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UK announces long-term carbon reduction strategy
The UK government has today announced its strategy for meeting carbon emissions targets that could be seen as setting the standard for other countries to follow.
The Low Carbon Transition Plan, which was announced by Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, is a comprehensive plan to move the UK onto a permanent low carbon footing and to maximize economic opportunities, growth and jobs.
The Transition Plan sets out how the UK will meet the cut in emissions set out in the budget of 34 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020. According to figures from the government, emissions have already fallen by 22 per cent from 1990.
According to the government, by 2020:
The government describes the Transition Plan as the most systematic response to climate change of any major developed economy, and sets the standard for others in the run up to crucial global climate talks in Copenhagen in December.
The UK Low Carbon Industrial Strategy, published alongside, sets out a series of active government interventions to support industries critical to tackling climate change, including offshore wind, marine power and carbon capture and storage.
...Also published today is the Renewable Energy Strategy which maps out the UK Government's strategy for reaching the European Union's target of 15 per cent of the UK's total energy consumption from renewables by 2020, from around two per cent today.
The strategy identifies a range of low carbon sectors with potential for job creation and growth. These include: wave and tidal power; civil nuclear power; offshore wind; and ultra-low carbon vehicles.
It also sets out the government's strategy for removing barriers that are blocking the development of Britain's full potential in these areas.
...The government low carbon announcement has been met with cautious praise by both industry and environment groups.
(15 July 2009)
Climate change: Green dreams
Editorial, The Guardian
Everything must change and yet nothing must change, Ed Miliband insisted yesterday as he set out a plan to make Britain a low-carbon society by 2020, while leaving most aspects of modern life as they are. His long and fascinating white paper offers a schedule of works for the re-engineering of a country: green power, electric trains and efficient homes among many other good things, all contributing towards a 34% cut in emissions by 2020 on 1990 levels and an even greater fall after that. But it comes with the audacious suggestion that this can be achieved without depriving people of the comforts of their present, carbon-intensive, lives.
Two decades from now, the government imagines people will still be able to fly when they want (including from a third Heathrow runway), drive (but efficiently and perhaps electrically), and live in warm, well-lit (but far better insulated) homes. This is supposed to happen without pushing up energy bills excessively or extending fuel poverty. On top of that, the green revolution has been loaded with the task of digging Britain out of recession, creating 500,000 new jobs and technologies to export.
...The great majority of carbon cuts will come from energy use, and the white paper is in essence the energy strategy Britain has lacked ever since Margaret Thatcher gave up on coal. Even without climate change it would be needed as an answer to falling North Sea oil and gas output. Already Britain's electricity is becoming too dependent on gas brought in by ship through the Suez canal. The answer is partly efficiency (though converting Britain's ancient homes will be more expensive and difficult than anyone seems to admit) and partly new forms of generation. To achieve the latter the paper increases state direction of the national grid, Ofgen and power companies - and this is the newest thing in the document.
(17 July 2009)
Energy bill rises to tackle climate change are tiny
George Monbiot, The Guardian
The ink isn't dry on the government's low carbon transition plan, and already the whingeing has begun. The talkshows are buzzing with complaints about the impact on energy prices. Some punters suggest that this will be the end of life as we know it: the government's plans will wreck the economy and bankrupt struggling families.
There's no doubt that fuel poverty remains an important issue in this country. It still accelerates the deaths of elderly people every winter. Being able to maintain your home at a habitable temperature is a basic human right. But the new plans will make no appreciable difference.
According to the government, the impact of all its climate change policies – old and new – will be to add an average of £92 (or 8%) to household bills between now and 2020. Does that sound like the end of life as we know it? If so, you have a short memory.
...Did the price rise of 2003-2006 cause the economy to collapse? No. That was achieved by other means. It made life harder for some people. The government sought to address this with its winter fuel allowance, and today it proposes to create "mandated social price support", mostly focused on older pensioners on the lowest incomes. I don't know whether this is sufficient to eliminate fuel poverty. We should keep pressing the government to ensure that it is.
But let's get this straight: fuel poverty and the climate change programme have very little to do with each other, except inasmuch as government intends to help us insulate our homes, which means we'll need less fuel to heat them. As the secretary of state Ed Miliband pointed out on the Today programme this morning, failing to replace our energy supplies will also raise prices: fossil fuels will become more expensive as a result of rising demand in China and India.
There is, however, a government policy, or absence of policy, which does threaten both to exacerbate fuel poverty and accelerate economic collapse: its flat refusal to make contingency plans for the possibility that global supplies of oil (and, presumably, gas) will one day peak. Peak oil and gas will wreck more than the government's plans for eliminating hypothermia: it will make all current economic and environmental planning redundant. Yet, in the 228 pages of today's white paper about our future energy supplies, you won't find a word about it.
(15 July 2009)