Friday, October 26, 2007

Mr Benn and the DBERR Men

We had a petition on the 10 Downing St petition board, asking for action on Climate Change. Hilary Benn, Sec of State for the Environment, kindly wrote back in response, saying that Britain leads the world, and we should all try harder. I have just responded to him:

Dear Mr Benn

I have been conducting a correspondence with HMG, over the last two years on climate change, and the Government’s role in seeking international agreement on a post-2012 climate change framework is, I am sorry to say, not impressive. The UK negotiators are putting forward no concrete framework for nations to work towards, are waiting passively for something to turn up, and even worse, are setting a precondition of action of 100% participation of all parties. This is not leadership, simply a recipe for failure.

I am sorry to say that your claim to be showing leadership on how we can build the low carbon economy is at odds with the facts. Germany has 100 times more photovoltaic roof installations than the UK, has better standards of property insulation, has many more wind turbines, and is generally forging ahead far more quickly than the UK. The UK renewables subsidy budget is under spent, and yet the support for installations was cut by up to 2/3rds in the Spring. I know, I lost out to the tune of £5000. I went ahead and fitted the PV anyway, because of the carbon savings, but with an unpleasant feeling of resentment towards Government. It is simply not true to say that the UK Government is showing leadership.

You claim that the Climate Change Bill will make the UK the first country in the world to put our commitment to reduce emissions by at least 60% on the statute book, but at the same time we read of civil servants at DBERR are advising how to spin the CO2 targets since we are going to fail, and they are even trying to reclassify nuclear as a renewable resource, which it most certainly is not.

You will see from this that we do not feel that that the UK takes its responsibilities for reducing global emissions seriously.

I have been doing my best to reduce my individual energy use for the past 30 years, but it is very difficult in the framework that Government provides. To give but one example, I cycle 4 miles to work, but I have no cycle lanes, whether tangible or notional, and it is very difficult to persuade my patients (I am a GP) to follow my example. If the MPs who backed the Road Traffic Reduction Bill when in opposition had maintained their commitment when they moved into Government, we might be in a better position.

I am sorry to have to write in this vein. I know that you are a decent man who wants to make things better, but the response you wrote to our petition did not do the trick. You will have to fight very hard indeed in Government against the forces of denial and reaction if the Government of which you are a member is to gain the respect of the Green movement.

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