National Infrastructure Commission Chair Sir John Armitt has called on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use this autumn’s Spending Review to commit to a once-in-a-generation transformation of the UK’s transport, energy and technology networks. In a letter to the Chancellor, Sir John lays down four key tests by which the Commission will judge the credibility of the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, which is expected to be announced at the autumn Spending Review. The Commission published the country’s first National Infrastructure Assessment last year, a series of detailed recommendations as to how the government should develop the UK’s energy, transport, water and technology networks over the next thirty years. The government is required to consider the proposals and formally respond with its own strategy. Among its main recommendations were: Aiming for 50 per cent of the UK’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, with the government offering support for no more than one nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C between now and 2025; Creating a truly national, visible charging network for electric vehicles through subsidies in areas where the private sector won’t deliver in the short term, and through councils allocating a portion of their parking spaces for future charging points; Providing additional powers and £43billion funding between now and 2040 to city leaders to develop strategies for improving their local transport networks and delivering new job opportunities and homes; and Delivering a national resilience standard to protect communities against the risk of flooding, and setting water companies a target to halve the amount of water lost to leakages to ensure supplies are resilient against an increased risk of drought.
NIC 13th May 2019 read more »
A majority of voters would support radical action to slash greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050 at a cost of tens of billions of pounds, a new poll has found. The public has thrown its weight overwhelmingly behind calls by the government’s independent climate change advisers to make a legally binding commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. The exclusive survey by BMG Research found 59 per cent of voters would support such action, with only 8 per cent opposing it and 34 per cent who had no view.
Independent 12th May 2019 read more »
Climate change has been unusually prominent in the UK media over recent weeks – and this is mirrored by a noticeable increase in climate “concern” in the polls. From 15-25 April, climate change was high on the news agenda in response to the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, a major BBC documentary presented by Sir David Attenborough and the visit to London by the Swedish school climate protestor Greta Thunberg. Data presented by Carbon Brief and the University of Colorado both found that the media mentioned “climate change” more in April than it did in almost any previous month. Several research agencies have conducted opinion polls of the UK public since the protests started and have now published their results. This means we can see what effect the events of April, and the resulting media coverage, has had on public opinion.
Carbon Brief 10th May 2019 read more »
Nick Butler: There is a very simple measure the UK’s Committee on Climate Change could have flagged. We need a carbon tax to change consumer behaviour. Introduced at a level designed to alter behaviour (perhaps £50 a tonne), a carbon tax would encourage consumers of all kinds – from manufacturers to domestic customers – to switch to lower-carbon energy supplies and encourage the development of technology to make that possible. Charged at this level a tax would be far more effective than the current EU-based measures and would allow energy users to identify low-cost alternatives, or where necessary develop them. In the process, it would demonstrate whether the most expensive options, such as carbon capture and the reconstruction of the way we heat buildings, are really necessary.
FT 13th May 2019 read more »
Paul Johnson – director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and a member of the committee on climate change. Much of the progress has come from changing the way we generate electricity. What comes out of the socket is just the same as it ever was. It is more expensive than it would have been had no climate policies been put in place, but for most of us the net effect of this higher price on the one hand and more efficient appliances and better insulation on the other has made little difference to energy bills. In fact the price of many renewables, not least offshore wind, is fast falling towards the price of conventional generation. The next phase of change will be different. Electric cars will be a crucial part of that change. Surface transport is now the biggest sectoral source of CO2 emissions. Electric cars may take some getting used to, but hopefully we’ll become accustomed to them without too much trouble. In all likelihood by the 2030s they will be cheaper to buy and run than the traditional petrol variety. And we will all benefit from the cleaner air we’ll get to breathe. However, they will pose one major headache, initially for the Treasury and hence eventually probably for the rest of us. Taxes on fuel bring in more than £30 billion a year. If we all go electric that will drop close to zero. Expect future chancellors to try to make up some of that, perhaps through some form of road pricing. If the same amount is raised in total that will inevitably leave some of us worse off. And that’s probably the easiest bit. What about how we heat our homes? We nearly all use gas, and that’s a major source of emissions. We know technically how to change that. We could install ground or air source heat pumps. We could, but we’re not doing so at the moment. And unlike getting our electricity from a different source, that’s a change we’ll notice. There will be a financial one up front if there isn’t taxpayer support and a hassle cost for sure. It also becomes a lot easier to meet targets if we turn our thermostats down. Are we willing to do that? What about going much faster? The Extinction Rebellion group has demanded that the UK get to zero emissions by 2025. That is essentially impossible, or achievable only at such vast cost to, and impact on, our living standards that trying to do it would put back the case for genuine action for a generation and more.
Times 13th May 2019 read more »