This week is Green GB Week, which the British government announced in the summer as “a landmark week of action to celebrate clean growth” and to boast about how “the UK has led the world to date in cutting emissions while creating wealth.” Needless to say, this presses every one of my cynicism buttons.
This is, after all, a Conservative party that scrapped rail electrification plans, the zero carbon homes target, and the feed-in tariff. It’s taken pride in hosting a bonfire of environmental regulations, and the climate change bill itself is a bone of contention for back-benchers. Britain continues to subsidise fossil fuels and pretend it doesn’t, and fracking has restarted in England the very week of their Green GB celebrations. This isn’t just a government that has ignored climate change, but that has actively worked against promising solutions – such as systematically gutting community energy and banning onshore wind power.
Britain has reduced its emissions, and as I’ve discussed before, that’s mostly down to the phasing out of coal in the electricity mix. Efficiency standards have improved and electricity use has fallen, and we may have experienced ‘peak stuff‘. Some of our emissions have been off-shored as heavy industry has moved elsewhere. Still, there is something to celebrate. And with its focus on renewable energy, recycling and the circular economy, I wish the business department’s twitter stream looked like this every week.
On the other hand, it’s hard to see that progress continuing with current policies. There’s been no great fall in emissions from heating, and none at all from transport. Even coal isn’t gone, and emissions are creeping up in 2018. And who knows what will happen to environmental regulations and efficiency standards after Brexit? There are harder challenges to come, such as challenging car culture and retrofitting Britain’s aging housing stock. Current levels of policy ambition aren’t up to these challenges.
Perhaps that will change. I would love to see a string of new green policies announced this week, along with the variety of pledges from business that are being showcased. I am trying not to be cynical about Green GB Week (if it sounds like I am, you should see what I’ve written and deleted). I want to be able to praise the government where praise is due, and it was great to see that the government is going to consult on setting a net zero emissions target. The first meeting of the new Clean Maritime Council is good news too, and will make a difference to shipping emissions and air pollution.
So I’m going to wait and see what else the government has up its sleeves for Green GB Week, and then write about it again at the end.