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Strategic support for energy efficiency and sustainability

Election 2017 - the aftermath

12/06/2017 15:02:14

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Now that the dust is settling (or is it the smoke clearing?) from the general election we can start to think about the implications for sustainability and the environment.  There are two levels to this: the policies and the individuals.

In terms of the policies, the Conservative manifesto was the least inspiring of the three main parties’ offerings.  It was largely supply-side orientated – ie. focussed on providing “reliable and affordable energy” by “seizing the industrial opportunity that new technology presents”. This includes special treatment for shale gas fracking.  There was very little about the demand side – notably the reduction of energy consumption in homes and other buildings.  The manifesto did commit rather vaguely to “improve the energy efficiency of existing homes”, but – predictably – 2015’s abandonment of the zero carbon newbuild standard was effectively reinforced by a manifesto commitment merely to “review” standards for new homes.

It seems at the time of writing that Northern Ireland’s DUP Members of Parliament are going to be key to the Conservatives holding onto power. So it’s worth looking at what the DUP manifesto said about sustainability and the environment.  Intriguingly its focus, too, was on energy supply, including cheaper tariffs and new generation capacity.  There was nothing at all – not a word - about energy standards for either newbuild or existing homes.  So in terms of their disappointing focus on energy supply rather than energy demand, the DUP and the Conservatives would seem to be a well-made match.

As for the individuals, there is much talk at the moment about Michael Gove's appointment as Secretary of State for the Environment. This is a worrying appointment, because in Parliament he has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change through carbon emission reductions.  Worse still, as Education Secretary he even attempted to remove climate change from the national curriculum (prevented only by an intervention from the LibDem Energy and Climate Change Secretary).  Should this man really be in charge of the environment?

There is more cause for optimism in the retention of Greg Clark as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It’s his department that really has the power to establish and support a national sustainable infrastructure, and people who know him say that Mr Clark really ‘gets’ the compelling case for a green economy.  So let’s hope, for the sake of energy efficiency in the UK, that he manages to assert himself in Cabinet.  

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