The UK's decision to leave the European Union has not changed the government's commitment to new nuclear power, or to its climate change goals, says Amber Rudd.
The decision to leave the EU is of historic significance. To be clear, Britain will leave the EU. The decision of the British people was clear. The key challenge now, as the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have stressed, is to work towards a settlement that is in the best interests of Britain.
As a Government, we are fully committed to delivering the best outcome for the British people - and that includes delivering the secure, affordable, clean energy our families and business need. That commitment has not changed. Because while the decision to leave the EU is undoubtedly significant, the challenges we face as a country remain the same.
|Amber Rudd speaking at the Business & Climate Summit (Image: J Cobb/World Nuclear Association)
How do we protect the strong economy that we have built over the past six years? How do we ensure we build the infrastructure we need to underpin our strong economy? How do we ensure people have good jobs that pay them well? The challenges to our environment remain the same. How do we make sure people can have respite from the daily grind in safe, clean green spaces near their home? How do we ensure we protect our most precious species? How do we ensure our green and pleasant land is protected both to respect the efforts of generations past and as a responsibility to generations to come?
In particular, I want to underline our commitment to the issue over which I have primary responsibility; climate change. Climate change has not been downgraded as a threat. It remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our economic and national security.
"We will build on the UK’s expertise in nuclear innovation".
I was lucky enough to lead the world-class team of British diplomats at last year's Paris climate talks. Our efforts were central to delivering that historic deal. And the UK will not step back from that international leadership. We must not turn our back on Europe or the world. Our relationships with the United States, China, India, Japan and other European countries will stand us in strong stead as we deliver on the promises made in Paris. At the heart of that commitment is the Climate Change Act. Its success has inspired countries across the world, and its structure of five-yearly cycles inspired a core part of the Paris deal.
I know many of you are keenly awaiting the outcome of our deliberation on the 5th Carbon Budget. You can expect the Government's decision tomorrow. It is an important building block of our economy's future and you would expect us to take our time to ensure we got the decision right. And however we choose to leave the EU, let me be clear: we remain committed to dealing with climate change. The Act was not imposed on us by the EU.
The Climate Change Act in 2008 underpins the remarkable investment we have seen in the low-carbon economy since 2010. Investment in renewables has increased by 42% since 2010. In 2014, 30% of all of Europe's renewable energy investment took place in the UK. Annual support for renewables is expected to double during this Parliament to more than £10 billion.
Last year I set out a clear vision for the future of our energy system. We said that security of supply would be our first priority. Since then we have consulted on changes to the capacity market which has further secured our position. We are likely to see significant investment following the auction later this year.
Beyond that, we will continue to invest in clean energy. We have agreed to support up to 4 GW of offshore wind and other technologies for deployment in the 2020s - providing the costs come down. At the same time we made tough decisions on support for renewable energy, reflecting our core belief that technologies should be able to stand on their own two feet.
We remain committed to new nuclear power in the UK - to provide clean, secure energy. Government has prepared the ground for a fleet of new nuclear stations. Three consortia have proposals to develop 18 GW of new power stations at six new sites across the UK. These will support more than 30,000 jobs across the nuclear supply chain over the coming years.
We have announced record investment in new heat networks, to enable new and innovative ways of heating our homes and businesses. And we made a commitment to closing unabated coal-fired power stations - a commitment that was praised by leaders across the world. All these commitments remain in place. They will help us rebuild our energy infrastructure. And I am certain that future investment in this sector will continue to flow to Britain's strong economy.
As the Chancellor made clear earlier this week, thanks to the reforms of this Government, the United Kingdom approaches the challenges of leaving the EU from a position of strength. Growth has been robust. The employment rate is at a record high. And the budget deficit has been brought down from 11% of national income, and was forecast to be below 3% this year.
Britain remains one of the best places in the world to live and do business: the rule of law; low taxes; a talented, creative, determined workforce; a strong finance sector. We have to build on the strengths of our economy, not turn away from them. We have to enhance our scientific leadership including our co-operation with other countries.
These factors - a clear energy policy framework and a strong, investment-friendly economy - combine to make the UK an ideal place to attract energy investment. Whatever settlement we decide on in the comings months, these fundamentals will remain.
At the heart of the approach I set out last autumn is our commitment to innovation in energy. We do not yet have all the answers to addressing climate change. We must nurture new technologies and industries that will make our future energy system both cheap and clean. In energy, we are leading the way.
Last autumn as part of the Paris talks, Britain committed to Mission Innovation - a global partnership to encourage greater support for innovation. It was complemented by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition: 29 wealthy investors pledging to invest in energy research and development.
I met Bill Gates earlier this year to discuss this and we agreed the need for a transformation of our energy system. We also agreed that the transformation would only happen if we could find technologies which are reliable, clean and cheap.
We are doing our part. That is why, as a Government, we have committed more than £500 million over this Spending Review to supporting new energy technologies. This means supporting entrepreneurs as they look to develop the innovations of the future - in storage, in energy efficiency, in renewables.
As part of that program, we will build on the UK's expertise in nuclear innovation. At least half of our innovation spending will go towards nuclear research and development. This will support our centres of excellence in Cumbria, Manchester, Sheffield and Preston. Our nuclear program will include a competition to develop a small modular nuclear reactor - potentially one of the most exciting innovations in the energy sector.
Let's be honest, as the Chancellor said we now face a period of uncertainty. [The EU Referendum result on 23/24 June] raises a host of questions for the energy sector, of course it does. There have been significant advantages to us trading energy both within Europe and being an entry point into Europe from the rest of the world. Europe has led the world on acting to address climate change. The economic imperative that drove those relationships has not changed, an openness to trade remains central to who we are as a country. As the Prime Minister said, we will work towards the best deal possible for Britain.
Securing our energy supply, keeping bills low and building a low-carbon energy infrastructure: the challenges remain the same. Our commitment also remains the same. As investors and businesses, you can be confident we remain committed to building a secure, affordable low carbon infrastructure fit for the 21st Century.
Amber Rudd is UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. This is the full text of her speech delivered today at the Business & Climate Summit in London.