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Europe must stay ambitious on climate change

There has been a lot of talk over the last few weeks about Britain’s place in Europe, but there’s one thing that I hope we can all agree. We need the EU to help prevent climate change.

We are an island nation, a trading nation, dependent on the global market for prosperity – for food, for energy, for many of the products we rely on in. It is unsurprising that the UK was one of the first countries to recognise that significant climate change will directly affect our way of life. And we were the first country to bind ourselves to the low-carbon path through the 2008 Climate Change Act.

But acting alone will not solve the global problem. Successive Governments have recognised that the best way to tackle climate change, without threatening economic competitiveness, has been to work through the EU for a global climate deal – and making sure the EU leads by example.

As the climate talks in Durban in 2011 showed definitively, when negotiating with super-economies like China, India and the United States, we are far better off negotiating as a European bloc.

Why? Because together we represent 504 million people and 25% of the world’s GDP (compared with 63 million people and 3% of the world’s GDP as the UK alone). And because the action the EU is taking on emissions means we are able to negotiate from a position of authority.

In 2008, the EU led the world in tackling climate change by agreeing binding emissions reductions targets up to 2020. Emissions are down by over 17%, and this has had a galvanising effect on green growth in Europe. The European market for low carbon environmental goods and services grew by 3.5% to £740 billion in 2010/11 alone, positioning us for a global green market now at over £3.3 trillion.

But, as a bloc, we need to look further ahead than this 2020 horizon. When it comes to investment decisions on energy projects that will last into the middle of the century and beyond, 2020 is fast becoming the rear view mirror. So we need to move on to the next phase of agreements in Europe – to 2030 and beyond. And we need to do so in a context that is different to 2007 when the last agreement was being negotiated.

Then practically no EU Member State had established climate policies; most renewables technologies were immature; and we were at the peak of an economic boom. Now, six years later, renewable technology is maturing and other technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage and new nuclear are set to contribute to the low-carbon mix over the coming years. We are in a different economic environment that is challenging European countries to address competitiveness and growth.

So the UK will be arguing two things in the coming negotiations over the EU’s position for 2030.

First, the EU should adopt an ambitious emissions reduction target for 2030 of 50% on 1990 levels as part of Europe’s approach to the getting a global deal in 2015. And even if such a global deal doesn’t come about, the EU should aim for a unilateral 40% reduction. These targets are achievable, affordable and necessary if we are to limit climate change to manageable proportions.

Second, we need a technology neutral approach to how individual countries meet their emissions targets. We want to maintain flexibility for Member States in the exact energy mix they use. The UK is committed to increasing renewables in our own domestic energy mix. The tripling of support available for low carbon electricity through the £7.6bn Levy Control Framework provides an immediate boost. And the radical reforms to the electricity market set out in the Energy Bill will also incentivise renewables to 2020 and beyond.

Yet there are a variety of options to decarbonise any country’s energy: from energy efficiency to new nuclear; from carbon capture and storage to renewable heat. Countries should be free to pick the mix they prefer. In the UK, our electricity market reforms will rely on the market and competition to determine the low-carbon electricity mix. So we are legislating to set a technology-neutral decarbonisation target for our power sector. We will therefore oppose a renewable energy target at an EU level as inflexible and unnecessary.

Above all, we must keep our eyes on the prize: a binding global deal to reduce carbon emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels. That is why an ambitious emissions target for the EU is so important. Be in no doubt, without the EU adopting an ambitious approach, a global deal will be virtually impossible. So the UK must now lead in Europe on ambitious climate change targets and championing green growth at the same time. Then we will be meeting our responsibilities to pass on to our children an economy that is prosperous and a planet that can sustain them.

Filed under: Climate Change, Low carbon

Comments: 15 Comments on Europe must stay ambitious on climate change
Posted on: May 28 2013

15 Responses to “Europe must stay ambitious on climate change”

  1. Frank Inglis says:

    Jeremy Rifkin’s 3rd Industrial Revolution needs to implemented, the time for dithering is over

  2. Tom Fletcher says:

    It is disappointing that the Government “seek to oppose a renewable energy target at an EU level as inflexible and unnecessary.”

    Countries being free to “pick the mix” they prefer is not usually a good idea and a collective decision making tends to address all areas rather than a particular countries subjective requirement and of which is invariably influenced by lobbyists of the various power conglomerates.

  3. Great to hear DECC (Ed Davey) fighting the corner against climate change sceptics. Very positive pushing for further target lets just hope it can be achieved.

  4. [...] Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has this week called for the EU to stay ambitious on climate change. Critically, he put forward a proposal that the EU adopts a new climate target for 2030 that would [...]

  5. Oliver Hayes says:

    “So we are legislating to set a technology-neutral decarbonisation target for our power sector”

    This is untrue. The energy bill as it stands gives powers to the Secretary of State to set a decarbonisation target, of unspecified level, no sooner than 2016.

    It does not say that the SoS is obliged to set a target, just that they can if they want to.

    It does not say that any such target, if desired, must be set in 2016, just that it can’t be set any sooner.

    It does not say that the target must be set at a specified level, for instance that called for by the Government’s official independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change. Depending on what level any target is set will have wildly different implications for emissions and for the coming decades’ power generation.

    It is little wonder that businesses and investors complain that the Government’s energy policy fails to give them the certainty required to bring green jobs and investment to the UK.

    Energy and Climate Change Select Committee chair, Tim Yeo, has tabled an amendment to the Bill calling for the introduction of a power sector decarbonisation target, in line with CCC advice, set no later than April 2014.

    If passed, this would provide the certainty needed and would drive a massive investment in renewables, energy saving and a UK supply chain.

    All MPs will have the chance to vote on this amendment on 4 June.

    • Rob Veck says:

      I agree with this point of view. What I REALLY struggle with is government hypocrisy about targets. Teachers, NHS, Police, Businesses and employees (to name a few) have targets (IBM calls them “Personal Business Commitments”), but when it comes to politicians “committing” to a target, leading by example, they say its not necessary. It’s no wonder the general public are disillusioned about government.

  6. [...] Read Edward Davey’s blog on why Europe must stay ambitious on climate change [...]

  7. [...] Read Edward Davey’s blog on why Europe must stay ambitious on climate change [...]

    • Your mad policy to reduce carbon emissions by 80% is unbelievable while other countries are ignoring it All it will do is push my gas and electric bills to unmanageable levels I am hard presse NOW to meet the exorbitant energy bills imposed on me like other pensioners and low income families But never mind Tim Yeo and John Gummer will make even hunreds of pounds more from their companies they represent Then of course the greedy energy companies continue to make even more obscene profits We were once self suffucient until Thatcher got in power and closed down our coal mines Also your insane policy to close down all the coal fired power stations before they are replaced is the economics of the mad house while Germany and China are building new ones we rely on unreliable mickey mouse wind mills so pushing our bills up even further You won’t be happy until we serfs freeze to death so saving this rotten coalition more money to give away to foreign despot in Africa etc

  8. Mr D Evans says:

    The figures from the Met Office (Dec 2012) show that global temperatures have not risen since 1997 and that they are not predicted to rise as far out as 2020. My question, therefore, is simple. How many years of zero rise in global temperature will have to have been experienced before the scientists admit that their theories have been proven to be wrong? We have more than 20 years of firm evidence that their theory of manmade global warming is wrong so would that be 30 years? 40 years? Let’s please have an answer.
    I realise that many climate scientists and their institutions are making a fine living and have wagered their reputations on this theory, but the rest of us are paying in massive economic and evironmental damage and enough is enough. It must stop and the sooner the better.

    • Tim Wakeling says:

      Please could we have a link to the figures you are quoting, Mr Evans? Such a damning contradiction of the best advice of almost all leading scientists deserves hard evidence to back it up, does it not? :)

      • Mr D Evans says:

        The Met Office graph to be found at
        shows that global warming since the late 1990s through to 2020 is not happening to any meaningful extent. The forecasts the Met Office made in previous years of substantial rises each year have now revised down heavily. All of which are based on the theory of manmade global warming and I believe that scientists should now be questioning the validity of that theory. In any other branch of science, I would suggest, such persistent evidence that a theory is wrong would have raised serious questions by now. So, my question is valid. “How much evidence is needed before the theory of manmade global warming is discarded?”

        • Tim Wakeling says:

          Thank you for that link, Mr Evans. Apologies for the long delay; I forgot I had posted this so didn’t come back to check for a reply until today when I discovered it by searching for my name on Google!

          It may well be that the page in question has changed since you posted it, because it does claim to have been updated in January, but on that page I see a graph near the top which would surely defy anyone to slap a horizontal trend line on.

          Yes, I concur that the period 2000-2010 is flattish, but so is the period 1960-1980 on the same graph, and the latter is about three quarters of a degree below the former. The very tops of the 90% confidence intervals before 1990 barely scrape the zero line, whereas you have to suddenly switch to assuming the very bottom tips of the confidence intervals (or beyond) after 2000 to say they have not changed.

          Perhaps it’s just my “Guardian reading”, “leading scientists must be right”, “BBC says”, “it’s the Koch Brothers fault”, “unthinking liberal mind”, as this blogger so delicately put it, but I don’t see any evidence on that page for the *lack* of global warming.

          Failing to act if the problem is real is far more costly a mistake than acting now only to find the problem was never there. Far, far more. I say we do ourselves a favour and change our lifestyles for the good of the planet regardless of whether it’s warming up (though it does appear to be).

  9. Paul Hunt says:

    Does the Secretary of State seriously believe he can continue to paper over the costly and damaging contradiction between:
    “The UK is committed to increasing renewables in our own domestic energy mix.” and
    “..our electricity market reforms will rely on the market and competition to determine the low-carbon electricity mix.”

    In the revised EMR Bill the Government will take powers to intervene in the wholesale market, yet CfDs will be related to wholesale prices. It will also take powers to ‘regulate’ retail competition. National Grid will ‘organise’ the capacity market. There are emission performance standards and a carbon floor price.

    Does the Secretary of State really expect us to believe that all of this meddling is consistent with a reliance on the market and competition?

    This meddling is unnecessarily costly, counter-productive and will only benefit the subsidy junkies. Structural, not behavioural, reforms are required. The world has changed significantly since DG COMP’s 2007 energy sector inquiry. A new inquiry is urgently required.

  10. Good to see some recognition in Government of the importance of the EU and playing a key role within a Union. Also positive that the UK is pushing for a further GHG reduction target.

    Why not go one step further and extend the renewable energy target to 2030?

    Better still why not go even further and make the UK and other developed countries responsible for their consumption-based emissions rather than just their territorial emissions. After all as Ed Davey points out this is ‘global problem’, so lets face the reality in the UK that our actual emissions per capita are significantly higher than the UK emission inventory due to our global supply chain and the amount we consume:

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