UK's Conservatives to fight climate change but shun wind power
As the UK's new Conservative government bedded down following its triumph in the elections last week, it has reaffirmed its conviction to fight climate change, to the relief of environmental pressure groups.
The new minister for energy and climate change, Amber Rudd, has made clear her unequivocal backing for action to combat climate change and for the science behind it, unlike the more sceptical fringes of her party. This is vital in a year when a major international deal to combat global warming is expected in Paris in December.
"To those who still say that the Conservatives do not take tackling climate change seriously, let me remind them that it was Margaret Thatcher who was the first ever world leader to sound the alarm on taking action on global warming at the UN in 1989," Rudd wrote in an online letter on Business Green website.
Rudd also repeated the party's manifesto claim to be "the greenest government ever", and vowed to take further action to protect the environment "in a way that represents the lowest possible cost to consumers".
"If we have to decarbonise our economy, it would seem counterproductive to rule out the cheapest way of doing that," a spokeswoman for RenewableUK, representing wind and solar producers, told New Scientist. "We hope the administration will take a pragmatic view towards this, so onshore wind can continue to contribute."
She says that onshore wind provides 5 per cent of Britain's renewable energy, which is the highest proportion out of any renewable source, and the figure rises to almost 10 per cent if offshore wind farms are included. One potential way to overcome opposition might be to offer local communities a financial stake in wind farms built locally, as proposed in a report last year.
But overall, environmental groups and backers of climate change action are pleased by Judd's appointment, especially given her acceptance of the huge scientific consensus on climate change.
"It's reassuring to have a politician paying attention to reality rather than living in a fantasy world where the laws of physics don't apply," says Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.
Meanwhile, the new science minister is historian Jo Johnson, the brother of London mayor Boris Johnson. "There is an enormous opportunity for science and engineering to drive economic prosperity and public wellbeing," saidNaomi Weir, acting director of lobby group Campaign for Science and Engineering. "In his new role, Jo is in a strong position to ensure science and engineering is a central feature of the government's long-term economic plan, and I look forward to working with him to ensure the UK has the people, the funding and the policies for science and engineering to thrive."