Author Archives: Edward Robinson

The Lib Dems now have the most comprehensive plan to tackle climate change of any party in Europe.

For me, Monday was one of the most uplifting days in politics for years. Conference overwhelmingly passed the motion connected to Policy Paper 139, “Tackling the Climate Emergency”. This commits the party to a policy of eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy by 2045 (or compensating for any residual emissions with additional carbon removal – what is known at “Net-Zero emissions”). It was great to see Jo Swinson then put our environmental policies at the heart of her leader’s speech the following day. Duncan Brack’s summation of Monday’s debate is also well worth a watch. He deserves huge credit for chairing our working group on climate change. 

Committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2045 would bring the UK into line with its commitments under the Paris Agreement and the international aim to hold average global temperature rises to under 1.5 degrees. Both the British government and the European Commission are currently looking at a net zero target by 2050, which is unlikely to be enough. An amendment tabled by the Green Liberal Democrats to shift the target to 2040 attracted support but didn’t carry. Opinions vary on this point, but the paper and motion are clear: ‘the precise target date for achieving net zero is less important than urgent action to set the economy on the path’. Tough interim targets did pass (to cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and 93 per cent by 2040). 

But what is also hugely important is that our pathways – radical though they are – are science-based and backed-up with practical policies to make them a reality. We have worked out the nuts and bolts as well as the big vision. I highly recommend a glance at Policy Paper 139 for those interested in seeing what we are proposing in detail and who didn’t get a chance to read the full motion on Monday (or attend the debate). Its recommendations are connected to figures presented in an independent report (which I co-authored) and which was published at conference in 2017. That report contains the sector-by-sector emissions reductions pathways. It goes into detail on the technology, infrastructure and policy support required. The Guardian has hailed it as a ‘radical agenda for tackling climate emergency’. 

Liberals are interested in the “little stories” as much as the “grand narratives”. And these reports provide both. As people all over the world join their children on climate strike this Friday, we should be proud that our party has just signed up to the most ambitious and credible programme of decarbonisation of any party in Europe. It is fine for Labour to consider a net-zero emissions target by 2030 – but you can bet your socks that they won’t dare publish how they plan to meet that target in practical terms. They can’t. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

The inspiration for European integration is part of British history too

Two years on from the EU referendum and Walter Benjamin’s haunting observation that “the very past itself is at stake” seems appropriate.

What sort of future Britain will have depends, to a large extent, on how a working majority of voters and politicians understand her past. For, as the UK’s former judge on the European Court of Justice, Sir Konrad Schiemann, noted in a 2012 lecture on the EU as a Source of Inspiration, “what you find inspiring depends to a degree on where you come from and what you’re looking for”. Born in 1937, Schiemann was probably the last CJEU judge to have experienced the Second World War. Growing up in Berlin hiding from British bombs and then, via Poland and the Lancashire Fusiliers, landing up as a law student in Cambridge, Schiemann is clear where his generation were coming from and what they were looking for. His generation of Brits (and many of those that followed) understood the preamble to the European Coal and Steel Community as being part of their history too, despite Britain not having been a signatory to it.

Posted in Books | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Your Home, Your Power Station

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Ed Davey’s contribution (on the next steps to decarbonize the UK) to a new collection of essays from the Social Liberal Forum is a tour de force in strategic thinking. 

One of the great strengths of Liberal thought through the ages has been an ability to find practical, scientifically and economically-sound solutions to pressing social challenges. For an excellent example of this, from someone who has held high office, look no further than Sir Ed Davey’s essay in Four Go In Search of Big Ideas, which not only provides a wide-ranging discussion of the challenges of decarbonising the UK’s economy in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement but also presents up-to-date policy suggestions to support the deployment of cutting-edge green tech.

For the power sector, Davey suggests that “any new nuclear should be suspended until it can prove substantial cost reduction”. He is also clear both for the need to improve the incentives to supply-side innovations like renewable power with storage (the practice of equipping intermittent power sources like wind and solar PV with battery storage) and to rapidly speed up the ability of “demand-response” technologies and smart grids to respond to changes in supply and to cut overall energy demand.

In a section that reminds clean energy advocates like me of how useful it would be to have Davey back in the Council of the EU, he urges much more use to be made of interconnectors between neighbouring nations, as well as fast-tracking reforms to electricity markets to ensure, for example, that network costs are fairly shared among market participants and that barriers to new entrants like community energy groups are broken down.

Posted in Books | 15 Comments

The fundamentals of Brexit don’t change – so opposition to it is a matter of principle!

“If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, then you have seriously misjudged the gravity of the situation” – goes the rather silly adaptation of Kipling’s famous line.

I am not suggesting that Liberal Democrats are losing their heads. But I am suggesting that we are the only British political party that appears to have judged the gravity of the situation on Brexit. For certain, we are the only political party that is brave enough to oppose it explicitly. We know that the least privileged households will be the most harmed by Brexit.

I have …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 39 Comments
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