The outgoing UK prime minister has issued an unexpected call to arms. Theresa May’s commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is a great cause to fight for, and one that could unite a country crumpled by Brexit. Make no mistake: achieving net zero carbon will be hard. The casualness with which Tory leadership candidates have rushed to endorse the target suggests they may care more about looking green than actually achieving the unprecedented level of joined-up government, lifestyle change, innovation and investment that is required. The striking aspect of the announcement is that it reflects dramatic shifts in public opinion. Polls suggest the environment has finally become a politically salient issue in Britain, in the top three of voter concerns. A majority of supporters of every political party, including the UK Independence party, now think that climate change matters. Whether that will translate into individuals taking action in their own lives remains to be seen. One in eight Brits are vegetarian or vegan and a fifth claim to be consciously “flexitarian”, cutting down on meat and dairy. A few are even starting to embrace “flight shame”, which appears to have triggered a small drop in air travel in Sweden. If this is a yuppie trend, no matter: those are the people who tend to fly most. These indicators may be drops in the ocean, but they give politicians licence to act. In the past, fears of voter backlash have led to frozen fuel taxes, inertia on insulating homes, a de facto ban on new onshore wind farms, and a refusal to properly tackle air pollution. Public apathy was also a good excuse to do little. Now, politicians should look seriously at taxing pollution and investing the proceeds.
FT 14th June 2019 read more »
Ed Miliband: Solving climate change needn’t wreck the economy. In fact, it’s the smartest way to fix it. The hard part of transformation lies ahead. Switching from coal power stations to gas and renewable alternatives is one thing. Changing the way we insulate and heat tens of millions of homes, and taking 40m petrol and diesel vehicles off our roads is quite another. The requirement now is for dramatic changes to how we live, how we move, what we eat and how we use our land. We haven’t achieved anything like it in peacetime before—and there is no hope whatsoever of it being done through business as usual. But here’s the prize. Facing up to the need to defend the planet can also provide the opportunity to do something Britain has long been crying out for—the chance to finally make a lopsided economy work for the country as a whole. We need to shift the whole story: from a tale of sacrifice and blame to a vision of hope and common endeavour. We need to demonstrate that action won’t just benefit society later, it will benefit us all in the here and now. But how? [We need to] join the dots between … economic failure and the climate crisis. This was—and is—an enormous missed opportunity. We can build the public support for the deep and decades-long economic transformation that the planet needs, only if we at the same time rewrite Britain’s unravelling social contract. It can no longer be a case of “we need to tackle climate change, and of course, all the other issues”: this is the issue, around which all other issues must revolve, and through which all our other social problems—particularly inequality—must be solved. The phrase “Green New Deal” is a shorthand for the approach we need: tackling climate change through a great civil mobilisation of people into purposeful work. It was coined in Britain, under the auspices of the New Economic Foundation a decade ago, although the time didn’t prove right. In fighting the Great Recession, the Labour government only dipped its toes in green water, for example with a programme of insulation. With many jobs on the line, more of the stimulus was focussed on cutting VAT, a proven way to get Britons spending at speed. But looking back, it’s hard not to regret that we weren’t more imaginative. Some of our actions then—such as the car scrappage scheme—now rank as missed opportunities. Yes, the new cars being subsidised were lower in emissions than the old bangers they replaced, but how much better placed might the UK car industry be today if all the resources had gone into getting ahead of curve on battery-powered cars and infrastructure? It is time to bring the Green New Deal home. I am co-chairing a new IPPR commission with Green MP Caroline Lucas, former Conservative MP Laura Sandys and people from science, business, the youth movement and trade unions to develop a detailed plan. Our report will be out next year, but we already have a sense of the principles.
Prospect 10th June 2019 read more »
An energy finance consultant from the international think-tank has added his voice to demands Theresa May, or her successor, spell out exactly how the decarbonization target will be met, and cited failings on solar as a warning on how not to proceed. The chorus of voices from the U.K. renewable energy industry calling for the government to take their competing technologies into account as the country aims for a net zero carbon future will have come as no surprise to anyone. Similarly, requests from potential renewables investors and industry bodies for clarity on how the U.K. government will achieve its lofty 2050 ambition are par for the course. When international energy bodies join the fray, however, the debate takes on a different tone, and an intervention from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has thrown into sharp relief the U.K. government’s failings on clean energy, and on solar in particular.
PV Magazine 14th June 2019 read more »