At the European Union Council in October, EU countries agreed to an ambitious and much needed new policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. It also includes plans to boost renewable energy to 27% of the energy mix and increase energy efficiency by at least 27%.
Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey has led the way in Europe to reach agreement on this goal. He set up a ‘Green Growth Group’ of likeminded countries to push for ambitious climate change targets. This agreement shows that Liberal Democrats are serious about tackling climate change, both in Britain and the European Union. It will set the tone for the UN Climate Change conference in Paris next year where we are looking to agree a global deal to tackle climate change
The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party and believe it is in our national interest to remain at the heart of the EU. We believe Europe offers us the best opportunity to deal with climate change and secure our energy future and this is a good example of where we have engaged constructively with Europe and consequently achieved all of our top priorities. It proves that this approach can deliver real EU reform.
I am pleased that the agreement is set to provide better energy security and reduce Europe’s energy imports by 14%, as countries use and develop more low carbon energy. It is up to each country to do this in a way that works for them and is best value for money.
The policy gives businesses the security they were demanding to make low carbon investments because we have shown long term commitment. Before the agreement just five countries, including the UK, had a climate target after 2020, now 28 countries do. This creates a level and competitive playing field for business across the EU. It will encourage industries to invest in low carbon technology and manufacturing and could create millions of green jobs.
The Liberal Democrats and I care passionately about tackling climate change. This agreement really does push us to keep up our efforts to create a greener world, something that Liberal Democrats have lived up to in government. Electricity produced from renewables has doubled since 2010 and we are well on track to exceed our carbon emissions targets. Through the Energy Act 2013, we have secured long-term contracts worth billions of pounds with renewables investors and have already announced over £34 billion of investment in renewable electricity projects since 2010. I am proud of this record and am working to ensure that we continue our progress towards becoming a green economy, having already put in place energy policy that will create 250,000 low carbon jobs by 2020.
As a minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government I have personally overseen the introduction of new legislation that means new homes will have to meet tough new zero carbon standards from 2016.
However, we can do much more. If the Lib Dems are in the next government we want to introduce a Zero Carbon Britain Act to further strengthen the Climate Change Act targets, introducing a decarbonisation target for the electricity sector and ending the use of dirty coal power stations. We will also ensure that Britain would be carbon free by 2050. This in in stark contrast to the other main parties. Labour talked a good game but changed little on the environment, while the Conservatives have shown they have little interest in saving the planet.