First published by H30 Eco Magazine
www.h3oecomag.com JULY 2012 Pages 16-18
Except for the fact that I had been invited by the Consul General of the United Kingdom, Annabelle
Malins, to meet Mr. Gregory Barker MP, United Kingdom Minister of State, Department of
Energy & Climate Change, at a filming by CNN International Anchor, Fionnuala Sweeney, it was a
day like any other spring day in Atlanta, Georgia. The sky was blue, the birds were singing in
Midtown, it was warm but too early for the humidity to steam everything up. It was a perfect day.
Little did I know that my entire way of thinking about sustainability, energy and climate change
would be forever changed.
I did a bit of due diligence for the event, but not too much. I knew that Minister Barker was a Conservative
Member of Parliament and with my husband being British, I knew the Conservatives are
the equivalent of our U.S. Republicans. That was pretty much the extent of my investigations. The
event was for the Georgia Tech Clean Energy Speaker Series. Truthfully, I was much more interested
in meeting Ms. Sweeney and being on CNN, than meeting the MP, even if he was the Minister
of Energy and Climate Change.
The first thing that impressed me was the size of the crowd. It was a small gathering, not the
huge, generic crowd that I had anticipated. The interview was titled âClean Energy As a Driver for
Cooperation and Global Growth." The audience was fully prepared for the interview. I, on the other
hand, was not prepared at all. Luckily, I had taken a notepad and pen, so I did get to write
down highlights of the discussion.
Here’s what I learned. The Green Deal UK 2012 is a government initiative, set to launch in the
U.K. in October 2012. The U.K. government has committed to cutting carbon emissions by 34%
between the years of 1990 to 2020. The Green Deal is designed to encourage business and
home owners to install more green technologies in their homes and offices, and the Deal will pay
all upfront installation costs. Here’s a prime example: home owners will be allowed to install approximately
$17,000 in energy efficient installations—items such as air and heat pumps, insulation,
double glazed windows, and other energy efficient measures. Users will pay back the upfront
money through the savings on their energy bills. The businesses and homes will be allowed up to
25 years to repay.
www.h3oecomag.com JULY 2012 17
Minister Barker stated that he had approached the initiative with TLC—Transparency, Longevity
and Certainty. That received a round of delighted laughter from our group. Here’s a bit of background
regarding Minister Barker. He was appointed Minister of State in the Department of Energy
and Climate Change by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in May 2010. His career background
is quite expansive and includes energy innovation, green jobs, sustainability and the green economy.
He was appointed a Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Environment in December
2005. A Shadow Minister is the opposite side of the aisle, as we would say here, from the actual
Cabinet Minister. In this case, the actual Cabinet Member was from the Labour Party, so then MP
(Member of Parliament) Barker was appointed the Shadow Minister from the Conservative Party.
Previously, MP Barker had led the passage of the Climate Change Bill in the U.K. in 2008. He was
also a key author of the Conservative Party’s âLow Carbon Economyâ Green Paper which
launched in January 2009. (A Green Paper in the U.K. is a reform measure, which we would call
a House or Senate Bill, intended to shift power regarding that âpaperâ from the executive to Parliament
and to the public.)
www.h3oecomag.com JULY 2012 18
Minister Barker continued his discussion with Ms. Sweeney. He mentioned two items I have never
before heard in my life.
There is bi-partisan support for the Green Initiative in the U.K. for the next 20 years. Climate
change is not considered a political issue in the U.K. Can you imagine that? Climate change has
always been such a polarizing issue in the US, it is difficult for me as an American to even imagine
that an entire group of politicians can actually agree on any issue that they believe is for the betterment
of their entire country, especially something as controversial as climate change. The way
Minister Barker explained it is this: âIf you got onboard an airplane and the pilot said before takeoff
that there was a 70% chance of the plane crashing, you would immediately get off the plane
and demand your money back.â That’s the way climate change is thought of in the U.K. They believe
that it is better to proceed with plans for changing the way they consume energy than to wait
and see if something actually does happen, and then look for ways to repair damages.
Recent University of Georgia graduate, Lauren Connell, Senior Manager of the World Chamber of
Commerce had this to say about Minister Barker’s interview: "I was amazed to learn that in the
winter, heating bills cost less in Norway than in the UK thanks to the energy-efficiency of Norwegian
homes. UK Government Minister Gregory Barker shared details about many innovative programs
and exciting initiatives underway in the UK, and I look forward to hearing more as they work
diligently toward becoming a "greener" country."
The next sentence he uttered completely stunned me. The Energy Sector in the U.K. is completely
owned by the private sector. What? I’m from TVA country. How can the energy sector by run by
private industry? I was amazed to learn that there is a country where the government recognizes
that they have a global responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint. Not only that, but the politicians
all agree that there is a bi-partisan need to work within government guidelines and with the
private sector in order to achieve their countries goals of reducing carbon emissions. Public
awareness and education is the key to the United Kingdom’s commitment.
The U.K. has a long-term commitment to its citizens and to the world. The U.K. has been the global
best friend to the United States
for many years. We have a lot to
learn from our best friends across
the pond. Thankfully, I attended
this event. I have a lot to learn,
too. For me, thanks to the insight
of Minister Barker, I learned on
that beautiful day that climate
change is not political, it is personal.