Monday, 12 October 2009

UK'S Lackluster Low Carbon Transition Plan

The Institute of Science in Society
Science Society Sustainability
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This article can be found on the I-SIS website at
ISIS Report 12/10/09

UK’S Lackluster Low Carbon Transition Plan

Belated, good in parts, but not green and definitely lacking
in vision. Prof. Peter Saunders and Brett Cherry

The belated

The world is shifting to renewable energies in the wake of peak oil and accelerating global warming. Contrary to exhausting supplies of fossil and nuclear fuels, renewable
energy is inexhaustible energy. In 2008, more capacity in renewable energies has been added than conventional, and the trend is continuing, with many politicians and experts considering 100 percent renewable by 2050 a distinct possibility [1] (see Green Energies - 100% Renewable by 2050, ISIS publication). The German government, for one, appears to have made 50 to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 its target [2] (Germany 100 Percent Renewables by 2050,
SiS 44)

The UK has lagged far behind. It is trailing the EU league for renewables, being third from bottom ahead of Luxembourg and Malta [3]. UK received 1 percent of its energy from
renewables in 1995; that increased to 1.3 percent ten years later in 2005, and is currently about 1.8 percent.

The UK government’s White Paper [4] is a belated attempt to salvage the situation by taking on board the message of the Stern Report [5, 6] (see The Economics of Climate Change,
SiS 33) including the positive finding that mitigating climate change is not only possible but affordable.

The good

The short term aim is that by 2020 the UK’s emissions should be reduced by 18 percent from the 2008 level, a larger reduction if the Copenhagen summit agrees appropriate
international targets. By 2050, emissions are to be cut by 80 per cent from 1990 levels, a target recommended by the Independent Committee on Climate Change as the UK’s
contribution to halving global emissions by 2050.

A separate report, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy 2009 [7] from the Department of Energy and Climate Change sets out a path to a “legally binding target” of 15 percent of UK’s
energy from renewables by 2020, reducing 750 Mt CO2 by 2030, and decreasing UK’s overall fossil fuel demand by around 10 percent and gas imports by 20-30 percent. A £100 billion new investment will create 500 000 jobs in the renewable energy

The White Paper [4] contains a great deal of detail on how the targets are to be achieved. There is a long list of measures (see Box 1) for producing low carbon energy and for reducing energy consumption, and a long appendix giving the savings that each is supposed to contribute. There is to be an EU-wide carbon trading scheme with a total that reduces year by year. There is to be support for energy conservation, for the development of renewable energy sources, for measures to reduce emissions from farms, for
the creation of more woodland to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and more. That’s the good news.

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Wild geese. l.p. photo
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