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Bright Blue held its Energy and Climate Change Forum last week at Westminster’s Old Star pub. Ben Caldecott, an Associate Fellow with Bright Blue and author of ‘Green & Responsible Conservatism’, started the discussion. He suggested that liberal conservatives had a real opportunity to make a practical difference to the energy debate, as they possessed both an understanding of climate change science and a predilection for solutions that worked with rather than against human nature.

A number of policy proposals were put forward, including shutting down all of Britain’s remaining coal fired power stations, a contributor to 1,600 premature deaths in the UK every year. Investment in smart technologies like electricity storage was advocated, along with further reform of the Feed in Tariff regime aimed at encouraging individual homeowners to invest in sizable domestic energy generation and retention measures. It was suggested that shale gas represented something of a ‘red herring’ in the UK, and that its potential to make a practical contribution to the UK’s energy mix has been oversold.

Next month’s United Nations Climate Change talks in Paris were discussed at length, including debate on whether British efforts to reduce carbon emissions were rendered futile by the continued growth of China’s economy. In response to this point it was suggested that Britain’s historic role as the first nation to use coal on an industrial scale conferred a moral responsibly on us to pioneer the abandonment of fossil fuels – as well as giving our advocacy of carbon reduction particular weight. It was further suggested that China was now prioritising renewable energy, with popular discontent at pollution in major cities being an important motivating factor.

Rebecca Harris, the Member of Parliament for Castle Point, spoke about the campaign for lighter evenings. Rebecca stressed that, whilst most discussion of the campaign centred on the health and safety benefits of moving to lighter evenings, it was important also to remember that the changeover could also reduce demand for energy.  She described how the current UK timekeeping system caused a spike in energy demand on winter evenings, when workers returning home switched on lights, and argued that a switch to permanent British summertime hours would reduce carbon emissions by over 450,000 tonnes each year. The beneficial impact of lighter evening on road safety and public exercise rates were also discussed at length. 

The evening’s discussion ended on a practical note, with different ways to support the lighter later campaign being explored. Warm thanks to Peter Kirby-Harris for coordinating the Forum, and to all the participants for their contributions. Why not join us next time?

Matt Browne is an Associate at Bright Blue and tweets @MattRCBrowne