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Monday, February 20, 2012

Freedom of information request to find what is planned in our name

Dear Mr Lacy,
Thank you for your last email.

As you must appreciate this exchange of correspondence has followed a strange path. Firstly you were unable to provide any proposals to increase the level of ambition on international climate change co-operation. Then in the last email you say that something will be provided but that you cannot say anything about it. I am sure that you will understand that I should be rightly sceptical.

As this is an issue of major public interest, I would request that you make the proposals available under the Freedom of Information act.
I have also read the document that you have referred to in the last correspondence that was the basis of your position.
The following suggests the strategy for achieving the targeted CO2 cuts is highly unlikely to be achieved:
  • The document has a heavy reliance on carbon capture and storage. Unsurprisingly this is proving to be a commercial failure. The basic laws of thermodynamics make the idea of carbon capture and storage a non-starter. It takes so much energy to extract the carbon, compress it and then mine and transport the additional coal needed to run the process it barely passes the basic test of viability. Its fundamental flaws are made especially acute in a world that has already run increasingly short of fossil fuel. Put simply, carbon capture and storage will speed us along the path towards peak oil and peak energy. 
  • Likewise, your document bets heavily on nuclear. This is despite the ongoing and developing disaster in Fukishima where large parts of Japan are being abandoned forever.  I also note that there is nothing in the document about the carbon budget associated with the massive decommissioning programme that will eventually be needed  and how this will be catered for once our fossil fuel reserves have been exhausted.
  • The other significant omission is the carbon budget for the military and the construction and operation of our nuclear deterrence. Please explain how this will be incorporated into the UK Low Carbon Plan and how taxes will be raised to fund it in the economic environment that the document presupposes

Your own figures show UK CO2 emissions are now rising. The emissions from the nations that we are compete with are also rising. This makes it more important than ever that we propose true co-operation on climate change.  I therefore find it hard to understand why as a minimum we cannot commit to quantifying the CO2 emissions associated with the Trident System replacement as part of the Durban Platform.

Kevin Lister

Friday, February 17, 2012

Don't worry about climate change - the government has a secret and cunning plan

Dear Mr Lister,

Thank you for your email of 8 February, in reply to my previous letter to you (TO2012/01993/BL) of 5 February.

The UNFCC document indicates our current thinking ahead of 28 February. As mentioned in my previous correspondence, the UK remains committed to tackling global emissions and will submit as part of the EU its views on increasing the level of international mitigation ambition. I am afraid that I cannot say anymore at this stage.

We are committed, in an ambitious way, to reducing global emissions. We have legislated to accept the independent Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) advice on the level of the Fourth Carbon Budget. This is the most ambitious legally binding limit on carbon emissions set by any government in the world to date. This represents a 50% reduction of GHG emissions in the Fourth Carbon Budget period (2023-2027) as recommended by the CCC. Internationally, the achievements at Durban, which we have outlined before, were significant and places us on a roadmap which will lead to a new global legally binding agreement with emissions reduction commitments for all but the poorest and most vulnerable countries, as you know.

I referred you to the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan (2009) in answer to your point about how we are plotting to cut emissions by 2020, rather than your question about carbon budgets.

Departmental carbon budgets were announced in the Low Carbon Transition Plan on a pilot basis. However, the latest on how we are now managing our carbon budgets is set out in the Carbon Plan (published on 1 December 2011) on page 118:

The Carbon Plan also sets out the Government’s plans to meet the fourth carbon budget and showing how doing so sets us on a plausible pathway to 2050. For further information, visit:

I do apologise for the lack of clarity on this point.

Yours sincerely,
Bill Lacy
DECC Correspondence Unit

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

UK Low Carbon Transition plan says make carbon budget for Trident

Dear Mr Lacy,

Thank you for your last correspondence and ongoing assistance in helping me understand the government's plans for abiding by the intent of the Durban Platform deadline date of the 28th February for submission of proposals to raise the level of ambition for international co-operation on climate change.

I have read the document that you referenced:

Unfortunately, this does not give any specifics about what this government or any other will do to raise the level of co-operation. It is merely a skeleton document with no flesh. It acknowledges the most optimistic scenarios will result in catastrophic global heating and that the level of ambition needs to be raised such that we can achieve a 50% reduction on 1990 levels by 2050.

It is worth pointing out that today's global emissions are already twice those of 1990. We therefore need to reduce global CO2 emissions to a quarter of today's.

I am delighted you have confirmed “the government will submit as part of the EU its views on increasing the level of international mitigation ambition by the 28 February.”

I, and many others, would simply like to know what these are. On the basis that nothing has yet been published, there has been no media debate on the issue and no government announcements, we are entitled to be sceptical that the issue is being treated with the seriousness it merits. Can you confirm the government will announce before hand its proposals and give a date for these?

I would also like to thank you for referring me to the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan

Page 7 of this document says, “For the first time, UK Government departments have been allocated their own carbon budgets.” This flatly contradicts your previous response when you said, “The five year Carbon Budgets introduced by the Climate Change Act 2008 set a cap or limit on greenhouse emissions on an overall economy wide basis and therefore don’t apply on an individual sectoral basis or a particular policy basis.

Likewise, Page 36 says, “To stay on track, the Government is moving to a radical new approach. Every major decision now needs to take account of the impact on the carbon budget.” It is therefore not acceptable that for you to say that there has been no carbon budget impact assessment of pursuing Trident.

The comment on page 7 suggests that there should be a specific carbon budget for the ministry of defence and the arms industry. The comment on page 36 suggests that a decision to proceed with Trident should be subject to a carbon impact assessment. There can be no decision in government more major than the Trident replacement.

Please confirm that UK Low Carbon Transition Plan will be adhered to when it comes to the Trident Replacement.

I also note that the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan relies on carbon capture and storage being successful. As this is proving to be a failure globally, then there needs to be increasing focus on carbon budgets elsewhere and honesty in impact assessments.

Yours sincerely,
Kevin Lister

DECC climate change strategy is based on out dated documents

7 February 2012

Dear Mr Lister,

Thank you for your email of 5 February, in response to my letter to you of 3 February (TO2012/01525/BL).

The Government is clear that domestic legislation alone is not enough to tackle climate change and that international cooperation is needed, as the Durban Platform states. In this sense, I would reiterate the achievements at Durban: the successful agreement to a roadmap which would lead to a new global legally binding agreement with emissions reductions commitments for all but the poorest and most vulnerable countries; a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol to be agreed next year; and the establishment of the Green Climate Fund to help deliver financial support to developing countries to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The UK remains committed to tackling global emissions, and will submit as part of the EU its views on increasing the level of international mitigation ambition by the 28 February, as set out in the Durban Conference on Climate Change. The EU submission of 20 September gives some indication of the views held by the EU on this issue. Please see the following link:

I would also say that choosing between economic growth and going green is a false dichotomy; indeed, the two are inextricably linked. It is from the green industry that economic growth will come (to take one example from just one industry, up to 10,000 jobs will be created in the the solar panel industry in the next three years).

On Trident, I reiterate that the five year Carbon Budgets introduced by the Climate Change Act 2008 set a cap or limit on greenhouse emissions on an overall economy wide basis and therefore do not apply on an individual sectoral basis or a particular policy basis.

I appreciate your strong views on the issue of Trident. However, as we have said before in previous correspondence, the Government’s position is that, while we are committed to the long-term goal of nuclear disarmament, we believe we can best protect ourselves against these threats by the continued operation of a minimum, credible nuclear deterrent. Accordingly, this Government has committed to maintain the deterrent and to continue with the programme to renew it as debated and approved by Parliament in 2007.

Whether or not you agree with it, Parliament has taken a conscious and well informed decision and we are not sliding towards Trident’s replacement.

Carbon budgets are legally binding and Government is totally committed to meeting them. Indeed, the latest emissions projections (published June 2010) show we expect to reduce emissions to below the first three carbon budgets by 29 MtCO2e, 68 MtCO2e and 50 MtCO2e, respectively (central emissions scenario).

We do not agree that not meeting our emissions targets is ‘likely’. However, if the budgets are not met through reductions in domestic emissions, carbon credits can be bought to meet them. Government has to set a limit on the amount of credits that can be purchased on a carbon budget by budget basis. The limit for the first budget period is zero.

If a carbon budget is exceeded, even taking into account of any credits, section 19 of the Climate Change Act requires that the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report setting out proposals and policies to compensate in future periods for the excess emissions.

The statutory basis of the targets and budgets in the Act means that any failure to meet a budget carries a risk to Government of judicial review.

In answer to your question on carbon reductions, please refer to the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan (2009), found on the DECC website, which plots how the UK will meet cuts in emissions by 2020:

Yours sincerely,
Bill Lacy
DECC Correspondence Unit

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Further request for the proposals for international co-operation on climate chaange

Dear Mr. Lacy,

Thank you for your reply on 3rd February.

You say “The ‘Durban Platform’ is a roadmap to a global legal agreement applicable to all parties. Negotiations for the new agreement are to begin early this year.” This I understand. What the Durban platform states is “that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries.”

I have referred to the report you quoted. It makes it clear legislative policies are inadequate to avoid runaway climate change. Its introduction states, “With the latest figures on global emissions showing a 6% increase in 2010, it is clear
 responding to this challenge albeit not at the level of ambition required,” and goes on to say “Domestic legislation is not a substitute for international concerted action.” As it is international concerted action that is needed, my question still stands - what will the UK government propose by the 28th February to ensure the international cooperation for tackling climate change happens?

Your response gives no evidence that either the government or your department is thinking through the implications of cooperation on climate change. Instead, your responses indicate thinking that remains wedded to the concept of maintaining business as usual. Your proposal of a Local Sustainable Transport Fund has as its objective creating economic growth. This is the opposite to what is needed to tackle increasing carbon emissions. Likewise carbon savings from the CRC reduction scheme will be quickly negated by economic growth. Furthermore, neither of these proposals will do anything to increase international cooperation on climate change. This is the objective of the Durban Platform.

Your admission that no assessment of the construction and operation of Trident has been incorporated into our climate change commitments is quite incredible. As you will appreciate Trident requires a massive military industrial complex and a significant proportion of our economic activity must be devoted towards raising the taxation for it. By pursuing Trident, we also force other nation states to follow suite and they will be caught in the same carbon trap. The end result is that the Trident type systems that nations are busily building around the world to protect their security have become the biggest threat to us all by locking us into high carbon industries and inevitable runaway climate change. This makes climate change agreements of the type we need impossible and forces nations to compete rather than cooperate.

As your response also says, “Through collaborative discussion and analysis, the preferred policies and measures to meet carbon budgets are agreed across government,” I again ask for the carbon budget associated with the construction, operation and funding of Trident. If you are not able to do this, then please answer the following:

Which sections of society will be the first to be forced to make cuts in the likely event the CO2 emission targets are not achieved?

Of the carbon reductions that you have quoted to 2022, how much of this is due to exporting manufacturing to highly polluting countries such as China?

Yours sincerely,
Kevin Lister

Friday, February 03, 2012

Government does not quantify the carbon impact of the military industrial complex

Email response from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (

Dear Mr Lister,

Thank you for your email response of 29 January.

The ‘Durban Platform’ is a roadmap to a global legal agreement applicable to all parties. Negotiations for the new agreement are to begin early this year and are to conclude as early as possible and no later than 2015. The commitments in the new agreement will take effect from 2020.

Many details remain to be worked out over the coming months, including specific emissions reduction targets, the length of the commitment period, and a process for dealing with surplus emissions allowances. But the headline message is clear. The ‘Kyoto architecture’ – the rules and legal framework for managing emissions – have been preserved and can be built on in the future.

You asked for a copy of the GLOBE International research which has found that every major economy has now enacted climate or energy related legislation. Please see

We are doing much to move to a low carbon economy. On transport, for instance, we also promoting smarter travel choices through the £560 Local Sustainable Transport Fund – the fund will allow Local Authorities to invest in sustainable transport projects to help create economic growth and reduce carbon emissions.

There are other examples. We have introduced the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme as part of our long term strategy to combat climate change and secure our energy supply. This will change behaviours and effectively tackle energy waste. The CRC contains drivers such as the Performance League Table to provide reputational motivation, and thorough reporting of energy use to drive best practice energy management. The price signal of the financial element increases incentives and will bring the fight against climate change to the boardroom.

So, we are taking significant and ambitious action to go low carbon and tackle climate change on the domestic front.

You finished your letter with a number of specific questions about carbon budgets which I shall deal with in turn:

As it is the job of your department to speak to others with regard to carbon budgets then can you confirm the following to me:

What discussions your department has had with the Department of Defence about incorporating the carbon budget of building, operating, maintaining and disposing Trident within the UK carbon budget and Climate Change Act?

  • The five year Carbon Budgets introduced by the Climate Change Act 2008 set a cap or limit on greenhouse emissions on an overall economy wide basis and therefore don’t apply on an individual sectoral basis or a particular policy basis.

What discussions has your department had with the Exchequer about quantifying the carbon produced from the section of society that must keep consuming and producing to raise taxes to fund Trident and how will this be incorporated into the Climate Change Act?

  • No discussions have been held on that basis. The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions figures are calculated on a territorial or production basis rather than on a consumption basis, because international reporting to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change require this and also because emissions reporting data on a consumption basis is not as reliable. You may be interested to know that with current planned policies, latest projections published in October indicate that the UK is on track to meet its first three carbon budgets to 2022 and that we expect to reduce emissions to below their levels by 96, 132 and 87 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) respectively, based on central forecasts.

What discussion has your department had with the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State for Business about accommodating the carbon for the arms and weapons systems we manufacture for other nations into our carbon budgets? As you should be aware, we are providing Saudi Arabia with arms such as the Typoon jet. This is despite Saudi’s record of impeding climate change negotiations and the majority of the suicide bombers flying planes into the Twin Towers coming from Saudi Arabia.

  • Through collaborative discussion and analysis, the preferred policies and measures to meet carbon budgets are agreed across government. The resulting information on emissions savings estimates by policy provide a tool for assisting in tracking progress and risks to delivery and act as a benchmark for what we expect policies to deliver. Departments are held accountable for delivery through a framework of regular monitoring and reporting against their actions and indicators of progress. You may be interested to read the Carbon Plan, the Government’s strategy which sets out scenarios for achieving the 2050 80% reduction target, and emissions reductions and decarbonisation that will be needed along the way. The Government reports publicly on progress against the actions in the Carbon Plan on a quarterly basis and provides more detailed updates via its response to annual progress reports by the Committee on Climate Change every year.

If you have not yet instigated these discussions, can you confirm that they will immediately commence and that conclusions will be made public before the 28th Feb.

  • As mentioned previously given that we don’t calculate our carbon budgets on an individual policy basis, there are no plans to discuss individual projects or policies in this way.

Yours sincerely,
Bill Lacy
DECC Correspondence Unit