The UK government made history this week, when it took the first step towards enshrining the Paris goal of a zero emissions future into law.
But just days after the announcement it is accused of not putting “enough fuel in the tank to get us there”, as it delivered a 2016 Budget that continues to prop up an ailing oil and gas industry to the tune of £1 billion.
While there was some good news in the budget for the low-carbon future, including new funding for renewables and additional support for flood defences, it appears the Chancellor didn’t get the “memo about the government’s plan to build a net-zero emission economy”.
Beyond missing the memo, the Chancellor isn’t hearing the countless calls from all sectors of society, including think-tanks, conservative MPs and even the big energy industry, demanding the government invest in the energy infrastructure of the future.
If the UK truly aims to lead the world in “translating the Paris agreement into domestic policy”its long-term vision will need stronger short-term policies so it can cash in on the huge benefits this transition has to offer.
- Cutting emissions does not mean cutting growth. A surge in clean energy left carbon emissions stalling for the second year in a row in 2015, even as the global economy grew, according the International Energy Agency. Meanwhile a rise in the UK’s renewables industry – now responsible for 77,000 direct jobs – and a record drop in coal use left the country cutting emissions nearly 4.5 per cent last year while still delivering the fastest growth in the G7.
- Strong and stable renewable policies are needed to put the UK on a zero-emission pathway. In the same week the UK looked to enshrine the world’s zero emissions pledge into law, it is accused of delivering a budget that “singularly failed to raise to the challenge set by the Paris Agreement”. Recent policy roll-backs have left investors’ confidence dented, but with renewables essential to putting the “Paris climate goals within reach,” the appetite has never been stronger for a clean energy roadmap that delivers.
- Failing to support a clean future will leave the UK behind. Doubling renewables globally by 2030 could boost GDP by $1.3 trillion and create 24.4 million new jobs, and supporting a zero-emission, 100 per cent renewable future Europe could create 350,000 new jobs, prevent 40,000 premature deaths and save $140 billion in energy import costs. These are huge benefits that the UK will not reap if it fails to embrace the booming renewables industry in favour of its old addiction to outdated fossil fuels.