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Date posted: 15 August 2016
The new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was set up in July 2016 as a result of a merger between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The new Secretary of State is Greg Clark MP.
Operation Noah wrote to Mr Clark in August outlining their hopes and concerns regarding the new department.
The text of our letter is below:
Firstly, may I congratulate you on your new appointment in Theresa May’s cabinet. At Operation Noah we welcome you to this very important position and look forward to working with you. Operation Noah is an ecumenical Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change.
In the last months of the previous Government many measures that were helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were reversed, seemingly in order to reduce the cost of these to the Government and to house builders. As a result the UK dropped out of the list of the top ten best countries in which to invest in renewable energy and many companies had to close down or reduce their size.
Here are some facts to ponder: fifteen of the last sixteen years have been the hottest ever recorded and 2016 is on track to be the hottest on record; June 2016 marked the 14th consecutive month of record heat for land and oceans and it also marked the 378th consecutive month with temperature above the twentieth-century average (the last month below this average was December 1984); atmospheric carbon dioxide is now above the 400ppmv the whole time, and rose in June 2016 to 407ppmv, 4ppmv greater than in June 2015. In relation to the UK these statistics are reinforced by the Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Synthesis Report of the Committee on Climate Change.
Operation Noah were pleased to note that the last Government approved the so-called fifth carbon budget of the Committee on Climate Change proposed last November: a 57% cut in emissions by 2032, based on 1990 levels. However, the Committee on Climate Change’s 8th annual progress report at the end of June 2016 has stated that while emissions from electricity generation were falling fast, pollution from transport was rising and, as pointed out above, action on cutting carbon emissions from houses had gone backwards, especially as a result of the scrapping of plans for new houses to be zero carbon. To this must be added the cancellation of the programme to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the reduction in funding for energy efficiency. Unless, therefore, new measures are put in place the new carbon budget will not be achieved.
Mr Clark, in the Government’s statement announcing the creation of the new BEIS department you are quoted as saying that ‘one of the main challenges in tackling climate change is to try to reduce carbon emissions without jeopardising economic growth’. However, especially given the development of techniques such as battery storage, a major drive to increase investment in all forms of renewable energy and in increasing the efficiency of energy use would help to promote economic growth.
Nevertheless, the carbon emissions situation is so serious that the survival of humankind has to be the absolute priority and preventing runaway climate change is only going to be achieved by reducing emissions. The backward steps taken by the last Government in so many areas, already referred to, was a colossal mistake driven by the Treasury, something that must not be allowed to happen again.
While the Government’s legal responsibility is to tackle climate change so as to achieve the target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, there is now a new and further obligation under the Paris Agreement of December 2015 to prevent annual global temperatures from exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial times. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the Paris Agreement by most countries are not enough to prevent the average global temperature rise reaching just under 3°C, which is too high and underlines the need to act urgently to reduce carbon emissions and to stabilise global temperature rise below 1.5°C or 2°C.
We would therefore like to know what your department is planning with regard to these matters.
Finally, we find it difficult to understand how the planned construction of the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors can be approved because there is little hope of them being in operation by 2025, which means that ensuring there is enough electricity to meet demand can scarcely be used as a justification. This can and should instead be achieved by measures as suggested above, plus other initiatives aimed at reducing demand.
I look forward to receiving your reply and please let me know if you or one of your advisers would like to meet with me and others on our board.
Chair, Operation Noah, on behalf of the board