Tim Yeo: We have to take cost risks on low-carbon projects

The urgency of the climate crisis means that the world cannot wait for a decade or more to find out whether emerging technologies - such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) - will work, the former chair of Parliament's energy and climate change committee has warned.

Tim Yeo: We have to take cost risks on low-carbon projects

Yeo served as the Minister for the Environment and Countryside from 1993-1994; the Shadow Secretary for Environment and Transport from 2004-2005 and chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee from 2010-2015. Image: Policy Exchange

In a speech late last week at the 2019 forum of the New Nuclear Watch Institute, which he chairs, ex-MP Tim Yeo outlined his proposals for a European Green New Deal as an emergency response to the climate crisis.

“It’s very now clear that the decarbonisation of the power sector must proceed very rapidly if we are going to meet net-zero by 2050. We can’t sit around waiting for an economic form of CCS to become viable in 10 or 15 years,” he said.

Adding similar concerns over the timeframe for bringing forward large-scale storage, Yeo said the urgent nature of the climate challenge is a “big opportunity for the nuclear industry” which it has “got to seize”.

And while cost pressures must be taken into account, they must not dominate, he said: “Cost is obviously important but even more important than costs is cutting emissions on time. There’s no point developing cheap low carbon forms of energy that kick in in 20 years if we have already reached the absolute safe level of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

“Sometimes we have to take risks on costs: delaying investment in low-carbon capacity is potentially even more damaging than paying high prices for one or two pioneering pilots.”

As an example, he said the admittedly “huge” contract for difference awarded to Orsted to build its North Sea offshore wind farm at Hornsey was justified by the prospect of lower costs in the pipeline.

The former shadow secretary of state for the environment also warned that the concept of a Green New Deal, which was endorsed by the Labour Party conference last month, must not become a “political football”.

“It runs the risk of alienating private business whose support is crucial to the solution of climate change: Government needs private business as their partner and not their enemy.

“No Green New Deal will succeed if it allows its agenda to be captured by the right or the left: any Green New Deal must be based on pragmatism rather than ideology.”

Recalling the original New Deal, which was launched by Democrat president Roosevelt to revive the US economy during the Great Depression, he said: “FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s was a series of emergency measure responding to a crisis which is exactly what the world needs now in response to climate change.”

Yeo also described as “unwise” a proposal by the European Commission’s technical expert group to discriminate against nuclear energy by excluding it from the taxonomy of favoured technologies that will enjoy access to its funds.

But he backed moves by the incoming commission president Ursula von der Leyen to tax goods coming into the EU, which are not subject to a similar emissions pricing scheme as that operating within the trading block.

Additionally, Yeo called on the EU and China to develop a common set of standards on combatting emissions which would put pressure on the rest of the world to follow suit, including the US, which this month began the process of formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement

David Blackman

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

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