11 November 2010

Chris Huhne on Pragmatic Energy Policies

Speaking in China earlier this week, Chris Huhne, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, provided an indication of just how much the debate over climate change policies has evolved.  He explained that policies focused on decarbonizing energy supply are justified on a much broader and pragmatic base than simply concern about climate change:
The UK's commitment to a sustainable energy mix is motivated by growing evidence that climate change is a tangible threat.

But it is also driven by more pragmatic concerns.

The first is purely economic.

For too long, our national prosperity was tied to the financial wizards in the City of London.

Risk-taking casino capitalism replaced manufacturing and production, hollowing out our industrial heartlands and creating an economy that was overly dependent on the financial sector.

When the credit crunch struck, were hit hard. We have had to cut public spending to pay down our budget deficit.

In the face of fiscal austerity, is it clear that greening our economy is the best way build a more balanced economy – and to secure more sustainable growth. With thousands of jobs in whole new industries, it is one of the brightest prospects not just for economic recovery, but for growth.

The second reason for our low-carbon transition is security.

As an island nation with dwindling fossil fuel resources, we are increasingly reliant on imported energy. Our energy import dependence could double by 2020.

Energy security is a prime concern.

Our winters are nowhere near as cold as those in Beijing. Nor are our summers as hot as Sichuan.

But we depend on scarce natural resources to keep our people warm and our economy moving.

Regardless of the public consensus on climate change, it is clear that relying on increasingly rare fossil fuels is not a long-term option. We cannot be exposed to the risk of resource conflict. Nor can we afford to remain at the mercy of volatile fossil fuel markets.

Not only are we vulnerable to interruptions in supply, we are also exposed to fluctuations in price. Oil or gas price shocks could reverberate throughout our fragile economy, hampering growth.

A more sustainable supply of energy is not an expensive luxury. It is a critical component in our national and economic security.

We are committed to clean coal with carbon capture and storage. To new nuclear power without public subsidy. To a radical nationwide programme of energy saving.

And to improve drastically our uptake of renewable energy.

Because thanks to a decade of under-investment in renewables by previous governments, we have a lot of ground to make up.
Huhne's comments are a sign that the debate is moving in a healthy direction.