THE BLOG

What's Owen Paterson's Point?

16/10/2014 14:16 BST | Updated 16/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Having spent a number of years campaigning for a Climate Change Act, I feel some responsibility to explain and defend a piece of legislation that quite frankly makes me proud to be British.

Owen Paterson over the last few days has laid bare publically the argument he's clearly been pursing privately when he was David Cameron's Environment Secretary. In his view we should scrap the UK's Climate Change Act.

Apparently he believes that global warming is man-made, his "issue" is with how we deliver it and specifically onshore wind farms. I'm not sure that really is the case.

The Climate Change Act says absolutely nothing about wind farms. It says nothing about GM crops, or nuclear power or intelligent energy management. As an aside, at least on a few of those issues, I'm probably in exactly the same place as Mr Paterson. The Act certainly doesn't contradict those views.

The Climate Change Act was introduced, with a huge amount of support from all parties, the business community and of course, the progressive elements of his 'green blob'! If fact, David Cameron in his huskie-days, used the campaign to form part of his leadership election bid, he even had his own specific website calling for this. Although it was the Labour Government and the Miliband brothers along with Hilary Benn who delivered the legislation.

The whole reason was and is to set out a scientifically agreed carbon budget, that we then have to play with. Exactly so that politicians - like Mr Paterson - couldn't start tampering with or subverting the science. A principle, I am sure the public would be pleased to hear and in fact would surely support more of in other areas of public life. It's determined by independent people, who draw on peer reviewed science. The Act might be deemed by some as trail blazing but actually the reasoning and way it's delivered is common sense.

Politicians, of course can play with those carbon budgets, just like they do with the financial budgets and that's there job. We might decide we want to spend the entire carbon budget on flying planes, which would be fine in theory, as long as we had a massive programme of house insulation to reach zero carbon homes, carbon capture & storage, nuclear and everything else that would be needed to counterbalance that. It's a choice how we deal with the problem. It's just not a choice to ignore it.

Technology is changing and pricing is changing rapidly. Britain should be able to flexible enough to take advantage of those changes and decide - within the scientific budget - which is most effective and appropriate for us.

Personally I also think we also should be looking at where the opportunities are. Because whilst we're not being held back by ill-informed debates, UK plc could actually be part of what is the real global race, the low carbon global race. One that actually China - far from kicking her heels on this, another issue Mr. Paterson seems to be ill informed about - looks to be winning under its latest economic plan.

If Mr Paterson's agenda is really about promoting small-scale nuclear and intelligent energy, two things I actually think are quite sensible, if anything, the Climate Change Act will help him deliver those.

But is that really his agenda? Or are those examples given, just to make him more palatable? The former Environment Secretary had multiple opportunities on Radio 4's Today programme, to correct the assertion that he had refused a meeting with the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor but he chose not to. He chose not to meet him, not to listen and to remain ignorant because that's the only way his views makes sense, if you avoid exposing yourself to the science or the facts.

This is a race, a race against time to tackle the worst effects of climate change and a race to be the world's leading low carbon economy. Debates like this are simply hindering our chances of winning either of those and personally I want to back Britain - and the overwhelming consensus of scientists across the world - over a sacked Tory Environment Minister.