Conservative majority increases UK climate influence – Barker

Returning prime minister David Cameron will advocate for a strong climate deal in Paris, says his former envoy

Returning prime minister David Cameron signed a climate pledge ahead of the election (Pic: Stephen Lock)

Returning prime minister David Cameron signed a climate pledge ahead of the election (Pic: Stephen Lock)

By Megan Darby

After months of polls predicting a hung Parliament, the results trickling in show the UK on course for a slim Conservative majority.

David Cameron is set to return as prime minister. Along with the other main party leaders, he has pledged to phase out coal and push for a strong global climate deal in Paris this December.

But the Conservative victory is seen as bad news for the wind power sector and a green light for fracking.

Greg Barker, former climate envoy to the prime minister and strong green voice within the last government, was “absolutely delighted” and said Cameron would be an advocate for climate action.

“I think UK influence has been massively increased as a result of the vote for security and stability – and that includes climate stability,” he told RTCC.

Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, former secretary of state for energy and climate change, lost his seat, leaving a vacancy to lead the UK’s delegation to UN climate talks later this year.

Richard Benyon, Amber Rudd, Matt Hancock and Nick Hurd have been suggested as contenders for the role.

Gone with the wind

The Conservative Party has pledged to scrap subsidies for onshore windfarms from 2020, in response to pressure from backbenchers in rural constituencies.

Lobby group Renewable UK urged the incoming government to “confirm the importance of wind as an essential part of our energy mix,” saying it is cost effective and backed by two thirds of the population.

“We hope that one of the new government’s priorities will be to act quickly to secure our home-grown energy supplies based on clean sources including wind, wave and tidal power,” said chief executive Maria McCaffery.

A 2030 electricity decarbonisation target would provide long term certainty to attract investment, she argued.

Concern to protect the landscape from wind turbines should not be read as opposition to climate goals, Barker said, insisting the move would not harm efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The UK has “the world’s most ambitious offshore wind programme” and will “continue to make great strides with the roll-out of solar” he said.

Fracking drive

And the Conservatives have enthusiastically embraced the prospects for shale gas to provide a new domestic energy source.

While some environmentalists have raised concerns this could lock in fossil fuel dependence, Barker argued gas would displace more polluting coal.

“Gas remains a key ally for the climate industry; the enemy is coal and we need to use all of the technologies at our disposal to drive coal off the system,” he said.

Shares in Centrica jumped 9% when trading opened on Friday. The owner of the UK’s biggest energy utility and substantial North Sea oil and gas assets has a stake in shale gas exploration.

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