Coalition agreement heralds shake-up in environmental policy

The new Lib Dem-Conservative government has agreed to make radical changes to policy on air transport and energy generation. But it will support a new generation of nuclear power stations, provided they require no public subsidy

Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne , formerly home affairs spokesman, has taken control at the department of energy and climate change (DECC). He had opposed a new generation of nuclear power stations. Today he told the BBC the coalition had agreed the Lib Dems would abstain when parliament voted on the new National Policy Statement on nuclear power.

Caroline Spelman, a Tory who was embroiled in the expenses scandal, has been appointed Secretary of State for the Environment. She has many years' experience holding jobs connected with agriculture and is director of a food and biotechnology consultancy.

Ex-Conservative party chairman Eric Pickles will lead the communities department (DCLG), which he has shadowed, while Philip Hammond is transport secretary.

Few junior ministers have yet been announced.

A full document on the agreement between the two parties will be published in due course. But a brief summary of policy includes:

  • A third runway at London’s Heathrow airport has been scrapped. Any expansion at Gatwick and Stansted will also be refused. A per-flight, rather than per-passenger, duty will be introduced on airlines.
  • Plans for a high-speed rail network have been brought forward.
  • Import and possession of illegally-logged timber will be criminalised.
  • A cap on carbon emissions from new power stations will be set, forcing coal-fired plant to fit sufficient carbon capture and storage to meet the standard. This would be permitted under draft EU legislation on industrial emissions (ENDS Report Bulletin 6 May 2010).
  • A floor price for carbon emissions trading allowances is promised, alongside an undertaking to seek full auctioning across the EU.
  • A “huge increase” in anaerobic digestion is promised, plus a boost to renewable generation and the roll-out of a smart grid and smart metering. A vague pledge of the “full establishment” of feed-in tariffs is part of the agreement.

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