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UK urges 30% EU emissions cut by 2020

In a recent speech, the UK Secretary of Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, called for the EU to adopt a 30% emissions reduction target by 2020.

At the Economist UK Energy Summit on 24 June, Huhne said: “A 30% cut in EU emissions by 2020 – up from the existing 20% - would push the price higher, create business opportunities in the domestic market, and put the EU at the forefront of the international race.

“And, in light of the recession, it is not expensive to achieve. It would cost just 0.1% of EU gross domestic product more than the original pre-recession estimate of achieving 20%. And those cost estimates fall even further if oil prices rise.”

Long-term stability

The renewable energy industry in the UK has long called for long-term goals and a stable framework to secure investment, and it appears the Secretary has been listening.

“By putting in place the right incentives for low-carbon growth, we can help create the investment, exports and jobs we need to bring back economic prosperity,” Huhne said.

“You need clarity, certainty and stability from Government to deliver the investment we all need. ... The Imperatives of economic recovery, energy security and climate stabilisation all march hand in hand. All require a commitment to a consistent policy for the long term,” the Energy Secretary added.

The question now is what that “clarity, certainty and stability” will mean in real terms, Renewable Energy Focus notes.

Increasing competition

Huhne reiterated the role of the UK and Europe as ‘leaders’ in renewable energy, but warned that this position is under challenge from countries such as China, Japan and the USA.

“Our industrial future – our competitiveness and our prosperity – depends on being a pioneer of the new green industries that will decarbonise our economies, and we need to be ahead of the international game.”

Huhne said that unlike the 2020 visions of the previous Labour Government, the Coalition will need a 2050 vision.

“I want Britain to be the best place in the world to do energy business. To lead the world in decarbonising the economy. To develop the unique products and processes that will power the second industrial revolution – the green revolution – just as steam, coal and iron drove the first.”

Infrastructure needs boosting

Huhne repeated that the UK needs £200 billion of investment in its energy infrastructure by 2020.

“In setting the framework to encourage and steer this investment in the right directions, we recognise our responsibility to support infant and emerging technologies – like renewables and carbon capture and storage – while removing unnecessary barriers to investment, like planning, offshore connections and grid bottlenecks.”

To underpin investment decisions, the UK needs a “meaningful carbon price,” according to the Energy Secretary.

The UK coalition Government will abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which has only been in full operation since this March. The IPC is an independent body that decides applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects such as railways, large wind farms, power stations, reservoirs, harbours, airports and sewage treatment works. Huhne said, however, that “... I am quite clear that the new system will not slow down planning decisions.”

The Green Investment Bank

For those hoping for more detail on the promised Green Investment Bank, it appears that “detailed proposals” will be brought forward this coming autumn.

Still committed to O&G and nuclear

Despite the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Huhne said it is “vital we make the most of our domestic oil and gas assets.”

This was underlined this morning (28 June), when Energy Minister Charles Hendry approved the development of a new oil and gas field in the North Sea.

On the issue of new nuclear, Huhne said: “The coalition agreement is clear that new nuclear can and will go ahead – but only so long as there is no public subsidy...”

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