Headlines: July 6th, 2009

People are being invited to join an online debate about the environment and energy infrastructure which has begun with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, answering a series of questions from countryside campaigners. The Campaign to Protect Rural England is today posting Mr. Miliband’s answers at www.cpre.org.uk/debates and asking anyone interested to contribute to the discussion. The Secretary of State will then respond to the public comments at the end of July.

In answer to the initial questions, Mr. Miliband clarified his controversial statement that it should ‘be socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area like not wearing a seatbelt or driving past a zebra crossing’. He has acknowledged that local communities have an important role and that there are places where wind farms might not be suitable. He has also accepted that constructing new energy infrastructure in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty could be justified only in exceptional circumstances.

In other answers he has refused to rule out more opencast coal mining but he has repeated his commitment to all new coal power stations being fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage systems.

Shaun Spiers, CPRE’s Chief Executive said he was delighted Mr. Miliband had agreed to address the difficult question of how to get the energy infrastructure the country needed and combat climate change, without damaging the countryside. “These questions aren’t going to go away. They are asked every time a new wind farm is proposed. And communities asked to accept intrusive new renewable energy infrastructure such as wind farms will ask how serious the Government is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions when it is still prepared to allow carbon intensive opencast mining,” he added.