Talking yesterday on BBC’s Newsnight, energy minister Malcolm Wicks confirmed the rumours that the government is to back away from Tony Blair’s pledge to source 20 per cent of our power from renewables by 2020. Instead, Wicks told the programme, it is looking to source between 10 to 15 per cent.
Wicks’ comments follow the publication on Monday by the Guardian of leaked government documents warning that 20 per cent is impractical, and apparently even suggesting that Britain should work with countries sceptical about climate change and persuade them to set lower renewable targets.
The leaked report, which according to the Guardian was prepared for Gordon Brown by secretary of state for business John Hutton reportedly estimated that increasing wind, wave and solar energy from the current UK level of two per cent to just nine per cent by 2020 would cost around £4bn.
What’s particularly depressing about all this is Wicks’ assertion on Newsnight that the 20 per cent level agreed in Brussels was a Europe wide target that doesn’t necessarily have to apply to individual member states: a pretty defeatist statement from the representative of a government that has previously stated its desire to take a position of leadership on climate change issues.
And although the government has disputed accusations that it is trying to wriggle out of its renewable energy commitments, the UK’s renewables industry will feel let down by the lack of ambition displayed by Wick’s comments.
Because whatever doubts the government may have about committing to an ambitious course of action that puts renewables at the top of the energy agenda, the UK engineers currently working in the sector are under little doubt that given the right backing they have the expertise to achieve these ambitious targets.
It is only by aiming high that we can make real progress in tackling climate change, and with over 12 years to go, Brown’s administration is already moving the goalposts.
Jon Excell, features editor