We need investment in renewable energy, but our government is going the other way

Fracking is a matter of the most serious environmental concern, but questions remain on its safety

Energy ncr

Four days. That’s how long it’s taken the Tories to renege on the promise and principle of Paris COP21. The ink has barely dried on Saturday’s Agreement – an agreement that symbolises a new era of clean energy and carbon limits.

But today, the Government has already hit reverse gear – backtracking on its pledge to protect National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest from fracking for shale gas.

Posturing is all very well – but the inconvenient truth for the government is that, when you sign an agreement, the public does expect you to abide by it. That stands true for Paris – and it stands true for its pledge on fracking limits.

Earlier this year Labour laid down 11 specific amendments to the Infrastructure Bill. We said there should be no more fracking unless all these safeguards – including for our Water Protection Areas – were put in place. The government conceded.

But in an anti-democratic, downright bewildering U-turn, the government is today using a back door procedure known as a ‘deferred vote’ – whereby no MP is able to speak or debate the issue – to force through a motion to allow fracking under our National Parks.

Their ill-considered – ill-fated – dash to extract every last drop of fossil fuel – even at the risk of our most loved landscapes – shows that the Conservatives believe international treaties are binding on everyone: except them.

Paris has set us on a low-carbon pathway to a new clean, green industrial revolution. It’s urgent we get on track. Moreover, it makes economic, as well as environmental, sense.

Today’s move shows a level of financial incompetence from the Conservatives that is frankly breath-taking. The Government was completely at odds with the world’s business leaders, who gathered for the COP21 Sustainable Innovation Forum.

I spoke with many of them. They’re ready to embrace the enormous benefits offered by a low carbon future and to invest in renewable technologies.

Our government, on the other hand, is cutting subsidy for renewables, scrapping the programme for low carbon homes, pocketing the £1billion grant that was supposed to pioneer Carbon Capture and Storage and locking us into a fossil fuel future that will vastly undermine UK jobs and growth.

The markets are so far ahead of the UK, it’s frightening. The price of oil has dropped by 12 per cent in the past ten days. £124 billion has been wiped of the share value of companies like BP and Shell.This is not the moment to invest in a whole new fossil fuel industry.

Fracking is a matter of the most serious environmental concern; but even for those who believe the technical issues around it can be solved to make it safe, the question remains as to the sense of investing in a fossil fuel technology whose days are so very clearly numbered – even by the Government’s own admission.

Climate action is a matter of fundamental social and environmental justice. That sense was the driving force behind the historic Paris Agreement. The deep sense that more should be done for the poorest communities – paying, as they are, so dearly for a global warming crisis they didn’t cause; a crisis caused by carbon emissions from developed economies that they haven’t even received the benefit of.

But what will power the Paris Agreement forward are the global financial markets. The investors. The business leaders. They’ve seen the writing on the wall for fossils and they’re doing what good business does: adapting.

They’re switching to the technologies of our future, but government is locking us into the past.


32 Responses to “We need investment in renewable energy, but our government is going the other way”

  1. Brian Macy

    I’m not an expert on politics or the workings of Parliament so I don’t understand how this can have occured. What is the point of Parliament, democracy, opposition etc. if a Government can just do whatever they feel like doing by using these so called ‘back door’ procedures? Why do these procedures exist when they are apparently at odds with with the way most people believe our democracy is supposed to work? If anyone can enlighten me please?

  2. madasafish

    “The markets are so far ahead of the UK, it’s frightening. The price of oil has dropped by 12 per cent in the past ten days. £124 billion has been wiped of the share value of companies like BP and Shell.This is not the moment to invest in a whole new fossil fuel industry.”

    I take it the author is not aware that despite global oil demand rising by 4 % over the past 2 years , there is a global glut. Such ignorance of the real world does not promise well for the veracity of the rest of the article – which appears to be a rant .

  3. Selohesra

    Government cannot do whatever it wants – there was a vote & the Luddites lost – that’s democracy

  4. Chris Kitcher

    The problem is that we have a bunch of over-privileged idiots making policy for the country. The worst thing is that Camoron and idiot Osborne have no clue how ordinary people live and are therefore unable to see the misery that their policies are causing, in fact I suspect that they enjoy the misery that they are causing.

  5. Brad JJ

    Given the MILLIONS of roofs we have I do not think we should be using land for solar panels. Not one acre. This country is very short of land. We should not be using it up for solar power that could be installed in the built environment.

  6. Brad JJ

    You appear to be misreading the article.

  7. Brad JJ

    Opposition use their hiring money for experts in marketing, image, policy dressing up and not law.

  8. Brad JJ

    Luddites oppose new technology. Fracking is old hat.

  9. Mike Stallard

    “Fracking is a matter of the most serious environmental concern.”
    I know a man who works actually on an oil field. He is not rich. He is honest and he votes firmly Labour. He told me that there is no danger in fracking and said that he does it all the time without any ill effects.

    “Climate action is a matter of fundamental social and environmental justice.”

    How very 1990s! Times have moved on now. There has been a lot of scientific analysts since then and the global catastrophe which was firmly forecast in the 1990s has not happened, A closer look at the history of climate change, too, reveals that it is very rash to assume that the climate warms up when C02 increases. The world is not warming, the ice cap in Antarctica is actually increasing as are the Polar Bears. The Maldives are not being swamped. Sorry, but there it is.

  10. Mike Stallard

    And at night? Or in a dark winter day?
    Oh – I forgot the solar panels work just as well at night and they depend on light rays not on sunshine. Just as wind turbines provide electricity even when the wind is not blowing.

  11. Mike Stallard

    Are you sure you are right there?
    Down here in the Fens, it doesn’t seem like that to me. I am an OAP and I mix with immigrants quite a lot. Some of them are pretty badly off, but others are thriving. I have friends who rue the food bank and they tell me the numbers are dropping.

  12. Brad JJ

    I think you want to make your comment to someone else. It has no relevance to my comment.

  13. Mike Stallard

    Are you sure you are right? Here in the European boondocks, tracking is a dangerous new technology which has not bee tried properly.
    On the one occasion it was tried though there was a momentous earthquake. The Great Gremlin appeared out of the ground just by Manchester and the darkened sky parted to reveal a very angry Green Face. Blood poured out of the taps in people’s houses.

  14. Mike Stallard

    No – panels on roofs are just as useless in this cold, dank country as they are on our lush productive Fenland fields in a starving world.

  15. Harold

    If we encouraged more use of solar panels we would not need fracking or new nuclear stations, the technology is improving at a rapid pace and would save consumers money. Equally the cost of oil and gas has dropped and is unlikely to return for a while or until there is a change in the world m,markets. This makes fracking less attractive, strangely the Government is promoting the use of diesel.

    I think in reality the Government has no idea of what a long term energy policy looks like.

  16. AlwaysIntegrity

    The carbon pay back time for solar panels in the UK is at least ten years and fifteen in Scotald, so there is no solition there. Small scale wind on buildings never pays back its carbon, so no solution there. For biomass we would need to coppice Kent in its entirity to replace a single modest gas fired plant. Wind onshore is just about viable – if, as everyone pushing renewables does, we ignore that fact that we need to have high speed gas fired backup for at least 80% of the installed wind capacity and that such backup runs inefficiently spewing out CO2, whats left ?

    The answer is lots more nuclear and soon.

  17. GeoffBeacon


    —-“London is fairly crowded but the UK is much less dense” – True—-

    The London Region is quite dense at 51.1 people per hectare but

    the South East region has 4.5 people per hectare. The South West

    has 2.2 people per hectare. The London Region may not have much spare land but the rest have.

    —-“Loss of land for recreation” –Myth—-

    Surrey has more land allocated to golf
    courses than for homes.

    —-“Loss of agricultural land” –Myth—-

    We get our wine from California and Australia, our wheat from Canada. Local food distribution and production can increase the amount of food produced using market gardening techniques and have lower carbon footprints than current agricultural practices. This will mean higher levels of local employment, if more labour is used.

    —-“Loss of biodiversity due to housing” – Myth—-

    Green belts are often “green deserts” as modern agriculture is high in chemical and other inputs. At British Association a few years ago Dr Keith Porter of English Nature said low-density developments with gardens and public open spaces would provide more favorable habitats for species than the giant pesticide-treated cereal fields that dominate much of the countryside now.

    “By placing housing in these areas with innovative designs you can build in the corridors and the linkage the wildlife need to come back in,” he said. “You would be certain to increase biodiversity.”

    Indeed, a square kilometer of central London has significantly more bird species than a square kilometer of farmed land in Surrey. And, of course, many brownfield sites have significant amounts of wildlife.

    —-“UK’s swollen population” –Myth —-

    We still have plenty of room: UK’s population density is 2.55 per hectare. Less than Netherlands, Israel, India, Belgium, Japan, Vietnam & Etc

    More at http://ow.ly/VFzmq

  18. Sid

    And the climate scam continues ….

  19. AlwaysIntegrity

    Yep, all the scientists around the world in a single huge conspiracy to outwit do do’s like you

  20. AlwaysIntegrity

    You have no idea I am afraid, you would have to cover much of the UK in solar panels to replace one nuclear power station and the amount of carbon dioxide created in their manufacture would take at least ten years of solar electricity to pay it back. If only things were so simple …

  21. Dave Stewart

    That is why most modern installations of solar panels will also include small scale batteries for storage or heat pumps for storage so you can use your generate power later. This is significantly more efficient than selling excess power to the grid as it eliminates many of the transfer losses that occur getting power onto the grid. Also if you combine it with a smart meter it will automatically switch from your battery/solar cells to the grid depending on the demand on the grid at any one time thus helping to smooth out peak demand which is excellent news for the need to have baseline capacity.

    Also modern solar cells do not need bright light to function, they will work all year round in the UK even in our gloomy climate, granted the efficiency will fall off a bit in the winter months and the shorter days will have an effect.

    Small scale local generation of power (like cells on peoples roofs) really are what we should be investing in. Shale gas should be a non-stater, it’s environmentally damaging and if we are to have any hope of avoiding climatic breakdown we should be leaving as much fossil fuels in the ground as possible. Small scale generation also breaks the control of the energy system from large companies weakening their monopolistic power leaving the majority of the benefits in the hands of local people.

  22. Dave Stewart

    I would love to see some evidence for all of you assertions. Regardless of whether you want to accept it or not the world is warming up and the evidence is so ridiculously overwhelmingly saying that the most probable cause is green house gas emissions, primarily CO2.

    I will not provide evidence because you can google it yourself and I suspect no matter what I posted you’d suggest some nonsense like it is all a giant conspiracy by climate scientists.

    Also fracking is an environmental concern, just ask the people in the US who can set fire to their tap water because of contamination, or the massive increased risks of cancers caused by the release of volatile organic carbons around facking wells.

  23. Mike Stallard

    But that is not the plan is it.
    We intend, surely, to close down all the “fossil fuel” power stations starting with coal fired ones, which are being closed as we speak and to rely on solar and wind power all the time.
    Little batteries! And little fairies in the garden too! We face more closures – aluminium and now steel, later the entire computer network.

  24. Chris Kitcher

    Well I think that you are particularly fortunate Mike because the Trussell Trust reports that they are serving close on a million food parcels this year which is almost 5x the amount form 5 years ago.

    Coming form Lincolnshire myself the Fens have always “in the world but not of it” and I know of many poor people in the Fens who are far too proud to admit their poverty. So it appearas that the policies of these lunatics are working when in fact all they are causing is misery which they appear to enjoy inflicting.

  25. David Davies

    The Water Wars will start by 2050 – probably using sticks and stones.

  26. steroflex

    Well again it doesn’t seem to be like that to me. Of course some immigrants are drunkards and wee in the streets. Of course a lot of people can’t cope very well with life in one way or another.
    The tax burden is impossibly high and I suspect, from the loan shark shop that a lot of financial worries abound.
    But there is a majority, I think, who are settling in well and living happy and fulfilled lives.

  27. Chris Kitcher

    I have Iranian and Iraqi neighbours and they are much more friendly than most of my British neighbours. In addition they don’t wee in the street.

  28. Intolerant_Liberal

    They seem to thrive on the pain and suffering and economic deprivation they are meting out to the poor and none privileged.

  29. GeoffBeacon

    AlwaysIntegrity…..”The carbon pay back time for solar panels in the UK is at least ten years and fifteen in Scotland,”

    Interesting. Any references?

    “For biomass we would need to coppice Kent in its entirety to replace a
    single modest gas fired plant and particilates remain a big problem.”

    Interesting. Any references? & etc

    “The answer is lots more nuclear and soon.”

    Don’t build them near the sea.

    “PS I am an engineer and scientist and CO2 driven atmospheric warming is
    real and terrifying – to address it we need to get real PDQ”

    Yes. Don’t fly, eat beef, drive cars build with bricks, concrete and steel and plan our lives in a completely different way. (Absolutely no irony intended.)


  30. Harold

    Payback time on solar is about five years now, hence the government cutting subsidies to solar, HM Government announcements. New nuclear, well after eight years and promises of Chinese money EDF have still not agreed to build one. The Government has offered them a guaranteed £96/Mwh plus inflation, when the market price is £34Mh and even then it is too risky.

  31. Harold

    One nuclear power station say two reactors two turbines combined output 1200Mh even then something approaching 30% of the time one of the reactors will be shut down. At present often the equivalent of two of our existing stations is shut down, refilling, trips or maintenance. Solar panels on a roof can produce about 3kw per property so you can do the maths, no where near what you claim is it? Secondly if we spent some of the £20Bn promised to build one station, which the consumer will be paying in higher bills on insulation and efficiency we could reduce the demand for electricity, remember electricity is only part of the countries energy demand. The Government in its wisdom has reduced the need for developers to make new homes more energy efficient which is a strange policy, putting up bills and making them less warm. If your figure of ten years to pay back the Co2 deficit for solar panels manufacture compared to the one going environmental impact of a new power station that seems a reasonable trade off as the life of a panel is 25+ years and even after that you would just replace with new ones.

  32. Harold

    But no debate, democracy should be about preventing mistakes through participatory deliberations, rather than about making heads roll after mistakes have been made. This is one of the reasons why John Stuart Mill saw democracy as “government by discussion” (a phrase coined, along Millian lines, by Walter Bagehot), and this demands discussion preceding public decisions, rather than following them.

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