Sunday, 12 July 2015

If you voted Tory - did you vote for this?

The Tory government pays lip service to our climate change commitments while rapidly back pedalling on policies designed to meet them. I didn't vote for them, but I wonder how many of the people who did actually support these moves. Failure to combat climate change effectively increases risk to our health and wellbeing: more floods, more heatwaves, more people in poor quality homes that they can't afford to heat. The Tory manifesto [1] didn't say it would roll back on energy efficiency standards. Nor did it say they would remove renewable energy incentives like the Climate Change Levy. This government has already gone way beyond its manifesto in unravelling policies important for protecting our health and supporting clean business.


The manifesto says they will continue to support the Climate Change Act. This makes our government legally bound to meet vital climate change commitments (80% reduction by 2050) and to meet the agreed interim carbon budgets. The government says we are on target for this, and the Committe on Climate Change (CCC) confirms this is strictly true though it has been a bit of a fluke. Most of last year's emissions reduction in buildings was due to mild weather and most of the reductions in the power sector were due to gas being cheaper than coal for a while. These are external factors that can easily change. CCC says 'The large reduction across the economy (from 2013 to 2014) was driven by falls in emissions from buildings, industry and power generation, many of which reflect one-off changes and uncertain factors, rather than replicable, ongoing trends' [3].

As well as reviewing progress, the CCC makes recommendations. Not fulfilling these recommendations without an alternative policy goes completely against government commitments. Recommendation 2c says the government should 'Implement the zero carbon homes standard without further weakening, ensuring investment in low-carbon heat.' However, the Tories have just announced in theur productivity plan that they will scrap the Zero Carbon Homes plan along with the scheduled increase in energy efficiency targets [4]. The industry is in uproar. Chopping and changing policies, 'seriously undermines industry confidence in government policy and will diminish future investment.' says Rob Lambe of Wilmott Dixon Energy Services. Even the British Property Federation isn't happy about it: Melanie Leach, chief executive says, 'Today’s abandonment of the Allowable Solutions mechanism is short-sighted with respect to both the government’s long-term carbon budgets and the European Union’s obligations for nearly-zero energy buildings from 2020.' [5]

The manifesto said 'We will build 200,000 quality Starter Homes over the course of the next parliament.' It didn't say they wouldn't be quite such good quality as they would have been under the old plans.

The manifesto said  the Tories would 'keep your bills as low as possible and promote competition in the energy market.' This is totally inconsistent with their policy for onshore wind farms which is to end public subsidy for them and to change the law to make it easier for local people to object. They justify this because onshore wind farms 'often fail to win public support'. However surveys show that the public strongly supports renewables including onshore wind [6]. Every time an onshore wind application is rejected it increases our energy bills because they are the cheapest form of low carbon energy. Under the new Contract for Difference scheme, the planned Hinkley Point nuclear power station is guaranteed £92.50/MWh [7] while onshore wind was getting about £80/MWh and offshore wind got £115/MWh or more [8].

The Tory manifesto didn't use the word fracking as such - they talked about supporting development of 'shale gas' which sounds safer but means the same thing. They did not mention the consequential blight on house prices and other social costs [9]. By the way, only 24% of us support fracking compared to 70% support for onshore wind [6].

This Tory government is going way beyond its manifesto in back-pedalling on policies vital to our welfare and seems to be totally out of step with public attitudes to renewables and fossil fuels. Even if you voted Tory - did you vote for this?

[2] The Climate Change Act and UK Regulations (Committee on Climate Change)

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