Climate change and renewables in spotlight as Lib Dem debate energy

This morning saw senior Liberal Democrat figures and party members hold a wide-ranging debate on energy policy at the party’s annual conference in Bournemouth. Entitled ‘Securing a Global Treaty on Climate Change’, the session focussed heavily on the Lib Dem record in meeting climate goals and the new Conservative Government’s energy and climate change priorities.

In her first public appearance as Lib Dem Energy spokeswoman, soon-to-be Baroness Lynne Featherstone moved the formal motion and stated climate change was the most important issue for the country, the planet and her party’s revival. She praised former Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey for helping to make Britain a world leader in reducing carbon emissions, and said she looked forward to him returning to Westminster as soon as possible.

Featherstone used her speech to set out her credentials on climate change, noting she had seen the impact of this on societies as an international development minister. She also hinted at her priorities going forward, saying liberals had to focus on the opportunities as much as the threats posed by climate change and noting the importance of renewables to a sustainable economy. She hailed the UK’s strength in offshore wind and the world-beating number of turbines Britain has installed.

The new Lib Dem Energy spokeswoman was followed on the podium by former special adviser to Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, Duncan Brack. In his speech Brack criticised the Government’s approach to onshore wind, saying it would have to sponsor more expensive technologies or abandon climate targets if it took this cheap source of power out of the mix. He also branded DECC a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of HM Treasury, a theme echoed by fellow ex-Huhne SpAd Joel Kendrick when he appeared on the platform shortly afterwards.

There then followed a short debate on an amendment tabled by Brack condemning the Government’s policies with regard to onshore wind, solar, the Green Investment Bank and the Green Deal. This was followed by an appearance by Ed Davey, who was greeted warmly by delegates and pledged he would help Featherstone in holding the Government to account. Davey focussed on Lib Dem achievements in helping to secure a global deal on climate change, although he also highlighted the large number of renewable power plants for which he had approved contracts and said he was looking forward to Conservative ministers opening pre-approved onshore wind farms.

Both the motion on securing a treaty on climate change and Brack’s amendment on renewables were overwhelmingly approved by delegates. A large number of Lib Dem grandees were in attendance for the debate, including new leader Tim Farron, former leader Lord Menzies Campbell and Sir Danny Alexander. 

Photograph: Bristol Liberal Democrats

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