievable, and far cheaper than if we did not set this target. Indeed, the Committee on Climate Change published a report on May 23rd which stated that the government’s planned Dash for Gas would add an extra £25 billion to energy bills compared to the alternative strategy of investing now in home-grown renewable energy.
Deferring the setting of a decarbonisation target to 2016 is just avoiding the issue, especially as there is not, in the Energy Bill as it stands, any obligation on whatever government is in power then to set a target at all; it is not a concession worth the paper it is written on. The green economy is the fastest growing sector of an otherwise flat-lining economy and creates far more new jobs than any other sector. And the renewables industry of wind, solar, wave and tidal energy holds out the vision of a rapid transition to true energy security and independence in a flourishing low-carbon economy, as – for example – Germany and Denmark demonstrate. We can make the transition to a low-carbon economy, but we have to start doing it now, and do it as fast as possible, otherwise investment in clean renewable energy will fall off a cliff after 2020, as many businesses are warning.
No doubt the Conservatives in government are delighted with having no decarbonisation target now as that gives them the political wiggle-room for indulging in energy fantasies of their own, like extracting even more fossil fuels through extreme methods such as fracking for shale gas (which would be environmentally very damaging, especially for Sussex) and the construction of new nuclear power plants (heavily subsidised through the Contracts for Difference, a subsidy in all but name, something which I thought the Liberal Democrats said they would never countenance for nuclear energy). Whatever compromises on energy have been made by the Coalition, they heavily favour the Conservatives and leave the Liberal Democrats looking like the ones who have failed to stand up for their principles. I note that, at the last count, 11 of your Lib Dem Parliamentary colleagues now back the amendment, so you would not be isolated if you did vote with your conscience and back Tim Yeo’s amendment when the crucial vote on the Energy Bill takes place in Parliament on June 3rd.
We in Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth believe that your passionate concern for the environment means that you want, in your heart of hearts, to vote for Tim Yeo’s amendment. We urge you to do so, especially as so many other MPs are clearly signalling that they will too. Most of all, we urge you to vote for the amendment because not only our clean energy future is at at stake, but our safe climate future too. Action to mitigate climate change cannot wait, as the serious consequences of it are already affecting the UK environment and its economy, and will have even worse consequences for our children and grandchildren if we wait even more. It would be deeply saddening for us if you did not vote for such a reasonable and well-supported amendment as the one proposed by Tim Yeo. Please, for everybody’s sake, vote for the amendment.
Co-ordinator, Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth.