In the wake of Paris and COP21 both sides are claiming victory. The Greens believe they finally have a treaty that will deliver the dismantling of the fossil fuel industries and capitalism propelling the human race into a renewable idyll. The Sceptics see Paris as toothless mush that will likely deliver nothing apart from hardship on already struggling economies. The impact on YOU will of course depend upon the voluntary commitments made by YOUR government. And so I set off to find the UK INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) to discover that the UK does not have one. It is part of an EU “bid” submitted by Latvia that says:
The EU and its Member States wish to communicate the following INDC. The EU and its Member States are committed to a binding target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.
In dark blue the reference year of 1990 and the target years of 2020 and 2030. CO2 emissions from BP, GDP growth from The World Bank. Implementation of Kyoto in 2005 sent Europe’s CO2 emissions onto a downward trajectory… and GDP growth with it? The rise in energy prices caused by a peak in conventional oil production, unsustainable growth in debt, the € project and the outbreak of WWIII make the big picture somewhat more complex.
So this is not a “National” but a group submission, and while it says “binding”, the Paris treaty is not. I guess some major horse trading lies ahead within the EU group, which as we all know is currently a picture of gracious harmony. The EU has found that recession and depression are the most effective way of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the question does need to be asked to what extent climate and energy policies have created that state (see chart)? European leaders must hope that strong growth does not return because that will almost certainly send emissions upwards. Of course saddling economies with inefficient, expensive and subsidised CO2 reduction and renewables targets may guarantee never ending recession. All this is packaged as Green Hot economic growth opportunities. But I digress somewhat since, in this post, I really want to highlight some contradictory trends starting with the new direction of UK energy policy.
New broom Amber Rudd has actually set a radical and interesting course. One cornerstone is to phase out coal fired power generation by 2023. Baseload and dispatchable supply is to be provided by nuclear and gas that will manage to fit around the existing suite of wind and solar. Subsidies to wind and solar have been slashed and these technologies effectively de-prioritised. If one accepts that the Climate Change Act exists and partnership within the EU INDC exists, then this is perhaps the most sensible course to follow. Whether or not this course delivers on the commitment is another story but that will have to wait for another day.
Much will depend upon the UK’s ability to deliver a new fleet of nuclear power stations, and to source gas to 2030 and it is here that some confusion lingers. UK hopes are pinned to shale gas, still presented as environmentally friendly and cheap. It is neither. It is amusing to observe that while US shale drillers run for the hills the UK has decided to give it a go, in a land where the social and geographical circumstances are far less conducive to industrial scale drilling than in the USA. Mass shale defaults and bankruptcies have yet to materialise in the USA, but I’m told they are on the way. But the UK can always fall back on LNG imported from the Arab World. Let’s hope the RAF doesn’t pound all of the oil and gas facilities in the region.
On the other side of the coin, the USA has just unexpectedly extended tax credits (I assume those are subsidies) for wind and solar for a further 5 years and a new boom in wind and solar deployment is now expected, just as the Europeans are abandoning that strand of the Green fantasy. Perhaps the next time they are all around the table at the endless round of summits they could learn from each others’ mistakes.
2005 is a landmark year. That was the year of implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The EU dictatorship set its 20 20 20 targets for production and consumption in 2007 that were enacted into law in 2009. While the macro scale economic backdrop in the global and European economies, in particular, is complex, the chart up top shows quite clearly that this was the time economic malaise grew roots. The EU, half of which now lies to the east of the Berlin wall, seems to have forgotten completely how production target based economies fail.
Returning to my chart, its easy to see how targets could appear to be easily attained. And it’s easy to see how a yarn can be spun that this is all down to solar PV and wind. But does anyone seriously believe if 5% growth returned to the powerhouse economies sending thousands of Porsches to India and millions of tourists to Greece, Spain and Portugal that the down trend in emissions would continue? The Dictators of the European Commission and the leaders of the member states need to realise they are juggling with Green fire.
If you want to find out the INDC of YOUR country look here.