Nice Britain is not a pioneer in local weather safety • Is that an issue?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Perhaps the tech-savvy British politicians have noticed that households paying £3,000 a year for heating reduce their chances of surviving in the next election.

I’m one of the UK’s official climate advisors – our new report says the country is no longer a world leader

Published: Jun 29, 2023 1:17 am AEST
Piers Forster
Professor of Physical Climate Change; Director of the Priestley International Center for Climate, University of Leeds

The UK’s Climate Change Committee – the official independent advisory body of which I am acting Chair – has been trawling through thousands of pages of government strategy documents over the last three months to present its latest annual progress report to Parliament. And our confidence in the UK’s ability to meet its climate targets is now significantly lower than it was when we assessed it a year ago. Important opportunities were missed.

The UK is not providing its industries with the support they need to electrify and decarbonise, and there is little sign of progress. The government has set the laudable goal of decarbonizing steel and developing carbon removal industries, but there are few concrete plans.

While the US, EU and China have invested billions in green industries to tackle the energy and cost of living crises, the UK has so far failed to do the same. As a result, there is a risk that green jobs and industries will be lost to foreign competitors.

Not only was the company a global leader with its net zero exposure in 2019, it has also committed to new oil and gas and agreed to a new coal mine. It has gone from hosting one of the most successful UN climate conferences of all time to undermining that legacy by jeopardizing the fulfillment of its own commitments. This government took its foot off the gas and the world took notice.

Our report is not all bad news. Signs of the move to net-zero emissions can be seen in rising sales of new electric cars and continued deployment of renewable energy generation, but overall the scale-up of measures is worryingly slow. There seems to be a sense that this can wait until other crises are resolved. But many of the crises we face – like the war in Ukraine or the cost of living here in the UK – are interrelated.

Read more: world-leader-208509

The new coal mine in Cumbria that Professor Forster mentioned is a metallurgical coal mine – exactly the kind of coal needed to kickstart a British solar panel manufacturing industry. Large quantities of high-quality coal are required to process silicon dioxide into solar modules. The coal is used as a chemical input to the process and not just as a heat source.

Strange that a “Professor of Physical Climate Change” doesn’t seem to know that.

But with the UK’s sky-high energy prices, there seems little hope that any significant new energy-intensive industry will develop in Britain. The main reason the UK still has a significant manufacturing industry is that the UK is a center of excellence in precision engineering. The high added value of such products mitigates the energy cost disadvantage.

I would have had more respect if Professor Forster had explained how the UK could reduce its energy bills without “putting the pedal to the metal” towards net zero. I mean immediate relief, like next year, and not future visions of investing in new industries.

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