After Election Drubbing, UK Government Climate Adviser Backs Down On Wind, Tones Down Rhetoric

  • Date: 27/05/14
  • Ben Webster, The Times

Britain has approved enough onshore wind turbines to meet climate change targets, leaving the public to choose other ways to cut emissions in future, the government’s chief climate adviser has said.

Lord Deben of Winston appeared to contradict forecasts by his own Committee on Climate Change of a tripling in the number of wind farms by 2030 — equivalent to almost 10,000 more turbines.

There are 4,400 onshore turbines operating with a capacity of seven gigawatts, while a further six gigawatts have received planning permission and are being built or awaiting construction. Last year the committee published four plans for cutting emissions by 2030, all of which included 25 gigawatts of onshore wind.

However, the Conservative peer, who was environment secretary in John Major’s government, said that there were enough wind farms with planning permission to meet a legally binding target for renewable energy by 2020. After that date the public may choose other methods of cutting emissions, he added.

Lord Deben also said that it was wrong to label people such as Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former chancellor, as “climate change deniers”. They should be called “dismissers”, he said.

Lord Lawson said this month that the phrase “climate change denier” was “deliberately designed to echo ‘Holocaust denier’ — as if questioning present policies and forecasts of the future is equivalent to casting malign doubt about an historical fact”.

Lord Deben said: “The dismissers are people who do not deny that climate change is happening, do not deny that human beings are largely [causing it], but who think you can dismiss its urgency and seriousness. That case only stands up if you ignore the vast majority of scientists.”

The peer, better known as John Gummer, said that Britain needed “a portfolio of different mechanisms” and “you have got to keep the portfolio in balance”. He added: “I’m happy that we have already got enough onshore wind to 2020 to meet that part of the portfolio.”

Asked if more onshore wind farms should be approved after 2020, he said: “It is likely that [onshore wind] will continue to play a part in our renewables after 2020, but it is not a decision we have to make now, and there are circumstances in which it might not. The public will decide what the balance is.” He added that power from offshore wind was “falling in price very significantly”.

The Conservatives pledged last month to end subsidies for new onshore wind turbines if they win the next election. Lord Deben declined to comment on the move, saying that he spoke as an independent on climate change. He appeared, though, to support the government’s announcement this month that it would end subsidies for large solar farms in the countryside. Lord Deben said that he backed the exploitation of shale gas and criticised campaigners who regarded fracking as “a sin against the Holy Ghost”.

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