Monday, May 01, 2006

UK to miss CO2 emissions target

The UK govt have announced that the UK is not expected to attain the 20% targeted reduction in greenhouse emissions set for 2010. The current estimate suggested by a climate change programme review suggests a reduction of 15-18 % (The UK Kyoto target is 12.5 %).

The govt intends to redouble its effort to attain the original target and has every intention of meeting the 20% reduction.

The US and Australia have continually refused to sign up to the Kyoto protocol preferring the technology / voluntary solution. The US has been criticised over this stance and is seen to be protecting its economy and the oil industry.

However, the US belief that technology can override and beat nature should be considered as a driver to this political standpoint. This unshakeable belief may in fact blind both its people and politicians from accepting that a two pronged approach of emission reduction and advances in technology is needed.

The UK economy is robust and can show the world that it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions without harming the economy. I agree with the government that the UK should aim for the 20% target but chastise Tony Blair for the efforts his government is undertaking.

The UK is at a fork in the path, if investment and a supportive green energy taxation and regulation environment are provided the UK can become the world leader in technology and best practice. If we choose the wrong path the UK will be buying in both technology and best practice from other countries such as Germany.

The UK has a clear choice between being a market leader or a market follower.

The recent inclusion in the budget of £50 million for micro generation projects should be immediately tripled to £150 million. A major policy initiative should be implemented to push towards all public buildings being equipped with solar / wind generators, energy efficient building materials and other products. Planning regulation and government grants for such projects should be simplified.

Micro-generation can improve the resilience of the national generating grid, much like the Internet the entire grid could not be taken down. This resilience is imperative in reducing the exposure of the electricity grid to major terrorist attacks.

Specific government proposals could include:

  • A 5% VAT rate for all micro generation materials, including solar panels.
  • A 5% environment tax for all standard light bulbs which could be directly replaced by energy efficient bulbs. The proceeds should be given to charitable organisations and local councils to supply low cost or free bulbs to low income homes and community buildings. Any excess funds could be put into the micro generation budget.
  • Developers of new supermarkets and out of town shopping centres should be required to include details of energy efficiency and microgeneration in planning applications in order to obtain planning permission. Minimum quantitative standards should be set in relation to these planning conditions.
  • Specific research funds should be set up to support and further research into wave and tidal power.
  • The UK govt should lobby for an EU wide aviation fuel tax to reflect the environmental costs of air travel. Any proceeds from the tax should be ring fenced for environmental projects e.g. sustainable transport.
  • CO2 emission reduction targets should be set for all public sector organisations.
  • CO2 emissions should be part of a company reports together with a statement of how the organisation is working towards reducing emissions.
  • A government quality mark should be established to support the above.
  • A car / oil industry research fund should be set up to support the development of alternative fuels and efficient new vehicle designs.

Of course, action by the govt should be supported by personal action; many small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference.

Suggestions for personal action include:

  • Buy local produce.
  • Buy products with less packaging.
  • Replace bulbs with energy efficient ones (80% reduction in energy usage).
  • Draught proofs your house.
  • Insulate your loft.
  • Turn the heating down by one degree.
  • Boil only the necessary amount of water in your kettle.
  • Don't leave the video / dvd/ tv / stereo on stand by.
  • Turn off your computer when not in use.
  • When buying white goods think energy efficiency.
  • Defrost fridges and freezers regularly where appropriate.

Neither of these lists is exhaustive but could go a long way to help reach the targets both for the UK and other countries in the Kyoto Protocol.

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