Andrea Leadsom has reiterated the government’s stance on climate change policy following the outcome of the EU referendum, claiming the country remains committed to dealing with the issue.
Speaking at an event in Westminster on 5 July, the energy minister and Conservative leadership hopeful said Brexit had not changed the government’s stance on the importance of lowering emissions in the context of the ‘energy trilemma’.
“Decarbonising our energy system is not some abstract regulatory requirement; it is an essential responsibility that we hold towards our children and grandchildren, as the only way to effectively counter the threat of climate change,” she said.
“However we choose to leave the EU, let me be clear: we remain committed to dealing with climate change.”
Her speech follows similar words from energy secretary Amber Rudd at last week’s Business and Climate Change Summit, who said: “Climate change has not been downgraded as a threat. It remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our economic and national security.”
However, despite the assurances of both of the top figures at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the UK is expected to miss its internationally set targets for 2020. A recent judgement from the National Grid claimed that even under its most ambitious scenario, the UK would not hit its EU renewable energy target of 15% until 2022.
However, Leadsom did point to some successes in renewable energy policy from the government, particularly in the area of renewable electricity where the UK is expected to overachieve on its aim of 30%.
“We are on track for 35% of our electricity to come from renewables by 2020, and our overall emissions have fallen by a third since 1990.”
However, unlike Rudd who admitted last week that the impact of government cost-cutting had “been difficult for the solar industry”, Leadsom remained hard-lined on the effect cuts to subsidy have had on the sector.
“I make no apology for the fact that we have had to take some steps to reduce costs. Our responsibility is to manage public spending carefully and sensibly,” she said.
“When the costs of renewables falls dramatically, it cannot be in our interests to pay generators above the odds, while the public foots the bill. Even with the steps we have taken, we still expect our spending on clean energy to double during the course of this Parliament.”
This spending will be used to ensure the government moves towards its emissions reduction targets outlined in the Climate Change Act, which require an 80% drop by 2050. This will be led by the meeting of carbon budgets throughout this period, the latest of which was confirmed by Rudd last week.
Despite these binding pledges made in 2008 and carried forward by successive governments, Leadsom remained technology agnostic on how the UK would meet these targets. She claimed it was for the market to decide the contributions of different technologies through auctions and then directly as clean energy begins to deploy without subsidy.
“This approach will give us confidence that we are decarbonising at the least cost,” she said.
However, despite this traditionally-Conservative view of market led forces pushing progress forward, the minister remained steadfast on the government’s commitment to fossil fuels, pointing out the £2.3 billion worth of tax measures directed towards the oil and gas industries to protect jobs and investment.
She added that over 8,000 jobs have been lost in this sector in the last year but failed to address the thousands of jobs thought to have disappeared from the solar sector in the same period due to government cuts to subsidy scheme.
Her speech at the summit was the latest stop on Leadsom’s campaign to become the next prime minster, with the energy minister thought to be one of the front-runners alongside home secretary Teresa May and justice secretary Michael Gove.