Last week, Paris hosted the One Planet Summit, of which the central purpose was to examine how private and public finance could be used to combat climate change.
There is a great gap between the rhetoric of the Tory Government on the issue of climate change and the reality. Although the UK Government made some meagre international financial commitments, its domestic policy on financing remains woefully inadequate.
During the recent budget, the Government sneaked out the announcement that there would be no new low carbon electricity levies until the burden of such costs is falling. On current forecasts this means no new carbon levies until 2025.
The potentially devastating effects of this on financial investment into renewable energy cannot be emphasised enough. Contracts for Difference, a type of levy to subsidise the development costs and initial financing, is currently the main means by which renewable energy generation is encouraged.
They guarantee a price that a producer receives, thus making financing the project easier and less risky. Much of the success of offshore wind, whose price has halved over the last two years, comes from the support it has received through Contracts for Difference.
Preventing further Contracts for Difference, without having put any alternative in place, not only undermines offshore wind, but threatens the progress of less developed renewable technologies, such as tidal power. They will now be expected to compete with more developed technologies for what remains of the current pot without having had the initial investment they need to bring down their price to a more competitive level.
My colleague, Alan Whitehead MP, tried to ask the Minister Jo Johnson MP in parliament earlier this week whether he supported the new Control for levies and what the effects would be on our carbon reduction targets. Unsurprisingly he failed to receive a straight answer.
This demonstrates just how little the Government cares about funding efforts to tackle climate change, which is the biggest challenge facing our generation.
But it is by no means an isolated incident. In one of her first acts as Prime Minister, Theresa May completely scrapped the Department for Energy and Climate Change. She scrapped the £1 billion Carbon Capture and Storage competition, has failed to green light the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project and just recently sold off the Green Investment Bank on the cheap.
The measures announced in the Government’s 2017 Clean Growth Strategy were not even sufficient to meet either the fourth or fifth carbon budgets. These legally binding targets set restrictions on the total amount of greenhouse gases than can be emitted in the future by the UK. These targets stem from Labour’s landmark 2008 Climate Change Act. It is not good enough to leave the UK on course to miss these targets, we should be aiming to over perform on them.
This is why Labour wants to put climate change at the heart of our industrial strategy. At the last election, Labour pledged that 60% of the UK’s energy will come from low carbon or renewable sources by 2030 to help us meet the challenge of tackling climate change.
To achieve this we will take parts of our energy sector into public hands and explore ways of encouraging local communities to generate their own energy. We will cultivate strengths in green technology and invest in renewable energy infrastructure as well as reduce demand for heat to honour our national and international obligations.
Labour realises that climate change is an existential threat and that only bold action to prevent it will be required.