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Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister of State for Energy
Institute of Engineering and Technology, Savoy Place, London, 05 June 2006
I am delighted to have been asked to open this launch event for the climate change scoping study. I’m sorry I won’t be able to stay for very long. But I wanted to come along to show how much importance I attach to this study, which marks a valuable collaboration between the Met Office, EoN.uk, Edf Energy and National Grid. I also wanted to acknowledge the important work of the Met Office generally.
I very quickly became aware of how important the work of the Met Office is to the energy sector last autumn when I saw their long range forecast for the winter.
Despite some of the more alarmist stories I read at the time, the Met Office forecast was pretty accurate. I did, however, enjoy seeing the wonderful old photographs of Ford Cortinas buried under 4 feet of snow during the winter of 1962-63, recycled by the less responsible tabloid editors.
But, despite there being rather a late cold snap, the winter didn’t compare to that of 1962-63 - no serious weather forecaster was suggesting it would. It was a clear demonstration of just how important accurate information is to the operation of energy markets in the UK.
Of course the Met office has a key role in not just looking at forecasts for the winter but in monitoring the effects of climate change on the UK.
Tackling the potential effects of climate change is the greatest challenge we face and why the Government recently published its new Climate Change Programme. This sets out our plans to bring us closer to achieving our national goal of reducing carbon dioxide by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010 and, in the long term, reduce emissions by 60% by 2050.
Whilst the programme sets out a number of measures aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, we have to accept that we cannot change things overnight.
The world has no choice but to start planning for the some of the effects of climate change, effects we are seeing now and those that we cannot avert in the future.
Whilst the more excessive effects of climate change may only be felt in a few decades time, they need to be factored into decisions on investment and infrastructure now.
There are already a range of adaptation activities taking place within different sectors, including planning guidance, health advice and with the launch of today’s study, the electricity industry.
In order to develop a full picture of adaptation activity across the UK, the Government is developing a climate change Adaptation Policy Framework. The first phase of the framework was to gather information on adaptation activity already taking place across a range of organisations on a sector-by-sector approach. This was done via a consultation exercise which closed in January 2006.
Once the national picture of climate change adaptation has been established, we will be able to analyse the activities taking place and assess why some sectors are adapting more successfully than others.
The final stage of the process will be to identify areas where adaptation is not occurring and what assistance and incentives may be required to ensure that it is considered appropriately in the future.
The Adaptation Policy Framework will provide the structure in which adaptation strategies can be integrated into policies developed by organisations at every level of decision-making. It will also be a primary information source for those involved in policy development and provide an indication of priorities for the private sector.
The scoping study being launched today will provide useful input into establishing adaptation activity in the electricity sector, particularly as it looks at the much longer-term – all the way to 2050 and beyond.
The energy sector has of course been in the forefront of our efforts to mitigate climate change, and by its very nature is inevitably going to be affected by emissions trading legislation and the regulations such as the Large Combustion Plant Directive.
However whilst doing all we can to mitigate the effects of global warming, it is vital for the future of our society and economy that the energy sector is able to adapt to the effects of climate change and can continue to provide the power we need to maintain our way of life.
This study is an important step towards planning for a future in which climate, in terms of creeping changes of temperature, precipitation trends and greater risk of extreme events, means we have to operate in a very different world to the one we are familiar with today.
These changes won’t just affect the more traditional coal and gas burning power stations. Everything from wind farms to nuclear will have to be aware of and plan for extreme weather events, high winds and sea level rises.
The long lead times that the energy industry faces in making investment decisions and planning to ensure security of supply in the longer-term means that it is vital that as accurate a picture of our future as possible is available to them. I welcome the fact that the market is already taking these long-term steps to plan for an uncertain future.