Thursday, 22 October 2015

Commitment to environment is “systematically unravelling” under Tories

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and former Energy Secretary Ed Davey have written to Amber Rudd to call for the end of the Tories' "ideological assault" on green energy.

The pair are deeply alarmed with the "systematic unravelling" of the renewable industries since May 8 and believe Conservative policies fatally undermine the UK's climate change commitments.

They warn that severe cuts to solar and wind subsidies, as well as ending the Green Deal and abolishing Zero Carbon Homes make a mockery of Britain's environment targets. Increasing tax breaks for oil giants and further subsidising foreign nuclear firms at the same time as slashing help for clean energy companies will also kill off the industry, they caution.

They have now called on Ms Rudd to set out immediately how the Government plans to meet the UK's legally binding climate change and renewables targets.

In the letter Tim Farron and Ed Davey write:
We are writing to you regarding our concerns for the future of Britain's renewable industries and our global leadership on climate change. 
We are utterly appalled at the systematic unravelling of the renewables industries that is taking place under your leadership. We stand with business executives, trade associations and environmental NGOs and call for an end to this ideological assault on green energy which is economically nonsensical and is undermining Britain's ability to push for a more ambitious global Climate Change Treaty at the UN in Paris this December. 
Despite your statement in May this year that you planned to unleash a 'solar revolution', your department has enacted a series of devastating policies which make a mockery of this and will ultimately dismantle much of the work on green policy that the Liberal Democrats achieved in Government, costing thousands of jobs and jeopardising our economic future. Severe cuts to solar and wind subsidies, as well as ending the Green Deal and abolishing Zero Carbon Homes, together mean that progress towards tackling climate change is fundamentally undermined. 
You have used two arguments to justify your actions. First, that the Levy Control Framework is overspent, and second, that you are trying to help consumers with their energy bills. You must know both arguments are bogus. 
On the LCF budget, what has happened to the headroom contingency arrangements agreed in the Coalition of 20% above the agreed Levy Control Framework totals, in the event of lower wholesale gas prices which we now see? It is economic madness to cut long term investment in solar and wind, because of short term changes to international gas prices. 
Second, the assumptions behind the LCF figures published to date are not transparent, and beg many questions such as the assumption made on project attrition. Because you are using these figures to try to justify the devastation being reaped on the UK renewables industry, we call on you to publish all the assumptions behind those figures. We are also calling for the DECC Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee to hold an inquiry into the LCF figures you are using to justify this damage. 
You also say you are concerned about consumers. Why then are you deliberately targeting cuts to onshore wind and solar energy, which are widely acknowledged to be the cheapest renewable electricity sources currently, and are both predicted to see large price falls in the future. If you remain, as you claim, committed to the Climate Change Act, meeting our legal obligations will cost consumers more, if you stop these two renewable technologies. In other words, your justification for cutting renewable energy investment is bogus. 
Partly because of such concerns above, Liberal Democrat peers are tabling an amendment today on the Energy Bill which requires the Secretary of State to produce a report on how the Government will meet its climate change targets, including its obligations under the legally binding European Renewables Directive, which requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from EU countries by 20% by 2020. This amendment seeks to enhance existing reporting requirements on issues such as the Levy Control Framework and the impact of onshore wind investment on consumer bills, given the weakness of your arguments used to justify your policies to date. 
Green policy under this Conservative Government is heading in entirely the wrong direction and has already damaged the UK's credibility and leadership role on climate change ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris this December. 
Furthermore, why are we willing to increase tax breaks for oil and gas and maintain subsidies for nuclear power run by the French and Chinese whilst at the same time slashing subsidies for clean energy technologies like solar and wind where British firms are increasingly winning orders? This is not the level playing field for low carbon technologies the UK advocates abroad but politically-driven picking winners. 
So we call upon you and your Government colleagues for immediate public assurances that the UK still intends to meet our legally binding climate change and renewable energy targets, and to set out in detail how you will in practice do that.