Government rejects Charles Kennedy’s carbon emissions bill

July 7, 2009 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

powerstation
by Nick Alderton

The Industrial Carbon Emissions (Targets) Bill, proposed by former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, had its second reading in the Commons on Friday, to widespread support across the House.

The bill requires the Government “to introduce regulations that set an emissions standard for new power plants in the UK, known as an emissions performance standard.”

“It intends to provide—in a constructive way—greater clarity on all sides of this important issue.” Mr Kennedy said.

The bill sets these targets in order to meet the requirements of the independent Climate Change Committee, which stated that the EU’s emission trading scheme “was unlikely on its own to drive the necessary low-carbon investments in time.”

“We must not rely solely on the carbon markets to decarbonise the power sector, as complementary regulation will be required,” he told MPs.

“In order to meet the strong emission targets set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act, the Climate Change Committee stated that every coal-fired power station would have to have full Carbon Capture Storage (CCS), by 2025 or be shut down and the Government needs to issue a clear policy on coal now so that the work can begin.”

Mr Kennedy said the Government had recently begun to make a move in the right direction, particularly with its April announcement that the “era of unabated coal” had come to an end.

This was welcomed by Mr Kennedy but he pointed out that these measures place no real guarantees as to when “full CCS would be required.”

In addition, he pointed out that the Government’s proposals for four new power stations with a small scale CCS system in place would be wrong as it made no provisions to fitting the technology to the full operating capacity of the stations, meaning these power stations could be emitting 80 per cent of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere unabated.

Over its lifespan, assuming 40 years, each station would have emitted 240 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Mr Kennedy pointed out that an Early-Day motion for an EPS, (Emissions Performance Standard), had attracted support from 186 MPs; Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and 71 Labour MP’s supported such a measure.

Shadow Energy Minister Gregory Barker (Con.), called the bill “excellent” and said an effective EPS is important for three reasons.

“The first is the impact that it would have on our own carbon emissions.

“The second is the message of international leadership that it sends out, and the third is that it would help to put the UK at the very forefront of the development of carbon capture and storage technology, with the creation of those green jobs that we may struggle to define but nevertheless understand to be important.”

The Government had remained “entrenched in their objections to the mechanism of an emissions performance standard” despite the growing consensus from industry and the green lobby.

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem spokesman on Energy and Climate Change, said that the most important point was “the core proposition…that if we regulate now, everybody knows where they stand and they will work to live within that framework.

“If we do not regulate, there is uncertainty and the risk is that people will not understand the crucial importance of moving quickly to avert climate crisis.”

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said the government would not support the bill.

David Kidney said that since the bill’s first reading in January, their have been three key developments, including the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change publication of a manifesto titled The Road to Copenhagen.

“It sets out our case for an ambitious international agreement on climate change in December,” Mr Kidney told MPs.

He said the Government was proposing an Energy Bill “as their number one measure” and referred to the passage of the US Clean Energy and Security Act through the House of Representatives, which requires all new coal fired power stations permitted after 2020 to have CCS fitted.

Mr Kidney said the Government supports the bill’s intentions but would not be able “to support its further progress at this time.”

The reasons given were that the focus needed to be placed on an international consensus and that they would tackle the requirements of the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Mr Kidney went on to explain that with 35 per cent of the UK’s emissions being due to the generation of electricity, “making the shift to low carbon electricity generation is an essential part of our overall transition to a low carbon economy.”

He acknowledged that CCS could cut emissions by 90%, but it is not yet commercially deployable.

Mr Kennedy concluded the debate by drawing parallels with the issue of acid rain during the 1980s.

“The opportunity was repeatedly missed because the framework, the Government of the time said, was not firm enough.

“Despite the fact that public funding was made available for the new technology, the power companies were able to delay and it was only when an EU directive came into place mandating the technology that in the late 1990s, lo and behold, the companies found the money and the technology was introduced.”

He said he hoped the Government “will not resile in due course from setting firm dates and setting them as soon as possible.”

Mr Kennedy withdrew his motion and the Bill, in order to await the outcome of the consultation and the Queens Speech.

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