Laura Sandys is a member of the Commission on the Future of Localism and a Vice-President of Civic Voice.
We should commend ourselves that Conservatives have been at the forefront of the global endeavour to combat climate change and our achievements have not been insignificant. Since 2010, a Conservative-led Government signed the Paris Agreement, became the first major economy to commit to phasing out coal and has overseen a remarkable decarbonisation of the power sector. Electricity generated from clean sources is 50 per cent today, up from 19 per cent at the beginning of the decade.
We as Conservatives can rightfully be proud of this record.
However we must not kid ourselves that while we have been successful in addressing the decarbonisation of electricity, we now face some even tougher decisions. Power decarbonisation is just one piece of the policy puzzle. The heavy lifting is just about to start as we now have to address the decarbonisation of heat, industry, transport and agriculture.
These decisions are not just difficult but time sensitive as the recently published UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report starkly states. If we don’t move faster and deeper into our carbon-reliant economy and limit warming to 1.5 degrees, we are facing an unsustainable future for most of our communities.
To decarbonise those hard to reach parts of the economy there are limited few options available. Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage Technologies (CCUS) is the most promising option to unlock decarbonisation by removing and then using or storing carbon dioxide before it is emitted into the atmosphere. In addition, the UK is uniquely placed to exploit this technology with the North Sea infrastructure, skills from our offshore oil and gas sector and using the existing pipelines from land to store already in place. As well as bringing obvious environmental benefits, this is also a huge economic opportunity to establish a world-leading industry in the UK and ensure our industrial heartlands remain relevant for decades to come.
As the Heineken of decarbonisation, CCUS can help decarbonise heavy industry, produce low carbon hydrogen to decarbonise heating and transport, as well as support negative emission technologies when integrated with bio-energy generation. Other low carbon technologies cannot do this.
Again Conservatives have taken a leadership role through Energy Minister Claire Perry’s commissioning of a Cost Challenge Taskforce to establish a pathway to exploit CCUS. The report identified five areas ideally suited to clustering CCUS. Teesside, Yorkshire & the Humber, the North West, Scotland and South Wales have closely located power and industrial facilities and access to offshore storage. This industrial clustering is key to driving cost reductions and maximising the full value of the technology.
CCUS now needs a clear policy signal from Government, but one that recognises the unique economic and environmental value that the technology brings to the whole economy, not just the power sector.
Claire Perry has done a terrific job of building confidence in the industry over the past year. Committing to developing at least two regional clusters in the Government’s CCUS Deployment Pathway, would continue the Conservatives proud tradition of global green leadership and nurturing competitive, low carbon industries. All done while also protecting our industrial base and supporting our regional Industrial Strategy.
Three decades after Thatcher’s Conservative Governments supported the formation of the IPCC, we should heed their latest warnings and support technologies that go where none have gone before..