The UN’s chief environmental scientist Professor Jacquie McGlade has criticised the UK government’s decision to cut subsidies for renewable energy while bolstering the oil and gas industry with tax breaks. Her comments add to the growing chorus of criticism against this latest direction in energy policy, from senior political and business figures.
Speaking to the BBC, she said the global trend was very much in the direction of renewables investment and the withdrawal of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. So it was “disappointing” to see a country like the UK – previously a leader in renewable energy – now going in the opposite direction. It was the “wrong message” to send to other nations as preparations continue for the Paris climate summit next month (a preparatory meeting takes place in Bonn this week).
Global ranking slip
In September it was announced that the UK had dropped out of an international top ten league table for renewable energy. The UK is now in 11th place in EY’s league table, which measures countries’ attractiveness to investors in renewables – the first time it has been ranked outside the top 10 in the 12 years in which the ranking system has been in place.
Reports in the media have also highlighted the plight of at least three solar firms, which have ceased trading or signalled an intention to do so.
American former vice-president and international environmental campaigner Al Gore criticised the government proposals in late September. Speaking at a conference in London he joined John Cridland, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), in claiming the proposed cuts could cost ‘UK PLC’ hundreds of billions of pounds in lost exports – far more than they would save.
This followed London Mayor Boris Johnson breaking ranks with his party to say he was “very concerned” about the proposed cuts, which could cost 10,000 jobs in the solar industry. Johnson added it was wrong to cut if it would stop people investing in green technology. Later, in the House of Commons, Conservative Energy Secretary Amber Rudd came in for more criticism of the proposed cuts from MPs of all parties, including her own.
Helene Winch, investment specialist at renewable energy investment company Low Carbon, commented: “Ahead of the Paris Climate Change Summit in November, we need to see further action in order to make tangible progress. Governments across Europe, especially the UK’s, need to create and facilitate a positive investment climate for institutional and retail investors looking to re-allocate into climate solutions such as solar and wind. Raising this level of awareness amongst the finance community will be one of the crucial game-changers at this year’s climate change summit, and will ultimately help power forward the low-carbon economy of the future.”