As energy and climate change minister, you’ve made some… let’s say interesting decisions over the past year on tackling climate change. But don’t worry, 2016 could be a brand new start! To help you out we’ve put together a list of new year’s resolutions you might want to consider when you get back to the office tomorrow:
- Fully commit to the 1.5C target. The new global climate change agreement commits us to take action to limit global warming to 1.5°C and ensure it stays “well below” 2°C. But you’ve said the target is just “aspirational”, and we should stick with the UK’s current 2°C target – a temperature rise that will have a huge impact on countless lives and increase the likelihood of the climate reaching dangerous tipping points. Getting the 1.5°C target included in the text of the agreement was one of the few triumphs of the Paris talks – who better to take the lead on implementing it than the country that kicked off burning all this fossil fuel in the first place (i.e. us)?
- Find climate finance that doesn’t come from the existing aid budget. It was agreed in the Paris negotiations that at least $100 billion per year will be mobilised by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. While this is well short of what’s needed, it’s a start at least. But you’ve decided to take the UK’s contribution from the Overseas Development Aid (ODA) budget, essentially cutting it by 8-10% *facepalm*! Poverty and climate change are interlinked, but there needs to be additional money rather than a dodgy reshuffling of budgets that leaves the poorest worse off.
- Stop piling money on fossil fuel companies. Your department is brimming with rhetoric on choosing the most low cost route to providing energy to all us hardworking consumer types. But with the UK recently singled out among G20 countries for increasing its financial support for fossil fuel producers, we reckon it might be time to turn over a new leaf, drop the tax breaks to foreign-owned multinationals and invest in a real low cost, clean energy future. Oh and remember to follow up on that idea of yours to stop supporting dirty diesel generators over more efficient forms of back-up energy to provide extra power at peak times.
- Rethink the whole fracking fiasco. The decision to allow fracking under national parks was made just a few days after you signed up to the Paris agreement, but is completely incompatible with the 1.5°C target we’re supposed to be working towards. Fracking is another false solution that will push problems onto the next generation – when technologies that do not rely on fossil fuels exist right now. Plus the government’s unwavering support for fracking, at the expense of what local communities want, is raising serious questions for our democracy.
- Accelerate the UK’s transition to renewables. Over the past few years UK renewable energy deployment has been gathering momentum. This must continue in 2016 if there’s to be hope of meeting the 1.5°C target. Sadly, your 2015 renewables policy changes were a series of destructive blunders. Most recently, just after signing the Paris Agreement, you published a plan to wipe out more than half of the UK solar industry. As a result, solar companies are going bust left and right and you’ve put 18,700 people’s jobs at risk. But new year, fresh start! Let’s make 2016 a year for clear vision, renewable energy and secure green jobs.
- Support the best value technologies. We heard a lot in 2015 about making the energy transition at the lowest possible cost. It was even in your election manifesto (right next to a pledge to end support for wind energy… thanks for that…). But since then the best value and most popular renewable technologies (hint: onshore wind and solar) have been given a pummelling by your department. This is all rather curious and puzzling. To meet our commitments under the new Paris Agreement we need to make full use of every tool available – especially the best ones! Onshore wind and solar are crucial and 2016 is the year you should give them your full support!
- Let everyone in on the plan. Dealing with climate change requires action in lots of different areas: power, transport, housing, agriculture, waste, flood defenses… You mentioned recently that there’s a government committee (Q79) coordinating things, but that it’s top secret and very hush hush. A committee with such a crucial job to do needs to be transparent and accountable. It also must not be under the spell of our hopelessly climate-confused Chancellor. We look forward to hearing all about it soon!
- Stop daydreaming that technology is going to bring all the answers. We know daydreams can be fun, but when it comes to something as serious as climate change, we need concrete action not a shaky hope that something might come along (…everyone, cross your fingers…). You might well vaguely think that we will need “some sort of negative emissions technology”, but perhaps a back-up plan would be a good idea incase it doesn’t turn up at the appointed time? Which it’s even less likely to do if your government keeps cutting promised support for it.There are plenty of ways we can already cut emissions – it’s time to see these rolled out across the country NOW!
- Acknowledge the historical responsibility of the UK over climate change. You argued against an agreement which would “open up the issue of compensation and reparations”. We disagree. The UK was one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters over the industrial period, leaving us with a responsibility to help other countries deal with the climate change we’ve helped create. Just because you don’t want to pay doesn’t make that go away! Loss and damage due to climate change is already happening – in just one example, a recent hurricane in the Bahamas caused $100m in damage, equal to 10% of the country’s GDP. Your suggestion that countries take out “insurance schemes” to protect themselves against problems we helped create makes a mockery of international justice. Sort it Amber!
- Quit embarrassing us and start taking this seriously! You seem to be oddly confident of the UK’s standing on climate change policy. But with cuts being made left, right and centre to renewables support, energy efficiency schemes and even your own department, not everyone thinks you’re doing such a sterling job. And despite current UK targets already falling well short of what’s needed, in a recently leaked letter you admitted the UK is on track to miss its (legally binding) target on renewable energy anyway. Choices made by today’s government will massively impact people across the world for centuries to come – don’t you reckon it’s time to shape up and set the UK on a path to protect their safety and wellbeing?
Lots of love,