The UK’s withdrawal of renewable energy subsidies has been criticised as “disappointing” by a UN scientist in the wake of roundly positive action to fight climate change from 150 other countries ahead of the conference in Paris next month.
As many of the world’s most powerful countries prepare to meet in Paris to discuss future plans in relation to climate change, the UK, it seems, has broken away from the mould in a worrying manner.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade who heads up the science division of the UN’s environment program, said: “what I’m seeing worldwide is a move very much towards investment in renewable energy. To counterbalance that, you see the withdrawal of subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels.
“What’s disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going – we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced.”
DECC maintain commitment to fighting climate change
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change has maintained that “we are absolutely comitted to getting a global deal in Paris, which will create a level playing field for businesses, driving innovation and growing the low carbon economy.”
However, what the government have said, what they have expressed support for, and what they have actually done in terms of policies implemented, seem to be rather different.
“a perverse signal”
With an almost unprecedented degree of unambiguous condemnation, McGlade described the UK’s reversal on green energy subsidies as sending a “very perverse signal” to the rest of the world.
The DECC’s general thrust is that subsidies do not equal support; that measures that have been in place have already driven down prices and that subsidies have worked so far but are no longer needed. They argue that due to high subsidies in the past, solar and wind farms (for example) have been built so fast that they have actually served to drive up the cost of household bills, due to the cost of maintaining the plants.
The thrust of the argument is not necessarily flawed, but what has been called out as worrying is the sharp and abrupt nature of the UK government’s about turn on renewable energy policy. Other countries are also scaling back support for solar and wind farms under similar reasoning, but Amber Rudd, the Energy secretary, plans to fully get rid of all subsidies within the next ten years.