Climate hysteric Richard Black is concerned the UK government is not going to destroy baseload electrical generation but rather use a practical and affordable fuel
A few weeks ago, I was chatting to a group of people from environmentally-minded UK think-tanks when the issue of the “greenest government ever” came up.
In case you’ve forgotten, David Cameronpledged to lead such a government on becoming Prime Minister in 2010.
Eighteen months on, and one of my companions put it this way: “They’ve already lost it on everything but climate change, and they’re just about clinging onto that”.
The question being asked now is whether Saturday’s announcementon gas-fired power stations means that climate policy has effectively gone as well.
New generation of some kind is needed, as several ageing coal and nuclear stations will close over the next few years.
What the Treasury and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) announced was that gas-fired power stations can continue operating with carbon dioxide emissions at around current levels until 2045.
Chancellor George Osborne said the move would provide certainty to businesses considering whether to invest in gas generation.
“Gas is a reliable, affordable source of energy,” he said.
“We need to recognise that gas will be a vital part of the mix in delivering affordable and secure low-carbon energy.”
However, there is a marked mismatch between what the government and its statutory advisers on what constitutes “low-carbon energy”.
Off the pathway
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) produces “carbon budgets”, setting out what the government should aim to achieve at various stages en route to the eventual aim, enshrined in legislation, of cutting emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.
One of the committee’s central recommendations is that the electricity sector should aim to “virtually decarbonise” by 2030 – the reason being that decarbonisation is easier to do here than in other parts of the economy such as transport or agriculture, so this is the pathway that is easiest and cheapest.
It’s a goal that the prime minister said last year he “basically endorsed”,telling MPs: “If we don’t decarbonise electricity we’ve got no hope of meeting all the targets that we are all committed to.”
Taken at face value, then, the Decc/Treasury announcement should be sub-titled “Abandon Hope”.