Ed Davey hits out at chancellor’s ‘burden’ remarks and says green policies are ‘unashamedly good for growth’
This article titled “Energy secretary takes a swipe at George Osborne over green economy” was written by Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 25th April 2012 13.05 UTC
Ed Davey, the energy secretary, took a veiled swipe at George Osborne’s views on the environment on Wednesday, as he pressed for the UK to take a lead in renewable energy.
“In some quarters, the green agenda is painted as an unbearable burden,” he said, apparently referring to the frequent public statements by the chancellor of the exchequer of the “burden” to businesses of environmental regulation. Osborne has been credited with a leading role in recent cabinet rows over green policies, as deep divisions have opened up within the Tory party between those who want to scale back green initiatives and those still committed to the agenda.
Some senior Tories are also understood to have suggested scrapping the government’s flagship “green deal” to insulate homes, the latest in a series of mis-steps that have highlighted the split.
Davey said: “We should make more strongly the business case for going green. Efficiency policies are unashamedly good for growth – using less resources lowers operating costs and frees up capital.” He pointed to Brazil, Germany, Korea, Mexico and Denmark as examples of successful policies.
His comments came as the Guardian revealed that the world is on track for 6C of warming – a catastrophic level that would lay waste to huge swaths of the planet – if current policies are not changed. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that progress on low-carbon energy has been much too slow to pull the world from the brink of dangerous climate change.
Davey was speaking at a meeting in London of energy ministers from more than 20 of the world’s biggest economies and greenhouse gas emitters on Wednesday.
He stressed the need for governments to “create the right frameworks for investment”.
But the news from the IEA – that the world is becoming more dependent on fossil fuels, not less – showed the scale of the challenge the ministers face.
One of the flagship technologies countries are relying on to prevent climate change is in particular trouble. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is fledgling technology – as yet untried on a commercial scale – to take emissions from coal-fired power stations and store them deep underground.
But though companies and governments have been working on CCS for more than seven years, there are still no large-scale demonstration power plants.
Ambassador Richard H Jones, deputy director of the IEA, told the meeting the situation was “serious”. Numerous large CCS projects have been cancelled, including several in the UK, and none have yet got off the ground. “We need to be doing basic research on CCS, but we also need to be learning by doing – we need these large projects,” he said.
The US energy secretary, Steven Chu, called for higher efficiency standards for appliances around the world. In the US, some Republicans oppose higher efficiency standards for appliances and cars. But Chu said that some countries with efficiency standards were manufacturing low quality goods that were unsaleable in their country of origin because they failed to meet the standards. These goods were instead being dumped at a low price on countries without efficiency standards, thus damaging the buyer country’s domestic manufacturing industry and hurting consumers.
He said: “[Standards] are a no brainer. You will save your citizens money and you are cutting energy use.”
But he made clear he did not envisage a single globally enforced standard, but for countries to set their own.
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