Conservative UK climate chief defends green cuts

Energy secretary Amber Rudd says rollback of clean energy subsidies not borne of ideology but faster way to cut emissions 

(screengrab: BBC Parliament)

Secretary of state for energy and climate change Amber Rudd was appointed this May (Screengrab: BBC Parliament)

By Alex Pashley

UK energy secretary Amber Rudd said the government cut green subsidies because she was a “proud pro-green Conservative” on Monday.

Carbon emissions would fall faster through technological innovation and not subsidies, she told the ruling Conservative party conference in Manchester.

Tumbling costs in generating solar power and improvements in battery storage were making low carbon alternatives increasingly viable without state handouts, Rudd said.

“We must be tough on subsidies, pro-competition, anti-monopoly, pro-innovation and pro-consumer.”

Britain’s top representative at UN climate talks pointed to America’s shale revolution, which she said cut emissions without government intervention.

It was her first big speech since controversially ditching a suite of green policies after her party won a majority in May’s election.

Tory criticism

The government has been lambasted by everyone from industry groups to former US vice president Al Gore as policy reversals have created uncertainty about the country’s commitment to a low carbon transition.

Meanwhile, it is fast-tracking fracking to spur the economy and reduce dependence on energy imports.

That risks eroding its hard-won international reputation as a leader on climate change, say observers.

Climate action couldn’t be left to the opposition Labour party she said, whose energy policy was “ridden with gimmickry” after proposing price freezes and renationalisation of industry.

The Conservatives would insulate 1 million homes to lower energy consumption, she announced.

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was the first world leader to put climate change on the international agenda, she reminded delegates.

“The danger of global warming is real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices so we don’t live at the expense of future generations,” Rudd concluded, quoting Thatcher.

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