How seriously are we taking it?
News headlines change everyday. Different breaking news hit the stands. This means that the public’s focus is shifting all the time. Just a few months ago, you couldn’t avoid the term ‘COP26’. Climate change and the climate crisis was everywhere. Now, all we seem to see is the energy crisis, or the cost-of-living crisis. Inflation. Taxes increasing. It has taken over the media so much that the recent IPCC report’s last warning of it’s “Now or never” has been completely discarded.
What does this mean for the climate crisis? And how has this already impacted the climate pledges that the UK have made only a mere few months ago?
Let’s first look at what the UK pledged at COP26 and at other climate-based events.
First of all, UK was the first country in the world to create a legally-binding commitment to cut carbon emissions – as set out in the Climate Change Act of 2008. This was monumental as it cemented their commitment to climate action. The UK government also had the most ambitious 2030 targets as their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This was strengthened and outlined in their Net Zero Strategy, which sets out how the UK will deliver on its commitments to reach net zero by 2050.
In terms of their energy plans, the UK government also made numerous commitments to reduce state funding of fossil fuel project abroad, and they made targets to phase out coal by 2024. Furthermore, they also targeted to be powered entirely by clean electricity by 2035.
So, how has their commitment changed with the recent energy crisis?
Well, they have still maintained their stance on renewable energy – stating that it will still be playing a significant role. They are still planning on rapidly increasing offshore wind generation, and despite minor (yet loud) objection that prevented onshore windfarms, they are still planning on building some at the latter half of the decade. Sounds good, right?
What’s the problem?
With how financially crippling the energy crisis is likely to be for the masses, it seems like the government is using this to keep the door open for a few problematic policies. For instance, in the new energy security strategy, fossil fuel plays a major role – with ambition to expand UK’s supplies of gas and oil from the North Sea. Additionally, they remain open-minded about the possibility of both fracking and coal (one of the dirtiest forms of electricity generation). This is in complete opposition to their COP26 pledges, even as a form of a last resort contingency plan.
Environmentalists have responded by accusing them of complete “incoherence” and argue that this contradicts their own climate commitments and disregards the international climate targets. United Nations have said it’s “moral and economic madness” to invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure, when there are other means of resolving the crisis that are in line with their climate commitments.
Can the government afford to ignore the IPCC’s last warning in order to reduce Britain’s “exposure to volatile international prices” and to “increase self-reliance”? Will there always to be other problems that will continue to take priority over the climate crisis?
Or will they finally realise that climate friendly policies are not the antithesis of economic growth and can in fact help crises like the current cost-of-living crisis?