See GLD Nottingham Conference webpage here (Also see Ed Davey’s speech to the 2018 LibDem Southport conference here [Test link to footnotes ] Introduced by Louise Harris Sir Ed Davey was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2012 to 2015 in the Coalition Government. Ed: Its really good to be here, thank you for inviting me, Nottingham is my home city, so its nice to come back. What I thought I’d do is not just give you a full history of Liberal Democracy, but talk about the coalition, and where we need to go from here, seeing the future in an immediate historical perspective I joined the Liberal Democrats in 1989, and the reason I did was mainly about commitment to the environment. Its good to see Green Liberal Democrats as strong as ever, even stronger. The coalition, (people in the party often think ‘oo that’s difficult’, failing to realise that we did some fantastic things in loads of areas: pupil premium, education, tax allowance, social care, mental health, a very long list. I also think the environment is very much in that stellar list, particularly on renewable power, but on a whole rainbow of things too. Stuff that Vince did on electric vehicles, things Norman Baker did at Transport on local transport hubs, the plastic bag tax … I’m going to talk about what I did in the department of energy and climate change because its what I know best. I’m going to talk about two big examples, one domestic, and one international, related to climate change. But please if you want to ask about other things,both the successes and the less successful things, I’m very happy to talk about them. On the successful things which I won’t cover- district heating, which we pushed ahead with across the country. We launched the country’s first ever community energy strategy. We did stuff on fuel poverty that is not recognised. Stuff on regulations on energy efficiency which has survived the Tory cuts, more or less. Lots of little projects which were incredibly significant in taking the green agenda forwards. The things that are big when you think about the climate change agenda is really what we were doing on electricity. On climate change, you think about electricity, power, heat and transport. When you look at how you’re going to reduce greenhouse gases over a 20 30 40 year period, most people believe you have to start with power. The reasons are : A) that is technically ahead of the other technologies B) Its physically easier because you’re dealing with a small number of plants, three or four hundred power plants you’re trying to replace or reinvent, rather than heating systems in 26 million properties, or 30 million vehicles. So its easier to do, but even more importantly, if you green power, part of the solutions for transport and heating will be electric, but they’re not green if the electricity isn’t green, so you’ve got to start with getting electricity green. If you do that then decarbonising heat and transport becomes a lot easier. That’s why we, when we got to power in 2010 focussed so hard on the power sector. It made sense, you could move fast, it was an enabler for years ahead. In the big picture we quadrupled renewable power in this country, Liberal Democrats did. Stuff we did in the coalition, contracts that we signed, (which the Tories couldn’t get out of, for green power stations which are being built now), that was us. Obviously you know statistics: when you’re starting from a low base its easy to quadruple starting from a lower base – I get that – nevertheless it was a massive increase in a relatively short time. It was everything from solar to biomass, to onshore wind, to offshore wind, and some tidal, a lot of stuff in that piece of getting CO2 emissions down rapidly, as well as greening our electricity system. A long long way to go, but I think our fundamental success was in greening electricity. I’m just going to take off my sock, because this is a present from Greenpeace with wind turbines on. The reason Greenpeace gave me this sock was because of all the stuff we did on green electricity, the most significant was what we did with offshore wind. Because we’ve got offshore wind to a point in this country, and in the world, and in history, where offshore wind is now going to be a major low carbon source of power. Now we weren’t the first ones to think of this, indeed Ed Milliband did some good stuff on offshore wind in his time as Climate Change Secretary. However, the really big decisions in changing the way we funded offshore wind farms, and industrialising offshore wind to get the prices down, so we can shut the Daily Mail up, and offshore wind become one of the cheapest form of electricity, those decisions taken by Chris Huhne and myself as Liberal Democrats. The main change was to change the way we subsidised renewable power to a new form called ‘contracts for difference’, the main impact of that was that it enabled competition to come in, to push the price down, to reduce the amount of subsidy much more quickly. We created auctions where companies were competing for the right to get a contract of difference for renewable subsidy. That created a massive stimulation innovation, in the supply chain, it pushed the price down. So the second auction of for contracts for difference, which happened in October 2017, (would have happened earlier if we’d been in charge), under the model which we put in place, (not a Tory model, a Liberal Democrat model), the price of offshore wind for a farm opening early next decade is going to be basically as cheap as gas. That is a historically dramatic reduction in the price of electricity in a relatively short period of time. The historic significance is that it means rather that the Daily Telegraph and the Times and the Mail and the rest of them saying the price of green power is expensive, they can no longer say that, and that is a dramatic shift. Now were seeing offshore wind farms really take off, even the Tories are now having to realise that their best way of replacing old coal stations as they come off, old nuclear power stations as they come off, is offshore wind. One of the big decisions which I personally had to make was we had a pot of money I spent a year negotiating with George Osborne on, a pot of money which is basically money that goes on peoples’ bills to pay for these contracts of difference. I had to decide how much of that to put into the first stage. The submission form civil servants had 3 options. The least ambitious option was giving less of these subsidies up front, would have meant we got one or two wind farms but nothing else, and the industry would have gone ‘ “well if that’s what we can do we’ll go away”. The second one would have got a few more wind farms up but not a supply chain. The supply chain is really important, building turbines, building the nacelles that go on top of the wind towers, that critical supply chain, if we’d gone for the 2nd option which is what the Tories wanted, we’d have got no supply chain, we’d have got some wind farms but the future would not have been secured. By putting a lot of money in this first round (which I got criticised by the national audit office but they were wrong and I was right) meant that we got Siemens to invest in Kingston on Hull. In Kingston on Hull they are now building a factory which will produce the wind turbines and blades for offshore wind farms for the future. That is reviving a city which was in a hundred year decline (pretty good side effect). This confirms Britain as the leader in in the world offshore wind, and has helped get the price of offshore wind down, thus defeating the Tories and the climate change deniers and right wing press, that means that offshore wind is here to stay. Take nothing away from the history of Liberal Democrats and what we’ve done in decarbonising. We have in the first stage of decarbonising electricity managed to get probably the most available and most high volume form of green energy, offshore wind, away, so its here to stay. Clearly we need more onshore wind, As Secretary State I was in daily battles with Eric Pickles (a man on the dark side). We were winning while in coalition, but since then they’ve stopped onshore wind – absolutely crazy! Because onshore wind is now the probably cheapest form of energy in this country. Tidal lagoons only came on my desk relatively late on, after the Severn barrage (which I’m very much against). But tidal lagoons I think they are a strong existing technology, so less risk. You could probably get 10% of Britain’s total power needs from tidal lagoons, and of course they’re predictable and work very well in a system with wind and solar. We pushed that very hard. We were never going to get across the line because these things take years, a long time in policy terms, we were up against Tories and my own department, one or two civil servants did not want to do tidal. We got to a point where to Tories even put it in their manifesto which was staggering. Although they haven’t made a decision on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon yet, it is in the debate now. So the next really big form of renewable electricity is still being debated, tidal lagoons, and that would not being debated if we hadn’t had Liberal Democrats in charge to push it, no other idiot was going to push it: this idiot and Liberal Democrats were pushing it. We had a huge role to play in renewable energy which was a big thing. We could talk about lots of other things. There’s lots more on the domestic agenda we could talk about: energy efficiency, reducing energy demand, storage, consumer side, carbon capture storage, nuclear, fracking, whatever you like; but the really big story of achievement is offshore wind. One thing that slightly irritates me in discussions in the party is everyone talks of the negatives not the positives … and offshore wind is a massive positive for us, so let’s bloody talk about it. I think of historic significance Let’s talk of the role we played, Chris Huhne first, and then myself, in international climate change talks Don’t forget we could be perfect in this country, we could be the best in the world, we could get 2 ½ percent of global greenhouse emissions down, but we still fry, and the earth is still submerged. Domestic stuff great, it can help internationally, we can export that, and help other people. But you’ve actually got to get out there at the EU, at the UN, with bilaterals, relationships with countries like China and India, to promote the climate change idea / agenda Chris and I worked at all those levels. I think the most important was the EU, and that’s one of the reasons why Brexit is a complete and utter disaster for environment. Let me tell you a story of EU climate diplomacy as I experienced it … When I became Secretary of State in February 2012 and I looked around the energy council at Brussels, it was pretty clear that of the six big states: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland that none of those six besides ourselves was likely to really push the climate change agenda, for lots of domestic political reasons in their own countries. Poland primarily because they want to burn as much coal as they can possibly burn, Germany because of their coalition …. So it was clear to me if you were going to get climate change agenda pushed really hard on EU level, (which was critical for the world agenda because the EU are out there above China and the US in particular), Britain had to take the lead. If your want anything done at Brussels you have to form coalitions, coalitions of member states, countries that think like you, that share the objective. So I set up something called the green growth group. We got a number of member states to come for dinners at the UK residency at Brussels, we got our officials together to discuss how we as member states who wanted to take action on climate change at the European level, could work together to make that happen. Knowing that we have opponents in industry, knowing we had opponents around the table from places like Poland, and how we going to win those debates. Round the table we got Germany, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the Scandis, Slovenia, a number of other countries, we started off with about nine of us, grew to about twelve. We had about 80% of the votes. We knew if we could agree we could take it to the council and get a really ambitious agreement. The problem was the Germans wanted to repeat the agreement we had in 2020, and update it to 2030 (the agreement reached in 2008 between Merkel and Blair, renewable targets, energy efficiency targets, and greenhouse gas targets for 2020; and the EU is going to meet those targets). But the decision in our time was EU targets for 2030. You need targets a long way off so that industry can prepare and invest to meet those targets. So the real debate was what targets was Europe going to adopt for 2030 and take to the UN Paris summit, to get others to move globally, that was a real issue. The problem was Germany wanted more renewable targets – the Tories weren’t going to accept that. Moreover eastern Europe wanted something with nuclear power as their low carbon electricity Knowing that the winning coalition had to bring those sides together, I pushed for a technology neutral target for how you did it, as long as you did it. My focus was being much more ambitious on the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions we were going to cut. That’s what matters for the climate, for the environment, for the planet, how much greenhouse gas emissions you get, how quickly you cut them. That’s what we discussed at the UN, you never discuss technology, you discuss greenhouse gas emissions, the output. I decided we’d go really big on that, I tried to persuade the Tories that we should go for a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 2030. That was on the outside of the climate change act 2008 requirements – it already required the UK to cut our greenhouse gas emissions on the way to reduce them by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, but it still was a bit weak. I wanted an EU international treaty to make sure we were locked into the climate change act, and was a little more ambitious than that, whilst making sure other countries had to do their bit as well. I tried to go for 40% reductions. The Tories did not want to do this, they opposed it. Eventually we wore them down and they agreed to it, they sent an email to my office with a chain of emails, at the bottom they had emails to themselves not realising … (always be careful (classic mistake))) and in their email between themselves they said: “oh give him the 40% reduction he’ll never get it”. We got it. They were bloody mad. It was not easy. When I went to Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action from 2010 to 2014, when I said we were aiming at 40%, she said “ha ha you’ll never get it, good luck, I hope you do” https://europeanclimate.org/connie-hedegaard/ We got it because we organised politically at the E.U. level we had this coalition, we had this green growth group. We sat for two years amongst the people who believed in action on climate change, listening to each others positions, working out how we could get a deal together, which got the objective, but gave everyone else the ways that they could do it. It took a long time, about two and a half years actually to get all the climate change ambitious countries like Germany France and so on together, so we could go to the council and sideline Poland, which is what we did. (Although actually we worked hard with Poland because I don’t believe in a politics which is just hostile. (So by the end of the negotiations with Poland I knew the inside leg measurement of the aunt of the climate change minister – you had to get to know them very well to be able to persuade them ) ). The point I want to make is that at Europe, if you’re there, if you’re ambitious and you work with other countries doing real politics, like we do in councils, parliament and so on, you can get ambitious things. The heads of government, the European council in October 2014, signed a deal where the EU was committed to 40% reductions in in greenhouse gases by 2030. That didn’t get any headlines – you won’t be surprised to know the British press weren’t interested in anything on Climate Change at a European level linked with the Liberal Democrats, a combination they didn’t want to report, and so they didn’t. We got one piece in the Guardian on what was actually the most significant EU deal on climate change ever. But the rest of the world noticed, they were very surprised at the level of ambition. A month after the EU heads of state signed that deal, the US and China did a joint deal saying they would be more ambitious. And all that was the year before Paris. So you had a glide into Paris, to the climate change summit in Paris. You’ve got to give huge amounts of credit to Obama, huge amounts of credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, you’ve got to give huge amounts of credit to President Xi Jinping of China.. But also the E.U. and the Liberal Democrats in the UK at the EU table. So you know, the success at Paris, (we weren’t there, it was after the coalition), that would not have happened if the Liberal Democrats hadn’t been in coalition. I’m absolutely sure of that. So whether its on wind turbines, or whether its on EU and climate change agreements, that is what the Liberal Democrats have achieved. And we wouldn’t have achieved that if we didn’t have Liberal Democrats and Green Liberal Democrats talking about it and campaigning on it and making it a high priority in the party, which we did. It’s a history I think we should be proud of Now where do we go from here? The Tories have rowed back on some of the stuff we did, of course, but they can’t dismantle the power plants that we built, they cant dismantle a lot of the progress, they can’t dismantle the agreements, but they’ve gone much weaker: we’ve seen a massive decline in solar growth, no onshore wind effectively, much weaker energy efficiency performance, a whole range where they’ve really slowed the pace of change down; we’ve got to campaign to quicken that up, particularly on regulations on energy efficiency on buildings, and on tidal lagoons. BUT What were the challenges that we were not able to deal with?
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