No members of the cabinet question the need to act on dangerous climate change, according to energy minister Greg Barker, who also stressed that the UK cannot take steps on its own.
Speaking at the FT Global Renewable Energy Summit in London on Tuesday, Barker said that none of his more senior peers in government had questioned the core findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report. He added, though, that action must be taken across the board – and not just by the UK – in a way that “takes consumers with us”.
“I think there is an understanding that the UK can’t do this in isolation; that when we talk about leadership, we need to be part of a pack moving forward, not singular”, he said.
Barker’s comments follow those of the chancellor George Osborne, who said in September that he didn’t think Britain should be seen as leading the fight against climate change. He also once famously claimed, “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business.”
But Barker said that while Osborne perhaps isn’t “one of Friends of the Earth’s top 10 favourite people”, he is tasked with reducing the deficit and getting the economy back on track, adding, “There isn’t a department in government that doesn’t bear a grudge against George Osborne in some form or another. That shows he’s doing his job.”
The energy minister, who assumed his role at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in 2010, said that in William Hague, the UK had a first secretary of state who was “absolutely committed to [the low-carbon] agenda”.
When asked by Financial Times environment correspondent Pilita Clark whether climate change had dropped down the UK’s list of concerns since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, Barker said, “I think it’s not so much that climate change has slipped down, but clearly the very difficult economy we inherited [after the 2010 general election] and the imperative for deficit reduction have meant that other issues have leapfrogged over it. But it remains the great long-term challenge of our century.”
He added that it was the government’s job to engage consumers with the green agenda, saying, “This can’t be something that can be done to people; it’s got to be something that people are willing to participate in.
“We’ve got to explain the impacts on their bills and we’ve got to explain the advantages. There are many positive things that come out of the whole climate agenda, which any sensible government will be doing anyway, regardless of the climate imperative.
“Having a broadly-based energy policy, rather than depending on any one country or any one technology, is sensible in the world that we live in.”