Archive for January, 2020|Monthly archive page

Climate Watch: the British Government being sued over new dirty electricity generating capacity

Simple – The UK has carbon targets to meet – though recent arguments suggest that these targets are increasingly irrelevant. The country cannot meet the targets with extra fossil-fuel generating capacity. The Government is advised and ignores. The capacity concerned is Drax power station in Yorkshire. Currently Drax has 2 coal-fired stations that should be phased out by 2025. The new station will use gas fossil-fuel and could be responsible for 75 per cent of UK power station emissions when fully operational. The 3.6GW plant would potentially contravene the Climate Change Act of 2008. There will be no carbon capture technology fitted to the plant. The electricity generated will also be more expensive than renewable sources.

In October 2019, Andrea Leadsom (right), Secretary of State for business, energy and industrial strategy, approved the plans against advice. The High Court has now given permission to ClientEarth, a law charity, to sue the Government, with a possible hearing in the Spring. The Government does not have a good record on defending itself in the courts against environmental claims.

Pictures: Drax Plc, Andrea Leadsom, Chris McAndrew

Original reporting, The Guardian, 30 January 2020

Climate watch: vigilance

That annual meeting of plutocrats at Davos this year, despite the dedicated theme being Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World– let me shorten that to climate change – managed only to get “members” to plant 1 trillion trees. Greta Thunberg said, as one might expect, “not enough”. Offsetting is not the solution. The solution, again spelled out in capital letters for a global audience, is to keep carbon in the ground – no more mining investments, no more oil exploration. Oddly, there was no commitment on that.

What the 1 trillion trees commitment (I have no idea how this would be done) does – and this is forever clear in diplomatic endeavours – is make it possible for the denialist political leaders to sign up to it. I sense that if they are prepared to endorse something it probably suits them because they can be seen to be endorsing something meaningful, but they will not be held accountable for not doing it (apologies, two negatives there). What, for example, is the USA’s quota? It does not take into account current destruction – willful or otherwise. Are we in any way able to trust a president who is prepared to contaminate the drinking water of his people, as Trump is doing?

In Britain we have our own untrustworthy leader. I am going to use my blog to keep a record of any violations to commitments that I come across. So, let us start with energy efficiency in homes. The UK housing stock is generally poor, even when insulated. OK, there may not be much that we can do to improve that, but when it comes to new housing stock, surely builders should be building to the highest standards? Since 2013, new building projects have been judged against a notional (high) standard encompassing all aspects of building; for example, thermal efficiency of materials. Additionally, local authorities are planning authorities and set their own standards. Many have declared a climate emergency. This will no longer be an option for them. Any new law will override local preferences/standards.

With the built environment contributing 40 per cent of national carbon emissions, this is an obvious policy area where real cuts would make a difference. But obviously, the building industry seems to have been lobbying for a loosening of the regulations. That does not seem to be the case with architects who have grouped together to call for increased standards. As one noted in the above embedded article “From disregarding the performance of a building’s fabric to ignoring the embodied energy of materials, the proposals represent a total loosening of regulations. And it’s all hidden in a dense consultation document that seems designed to confuse.” Jo Giddings, from Architects Climate Action Network quoted in the Guardian (24 January 2020).

Expect much more of this.