CCC CEO – Don’t bank on carbon budget policy change

At a seminar this week there was a chance to hear from one of the key protagonists in the governments discussions on climate change policy.

David Kennedy (CEO of the Committee on Climate Change) was candid in confirming that energy policy was now being run from Number 10 and the Treasury.   His view was that this represented a grave risk as the lack of resources to handle the technical detail of the energy market in Number 10 would lead to mistakes.  The gas strategy appears to be a prime example.

However Kennedy did sound a note of optimism for those looking for UK to fully commit to the low carbon energy track.  Many in the media have been expecting the 2014 review of the carbon budget for 2022-27 to be formality – the denouement of the Treasury’s row back on the Climate Change Act targets.  Kennedy disagreed.

Kennedy’s view was that some members of the Treasury thought that the failure of the EU to pledge an increase in ambition to cut carbon emissions from 20% to 30% by 2020 would automatically trigger a change in UK policy in 2014.   He confirmed that this is not the case.  A failure by the EU to increase ambition did not mean that the fundamental science had changed.   If anything, he considered the scientific case for decarbonisation was getting stronger, as a new IPCC report would show.  If the UK government is committed to basing policy on scientific evidence, as the Climate Change Act intended, we should not expect the review in 2014 to do anything but confirm the current tough targets on emissions reductions into the late 2020’s.

Kennedy bemoaned the lack of decarbonisation targets in the Energy Bill and suggested that the omission will create uncertainty in the energy infrastructure supply chain.  But Kennedy recommended that rather than bicker over carbon budgets, the government should take the opportunity of the run up to the review in 2014 to push a relentlessly positive narrative about a low carbon economy.

Kennedy’s is a strong, progressive voice.  But after the maelstrom around his application to DECC’s most senior job in the past few weeks, how likely is it that he will still be in a position to push this message in the lead-up to the crucial review in two year’s time?

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