By Anders Lorenzen
Ed Davey, UK’s former Climate and Energy Minister, is now an energy consultant as well as the chairman of the community energy co-operative, Mongoose Energy. He has given a damning verdict on the current UK government’s progress on tackling climate change.
Ed Davey was speaking to delegates at the Environmental Industry Commission (EIC) conference in London on the 30th of November. He said that the government was failing to deliver key certainty and transparency, especially in the wake of Brexit (Britain’s move to leave the EU).
The former government minister was deeply worried that Prime Minister, Theresa May, had not previously shown interest in the area of tackling climate change and environmental sustainability. And he said it was not publicly known what her position is on these issues.
He also downplayed UK’s decision to phase out coal by 2030, saying it was not an ambitious policy move, as by then coal would play a much-diminished role anyway. Also, as the UK has drastically scaled back efforts and funding across almost every single renewable energy technology, he was wondering what low-carbon energy source would deliver our climate change targets. If it is going to be from nuclear power, then people will have to pay a lot for their energy. He would like the government to re-think their approach to the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology (they have just scrapped the only research project). He would also like to see them develop new clean energy industries, such as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project which still remains in limbo.
He was, however, positive about many of Mrs May`s cabinet ministers. And he singled out Chancellor Philip Hammond for understanding the business potential for green growth. This is something that his predecessor, George Osborne, did not. It is widely known that Mr Davey did not have the best relationship with him, which saw them battle over several issues. The former government minister also said he was impressed by Greg Clark, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, as well as his deputy minister, Nick Hurd. But he was worried about people who surrounded them, referring to Conservative backbench MP’s and the lobbying efforts they will pursue in the wake of the negotiations to leave the EU. He said that many still pursue the goal of deregulation: “there are some nutters around who think deregulation in itself is a good thing. We have to challenge whoever is in government to understand the case for regulation.”
Ed Davey called the whole process around the approval of the controversial nuclear power plant Hinkley Point C problematic. Theresa May had suddenly got cold feet. She had postponed the project, opening up for new negotiations as she was worried about the Chinese involvement. But Mr Davey said that we all need the Chinese onboard and that insulting them is madness. In the end, Ed Davey thinks that the project would, on the whole, be a good deal. He based his opinion on the fact that the decommissioning of nuclear waste and the clean-up costs will all be paid for by the developer, and therefore it is not the UK taxpayer that picks up that bill.
Regardless of all the uncertainty with Brexit and Trump, Mr Davey is optimistic about overcoming climate change, though he agrees the science is scary. But he was pleased with the accelerating pace of innovation in clean energy technologies, and especially solar power, which makes him very optimistic. He also said that solar and renewables present a huge opportunity for international peace and security.