Essay by Eric Worrall
If only this was true. The real British conservative energy policy is a lot stranger.
Rishi Sunak has ripped up decades of cross-party consensus on climate change
Published: September 27, 2023 1.13am AEST
Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), University of Surrey
I’d had what you might call a front row seat as a political consensus on climate change emerged in the UK. But during the long and uncomfortable 25 minutes of Sunak’s speech, I felt I was witnessing a homage to catatonia.
There was so much patently wrong in the speech that it’s difficult to know where to start. Most obviously, the prime minister’s insistence that the UK can still meet its climate commitments, despite putting a brake on policy, bucks his own advisors’ assessment of the country’s progress towards net zero emissions. It also reveals a deep misunderstanding of the science.
As my own analysis has shown, the UK’s fair share of the global carbon budget, taking into account the development needs of the poorest parts of the world, will be exhausted before 2030. Forget 2050. The science is clear. Delay is tantamount to capitulation.
Those costs are already being counted: fires in Europe and Canada, droughts in North America and Africa, floods in Libya. All this will keep getting worse. Homes in some parts of the US are already “essentially uninsurable” because of climate risk.
It’s no surprise to find an embattled political party trying to draw clear blue water between itself and the opposition. Buoyed by Labour’s narrow defeat in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection (widely attributed to a backlash against London’s Ulez policy) Tory strategy is now turning net zero into election fodder.
Read more: https://theconversation.com/rishi-sunak-has-ripped-up-decades-of-cross-party-consensus-on-climate-change-214287
Back in the real world, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not back down from Net Zero, quite the opposite. He just pushed back a few targets, on the reasonable grounds that the current plan was unacceptably expensive for poor people – but sadly left most of the excruciatingly expensive policy package and goals in place.
No one can watch the floods in Libya or the extreme heat in Europe this summer, and doubt that it is real and happening.
We must reduce our emissions.
And when I look at our economic future, I see huge opportunities in green industry.
The change in our economy is as profound as the industrial revolution and I’m confident that we can lead the world now as we did then.
So, I’ll have no truck with anyone saying we lack ambition.
But there’s nothing ambitious about simply asserting a goal for a short-term headline without being honest with the public about the tough choices and sacrifices involved and without any meaningful democratic debate about how we get there.
Now I believe deeply that when you ask most people about climate change, they want to do the right thing, they’re even prepared to make sacrifices.
But it cannot be right for Westminster to impose such significant costs on working people especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet and to interfere so much in people’s way of life without a properly informed national debate.
Read more: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-on-net-zero-20-september-2023
Why is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak so confident Britain can hit Net Zero despite backpedaling on policies which likely would already have been inadequate for the task?
This is where it gets a little strange.
Hasty changes to Sunak’s climate strategy reveal a warring Tory party
Fiona Harvey Environment editor
Fri 31 Mar 2023 04.05 AEDT
Major omissions and a last-minute refocus on energy security rather than net zero suggest a prime minister buffeted by internal factions
Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, headed to Oxfordshire on Thursday to visit a development facility for nuclear fusion, the early-stage concept that promises unlimited clean energy at an unspecified future point, if only some hefty physical constraints can be overcome.
He was accompanied by Grant Shapps, energy and net zero secretary, for the biggest energy and climate change announcement of his premiership, a comprehensive package of measures encompassing everything from onshore wind and solar power to carbon taxes and heat pumps.
“When global energy supplies are disrupted and weaponised by the likes of Putin, we have seen household bills soar and economic growth slow around the world,” said Sunak, of the “powering up Britain” energy package. “We have stepped in to shield people from its worst impacts by helping to pay around half the typical energy bill. But we are also stepping up to power Britain and ensure our energy security in the long term, with more affordable, clean energy from Britain, so we can drive down energy prices and grow our economy.”
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/30/hasty-changes-to-rishi-sunak-climate-strategy-reveal-a-warring-tory-party
British conservative energy policy appears to be a confident assumption that the rollout of commercial nuclear fusion is imminent. They’ve even started picking out generator sites.
Another STEP towards near limitless, low-carbon energy at West Burton
8th February 2023
Updated: 8th February 2023
The future of abundant low-carbon energy without the need for fossil fuels could be in sight after Science Minister George Freeman announced the creation of a new delivery body for the UK’s fusion programme, named UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd.
On the visit to the future site of the UK’s first prototype fusion energy plant at West Burton, near Retford, the minister urged energy companies and investors to recognise the vast potential fusion energy could have for both the UK and the wider world.
The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) plant will be constructed by 2040 to demonstrate the ability to use fusion energy to generate electricity for the UK grid.
Read more: https://www.eastmidlandsbusinesslink.co.uk/mag/news/another-step-towards-near-limitless-low-carbon-energy-at-west-burton/
Nottinghamshire’s lost mining jobs ‘could be replaced’ by nuclear site
An inquiry will look into why the UK’s former mining areas are ‘lagging behind’
By Oliver Pridmore Agenda Editor
04:00, 3 DEC 2022
MPs in Nottinghamshire’s former coalfield communities say the construction of the UK’s first nuclear fusion site in the county could replace some of the jobs lost from coal mining. A national inquiry has launched to consider questions such as whether the job losses from the coal industry have been fully replaced and whether these jobs are adequate in terms of pay and opportunities.
A devolution deal to give more power to Nottinghamshire councils has also been highlighted as something which could improve long-term opportunities for people living in former coalfield areas. Nottinghamshire was home to several pits in areas such as Ashfield, Bassetlaw and Mansfield, but most of them closed in the 90s and early 2000s, with the county’s last working colliery at Thoresby closing in 2015.
Since then, studies have shown people in these former mining areas find it harder to get good jobs than in other areas of the country. A 2019 report by Sheffield Hallam University found the former coalfields have only 55 employee jobs per 100 residents of working age, compared to a national average of 73.
Read more: https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/nuclear-site-could-replace-nottinghamshires-7877382
The British Conservative suggestion nuclear fusion is imminent claim is so absurd, betting the entire country on such a gamble is so reckless, there are times I wonder if their minds have snapped.
Britain has made noteworthy contributions to nuclear fusion. The British spherical tokamak is a significant advance on traditional donut shaped nuclear fusion tokamaks, the spherical configuration substantially addresses magnetic containment defects inherent to traditional donut shaped tokamaks. But so do other improvements on the original tokamak such as the Stellarator – and that was developed decades ago.
None of these fusion innovations are ready for prime time. There are still huge problems still to address, like whether they scale, how to move from a few seconds plasma stability to hours or days, research into breakthrough reactor core materials which can withstand the blast of radiation from the fusion plasma without crumbling into dust (a far greater challenge for fusion than with fission reactors), and how to make the reactors affordable if they in fact do turn out to be scalable.
Yet the British Conservative Government is giving every impression that fusion jobs are all the benefits are about to happen. Squeezing votes and continued support out of working class people whose lives were ruined by green energy policy madness, encouraging desperate voters to believe in false hopes of an imminent fusion renaissance, to say I’m disgusted with such vile political messaging would be an understatement.