A GROUP of Oxford academics has condemned the Government’s energy policy and warned of serious consequences for the environment unless urgent changes are made.
Their criticisms were outlined in a report entitled ‘Energy, Politics and Poverty’, which questioned the government’s failure to meet targets on carbon dioxide emissions and described the current policy as "a hotch-potch of measures unlikely to deliver the government’s vision."
The taskforce, chaired by the Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten, was composed of experts in various environmental issues and was set up by Ngaire Woods, Director of Oxford’s Global Economic Governance Programme and Christopher Allsopp, Director of Oxford’s Institute of Energy Studies.
Dr Woods emphasised the importance of the report as a non-governmental initiative. "This is a chance to take an outsider’s view of what’s happening in government. The report is completely independent and was not part of a Westminster initiative," she said.
The report also provides recommendations for avoiding what it calls the "serious risks" of not altering the government’s approach to energy.
Chris Turner, a spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry, said that the claims made by the report were "disingenuous".
He defended government policy, saying "Work is being done on these matters. The government’s White Paper on energy published last month sets out specific targets and plans for the future regarding reductions in CO2 emissions and the expansion of nuclear resources."
The White Paper pledges to cut CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by around 2050. It also aims to secure the UK’s energy supplies and ensure that homes are heated adequately.
Turner continued, "The report claims investment is needed in carbon-capture technology, but the White Paper has set out explicit measures by which this should be accomplished. Regarding the gas-storage infrastructure, the White Paper makes clear the possibility of using old coal and salt caverns to store gas while new terminals are already being built to store liquid and natural gas."
The Oxford report stressed attention to Africa and other developing countries that are put at risk by climate change.
Turner insisted that the government was aware of these concerns and had set out a long-term strategy to deal with them.
In a statement, the Department of Trade and Industry said, "The White Paper will deliver real results. It will cut the UK’s carbon emissions by a quarter by 2020 relative to 1990 levels, even though our economy will have doubled in that period. It will triple the amount of electricity we get from renewables by 2015 and improve the energy efficiency of our economy by around 10 per cent between now and 2020. This is over and above the 25 per cent improvement we already expect over that period."