Lord Greaves Discusses Global Climate Change in the House of Lords
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Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords on Thursday 28th October Lord Greaves discussed the impact of global climate change
Lord Greaves on Global Climate Change
Quite often in this country when we talk about action on global climate change and what we should be doing here, people say, “Why bother? Our emissions are only a small proportion of those in the rest of the world, and we really ought to be worrying about China, India and many other countries”. There are two reasons. The first is that if everybody took that view, no progress would be made. The second is that leadership has to be provided. During the last Government—the coalition Government—this country was providing genuine leadership on climate change, led by the Energy Secretary at the time, Ed Davey, who of course is a member of my party, the Liberal Democrats.
At the beginning of the last Government, the PM announced that they were going to be “the greenest Government ever”. Whether they were or not is something we can argue about for ever, but what is absolutely clear is that during the coalition there were a very substantial number of green initiatives. Billions were invested in renewables, thousands of green jobs were created and ambitious climate change targets were agreed. Internationally, we were in the forefront of discussion at the Lima conference in December last year and, under the coalition, Ed Davey was arguably instrumental in achieving the European Union climate deal to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030. It is arguable that, had he not been there, that agreement would not have been achieved. He was certainly in the forefront of it.
The question is: have the new Conservative Government followed the work of the coalition? We can argue about particular issues during the coalition—there were many compromises and lots of arguments took place—but, by and large, they were a good Government in this area. Friends of the Earth has now criticised David Cameron and the majority Tory Government for dismantling the low-carbon policies of the past 10 years. It has been said that our Prime Minister has gone from hugging huskies to talking about “green crap”, to quote what he is supposed to have said.
Green Deal Ended
This country should not be in that position. In the five or six months since the coalition left office, the Conservatives have ended all government funding for the Green Deal, which was an attempt to do what is vital: to make homes more energy-efficient. Much better insulation of homes is a vital part of reducing carbon use, because it reduces the amount of energy needed. The Green Deal was in my view not perfect by any means, but it was a start. The Conservatives have scrapped subsidies for onshore wind and commercial solar power. Noble Lords who have followed these debates will know that I am not a huge fan of terrestrial wind power because of the threat to the landscape in our uplands, but I am not saying that there should not be any. Maritime wind power should certainly have a great future, but the future of that industry is in doubt.
Green Bank Sold Off
The Government have announced plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank. The green bank was never on the scale or ambition that our party wanted, but again it was a very useful start. There is now real worry that if it is sold off, its objectives will be rofit-maximising rather than green. The tax break for clean cars was abolished in the Budget. Rules on zero-carbon new housing have been scrapped in the drive to build houses regardless of the consequences. The so-called tax for clean energy—removing the exemption from the climate change levy for businesses that source renewable energy—has been done away with.
Fracking in the UK
Meanwhile, the Government are putting all their hopes in what for many of us is the very worrying deal with China over the Hinkley Point nuclear plant—it seems to be wrong on almost every count and very worrying for the future security of this country—and in fracking. I have not been a total opponent of fracking; I have spent a lot of time looking into it and considering the position. It is absolutely clear that fracking in this country is not the answer to our future energy problems. The more I look into it, the more I think that it really is not the answer to anything very much at all.
Reversal of Green Policies
The Government are going up the wrong tracks on all these matters and will possibly be the least green Government for a long time. There has been a total reversal of policies since the coalition. While I was not a fan of everything the coalition did, this area is one where the lack of Liberal Democrats in Government is something the country will come to regret.