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Ed Miliband replies

Justin Rowlatt | 17:51 UK time, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Ed MilibandThe Secretary of State for Climate Change, Ed Miliband, said he would answer some of your questions, and he has.

Wolfgirl asked: Does Mr Miliband offset any of his personal emissions? If not, why not? Does he think that offsetting emissions can help us to tackle climate change?

"The first thing I do is look to reduce my emissions. So I take the train and have taken steps to reduce the energy I use in my home.
"Carbon offsetting is not a cure for climate change, but it can help raise awareness and reduce the impact of our actions.
"Offsetting can be useful when we need to compensate for unavoidable emissions. In this way, offsetting can play a useful part in helping to meet carbon reduction targets.
"Robust offsetting projects can, however, provide a route for investment in clean technology in the areas which lack it the most. This investment really does help lead to the spread of low-carbon development across entire regions.
"The government is becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of travel by our ministers and officials. That's why we have offset all our emissions from air travel since April 2006."

MrWaves asked: Given that so many technologies such as wave, tidal, carbon capture and large scale solar are still in their infancy, how will we grow at least some of these into worthwhile energy sources and how do we plan with so much uncertainty?

"Wave and tidal energy and clean coal have enormous potential, and I'm proud that the UK is seen as a world leader in the development of these cutting-edge technologies. All are going to be necessary, we can't pick and choose.
"We are working closely with industry to develop these technologies that aren't yet commercially viable. That's the government taking a strategic role in helping that technology along.
"Just last week we published our new clean coal policy - which is the most environmentally ambitious set of coal conditions of any country in the world. It says that there will be no new coal without carbon capture and storage.
"Our island nation also means we've got huge potential in the area of wave and tidal energy and there's loads of work already underway. We've recently made £22m available to developers to accelerate the commercial development of marine energy in the UK. Work began this month on a 'Wave Hub' in south-west England which will help developers test their designs, and we have a £50m Marine Deployment Fund for the projects once they are ready for commercial testing.
"So we are putting the measures in place to develop these technologies - which will all be vital as we decarbonise our energy supplies."

DocDim asked: Does Mr Miliband see such initiatives as Copenhagen as having more or less value than actions taken by individuals, such as assuming a suitable moral stance (intrinsically motivated) as opposed to one decreed by governments (extrinsically motivated)?

"The bottom line for me is that politicians and governments have got to take a lead in sorting the problem out, and that's where Copenhagen comes in. We can't afford for any country to be left out, or left behind. And the UK has been pushing really hard to get the most ambitious deal possible.
"But 'Doc Dim' is right to bring up the role of individuals. Individuals all over the world have and must continue to play a vital role in mobilising and putting pressure on their governments to do the right thing when it comes to the climate.
"There's also the simple things that we can do in our homes - we're all part of the solution. Some 40% of the UK's emissions are down to what we do in our personal lives - transport, heating, power use. It would be wrong - and impractical - for government to just leave it at that, and say 'it's over to you and it's your responsibility'.
"Governments should make sure that we put in place the measures and help so that people play their part in tackling climate change, find it easy, and that it doesn't cost too much. That's what we're doing through our pay as you save home insulation pilots, to the new clean energy cash-back schemes for people who start to generate their own energy.
"Personally, I think it's not a good idea for politicians to lecture the public. It's my role to communicate a message of optimism and hope - not a message of gloom and defeatism."

Brightyangthing asked: If a means of power generation for the future had to be 'in your back yard', and assuming that without it, you would have no domestic heating or lighting three days a week, which box would you tick: Wind farm, Coal-fired power station, Nuclear, Other?

"Firstly, no-one is going to have a nuclear power station or a coal power station in their back yard - there's pretty strict rules on where they get built, as you'd expect!
"But people's back yards could be great for small-scale technology such as a ground source heat pump or solar panels. And from next year, through the clean energy cash-back scheme, people are going to be able to produce their own clean energy in their back yard and get paid for doing it as well.
"In my local area of Doncaster, we already have a coal power plant which could be one of the first in the world to develop CCS, and there are plans to build wind farms too.
"But we need all kinds of energy technology across Britain - in the right places - to supply us with the secure low carbon energy we need in the future. And we shouldn't forget the jobs and economic benefit that this investment brings to each area."


  • Comment number 1.

    Clean coal are words that are in conflict. New plants will have requirements but how much longer will the existing plants, by the way, the problem, continue to pollute? It is all make believe...wouldn't it be nice if..nio real committments or plans...they sit around with their fingers crossed waiting for someone to invent something..while attending meetings. They are dependent on the coal power plants and do not want to upset them. We will all suffer until someone somewhere develops and alternative fuel. They will all be saying that they wanted to understand. It is hard to believe that a crisis that they have described attracts relatively little money to address the matter. We have a dead political system so tied to the influence of outdated systems that it is unable to change to address modern problems. Reminds me of Zarist Russia or Louis' France or Charles I England. Can always count on the Scots to send any escapees back for 400 pounds.....for humanitarian reasons of course.

  • Comment number 2.

    I live in a country where the EU subsides distributed by the Government are only available if you use "recommended" suppliers.
    When you compare prices from other suppliers it is almost always cheaper than the "subsidised price" offered by these "recommended" suppliers.
    More people would take up the green cudgel if the subsidies actually went to the people directly not the few suppliers who hugely inflate their prices according to the subsides available.
    It is always the rich who can afford to save by going green. Generally Mr. Average cannot afford the investment. Think back to when solar heating was being oversold and overpriced in the 70´s Most people never saw a return on their investment.
    Some of the paybacks (less than 10years) being quoted by suppliers for Solar electricity are rediculously low and unachievable by the majority even allowing for the guaranteed purchase price of the electric sent to the grid.
    I sincerely hope that the UK does something that minimises or prevents these practices. Something that makes it realistic for Mr. Average to invest. Probably not though.

  • Comment number 3.

    All this lightweight politically convenient stuff about technologies which may be publicy acceptable, but won't fix the problem.
    Four hard facts :-

    1. We depend largely on fossil fuels now (coal, gas, oil) and we must stop burning them.

    2. We need to do as much as we can with renewables but must recognise they will never solve the problem.

    3. We need another generation of fission reactors to get us past the current energy crisis.

    4. We need desperately to invest in developing fusion energy, which will be clean and extremely long-term.

    What a pity Government has not the vision to bite this bullet. It will be expensive, but peanuts compared to the cost of what is about to happen to us if we don't develop fusion. We don't need "politicians"... we need real leaders, with intelligence, vision and humility !

  • Comment number 4.

    Mr Milliband. How is that if you are so supportive of microgeneration, this government still charges a £150 planning application fee for anyone who wants to put a solar panel on the roof of an outbuilding in their back garden just because it dosn't lie completely flat?

    The welsh assembly has had the good sense to waive such application fees and significantly changed the regulations in order to promote such individual efforts. Its a pity we can't elect them to lead us here in England. Oh by the way I did write write to the dep't of communities and local government and got exactly the inane nonsensical reply I expected from someone who hadn't even bothered to read the letter properly.

  • Comment number 5.

    Unfortunately this Government just can't get away from spin which has to assume the listener isn't aware of the full facts. For those of us who are seriously concerned about, and to an extent understand climate change, spin just makes the Government and the relevant minister look foolish. We are not satisfied with 'bread and circuses'.

    Unfortunately there is very little real action this Government has taken to reduce its emissions. Carbon offsets, the modern day equivalent of indulgences are a sad reflection of the way people will make money out of anything.

    Pressing the public to reduce emissions in their own homes is very much a case of do as I say, not as I do. How many solar water heating systems do I see on Government buildings? A simple check with Google earth satellite views (3 years old) shows effectively none, Microsoft satellite views, updated last year still shows none. Look at the Foreign office estate in countries where we could show leadership in the use of solar energy, again, none!

  • Comment number 6.

    My Wife and I live in rented accommodation in London. Our landlord will not consider even the smallest and simplest green measures such as insulation; there is no incentive for him to either. So long as he gets his rent at the beginning of each month he is happy.

    Our flat is so bad that when British Gas rated it for energy efficiency we pretty much dropped off the bottom of the scale, it also costs us a fortune to heat each month.

    I'm sure that there are plenty of tenants living in the UK in flats like this and that a lot could be done if financial incentives / tax breaks were given to landlords in order to motivate them to go green.

  • Comment number 7.

    As I firmly believe that CO2 is neither a poison nor pollutant and that the Labour Government is absolutely wrong to subsidise "Renewables" which cost the earth and have to backed up with instant switchable gas powered generators [because wind is so variable in speed] and the whole wind turbine fiasco is a sucking billions of pounds into a Black Hole and it will never replace Nuclear/Coal?Oil as a means of keeping us warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

    Mr Miliband is a fool if he thinks his ideas will win the next election.

  • Comment number 8.

    "7. At 09:07am on 18 Nov 2009, globalclaptrap wrote:

    As I firmly believe that CO2 is neither a poison nor pollutant... "

    Then your opinion is irrelevant as CO2 is indisputably both of these things. And even if it weren't, surely it's a good thing to invest in renewable energy now because, pollutant or not, our fossil fuel supplies will run out one day.

  • Comment number 9.

    No mention of encouraging people to go in for biodiversity in their gardens. I believe 10 Downing St. grows veg. now. No subsidised housing should have a lawn that needs mowed with a mower that uses power - a fruit tree would be more environmentally friendly. Climate change is going to affect our ability to feed the world so the more biodiverse we become to help the insect world the better.

  • Comment number 10.

    so long as england warms up and we have warmer winters then thats all that matters. To that end join me in burning coal (as its so much cheaper) and dont forget all your household rubish will also help that process.

  • Comment number 11.

    6. Daniel:
    The Landlord's Energy Saving Allowance is a tax break given to landlords to motivate them to go green. See

    If your landlord still wont agree, why not insulate it yourself? Loft insulation is easy to fit and will pay for itself in a few years, as will cavity wall insulation. Even if you don't plan to stay there that long, you will be doing your bit.

  • Comment number 12.

    To be fair the government have come a long way since Tony Blair's 10 years of hollow words.

    However I believe the things we need to do are as follows:

    i) Have a concerted effort at energy efficiency across homes and transport. Provide real incentives to home owners (eg: FREE cavity wall & loft insulation, and Solar hot water - or council tax reductions if you have these)

    ii) Build MASSIVE amounts of nuclear fission. France powers 80% of its electricity from zero Carbon nuclear quite happily

    iii) To do point ii), we need to recognize that the fossil fuel industry vested interests have made us all scared of anything "nuclear". Of course they don't want cheap, zero carbon, competition and they'll do anything to dissuade us (eg: telling us it takes 15 years to build, when France managed it in 5years, or scaring with atomic bomb / terrorist stories). In fact these are just that - stories - when you look at the stats nuclear is incredibly safe. As a zero Carbon source of power it is infinitely more efficient than wind that is only available 25% of the time at best.

    Gordon Brown has had the courage to engage in building some new nuclear. I sincerely hope we can model ourselves on France rather than try to wind-power ourselves and learn too late that it only works 25% of the time.

  • Comment number 13.

    Why can't a politician ever give a straight answer rather than coming out with all this guff. It was a straight forward question about whether he offset his own personal emissions, he didn't need to go into anything about government policy or thoughts on it.

  • Comment number 14.

    As far as I can reasonably understand, the governments energy policy is totally lacking in any credibility or sustainability reasoning whatsoever, as it totally misses/avoids/ignores core issues.

    25%+ of all transmitted electricity is lost via the overhead transmission cable network, which in effect means:-

    1.25%+ of mined, transported, delivered coal & gas used for electricity generation is totally wasted.

    2.Most of our powerstation coal/coke (50%+) is transported from Russia at great cost in transport emissions and Russian higher emissions production methods.

    3.25%+ of all nuclear fuel is also wasted hence 25%+ of nuclear waste storage is also unnecessary.

    4.Customers, electricity users are paying for 25%+ of something they do not receive.

    Just by changing the tansmission of electricity to a national buried cable system we can thus save:-

    1. 25%+ of all electricity generated, every 4 years = 1 WHOLE years worth of generation

    2.25%+ of emmissions from transport, production etc of ALL coal/coke, gas, nuclear fuels used.

    3.The further absurd building of nuclear & other powerstations which are planned for build either on/near existing sites or new sites, the sites of which MANY nuclear sites correspond with projected land loss via rising seas/climate change.

    The totality of actual wastage/savings numbers involved are huge.

    The costs of burying a cable transmission network is also huge, but most of the costs can easily be met from all the components of energy production/use wastage & cost savings of NOT building so many non-needed power stations.

    We can lay cable systems around the worlds oceans, we can lay huge pipework for transport of gas & oil across continents, we can dig up nearly every road in UK to lay internet/communications cable networks, yet we do not even plan to lay an underground electricity transmission network, which actually has more long term economic & environmental benefits than the fore mentioned.

    As well as ultimately reducing costs of electricity paid by customers & huge reduction to total UK emissions production, our countryside would also be cleared of horrendous pylon monstrocities & some of which could then easily be replaced with wind generators, thus only exchanging & NOT adding to existing structures.

    It is thought that as well as pesticides destroying bees, so too does transmission of signals for mobiles & also electricity pylons/cables.

    As declining bees are becoming more of a serious & much sooner consequential threat to our existance, burying cables also removes one area of consequential damage to bee populatons. Already various crops & plant life in UK are being hit by non-pollination by bees.

    It seems to me that ultimately UK energy policy is purely based upon profitability and maintaining & even increasing government income gained from various taxes, and hence, is totally devoid of rational, decent common sense reasoning & justification.

    I also think that the media has an endemic responsibility to investigate and constantly inform the public of more viable courses of action/policy, as at the end of the day, it is the sustainability of our society/nation that is threatened by inadequate decisions and policys.

  • Comment number 15.

    If we manage to reduce the emmissions of the whole world, on a per capita basis, by 50% this will only match the increases due to the world's projected population. Given that much of the emerging world wants to emulate the lifestyles of more wealthy countries then we would need to reduce our individual emmission profiles by much more than 50%.

    Clearly a multi-faceted approach is required.

    It appears that politicians are running scared of talking about the inevitable need to stop this inexorable growth in population. What is your view on this Mr Milliband?

  • Comment number 16.

    I like how Milliband does not understand the common euphemism "in your back yard" and apparently thinks the asker of the question literally meant back yard.

  • Comment number 17.

    "8. At 09:29am on 18 Nov 2009, yottskry wrote:
    "7. At 09:07am on 18 Nov 2009, globalclaptrap wrote:

    As I firmly believe that CO2 is neither a poison nor pollutant... "

    Then your opinion is irrelevant as CO2 is indisputably both of these things. And even if it weren't, surely it's a good thing to invest in renewable energy now because, pollutant or not, our fossil fuel supplies will run out one day."

    - In regards to this comment, you may be surprised to know that back in 2006 in the US, EPA General Counsel Robert Fabricant concluded that since the Clean Air Act does not specifically authorize regulation to address climate change, CO2 is NOT regarded a pollutant. I don't know if you payed much attention back in school, but CO2 is a natural component of the atmosphere and needed by plants in order to carry out photosynthesis, and provide us with the oxygen that we breathe. I think since you lack a basic understanding of what CO2 does, this now makes your comments irrelevant.

    Back to the topic, I would just like to add that it is strange that the government and green campaigners put so much emphasis on C02, that it is now percieved as 'evil'. Yes, it is a greenhouse gas constituent, which can contribute to warming the atmosphere, but it isn't even the main greenhouse gas, only contributing 9-26%.

  • Comment number 18.

    Wind power is a bit of a lame duck. It's not that reliable and the running costs of servicing and replacing the turbines and blades outweighs the energy produced. It all sounds very nice though so the population love the idea

    There are better alternatives in renewables. Wave power has more to offer and there have been great leaps in tidal power generation. We cannot stop the tides and there are always waves - why not use them?

    One idea I do like is that if you make a serious effort in your own home then you should get a council tax reduction - that would actively encourage folk to do something about the issue

    The gov't should lead by example but they won't. Gov't and council offices are some of the least energy efficient buildings in the country!

  • Comment number 19.

    @14 We won't save the transmission losses by burying the cables. The losses are a product of sending electricity down a wire. One of the reasons why the network is at a high voltage is that this minimises the losses. Burying a transmission line is fin in theory, but you also have to provide a way of cooling the wires underground, as that lost electrcicity goes into heat.

  • Comment number 20.

    6. At 09:05am on 18 Nov 2009, Daniel wrote:
    "...My Wife and I live in rented accommodation in London. Our landlord will not consider even the smallest and simplest green measures such as insulation; there is no incentive for him to either..." "...I'm sure that there are plenty of tenants living in the UK in flats like this and that a lot could be done if financial incentives / tax breaks were given to landlords in order to motivate them to go green..."

    Couldn't agree more Daniel. I am a landlord, and have tenants in my home. I live there, as opposed to you being a tenant without the landlord at home.

    I do it a little different in that I charge a rent, with bills included. I pay the bills myself and only charge my lodgers a rent. The problem here is that the lodgers don't see a need to save energy as it is inclusive. Unlike you, they don't pay more if they use more. My fault for doing it that way, I guess.

    I spend more time running around turning off lights, lowering the thermo, regulating the heating etc., because it hurts my pocket.

    I'm very much in favour of green initiatives. If I could generate my own power, or a portion of it, I'd be very interested. Ideas?

  • Comment number 21.

    "8. At 09:29am on 18 Nov 2009, yottskry wrote:
    "7. At 09:07am on 18 Nov 2009, globalclaptrap wrote:
    As I firmly believe that CO2 is neither a poison nor pollutant... "

    Then your opinion is irrelevant as CO2 is indisputably both of these things."

    You should have spent more time in school, kid.

    CO2 is not a poison. It's a slight danger to humans only because - being heavier than air - it displaces oxygen and can cause suffocation (e.g. if a black fire extinguisher is used in a confined space). You might as well claim that plastic bags and large stuffed toys are poisonous, as they can do exactly the same.

    It's also not a pollutant in any meaningful sense of the word, since CO2 is essential for plants to photosynthesise. Without CO2 in the atmosphere, all green plants would die - followed shortly thereafter by all of the animals (and us).

    Which I guess means you should look up the word "indisputable", too, instead of parroting carbon-is-bad nonsense.

  • Comment number 22.

    No mention has been made of waste-to-energy. By burning garbage, we can safely produce 9% of our needs in electricity AND reduce our landfill requirements by a massive 90% in volume, while reducing methane emissions. A modern plant (and there are nearly 400 operational in Europe and a handful in the UK) produces almost no pollution. Mr Miliband should concentrate on these proven, safe, cost-effective, technologies (which also includes nuclear generation) rather than putting his money on doubtful, unproven, nags like carbon capture.

  • Comment number 23.

    Without wishing to get this blog shut down like Richard Black's, in light of recent events in the world of science I was wondering if Mr. Miliband had any comment on the validation of the claim 'the science is settled'?

    On to things of a doing 'nature' that might actually help, looking at some comments here, this might be of interest:

    Sadly, despite some support from government, not much from on high.

    Seems a new Beemer makes more sense to some, when I'd reckon better boilers might serve domestic jobs and national emission reductions a tad better.

    And, speaking of which, I just heard via SKY news a stat on shipping that really makes me hope this aspect will be a major part of the Copenhagen discussions as they tinker round the edges:


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