Sacked Environment Minister Owen Paterson Provokes Widespread Disbelief

Sacked environment minister Owen Paterson has provoked derision and disbelief at his “perverse” call to scrap the Climate Change Act, according to a report by the Guardian newspaper.

Paterson will present the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s annual lecture tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on Birdcage Walk, Westminster at 7pm, where he will attack his own government’s climate policies.

The former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will argue that the Climate Change Act should be suspended and if other countries don’t take Britain’s lead it will eventually be scrapped altogether, in a speech trailed on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph.

The extraordinary charge flies in the face of David Cameron’s promise that he would deliver the “greenest government ever” and presents a serious threat to the Tory’s ambition to win the trust of the electorate at the next general election. 

Paterson’s claims have provoked widespread condemnation from experts in energy and climate change, with many of his claims remaining highly controversial.

Lord Stern, who co-authored the New Climate Economy suggesting climate chaos is avoidable and also the seminal 2007 study on the economics of climate change, said repealing the Climate Change Act “would be a perverse backward step by the UK”.

He told the Guardian: “It would create additional uncertainty about the direction of government policy, undermining the confidence of investors, and increasing the cost of capital for new energy infrastructure.”

Utterly Bonkers

Its perversity would be even greater because the costs of renewables have fallen by extraordinary amounts in recent years and there is growing medical understanding of the damage to human health from the pollution caused by fossil fuels. 

This is a further example of the former environment minister’s complete failure to understand the immense risks from unmanaged climate change, as documented by national academies of sciences around the world.”

Baroness Worthington, shadow minister in the lords for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, was one of the architects of the Climate Change Act.

She said Paterson’s speech was “utterly bonkers” and said MPs would never support the act being scrapped. “It would take a huge parliamentary debate,” she argued.

At the current time, when all the evidence is that climate change is getting worse and we need urgent action, I can’t see any desire to repeal this act. It’s the desire of a small group of fanatics who don’t even know what the act does.”

Populist Proposal

Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre, said the act must be trained and strengthened for Cameron to have any hope of meeting his promises to world leaders to support global efforts to prevent runaway climate chaos.

He said: “We certainly need to revisit the Climate Change Act – but to significantly strengthen it in line with the science underpinning our prime minister’s international commitments on the 2C goal.

Owen Paterson’s populist proposal to threaten to scrap the act if others don’t join in is far removed from that of a measured and scientifically informed government confronting difficult and dynamic issues.”

The claim made by Paterson that Britain is going it alone on climate change appears unfounded. A total of 66 countries around the world now have climate legislation, while the EU have demanded emission cuts of up to 95 percent by 2050. 

The total cost of decarbonising Britain quoted by Paterson, at £1,100 billion appears to come from a 2012 study by Mercados, but the energy consultants make clear that £780 billion needs to be spent to replace ageing infrastructure and the further costs are associated with using existing renewable technology in this programme. Some studies even suggest using renewable energy will be cheaper

Paterson has called for the use of small nuclear reactors despite the fact the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Office for Nuclear Regulation have both warned that even pilot schemes would take six years to get started. Moreover, the technology is extremely expensive with just two demonstration plants costing the US $450m.

Picture: Jamie Gray, via Flickr