Ministers will be urged next week to encourage homeowners to replace domestic gas boilers with more environmentally friendly alternatives as their own advisory body demands a big increase in tackling climate change. The climate change committee will release a report to recommend ditching the decade-old target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050. It wants to replace it with a significantly more stretching one. The committee, chaired by Lord Deben, who as John Gummer was environment secretary in John Major’s government, is expected to set a date between 2040 and 2060 by which Britain should reach “net zero emissions” of carbon. Campaigners hope the committee will go even further, particularly after the reception this week for the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s visit to London, and suggest this is the date for the complete eradication of all greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, as well as carbon emissions. The climate committee is understood to make clear that reducing emissions produced by heating homes is a key part of achieving the new target. Most homes use a gas boiler at present and the report will push for solutions based on electricity, hydrogen and heat pump technology. In 2016, the climate committee ruled that a “net zero emissions” target was unaffordable. However, it is understood to have concluded that the drop in cost of technology puts a more ambitious target in reach.
Times 27th April 2019 read more »
Climate change is becoming hard to ignore. Extreme weather has grown more frequent. Scientists are loudly and urgently sounding the alarm – and people have noticed. The 10-day Extinction Rebellion protests were the biggest act of mass civil disobedience in the UK for generations. The protests, by people drawn from all sections of society, are sure to have a lasting impact. This month has seen the most mentions of climate change in the British media since the landmark Paris agreement in 2015. The country’s political class has been at pains to show it has been moved by the unprecedented outpouring of political feeling. But politicians need to overhaul policy in a far more substantial way than is currently envisaged to stop net emissions of greenhouse gases. The question is not whether this country should achieve a net zero target, but when. Presently the UK is committed in law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This is not ambitious enough. Last year’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggested that to limit the warming effect to 1.5C, global CO2 emissions must reach net zero by around 2050. Next week the UK’s Committee on Climate Change is expected to formally recommend the government goes further. Extinction Rebellion (XR) would like the UK to reach zero by 2025. Underlying this ambition is a commendable sentiment but the target is impractical. Britain, as the first country to industrialise and therefore responsible for a large historical stock of carbon dioxide emissions, ought to aspire to reach the UN’s 2050 goal faster, but not as fast as XR demands. This is not a flight of fancy. The costs of renewable energy have come down, with falls in the costs of wind, solar and batteries that are much bigger and faster than were until recently thought possible. The example of organisations that have set bold decarbonising agendas, such as the National Farmers’ Union, should be applauded and emulated on a national scale. Norway has agreed a net zero goal by 2030; Sweden by 2045. If other modern European societies are willing to accept the costs of transitioning to a greener and sustainable existence, it is hard to see why the UK could not. It must be acknowledged that having a goal is not the same as meeting one. Projections show the UK will, on its current trajectory, miss its legally binding carbon budgets for 2023-32. The government’s own advisers last year warned that to deliver decarbonisation in the most cost-effective way, even to meet the 80% reduction target, the UK must achieve deeper emissions cuts than those currently set. Putting off difficult decisions will only increase the cost of mitigating and adapting to a decarbonised global economy in the decades to come.
Guardian 26th April 2019 read more »
Why UK’s climate change politics reflect our broken political system. The suggestion that the UK should hold now hold ‘citizens assemblies’ about how to deal with climate change is an excellent one in my view, and one which parallels the best practice available in countries like Denmark. There (in Denmark) the approach has been on consensus building and bottom-up deliberations. This is in sharp contrast to the hierarchical and adversarial style of politics which dominates the traditional British approach to policymaking – an approach which, incidentally, has proved disastrous when dealing with Brexit (’nuff said on that one for the moment!). Indeed I have written about the comparison between the Danish and British approaches to climate politics in an academic piece in the journal ‘British Politics’, which was co-authored with a Danish academic, Helle Orsted. Please see the paper ‘Policy consultation and political styles: Renewable energy consultations in the UK and Denmark’.
Dave Toke’s Blog 26th April 2019 read more »
As the Committee on Climate Change gears up to provide its hotly-anticipated net zero advice to the government, green economy experts explain what to expect. Earlier this week, led by Conservative MP Simon Clarke, several leading experts – chair of the Energy Transitions Commission Lord Adair Turner, principal of Vivid Economics Alex Kazaglis, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters, and Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – gathered in Westminster to give their thoughts on the prospects of a net zero target. Speaking at Business Green’s most recent net zero conference last month, CCC chief executive Chris Stark joked that the Committee was not about to recommend the current target to cut emissions 80 per cent by 2050 should be relaxed. But beyond that the agency has kept its cards close to its chest. However, whatever emissions pathways the report proposes, Lord Turner – himself a former CCC chair, as well as a former director-general of the CBI – stressed that “it is as equally important to focus on what net zero means, as on the date”. “Zero must mean zero,” he said. “We should have a target in 2050 which is zero in the UK, and not zero because we are buying offsets from the rest of the world. Real zero.” Turner also argued the target should cover all greenhouse gases across all sectors of the economy – including aviation and shipping, which are both officially outside the current 80 per cent target – and warned against building in too many assumptions on the potential emissions impact of land use change. He also urged the UK to give up on fracking and to focus more strongly on tackling methane leakage. Reiterating the conclusions of the Energy Transitions Commission last year, Turner argued it would be technically feasible to reach net zero emissions right across the UK economy by 2050 at “negligible cost” to society, adding that “if society is willing to accept more than a trivial cost, we could bring that date forward”. To do so would require the UK to fully decarbonise electricity by the 2030s, and accelerate the phase out of all internal combustion engine vehicles – not just passenger cars – much sooner than the government’s current 2040 date, he argued. That would leave more time to develop more cost effective ways of reducing CO2 from other harder to reach sectors, such as industry, agriculture, heating, shipping, and aviation.
Business Green 26th April 2019 read more »