Skip to main content

The statements from the leaders of the three main parties at the last General Election that they would stay the course on climate change was good news for climate policy, but bad news for those hoping for a detailed policy discussion about the energy choices the UK faces in the coming years.

The period of 2015-20 will likely witness events in the global energy market which will require the UK government to work harder to secure energy imports. As the effects of climate change begin to take hold there is a further incentive to decarbonise as quickly as is technically possible. Furthermore, in order to ensure rising household income, it is essential that there be affordable energy sources made available to all consumers.

There are a number of ideas in need of further attention, which can be divided into three categories – consumer led, cultural shifts and the role of the current Parliament. These categories reflect a broad church of policy ideas emerging from debate and discussion through a range of forums, including Bright Blue’s Energy and Climate Forum.

Consumer-led approach

– Combine all charges aimed at boosting the green economy into a single amount based on the price of carbon. This way, people will know exactly what percentage of their utility bills are for green energy investment and end the misinformation campaigns surrounding energy prices.

– Encourage the use of smart metering for both homes and businesses by highlighting benefits. Outline the economic case for being aware of the energy that is used, incentivise off peak use for energy intensive activities and reward through lower tariff prices people who are willing to be more flexible with their gas and electricity consumption.

– Start a new conversation about energy – rather than focus on seemingly intractable problems (Russia, instability in Middle East, fracking) focus instead on the low hanging fruit where agreement is more likely to be reached. These would include energy efficiency and improvements to building codes as well as a closer examination of other sources of natural gas from agricultural and domestic waste.

Cultural shifts and a refocus on local issues

– Recycling standardisation – ensure that levels of recycling remain consistently high and improve by both making the process of sorting very simple and ensuring that circular economies are created locally, thereby further reducing our need for resources. Local initiatives should be devised to ensure high recovery rates of recycled materials, with effective education and awareness campaigns to increase the participation rates.

– Include climate change and environmental issues in a civics/ethics class for all pupils before the age of 16. This will go some way towards ensuring a high level awareness of these crucial issues and empower young people to get more involved in politics.

 
A role for Parliament

– It is crucial that local communities become more involved with producing emissions-free energy and Parliament can devise policies to facilitate this by making it easier to set up a renewable energy cooperative, providing advice and guidance on how to make efficiency improvements to municipal buildings and championing all the good work that has been done in the past. Equally important must be efforts to accelerate energy efficiency measures throughout the economy, especially heating fuels.

– There are still issues regarding time spent discussing alternative energy sources to fossil fuels. Media cycles have a tendency to latch onto a particular source, be it nuclear power, wind turbines, solar, biofuels, biomass or, more recently, fracking. Approaches to tackling greenhouse gases need to have equal discussion time in Parliament so as to address the problem from both the macro and micro level.

– Electricity receives much attention (perhaps even too much) mostly because of the large decisions that need to be made to ensure electricity supply and affordability. Anaerobic digesters, Solar PV, Solar thermal, tidal lagoons, offshore and onshore wind can help facilitate British ‘Energewiende’. They can mitigate the effects of turning off the UK’s coal fired generators thereby providing jobs, security of supply and ensure that the UK meets it climate goals in a cost effective way.

Peter Kirby-Harris and Chris Hayes are coordinators of Bright Blue’s forums. To attend our next Education forum rsvp here