In British politics, governing is as much performance art as it is accounting. Even ‘Fiscal Phil’, that most studious scrutiniser of the spreadsheet knows this. Perhaps this is why his green headlines ahead of the budget were about a single use plastics tax, a clampdown on dirty diesels and a push on EVs. These followed a green October, with Michael Gove ditching neonicotinoids and consulting on a bottle deposit scheme, and Claire Perry producing a Clean Growth Strategy that sees huge opportunities too irresistible for a business department to ignore. But the big reveal on budget day showed that, as far as the Treasury is concerned, the future is still grey.
The journey of the government’s decarbonisation strategy, announced today, is a key to how it should be read: it started as the carbon plan, was downgraded to a compliance-focused emissions reduction plan, then transformed into a clean growth plan to match a shift in how government now sees green growth and, at the last moment, it has metamorphosed into the Clean growth strategy.
Should we trust Michael Gove? That’s the question lurking underneath all of the commentary about the environment secretary’s protestations of love for the planet. He gave a barnstormer of a speech at WWF’s Living Planet centre last week, declaring that marine plastics would be tackled, the ivory trade would be halted and eleven million trees would be planted. Read more
The government’s smart power strategy, Upgrading our energy system, unveiled yesterday, is the ultimate under the radar approach. It contains 29 deeply technocratic changes (such as “developing a Balancing and Settlement Code (BSC) modification, P344”), which are combined seamlessly with the neutered language of “removing barriers” and “making markets work”. It looks boring. But don’t be fooled: if it works, this strategy will deliver radical change. But this is a big if. Read more
This blog was first posted on EurActiv.
Plastics have brought huge benefits to our society. But with those benefits come environmental problems. Too often, plastic ends up as waste, as marine litter polluting the oceans, or as litter on our beaches.
Lightweight, durable, and low cost plastics have transformed the products we make and consume, becoming ubiquitous through their convenience and adaptability.
This year the spring budget comes at an odd time for all things low carbon in the UK. In February, the government published its industrial strategy, setting out its clean growth aims as part of Theresa May’s flagship domestic economic policy. By the beginning of the summer, the government will produce a ‘clean growth’ plan, outlining how the UK will meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets (covering 2023-32).
Reading the news, it’s hard to know what to make of the UK’s low carbon progress. On Christmas Day we were running on 40 per cent renewable power, and earlier last year we switched all our coal fired power stations off for the first time in 130 years. Read more
This post first appeared as a Huffington Post Blog.
It was George Osborne who, festooned with hard hat and high vis, proclaimed that ‘we are the builders.’ He looked a bit silly, but his message was serious. Building things is what real people do; it’s where real economic growth happens; and it’s a real investment in our shared future. Osborne invented the line, but it is Theresa May who is doing the building. As the BBC’s business editor put it, “from beating ourselves up for not being able to build anything, the UK is suddenly building everything.” Well, almost everything. Read more
John Steinbeck described the California I grew up in as ‘a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.’ The golden state has always loomed large in the imagination but, in my early years, much of the stink and quality of light was literal: my dad, a Los Angeles native, used to joke that he didn’t trust air he couldn’t see. That’s how bad the air pollution was.
Britain has an extraordinarily reliable power system. The lights flicker so rarely that it is easy to forget that the power system is actually a finely tuned and, in some ways, fragile machine, which breaks if electricity demand and supply are not in balance. Perturbations, such as the up-tick in demand after the FA Cup final, or the sudden outage of a coal plant, must be steadied within seconds. Read more