Joss Garman: Brown as Dr No is a threat to the world, not just 007

The PM is falling short on renewable energy


Well that didn't take long, did it? Rather like the moment Timothy Dalton first stepped onto our screens and arched an eyebrow as James Bond, it has taken very little time to realise that Gordon Brown is, quite simply, the wrong man for the job. As scientists warn us in increasingly desperate terms that we have just 100 months to stabilise emissions of greenhouse gases, we look to Downing Street for a super-hero armed with the latest cutting edge technology to save the world. Instead we are presented with a man who is utterly unconvincing in the role.

Last week we learned from leaked Whitehall documents that Gordon Brown's great clunking fist is seeking to grip the hand of Poland's climate-sceptic president in a union designed to kill a vital global warming deal. Brown's predecessor was far from perfect on matters green, but Tony Blair did at least sign Britain up to a groundbreaking European commitment to generate 20 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. Importantly, the momentous deal would apply not just to electricity but also to heat and transport. It sent a significant signal to industry – Britain, like Germany, was to gear up for a clean energy revolution. But we now know that our new PM is planning a "behind the scenes" campaign to kill the target in a manner reminiscent of George Bush's attacks on the Kyoto Protocol.

The extraordinary leaked papers reveal that the Government believes the target is absolutely attainable but that the prospect of us generating so much of our energy from renewables is regarded by Labour not as an opportunity, but as a threat. They show that Brown's administration is concerned that a surging renewables sector would "squeeze out" the nuclear industry and "undermine the credibility" of the European emissions trading scheme. In other words, we'd better watch out because if we slash emissions then the price of carbon might fall, and then how do we slash emissions?

It's the kind of nonsensical circular argument that epitomises the shambolic and incoherent approach this Government has adopted towards tackling climate change. The idea of simply lowering the amount of CO2 that industry is permitted to emit under the trading regime and thus ensuring a higher price for carbon is regarded by ministers as "too costly". One can only assume they haven't read the Stern Report – commissioned by Mr G Brown – which calculated that not spending money now to fight climate change would, in financial terms alone, cost the world a figure approximate to the impact of the Great Depression and the Second World War combined.

Germany has proved that getting a vibrant renewable energy generation sector off the ground is feasible. Last year it had already installed 10 times as much wind capacity, 20 times as much biomass fuel and 200 times as much solar power as Britain, creating almost a quarter of a million green-collar jobs, and is three years ahead of schedule on its renewables targets. Meanwhile Britain, with richer resources of wind, wave and tidal energy than any other country in Europe, languishes near the bottom of the continent's clean energy league table.

The Germans have done it by applying a very simple formula. A levy on electricity bills is ploughed into renewables development, guaranteeing premium prices for clean energy generation. The average household contributes only £12 a year but the results are startling. Why don't we do it here? Well, now we know. According to this week's leak, a booming renewables industry would "reduce the incentives to invest... in nuclear power" and undermine emissions trading.

It is a great misfortune that Gordon Brown is the leader of Her Majesty's Government at the time of what Al Gore calls "a global planetary emergency". We have the tools to defeat climate change. We're not waiting for "Q" to develop the gizmos and gadgets we need. They already exist and are being rolled out on a huge scale in other countries. But rather than embracing these new technologies our own Government appears scared of their potential.

Brown wrote a book about courage but when it comes to putting in place the simple policies that will slash emissions and defeat climate change – he's not so much James Bond as Dr No.

Joss Garman works as a Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace UK

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