The Carbon Budget

Hats off to David Cameron. He has smacked down the “dark forces” within the Treasury by approving the fourth carbon budget, as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. James Murray at Business Green endorses the proposed budget as:

[G]enuinely world-leading in its breadth and ambition. It will impose legally binding targets requiring the UK to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50 per cent by 2050 and 60 per cent by 2030, in the process ensuring that the country’s electricity infrastructure is all but decarbonised within 20 years.

If the plan is enacted fully, the UK will generate 40 per cent of its energy from renewables and 40 per cent from nuclear by 2030, the remaining 20 per cent coming from relatively clean fossil fuel power plants, many of which will feature carbon capture and storage technology

Moreover, by 2025, 2.6 million homes will have highly energy efficient heat pumps, and almost a third of new cars will be electric. Every component of the economy will face similar levels of revolutionary change, ensuring that the UK will almost certainly become one of the world’s premier low carbon economies, generating billions of pounds a year from exporting green technologies and expertise.

Certainly, Cameron deserves praise for his boldness in passing the budget. However, the Osborne-Cable alliance did win some important concessions. As Joss Garman points out at Left Foot Forward:

[I]t appears that whilst the government will accept the CCC’s advice on the scale of the carbon targets for the mid-late 2020s, they won’t accept the recommendation that short term cuts need to be increased.

Understandably, some will rightly point out that it’s convenient for the prime minister to agree to a 50% cut in UK emissions by 2025 – when he’s unlikely to still be in power, but to reject the advice of raising the 2020 target. Equally, it is understood that government will announce tomorrow it will rely on carbon offsets to a greater extent than is recommended by the climate committee.

This is a classic case of politics influencing policy. But no matter what some doom merchants may say in tomorrow’s papers, be in no doubt, this remains a radical piece of climate legislation. It commits to concrete action. It is to be welcomed.

“Tarnished Earth”

Last week, I made a trip down to Brighton. As you can see, it was a beautiful sunny day. Whilst strolling down the promenade, I came across a series of billboards put up by The Co-operative. I had a camera at the ready so I started to snap away.

The billboards are part of the Tarnished Earth campaign.


I’ve said before on this blog, I don’t think negative campaigning works – especially when it is so abstract and removed from everyday life. So next time, why not show alternative (and realistic) visions for a more sustainable future? Brighton has plenty of potential.

Open letter to David Cameron

The heads of 15 green organisations and campaign groups have today written to David Cameron to express concern about the coalition’s policy direction.

Dear Prime Minister,

A year ago we were pleased when you made the commitment to make yours the ‘greenest government ever’. It was a great ambition, with some promising policies in the Coalition Agreement and the early cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow to back it up.

Twelve months on your Government’s performance is less impressive. There have been some significant positive steps including the decision to set up a green investment bank, a commitment to a Natural Environment White Paper following UK leadership at the biodiversity convention at Nagoya, and the decisions to fund the demonstration of carbon capture and storage and renewable heat. During the same period, however, we have fallen from 3rd to 13th on the international league table of attractiveness to clean energy investors because of perceived uncertainty about the direction of UK policy. There have also been some real set-backs, most notably the lack of protection for wildlife and the countryside in the reform of the land use planning system and the view that there should be a default ‘yes’ to new development; the delay in borrowing powers for the green investment bank; the weakening of the zero carbon homes policy; and the inclusion of all environmental protection law in the ‘red tape challenge’.

Our view is that your Government started with a strong sense of purpose on the environment but is now in danger of losing its way. Getting back on track will require strong leadership from you and your colleagues. This means putting green growth at the heart of your economic recovery strategy; prioritising stronger environmental protection in your proposals for localism and land use planning; committing resources to restoring the health of the UK’s land and sea; and placing international climate finance and natural resource security at the forefront of your Government’s foreign policy.

Most critically we urge you to set out the case that a green economy is central to the future prosperity of the UK and not a cost to be endlessly debated and watered down, as if it were a luxury. As a first step in doing this, and to create clarity for investors and citizens about the UK’s direction, we would urge you to accept the key recommendations of the CCC’s fourth carbon budget report.

We believe there is still scope for your Government to be the greenest ever, but it will require both urgency and resolve. We are committed to playing our part in helping the UK achieve a prosperous green economy and stand ready to work with your Government to achieve this.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Spencer, Director, Green Alliance
Loretta Minghella, Director, Christian Aid
John Sauven, Chief Executive, Greenpeace UK
Mike Clarke, Chief Executive, RSPB
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive, WWF UK
Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England
Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive Officer, Campaign for Better Transport
Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth
David Baldock, Executive Director, IEEP
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, Wildlife Trusts
Martin Warren, Chief Executive, Butterfly Conservation
Victoria Chester, Chief Executive, Plantlife
Martin Spray, Chief Executive, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Sue Holden, Chief Executive, Woodland Trust

Green five

The Big Issue #947The power of the New Society: Coming together. Consuming together. Campaigning together’ is no longer available from street vendors. But you can purchase a back copy by clicking here. It has an interesting double page feature from Rachel Botsman, she of collaborative consumption thinking.

In ‘Shaking the Tree’, George Monbiot reports that David Cameron’s “greenest government ever” presents the greatest ever threat to our environment.

Mark Lynas says it is time to stop arguing and time to start decarbonising.

James Delingpole rallies against the so-called Watermelons and what he perceives to be “efforts by green campaigners and their sympathisers in the EU to besmirch the name of shale gas in favour of their preferred (and – of course – disastrously expensive and environmentally destructive) power source, renewable energy.”

The Economist has a piece on Africa’s “soaring” population growth.

A fracking report

Interesting report released today by DeSmogBlog, Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Water, Health, and Climate. The report looks at the concerns that have been raised about fracking (hydraulic fracturing). It calls for a moratorium on fracking whilst the process and its potential risks for the environment are analysed more thoroughly.

The report can be viewed in full here (pdf).

The (green) case for AV

James Murray of Business Green has put forward an eloquent (green) case for voting #YES2AV in today’s referendum on electoral reform. He calls it a “once-in-a-generation chance to move towards a voting system that would raise the profile of environmental issues by making green votes count.” How?

AV would force the mainstream parties to campaign harder for the second preference votes of environmentalists. As a result of this relatively minor change to the electoral system, green issues are likely to be forced a couple of notches up the political agenda.

Unfortunately, most polling in recent days has predicted a big win for the “No” vote. Exit polls should provide an indication of the result around midnight.