Bad week for coal topped off by new low-carbon Britain plan

Posted by jamie — 14 October 2009 at 2:40pm - Comments

Ed Miliband receives some light reading material 

As if using a large fluorescent pen to highlight the reason why our volunteers were sitting up on top of the Palace of Westminster, on Monday the Climate Change Committee (CCC) released its first annual report on the government's progress in meeting its own emissions targets.

Not everything in the report chimes with what we think is required (there's no room or need for nuclear power, for instance) but what comes through loud and clear is the scale of the challenge and the radical action required to meet it. Our climate manifesto is exactly the sort of thing needed to deliver it.

The starkest recommendation is for the UK's energy sector to be near-zero carbon by 2030. Which, from our point of view, means creating a lot of renewable energy sources very, very quickly, not to mention improving efficiency and reducing waste. None of the main political parties have any policies which come even close to providing this.

The report also has a lot to say about coal, specifically that it should only have the smallest of roles to play in the UK's energy portfolio beyond 2020 and emissions from coal power stations should be practically zero by then.

The committee has come out with this in the past, but it's another jab in the leg for the coal industry in what's been a bad week. First a delay for Kingsnorth, then earlier this week one of the investors pulled out of the proposed new coal power station at Hunterston in Ayrshire. Now a government committee has reiterated that emissions from coal must stop within 11 years.

The reason given for the sudden lack of interest in new coal has been the current economic situation and as many people have noted, a recession is an effective way of reducing emissions. Even the National Grid suggests that energy demand could fall by 7.5 per cent as a result.

However, GDP will eventually start to increase again, so will the demand for energy, and coal will begin to look attractive once more. Effective government regulation is the only way to prevent this and would be provided by our manifesto. As the committee has suggested, regulatory controls should be put in place to keep emissions going down, such as incentives to encourage investment in renewable energy, as well as emissions performance standards as an option to regulate the energy sector, which would pretty much rule out unabated coal. With Kingsnorth on hold, Ed Miliband has a golden opportunity to deal with the threat of coal once and for all.

If the CCC report explains some of the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done to slash emissions, our own climate manifesto provides the political and economic blueprint to make it happen. While there areas where the two diverge, both have one thing in common: they call for radical action in the very near future.

We know Ed Miliband will have read the CCC paper; we also know he has a copy of our manifesto (as you can see above, Bob and Nicola gave it to him). He might not acknowledge any influence we have over ministerial decisions, but to ignore his own advisory committee would be at best discourteous, at worst disastrous.

You can help put the pressure on - write to your MP asking them to back our climate manifesto.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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