Government energy announcements - Greenpeace response

Last edited 15 July 2009 at 1:59pm
15 July, 2009


Responding to today's government energy announcements, John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said:

"If this plan becomes a reality, it will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and make Britain a safer and more prosperous country. This will be good for the British economy and, in the long-run, save householders money as we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas.

"Ed Miliband appears to be winning important battles in Whitehall. But it's crucial that these plans now get full cross-party support and more backing from the Chancellor. The renewable energy industry is too important to become a political football and this strategy for green jobs deserves more than the current paltry sums being offered by the Treasury."

Renewable energy

Jim Footner, senior energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said:

"Britain's renewable industry needs to form the cornerstone of our response to the climate crisis. So Ed Miliband should be congratulated for standing up to giant utilities like Eon and EdF and providing this boost to the British renewable sector.

"Now we need cross-party consensus, because this isn't just about hitting vital climate targets. It's also about securing our energy supply, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and generating a much needed boost for the British economy."

  • The UK has one of the best renewable energy resources in Europe. Yet we languish near the bottom of the European league table in terms of our ability to exploit it. The UK currently generates just 5% of our electricity from renewable sources, compared to 12% in Germany, and 27% in Spain.
  • It is good news that the Climate Change Secretary has chosen to implement powers introduced last year to set the grid access regime and speed up access to the grid for renewable energy capacity. Renewable energy must get priority access to the grid.
  • Ed Miliband has also heeded that calls from across the energy debate to amend the remit of the regulator OFGEM, which has for too long represented a barrier to the development of renewables. OFGEM will now have to include decarbonisation in the face of climate change within its primary duties - an important change.
  • The UK's status as a world leader in marine energy technologies is recognised with the allocation of money for further research and development as well as the identification of a ‘Low Carbon Economic Area' in the South West of England, announced in the Low Carbon Industrial Strategy. The budget of just £60 million fails to give this emerging industry the full support it deserves.
  • On planning, the strategy proposes measures enable renewable energy applications that currently face years of delay in the planning system to gain quicker approval. It is crucial for the successful implementation of the strategy that these planning reforms (particularly for onshore wind farms) are taken seriously by local authorities considering applications. It is therefore necessary that strategy as a whole, but particularly the strategy on planning gains cross party support.

Low Carbon Industrial Strategy

Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace's climate and energy team, said:

"If Miliband's vision was to become a reality it would create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and make Britain a safer and more prosperous country. But that won't happen with the paltry budgets being offered by the Treasury. It is scandalous that Miliband's low carbon ambitions, which have potential to create whole new green industries, are met with a budget that is only about half the amount the Chancellor allocated for bonuses for a bunch of failed RBS bankers.

"For years the UK has lagged behind the rest of Europe on renewables. If Britain is to catch up, and to benefit from the economic boost, job creation and security of energy supply that our clean energy resources offer, it will require the Chancellor to get behind Ed Miliband's efforts."

  • The Carbon Trust estimates that up to a quarter of a million jobs could be created in the UK through the delivery of the efficiency and renewable energy targets.
  • The focus on offshore wind, wave and tidal is right and the recognition that regional development for new clean technologies, with research and supply chain to support then, is sound.
  • Britain leads the world in the research on wave and tidal power with some of the pioneering companies sited here. But the only wave project in operation in a commercial environment - designed in the UK - is located in Portugal, because UK support was lacking. Government should follow up this welcome expression of support for marine renewables in the Southwest with more development clusters for renewables and more money to help accelerate the commercialization of the leading designs in these technologies here in the UK.
  • More could be done to support the training and development of the construction industry to help deliver a national refit improving British homes, making them warmer, cheaper to run and low carbon. Energy efficiency measures offer nationwide job creation opportunities and long term skilled jobs, especially in the construction sector which has been badly effected by the recession.
  • According to reports in February 2009 bonuses at RBS reached £775 million this highlights the paucity of the total budget of £405 for low carbon industrial development and the spending announced today from that budget that includes only £180 million of direct funding for renewable energy development.

Carbon Budgets

Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace's climate and energy campaign, said:

"It's a step towards a much more coherent climate policy that each government department will now have its own carbon budget. And it's also good news that Miliband reaffirmed the government's commitment to a 34% cut in emissions by 2020. However, the latest climate science suggests he needs to be much more ambitious in this area and it's vital that the reductions are all genuinely made here in the UK and not replaced with offsets in other countries."

  • Following new legislation last year (the Climate Change Act), the Government will have to operate within a ‘carbon budget' in the same way it has to operate in a financial budget. If they go over the carbon budget, they'll have to do something about it.
  • There is a new adviser to Government on what these carbon budgets should be - the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
  • The UK has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050.
  • The CCC recommended, and the government agreed, to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020. Although if there is a decent agreement in Copenhagen later this year, this will be increased to around a 42% cut, which is more in line with what we need to avoid dangerous climate change.


Anita Goldsmith, head of Greenpeace's transport campaign, said:

"After Ed Miliband made such positive statements on renewable energy today, it is a shame to see that the Department for Transport has let the side down yet again.

"It is hard to see how such weak policies will deliver the kinds of emissions cuts we need, and any real progress will be wiped out by the department's ongoing obsession with unrestrained aviation growth."

"It is important not to let the DfT fool anyone into believing that they are driving forward increased vehicle efficiency when in fact they lobbied against this in the EU, leading to weaker targets and slower progress.

"Overall this package tinkers at the edges, whilst letting the real problems embedded within road and air transport go unchallenged. We're hoping that Adonis will soon get his department under control and align it with the wider priorities of the government."

  • If plans to expand Heathrow go ahead, it will become the biggest single source of carbon dioxide in the UK and will wreck the Government's chances of meeting climate change targets.
  • The Government's own figures show that aviation currently accounts for 13% of Britain's total climate change impact and threatens to undermine all other efforts to cut emissions in other sectors.
  • The global warming impact of emissions from aviation are predicted to double from 2006 to 2030.
  • By 2050, on this trajectory, the aviation sector alone could use up the UK's entire carbon budget, making it almost impossible for the UK to meet its targets and damaging other parts of the economy forced to make up the difference.
  • Small increases in the efficiency of planes will be overwhelmed by an unrestrained growth in flights and including aviation in the ETS will not solve the problem.
  • According to a report from Ernst and Young, even in the toughest Emissions Trading Scheme scenario, emissions from the aviation sector would grow by 83% by 2020. T&E background briefing (2007) Including Aviation in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) page 6.
  • Electrifying our road transport network could be a vital step in the fight against climate change. But this must be done alongside radical improvements in vehicle efficiency standards and be accompanied by investment in additional renewable sources of energy generation.
  • The DfT lobbied on the recently agreed EU regulations to reduce emissions from new cars to an of average 130gCO2/km by 2012.  The proposed target was originally for 120gCO2/km. There are already cars on the market that can deliver 99gCO2/km or less, such as the VW Polo Blue Motion, as well as petrol-hybrid vehicles that are even lower.
  • The electrification of rail and move towards low emissions buses are good initiatives but remain a small part of the overall transport problem. According to the DfT's own figures, rail accounts for 1.7% of total UK domestic transport emissions with buses accounting for 2.3%.
  • Road transport and aviation remain the biggest problems, with road transport accounting for 92.3% of domestic transport emissions.
  • The focus on greener driving techniques also puts the onus on individuals rather than the delivery of the big infrastructure changes that urgently need to take place in the transport sector. Essentially, this is a transparent attempt to pass the buck on to drivers - the very opposite of the sort of leadership we need.


Reacting to new figures on the source of the UK's biofuels, Greenpeace chief scientist Dr. Doug Parr said:

"It is a scandal that 27 million litres of Indonesian palm oil were pumped into our tanks last year, of which not a single drop met the Government's own environmental standard. Companies like Tesco are selling their customers biofuel from unknown sources which could be wrecking the climate and destroying rainforests. It's time for Lord Adonis to abandon this misguided policy and start again".

Key findings of the Renewable fuel agency fourth quarter report, 2008/9:

  • A tenth of the UK's biofuel - 123 million litres - was produced from palm oil over the past year.
  • 27 million litres of Indonesian palm oil were pumped into our tanks this year, of which not a single drop met the Government's own environmental standard (the RTFO meta standard). This is a scandal, because palm oil is one of the main causes of rainforest destruction and its production is actually speeding up climate change. A tenth of all the biofuel we used was palm oil
  • Several companies (Chevron, Murco, and Topaz) have not reported any biofuels meeting the qualifying environmental standard, and Esso have reported less than 2% of their biofuels meeting a qualifying environmental standard.
  • Less than a quarter of the biofuel (24%) we're using has met the Government's own sustainability standard.


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