by Steve Beasant on 14 July, 2015
You might have missed it if you weren’t looking, but on Friday the Conservatives threw a bit more of our green policy out of the window, by scrapping a technical (but crucial) part of Zero Carbon Homes – allowable solutions. This measure essentially meant that developers would still be required to offset carbon emissions by paying into a green pot – even if they couldn’t build new homes to Zero Carbon standards. I wrote about it here, when the measure was previously announced by Stephen Williams:
“Where it would be all nigh impossible to build a carbon-tight home “on site”, developers aren’t let off the hook. Instead they contribute to a central pot of money which will go straight back into locking up any remaining carbon leakage in other “off-setting” schemes and carbon reducing initiatives. The net result is, as Lib Dem minister Stephen Williams describes, “No Carbon. None. Nil. Nought. Zip. Zilch.” Now that is not the case.
I still amazed when the Tories try to tell us that we can’t afford to green the UK economy. The truth is, we can’t afford not to. The UK’s low carbon business sector grew rapidly in the last parliament and is now five times larger than the aerospace industry and twice as large as the chemicals sector. The sector is well placed to capitalise on new global low carbon markets, which are now worth more than £3 trillion. We want to seize this opportunity, not throw it away.
Liberal Democrats should all be proud that, during our time in Government, we set the UK on the path to a low carbon economy. We made sure that ambitious targets were adopted under the fourth carbon budget. We put in place the world’s first low carbon energy market. We created the Green Investment Bank.
With Britain’s low carbon economy at a crossroads, our work must continue. But my fear is that the Tories will blow it. Already, they are taking away support for onshore wind, the cheapest form of renewable energy. In his “Summer Budget”, George Osborne stepped up his attack by raising taxes for renewable energy projects. And now the Tories are scrapping Zero Carbon standards for new homes.
Let’s be honest though: Liberal Democrats have not always made a powerful enough case that investment in low-carbon and resource-efficient industries will give a Britain a stronger economy, more jobs and greater prosperity.
That’s why the top priority in my personal manifesto is active, ambitious, liberal government to create a new economy – low-carbon, high- skill, innovative, enterprising and resource-efficient.
There are three things we must do. First, we need to keep pressing ministers to work with their European partners to secure a new global treaty on climate change. And we need to remind David Cameron and his colleagues that if they don’t take strong action for a low carbon economy here in the UK, they won’t be credible at the big UN climate summit in Paris at the end of the year.
Second, we must keep pressing for a legally binding decarbonisation target for 2030, which can largely be achieved by expanding renewables, for a deadline to retire the UK’s most polluting coal stations and for carbon budgets that will help to meet our long-term targets to cut emissions. Developers of clean energy technologies need a policy roadmap they can count on.
The third task is to renew our call for a comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit for existing homes and for zero carbon new build to be made a national infrastructure priority. With cold homes estimated to cost the NHS around £1.3bn a year, improving home energy efficiency would significantly reduce the burden on NHS budgets. It would also give the UK greater energy security.
Above all, I am determined that the Liberal Democrat version of a zero carbon Britain will be at the forefront of our efforts to re-establish ourselves as a popular and credible force.Leave a comment