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How Green Is The U.K.’s New Government?

Britain’s got a new prime minister, Conservative David Cameron; a new deputy prime minister, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg; and an odd new governing coalition kludged together with both of their parties. The new government has released its platform, saying “The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to fulfill our joint ambitions for … Continue reading “How Green Is The U.K.’s New Government?”

David Cameron and Nick Clegg

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Britain’s got a new prime minister, Conservative David Cameron; a new deputy prime minister, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg; and an odd new governing coalition kludged together with both of
their parties. The new government has released
its platform
, saying “The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to fulfill our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy.”

Items of note from the environment section:

  • The establishment of a high-speed rail network.
  • The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow
    International Airport.
  • The
    establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters.
  • The full establishment of feed-in tariff systems
    in electricity–as well as the maintenance of banded ROCs.
  • The creation of a green investment bank.
  • The provision of home energy improvement paid for by
    the savings from lower energy bills.
  • Measures to encourage marine energy [wave and tidal
    power].
  • The establishment of an emissions performance standard that
    will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped
    with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard.
  • The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as
    efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.
  • Measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in
    order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.
  • Mandating
    a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Continuation of the present Government’s proposals for
    public sector investment in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology
    for four coal-fired power stations; and a specific commitment to reduce central
    government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months.

It goes without saying
that U.K. Conservatives are in a different world than orthodox American conservatives–Cameron’s party gets the climate threat and wants to help address
it. Even the items above that lack specifics are encouraging.

The most difficult
issue to hammer out seems to have been new nuclear power plants, which the
Conservatives support and the Lib Dems strongly oppose. Under the agreement,
Lib Dem lawmakers will be able to abstain from nuclear votes. Adds
the BBC
, “But Lib Dem activists will not be happy with commitment to
nuclear power.”

The most important item
might be the pledge to try to fix up the E.U.’s cap-and-trade climate program
by creating “a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the E.U.
to move towards full auctioning of ETS [emissions
trading scheme
] permits.”

Says
Guardian columnist George Monbiot
:
“The government can’t act alone on either issue, but if it’s serious about this
it could help turn the ETS from a useless, nobbled programme, governed by the
demands of pollutocrats, into a system that forces companies to clean up.
Whether you like carbon trading or not, if we’re going to have it, it’s got to
work.”

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“So it’s better than I
had expected,” Monbiot adds. “The agreement’s environmental policies are more
Lib Dem than Conservative, and more progressive than most of the other
proposals in the document. Let’s see how it works in practice.”

Longtime U.K.
environmental correspondent Geoffrey
Lean
adds some context in
a Telegraph post
: “[P]rioritising
the environment and launching a green economy are among the few things on which
[the Conservative Party] can enthusiastically agree with its Liberal Democrat
partner. Indeed, David Cameron duly highlighted it as one of the main reasons
the two parties could get together in his original ‘offer’ speech to the Lib Dems
on Friday.”

Lean calls Cameron “incomparably
the greenest prime minister — indeed major party leader — Britain has ever
had.” Seems surprising, though Lean argues the bar has never been set very
high. He expects the coalition to focus on incentives for households to take
energy-saving measures and add renewable sources at home.

He also gives former
Prime Minister Gordon Brown props for his commitment to international climate
talks: “Gordon was much more Brown than green, but over the last year he did
more than any other leader to try to make the Copenhagen summit work, being the
first to announce his attendance, pushing others to go, and leading the crucial
last minute negotiations that saved a worthwhile package from the
wreckage.”

This post was written by Jonathan Hiskes for Grist.org


For more climate and energy coverage check out Grist.org
Including Introducing the American Power Act: On Strategy and Substance written by Sen. John Kerry

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