Climate change makes it on to the leaders’ debate agenda

There was a question about climate change during the second leaders’ debate for the UK general election.

Unfortunately, the question was a bit naff.  Essentially, it was “what have you done personally in the last 6 months to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions?”  I guess it was slightly more illuminating than “what’s your favourite colour?” but only just.

So what did they say?

Brown kicked off.  He’s only flown once during the election campaign, which hasn’t been 6 months.  He takes trains.  And he installed solar panels (I think he meant solar water heating).  More relevantly, he mentioned the climate change act and that he’s been working with Europe and the rest of the world to find global solutions to these issues.

Cameron started by saying that he had tried to get the Tory party to embrace environmental issues and pretty much acknowledged that this had failed.  He’s had insulation fitted.  And opposed the 3rd runway at Heathrow.

This question played into Cameron’s hands as he could talk about his own opinions without saying anything about his party. He also had to say nothing about some of his MP’s (and MP candidate’s) dodgy views on the science of climate change.  I was surprised that neither of the other leaders brought this up.

Clegg gets the train to Sheffield (unless he has lots of stuff for his kids). His more general point was that planes create lots of CO2 and that the taxing of flights needs to be looked at.  Because passengers are taxed, not flights, there is no incentive for efficiency in flight numbers.

Brown’s second comment focussed on changing the UK’s energy balance.  He spoke about  reducing our “addiction to oil” and aiming for 50% renewables by 2020, which would include nuclear.  He then questioned Clegg about his opposition to nuclear power and Cameron about his opposition to wind power.

Cameron didn’t really answer the question and mentioned his Green Deal, which apparently encourages efficiency.  Brown responded by saying that Labour had a similar scheme already.

Clegg answered Brown’s question by saying that he had no fundamental opposition to nuclear but thinks its very expensive, would take too long get online and might increase energy costs. Clegg would use the money earmarked to support the nuclear industry to start insulation schemes and support other types of renewable energy.

Personally, I’ve always thought nuclear makes sense from an emissions point of view but I’ve not really looked into the economics of it.  It seems to work for France.

After some more arguing about energy balance, Cameron said that Clegg’s policy of rejecting nuclear meant that there would be “power cuts by 2013”.  Well that just sounded a bit vague.

The debate went downhill from here.  Clegg took a swipe at Brown about his sidelining at Copenhagen and pointed out that Cameron’s decision to align himself with some questionable characters in the EU wouldn’t help with climate negotiations in Europe.

Cameron’s defence was a bit silly: he said that the Lisbon treaty only had 7 words on climate change (why would it have more? it’s a document about the functioning of the EU).  His justification for his EU grouping was even more daft.  It was essentially that the recently deceased Polish president had been in that grouping, Clegg and Brown had said nice things about him after his death so the whole grouping must be fine.  I don’t follow that logic.

If this is the only discussion of climate change at these debates then that’s a shame because I don’t think we really learnt much about what the 3 parties are proposing.

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2 Responses to “Climate change makes it on to the leaders’ debate agenda”

  1. Andy Says:

    the politicians need a lot more climate-oriented imagination than currently on display. Until they talk about reducing the addiction to consumption it will be the same old same old window dressing.

    Nuclear does work for france – and they sell their energy to Germany too, so that was a smart investment for them on several levels, but they acted on that brainwave years ago.

  2. Chris Rowan Says:

    I’m kind of with Nick Clegg on the nuclear question – even the most optimistic of timescales (i.e. those provided by the nuclear industry) would have new nuclear build coming online several years after we hit our energy gap. If we wanted to go the nuclear route, we should have been actually building new reactors by now, rather than talking about building them (which the government has been doing for at least the last four years without anything tangible actually happening).

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