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Monday, January 09, 2012

Response from DECC about the linkage between Trident and Climate Change

The following response has been received from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in response to my letter to Chris Huhne prior to the Durban Climate Conference. My letter argued that maintaining a nuclear arsenal makes it impossible to agree the greenhouse gas reductions we need for planetary survival.


---------------------------------------------------------
Department of Energy & Climate Change
3 Whitehall Place
London 
SW1A 2AW
www.decc.gov.uk

Our ref: TO2011/23141

     
9 January 2012



Dear Mr Lister, 

Thank you for your email dated 28 November to the Secretary of State, about climate change and Trident. I have been asked to reply and apologise for the delay in doing so.

The Coalition Government regards climate change to be one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. The United Nations climate conference in Durban took place from Monday 28 November to the very early hours of Sunday 11 December. The UK and EU had one overriding goal for Durban – to secure agreement to a roadmap which would lead to a new global legally binding agreement with emissions reduction commitments for all but the poorest and most vulnerable countries – and we were successful in getting this. This is referred to as the Durban Platform. Countries have committed to negotiating this new agreement no later than 2015 and that it should enter into force from 2020.

We also agreed that we would adopt a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol next year. Between now and the next conference in Qatar we will need to develop the detail of a second commitment period - including emissions reductions targets and how we will deal with surplus assigned amount units (carbon credits) from the first commitment period.

This is a major step forward in tackling climate change. But there is still work to be done. The emissions reduction pledges countries have put forward to date are not enough to meet the goal of limiting average global temperature increases to below 2°C. That is why in Durban we agreed a work plan to enhance mitigation ambition and explore options to close the gap to 2°C. This work will start immediately.

The Durban deal sends a very strong signal to industry and business that governments are serious about climate change – giving them the confidence to invest in low carbon. While Durban may not place the world on the path to limiting climate change to our two degrees objective, it does make this path possible in a way it was not before.  

The Government also believes we need to take action to safeguard our national security at home and abroad. Clearly, the renewal of a nuclear deterrent based on the Trident missile system is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, the Government’s view is that this is not the right time for the UK to give up its nuclear deterrent. In many respects, we face a more dangerous situation now than we have for several decades. There are substantial risks to our security from emerging nuclear weapons states and state sponsored terrorism. 

So, while committed to the long-term goal of nuclear disarmament, we believe we can best protect ourselves against these threats by the continued operation of a minimum, credible nuclear deterrent. Accordingly, this Government has committed to maintain the deterrent and to continue with the programme to renew it as debated and approved by Parliament in 2007. Whether or not you agree with it, Parliament has taken a conscious and well informed decision and we are not sliding towards Trident’s replacement. 

We have carefully reviewed the replacement deterrent programme to ensure that it represents the absolute minimum capability that we require. We have concluded that we can reduce the maximum number of nuclear warheads onboard each submarine from 48 to 40 and reduce the number of operational missiles that the submarines carry to no more than eight (on 29 June 2011, we announced that the implementation of these reductions had already begun). We also concluded that it is possible to extend the lives of the existing submarines so that the first of the new submarines need not be delivered until around 2028. Main Gate, the point at which we will sign the main construction contracts and when we will decide how many submarines to build, will be in 2016. In all, the review has saved £1.2 billion and deferred spending of up to £2 billion over the next ten years from the submarine and nuclear programme. 

However, this does not mean that we need to take no action until 2016; indeed the Parliamentary vote in 2007 gave the Ministry of Defence a clear mandate to proceed with the programme and on the 18 May 2011 the Government announced the approval of the Deterrent Submarine Initial Gate. This is the point at which initial investment decisions in the programme are confirmed and where the broad design parameters are decided. A summary of these decisions was published in Parliament in May 2011. 

In this report, the Government also provided an update on the overall cost of the programme, confirming that we still expect to deliver the programme within the estimates made in the 2006 White Paper (i.e. £11-14Bn for the platform and £2-3Bn for each of the future warhead and infrastructure elements, all at 06/07 prices).

I hope this is helpful.

Yours sincerely,


Hadiza Kasimu
DECC Correspondence Unit
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