Politics and Climate Change

The Guardian report that this Coalition Government leads the world in a commitment to cutting carbon seems promising, after all, The Guardian is not exactly a Tory paper. but let’s look at the detail.

Without being pessimistic, let’s look at the problems:

1. Committing to do something, cutting carbon emissions by 80%, by 2050 when you only have 4 years left in power has to be a bit questionable. Committing to 2.6 million homes with heat pumps by 2025 is a bit better, by which time 31% of new cars and 14% of cars overall will be electric.

2. To have 31% of new cars electric will be good only if most electricity is from renewable sources. But they say only by 2030 will 40% of electricity be from renewable sources, so forget about electric cars making that much of a difference.

3. The Institute of Economic Affairs certainly are not happy. That organisation is headed by Mark Littlewood, who for 3 years was head of Media for the Liberal Democrats. But this ‘New Research’ from the IEA does not even mention the latest report, so it seems, even though it is published in June and the Guardian Report is from May 14th.

A little more detail on Government thinking is here (well, Chris Huhne’s Thinking). Quote “Under the fourth carbon budget, government will aim to reduce emissions domestically as far as practical and affordable, but also intends to keep open the option of trading in order to retain maximum flexibility and minimise costs in the medium-long term.”

Somehow ‘commitment’ is really just an aim, and please note, “We will review progress in EU climate negotiations in early 2014. If at that point our domestic commitments place us on a different emissions trajectory than the EU Emissions Trading System trajectory agreed by the EU, we will, as appropriate, revise up our budget to align it with the actual EU trajectory.” I wonder what is meant by ‘revise up’. Does up mean down in politics?

So we had bettergo the the ‘Full Ministerial Statement‘, that should tell us exactly what will happen, surely?

Well, there is a need to set this in law, by the end of June, that is, in three days time from this post. ” The Fourth Carbon Budget – the limit on emissions for the five year period from 2023 to 2027 – has to be set in law by the end of June 2011.”

Now there is not much detail given in the oral statement, so let’s try to find “The Fourth Carbon Budget” which is supposed to be set in law within 3 days. Which should mean it is easy to find don’t you think?

The December 2010 report is available, and Chris Huhne said at the time he welcomes it. This is a pretty interesting summary. 97% of electricity from ‘low carbon sources’. There is even more interesting detail in the full report.

The expectation is a 30% increase in electricity demand, mainly from heat and cars. It’s a long report, with lots of detail but here is a one part simple summary:

It all depends on reducing carbon emissions per KWh from power stations, from 500 to 50 units. (See Box 3). For detail see Section 6. My simple summary is this, we need a bit of nuclear, tidal can provide a fair bit but the Severn Tidal Project contributes half the supposed supply, and Wind energy is the big provider. So, get used to lots more Wind Turbines.

I find it hard to get the economics of some of this. Off shore Wind power is going to cost 13p per KWh, yet I can charge my car for 2p per mile? I think  my car battery takes about 0.6 Kwh, normal battery, cost 8p approx. Could I run my car for 4 miles on my car battery?

The report is very extensive, and seems wisely to look at a host of initiatives and recommend them all, we have to do everything we can. But it seems to me the report, and the Government ‘legally binding’ commitment to CO2 reduction rests almost entirely on the success of reducing CO2 emissions from power generation, and to do this by wind.

What do you think?




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