The UK is seriously behind the curve on energy policy.
The Tories have just announced they’re going to make true on their manifesto commitment and axe the subsidy for onshore wind turbines a year ahead of schedule, in 2016. And of course they have also cemented their full support for fracking the country to pieces.
This is such a twisted energy policy for 2015, the year of the historic make-or-break climate summit in Paris, that I kind of want to hide under my bed for the next few decades.
We’re also likely to miss our binding EU target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, which isn’t going to get any better by cutting off public investment for onshore wind energy, one of the cheapest renewable technologies. Never mind our own domestic 2008 Climate Act, which requires an 80% cut to emissions by 2050.
Happily though, our dismal set-back is shown up by really promising progress in the emerging economies. Here’s some good news from China and India.
China’s coal use and emissions fell for the first time in a century last year, and new official stats show that wasn’t a one-off blip. So far in 2015 their coal consumption has dropped by 8%, dragging their CO2 emissions down by a significant 5% compared to the start of last year. They’ve basically cut their carbon by roughly the same amount that the UK has emitted over the last four months. Although if you’re a frantic climate-worrier like me this may seem small, it’s very welcome news. I’m desperately hoping this trend will continue all year, suggesting their emissions could have peaked and started to decline. China seems to move pretty fast when committed to a policy, so if they are serious about reducing emissions and particularly coal dependence, then this will have big ramifications globally.
Also, India has just announced a startlingly ambitious target of having 100 GW of solar energy by 2022. Considering they only have 4.5 GW at the moment and their previous target for 2022 was much more modest 20 GW, this is pretty impressive. To be honest it’s the most ambitious energy policy I’m come across since I can remember. And even better, almost half of the extra capacity is meant to come from domestic rooftop solar so there’s some democratisation and localisation of energy production as well. Apparently cutting carbon wasn’t actually Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s primary motive, but that of course will be a major impact. If their target is reached it will cut 170 million metric tonnes of CO2. And hopefully this solar revolution will also bring power to the millions of Indians that currently don’t have access to electricity at all, clean or dirty.
So I’m glad there is some progress happening. But what with the USA’s new shale boom and the UK’s aforementioned toxic and backwards energy plans, it looks like it’s up to the developing countries and progressive European states like Germany to lead the way.