One of the government’s flagship policies has suffered a ‘dramatic collapse’

Theresa May leading the UK government
Steve Topple

A parliamentary committee has said government policy changes have caused a “dramatic… collapse” in investment; one which threatens to derail legally binding targets. The area which the committee was criticising the government about is clean energy and climate change targets.

A “dramatic collapse”

The Environmental Audit Committee has released a report into clean energy. Called Green finance: mobilising investment in clean energy and sustainable development, it looks at investment in clean energy sources. The report, and the committee’s chair – Labour’s Mary Creagh, is highly critical of the government.

The report notes that:

The latest figures for low-carbon energy investment show that there has been a ‘dramatic and worrying collapse’ since 2015 that threatens the UK’s ability to meet its carbon budgets. In cash terms, investment in clean energy fell by 10% in 2016 and 56% in 2017. Annual investment in clean energy is now at its lowest since 2008.

It found that, among other things:

  • “The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy does not do enough to meet legally binding climate change targets, even if all its policies are delivered in full”.
  • “The privatisation of the Green Investment Bank” and changes due to Brexit “may also have played a part in the fall in investment”.
  • “Ministers should find new ways to support councils to mobilise investment in low carbon projects”.
  • “The falling cost of generating electricity from wind and solar power means that we can now secure clean energy capacity at lower prices, which may have cushioned the impact of the fall in cash investment”.

The committee says that the “collapse in clean energy investment” was also due to the following specific policy changes in 2015:

  • Stopping new onshore wind farms from being built.
  • Removing tax breaks for companies generating electricity from renewable sources.
  • Cancelling the Zero Carbon Homes policy and the £1bn Carbon Capture & Storage competition.

The government says…

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told The Canary:

The UK is a world leader in cutting emissions, with 50% of our electricity coming from low-carbon sources and recently going 72 hours without burning coal. We’re committed to meeting our climate change targets and will have invested £2.5 billion on low carbon innovations by 2021.

We will consider this report carefully and respond in full in due course.

But Creagh was critical of the government. She said:

Billions of pounds of investment is needed in clean energy, transport, heating and industry to meet our carbon targets. But a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets. The government’s Clean Growth Strategy was long on aspiration, but short on detail.

The government must urgently plug this policy gap and publish its plan to secure the investment required to meet the UK’s climate change targets.

Several court cases

The committee’s report comes after several legal cases against the government over air pollution and climate change.

On 5 April, figures from the Labour Party revealed that the UK government had spent over half a million pounds fighting court cases on air pollution. The actions, all brought by legal campaign group ClientEarth, saw the government taken to court on three occasions. In the most recent case, a judge ruled that the government can be brought back to court as many times as needed until it starts acting within the law.

In 2017, the UK government was taken to court by another campaign group – Plan B – over climate change. The group believes the UK government is breaching its obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008, and specifically its carbon target for 2050. Plan B has launched proceedings for a judicial review into the government’s actions, and is waiting for a decision from a judge.

Featured image via Annika Haas – Wikimedia 

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