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What to do about a problem like Paterson?

coal power pollutionLike a lover scorned whose painful split is being acted out on the public stage, Owen Paterson, the former Environment Secretary has taken to the offensive.

Describing Greenpeace as ‘wicked’, climate change campaigners as the ‘green blob’ and calling for the 2007 Climate Change Act to be scrapped it’s fair to say that Paterson hasn’t been making many friends in the lobby since his sacking from the cabinet.

In his latest tie up with former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, Paterson has heavily criticised the current status quo and called for fundamental changes to the way the government manages energy policy.

Paterson has claimed:

  • Britain will struggle to “keep the lights on” unless the Government changes its green energy policies;
  • The plan to slash carbon emissions and rely more heavily on wind and other renewable energy sources is fatally flawed;
  • Customers will have to get used to temporary power cuts to conserve energy;
  • Britain is the only country to have agreed to the legally binding target of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050;
  • To do so Britain must build 4,500 wind turbines every year for 36 years;
  • The scale of the investment required to meet the 2050 target “is so great that it could not be achieved”;
  • That the current “decarbonisation route” will end with the worst of all possible worlds;
  • That Britain will end up worse off than if it adopted less ambitious but achievable targets;
  • That he was appalled at the damage to the countryside from new pylons to take electricity from remote onshore wind farms;
  • That ultimately once reality dawns, the Government will have to build gas and coal power stations “in a screaming hurry” to keep the country moving.

Paterson has instead argued that:

  • The 2007 Climate Change Act, which ties Britain into stringent targets to reduce the use of fossil fuels, should be suspended until other countries agree to take similar measures as has the UK;
  • That ministers should exercise a clause in the Act that allows them to suspend the law without another vote of MPs;
  • If other countries fail to match the UK’s commitment to targets, the legislation should be scrapped altogether;
  • An alternative strategy should be implemented with areas serviced by dozens of small nuclear power stations based on smaller “modular” nuclear reactors and “rational” demand management. This would see dozens of small nuclear power stations, using reactors that are already fitted into submarines, being built around the country.
  • And that Britain’s energy needs are better met by investing in extracting shale gas through fracking and capturing the heat from nuclear reactors.

Paterson said:

“Blind adhesion to the 2050 targets will not reduce emissions and will fail to keep the lights on.

“The current energy policy is a slave to flawed climate action.

“It will cost £1,100bn, fail to meet the very emissions targets it is designed to meet, and will not provide the UK’s energy requirements.

“In the short and medium term, costs to consumers will rise dramatically, but there can only be one ultimate consequence of this policy: the lights will go out at some time in the future.

“Not because of a temporary shortfall, but because of structural failures, from which we will find it extremely difficult and expensive to recover.

“Let us hope we have an opportunity to put it [my proposals] into practice. We must be prepared to stand up to the bullies in the environmental movement and their subsidy-hungry allies.

“What I am proposing is that instead of investing huge sums in wind power, we should encourage investment in four possible common sense policies: shale gas, combined heat and power, small modular nuclear reactors and demand management.

“That would reduce emissions rapidly, without risking power cuts and would be affordable. What’s stopping this programme? Simply, the 2050 target is.”

Responding to Paterson’s proposals Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:

“Ripping up the Climate Change Act would be one of the most stupid economic decisions imaginable.

“The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change exists while most leading British businesses and City investment funds agree with the Coalition that taking out an ‘insurance policy’ now will protect the UK against astronomical future costs caused by a changing climate.

“The majority of European countries are ready to implement proposals that would see [them] adopt targets similar to our Climate Change Act in a deal the Prime Minister should seal later this month.

“With the USA, China and India also now taking the climate change threat seriously, the global marketplace for green technology is increasingly strong.”

Touché, Ed.