Build more wind and solar to ‘take back control from Putin’, says climate chief

  • Watch: Full report on the visit to Kent by members of the Climate Change Committee

More wind and solar farms should be built in the South East to “take back control” of our energy supply from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, according to an environmental leader. 

Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said the UK's response to rising global gas prices caused by the war in Ukraine should be “moving to renewable faster” because they are “very much cheaper”.

Responding to calls by some to relax the UK's Net Zero targets in the face of soaring energy costs, Lord Deben told ITV News Meridian: “The people who say, because gas prices are high we need to have some more gas, seem to me to be completely illogical.”

“Of course we’ve got to have quicker movement to renewables, we’ve got to have much more energy efficiency; both of those are necessary to climate change, but both of those are necessary to combat what is happening in Ukraine.”

Members of the independent Climate Change Committee visited a number of ‘green schemes’ in Kent.

The government has announced the UK will ban imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022 and will help companies find “alternative supplies”.

No announcement has yet been made about gas. Less than 4% of the country’s gas supply currently comes from Russia but much of Europe is far more reliant, impacting international prices. 

  • Watch: Lord Deben discusses energy security amid Ukraine war

The former environment secretary was speaking during a tour of environment projects across Kent by his committee.

The trip – on Tuesday, 8 March – included a brief stop at a flood prevention scheme in Margate’s George V Park. It uses a combination of trenches, tree planting and gullies to help surface water drain slowly into the ground.

“That old phrase ‘take back control’... we’re not taking back control, we’re giving it to Mr Putin and to the Middle Eastern emirs but that’s where we’ve got the control and we want to take it back by using our own sun, our own wind and doing it ourselves as quickly as possible,” Lord Deben added.

Decommissioning work began at the Dungeness B nuclear power plant in Kent in 2021, seven years ahead of schedule.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that he is going to be “setting out an energy supply strategy in the days ahead” which will include “more nuclear and much more use of renewable energy”.

Lord Deben admitted that nuclear energy is a “necessary part of the transition” to green supply. The South East’s only nuclear power station, at Dungeness in Kent, is being decommissioned years ahead of schedule, with no replacement planned. 

The local MP and councillors are advocating for a new generation of small modular reactors to be built at the coastal site. 

  • Watch: Cllr Susan Carey, Kent County Council, Con

Rolls-Royce is leading the project to develop the new technology which is yet to be approved by regulators. 

Cllr Susan Carey, Cabinet Member for Environment at Kent County Council, said: “At Dungeness we have all the infrastructure that’s needed for two small modular reactors. We really need that energy security.

“We can’t just have solar, we can’t just have wind, we actually need nuclear as well, and Rolls-Royce appears to have come up with something that would suit us really well at Dungeness, which is not a wealthy part of Kent, so let’s level up there.”

  • Tom Bailey, climate campaigner

A new campaign launched this week encouraging citizens to pledge to make changes to help the planet.

Tom Bailey, co-founder of Take the Jump, said individuals have a “huge amount of power” to make “six simple shifts”.

“The shifts are eat green, dress retro, travel fresh, holiday local, end clutter and change the system. We are helping citizens try out these shifts, providing them with the tools, support and community connections.”

It comes amid big rises in the cost of living for many, with instability on global markets pushing up the price of petrol, gas and electricity for consumers.