This is the first in a series of three articles examining climate change and the opportunities created from decarbonisation written by the Conservative Environment Network (CEN). The aim of CEN is to advocate solutions to environmental problems that are consistent with conservative principals. The theme of this article is the benefits of a low carbon energy mix. By Adam Buckley with Ben Caldecott and Gavin Dick.
The next twenty years requires the rebuilding of over 30% of our electricity infrastructure. As Thatcher pursued a 'dash for gas' strategy we need to decide between rebuilding a high carbon economy or creating a new low carbon one based on efficiency and low carbon energy. Despite numerous energy reviews Labour has failed to make a decision.
Should the Conservatives win the election David Cameron will have the opportunity, as Margaret Thatcher did, to redefine our energy policy. The Conservative Low Carbon Economy paper sets out what they might do in government and it would have wide-ranging environmental, as well as economic, benefits.
CEN believes that we should consider climate change a significant risk and decarbonise accordingly. But even without the very real and obvious risks associated with climate change, decarbonisation has other profound benefits. In a world without climate change it would still make sense, if done in a cost-effective way, for Britain to save energy, use less foreign fossil fuels, and develop indigenous sources of low carbon energy.
The least contentious and economically rational decarbonisation measure is energy efficiency, clearly demonstrated in the McKinsey cost curve. Even without the threat of climate change we should use less energy – simply because it can save us money quickly. But to do so we need to tackle the market failures that prevent people and organisations from improving their energy efficiency, principally: access to capital, knowing what to do and reducing the “hassle” factor.