Anyone who has been working on climate change in the UK for any length of time will be deeply frustrated by the lack of progress we’ve made to date. We’ve had numerous impressive speeches, and our leaders have actually helped make it an issue of international concern, but, when it comes to reducing our own emissions, the UK’s track record is pathetic. We’ve barely got started on developing renewable energy, tried and failed to tax people out of cars, gleefully expanded airports and quietly continued burning vast quantitites of coal in our power stations.
Then last week the EU unveiled a package of measures that could finally turn attitudes around. The measures are not yet law and so don’t bind us yet but when they are agreed they are likely to be incredibly challenging. By 2020 15% of our energy will need to be renewable. We are starting with just over 1%. This is likely to mean that up to 45% of our electricity will need to be renewable since it’s going to be easier to make electricity cleaner than to make petrol greener, or change the way we heat our homes. This means that, love them or loathe them, we are all going to have to get used to more wind turbines both on and off-shore, and projects that harness tidal and wave energy are going to have to deliver too. Course if we all reduce how much electricity we actually use the challenge will look a lot easier so that’s also got to be a priority.
On the issue that is most dear to sandbag’s heart – emissions trading – the EU has also come out with a pretty strong statement. From 2012 not only will it be Europe that will set the caps, the caps are also going to be steadily getting tighter (by 1.74% a year) and power stations are going to have to pay upfront before they can emit a single tonne. This is all good news, but some are already lobbying against the package and there is also lots of room for improvement: caps should be decreasing by at least 3% a year not 1.74%, aviation has been let off the hook and is not paying up front which is plane (sorry!) wrong and emissions from cars should also be included. So there’s still a job to do.