On Saturday, while much of the country was enjoying the sunshine, I spent two hours studying and listening to The Right Honourable Edward Davey MP FRSA.
In the wonderful surroundings of the new headquarters of Amnesty International, Ed addressed the Social Liberal Forum conference on “Energy and climate change – the balance between state and market”. He was then interviewed by four bloggers: Jonathan Calder, Matthew Hulbert, Caron Lindsay and myself.
My feelings during all this were similar to when Steve Webb addressed a local party supper club. I was thinking “Hey, this guy is doing fantastic, long-term stuff. Why the heck haven’t I heard about it before?”.
Ed has the features of a bulldog – a big barrel chest, a thick-set neck and determined, prominent jawline. He certainly has the determination of a bull terrier, shown in the way he pursues his objectives. There, the canine similarities end. Ed has a brilliant mind, and dazzles with a stunning recall of impressive facts, figures and arguments. In the interview, he turned a positively cherubic countenance to his questioners as he listened intently to the questions. I can imagine him going down well with civil servants in his department. He’s an extremely skilful Secretary of State.
Overall, Ed gave an exceptionally compelling narrative on the remarkable job being done by the government to fight climate change. I know this article could be accused of sounding like “Pravda” (and by all means balance it by reading Quentin Letts’ ludicrous piece on him), but I was genuinely very impressed by Ed and the work he is doing at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. However, as usual, I am a sucker for punishment, so I look forward to your comments.
Here is a couple of the key points which came up during the talk and interview, and then a load more will follow in a “part two” article later (which will include Ed’s thoughts on the thorny topic of nuclear power):
Investment in carbon reduction
The key line which stood out, for me, is that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is putting in more investment than the rest of the government put together. There has been a trebling of renewables powering the electricity grid.
The balance between state and market
The key point Ed made was that there is a need for a finely balanced approach. The binary, one/zero, black/white debate between government intervention and total non-intervention is pointless. There are three main areas, and each demands markedly different approaches: 1) Decarbonisation 2) Energy security and 3) Energy prices. The questions we should be asking are: Which type of intervention is suitable in each situation? Where and when? Is fostering competition the right approach? Or creating new markets? Or actual regulation, for example: emissions performance standards for coal power stations?
The bottom line, Ed said, is that the government must intervene to achieve our energy and climate goals.