Lib Dems have a strong message on energy and climate change, but there are still unanswered questions

Reading through our manifesto last week, I was pleased to see us champion the UK’s green credentials with a strong set of energy and climate policies.

While the environment isn’t a hot topic in this year’s campaign, it’s good to see Tim writing in Business Green about the need to change Britain’s future and clean up sectors like power, heat and transport.

Our manifesto will see the UK use renewables to generate up to 60 per cent of electricity by 2030; invest in solutions like energy storage, carbon capture and storage, and grid infrastructure; and pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to set new targets on cutting emissions.

This is a fantastic platform, and we should be proud of our record on supporting clean energy and protecting the environment.

However, I’d argue there are some areas in which we need to develop our approach:

1) Lib Dems have committed to staying a part of EURATOM (vital for our nuclear industry), but what about the EU’s internal energy market, or the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)?

Tim talks about “keeping Britain as close as possible to our neighbours in Europe”. This should include fighting for the UK to remain as interlinked as possible with the continent’s energy market, which allows power to flow freely across Europe’s borders.

We need to weigh up whether to remain a part of the ETS, something we’ve not always been clear on. It’s a flawed system, but fixing it will be easier from within.

2) Labour and the Conservatives have pledged an energy price cap, but it’s not clear what this would look like; how should we position ourselves?

Lib Dems opposed Ed Miliband’s price freeze, and Sir Ed Davey has hit out at Tory plans this election, but I think it’s fair to say some form of market intervention is now likely.

We need a strong position on what this should look like, and how we want Government and the regulator to implement it.

It’s good that we’re backing new market entrants, but our plan needs detail if we want 30 per cent of domestic consumers to be supplied by Big Six competitors by 2022.

3) We’re backing low carbon energy, but it’s not yet clear how we’ll manage the energy transition and balance the energy mix.

It’s good to see us supporting tidal power, offshore wind and solar PV, as well as the grid infrastructure needed to make the most of these technologies.

It’s crucial that our platform enables the UK to have a balanced, low carbon energy mix. In my view, this means reconsidering our opposition to subsidies for new nuclear power.

Together with opposition to fracking, we need to flesh out our position in areas like biomass, coal and oil & gas. The UK fossil fuel industry isn’t going away, so we need Lib Dem solutions on growing sectors like CCS and decommissioning.

In a week when Donald Trump has pulled out of the Paris Agreement to only token resistance from our Prime Minister – there’s an open letter criticising May on the Lib Dem website – it’s important that we’re proud of our strong position on energy and environmental issues.

We’ve made a great start with this manifesto. At Spring Conference, spokesperson Baroness Featherstone gave a great speech calling for a “green Industrial Revolution”, good for jobs and growth as well as efficiency, innovation and clean technologies.

So we’re in a great position to further develop our position and take our rightful place as leaders on energy and climate change in the next five years.

* Matt campaigns with the Southwark Liberal Democrats and was Eastleigh’s Constituency Organiser in 2015. He tweets about politics, mental health and social care @MattDolman.

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  • Matt: “next 5 years”. We are on the ropes, our backs are to every wall I can find, we are publishing silly posters and now in London publishing one without checking that it was the name of an actual company! In our desperation are we being two clever by half.
    It is debateable whether we will have nought or a dozen MPs next Friday. If it is the former we will have to target why we did so badly and spend the next 3 years trying to put the organisation right. Obviously I hope it is the latter but readers here know full well my grim forebodings over the past 5 weeks. Oh well lets go and deliver some leaflets, trying to save our deposit here, (we need the money), but again not optimistic.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Jun '17 - 12:57pm

    Donald Trump’s decision on the Paris agreement has met widespread opposition in the USA. He got votes in coal mining areas. In the UK he has the support of UKIP’s Paul Nuttall. The mayor of New York, a conservative with a Wall Street background, has come out against it, saying that they need not be stopped “by Washington”. There is a strong pro-business case of renewable energy in the USA, as Bill Clinton pointed out when President. The expansion of solar continues despite what the US President says. Where renewables become profitable without subsidy they will get increasing investment.

  • Denis Mollison 3rd Jun '17 - 12:59pm

    A strong energy policy would make all non-renewable energy more expensive. In general we should be shifting taxation so as to tax resources, not employment.

  • Jenny Barnes 3rd Jun '17 - 3:29pm

    carbon capture and storage ? Powered by pixie dust has more credibility.
    CCS takes 25 % of the power generated and the liquefied CO2 has to be stored for 1000 years plus in potentially leaky underground wells for it to make a difference. Makes nuclear power look sensible.

  • John Bennett 3rd Jun '17 - 6:23pm

    As a non-partisan I find the distinctions between LibDem and Green puzzling and annoying. Liberal and LibDem policy should have always been, and sometimes was, such that there was no reason to form a Green party.

    Oh and forget the EU.

    I will never vote Labour or Tory while they oppose STV; it may soon be that there will nothing else to support.

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