The UK's Conservative government is failing to live up to its promises to invest in green technologies and fight climate change the Labour and Green parties are charging.
Their criticism comes after IBTimes UK revealed how the government put 190,000 jobs at risk when it cut a £1bn green technology fund in late 2015.
"The Tory Government have disregarded their own promises, damaged our ability to fight climate change and they've put nearly 200,000 jobs at risk," said Labour's shadow business and energy secretary, Clive Lewis, in a statement Friday (6 January).
Earlier this week IBTimes UK published letters sent by an energy industry group urging former prime minister David Cameron and George Osborne, then chancellor of the exchequer, to preserve £1bn kickstart fund for the UK's carbon-capture and storage (CSS) technology industry. The Conservatives cut the funding just weeks later on 25 November 2015, days before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
"Developing this industry in the UK could support 15,000-30,000 jobs by 2030," insisted Luke Warren, CEO of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association (CCSA), in the letters. The group represents 34 energy industry players, including BP, Statoil and Shell. Warren said that the government's investment in the technology would "help to safeguard the 160,000 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs" in British manufacturing industries that would use the technology as well. The letters were obtained by IBTimes UK through a Freedom of Information request.
Both government and industry have agreed that carbon capture technology is crucial for the UK to meet its carbon emission targets set in the UK's Climate Change Act. The technology works by taking carbon emissions from industrial smokestacks and storing them deep underground — especially power plants. UK government reports say that without the technology British consumers will be paying an extra £1bn to £2bn per year for electricity through the 2020s and £4bn to £5bn per year by 2040.
"Developing Carbon Capture and Storage was a Tory manifesto commitment which David Cameron hailed as "absolutely crucial," said Lewis. "Britain should be a world leader in investing in green technologies, but we are failing to live up to this because this Tory Government keeps withdrawing vital support needed to help grow these emerging markets." The Conservatives also cut subsidies for renewable energy in 2015.
The news comes as China's National Energy Administration (NEA) announced its plans to create 13 million jobs by investing $361 billion in the renewable energy sector by 2020 — roughly $72 billion a year from 2016 to 2020. China has said it remains committed to battling climate change and is shifting away from coal power to cleaner, renewable energy technology. The plan is for renewable energy to make up about half of China's new power generation by 2020.
"It's clear the government has no plan to transition to a low-carbon society," said the Green Party's energy spokesperson Andrew Cooper. "If CCS is not the answer, then where is the alternative? Cancelling this fund is another example to add to the long list of ways the government is failing when it comes to meeting emissions targets."
A spokesperson for the UK's Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said earlier this week that the government has "been clear that the costs of carbon capture and storage must come down if it is to play a part in reducing the UK's carbon emissions". When asked about future plans for the technology, they said BEIS is "considering the options for CCS in the UK and will set out our approach in due course".
Yet Lewis said that "ministers must wake up to the reality of our energy crisis and act now" if they want to have a fighting chance to create jobs and fight climate change at the same time. "Labour would support our renewable industries to tackle climate change," he said, "and create sustainable jobs up and down the country."