Rudd reiterates Tory commitment to climate action
After a week that has seen the Conservative Government cut renewable energy subsidies and close off key energy efficiency schemes, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has said "it cannot be left to one part of the political spectrum to dictate the solution" to climate change.
In her first major speech on climate change since the election, Rudd this morning (24 July) said that she understands why people see tackling global warming as “cover for anti-growth, anti-capitalist, proto-socialism.”.
Speaking at the Aviva headquarters in London, Rudd said: “Some of the loudest voices have approached the issue from a left-wing perspective.
“It was Margaret Thatcher who first put climate change on the international agenda. She [said] ‘the danger of global warming is real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.’ I agree.”
Rudd reiterated that the Tories are committed to climate action, and that “our long-term economic plan goes hand in hand with a long-term plan for climate action”.
“Climate action is about security, plain and simple – economic security,” she said. “The economic impact of unchecked climate change would be profound. Lower growth, higher prices, a lower quality of life. It is the ultimate insurance policy.
“The bottom line is this – if we are acting on climate change to preserve our economic prosperity, we have to make sure that climate change action is pro-growth and pro-business.”
Her comments on the need for better economic security supported the findings of a series of recent reports on the economics of climate change. Analysis from the London Assembly yesterday concluded that the capital’s economy is at “severe risk” from global warming and extreme weather threats. And 10 years on from the revered Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, Lorn Nicholas Stern this week argued that the economic case for low-carbon transition is now stronger than ever.
But Rudd’s comments have already been criticised for her speech, with green groups and opposition parties accusing the Minister of “grotesque hypocrisy”, following a week of controversial green policy announcements.
On Wednesday, DECC confirmed new proposals to cease financial support for solar and biomass conversion plants and amend the feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme for smaller projects. Later that day, edie revealed that the Department will be postponing the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction for large renewables projects. And just yesterday, it pulled the plug on the Green Deal, “to protect taxpayers”.
In just three months since the election, the Conservatives have also overseen the scrapping of a tax exemption for renewable energy, a subsidy cut for onshore wind, the removal of zero-carbon homes standards, a budget cut for DECC, and the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank.
“They have swept it all away without signalling their intent in their manifesto. They have no mandate for this – it’s David Cameron sticking up two fingers to other nations at the climate conference in Paris. Unbelievable.”
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven added: “If this government wants growth, lower energy prices and a better quality of life for people then it needs to do the opposite of what it announced over the past few weeks.
“The cheapest way to reduce your emissions is through energy efficiency. The government has just ditched their two main policies to achieve this, the Green Deal and the Zero Carbon homes plan. The cheapest form of low carbon electricity is onshore wind, followed by solar, both of which the government is doing their utmost to sabotage.
Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Caroline Flint said that Rudd “needs to urgently clarify what she means”.
“The Climate Change Act was passed with cross party support in 2008, and statements like this undermine that crucial consensus,” Flint said. “This rounds off a week in which the Government have put jobs and investment at risk in clean energy and energy efficiency. David Cameron’s claim that this is the greenest Government ever is increasingly laughable.”
At the beginning of the week, Rudd took part in her first Select Committee hearing; answering crucial questions on the Government’s approach to energy efficiency, fracking, renewable energy subsidies and climate change in 2015 and beyond. Read edie’s round-up of DECC’s priorities for 2015.
Rudd is scheduled to speak this morning at the launch of a new report on the financial implications of climate change, commissioned by insurance firm Aviva.