November 27, 2015 / 2:46 PM / 5 years ago

Britain sends mixed messages on climate ahead of Paris talks

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s cuts to renewable energy subsidies and abandonment of its carbon capture and storage scheme are likely to diminish the country’s influence at the global climate talks starting in Paris this weekend, investors and green groups said.

A power-generating windmill turbine is seen in front of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris ahead of the COP21 World Climate Summit, France, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Britain’s commitment to foreign aid, including around 5.8 billion in climate finance from 2016-2021, has enabled the country to be an influential deal broker at climate talks in the past, gaining the ears of developed and developing countries.

But a swathe of cuts to renewable support in recent months, coupled with a decision on Wednesday to abandon a 1 billion pound competition designed to bring to commercialisation technology to capture emissions from power plants and store them underground, has harmed its status.

“The situation on domestic policy is very confused and the international implications of the CCS decision are very damaging,” said Chris Littlecott at climate thinktank E3G.

“Britain ... previously played an active and positive role in the negotiations. Its action on CCS has been part of that diplomacy,” he said.

As part of a joint initiative on climate change with China, Britain last year committed to spending 35 million pounds to help fund CCS development in Asia.

China, the world’s largest consumer of coal, wants to develop CCS projects to help curb emissions from its thousands of coal-fired power plants.

A spokesperson from Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it is still committed to meeting its domestic carbon reduction targets and pushing for a strong deal from the Paris climate talks.

They also pointed to last week’s decision by Britain to phase out unabated coal-plants (those without CCS) – by the end of 2025 as sign of its commitment to decarbonisation but said: “It is essential that any decisions represent value for money for taxpayers.”

“From an investor point of view the overall tone (of Britain ahead of the climate talks) isn’t positive,” said Charlie Thomas, manager of Jupiter Asset Management’s Ecology Fund.

“The UK’s current policy sends a mixed message ... but I suspect it is mainly driven by pressures from the Treasury (finance ministry),” he said.

DECC said it would not comment on the decision making process.

(This story has been refiled to add reporting credit.)

Reporting By Susanna Twidale, additional reporting by Nina Chestney, editing by David Evans

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