What is a ‘climate change emergency’? There is no precise or accepted international definition of a ‘climate emergency’, but making such a declaration was a key element of the Extinction Rebellion and youth climate protests that have recently occurred across London, the UK and worldwide, and was a byword for taking immediate action and developing policy to mitigate climate change beyond current government targets and international agreements. The government is actually following UK local authorities on this issue, and several councils across the UK have passed motions for a climate emergency in recent months, including in London and also in Bristol, where it has been tied into plans to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. Although it is hard to find an origin story of the phrase ‘climate emergency’, Bristol Green Party councillor Carla Denyer could be the first politician to put forward the idea of declaring “a climate emergency” in November 2018 after it had become common parlance among environmentalists and climate activists. In the motion to British City Council, which was passed, she stated that she was inspired by the recent IPCC report which warned that humanity has 12 years to take emergency action in order to prevent global warming greater than 1.5°C. Above this temperature, the risks to humanity of floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty become much greater, impacting on hundreds of millions more people – hence the need to declare ‘an emergency’. In terms of turning the declaration into action, comments made by former leader of the opposition and Climate Change minister Ed Miliband are telling. This week he said we should be on a ‘war footing’ when it came to tackling global warming, and referenced programmes such as the nationwide move from town to natural gas in the 1960s and 1970s as an example of the kind of large-scale projects that will be required. Therefore, it is expected that many of the programmes, projects and policies associated with net-zero and science-based target setting will be used to react to the climate emergency. Perhaps a crucial difference – and why the government has chosen to use the alarmist word ‘emergency’ – is the expectation that these projects should be scaled up from pilots and small schemes into large, company or industry-wide programmes to mitigate climate change and limit temperature rise to 1.5C.
Edie 2nd May 2019 read more »
Sir Nicholas Soames: In Westminster, nearly 200 MPs from all political parties have joined me in publicly urging the prime minister to set a net zero target. The only disagreement comes from those who would like a date before 2050. What a remarkable turnaround from the situation just a few years ago, when many on my own benches were fond of warning that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would come galloping across Westminster Bridge the moment we connected a wind turbine or an electric car to the national grid. my advice to the government, and to the Conservative Party, is: accept the advice of the experts, acknowledge the will of the people and get on with it. If stopping climate change means ending greenhouse gas emissions, and if analysis shows it will not be costly and might even bring economic benefits, let us just do it. Making Britain a net zero nation would not markedly change our lives. We would drive different cars, and heat our homes using different forms of energy; nothing to give us nightmares there. All of our electricity would come from wind turbines, solar panels and nuclear reactors: few of us would notice the difference. We may eat a bit less meat and cheese — doubtless good for us, and if we did find the fare a mite less satisfying we could always go for a walk in the added expanse of woodland planted to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. For the nation that rebuilt after the Blitz and nationalisation, this is small beer.
Times 3rd May 2019 read more »
Blakely & Hudson: The committee’s report asserts that the target constitutes the country’s “highest possible ambition” and that it is not credible to aim for an earlier date. We disagree. While the report does challenge the government to step up its climate ambition, our view is that creative carbon accounting and an unwillingness to prioritise the planet’s health over economic growth leaves the committee’s target lacking the urgency truly required to combat the climate emergency recently declared by even the government itself. Before assessing whether 2050 is an appropriate date, its important to unpack exactly how the committee defines net zero. Based on international guidance from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UK’s target only includes territorial carbon emissions – those that are emitted directly within the country’s borders.
The Conversation 2nd May 2019 read more »
Aled Jones: To be politically acceptable, any target is likely to need to meet two demands. The first, as stated by the Committee on Climate Change, is that is it “credible”. This is a very subjective term, of course, and visions of universal suffrage or an end to slavery also started out as utopian. A 2025 target could be perfectly credible if there was the political leadership to deliver it. But political acceptability also depends on social impact. It is true to say that mitigating climate change is a benefit for society. But in the short term, if planned incorrectly, tackling climate change could make energy and food more expensive, and increase inequality.
The Conversation 2nd May 2019 read more »
The government has run various schemes to help people make their homes more energy efficient over the years, although some have stopped running since 2015. So what help is still available if you want to go green?
BBC 2nd May 2019 read more »
How the political parties are shaping up on the environment.
The i News 2nd May 2019 read more »
There is no macro-economic cost to a climate target with zero emissions. To claim that we cannot afford to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by 2050 is to rely on primitive accounting fallacies. The switch to a post-fossil economy is more likely to be an accelerant to GDP growth, akin to the successive upheavals of steam power, electricity and digital technology, each with a ripening phase of 30 years or so. The Bank of England argues that green investment is a net economic benefit. It is a way to soak up the glut of excess savings in the global financial system and put idle capital to work. The bond market is evidence that the world economy is badly out of alignment. Some $10 trillion (£8 trillion) of debt is trading at negative yields. Central bank rates in Japan and Europe are below zero a decade into the global economic expansion. This is what “secular stagnation” looks like. Such is the mismatch between global savings and investment. What we need is an emergency to shake us out of our structural trap – like rearmament in the Thirties, which ended the last secular stagnation. In that sense the climate crisis is an economic gift from Mars. For Britain, a zero target is the necessary catalyst for a revival of investment. It is how we can regain energy sovereignty instead of relying on imports that currently bleed a net 2pc of GDP each year, paid mostly to despotisms. My critique of the CCC is that it concedes too much to sceptics. It tags the cost of zero-emissions by 2050 at 1pc to 2pc of GDP annually. This is based on the static assumption that there will be no further falls in the cost of wind, solar and renewable energy over the next 30 years, and no further leaps in technology. This is the same number used by the CCC in 2008 when the target was an 80pc cut in CO2. “I hope nobody goes back and looks at the estimates we used for solar and wind because they were embarrassingly wrong, even though we thought we were being visionaries at the time,” said Lord Turner, who was then CCC’s chairman. Offshore wind contracts are already coming in at £69 (MWh) for the early 2020s, 40pc lower than original estimates for 2030. Worldwide solar costs have dropped by 85pc since 2008. Batteries are on the same sort of trajectory with the lag of a decade. A fresh study by Finland’s LUT university and Germany’s Energy Watch refutes the CCC’s cost claim. It has just completed the first “real-time” analysis of the world’s energy system, concluding that the entire needs of power, heating, transport fuel and desalination could be met by renewables at lower cost even using current technology.
Telegraph 2nd May 2019 read more »
[Heat pumps are] an expensive, low-output technology really only suitable for the smallest number of most efficient and insulated of our 26 million houses. You also need a garden of at least 70 square metres of surface area (with deep and easy-digging soil) for the tech to work, or you can end up with permafrost in your back yard. It’s the same with solar electricity-generation panels; you need a sizeable roof facing south(ish) and a lot of money. Hot water-generating panels? Ditto, and you’ll also need something for these panels to do on a hot summer day or they can boil your bath water. Meanwhile, the Government’s track record in encouraging folk to do the simple things (double glazing, loft insulation, more efficient boilers) is laughable – remember the Green Deal anyone? Even its targets to install smart energy meters in all homes has been trashed by every expert worth their salt for being the wrong sort of meters, which are being installed at a gastropodic pace. Electric cars? Ah yes, the middle class’s secret weapon to siphon cash off working folk in the form of Government grants. Electric Vehicles (EVs) are fine and can do most of the jobs of a conventional car, but not all by any means. Range is severely compromised in temperature extremes where the cabin requires heating or cooling, in hilly districts which delves into the battery’s power and when travelling at speed. They’re expensive and road-side recharging is something of a shambles at present, requiring a huge number of accounts to access all the chargers – and the liquid-imbibing powers of a camel as you sup coffee waiting for the tank to fill, so to speak. Talk to anyone about the real experience of running an EV as their only transport and they’ll give you a litany of recalcitrant recharging companies, malfunctioning chargers, cars blocking access to the chargers, the high costs of charging and also of endless software malfunctions of the EV itself – they might have fewer moving parts, but that doesn’t make EVs any more reliable.
Telegraph 2nd May 2019 read more »
Ministers must urgently bring on a new economic revolution to end greenhouse gas emissions including changing the heating in every building to green sources such as hydrogen, the government has been told by its climate change watchdog. The experts insist Britain can make money by leading the globe in overhauling power, transport, industrial, agricultural and aviation systems – because the rest of the world will want the UK’s pioneering technology.
Independent 2nd May 2019 read more »
There are many specific questions left unanswered. There is no firm recommendation on the future of fracking, the process by which shale gas is unlocked using high-powered jets of water. The UK’s regulations on the industry have left it largely moribund, with the commissioner in charge resigning last week. Similarly, the acrimonious debate around the third runway at Heathrow airport goes unresolved. The report does, however, call for individuals to minimise long-haul flights and use trains in place of short-haul journeys. These do not detract from the monumental work behind this report. The Committee on Climate Change has offered the government an opportunity to set a path for the UK as a global pioneer. Although the 2050 deadline will require sustained government focus, it is by no means unworkable. It is a lot more credible than Extinction Rebellion’s proposed 2025 cut-off. While the bulk of the work will be carried out under future administrations, adopting the report’s recommendations is a key first step. The UK has cut emissions significantly from 30 years ago. A decision now could set the path for future administrations to eliminate them 30 years from now. This will require political courage to commit wholeheartedly to net zero. Here is an opportunity for a rudderless government, looking to chart a new path for Britain in the world post-Brexit, to write a place in history.
FT 3rd May 2019 read more »
The UK’s low carbon power generation capacity must quadruple by 2050 if the UK is to achieve net zero status in that time frame, with established technologies expected to do most of the “heavy lifting”. Today the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published its eagerly anticipated net zero report, outlining a prospective date for the UK to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and, crucially, what’s required for such a transition to occur. The overriding message from the report is that the UK absolutely can transition to a net zero economy by 2050, but it can only set that as an attainable target if the government is serious and prepared to put into place the required policy to do so.
Solar Power Portal 2nd May 2019 read more »