Life in Politics column by Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West: Tackling climate change is ‘biggest challenge’

Picture : Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Picture : Ben Birchall/PA Wire
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The Government’s decision to scrap feed-in tariffs is something we should all care about.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are consulting on the plan to close the scheme in full to new applications after 31st March 2019.

Feed-In Tariffs are payments that are made to members of the public for the energy they generate from renewables such as solar panels.

The scheme, introduced by Ed Miliband in 2009 has supported 640,000 installations. This is over 190,000 more than the original projections set out by the scheme.

The scheme has supported a great many individuals who, not only contribute to energy production, but also provide energy to the grid via the export tariff.

Before my election to Parliament last May, I was the lead member for climate change in Leeds City Council. There, I helped set up the ‘White Rose’ energy scheme as well as a scheme, financed by FiT, that installed 1003 solar systems in council homes across the city, providing tenants with free use of electricity generated during the day.

The Government’s plan to reduce the scheme is driven by cost. There has also been criticism of its impact on energy bills. I agree that household energy bills are too high, but I would not lay this at the door of environmental schemes. Other measures for reducing bills must be prioritised.These could include investing in local authority led schemes such as Leeds City Council’s White Rose Energy which reduced bills by taking customers off pre-payment, legislating to enforce ‘Big Six’ energy companies to pass on savings to the consumer or to break up their market share to allow for locally owned energy systems. We must also look to increasing energy efficiency by tightening insulation standards across different types of housing.

When analysing the value of a scheme we must consider the social cost as well as the bottom line.

Tackling climate change is the biggest challenge we have as a species and we need to ensure action is taken at all levels to reduce our carbon output.

This means big companies and governments setting targets, but it also means giving the individual a stake in the problem and some agency to make change.

Cost benefit analysis that does not consider the benefits of public engagement in carbon reduction is fundamentally flawed.

The Government need to back up their words on climate change with action.

They must not scrap schemes that allow the individual to make meaningful change, and they must accept that there are ways to reduce bills without harming the environment in the process.