Climate Justice & Sustainability

The United Kingdom’s Energy Bill: turning ‘could be’s’ into realities to benefit young people

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The proposed Energy Bill could become a key building block of the United Kingdom’s clean future. It could be fundamental in de-carbonising our power sector. It could be a catalyst for investment in the Green Economy, creating much needed employment for young people. But we need to turn these ‘could be’s’ into realities. The UK Youth Climate Coalition compares the potential and realities of the climate bill currently passing through parliament.

A bill is born

Back in November 2012, the UK government published the first draft of the Energy Bill. This piece of legislation could become a key building block of the UK’s clean future. It could be fundamental in de-carbonising our power sector. It could be a catalyst for investment in the Green Economy, creating much needed employment for young people. And it could uphold the UK’s international reputation as a pioneer for ambitious environmental legislation, garnered through the 2008 Climate Change Act.

But we need to turn these “coulds” into realities. And for the past three months we have been busy trying to make this happen.

A big, gaping youth-jobs-shaped hole

This is the big gaping hole as the Bill currently stands. A de-carbonisation target of 50gCO2/kWh by 2030 is needed to ensure that the UK meets its emissions reduction targets. In spite of the advice of the Climate Change Committee (an entity created under the 2008 Climate Change Act to provide impartial and independent evidence upon which to base climate policies) the 50g target was not included in the first draft of the Bill.

Some legal logistics

In the British Parliament, after the first draft of a new law is published it goes to Committee Stage. A special Public Bill Committee is formed, made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) from both ruling and opposition parties.

The Committee’s role is to scrutinise the Bill. They go through it line-by-line and receive written and oral evidence from industry experts to NGOs. The evidence, among other purposes, is intended to inform Members decisions and votes of any amendments that may be introduced.

Following this step, the Bill then goes to Report Stage where it comes under the scrutiny by the House of Commons. Any MP, whether on the Public Bill Committee or not, can put forward an amendment at this point.

(You can find out more information about the nuts and bolts of the legislative process here.)

Catalyst for a Green Economy

We were among the organisations that submitted evidence at Committee Stage, calling for a de-carbonisation target as a catalyst for Green Jobs creation.

To ensure this job market grows, businesses need to know it’s safe to invest. Policy certainty and clarity are therefore key to stimulate investment and jobs in clean energy industries. The 50g target is crucial to setting the policy tone and providing this security. In other words it’s the catalyst for triggering investment in Green Jobs generating industries.

The signs are already there. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) calculated that the green economy contributed a third of economic growth in 2010-11, employing 940,000 people. The target itself could create another 400,000 jobs. This is promising news for a generation out of work.

But a failure to include this target has now opened the door to more out-dated fossil fuels in the UK. And the move jeopardises the expansion of the Green Jobs market.

Could the Green Jobs hole be filled?

Last week brought us ups and downs. Four Labour MPs tabled an amendment to include the 50g target but the Committee voted against this 12 to 9. This was disappointing news. Hope was reinstated with the news that two MPs - Barry Gardiner (Labour) and Tim Yeo (Conservative) - will introduce the 50g target as an amendment at Report Stage in the House of Commons.

It’s poignant to see two MPs from different political parties working together. This is not about left or right. It’s about right or wrong. To include the target would put us on the right path towards securing a fair future for young people, the climate and the economy.

It’s all in the name

Crucially, the new amendment has now been referred to as the Green Jobs amendment. This is part thanks to our campaigning. And it’s not too late to get involved in this. With the Bill headed towards the Commons it will be open to scrutiny from all 649 Members of the Commons. So how many MPs does it take to de-carbonise a light bulb? One. Email your MP to push for the Green Jobs amendment.

By UKYCC’s UK Programmes Team

This piece is an adapted version of an earlier blog published in November 2012

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