The government has spent the period since the General Election in May instigating large cuts to subsidies for renewable energy and energy conservation programmes. It is claimed that these cuts will not jeopardise Britain’s ability to reduce carbon emissions on the scale required to adequately tackle climate change. It is also claimed that these cuts are necessary “to keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families”. So are they right? To answer this, we need to dig into the evidence. The most recent detailed assessment of the progress made by the UK on reducing carbon emissions was provided in a progress report by the government’s advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), published last summer. One particular issue was that a large proportion of recent reductions were due to little more than good luck. For example, warmer winter weather in 2014 had led to markedly reduced energy consumption, while a large drop in emissions in the industrial sector had been unexpected and still remains to be clearly explained. Such emissions reduction may be reversed if our luck does not continue to hold. One area where progress had especially stalled was building energy efficiency. A key problem here had been the general failure of the Coalition government’s Green Deal programme, introduced in 2012, whose shortcomings have been pointed out by numerous analysts. The scheme led to the annual rate of home energy efficiency installations falling by over 60% in the course of a single year, and the rate has continued to fall since. There has also been a general lack of progress in reducing emissions from the agricultural sector, while transport-related emissions actually rose slightly between 2013 and 2014. However, the CCC’s biggest criticism was the general lack of longer term climate policy measures beyond 2020 – and even major proposals that the government had indicated its commitment to, such as new nuclear power stations, were subject to serious doubts about the industry’s capability to deliver. The UK had been making steady, if inadequate, progress on reducing carbon emissions – up until the General Election. The backtracking since then has put this progress at risk, not only in terms of tackling climate change, but also by undermining efforts to reduce fuel poverty, create skilled jobs, improve air quality, increase energy security and improve economic performance.
Scientists for Global Responsibility 23rd Feb 2016 read more »