Michael Jacobs on what to watch

Michael Jacobs was on of Gordon’s SPADs from 2004 to 2010, and is now a visiting fellow on climate change at the London School of Economics. Tonight he is speaking on a panel “Is Nature a Frontline Service” as part of the Labour Party Fringe. It’s from 5.30pm at the Fiends Meeting House, just next to the perimeter of the Labour Party Conference (mind the landmines and keep your hands in plain view – those chaps in the machine gun emplacements get twitchy without sleep, and some of them are in a foul mood cos they voted for Dave Miliband).

Here’s clips from his recent Guardian article.

The coalition has, almost without exception, accepted Labour’s climate and energy policies. But to make good those commitments, it too will have to ensure the active support of Treasury and business ministers. With neither Osborne nor Cable known for an interest in green issues, the test will come with three decisions in the next few weeks .

The first is on the Green Investment Bank. This is the innovative proposal, accepted by all main parties, for an independent institution to help finance investment in renewables and home energy efficiency …. under the coalition that commitment [to State seed-funding] has been withdrawn, and a major argument between the DECC and the Treasury is under way on whether the bank will have any significant public funding – without which the bank will be stillborn, as the Tories’ own commission on the subject has argued. Its whole point is to leverage private sector finance through public investment, so it will be critical that Huhne can persuade Osborne and Cable to back such funds.

Second, the government must decide on the development of carbon capture and storage technology. Looking to promote a new British industry with the promise of thousands of jobs, Labour committed to provide both public funding for a first demonstration project and the introduction of a small levy on electricity consumers to finance three more. The DECC insists that both are on track. But Whitehall rumour is that the Treasury is seeking both to close down the competition and abandon or delay the levy.

A third plank of the last government’s low-carbon industrial strategy is also up for decision: the push to stimulate a British wind-turbine manufacturing sector, with four global firms announcing plans to invest in the UK. These were dependent on improving the facilities of east coast ports where the companies want to site their factories. So the government announced a £60m port development scheme. The coalition has yet to confirm whether this will go ahead; a decision is set for the comprehensive spending review next month.


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