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UK Government plans
The UK Government's broad objectives for sustainable development are:
The Government has announced that:
And over next three years:
These initiatives present a unique opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of households.
The effect will be to reduce the UK's carbon emissions by 150 million tonnes CO2 and save at least £25 a year on the average customer's energy bill.
The UK's emissions have risen by 2% since 1997, when Labour came to power, so it is about time something was done.
See the article on the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) which is replacing EcoHomes, and the other UK policy articles.
The EU is bringing in much more stringent targets for 2020 and it will be interesting to see how this affects the government's rhetoric.
UK and Europe
The EU has set a target of 20% renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass) by 2020.
UK's share is 2% now. This is not been helped by the Government cutting grants for renewables installation via the Low Carbon Buildings Program. Germany has a huge industry based on renewables and yet the British government is forever trumpeting how green it is.
The key change is the introduction of a Feed In Tariff (FIT) that assures payment for generated electricity at a favourable rate - yet it is only equal to the subsidies that traditional power stations acquire, especially nuclear, where the sums never add up once construction and lifespan including disposal are factored in.
Germany has created 25,000 extra 'green collar' jobs in 2007 through policies aimed at helping the sector.
Over 50 countries have a FIT. No sign of one here though.
Britain seems to be trying to wriggle its way out of any actual commitment to increasing figures for renewables, by undermining EU treaties, and riding on the back of higher achieving countries, by wanting 'average' percentages over the whole EU - which means the UK can underperform.
EU legislation might make the UK try harder. The latest wheeze is the Severn wave/tidal generator, which is not even a proper concept yet. More delay, with grandiose statements.
The Merton rule - 10% of energy in new build must be from renewables, 20% in Greater London - is still policy but difficult to enforce, as companies want to outsource it away from the new build site (ie by investing in a wind farm) - which defeats the point of the rule.
There is also a statement from the Government about making government departments factor in a 'carbon price' for all decisions on planning, transport, construction and housing, and energy, at £25.50 a tonne in 2007 rising to £59.60 in 2050 - although how they know what is happening in 2050 is anybody's guess!
This base figure is too low anyway and the cause of carbon trading's problems. Also it is just an accounting trick and can be used selectively to justify all sorts of projects such as runways and nuclear power stations.
So you have to say that the current UK government is not very green at all - quite the opposite in fact. Rather bizarrely the Conservatives are now appearing more green than Labour.
UK statistics in relation to EU partners 2007
Installed wind power in gigawatts
Installed photovoltaic solar capacity in peak gigawatts
People working in the renewables industry
The UK has only 10% of the workers in the renewable industry compared to Germany.
These people produce 9% of the wind power that Germany produces, and only 0.4% of the solar power.
As an aside, when we fitted solar PV panels to a house in 2006, the electricity company didn't have any 'reverse' meters to measure the excess current that is passed back into the national grid. It had to be measured manually and written out in a letter to them, to receive a cheque in the post. They told us there were only 1100 (eleven hundred) PV systems in the whole country. Yet they get so much publicity, you would imagine the whole country has 'gone green'.
Sustainable development is defined as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of those in the future to meet their own needs'.