Britain needs to revert to central planning of market


Britain needs to go back to old-style central planning of its electricity market, with the Government deciding who builds power stations where, so that it can take on the world’s toughest target to cut its emissions of the greenhouse gases causing global warming, the independent Committee on Climate Change tells the Government today.

The only way of getting the £150bn worth of new low-carbon energy generating plant – whether offshore windfarms, nuclear power stations or loaw-carbon and gas plants – will be for the Government to offer contracts with guaranteed prices for the electricity, the committee says.

In pursuit of its ultimate goal of slashing carbon dioxide by 80 per cent by 2050, the Government should now set a new, legally-binding interim target of a 60 per cent cut by 2030, the committee says in its latest report – which would be far and away the most demanding emissions target anywhere.

The committee, set up under the Under the Climate Change Act, 2008, says that anything less would not be compatible with the 80 per cent objective, and says it is making the recommendation after an extensive review of recent climate science which looked at 500 recently published peer-reviewed papers.

This led to the conclusion, the committee says, that “the science remains robust and the case for action is stronger than ever.”

Acting on recommendations from the committee, the Government has already set itself a legally-binding target of cutting UK emissions by 34 per cent by 2020, which is believed to be tougher than any other.

This should now be tightened to 37 per cent, the committee says, and tightened further to a 42 per cent cut if a world-wide climate change deal can be achieved through UN negotiations, like those going on this week at Cancun in Mexico.

Although a 60 per cent cut by 2030, on 1990 levels – which actually means a 46 per cent cut in carbon emissions from where Britain is now, in a mere 20 years – would represent an unprecedented level of ambition, the committee chairman, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell (who as Adair Turner was the director general of the Confederation of British Industry) characterised it yesterday as “stretching but realistic.”

Lord Turner said: “The case for action on climate change is as strong as ever. Climate science remains robust and suggests that there are very significant risks if we do not cut emissions. And countries acting now will gain economic benefits in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.”

The 60 per cent target would be achievable “at a cost of less than one per cent of GDP,” Lord Turner said, adding: “Any less ambition would not be compatible with the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act.”

In its new report the committee sets out in detail how the 60 per cent target could be reached, with its most striking recommendation being that Britain’s ultra-liberalised electricity market should return to a form of central planning.

Achieving the necessary “radical decarbonisation” of electricity will require 40 gigawatts of low-carbon power generation – the equivalent of 25 large conventional coal-fired power stations – to be added to the grid in the next two decades.

This massive investment, which would be largely a mixture of offshore windfarms, nuclear power plants, and coal and gas stations fitted with very expensive carbon capture and storage technology, can best be secured by the Government tendering long-term contracts for low-carbon capacity, the committee says.

In effect, the Government would be directing who builds a new power station where, and offering a fixed price for the resultant electricity, rather than leaving it all to the market as at present. The Government is known to be planning its own White Paper on electricity market reform for publication shortly.

Among other recommendations for radical CO2 emissions cuts, the committee says that 60 per cent of new vehicles coming onto the market should be electric-powered by 2030, and by that date there should be 11 million electric cars and 1.5 million electric vans on the road. Hydrogen could be used to power Heavy Goods Vehicles and half of all buses.

It anticipates seven million households using heat pumps rather than boilers for heating by 2030, and wants the widespread use of more carbon-efficient practices on farms.

Agriculture emissions could be cut by up to 20 per cent over the next two decades through a range of more efficient farming practice both as regards livestock and the application of fertiliser to soils, the committee says, noting: “Unlocking this potential may require stronger policies than the current voluntary approach, and the Government should consider the full range of levers to strengthen incentives for farmers.”

As for the cost of it all, although the committee does not spell it out, the one per cent of GDP to which Lord Turner refers is actually an enormous sum, as Britain’s current GDP of £1.45 trillion is expected roughly to double to £2.9 trillion by 2030.

One per cent of that would be £29bn annually, and if that is divided by the approximately 25 million households in the country, it comes out at £1,160 per home. Lord Turner’s estimate that the bill would be “less than” one per cent makes this a potential upper limit, but it is still a strong indication that household energy bills will have to rise steeply to pay the bill for combating climate change.

Under the Climate Change Act, the Government is not bound to take the committee’s advice – but it is bound to listen, and it is subject to the committee’s criticism in its annual reports.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star