The climate solution? It's an energy [r]evolution we need, Mr Osborne

Posted by jossc — 16 July 2010 at 10:14am - Comments

This week Greenpeace launches our vision for a European energy revolution – a practical blueprint for a renewable energy future. Using only proven technologies we can phase out fossil-fuels, cut CO2 emissions by over 90% by 2050 and ensure energy security – without a huge reduction in living standards.

"A complete conversion to renewable energy by 2050 is possible from a technical and ecological point of view. It's a very realistic target based on technology that already exists."

Energy (R)evolution: Towards a fully renewable energy supply in the EU shows how combining existing technologies, switching to electric vehicles and demand reduction initiatives can dramatically reduce European energy requirements.

Sound too good to be true? Not to Germany’s Federal Environment Agency, which is confident it can generate all of its electricity from renewables by 2050.

According to FEA President Jochen Flasbarth, "A complete conversion to renewable energy by 2050 is possible from a technical and ecological point of view. It's a very realistic target based on technology that already exists – it's not a pie-in-the-sky prediction."

What’s needed to make this happen? Well, to start with we need a legally-binding EU-wide commitment to cut energy use by 20% by 2020. Follow this up with an upgrading of the electricity transmission system (to end discrimination against renewable energy producers), and phase out the current subsidies for nuclear and fossil-fuels which distort the market in their favour. Restructuring the EU's emissions trading scheme to raise efficiency standards on vehicles and buildings is also a vital part of the plan.

As with all new technologies, significant investment will be needed initially, but that will be far outstripped by the economic benefits – estimated to be in the region of €85bn annually for the EU as a whole.

Coalition - no joined up vision?

So how is the Con-Lib coalition responding to these proposals, given David Cameron's aspiration to be the EU's greenest government? Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has certainly been making the right noises about moving in this direction, proclaiming recently on Europe that:

"Our industrial future – our competitiveness and our prosperity – depends on being a pioneer of the new green industries that will decarbonise our economies, and we need to be ahead of the international game." And closer to home that "The UK faces a massive challenge. No less than £200 billion of investment is needed in our energy infrastructure over the coming decade."

Only yesterday he joined with his German and French counterparts to call for a 30% cut in emissions by 2020 to replace the current 20% target to prevent the EU falling behind in the global race for green technologies, saying "We have to take action now if we want Britain to be the home of these new low carbon businesses."

But just 24 hours later the government has announced that it will cut £85m from programmes designed to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint, ahead of a Climate Change Committee report that this funding should be protected. Not only that, but plans to use £1bn from the sale of government assets to provide investment in green energy projects such as offshore wind and carbon capture have also been shelved.

Which is just plain barmy - how can we take a lead in green technologies which will ultimately protect us from the worst effects of climate change, help rebuild our manufacturing base AND save us a fortune in the longer term, if we are cutting investment in them just when they need it most?

Answers on an e-postcard to Chancellor Osborne please, as he seems to be pulling the strings on this one.


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Update: Download our renewables 24/7 report and see how renewable energy can meet our needs 24 hours a day.

About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

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