An interview with Peter Ainsworth
Clifford Armion: You were invited by Libération to try and answer a difficult question: is degrowth a credible alternative? In France, the word itself, degrowth, décroissance, seems to scare away the mainstream politicians. Is it something that is considered as politically correct in the UK or is it a word that you wouldn't use in a political speech when you're a conservative addressing economic issues?
Peter Ainsworth: I think he's a very brave politician who discusses degrowth at all. In France, the debate about it is more advanced than it is the United Kingdom. There are bits of this which are really exciting and really good. We do need to learn to use fewer natural resources, to be more sparing about the way we treat nature, to think harder about our impacts on the world. All of that is good. What worries me about the degrowth agenda is that it isn't in the end realistic and politically deliverable. It is as simple as that. There is no point in spending energy and time and effort for things that aren't deliverable. We've got to get a broad approach to this, using technology, using common sense, understanding that nature's resources are not limitless in the way that we've treated them in the last two hundred years, since industrialisation. When you get all of that and you make progress on a broad front, the idea of décroissance as a single solution strikes me as a distraction and indeed a mirage.
C.A.: You wrote in a paper for the Independent that the UK's energy supply must be "self sufficient, secure and green". Do you think that in the midst of budget cuts in England energy is a priority of the new Cameron government?
P.A.: Well I think it should be. It has certainly been high in terms of the rhetorical debate about the future direction of our country. We are in a very bad place in terms of energy security in the United Kingdom because for the last ten years we knew that our nuclear power stations were going to be phased out because of age, we knew that fossil fuels were going to get more expensive, we knew our North Sea oil and gas supplies were going to run out and we would have to start importing, we knew all of that and we didn't do anything about it at all. So we are well behind other European countries in terms of developing renewable energies. We are playing catch up now. There are talks of new nuclear power stations being built but they won't be built in time to prevent the lights going out or to prevent us being dependent on hugely expensive imports of gas from not necessarily very friendly countries.
C.A.: So would you consider Nuclear energy as a clean energy?
P.A.: Well, it is certainly a low-carbon energy. I'm not sure that it is an affordable form of energy. I'd much rather use the natural resources available. We're an island, we're surrounded by the sea: tidal energy has huge potential. And we've got quite a lot of sun and wind as well. We're just behind the curve on this and it is quite worrying.
C.A.: Energy is actually a point of convergence between sustainable development and degrowth; the notion of finding new sources of energy. Is that something you were concerned with when you were a shadow minister of environment?
P.A.: Very much so. Energy is a huge part of the contribution that we make to climate change. We've got to decarbonise our energy supply. The great news actually is that a lot of this technology is already there. It has already been invented and all we have to do is apply it. That does take time, and it takes investments, and it's not a great moment for investing in a difficult economic situation, but the companies that make the investments and the countries that have the vision to see what low-carbon energies can do for us all, they're the companies and the countries that are going to be successful in the long run.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Peter Ainsworth, Clifford Armion, "An interview with Peter Ainsworth", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), septembre 2010. Consulté le 28/11/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/civilisation/domaine-britannique/an-interview-with-peter-ainsworth