“We pledge to accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy efficient low carbon economy.”
This was part of the promise made by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband before the general election last May. Al Gore, the American environmentalist with a Nobel Peace prize for his work in climate change activism, praised the three as showing “inspiring leadership”. The CEO of Siemens, which is invested millions into wind power, said the pledge sent “a clear message that the UK remains a good place for global companies to do low-carbon business.”
Fast forward a few months, and unfortunately descriptions have become significantly more negative. “With each passing day, this government puts an end to another green policy.” Those are the words of Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, criticism echoed by many leading businesses and scientists including Catherine Mitchell, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Exeter.
A home insulation scheme described as “transformational” by Ministers when it began in 2013 will no longer be funded by the Government. From the 1st April 2016 the Government will no longer subsidise onshore wind farms. A zero carbon homes policy described as “world-leading” by ministers has been scrapped, as have plans to introduce stricter energy efficiency standards. These changes come despite houses causing around a quarter of carbon emissions.
Ministers are similarly planning to cut subsidies for house solar panels by nearly 90%, a move that Friends of the Earth called “absurd” and the Government admitted would reduce panel installation. The consultation process has not yet ended, but four solar power businesses have already either folded or left the UK in the past fortnight due to the proposals, costing thousands of jobs. A scheme helping to fund larger solar installations is also looking at ending prematurely in April 2016. The Government believes the renewable energy industry should be mostly able to support itself, and cites savings to “hard-working families” as one of the driving reasons behind the cuts. The solar subsidy cuts would save the average billpayer between 50p and £1.20 a year.
“There is no chance in the near term that we move away from fossil fuels.” – Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom at the Conservative party conference
The proposed cuts and unsustainable outlook of the Conservative Government is untimely given the rapidly approaching UN climate summit in Paris. Eighty British businesses, including Tesco and Coca Cola GB, wrote to David Cameron requesting he pushes for “a strong climate deal” at the meeting in December in order to limit global warming. George Osbourne has already agreed tax cuts and investment allowances for North Sea oil and gas.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade is the United Nations’ Chief Scientist. This week she made the unusual move of outright criticising one of the UN’s most important members, saying the UK is creating “a perverse signal” by appearing to abandon its leadership on climate change while other countries are making historic pledges to curb global warming. The European Commission has suggested that the government reviews its policies, as the UK is currently looking at missing a vital renewable energy target.
As Ed Davey, former secretary of state for energy and climate change said, our Prime Minister David Cameron “may as well hug a coal power station”.
What do you think of the government’s approach to sustainability and conservation of our world? Let us know in the comments below.