Partisan politics put UK climate change policy at risk: minister

LONDON Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:25pm EST

Britain's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey speaks speaks during the Liberal Democrats annual conference in Brighton, southern England September 23, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Britain's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey speaks speaks during the Liberal Democrats annual conference in Brighton, southern England September 23, 2012 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's efforts to combat climate change are in danger of disarray because "partisan politics" may scare off investors, Energy Minister Ed Davey said on Thursday.

Davey, a member of the junior coalition partner Liberal Democrats, criticized both Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labour party for endangering plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage investment in cleaner energy sources.

"If we are to persuade companies to make long-term investments in Britain's low carbon future, they need to see that there is a political consensus on energy and climate change policy that rises above the normal everyday partisan politics," he said in a speech.

The intervention fits a strategy by the Liberal Democrats to differentiate themselves from their political rivals before a general election in May 2015.

The party's support has dwindled since the last election, with some voters unhappy that they backtracked on core policies. Latest polls give them 10 percent of the popular vote, down from 23 percent in 2010.

Davey accused some Conservative politicians of seizing on anomalies in scientific data to cast doubt on climate change, saying that they were causing some investors to worry that the government might turn its back on "green" energy sources.

"This type of climate change denying conservatism is wilfully ignorant," Davey said, although he added that the number of skeptics was small and that Cameron himself was firmly behind the climate change policy.

Nevertheless, some fringe members of Cameron's party have played down the significance of climate change and opposed renewable energy. Many face pressure from voters over the local impact of wind farms and solar panels.

Conservative minister Michael Fallon, who shares an energy and business remit in the government, rejected Davey's comments, saying in a newspaper interview that "unthinking climate change worship" had damaged British industry and put energy costs up.

Davey also criticized Conservatives who want to leave the European Union, saying Britain was better able to influence the world's biggest carbon emitters as part of the 28-country bloc.

He said "Europhobia" in parts of the Conservative party had created a "diabolical cocktail that threatens the whole long-term structure of UK climate change and energy policy."

He also criticized Labour, who in September promised to freeze energy prices for 20 months if they won the election.

Davey said the price freeze was "ham-fisted", counter-productive for consumers and a deterrent to investment.

"A price freeze is anti-competitive, reducing competition further rather than extending it, taking us back to square one again," he said, adding that it would mean lower energy bills.

"It also threatens to choke off the very investment in renewables and energy infrastructure that the country desperately needs."

(Additional reporting by Ben Garside; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (3)
albertjazz wrote:
The wettest period for 250 years ! so was it Global Warming,sorry Climate Change then…Directly the weather acts the Global Warming ,or is it Climate Change lobby climb on board and use the situation to promote their views.

Feb 13, 2014 6:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
albertjazz wrote:
The wettest period for 250 years ! so was it Global Warming,sorry Climate Change then…Directly the weather acts the Global Warming ,or is it Climate Change lobby climb on board and use the situation to promote their views.

Feb 13, 2014 6:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
JoeBloggs2 wrote:
I take all this climate change with a large grain of salt. The reason is that the globe is ringed with circumpolar winds. Unfortunately these bands of wind do not always stay in the same place, they change their latitudes from time to time. As to the stormy weather that is hitting the UK, IMHO this furious weather ought to be more northerly at this time of year. The furious weather is usually in the north of Scotland and Iceland in winter but this year the circumpolar winds, the jet stream, call it what you like, has moved south. Gaia is just flexing her muscles to show who is the boss so just get over it. I would however like to offer my condolences to those who have been flooded-out of their homes.

Feb 13, 2014 7:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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