UK government approves Rosebank oilfield in UK’s North Sea

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The UK government has approved the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea. I’ll have a lot to say on this but for a start while it blows any remaining pretence that UK is committed to net zero, the UK government will be massively subsidising a foreign company to extract and take the oil abroad …

Extinction Rebellion NL image reads STOP FOSSIELE SUBSIDIES
Extinction Rebellion NL image reads STOP FOSSIELE SUBSIDIES

[N]ew estimates by the campaign group Uplift show that Rosebank, expected to cost £4.1bn to develop, could receive an effective taxpayer subsidy worth £3.75bn through tax breaks and the loophole in the government’s windfall tax that spares oil and gas investment.

This would mean that Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned company behind the potential field, would pay only £350m to develop Rosebank, which is three times the size of the Cambo oilfield. Equinor made £62bn last year, and about 80% of the oil from Rosebank is likely to be exported, rather than bolstering the UK’s energy security.

Continue ReadingUK government approves Rosebank oilfield in UK’s North Sea

Rishi Sunak has ripped up decades of cross-party consensus on climate change

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Tim Jackson, University of Surrey

The acclaimed 1990 film Awakenings tells the story of a neurologist who discovers a drug which rouses catatonic patients from decades of “sleep”. It’s a true story, based on Oliver Sacks’ 1973 memoir of the same name.

Sadly, the awakening doesn’t last. The drug wears off. The mirage fades. After a brief window of hope, the patients return to their catatonic state.

Listening to UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s recent speech, in which he announced the rolling back of policies to achieve net zero, I had a nagging sense that I had seen this movie before.

I had been there when the UK miraculously built a cross-party consensus around climate change. As early as 1989, I’d attended a high-level seminar convened by Sir James Goldsmith (father of Tory peer Zac Goldsmith) to advise Margaret Thatcher on climate policy.

I’d applauded John Prescott’s tireless leadership in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. I’d given evidence to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, whose influential 2000 report on Energy – the Changing Climate set the UK on the path to a world-leading Climate Change Act. When it came to a vote only five MPs stood against it.

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.

Delay is costly

Remaining within the 1.5° or even 2°C thresholds set out in the Paris agreement to avoid catastrophic climate change requires substantial emission reductions now. The climate is indifferent to the date on our targets. Its concern is the volume of carbon in the atmosphere.

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.

A key economic principle follows from this: the sooner you act, the lower the final bill. The 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change showed why. There may be some upfront costs in reaching net zero, and it is clearly the job of government to ensure that these do not fall on the poor. But the long-term costs of refusing to pay are catastrophic.

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.

A disaster site with a half-demolished apartment building.
The aftermath of recent floods in Darnah, Libya, where thousands died.
Hussein Eddeb/Shutterstock

The same lesson applies to the transition itself. Research I led has established the principles on which (to use the prime minister’s words) “a fair and proportionate” response to climate change should be based.

Early signals on the direction of regulation; financial and technical support for business and households to make the transition; transparent guidance for those who stand to benefit; and appropriate compensation for those who stand to lose: these are the foundations for clear and consistent policy.

As the chair of Ford UK put it on the same day Sunak tore up Boris Johnson’s 2030 target for the phase-out of diesel and petrol cars: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”

Sunak wasn’t listening. A target set by a predecessor, even from his own party, carries no truck with this prime minister.

He also ditched a ban on new domestic oil boilers in off-grid locations (which could have reduced costs and improved air quality for rural households) and minimum energy efficiency standards for privately rented homes (which could have saved poorer families thousands in energy bills).

Just to emphasise the point, he scrapped a host of made-up policies such as taxes on meat and regulations on carsharing which had never actually existed.

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.

Sunak was swift to deny this charge when it was posed to him by a sympathetic Sun journalist in what seemed like a carefully rehearsed question. Casually couched within a cricket joke, Rishi-the-cricket-fan was able to laugh it off. “No, this is not actually about politics,” he said. “It’s about doing what’s right for the country in the long term.”

It was a stunning revelation. From Aristotle to Hannah Arendt, genuine politics was always about doing what’s right for the long term. Only today is it reduced to shallow electioneering. Not content with betraying the interests of the future, Sunak’s speech has helped turn climate change into a sordid culture war.

After 13 years, single-party rule has become a dangerous thing. Not so much because it stifles dissent, but rather because it has destroyed a vital consensus.

Perhaps consensus is a commodity yet more fragile than consciousness. But its disappearance still carries a sense of political and social loss more tragic even than the final scenes of Awakenings.

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Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), University of Surrey

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingRishi Sunak has ripped up decades of cross-party consensus on climate change

‘The worst kind of culture war’: Tories attack Rishi Sunak’s reversal on net zero

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and former Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and former Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps. Credit: Simon Dawson / 10 Downing Street, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The prime minister’s attempts to turn the climate emergency into a US-style wedge issue have dismayed veteran MPs who champion green policies

Rishi Sunak’s decision to drive a “green wedge” between the Conservatives and Labour will take the UK into dangerous new political territory and “the worst kind of culture wars”, not seen for more than 30 years, senior Tory figures and political observers have warned.

Reversals and delays to net zero policy announced last week will be just the start of a general election campaign in which the UK’s longstanding cross-party political consensus on climate will be increasingly at stake. Emails sent to journalists from the Conservative campaign headquarters revealed lines of attack on targets including the independent Climate Change Committee and Labour’s proposed £28bn investment in a low-carbon economy.

Lord Goldsmith, a former Tory minister, told the Observer: “It’s not so much the individual measures he’s announced. It’s more about the language and politics. This is a clear attempt to turn the environment into a wedge issue, as it is in the US. We have managed to avoid that until now, with disagreements mostly being about means, not ends. Sacrificing the environment to culture wars is cynical, devastating and wildly irresponsible.”

Sunak repeated many times that he was still committed to the UK’s legally binding target of reaching net zero by 2050, though experts said the policy changes were more likely to hamper than help. But Chris Skidmore, the Conservative ex-minister and author of the government’s net zero review, accused the prime minister of misleading voters. “It’s especially worrying that false claims and disinformation are being made about meat taxes that have never existed, or compulsory car sharing, or having seven bins. This is completely untrue, and is the worst kind of culture war politics, attempting to deliberately mislead,” he told the Observer.

Continue Reading‘The worst kind of culture war’: Tories attack Rishi Sunak’s reversal on net zero

Al Gore leads international chorus of disapproval for Sunak’s climate U-turn

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Decision by UK prime minister to water down key climate policies ‘really shocking to me’, says former US vice-president

Image of Al Gore by JD Lasica  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Image of Al Gore by JD Lasica Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Al Gore, the former US vice-president, has described the decision by the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, to water down key climate policies as “shocking and disappointing” and “not what the world needs from the United Kingdom”.

Gore, now one of the world’s foremost advocates for swift action to avert the climate crisis, told CNN: “I find it shocking and really disappointing … I think he’s done the wrong thing. I’ve heard from many of my friends in the UK including a lot of Conservative party members who have used the phrase, ‘utter disgust’.

“And some of the young people there feel as if their generation has been stabbed in the back. It’s really shocking to me.”

‘Pathetic’: what scientists and green groups think of UK’s net zero U-turn

UK not a serious player in global race for green growth, says Greenpeace, while Oxfam says move is ‘betrayal’

Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.
Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.

Jim Watson, professor of energy policy and director of UCL’s Institute for Sustainable Resources

“Rishi Sunak’s net zero speech is full of contradictions, and will make it harder to meet our medium- and long-term climate change targets. It also risks increasing the costs by delaying the shift away from fossil fuels and reducing the economic benefits to the UK.”

Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London

“Our PM wants to have his cake and eat it when he says that the government wants to keep to the UK climate change targets but to weaken the policies to achieve them. These policies were already too weak according to the June report of its advisers, the Climate Change Committee.”

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK

“The grim reality is that Britain is no longer seen as a serious player in the global race for green growth. Under the Conservative government, Britain has gone from leader to laggard on climate change and further planned U-turns leaked last night will only hasten our waning influence on the world stage.”

Lyndsay Walsh, Oxfam’s climate change policy adviser

“Any further weakening of the government’s climate policies is a complete betrayal of people living in poverty – both in the UK and abroad – who are most vulnerable to climate change. The government needs to put long-term interests ahead of short-term politics and that means a fast and fair move towards renewable energy.”

Continue ReadingAl Gore leads international chorus of disapproval for Sunak’s climate U-turn

‘Missing half the equation’: scientists criticise Australia over approach to fossil fuels

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Image of a kangaroo.
Image of a kangaroo.

Prof Lesley Hughes and others says there is ‘cognitive dissonance’ between Labor’s stated commitment to the climate crisis and its policies

The Australian government is “missing half the equation” in acting on the climate crisis by backing a shift to renewable energy but having no plan to get out of fossil fuels, according to an author of a new scientific review.

Prof Lesley Hughes is a leading climate change scientist and member of the independent Climate Council and government advisory body the Climate Change Authority. Hughes said there is a “cognitive dissonance” between Labor’s stated commitment to addressing the problem and the pace at which it is moving.

The dissonance is most clear in it subsidising or approving new and expanded fossil fuel developments while arguing it supports trying to limit global heating to 1.5C – a goal agreed at UN climate conferences.

“The two things are completely at odds with each other,” she said.

Hughes is the co-author of a Climate Council review, released on Wednesday, which found Australia should be cutting national carbon dioxide emissions by 75% by 2030. The government’s legislated target is a minimum 43% cut (compared with 2005 levels).

The report said the country should be aiming to reach net zero emissions by 2035 – much sooner than the current 2050 goal. The finding is broadly consistent with other analyses that have found Australia should be moving more rapidly.

Dissonance but not cognitive dissonance to this pedant but understood …

Continue Reading‘Missing half the equation’: scientists criticise Australia over approach to fossil fuels