The committee given the task of advising ministers on climate change have told the government that they must drop the increase in gas power they've recently been pushing for.
Ministers have been trying to save money for the poorest households and the squeezed middle class, but this seems a very short term solution given the high level of carbon emissions incurred through this method. It is much cheaper to solve this problem today than it is to try to solve it in the future. Unsurprisingly, this seems very consistent with a major downfall of democracy – MPs seem to be mainly interested in the short run, because that is what will effect whether or not they get into office. Hopefully, voters are starting to realise that climate change is a major issue, and it is bearing short-term pain to prevent environmental meltdown in the long run.
Ministers have provided, thus far, strong support backing proposals for a large rise in the number of gas-fired power plants. Whilst gas-fired stations are not as harmful as other methods in terms of carbon emissions, they still are far worse than renewable sources. The main potential problem with the expansion plans is the carbon cost of the construction programme itself – it could put emissions targets for the UK under serious threat because it will likely mean that energy needs are thus met by gas-power rather than low carbon alternatives such as geothermal, wind, solar or nuclear power.
David Kennedy, in charge of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “[Ministers] must rule out the dash for gas, and set clear carbon objectives in the context of draft energy legislation and the forthcoming gas generation strategy. Our analysis shows that power sector decarbonisation is economically sensible, even in a shale gas world.”
The Committee has found at least that the UK cut emissions by 7% last year compared to 2010, which is a very significant improvement, again under the pressure of strict targets. However, the reason for this shows less of an opportunity to be grateful to ministers – only 0.8% of the 7% cut was due to policy, whilst most was due to an uncharacteristically mild winter, combined with a decrease in demand due soaring fuel prices and tumultuous economic times. In short, there were less emissions because people used less enerygy, not because energy sources were dramatically improved.