Preventing climate change and fixing the economy are two sides of the same coin

The recent energy price hikes show what happens when you become reliant on increasingly expensive fossil fuels bought and sold to each other by six megalithic firms.

Andy Atkins is executive director of Friends of the Earth

Today I’m speaking at the TUC’s ‘Green Growth’ conference at Congress House, where the Met Office’s Julia Slingo will set out the latest understanding of climate science.

The news won’t be good – the world’s top scientists agree with 95 per cent certainty that we humans are causing the worsening climate disruption.

David King will give the government view. I’m writing this before he has given his speech, but unless he unveils a step-change in our approach to tackling the climate threat, I’ll find it impossible to conclude that we’re doing enough.

Instead his boss, energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey, has today announced a 35 year deal to guarantee EDF double the market rate for electricity in exchange for building a nuclear power plant at Hinkley in Somerset.

Hinkley won’t generate a single unit of electricity until midway through the next decade and will cost consumers in the region of £90bn over the plant’s lifetime. As Friends of the Earth has demonstrated, this colossal debt is justified neither on climate nor energy security grounds. It is a massive white elephant.

But while Davey commits today’s 30 year olds to payments to EDF until pension age, it’s unlikely he’ll have the stomach for the far more urgent need to reduce emissions and curb fuel bills.

Reducing bills and curbing emissions are two sides of the same coin. At Friends of the Earth we’ve never believed in the choice between going green or a healthy economy. We’re as concerned about the impact of climate change on health, prosperity and jobs as we are the toll it takes on our planet.

The recent energy price hikes show what happens when you become reliant on increasingly expensive fossil fuels bought and sold to each other by six megalithic firms.

The cost of wholesale gas, the principle driver of price hikes, is only going one way – up. The cost of building renewables, however, has tumbled already this decade and is predicted to continue to fall. And of course the renewable ‘fuel’ is free – pushing wholesale prices down further.

And what about saving energy? Warmer homes are more effective in reducing fuel poverty than building nuclear power stations. For the price of Hinkley you could end fuel poverty one and a half times over.

The solutions for new sources of energy are staring us in the face. Britain has the best renewable energy resources in Europe and the know-how to make use of them – they could and should be the envy of the world, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But we are at a policy crossroads. On 28 October, the House of Lords will vote on a critically important amendment to the Energy Bill. The amendment – tabled by former Shell boss Lord Oxburgh – proposes a target to remove almost all of the carbon from our power generation by 2030.

Government’s own advisors the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) say that decarbonising power by 2030 is the most cost-effective way to meet our legally binding climate change targets. With the chancellor’s plans for 40 new gas stations, amending the Bill is critical if we are to begin weaning the UK off the dirty and expensive fossil fuels.

It’s not just us that think so. Investors controlling £1 trillion assets recently wrote to the chancellor imploring him to back a clean power target, describing it as crucial for attracting finance for the £110bn overhaul of Britain’s energy network.

Labour and Ed Miliband have pledged to decarbonising power by 2030. A welcome commitment, but more is needed – to realise the full benefits we need to go further. While nuclear is an expensive distraction, decentralised renewable energy – turning homes and communities into electricity producers in their own right – will create thousands of jobs and put an end to the big six rip off.

Further, to permanently lower bills it’s vital that Labour commits to a massive energy efficiency programme alongside its eye-catching prices plans.

At the TUC today I will be asking union leaders and members to join me in calling for a switch to renewable energy and energy saving to create jobs and stabilise energy bills. That would tackle the cost of living, the economic and the climate crisis.

Together the green movement and the Labour movement must set the challenge to our political leaders from all parties to rise to this mantel.

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6 Responses to “Preventing climate change and fixing the economy are two sides of the same coin”

  1. Lawrence Sudlow

    Good to read a sensible arguement over green growth that spells out the need to rethink government policy on energy. The old technologies from the last century need to be replaced with efficient, clean and safe sources of energy, that will drive the economy on the back of green jobs and a sustainable energy industry. Diversifying the sources and allowing individuales and communities to own and manage their own power sources will rejuvinate the sector. I hope the TUC delegates listened and take on the task to push for a low carbon economy through a more efficient use of energy sources and a major shift away from dirty and dangerous power production to clean and safe renewable energy.

  2. mememine

    Climate blame and it’s 30 years of needless CO2 fear monger was YOUR Iraq War!

    The difference between us deniers and you remaining fear mongering believers is that deniers don’t think 30 years of science only agreeing it COULD be a crisis and NEVER agreeing or saying it WILL be a crisis is a good enough reason to believe in condemning billions of helpless children to a CO2 crisis. You misery loving believers on the other hand didn’t even know that what you thought was a consensus was really just a consensus of nothing. What is 30 years of just “maybe” supposed to be a consensus of? 30 years of “maybe” proves it “won’t be” a crisis and REAL planet lovers are happy about the exaggerated crisis for our children.
    Not one IPCC warning says anything beyond “could be” a crisis. Prove me wrong fear mongers. YOU say it WILL be a crisis while science only says it could be a crisis. How is this not pure fear mongering on your part doomers?

  3. JR

    Great stuff you need a platform: People highlighting why they don’t understand climate change loudly and in capitals should be front and centre.

    The more people that can be found with irrational views and an inability to reason the better it will be for the planet.

    (I also hope that any subsequent replies to this message will be equally well argued, present a detailed understanding of science, and won’t at all underscore my central point).

  4. Frank Enria

    this article is demanded, while world faces many new global problems, Our actions to change the energy
    resources are in demand as never been! Thank you! We will create green future

  5. yournotanysmarter

    hey JR you seem to be hoping that the smartest of the scientists are going to get the dumbest of politicians to tell the most arrogant of business people to shut their activities off to combat something that isn’t 100% settled. you can kick back on your peer reviewed veranda and watch the Geoengineering project roll out unregulated and say to your kids how you tried to help the planet by believing the wrong people because it made you seem smarter at the time. you’ll be chuffed with the results because thats the only thing that the government and business are going to do to change anything. can’t make profits from slowing down business but you sure can by adding stuff to the atmosphere.

  6. JR

    100% is a tough standard – sometimes one bloke just doesn’t agree:

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