Not if low-carbon transformation is at the heart of the government’s industrial strategyby Michael Liebreich / November 15, 2016 / Leave a comment
One of Theresa May’s first acts as Prime Minister was to merge the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) into a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The move was met by howls of outrage from the UK’s self-appointed climate champions: Ed Davey, former Lib Dem DECC Secretary, called it “a major setback to British efforts to combat global warming”; Green MP Caroline Lucas said the move was “deeply worrying”; Ed Miliband, the first ever Secretary at DECC branded it “plain stupid.”
What bothered them was the fact that there would no longer be a government department with the words “climate change” in its name, which they took to mean that the May government would relax its commitment to climate action.
Within a week, however, the government had approved the fifth carbon budget of the 2009 Climate Change Act, which binds the UK to eliminating 80 per cent of its emissions by 2050. Then, at the UN General Assembly in September, May announced that the UK would ratify the Paris Agreement, committing the UK—along with the rest of the world—to weaning itself entirely from fossil fuels by the second half of this century.
The UK has already made impressive progress towards these goals: emissions have dropped 35 per cent over the past 25 years, while energy productivity—the amount of GDP generated per unit of energy consumed—increased by 83 per cent, and electricity derived from renewable sources soared from 5 per cent in 2005 to over 25 per cent now.
However, to meet the UK’s emissions goals, we can’t just keep doing more of the same. Electricity accounts for only 18 per cent of our energy use and generates just 25 per cent of the UK’s emissions. Emission reductions on the scale required by the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement cannot be achieved if all we do is change the source of our electricity.
For instance, we need to fix our woefully inefficient building stock, which is all about building codes, regulation, and re-skilling our building trades—never within DECC’s remit. Electric vehicles will prove a vital tool in the fight against climate change and air pollution, but we also need to see massive shifts towards public transport, walking, cycling,…