Friends of the Earth and the Liberal Democrats have long had similar visions for our energy future: more renewables; phasing out fossil fuels; ramping up energy efficiency. In short, getting pollution and consumer bills down, while increasing energy self-sufficiency.
Everything about this vision is now at stake.
The ‘quad’ – the coalition’s decision-making grouping of Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander – are locked in negotiations with Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey over a 2030 ‘decarbonisation’ target in the Government’s Energy Bill legislation.
Such a target would commit the UK to almost entirely carbon-free power generation in 20 years’ time, in line with advice from the Government’s independent advisors the Committee on Climate Change. It would give the long term certainty investors and manufacturers need, and would fire the starting gun on a low-carbon revolution.
Liberal Democrats formally voted to support a decarbonisation target at conference in September. Danny Alexander’s motion was warmly supported and is now party policy. Polling by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace showed this commitment is popular with potential Lib Dem voters, and Lib Dems from across the party including Fiona Hall MEP have articulated why the target is so important.
Friends of the Earth’s recent infographic reveals the immense weight of support among businesses, NGOs and even energy companies. It also shows who opposes the target: the gas-guzzling chancellor and two of the ‘big six’ energy companies.
George Osborne and his anti-wind, climate ‘luke-warmists’ are doing all they can to block the 2030 target’s inclusion in the Energy Bill – even with its expected publication now days away.
If Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and Ed Davey fail to win this fight and instead deliver George Osborne’s dash for gas, the Lib Dems’ long held and hard won green credentials will be irrecoverable.
As the changing climate bears its teeth in the Americas and Europe and the World Bank, the CIA and PriceWaterhouseCoopers issue stark warnings of our terrifying emissions trajectory, we are relying on brave and principled politicians to seize this tiny window of opportunity to get us on the path to a low-carbon future.
Many Liberal Democrats will highlight the recent wind subsidies fight, the green investment bank and the green deal as examples of Lib Dems’ greening effect in Government.
But these wilt in comparison with the potential consequences of taking carbon out of our power sector. Get this right, and it’s all the easier for other sectors to follow suit.
Get it wrong, and look forward to a raft of new fossil fuel and nuclear power stations, high energy bills, and a continuation of the status quo.
Lib Dems’ ability to secure a 2030 decarbonisation target and all that it unlocks will be the key test of their time in office. It will be this – above everything else – upon which they will be judged.
‘The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.
* Craig Bennett is Policy and Campaigns Director of Friends of the Earth