Saturday 23 July 2016

Renewables and Brexit

One of the many concerns around Brexit is what this might do for our obligations under the EU Climate Change treaties.

Obviously, after Brexit we would have no specific obligation to meet any new EU target but we have incorporated measures into the Climate Change Act already.

Unfortunately we seem to have gone backwards somewhat, with a hard brake on solar power and onshore wind subsidies (when the industry was expecting a gradual reduction and phase out).

The Carbon Capture and Storage proposal fund has been shelved and vested interests, political interference and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitudes often oppose what are sensible schemes for generating more power from renewables.

The cabinet reshuffle the other week doesn't bode well for environmental protections generally but with the axing of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the responsibilities passing over to another department more focused on business vested interests will still mean such as gas and oil and coal will be preferred over renewables.

Many other countries are investing heavily in renewables and some examples as below:

Portugal - 48% renewable generation
Netherlands Plans for offshore wind generation
China  Some controversial schemes but huge turnaround from the coal dependent generation a few years ago

 (In fact if you're a train enthusiast and want to see some of the last "service" steam locomotives in use in the world there's only a few dozen left in China now with, I think, just one passenger service which uses steam due to diesels not coping with the high altitude of the line. There's (surprisingly) a handful in Bosnia at a coal mine as well! There were a few in Ghana as well but India went diesel/electric a few years ago)

I'm reading An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson and this, although written about 3 or 4 years ago now, gives so many different projects that people are working on, such as carbon capture, improving solar cells and so on.  There's a really low tech way of improving soil and grazing and conserving water in the Australian Outback simply by changing the way cattle herds are managed!

In summary, with the right investment, right cooperation across countries, business and institutions, and with the proper steer and commitment and investment from Government, we can bring down the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, run on cleaner generated energy, become more energy efficient and sustainable.

But an isolationist, populist departure from the EU, together with vested interests having too much influence at the top of Government (and quite frankly some selfish and short-termist views of some of those in power) is going to be very bad for the environment and for the climate generally.

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