Al Gore: UK must face up to ‘inconvenient truth’ with climate strategy

Former US Vice President Al Gore has launched a scathing attack on Britain's floundering energy and climate policy, demanding "actions rather than words" from Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the crucial climate change conference in Paris this December.

Speaking at an event held by the Green Alliance in London earlier today (22 September), Gore wielded Barack Obama’s infamous “Yes We Can” slogan to hail the green energy revolution, but criticised Cameron’s regime for slowing the pace of change by scrapping an array of environmental policies.

“As a friend of the United Kingdom I must tell you, I am puzzled,” Gore said. “Since the General Election, this country’s commitment to zero-carbon homes has been cancelled. The Green Deal has been scrapped. The Climate Change Levy exemption for zero-carbon energy has been removed. Solar and onshore wind support through the Renewables Obligation has been stopped. The Green Investment Bank will be privatised. The prevention of fracking in protected areas has been reversed. Feed-in tariffs are to be reduced by 87%.

“I’m puzzled.”

What about actions?

Gore, who famously trumpeted the issue of climate change a decade ago with the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, said he would be “tempted to use the word ‘betrayed’” over Cameron’s U-turns, but suggested that the Prime Minister may have been blocked from pursuing the aforementioned policies by other Tory MPs.

“I have great respect for the Prime Minister,” he said. “But I have seen in my own country that people who are well-meaning can be persuaded to do things that are really not in their best interest. I have never dared to express partisan views in this country, I have refrained. But too much is a stake.

“I was personally invited [by Cameron] before he was Prime Minister to come and meet the ministers in his party. And I heard pledges and commitments that really inspired me. And I was grateful and encouraged and hopeful. I have since heard speeches since then that have re-awakened that same hope – I know that there will be a speech next week.”

Hitting the podium with frustration, Gore added: “Words. Words. What about actions? The actions that have been taken here in the last few months are puzzling to me.”

Hinkley hypocrisy

Gore was not alone in his views. Also speaking at the Green Alliance event was Ben Goldsmith who chairs the independent Conservative Environment Network. Goldsmith said he was “devastated” by the recent green policy announcements and highlighted the Government’s continued support for the Hinkley power plant as an example of the Government’s financial hypocrisy.

“I hope they’ve got a plan,” Goldsmith said. “They’ve scrapped some of the most exciting things that have been set up in the past four or five years. The creation of the Green Investment Bank, the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), Renewables Obligation support for solar – all of this was very exciting but it’s all been scrapped.

The idea that they’ve run out of money is crap. If you look at the deal on the table for Hinkley – with a strike price of £95/MWh. If there’s no money, how can they offer that kind of deal to nuclear? And let’s not even talk about fossil fuel subsidies, which are of the order of 10 times greater than those provided to renewables every year.”

Business voice

With less than 70 days remaining before the COP21 climate conference, Michael Jacobs, senior adviser of the New Climate Economy initiative, shifted the spotlight towards industry; highlighting the need for a loud, coherent business voice in the build up to Paris and beyond.

“I’d like to see businesses being more vocal about what’s happening with domestic energy policy and calling for a strong Paris agreement,” Jacobs said. “This is the moment when the business voice really does need to be heard.

“Al Gore says he’s puzzled – we can use other words but there is clearly something going on here which is very regressive and business needs to make its voice heard.

“The weeks and months after Paris will determine whether or not it’s a success. How it’s interpreted will be as important as what is written in the agreement. The business and investor voice is very important there – we want to hear from those that are shifting towards low-carbon investments.”

Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Lord Bourne recently aired a similar view, calling on businesses to “keep the pressure up” to secure an internationally-binding agreement to keep global warming below two degrees.

Conservative MP Oliver Letwin was on the agenda to attend today’s Green Alliance event, but did not show up.

Luke Nicholls

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