Shrug-worthy, disappointing, too slow, reactionary, lacking ambition, could-do-better: the scientist’s attitude to most UK politicians’ policy statements on reducing carbon emissions.
Today’s “low-carbon transition plan” looks different – although we could have done with it a lot earlier.
In a collection of four strategy documents which together proclaim themselves “the most systematic response to climate change of any major developed country”, the UK government plots out exactly how it plans to meet its legally binding targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.
Energy secretary Ed Miliband says that by 2020 he wants 40% of electricity to come from low-carbon sources: over 30% from renewables – overwhelmingly wind power, but also biomass, and tidal energy – and the rest from nuclear and carbon capture and storage. Heat and transport will also see vastly-boosted renewables contributions. By 2020, there will be 3,000 offshore wind turbines across the country and every home will have a smart meter. Every government department has been given its own carbon budget to follow. Thousands of ‘green jobs’ (undefined) will be created.
The ambition on paper is praiseworthy. It leaves only sizeable doubts about whether the government can match deeds to fine-sounding words – and whether they can persuade households and firms that they must pay increased costs on energy bills.
“Eventually the Government must move from analysis paralysis to doing and building," says Stuart Haszeldine, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh. “All the right plans are there, but it’s hard to believe that this is actually going to happen.”