Today the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, gave a speech on the Government’s new energy policy. It involves cutting back further on renewables and increasing nuclear and gas. Decarbonisation has been down-graded in terms of priority. It also includes the end of electricity from coal, which Liberal Democrats have long argued for and which the Conservatives repeatedly opposed during the Coalition.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change, Lynne Featherstone, commented:
“It is utter madness of the Government to pull investment from the renewable sector which generates economic growth and jobs. We have been a world leader in this field and maintaining that status is now in jeopardy.
“Huskies will be turning in their graves. For five years we fought sceptical Tories to ensure the Coalition was the greenest Government ever. In the last 6 months this progress has unravelled to a spectacular degree.
“Britain should be leading the world in the green economy and setting an example to other nations ahead of the UN talks in Paris. It is shameful that the work we began in Coalition to deliver this is being unpicked.”
You can argue that David Cameron first showed his true colours when he told aides to cut the “green crap” two years ago, but the fact is that he had no choice but to keep the coalition’s commitments to renewable energy while the Lib Dems were in government and able to protect them.
Even in the teeth of the recession that followed the financial crisis, Lib Dems in government stayed true to our environmental priorities. As a result of joining the coalition, we were able to create the first Green Investment Bank in the western world – backing renewable energy and environmental sustainability schemes with £3 billion of financial support. There are now rumours that this bank will be privatised at some point in the coming parliament.
We also secured significant subsidies for wind farms and other renewable energy projects, and the ‘green levies’ – taxes on energy companies on the basis of their use of non-renewable energy – that provide the subsidies for those projects to get off the ground. Today’s budget removes entirely a range of tax exemptions that we had worked hard to provide in order to encourage renewable energy production – risking turning back the clock on Britain’s energy network by decades.
In Britain, the amount of energy generated from renewable sources doubled over the course of the last government, as a direct result of Liberal Democrats being able to make a difference and strongly support renewable energy. We made protecting our environment and securing a safer future through reductions in carbon emissions both national and international priorities for the last government.
It is no surprise to see the Tories taking a wrecking ball to those hard-won achievements as soon as Liberal Democrats were no longer there to protect them.
Local Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies today won a major victory for users of e-cigs when the European Parliament backed his call for e-cigs to be available for sale on the same basis as tobacco. MEPs rejected plans for them to be treated as medicines, increasing their cost and reducing their availability in many countries.
Chris won support for his demand that e-cigs meet product safety standards and for restrictions on their advertising and marketing, but he insisted they had a major role to play in reducing tobacco-related deaths.
He said: “E-cigs can be a game changer in the fight against smoking. Hundreds of former smokers have written to tell me that they have helped them give up cigarettes when nothing else worked.
“They are successful because they are not medicines but products that smokers enjoy using as an alternative to cigarettes.
“Every year 700,000 people in Europe die of smoking-related disease and we should do nothing that makes e-cigs harder to obtain than tobacco cigarettes.”
The European Parliament decision on e-cigs was opposed by Labour MEPs but supported by Liberal Democrat, Conservative and UKIP members. It puts the Parliament in conflict with the governments of Britain and a majority of EU countries.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to all British MEPs last week urging them to back medicinal regulation for e-cigs.
Attempts must now be made to find a compromise between the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.
Chris Davies called for ministers to think afresh about their attitude: “E-cigs are a new product so it’s not surprising that many politicians have still not realised how big a role they could play in reducing the use of tobacco.”