UK Government should ‘follow Obama’s lead on energy policy’

The UK Government is being urged to follow the US President’s lead on energy policy as Barack Obama laid out new proposals for the US to fight climate change earlier […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The UK Government is being urged to follow the US President’s lead on energy policy as Barack Obama laid out new proposals for the US to fight climate change earlier this week.

The call from Barry Gardiner MP, Leader of the Opposition’s Special Envoy for Climate Change and Environment comes as a new report published by the Committee on Climate Change – of which Mr Gardiner is a member – concludes that many Government policies, including the Green Deal scheme, are “failing on their own terms”.

It is the fifth of the Committee’s annual Progress reports, which looks at whether the UK is on track to meet its legally binding emissions reduction targets at the lowest possible cost.

Mr Obama’s plans include setting a limit on carbon emissions that can be released from power plants following his administration’s pledge to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by around 17% compared to 2005 levels by 2020.

Mr Gardiner said: “This is the strongest critique of Government policy that the Committee on Climate Change has yet produced. Their analysis shows that successful policies have been scrapped and replaced with failing ones. President Obama has this week committed the United States to an emissions performance standard and a long-term target for clean energy. These are precisely the measures that I tabled amendments on during the passage of the Energy Bill through the House.

“The Government has the opportunity now, as the Bill makes its way into the House of Lords, to accept these measures and follow President Obama’s lead.”

Environmental group Greenpeace said the US President’s plans could be the “dawn of a new era in which the White House finally stands up to the fossil fuel giants”.

UK Executive Director John Sauven said: “The President is embracing policies that will excite people around the world and if the full potential of this plan is realised then we could look back at this speech as a landmark moment. At the very least it sends a huge signal. For years, since the failure of the Copenhagen summit and the onset of the financial crisis, politicians have ignored this issue. Now the world’s most powerful man is saying, ‘We’re going to talk about climate change again’.

“If this speech is to mean anything, if Obama is serious about challenging the dominance of the oil, gas and coal lobby, then the US diplomats who go to Poland will be the first to push for real action instead of holding the world back.”

The World Energy Council also welcomed the new climate change strategy. Secretary General Christoph Frei said: “It is important to recognise that as the world embarks on a massive transformation in its energy system, the trade in green goods and services must not be hindered by any trade distortions.

“Countries and regions need to recognise that we will all benefit from a level playing field in respect of tariffs and subsidies. Such an approach will reduce the massive cost involved in this transformation and encourage the take-up of the much needed new technologies to deliver a more diversified energy mix thus helping to reduce the impacts of GHG emissions.”