I interviewed Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, in his small, bustling, constituency office. He certainly pulled no punches.
Davey cited the recent EU pact to reduce Europe’s CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030, as his biggest political achievement. Committing the EU to this target was understandably challenging. Davey stressed the importance of developing a strong relationship with his Polish counterparts to get their support, which at times looked unlikely. Since October’s pact China and USA both subsequently made pledges to reduce CO2 emissions. However, China’s commitment to peak their emissions by 2030 could be a lot more progressive. Also, Barack Obama may struggle to pass acts like these through congress, however passionate he is to do so.
I asked Davey about the first ever, global climate change deal, expected to be agreed in Paris this December. He cited the 20 years of work that has led to this, and urged whoever wins the election to strive to make this ambitious and legally binding. The deals objective will be to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2C degrees, which would have catastrophic and irreversible consequences.
The UK already has a legally binding target to produce 30% of electricity through renewable sources by 2020. Currently this is only at around 15%. Davey seemed optimistic, and predicted that the electricity targets would be exceeded. However, he stressed that much work was needed in terms of heat and transport. He cited the importance of using heat energy within the ground to heat buildings through underground heat pumps. A similar technique was used in World Wildlife Foundations’ Living Planet Centre, which we filmed at recently.
When asked of the challenges of the coalition Government, Davey spoke of disagreements with the Conservatives over a “fairness agenda”. This is the Lib-Dems term for looking after the most vulnerable people. For instance, District Heating Systems are being used to tackle fuel poverty by providing lower heating bills for those in need. This system works by distributing heat efficiently through pipes from sources such as power stations, heat pumps or electric boilers directly to households.
Davey became the first ever non-Conservative MP for Kingston and Surbiton when he won the seat in 1997 by just 56 votes. Polls suggest a very close result this time, with Davey all too aware of the tiny margins seats can be won by. This constituency clearly means a lot to him and he spoke passionately about opposing the threatened closure of Kingston Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Unit. The Lib-Dems make much of the pressure they put on the Conservatives to increase the NHS’ funding by £2bn in the Autumn Statement, with Kingston Hospital receiving above average funding. The Lib-Dems have made the NHS their number one spending priority.
I’ve found it interesting how MP’s often struggle with Councils to make changes. For instance, Davey has opposed Kingston’s Conservative run Council’s plans to build on local green space like Fairfield. Even after being elected, MP’s still have to fight, lobby and write letters to the Council to bring about any noticeable change.
Davey was combative when speaking about being “very let down” by both Boris Johnson and George Osbourne over refusing re-zoning. The campaign to re-zone Kingston into zone 5 dates back to 2007, and his constituents pay increased rail fares compared to similarly located areas. He strongly criticised Boris Johnson for having the power to make change and instead “doing nothing.”
He spoke of The Conservative’s as a party divided by climate change policy and labelled Cameron’s attempts to avoid televised debates as a “smokescreen”. Davey suggested the real reason was because he didn’t want to give Nigel Farrage a platform to win over any more Conservative support.
It was refreshing to meet a high-profile politician who didn’t shirk any tough questions and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. The full programme will be broadcast on our online Local Community Television platform.
Please share this post on the social media links below and fire your election thoughts at us on twitter: @collabmedia1.
Written by Martin Stocks | @Stocks1986