In three weeks, the UK will go to the polls in one of
the closest-fought and least predictable elections in a generation.
Carbon Brief has already pored over the political parties’
manifesto views on climate and energy
.

But the chance of a multi-party coalition make it hard
to extrapolate pre-election commitments into future government
action. Carbon Brief asked a range of experts for their views on
the May 7 poll’s implications, in particular:

  • What are the key climate and energy dividing lines for
    the election?

  • How do you see potential election outcomes affecting
    climate and energy policy, post-election and in the run-up to
    Paris?

Here’s what they had to say:

Jim
Watson
, research director of the UK Energy Research
Centre
(UKERC) and professor of energy policy at the
University of Sussex Science and Technology Policy
Research Centre
(SPRU):

“The large uncertainty about
the outcome of the election, particularly the different coalitions
that may emerge, makes it hard to predict what the next
government’s policy will look like. An important lesson of the 2010
election is that strong manifesto commitments by some parties could
be traded off in post-election negotiations if the result is
close.

“However, given the recent joint statement by Miliband, Cameron
and Clegg, a strong commitment to continued emissions reductions is
likely. There is much more uncertainty about specifics. If the
Conservatives lead the next government, there would be more
pressure to reduce funding for some low carbon technologies –
including cost effective options like onshore wind. If a Labour-led
government sees its plans through, this would mean significant
regulatory upheaval – and a reinforcement of the more
interventionist policies we have seen in the past few years.”

Nick Mabey, chief
executive of E3G:

“The most important
dividing line is over an in/out referendum on EU membership. Key
domestic policy dividing lines are the Conservative Party’s
intention to stop funding for onshore wind turbines and possibly
solar, which will raise bills and undermine any move to a smarter
and more decentralised UK power system.

“If the Conservatives form the next government then the EU
will be consumed with the
Brexit
referendum and the “reform” negotiations. This will
undermine the delivery of any concerted EU political and diplomatic
strategy to deliver a strong Paris climate agreement.

“Any government will face difficult choices over infrastructure
priorities and investment. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have
made energy efficiency an infrastructure priority which should see
spending on fuel poverty and energy efficiency increase after
recent cuts. The Conservatives’ plans for more road investment
would effectively squeeze out major increases in efficiency
spending if implemented.

“English devolution will also be a major focus for any new
government. Currently, it is unclear if any party intends to follow
the patterns set in Scotland and Wales and devolve substantial
powers on energy, smart infrastructure and climate resilience to
English cities. In fact, all parties seem committed to greater
centralisation in infrastructure planning, which is likely to
undermine moves to an efficient, smarter and modern energy and
transport system.”


Catherine Mitchell
, professor of energy policy at the University of
Exeter
:

“This is a very
important election for those that care about progressive energy
policies – whether related to climate, security or
affordability. There is a major divide between the two
factions: the Tory / UKIP scepticism of renewables, climate
change and Europe and the Labour, SNP and Green alliance.

“The former is anti-innovation and supportive of incumbents
and the current ways of doing things which is an ostrich-like
position which will cost Britain’s society dear whilst the latter,
unexpectedly, has the possibility of being positive in terms of
embracing change and capturing the opportunities of climate change
to benefit Britain, and wider society.

“Quite where the Lib Dems fit into this is less clear. The global
economics of energy are changing rapidly and Britain is not
benefitting from this because the institutional basis of our energy
system is not fit for purpose. This has to change, and a coalition
of Labour SNP and Green has a chance of achieving this.”

Jimmy
Aldridge
, research fellow in energy policy at the Institute for Public Policy
Research
(IPPR):

“Despite top-level
consensus between the Conservatives and Labour on the need to
secure a positive climate deal in Paris and to implement
Electricity Market Reforms
including the
phase-out of coal, the outcome of the election is likely to deliver
very different results.

“Labour would ‘reset’ the energy market – putting in a new
regulator, a new market design, and splitting open the big energy
companies. The Conservatives would maintain the current market and
push firmly ahead with fracking. They’ll end subsidies for onshore
wind which probably means an increase in offshore wind to meet EU
targets.

“A Conservative-led government would mean less disruption which is
good for industry, but we’d keep the old market which is bad for
consumers. A Labour-led government would mean a substantial period
of uncertainty which will worry industry, but ultimately an energy
market that works for the consumer. Whoever wins, the costs of the
low-carbon transition will rise sharply over the parliament and
this will need to be carefully managed if that programme is to
succeed.”

Richard
Howard
, head of energy and environment at Policy
Exchange
:

“On energy and climate
change, there is as least as much agreement between the main
parties (Con, Lab, LibDem) as there is disagreement. All agree the
need to decarbonise the economy, although not necessarily the level
of ambition (Labour and the Lib Dems support more stretching carbon
targets). They also agree that greater state intervention is
required in order to secure new investment in energy infrastructure
– for example the EMR [
electricity market reform
] mechanisms, on
which there was an almost unanimous vote.

“However, there are huge ideological differences on how to
deal with energy prices, suppliers and markets. The coalition
favours a competitive approach – supporting new suppliers to enter
the market and promoting customer switching. On the other hand,
Labour’s pledges imply even further regulation, the disintegration
of the Big Six [energy firms], and could potentially destroy
competition in the market.

“The parties will need to make a few things clearer after the
election. The coalition partners say they wish to pursue a
‘technology-neutral’ approach, but in reality have spent the last
five years making very specific technology choices. Labour’s
ambitious decarbonisation plans also seem to contradict its desire
to reduce energy prices.

“But the wildcard for this election is the strong possibility of
two, three or even more parties having to work together to form a
workable government. Depending on the outcome on 7 May, the views
of the SNP, UKIP, Greens and other parties could become extremely
significant (in general, and specifically on energy and climate
policy).”

Tom Viita, senior UK political advisor, Christian
Aid
:

“The leadership of all
the main parties in the UK recognise climate science, support
the
Climate Change Act
and will put great energy
into seeking a global deal in Paris. Governments of the world have
accepted the evidence of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change
] and the UK has one of the best
environments for turning this into meaningful policy outcomes
because of its political culture, legislative framework and
commitment to evidence-based policy-making.

“The UK presents a model for other countries to follow, and
has already been copied by countries such as Mexico. However, the
vital ingredient is political will to act at the pace and scale
necessary to cut emissions. Amid many competing priorities, the UK
needs a prime minister who can rise above it and set a strong
direction that other ministers and departments will follow.

“Climate scepticism is an unusually Anglophone phenomenon that
does not exist in the media or political cultures of most
countries. The UK is also rare among Anglophone nations in
maintaining a strong cross-party consensus on climate science and
climate action. It is vital that this is preserved over the next
five years, and the leaders of all the main parties will need to
emphasise that this is a matter of national interest and scientific
evidence, not belief or political ideology.

“This is most pressing on the right, where the multiplicity of
voices can lead to polarisation. Without strong leadership in the
Conservative party – in government or in opposition – the UK’s
political culture may start to polarise on the climate debate,
leading to political deadlock such as that in the US and
Canada.”

Emma Lucy Pinchbeck, head of climate and
energy at WWF UK:

“We were delighted to be
part of the coalition of NGOs that helped broker the
Leader’s Pledge on Climate Change
in
February. With the election outcome still undecided, it is notable
that climate change remains, underneath all the campaigning, an
issue on which there is broad political consensus.

“2015 is a turning point year on the road to tackling
climate change and to taking the long-term economic opportunities
gifted by the low-carbon transition. The negotiations of the UNFCCC
[UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change
] in December will be a top priority for the UK’s
diplomatic core, with climate change also tabled at the G7 and the
UN
meeting on Sustainable Development Goals
this summer.

“Domestically, the next government will be responsible for setting
an ambitious
fifth carbon budget
, and existing policies from the Levy
Control Framework
to the
Renewable Heat Incentive
. New policy will also be needed to
close the gaps
identified
by the Committee
on Climate Change
to meet our emissions reduction targets, with
energy efficiency as an obvious contender for attention. The party
manifestos overall had some commendable policies on the natural
environment and energy policy. We must hope that these remain even
through coalition wrangling.

“However the crucial point is not one of policy, but of narrative.
If political and public consensus remains solid on the need to
tackle climate change, then why are we hearing so little about
it?

“There are great challenges ahead in terms of policy ambition. But
there are also opportunities through the low carbon agenda to bring
some positive vision to an election cycle which has often been
narrow in focus – and not a little cynical. We hope to see the
profile that these policy areas deserve in the final weeks of the
election and in the programme of the new government.”


Robert Ede
, associate consultant on energy and environment at
the Whitehouse
Consultancy
:

“Labour have stated that
they are prepared to exploit shale reserves, but in the face of
ardent opposition, would they pursue it with the same zeal that the
Tories have? [We think] this is unlikely – the industry has failed
to generate enough political support beyond a few senior figures in
the coalition. In the likely event of a hung parliament, Labour may
try to form a government drawing on the SNP, the Greens and Plaid
[Cymru] to create a Scandinavian style ‘progressive alliance’. If
this occurs, a moratorium on shale would seem a likely
concession.

“A Conservative-led government would create challenges for
Paris. The threat of a looming referendum and subsequent Brexit
would diminish our diplomatic power in the climate negotiations;
any new energy secretary would struggle to legitimately champion EU
targets whilst at the same time his or her government would be
embroiled in tense talks over the UK’s membership.”

Nick
Molho
, executive director of the Aldersgate
Group
:

“This is a key election
for the UK’s climate and energy policy. Within the first 18 months
of the next parliament, important decisions will need to be taken
on energy efficiency, the levy control framework, a possible power
sector decarbonisation target and the fifth carbon budget. All of
these are critical to the UK’s ability to meet its climate targets
on time and in a way that is cost-effective and economically
beneficial to the UK.

“The overriding question for the different parties will be
whether they will provide enough clarity on the UK’s climate and
energy policy beyond 2020 to attract the significant investments
the UK needs in its energy efficiency and low-carbon
infrastructure.

“Whilst there are clearly some differences on the detail of
domestic climate and energy policy, the recent climate change
pledge signed by all three major parties shows that there is
consensus between them on international climate policy. All three
parties recognise the importance of getting a strong global deal to
tackle the global problem that is climate change. I would expect
(and hope) that they would all push equally strongly for such a
deal if in government.”


Richard Nourse
, managing partner at Greencoat
Capital
:

“Labour has made energy
bills and “rip off” utilities the energy issue of the election, but
will need to find a way off that electorally-appealing petard if in
government. Energy is not on the agenda for Tories. Greening of
electricity generation to hit a 50 to 100 gramme per kilowatt hour
carbon intensity target by 2030 will cost around £200 per household
per annum [a
December 2014 report from the Committee on Climate
Change
puts low-carbon and energy efficiency
policy costs in 2020 at £160 for an average home, or £210 for
electrically-heated homes]. The next government needs to accept
that and take steps to make it not an issue for those suffering
fuel poverty.

“Nuclear and CCS [
carbon capture and storage
] are unlikely to be the solution
previously thought, and so significantly more renewables will be
needed to hit that target. Given all parties are committed to the
Levy
Control Framework
in a deficit constrained world, this will
limit renewable generation deployment and could become an issue if
costs (technology and cost of capital) do not come down and gas
prices remain low. Government signalling is the main driver of the
cost of capital, which is the main driver of cost of green
electricity.”

Note: The quotes were provided via email and
have been very lightly edited for clarity. If you would like to
contribute, please email
simon.evans@carbonbrief.org.

Via: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/04/expert-views-what-the-general-election-means-for-uk-climate-and-energy-policy/