Energy Bill: open letter to Jason McCartney MP

Dear Jason,

I am writing to you on behalf of Kirklees Campaign Against Climate Change regarding the government’s Energy Bill.

Since we were last in contact, as you know, Tim Yeo has tabled an amendment to the Bill stipulating that electricity should be virtually carbon-free by 2030. Please can you tell me whether you will be supporting that amendment?

In your email dated 18th December (see below) you stated “I may well support Tim Yeo given the opportunity as the Energy Bill progresses but need to listen to the implications and costs for household bills. I will not burden families on low incomes with yet higher energy and food bills.” Please can I ask you to read the letter that Lord Deben, the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change wrote to Ed Davey, reported on Wednesday of this week?

According to the Guardian coverage, Lord Deben states that “Ministers are unnecessarily driving up energy bills for consumers by failing to fully commit to low-carbon energy production”. He explains that the failure to decarbonise electricity will impact on supply chain investment decisions and project development. The same article also quotes David Kennedy, CCC Chief Executive as saying “The risk, without a 2030 carbon target, is that we don’t get supply chain investment now, and fail to drive costs down – this would mean that we don’t get value for money from the large amount of funding already committed by the government. The risk is also that we get a five year investment hiatus from 2020, something we should try hard to avoid in the interests of keeping down long term costs and electricity prices.”

The coverage of the same letter in ‘Business Green’ compares the costs of a ‘dash for gas’ with more dependence on renewable (and nuclear).

The article states: “However, Deben argues there is scant evidence that complying with a decarbonisation target will prove costly, pointing to a CCC analysis that suggests the ‘electricity price impacts of committing to a low-carbon path beyond 2020 are very limited, with comparable prices to the alternative dash for gas through the 2020s, and relatively low prices thereafter’.

“The Committee is predicting the cost of onshore wind and nuclear power through the 2020s will average out at £85/MWh, compared to £80/MWh for unabated gas generation when the impact of carbon prices are taken into account.”

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that we would be arguing for the decarbonisation of the electricity supply – as a significant part of the UK’s mitigation strategy – even if these relatively short term economic benefits didn’t exist.

Why? Because catastrophic climate change will be phenomenally expensive in terms of money, lives and ecosystem destruction, not to mention the impacts of increased war and conflict. Please don’t take our word for this: please read the World Bank’s report, ‘Turn Down the Heat’ (November 2012) that states that the world is on course for temperatures of 4 degrees above pre-industrial levels and analyses the catastrophic consequences of this.

Given this threat, even without short-term economic benefits, acting on reducing emissions would be the right thing to do, just as spending on the armed forces, education and the NHS, while costly, is -in many senses- far less costly than the consequences of not spending on them.

Fortunately, however, we don’t need to argue about short term versus long term economic (and ecological and humanitarian) benefit. Lord Deben’s letter makes clear that, at least in this instance, taking action on climate change will have short term and long term economic benefits.

If you support Tim Yeo’s amendment, we are sure that you will receive criticism from some quarters in your party and your constituency but we hope that, armed with information from Lord Deben and other sources, you will be able to respond to them with confidence and reassurance.

We look forward to hearing your response and, of course, will be happy to discuss the matter further.

Kind regards,

Tim Padmore

On behalf of Kirklees Campaign Against Climate Change