Lord Howard: UK must move beyond fossil fuels

Former Leader of the Conservative Party and ECIU Advisory Board member, Michael Howard, Baron Howard of Lympne, in the third of our 'ECIU Talks...' series.

By Tricia Curmi

Last updated:

With insight gained from his time as Secretary of State for Employment; Secretary of State for the Environment; and Home Secretary, Lord Howard is explicit that net zero targets offer opportunities for a forward-facing global Britain.

Lord Howard also points to the plummeting cost of the technology that supports low-carbon innovation and roll out.

On why the UK must move beyond fossil fuels

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“[The gas price spike] illustrates the dangers of over-reliance on one kind – and source - of energy. Because Russia is an important source of it... The truth is, we mustn’t rely too much on fossil fuels for other reasons, not just because of this spike in price, but because of the dangers to this planet.”

On the security threat of climate-related conflict, and refugee crisis it could create

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“If we continue to have these extreme climatic conditions, and the droughts they bring about, they are going to bring about the kind of conditions in the world which lead to conflict.

“We’ve seen some of that. And which lead to flows of refugees on a scale that would dwarf what we’re seeing at the moment. And that is not going to be good for anyone. It’s not going to be good for the people themselves who want to flee the country where conditions are the most extreme. And it’s not going to be good for the countries they go to.”

On Britain’s move to becoming a post-climate-change economy

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“We’ve got to focus our efforts as a country on the post-climate change economy, not the pre-climate change economy... There is a challenge to be overcome. But there are opportunities.

“And I personally think, the most effective way of overcoming the challenge is going to lie in the progress of technology. We’ve seen, for example, how amazingly the price of renewable energy has come down tremendously over the last few years... the same is going to happen with other technologies.”

Why climate action is ‘totally aligned’ with Conservative values

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“I think totally aligned with Conservative values. Margaret Thatcher was the first world leader to talk about the environmental challenges we face... We want to conserve what is best about our heritage and hand it on to future generations. That is at the heart of Conservative values.

“And if we are to take that seriously, it’s absolutely essential that we take action to deal with the climate threat we face.”

On how wording of Glasgow Climate Pact can lead to action

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“The fact that China and India were prepared to go to such lengths at the very end of the COP26 conference to get the wording changed is to me the strongest possible evidence that the wording matters, and the agreement matters.

“A lot of people say ‘oh, this is just talk, just bla bla bla’. But if it was just all talk, why would China and India have gone to such great lengths to have the wording changed? So I think, in a perverse kind of way, that was one of the most encouraging things because it indicated that they intend to take the agreement seriously and act on it. And it’s of course the action that we all want to see.”

On his role in getting the US to sign the Climate Change Convention at Rio

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“The first thing I was told to do [after the 1992 General Election] was to go to Washington to persuade the Americans to come to Rio [and sign up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change]. It led to the single most fascinating day in my whole time as a government minister.”

More in the 'ECIU Talks...' series