Cameron defends green record

13th January 2016

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  • Adaptation ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation


Andrew Wilson

Britain is ore than fulfilling its green commitmentsand criticism of the government's environmental policies is otal and utter nonsense prime minister David Cameron claimed yesterday.

Appearing before the parliamentary liaison committee, which comprises the chairs of all the select committees, Cameron was quizzed by Huw Irranca-Davies, chair of the environmental audit committee, on the disconnect between the UK’s international engagement on climate change and what is going on domestically, something that former US vice-president Al Gore had challenged the government on in the lead up to COP21.

“I totally disagree with anyone who says that on the one hand Britain helped to pioneer this climate change agreement, and on the other hand that it is somehow backsliding on its green commitments. That is total and utter nonsense,” Cameron said.

On climate change, he said that Britain has probably some of the most advanced climate change legislation in the world and is over-delivering on its carbon budgets, citing a 15% reduction in greenhouse gases since 2010.

Questioned on the government’s scrapping of funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in spite of a manifesto pledge to support the technology, Cameron said the decision had been made collectively by the Cabinet. He said: “While I completely agree with the idea… it seemed to me that the economics of carbon capture and storage really aren’t working at the moment.”

The £1 billion funding earmarked for CCS still would not make it competitive in the market and could instead be spent on flood defences, schools or the health service, he claimed. Cost reductions predicted for the technology had not materialised, and the government took the decision to end the funding to protect consumer bills, he said.

Support for onshore wind had also been ended to protect billpayers: “At some stage, you have to say, ‘What is the cost and what is the benefit?’,” Cameron told the MPs.

Technology costs had come down and installed capacity of onshore wind is going to increase from 9GW in 2015 to 13GW in 2020 despite the subsidy cuts, he claimed.

The prime minister faced several questions on the recent floods, and acknowledged that the government needed to do more, pointing out that there had been one-in-100 year or one-in-200 year events in 2007, 2013 and 2015. There needs to be a big effort right across government to look at everything that can be done, including agricultural and planning policy, he said.

“I think it [requires] attitudinal change, but it is difficult, because when people say: ‘Well, don’t build any more houses on a floodplain.’ [But] London is a floodplain, and we clearly need to build more houses in London. So some of the simplistic answers you hear are not possible. But a big attitudinal change, a big investment programme, big partnership funding and a long-term commitment to do it are,” he said.

Lisa Nandy MP, shadow energy and climate change secretary, responded: “The prime minister’s only line of defence on clean energy was to cite the investment made possible by the very schemes that he is now abandoning.

“He boasted about the success of his solar policy but now he is ripping it up to the cost of up to 18,000 jobs. He pointed to the Green Investment Bank, but now he is selling it off and removing its green status. He axed the fund for carbon capture and storage on cost grounds, yet he’s just handed out hundreds of millions in subsidies to diesel and coal generators,” she said.


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