Our Climate Change bulldog #slfconf

Ed Davey Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul Walter
WARNING: Contains strong hagiographic content, which some readers may find disturbing.

On Saturday, while much of the country was enjoying the sunshine, I spent two hours studying and listening to The Right Honourable Edward Davey MP FRSA.

In the wonderful surroundings of the new headquarters of Amnesty International, Ed addressed the Social Liberal Forum conference on “Energy and climate change – the balance between state and market”. He was then interviewed by four bloggers: Jonathan Calder, Matthew Hulbert, Caron Lindsay and myself.

My feelings during all this were similar to when Steve Webb addressed a local party supper club. I was thinking “Hey, this guy is doing fantastic, long-term stuff. Why the heck haven’t I heard about it before?”.

Ed has the features of a bulldog – a big barrel chest, a thick-set neck and determined, prominent jawline. He certainly has the determination of a bull terrier, shown in the way he pursues his objectives. There, the canine similarities end. Ed has a brilliant mind, and dazzles with a stunning recall of impressive facts, figures and arguments. In the interview, he turned a positively cherubic countenance to his questioners as he listened intently to the questions. I can imagine him going down well with civil servants in his department. He’s an extremely skilful Secretary of State.

Overall, Ed gave an exceptionally compelling narrative on the remarkable job being done by the government to fight climate change. I know this article could be accused of sounding like “Pravda” (and by all means balance it by reading Quentin Letts’ ludicrous piece on him), but I was genuinely very impressed by Ed and the work he is doing at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. However, as usual, I am a sucker for punishment, so I look forward to your comments.

Here is a couple of the key points which came up during the talk and interview, and then a load more will follow in a “part two” article later (which will include Ed’s thoughts on the thorny topic of nuclear power):

Investment in carbon reduction

Ed has written about this here and was brandishing the government’s Energy Investment Report.

The key line which stood out, for me, is that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is putting in more investment than the rest of the government put together. There has been a trebling of renewables powering the electricity grid.

The balance between state and market

The key point Ed made was that there is a need for a finely balanced approach. The binary, one/zero, black/white debate between government intervention and total non-intervention is pointless. There are three main areas, and each demands markedly different approaches: 1) Decarbonisation 2) Energy security and 3) Energy prices. The questions we should be asking are: Which type of intervention is suitable in each situation? Where and when? Is fostering competition the right approach? Or creating new markets? Or actual regulation, for example: emissions performance standards for coal power stations?

The bottom line, Ed said, is that the government must intervene to achieve our energy and climate goals.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • R Uduwerage-Perera 21st Jul '14 - 10:51am

    Personally I was very impressed by what my fellow RSA member had to say.

  • Green Voter 21st Jul '14 - 4:06pm

    “He’s an extremely skilful Secretary of State.”

    If he is so skilled, why has he opted for smart meters when the evidence for them is said by some to be “inconclusive”? Why are we not considering wave power to reduce the usage of fossil fuels?

  • I would like energy security now not when the greens say so I am not fond of relying on Russia or the USA Middle East we need sources now. I am not anti green I am anti power cuts or home insulation that unless you qualify for free is Very Very expensive. If I lived another thirty years I could not recoup the cost of insulated wall cladding same for Solar

    Do I think maybe climate is changing, probably

    How does recycle paper, plastic help when if it’s windy it blows all over
    Wash your cans before binning is water in such good supply
    Ship our refuse all over the world is fuel in great supply
    Manufacture items with built in short life is that cheap on resources

    Look at some of the crazy things we are told we must do by a few people who said that’s what we wanted, put our lights out and I doubt people will say thank you

  • Science is certain smoking will cause cancer and the planet is 100% not flat.
    It’s a shame that the scientific method does not allow the scientists to be absolutely certain that a “threat to the planet” will actually happen with 100% certainty and if they could be allowed to say these words of certainty then who would deny “proven”, “100%”, “inevitable” from science and if there is any chance at all for climate action then another 32 years of science’s “95%” certainty just feeds the ever growing mob of “former” climate change believers voting at the ballot box. Climate change is the only way we can defeat the evil fear mongering neocons!

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Jul '14 - 6:40pm

    “Trebling of renewables” – excellent achievement. Thank you.

    “…the Department of Energy and Climate Change is putting in more investment than the rest of the government put together.”

    Sounds good news on the face of it – but just for clarity, would that include the £16 billion cost of the new Hinckley nuclear power station?

    The nuclear power station which smashed our party pledge not to subsidise new nuclear capacity?

    A sum which is double the investment actually put in to renewables.

    A sum that does not include the costs of plant security, anti-terrorist protection, end of life decommissioning and long-term storage of radioactive waste.

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Jul '14 - 6:48pm

    Allan 21st Jul ’14 – 5:07pm

    If I were a Daily Express reader, I’m sure I would enjoy reading this sort of stuff. Have you considered a career change?

    I look forward to further enlightened contributions.

  • @Paul Walter
    That is interesting. What has been the reaction from Pelamis Wave? Are they looking to take advantage of the opportunity that appears to be there?

    What about the idea of recovering energy from old tyres by burning them? Has that been considered?

  • @Green Voter

    It would probably save you time if you google this stuff yourself:


    “Making use of waste tyres
    There are a number of ways to reuse waste tyres. They can provide fuel for cement kilns or be turned into products like flooring, road surfaces, furniture and shoes. Bales of tyres can be used in the construction of modern engineered landfill sites and flood defences. If waste tyres are in good condition, they can be re-moulded and put back on the road as ‘re-treads’.”


  • Paul Walter
    I agree with you about the Letts’ hatchet job. A nasty piece of work which I had not come across until I followed your link. In fact it would be difficult to find a nastier piece of character assassination.
    You say about your own piece — “. I know this article could be accused of sounding like “Pravda” (and by all means balance it by reading Quentin Letts’ ludicrous piece on him), but …..”
    I think you would, however, have done better to answer Lett’s hatchet job with facts and the truth rather than Hagiography.

    In a recent thread on energy Stephen Hesketh made a series of pertinent and devastating points about the record of our Secretary of State on the basis of the facts of what has actually been done on energy. No reply from Ed Davey or his office, nor indeed from many of his supporters. Perhaps because the facts are compelling. And mostly they go against Ed Davey’s personal record within that department.

    On one very specific claim within your piece, Paul Walter, you report the spin that —
    ” The key line which stood out, for me, is that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is putting in more investment than the rest of the government put together. There has been a trebling of renewables powering the electricity grid.”
    I would recommend a closer examination of the budget of this Department.
    In particular, what % of the budget is devoted to clearing up the mess left behind by the privatised nuclear giants???
    Does this count as “green investment” ???

  • John
    In answer to your last question, it appears the answer is yes, according to pages 66-68 of the report I linked to. It’s got some great photos in it.

  • Paul Walter, as an alternative to your great pictures — how about this very accessible Piece from the Chief Scientist? More than half of DECC’s budget is spent on cleaning up the mess of private nuclear .

    Chief scientist issues warning over DECC budget

    A new report by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir John Beddington has warned that substantial budget cuts to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) could derail efforts to develop the new clean technologies required to decarbonise the energy sector.

    The Government Office for Science published a report last week from a panel of independent experts led by Beddington examining DECC’s use of science and analysis throughout its operations.


    According to the report, a large proportion of DECC’s budget is spent on areas where science has a role to play. Around half, £2bn a year, goes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, while another £1bn will be spent on the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) demonstration programme.

    A further £200m will be spent over four years on low-carbon technologies, including up to £60m on the development of offshore wind manufacturing at port sites.

    However, the review panel warned that the department could struggle to develop new technologies in the timescales required, because its innovation budget is being cut by 60 per cent, from £150m last year to £40m a year for the next four years.

  • John, it is conceivable that the government’s Energy Imbestment Report, issued this month, may contain more up-to-date information than a report from the Chief Scientist which is 23 months old.

  • Paul Walter
    The Chief Scientists report related to the budget over 4 years.
    The majority of the DECC budget is spent on clean up of nuclear damage done by private businesses.
    It is not green investment. Ed Daveu could make that clear but it does not fit in with his mad dash for nuclear, it is yet another inconvenient fact which no amount of spin or glossy pictures can cover up.

    I believe that Liberal Democrats in government should promote Liberal Democrat policies. Sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors etc should have no place on our approach. Instead of covering up and pretending . You may think otherwise . But in the long run Ed Davey’s reputation will be determined by the facts not by the spin.

  • I don’t agree with your overblown hyperbole John, no.

  • Green Voter 22nd Jul '14 - 5:26pm

    “The majority of the DECC budget is spent on clean up of nuclear damage”

    okay, so what do you propose? Do we stop using nuclear?

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Jul '14 - 7:49pm

    Green Voter 22nd Jul ’14 – 5:26pm
    “The majority of the DECC budget is spent on clean up of nuclear damage” “okay, so what do you propose? Do we stop using nuclear?”

    Not exactly our typical Green Voter are we?

    I would also imagine that the majority of voters, let alone Lib Dem or Green voters would agree with the principle of the polluter pays.

    It would appear that some here are happy with comparisons which show nuclear power to be cost competitive when you take out the costs of decommissioning and the long term storage of the highly radioactive waste. It is simply and totally dishonest.

    So Green Voter(?), I would suggest that Liberal Democrat Ministers stick to the agreed compromise.
    The nuclear power industry has been the recipient of billions of pounds of investment and subsidy since the 1950’s … and they still don’t have a practical cost-effective and safe technology. Suggesting they do is nothing more than overblown hyperbole!

  • Green Voter 22nd Jul '14 - 8:09pm

    @Stephen Hesketh
    I voted green in the Euro election because none of the 3 main parties seem very appealing. It is hard to trust the Lib Dem given their backing of the NHS reforms and tuition fees.

    My concern in getting rid of nuclear is that it is not clear to me if that would produce an energy gap

  • Stephen Hesketh 22nd Jul '14 - 8:34pm

    Green Voter 22nd Jul ’14 – 8:09pm
    My concern in getting rid of nuclear is that it is not clear to me if that would produce an energy gap.

    That is a genuine concern that needs to be addressed on the basis of facts including operating safety, waste disposal and genuine cost effectiveness. If such a review came to the conclusion that we had proper solutions to these and that we still needed nuclear as part of our energy mix, I would accept it.

    Regarding safety, my starting point is that humans and human designed technology is fallible. If a wind turbine overloads we get lots of fireworks. If a reactor melts down we have tonnes of extremely radioactive and toxic material released into the environment. I believe that people must accept responsibility for a percentage of their electricity (including fracked gas) to be produced locally. We would soon see which way the wind blows and what it potentially carries with it!

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