Many scientists believe that we are on course for an environmental disaster and that the evidence for global warming and climate change caused by human activity is irrefutable. (NASA 2017). As we again fail to meet the Paris agreement targets it is likely that severe heatwaves and increased flooding will become normal events. We can also predict rising sea levels which could kill and displace millions. The Earth has already lost half its wildlife in the past 40 years ( Guardian, 2016). But there are plenty of things that could be done to reduce our carbon emissions as a country, and help to tackle climate change, including greater investment in greener forms of energy and reduction and eventual ending of our reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
The United Kingdom is considered to be one of the best locations for wind power in the world. Onshore wind power is the cheapest form of energy in the United Kingdom when the cost of pollution including carbon emissions is taken into consideration.
In 2016, the UK generated more electricity from wind power than from coal having steadily risen since 2011. However since then investment from our government has declined. Public opinion generally supports wind power. Surveys of residents in Scotland near existing wind farms showed strong public support for wind farms as shown below.
Residents living within 20 km of a Scottish windfarm site (1,810) Source: MORI
However, popular support for fossil fuel and nuclear power has waned, as support for renewable energy has increased among the public, as seen above.
Solar energy is also underutilized in the UK. While we do not have the advantage of a reliably warm and sunny climate, solar power can be stored. Initial costs are known to be expensive, and there are drawbacks in relation to the size of the panels and therefore space needed in order to obtain adequate amounts of power. However solar panels are not currently automatically installed on new builds, despite the fact that solar power after the initial costs pays for itself in five to ten years (National Geographic 2017).
In a cost comparison it can be seen that wind and solar power are actually more cost effective than traditional “dirty” energy sources.
Nuclear power is often offered as “clean” solution to the reduction of carbon emissions and as such has also been invested in by the current government. In contrast other European countries such as Italy, Germany and Switzerland are opting out of nuclear power and have targets to end their reliance on it by focusing on renewable energy sources. Other countries are working on making their reactors safer. And the US is actively investing in nuclear power (Clean technica . com 2011). However nuclear power is far from clean energy, and while it is frequently billed as cheaper energy and more cost effective than renewable energy, this does not take into account the costly and complicated process of disposing of nuclear waste, (Clean technica.com 2016).
Labour is also committed to end the practice of hydraulic fracking, a process for extracting gas from beneath the surface of rocks, Fracking is deeply unpopular within the communities it affects, and is often due to its nature undertaken in areas of national parkland, and therefore has an effect on the local environment. Jeremy Corbyn states that fracking is not compatible with climate change prevention (Lord, D. 2016). Scientists have warned repeatedly that if we do not reduce our carbon emssions, we are on course for a global environmental disaster. The current government is not doing enough to avert this catastrophe and is still investing in fossil fuels and fracking, a process which has been banned in several countries due to its devastating effects on the local environment and its links to earthquakes. In fact our government is actively supporting the process of fracking. Labour, by contrast pledges to lead globally in climate change reduction.
There are understandable concerns about the loss of jobs within our energy industries should renewable energy be more widely adopted, and the nuclear and fracking programmes be discontinued. However committing to renewable energy will create jobs within the industry, it is estimated that 300.000 more jobs will be created from the push towards 65% renewable energy. These will be in the form of at least 200 not for profit companies, locally accountable and driven by the needs of the people (Guardian, 2016). Further, under Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges, one million jobs in total are pledged to be created across various industries.
Pledge 1: Full employment and an economy that works for all. “We will create a million good quality jobs across our regions and nations and guarantee a decent job for all. By investing £500 billion in infrastructure, manufacturing and new industries backed up by a publicly-owned National Investment Bank and regional banks we will build a high skilled, high tech, low carbon economy that ends austerity and leaves no one and nowhere left behind. We will invest in the high speed broadband, energy, transport and homes that our country needs and allow good businesses to thrive, and support a new generation of co-operative enterprises.”
Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn, has announced it’s commitment to renewable energy and to the reduction of carbon emissions. While the UK under the Conservatives is expected to miss the 2020 Paris agreement targets, delivering around 34% of all electricity from renewable sources, Labour envisages Britain becoming a world leader in action on climate change. Corbyn has pledged a target of 65% of the UK’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030. He has pledged investment in renewable energy sources, including solar power and offshore wind power, and also a new national home insulation scheme (Pratt, 2016).
Pledge 6: Action to secure our environment. “We will act to protect the future of our planet, with social justice at the heart of our environment policies, and take our fair share of action to meet the Paris climate agreement – starting by getting on track with our Climate Change Act goals. We will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and drive the expansion of the green industries and jobs of the future, using our National Investment Bank to invest in public and community-owned renewable energy. We will deliver clean energy and curb energy bill rises for households – energy for the 60 million, not the big 6 energy companies. We will defend and extend the environmental protections gained from the EU.”
Braunholtz, S. (2003) Public Attitudes to Wind Farms, A Survey of Local Residents in Scotland. (MORI) Scottish Executive.