David Cameron tours the BP ETAP (Eastern Trough Area Project) oil platform in the North Sea earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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After years of inaction, the Tories need to go much further on carbon capture

Cameron has been squandering the UK’s lead in a technology with a large and growing global market.

This morning marked an important milestone on the road to the UK’s low-carbon future. In Peterhead, in the north east of Scotland, the government finally announced the funding for a detailed study to support Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on a gas-fired power station. The idea behind Carbon Capture and Storage is simple; CO2 is plucked from the emissions of a fossil-fuel burning power station, liquefied and then buried underground. By the end of the decade, it is thought that the Peterhead CCS project will capture 10 million tonnes of CO2 a year and bury it 2km beneath the floor of the North Sea. It will be the first gas-fired CCS plant in the world.

Earlier this month, the TUC – in conjunction with the Carbon Capture and Storage Association – published a report examining the potential benefits to the UK of this technology. The results are stark: 30,000 construction jobs, the widespread decarbonisation of Britain’s industrial sector and £82 knocked off the cost of decarbonisation on consumer bills. After three years of inaction, there are now tentative and welcome signs that the government is taking the potential of CCS seriously. But there is a serious risk that the government will fail to provide the necessary support for the technology, with the result that the Peterhead project and its coal-fired cousin in Yorkshire become engineering curiosities, rather than pioneers of a new industry.

The basics of Carbon Capture and Storage are sufficiently easy to understand that they can often generate “too good to be true”-style responses. Carbon capture devices are installed in large-scale emitters such as power plants and industrial facilities. The captured carbon is then sent down a pipeline into deep subsurface rock formations, where it is permanently stored. CCS plants continue to burn fossil fuels, but with 90 per cent fewer emissions, and the technology can be fitted to existing infrastructure.

As ambitious as it sounds, it is not the technology that is holding back the development of CCS in the UK. The science and the engineering are largely proven – the first-full scale CCS plant is due to open in Canada later this year, with a capacity of 110 MW. Instead, the key brake on this technology in the UK has been stalling government policy. Under the last Labour government, Britain led the world in CCS. Seven out of the 13 projects up for European grant funding were British and it was understood that a handful of pioneer projects would pave the way for wide-scale roll out.

But within two years of the coalition coming to power, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers warned that Britain was becoming an “also ran”. Support for the first wave of pioneer projects was cut from four sites to two. The government failed to leverage funding from the EU and promises of £1bn of capital funding support disappeared as the Treasury took the money back once an earlier CCS project at Longannet in Fife was shelved by Scottish Power. CCS projects were left to wither on the vine. By contrast, Labour have continued to champion the technology since moving into opposition, with MPs such as Ian Lavery leading a vigorous campaign and shadow secretary of state Caroline Flint making clear that CCS has a vital role to play in our future energy mix.

The issue for the UK is that to decarbonise power supply and keep energy intensive industries here, CCS is a necessity, not an option. Decarbonising without CCS is likely to cost the UK 1 per cent of GDP and, as the TUC and industry study made clear, add about 15 per cent to the wholesale price of electricity. CCS also allows us to retain a role for fossil fuels, whose qualities complement other technologies and contribute to a balanced and varied energy mix.

In addition, CCS offers perhaps the only means of decarbonising large emitters in the industrial sector,  which is currently responsible for 10 per cent of all UK emissions. But in order to reach 10-20GW of CCS by 2030 we will need 15-25 installations. By contrast, an optimistic estimate would suggest that, under the current government’s policies, we have a grand total of two installations by 2020.

This is now the challenge for the government – to develop the next wave of CCS projects that will follow Peterhead and the White Rose project in Yorkshire. These should be the vanguard for a new industry, not a pair of engineering oddities. That is why getting the long-term energy support arrangements, known as contract for difference, appropriate to CCS as well as other low carbon sources (nuclear and renewable power) is so important.

So far there has been little sign that the government see any urgency in this pressing agenda. As ever, the penalty to moving slowly is that you fall behind. The global demand for CCS dwarfs our own, with the International Energy Agency forecasting 946GW of capacity by 2050. Establishing the UK as a European hub for CCS will dramatically increase the chances that this 946GW is built using UK expertise and supply chains. David Cameron is fond of talking about our participation in a global race, but seems less interested in actually running it.

By stalling on CCS over the last two years, the Tories have put our climate change targets, jobs and the affordability of our energy bills under pressure. Meanwhile, they are squandering the UK’s lead in a technology for which there is a large and growing global market. Today’s announcement highlights the potential benefits of CCS, but also makes plain just how much we stand to lose if the industrial potential is not properly nurtured. It is going to take much more than an announcement to coincide with a cabinet meeting in Aberdeen to maximise the UK's opportunities to fulfil our potential in CCS. It needs the government to take a sustained and real lead, or the risk is that CCS will remain the neglected element of our lower carbon future.

Tom Greatrex is shadow energy minister and Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West

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Chuka Umunna calls for "solidarity" among Labour MPs, whoever is voted leader

The full text of shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna's speech to Policy Network on election-winning ideas for Labour's future, and the weaknesses of the New Labour project.

There has never been an easy time to be a social democrat (or “democratic socialist” as we sometimes call ourselves in Britain). Whereas the right can demonise the poor and extol the virtues of the market, and the hard left can demonise the market and extol the role of the state, our position of constraining the domination of markets and reforming the state is, by definition, more complex.

It is nonetheless the case that social democracy has a historic responsibility, in every generation, to renew democracy and preserve a civic culture. This is achieved not through soundbites and slogans, but through the hard-headed development of a progressive politics that reconciles liberty and democracy, new comers and locals to our communities, business and workers, in a common life that preserves security, prosperity and peace.  This historic mission is all the more urgent now and my determination that we succeed has grown not weakened since our election defeat last May.

But, in order to be heard, it is necessary to make balanced and reasonable argument that both animates and inspires our movement, and which is popular and plausible with the people.  The first is pre-requisite to the second; and there is no choice to be made between your party’s fundamental principles and electability. They are mutually dependent - you cannot do one without the other.

We are in the midst of choosing a new leader and it is clear to anyone who has watched the UK Labour Party leadership election this summer that amongst a significant number there is a profound rage against Third Way politics – as pursued by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and others - as a rejection of our fundamental values.

In the UK there is a view that New Labour accepted an uncritical accommodation with global capital that widened inequality, weakened organised labour and we were too close to the US Republicans and too far from the European left.

I do not believe this is fair, not least because we rescued many of our public services from the scrap heap when we came to office in 1997 and there were very significant achievements  we should celebrate.  New Labour renewed our National Health Service in a fundamental way; we built new schools and improved existing ones; we set up new children’s centres all over the country; we brought in a National Minimum Wage; we worked with others to bring peace to Northern Ireland; we introduced civil partnerships.  Just some of our achievements.

However, though we may take issue with the critique, I do not think we can simply dismiss out of hand those who hold critical views of New Labour. Like any government, the New Labour administration made mistakes - it could and should have achieved more, and done more to challenge the Right’s assumptions about the world. In the end, it is not unreasonable to be ambitious for what your party in government can achieve in building greater equality, liberty, democracy and sustainability. It is far better we acknowledge, not reject, this ambition for a better world, as we seek to forge a new politics of the common good fit for the future.

Realising our values in office has been disrupted by globalisation and the surge of technological forces that are displacing and reshaping industry after industry.

Some argue that globalisation as an ideological construct of the right. But we must recognise that we live in an increasingly integrated world in which markets have led to an unprecedented participation of excluded people in prosperity, a rise in living standards for hundreds of millions  of people and a literacy unprecedented in human history – this is particularly so in emerging economies like my father’s native Nigeria. And the internet has led to a level of accountability that has disturbed elites.

Yet, this has been combined with a concentration of ownership that needs to be challenged, of a subordination of politics that requires creative rather than reactive thinking, and these global forces have exacerbated inequalities as well as helped reduce poverty.

So it is important that we understand the sheer scale and impact of new technologies. At the moment we are engaged in a debate about Uber and its threat to one of the last vestiges of vocational labour markets left in London, those of the black taxi cabs and their attainment of 'The Knowledge'. But the reality is that within the next decade there will be the emergence of driverless cars so we have to intensify our exploration of how to support people in a knowledge economy and the realities of lifelong learning, as well as lifelong teaching. As people live longer we will have to think about how to engage them constructively in work and teaching in new ways.

Once again, I'm addressing all of this, Social Democracy requires a balanced view that domesticates the destructive energy of capital while recognising its creative energy, that recognises the need for new skills rather than simply the protection of old ones. A Social Democracy that recognises that internationalism requires co-operation between states and not a zero sum game that protectionism would encourage.

Above all, Social Democratic politics must recognise the importance of place, of the resources to be found in the local through which the pressures of globalisation can be mediated and shaped. Our job is to shape the future and neither to accept it as a passive fate nor to indulge the fantasy that we can dominate it but to work with the grain of change in order to renew our tradition, recognising the creativity of the workforce, the benefits of democracy and the importance of building a common life.  Sources of value are to be found in local traditions and institutions.

This also requires a recognition that though demonstration and protest are important,; but relationships and conversations are a far more effective way of building a movement for political change.

One of the huge weaknesses of New Labour was in its reliance on mobilisation from the centre rather than organising. It therefore allowed itself to be characterised as an elite project with wide popular support but it did not build a base for its support within the party across the country, and it did not develop leaders from the communities it represented. It was strong on policy but weak on strengthening democratic politics, particularly Labour politics.

Over half a million people are now members, supporters or affiliated supporters of our party, with hundreds of thousands joining in the last few weeks. Some have joined in order to thwart the pursuit of Labour values but many more have joined to further the pursuit of those values, including lots of young people. At a time when so many are walking away from centre left parties across the Western world and many young people do not vote let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate.

So it is vital that we now embrace our new joiners and harness the energy they can bring to renewing Labour’s connection with the people. First, we must help as many them as possible to become doorstep activists for our politics. Second, I have long argued UK Labour should campaign and organise not only to win elections but to affect tangible change through local community campaigns. We brought Arnie Graf, the Chicago community organiser who mentored President Obama in his early years, over from the U.S. to help teach us how to community organise more effectively. We should bring Arnie back over to finish the job and help empower our new joiners to be the change they want to see in every community – we need to build on the links they have with local groups and organisations.

I mentioned at the beginning that in every generation Social Democracy is besieged from left and right but the achievements of each generation are defined by the strength of a complex political tradition that strengthens solidarity through protecting democracy and liberty, a role for the state and the market and seeks to shape the future through an inclusive politics. Solidarity is key which is why we must accept the result of our contest when it comes and support our new leader in developing an agenda that can return Labour to office.

Yes, these are troubled times for social democrats. All over Europe there is a sense among our traditional voters that we are remote and do not share their concerns or represent their interests or values.  There is surge of support for populist right wing parties from Denmark to France, of more left wing parties in Greece and Spain and in Britain too. There is renewal of imperial politics in Russia, the murderous and abhorrent regime of ISIL in the Middle East, volatility in the Chinese economy and in Europe a flow of immigration that causes fear and anxiety.

But, the task of Social Democracy in our time is to fashion a politics of hope that can bring together divided populations around justice, peace and prosperity so that we can govern ourselves democratically. We have seen worse than this and weathered the storm. I am looking forward, with great optimism to be being part of a generation that renews our relevance and popularity in the years to come.

Chuka Umunna is the shadow business secretary and the Labour MP for Streatham.