The UK’s top professional and academic bodies squared up to the government on climate policy last week.
A coalition of 24 industry heavyweights issued a ‘Climate Communique’ demanding a strong deal in Paris later this year, and calling for urgent action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) was one of the signatories, and Andy Furlong, its director of policy, wasn’t mincing his words.
We appear to be entering another Dark Age where we will return to total fossil fuel reliance
Veolia’s Richard Kirkman
“The debate is settled; the immediate and urgent task is to respond to the climate change challenge,” he said.
The British Academy, The Academy of Medical Sciences, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institute of Physics, and the Royal Society of Chemistry were just part of the coalition calling for a universal, binding agreement that will limit global warming in this century to the internationally-agreed level of 2°C.
“At or above 4°C, the risks include substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, and fundamental changes to human activities that today are taken for granted,” warns the Communique.
These are certainly strong statements, but fear mongering wasn’t its key business. With a greater emphasis on developing solutions to avert the growing threat to humanity, it spoke of untapped investment opportunities, and the potential for economic growth.
“An effective agreement in Paris will, amongst other things, foster the widespread adoption of climate-change mitigation technologies that are already available and ready to be deployed,” said Furlong.
“These recommendations will place chemical engineering at the heart of the energy policy debate.”
This is more than just talk. In March, the IChemE launched an Energy Centre to develop evidence-based recommendations for action in the areas of energy efficiency, carbon capture, energy storage and smart grids.
But it’s not certain how much attention the government was paying to the nation’s top boffins last week, because it had some renewable energy announcements of its own.
These included more plans to cut renewable energy subsidies, this time targeting subsidies for small-scale solar projects, and biomass conversions and co-firing projects.
As part of a wider set of revisions aimed at trimming spending on renewables, the cuts were deemed necessary by the government to protect consumers, who support renewable energy via utility bills.
The news came as Drax, one of the UK pioneers of biomass co-firing, was still reeling from the July budget cuts to the Climate Change Levy (CCL) exemption for renewable electricity (which coincided with a boost in government assistance for North Sea oilfields).
“Like many in our sector, and indeed business in general, we long for a stable regulatory framework which will allow us to invest in our country’s infrastructure with confidence,” said Drax chief executive, Dorothy Thompson this week.
Richard Kirkman, UK technical director of water and waste company Veolia, was also disheartened by the most recent cuts.
“We appear to be entering another Dark Age where we will return to total fossil fuel reliance, power cuts, low confidence in UK investment, opening the door for fracking activities to maintain energy security,” he said.