21 May 2011

Derek Wall on the flaws in coalition climate policy

A battle has been won for climate change and it seems petty or fundamentalist to criticise it. However, criticism of climate policy remains necessary.
While it is welcome that Chris Huhne has beaten his colleague Vince Cable and produced a policy for cutting emissions, it is debatable whether emissions will actually fall, and fall in a way that serves human beings and the environment rather than narrow corporate interests.

The recent announcement on climate change promises a reduction by 2050 of 80 per cent of CO2 compared with 1990 and promises binding legislation to achieve this. Given the hegemony of climate change denial on the right and a huge fight by the Tresury to water down climate action this seems encouraging. It also involves practical policies not just vague aspirations. 40 per cent of energy in the UK will come, it is proposed, from wind, waves and solar by 2030. Heat pumps will be fitted to 2.6 million homes by 2025 and there will be an electric car revolution.
All apparently good. However, binding legislation is never truly binding, a law to say that carbon will be cut, does not necessarily lead to effective policy. Future governments may unbind! The target set also seems too modest to halt a rise in temperatures. However depressing, the political climate is such that realistic policies on climate are difficult to achieve.

There are also a series of get out clauses. Ultimately the policy is within a carbon trading framework, so at worst we can go on producing as much CO2 as we do currently and buy carbon permits to permit more pollution. Equally much of our carbon is embedded i.e. we import goods from countries like China whose manufacture leads to carbon emissions. Such embedded CO2 is simply ignored
Equally the climate policy model contains a role for biofuels. While biofuels sound superficially green they are highly damaging to the environment. The main source of biofuels is palm oil from Colombia, Indonesia and Malaysia. In all three countries rainforests are cleared to grow biofuel crops, which means that biodiversity is reduced and climate change actually increases.

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1 comment:

Stephen Wood said...

A good summary of the current state of play around energy policy and a good call to arms on some of the hidden “reforms” of the coalition government, particularly around the sweeping away of local authority duties around environmental protections, under the smart guise of reducing bureaucracy and cost-savings. Decimating decades of carefully argued for safeguards by the backdoor – right now, the Green Party and our allies amongst the environmental movement need to make exposing this as one of our principal aims.