Why it’s time for urgent green agenda action

“Climate change is the greatest threat to our existence in our short history on this planet. Nobody’s going to buy their way out of its effects.” — Mark Ruffalo, Actor & Environmentalist

Humanity must wean itself off fossil fuels now. While every nation must play its part, there’s a particular onus on Britain. It was here, after all, that the Industrial Revolution began. And it is Britain that is hosting the UN’s critical climate summit, COP26, in November. Nations at the Glasgow event will be looking to the UK for leadership, but it will be in little position to offer it. The Government has failed to set out a coherent strategy for achieving net-zero emissions. Plus it’s also continuing to support measures that directly undermine that goal. This list of incompatibilities includes:

  • the recent closing of the Green Homes Grant insulation scheme
  • freezing fuel duty
  • encouraging airport expansion, and
  • delaying the phasing out of gas boilers beyond the planned date of 2035.

Data Deception

Ministers boast that we have cut carbon emissions by 44% since 1990. This makes them on track to reach the net-zero target by 2050. But this figure, as they well know, refers to territorial emissions. Those that are spewed out within the UK. That these have plummeted is mainly due to the decline of heavy industry. Yet this doesn’t reduce the level of emissions for which we’re responsible. We go on purchasing the same goods, only now from factories abroad. Between 1997 and 2018 it’s estimated that CO2 emissions associated with UK imports from China alone rose by a 64%. That’s why the ethical way to measure emissions is on a consumption basis. By that measure, the World Wildlife Fund calculates that from 1990 to 2016 emissions fell by just 15%, not by over 40%. But as that shows, we won’t get anywhere near net zero by 2050. The Government continues to deceive us with the incorrect data.

A Backlash

To make matters worse, the PM is also facing a backlash from his party over his green agenda, like it is. Among those warning that it risks alienating voters is Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, who described it as a:

hard sell asking people to make sacrifices when the rest of the world, China/Russia etc, are carrying on as usual.

A Way Forward

Economies of scale can reduce the cost of low-carbon technologies. Wind is now a more economical source of electricity than coal. Experts expect the price of new electric cars to fall below that of petrol and diesel vehicles as soon as 2025. The price of other green technologies like hydrogen fuel cells, heat pumps and solar energy should fall over time. We should also keep the costs of net zero in perspective. The Office for Budget Responsibility reckons that decarbonising our economy will cost us some £1.4tm over 30 years. That is less than the Government has spent on the pandemic in 18 months.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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Robert Thompson

Robert Thompson

Big ideas and important articles. Writing to help you make sense of the world. And cope with being human.

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