The climate change deniers, the jeremiahs, the vultures are already gathering over the Cancun summit in Mexico. It’s doomed, they say, because Copenhagen failed a year ago, there’s a loss of momentum, and the exposure of the University of East Anglia emails has knocked the stuffing out of the Kyoto process. Wrong on all counts. Copenhagen did achieve important political accords which did reduce carbon emissions, though nowhere near enough. It’s not the fading momentum of politicians or even public opinion that counts, it’s the relentless momentum of climate change that matters, and that can’t be put on hold to suit dithering governments. On the emails mistakes were made, but they didn’t alter one jot of the central climate change theory: the fundamentals of the climate change arguments are still 100% intact. So what should Britain’s contribution be to Cancun?
First, we should be blazing a path by a major investment programme in the creation of green jobs to make the new green economy the way out of the recession. If this Government can all of a sudden afford £7bn to bail ou the Irish banks, it can afford £7bn on the much more important and long-term investment in a green economy.
Second, the government is proposing a new Green Investment Bank – bully for them. But they’re only funding it up to £1bn which is peanuts if it’s going to lever in the tens or even hundreds of billions of extra cash needed to kick-start the low-carbon revolution.
Third, Government should get tough with the coal industry, the dirtiest of the fossil fuel operators, by imposing a much stronger environmental performance standard to drastically reduce their carbon emissions. Cameron promised he would do this, when he flew to the Arctic in his salopettes for a photo-call with the huskies. Now, under pressure from the coal industry, he’s caved in. By contrast with that humiliating submission, the UK should now be closing down all coal-fired power stations unless they have full-scale CCS (carbon capture and storage).
Fourth, we should be phasing out UK domestic air flights to reduce fast-growing airline emissions drastically, and switch to high-speed rail instead.
Fifth, we should also be switching to job-creating renewable sources of energy on a massive scale since the UK has more potential windpower capacity than the rest of Europe put together. We still only generate a pathetic 5% of our electricity from renewables. If Germany and France can generate 15% of their electricity from renewables, and Scandinavia no less than 40%, we can certainly generate at least 20% from renewables, and by 2020.
Lastly, this is all going to cost money. Why not a Tobin tax on financial speculation which could readily raise £20-30bn a year? And why not a 70% tax on obscene bonuses? The bankers pillaged and destroyed the economy. What the UK should now be leading on is an economy that’s sustainable, and that means Zero Carbon Britain.