UK chancellor Philip Hammond has come under fire for suggesting in a letter that the cost of committing to reduce UK emissions to net zero by 2050 could come to £1tn. He has been accused of spouting “innumerate nonsense” and failing to factor in the benefits of pursuing climate action. As for his worries that the bill could lead to cuts in other areas of public spending, critics have been quick to scoff that the costs of decarbonisation are not fiscal but so-called whole economy costs. Before we all get complacent though, remember the scale of the task the UK is contemplating. Getting to net zero requires not only scrapping all internal combustion vehicles and decarbonising energy. There is also housing to ponder. Buildings account for 40 per cent of Britain’s carbon footprint, while less than 1 per cent of the country’s housing stock is replaced each year. So among the many things on the to-do list, you can add potentially retrofitting energy saving features on to the bulk of the UK’s 27m homes. How much might that cost? Well, in 2008, the then science minister Paul Drayson launched a pilot scheme to establish what was needed simply to cut housing emissions by 80 per cent. It spent up to £150,000 per dwelling, and managed in some but not all cases to hit the reduction target. Now if we take that cost as a starting point and assume that economies of scale and “learning by doing” could reduce it by three-quarters – to, say, £37,500. Multiply that by 27m and you are already at Mr Hammond’s £1tn. Few parallels present themselves since the second world war of resources being mobilised for such a vast national undertaking. The nearest is perhaps the shift from “town gas” to natural gas in the 1960s and 1970s, when British Gas moved efficiently street by street through the kingdom, installing new connections. Tellingly that was executed by a state monopoly. There were no expensive incentives dangled, nor was the consumer offered any choice. Net zero requires a wartime level of national mobilisation, and wars demand renunciation from people. Rather than glossing over the challenges, responsible politicians would at least debate them first.
FT 16th June 2019 read more »
Britain should not expand fracking because it needs to set an example to the world on cutting emissions, Rory Stewart has said. The Tory leadership contender distanced himself from mainstream Conservative positions on energy, saying that nuclear was “hugely expensive” and that he would prefer to invest in renewables. He said that he was open to support for onshore wind farms to create “a level playing field when it comes to subsidies for renewable energy projects”. Tory ministers have been outspoken in their support of fracking, the process of hydraulically fracturing beneath the ground to extract shale gas. Fracking halted in Britain after Cuadrilla caused earth tremors near Blackpool last year. Ministers have refused to relax earthquake limits. Mr Stewart told The Times: “My instinct is it is not the right time to be expanding our fracking activities.” The nuclear industry is in limbo pending a government decision on support for new projects. A proposed project in Cumbria near Mr Stewart’s constituency was ditched last year. Mr Stewart said that nuclear had contributed to clean energy but that the power stations came with risks and were expensive. He said that he wanted to support more research and development to radically reduce the cost of renewable technologies. Mr Hunt said that he supported new nuclear when it was cost-effective and Mr Raab said that it was a vital part of the mix.
Times 17th June 2019 read more »