Six parliamentary committees have announced plans for a citizens’ assembly to discuss how the UK should tackle climate change. It comes after the government committed earlier this month to cut greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050. The assembly is likely to be set up in the autumn and will meet over several weekends before producing a report. Energy Secretary Greg Clark welcomed the move, saying public engagement was “vitally important”.
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The announcement today from six House of Commons Select Committees that they are to hold a Citizens Assembly (CA) on how we might achieve a pathway to net zero emissions is a major step. The move is clearly inspired by (and made under pressure from) the upsurge of activism on climate change – school strikes, Extinction Rebellion protests, the resurgence of the Green New Deal and the declaration by numerous institutions, including Parliament, of a ‘climate emergency’ (as well as a bit of encouragement from IGov’s Dr Becky Willis). I would argue that the Select Committees holding a CA is particularly important in the UK context. Our first-past-the-post electoral system has long worked in favour of a two-party system with a high degree of political competition; in the words of political theorist Arendt Lijphart: ‘the Westminster model sets up a government-versus-opposition pattern that is competitive and adversarial.’ As a result, Britain has never done cross-party deliberation or negotiation well (as the recent Conservative-Labour Brexit talks showed). Under these circumstances, when it came to trying to get commitment to a long-term direction for climate policy, there was a logic to delegating key decisions to a more technocratic body, insulated from short-term political pressures. This was indeed the approach we took back in 2008 with the creation of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). There was cross-party support for the Climate Change Act, but a lot of this was due to David Cameron’s strategy at the time of seeking to ‘de-toxify’ the Tory brand through the climate change issue (remember ‘hug a husky’?) and was never as deep as is sometimes claimed retrospectively.
IGov 20th June 2019 read more »
Britain, the birth place of coal power, is set this year to use more electricity from zero-carbon sources such as wind, solar and nuclear than from fossil fuel plants for the first time, the country’s National Grid said on Friday. Data from National Grid shows low-carbon power generation contributed around 48% of Britain’s electricity in the first five months of 2019 while fossil fuels such as coal and gas-fired plants contributed around 47%. The rest comes from biomass and storage. The transition has been largely due to a huge increase in Britain’s wind power capacity, with wind contributing almost a fifth of the country’s power in the first five months of 2019, up from just 1% in 2009. Britain’s windy coastlines in particular have proved to be an ideal host for large wind projects, with the northwest coast of England home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Orsted’s Walney Extension. The increase in zero-carbon power marks a huge shift from a decade ago when coal and gas plants provided around three-quarters of the country’s electricity.
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For the first time in its history Britain’s electricity grid has become more green than brown, National Grid has announced today in what it says is a “historic milestone” for the Britain’s energy system. Power generation data released today by the grid operator reveals that for the first time since the Industrial Revolution the UK is on track to generate more electricity from low carbon sources such as wind, hydro, nuclear, and solar, than from gas and coal.
Business Green 21st June 2019 read more »
The UK has this afternoon delivered another clean energy first, after the government confirmed the grid has broken the record for the most hours in a year without using coal for energy. With only six months of the year gone, the UK has already clocked up 1,976 hours of coal-free operation, breaking 2018’s record of 1875.5 hours.
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Setting a limit on carbon intensity for different parts of the economy, from heating to transport, could prove a more effective way to reduce emissions than the current complex system of taxes, subsidies, and contracts, government-backed research has found. The Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) has spent the last 18 months investigating how the UK can build a more cost effective policy framework to cut emissions across the UK economy. It found that in many areas of the economy, the incentives for people and businesses to switch to low carbon technologies, systems or behaviours are too weak to make an impact. In energy, for example, carbon emissions are not effectively priced and VAT is only charged at five per cent, leaving little incentive for households, energy suppliers and businesses to move away from gas use. Meanwhile, in agriculture no price signal is applied to emissions-producing activities and in aviation air passenger duty is not linked to emissions. To drive change, the Catapult said the government should consider implementing new sector specific carbon standards to encourage investment in alternative green technologies.
Business Green 20th June 2019 read more »