UK energy, climate and environmental policy
From January to July 2016 I was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, where I also took on the position of Acting Associate Director for Energy, Transport and Climate and then Acting Research Director. The IPPR conducts research and engagement with the policy community across a range of current and future-oriented issues in the energy, transport and climate change fields, at UK-wide, Scottish, Northern and local scales.
My particular interest is in the development of the low-carbon economy in the UK and its potential contribution to economic recovery. I was a member of the UCL Green Economy Policy Commission, which reported in autumn 2013, and I have worked with a number of organisations, including the Labour Party, in this field.
I have also written about the relationship between environmental policy and social democracy.
After leaving government I reflected on the major shift in climate change and energy policy which occurred under Labour from 2006-10 and with which I was closely involved - an interesting case study in how, and when, governments succeed in introducing radical policy change. I wrote an academic paper on this with Neil Carter, Professor of Politics at the University of York, published in Public Administration in 2013.
As a member of the Council of Economic Advisers at the Treasury from 2004-7 my responsibilities included the development of the UK’s environmental tax and spending policy, covering seven Budgets and Pre-Budget Reports. This included policy on the EU emissions trading scheme, transport, landfill and North Sea oil taxation, water regulation and pollution, the Common Agricultural Policy, business regulation and fuel poverty. Initially at the Treasury and then at No 10, I was closely involved in the major shift in climate and energy policy which occurred after 2006. I oversaw the development and passage of the Climate Change Act and the 2007 Energy White Paper, and the subsequent development of the Government’s renewables, nuclear, energy efficiency and major infrastructure planning strategies. I initiated and helped develop policy for the demonstration of carbon capture and storage. I originated the £600m public-private Energy Technologies Institute and £350m Community Energy Saving Programme and helped initiate the Government’s electric vehicle programme. I brokered the industry deal to phase out high-energy lightbulbs in the UK. In 2008 I helped establish the Department of Energy and Climate Change. From 2008-10, working with the new Secretary of State Ed Miliband, I oversaw the development of the Government’s new policy on consenting coal fired power stations, the creation of carbon budgets, the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan and the Low Carbon Industrial Strategy, including the £400m Low Carbon Investment Fund and the promotion of investment in wind turbine manufacturing.
Much of my work in government drew on the ideas I developed as an academic and policy consultant in the late 1980s and 1990s, including my 1991 book The Green Economy: Environment, Sustainable Development and the Politics of the Future (Pluto Press). I wrote a lot about the concept of sustainable development and its application in policy, and about different techniques and philosophies of environmental valuation. I studied the employment implications of environmental policy, and developed the idea of ‘a green route out of recession’ in the early 1990s (to which I returned in the notion of a 'low carbon recovery' after the financial crash in 2008). I worked on proposals for environmental taxation and the link between environmental regulation and technological innovation. I tried to articulate a concept of ‘environmental modernisation’. These themes are reflected in the various publications I wrote in that period. Some of the policy proposals and narratives were subsequently adopted by the Labour Government (and some of them weren’t.)
Don't panic, Brexit doesn't have to spell gloom for the environment
Guardian 30 June 2016
Energy companies are cheaper and cleaner when run by the council
Guardian 3 June 2016
George Osborne will soon be forced to chow his hand on climate change
Guardian 17 March 2016
A new politics: why we need collaboration between the Greens and Labour
Resurgence Nov-Dec 2013
(also published here)
Housing, places and people: Labour and the fifth wave of social environmentalism
Essay in Green Social Democracy: Better Homes in Better Places, ed Matthew Spencer et al,
Green Alliance, September 2013
Explaining radical policy change: the case of climate change and energy policy under the British Labour Government 2006-10 (with Neil Carter)
Public Administration August 2013
Osborne's anti-green agenda is strangling growth
New Statesman 12 March 2013
Green social democracy
Fabian Review Winter 2012 (reprinted by the New Statesman 18 January 2013)
The politics of place and the greening of Labour
In One Nation Labour - Debating the Future ed Jon Cruddas, Labour List e-book January 2013 (and Labour List 12 November 2012)
Environmental and climate change policy: a case study in preventative action
Prevention Working Paper
New Economics Foundation January 2013
A low carbon future is the one we must all fight for
Guardian 2 December 2012
The Coalition's energy policy
Guardian and Political Quarterly blog
18 October 2012
EU economy - black hole or green growth?
Comment on Martin Wolf's Economists' Blog
Financial Times 28 October 2011
Tax can be used to tackle climate change Interview in International Tax Review
1 October 2011
Labour could start a green industrial revolution [on the Coalition's electricity market reform] Guardian 18 July 2011
Carbon plan fails to claw back Government's green credentials Guardian 8 March 2011
The greenest government ever?
Guardian 8 September 2010
The Labour Government’s climate and energy policy
In my last year as Special Adviser at No 10 in 2009-10 I wrote a series of newsletters to external stakeholders on the last Government’s climate change and energy policy. I have collected them here to act as a historical archive.