Election could further delay emissions reduction strategy: Hurd

A plan for how the UK will meet future carbon reduction targets might not be published before the election, climate change minister Nick Hurd said today.

Giving evidence to the parliamentary Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, Hurd said the plan, now to be known as the Clean Growth Plan, was in a ‘holding pattern’ along with other policies that had been due to be published soon, but that may now be held over until after the general election on 8 June.  

The government is restricted from publishing significant policy ahead of elections, in a period known as purdah. This will begin on 3 May, when parliament will also be dissolved. 

The Clean Growth Plan would set out the policies for the country to meet its fifth carbon budget, which commits the government to cutting CO2 by 57% from 1990 levels between 2028 and 2032. The budget was adopted by the government in July 2016, and the plan was originally due to be published in December. But the government pushed this back, first to February 2017 and then the first quarter of the year.

Hurd reported that the plan was well advanced and that discussions across government were ‘extremely active’. But he added that ‘a little more work was needed in terms of crossing t’s and dotting i’s.’  

‘Yesterday’s announcement means it sits in a holding pattern of projects and programmes, things that government needs to get out, and decisions will have to be taken in short order about what is published before the election or after the election,’ he said. 

Hurd described the process of putting the plan together as ‘fantastically complex and challenging’.

‘It’s about coordinating the government’s approach to a very complicated challenge against a very complex background, both in terms of technology and market shifts, but also we’re working through it through at a time when there are some quite significant unknowns such as the Brexit process. These are very, very material in terms of our ability to meet our carbon targets,’ he explained.

Hurd said that it had taken longer than expected to finalise the plan because of new ministers inheriting the work after the transfer of the work to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy from Decc. Ministers had also wanted to thoroughly engage the business sector as well as campaign groups, he said.

‘We’re clear through the industrial strategy that decarbonisation will be the driver of good jobs,’ he added.

Last week, lawyers at campaign group ClientEarth wrote to Hurd to urge him to publish the plan, which is mandated by the Climate Change Act, and said they would consider legal action if the government failed do so soon. 

The government is also due to publish its air quality strategy by 24 April, in order to comply with an order from the High Court. A spokesperson for the environment department (Defra) said that the election would not delay the strategy, adding that it might be published earlier than the deadline. 

Author: 

Catherine Early was deputy editor of the environmentalist from September 2014 to June 2017. She has covered energy and environmental issues for over 13 years, including for the ENDS Report, Planning magazine, Windpower Monthly, Business Voice, Climate Change Wealth, Fresh Produce Journal, Environment Business and Real Power magazines. She has also written for the Guardian and was a finalist in the 2009 Guardian international development journalism award.

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