The current social and political climate has climate change CO2 emissions and doing our bit for the environment at the fore. But how has the UK fared so far in going green? With environmental issues covering nearly all facets of our lives – from where our energy comes from to how we take our children to school – we investigate the UK’s current track record on energy, and how things are looking going forward…
Climate Change Programme
So far during 2006 and 2007, there have been several initiatives and publications from the government, most recently an Energy White Paper, which has set out how we need to change habits now to achieve long term reductions in energy consumption and CO2 emissions. In particular, it sets out:
- How the UK can cut CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050, and how progress will be made year on year
- How to maintain the reliability of energy supplies
- How to promote competitive energy markets in the UK
- How to ensure that the UK population has enough energy to heat their homes – efficiently and at low cost.
One of the most controversial elements of our energy debate is how to serve the population with a steady, reliable energy source – and crucially, whether nuclear power is the way forward. Indications so far suggest that the UK will indeed embrace nuclear as an alternative to fossil fuel energy, and according to Industry Secretary Alistair Darling, a firm decision on nuclear power will be made by the end of the year because many nuclear and coal-fired power stations are due to close within 20 years. According to the Prime Minster: “We are not going to be able to make up through wind farms all the deficit on nuclear power…”
Despite this, a commitment to renewable energy has, so far, looked promising. Not only has the uptake and support of renewable energy sources such as wind and <#66#>solar power<#> increased over the past five years, but it also appears that there will be a long term commitment to renewable energy sources alongside nuclear. Under the government’s energy review, a commitment has been made to boost the portion of UK power generated from renewable sources such as wind, tides and biomass to 20% by 2020.
Government commitments aside, how regular do people deal with energy? According to a European survey by the Energy Saving Trust, there’s still a lot to be done as far as improving our habits go. The UK came off worst in Europe when it comes to leaving appliances on standby, lights on and heating on unnecessarily. They were also worst than any other European nation surveyed at using cars for short journeys.
As the Energy Saving Report indicated, our love of cars is not faltering, despite the damage to the environment it does, and the amount of CO2 driving a car emits into the atmosphere. Levels of car ownership is increasing, but so too is awareness that using alternative forms of transport, even for one or two journeys a week, can make a difference. Despite this, there have been several initiatives suggested that will penalise car drivers whose vehicles are particularly polluting, for example 4x4s being charged more car tax.
Another development that may have long term implications on the environment is the increase in air travel, and the burden it’s putting on UK airports. This has led to the extension of both Heathrow and Stansted airports, made easier by a relaxation of planning and development applications.