29 November 2013: politics beating policy in UK and EU

UK energy policy is in utter confusion. Opposition leader Ed Miliband says he’d impose a 20 month price freeze if he becomes prime minister in 2015. David Cameron condemns this a red-blooded socialism, then tries to get the energy companies to agree to a 19 month freeze up to the 2015 election. And, having urged electors to “vote blue, go green”, he (allegedly) now tells his staff to “cut the green crap” off bills. Energy Post – an excellent, Europe-wide free newsletter – has today published my analysis of what’s going on and what should happen next (see http://www.energypost.eu/uk-energy-confusion-good-policies-shame-politics/).

However, EU policy isn’t any better. Indeed, in policy terms, the UK is actually doing better, particularly by banning new coal power stations unless they capture and store the carbon dioxide. EU policy is, as usual, focused on targets: what should be the target or targets for 2030? What’s happening now is more important, and what’s happening now is bad. Coal use is going up. Poland is often blamed, and is certainly part of the problem. But Poland has the excuse of being relatively poor, so says it needs to use the cheapest energy available. Germany has no such excuse – but is allowing ten new coal power stations without CCS. The politics in Germany make nuclear unthinkable and CCS unlikely, but coal without CCS is just not feasible. Germany has ambitious goals on renewables, but the current route to getting to a renewable society will cause immense damage to the global climate.

On this note, The Centre for European Reform has published my recent article: On target, off track: Europe’s failure to protect the climate.

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