UK sabotages European renewables deal - again

Posted by bex — 26 September 2008 at 10:06am - Comments

Solar panels

Just under a year ago, we revealed that Gordon Brown was planning to scupper the vital, and binding, European climate change deal to generate 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

A brouhaha ensued; EU leaders were so furious at the UK's underhanded shenanigans that a red-faced Brown had to explicitly re-commit to the target soon afterwards.

Well, leaked documents (pdf) show it's happened again. This time, the man weilding the wrecking ball is John Hutton, the Business Secretary with an inordinate fondness for coal and nuclear power.

The leaked documents show that the UK (read John Hutton's Department for Business) is exerting strong pressure on EU governments to remove aviation from renewable energy targets. This may sound fairly innocuous, but stripping out aviation would unravel the whole agreement. Here's why:

The renewables obligation [addition 03/10: for clarity, I mean the Renewable Energy Target] includes heat, electricity and transport, including aviation. This is vital; aviation contributes up to nine per cent of all greenhouse emissions in Europe and omitting aviation would reduce the overall target.

For the UK - which has the biggest aviation industry in Europe and an already appalling record on renewables - exempting aviation would reduce the amount of renewable energy we need to produce by nearly 12 per cent.

Removing aviation also opens up the entire deal to renegotiation by other countries who want to water it down. If the UK removes aviation from the targets because we have a huge aviation industry, what's to stop the Netherlands, say, from trying to remove shipping, because of their substantial shipping industry? Or any other country from trying to remove steel manufacturing, which uses a lot of heat? The agreement could totally unravel.

Revealingly, EU figures are being outspoken about their outrage. Claude Turmes, the MEP leading the negotiations, said: "Britain is leading the attempt to undermine the climate change directive. Gordon Brown promised that the UK would not attempt to cut the EU 20 per cent renewables target... Now UK civil servants from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform have a different strategy and are pushing for cuts. A government that is supposedly committed to tackle climate change must not try to kill the essence of this directive."

According to the BBC, Mr Turmes also said he believed the UK was acting under pressure from firms seeking to build nuclear and coal-fired power stations. While the government denies this, this handy list (also from the Beeb) shows exactly where Hutton's priorities lie. Over the past 18 months, his department has:

  • lobbied against the 20 per cent renewables target, saying it is unachievable;
  • negotiated a reduction to 15 per cent for the UK because past renewables performance was so poor;
  • tried to get nuclear and carbon capture coal categorised as renewable energy;
  • argued that funding for renewable energy projects abroad should be able to count to the UK targets.

It's far from the first time the UK has tried to wreck this vital energy deal. Unless Brown takes decisive action to stand up to big business - and John Hutton - on climate change, it's unlikely to be the last.

Airlines would be delighted to use 20% biofuels by 2020 or even 100% if they will be available. But it is not up to the industry. It is down to the availability of such fuels. We don’t know whether there will be sufficient supply by 2020. So, rather than setting targets for airlines, governments should be providing incentives to develop sustainable biofuels that don’t compete for land with food crops and are safe. Once the fuel is certified, production needs to be ramped up. Along with advances in technology, the aviation industry sees sustainable biofuels as a key way to reduce its carbon footprint - which is why the industry is also working together to expedite the development of these fuels. Let's ensure we have a sufficient supply of biofuels before setting targets for their use.

Quentin
International Air Transport Association, Geneva
www.enviro.aero/blog

This article just gives me more evidwence to suggest this government we have in the UK is totally abusive, corrupt and incompetent in office!
I've bin pushing for 'Solar Power on our roofs' for a few months now and I've had hardly any constructive support from anyone in Parliament! Note: I say 'Parliament' as it's not just John Hutton or the government who's putting the brakes on renewable targets, my local council is tory-led and they haven't bin very forthcoming with support for renewables - my council's put renewables at the bottom of their list of local area priorities!
Nearby in west sussex, their council are looking to spend a Billion quid on a waste production/incineration plant insterad of looking more seriously into renewables or recycling, claiming the new plant will be 'fit for the purpose'!
Utter madness wherever you look guys! It's no surprise people like John Hutton are kowtowing to 'Big Business' and rejecting efforts to actually clean-up our backyard!
Keep the faith tho, guys, some of us actually wanna fix our backyards and we gotta get these idiots like John Hutton out of power before it's too late! If yiu need cheering up, check out Barack Obama's 'Detroit Speech' for inspiration - at least the Americans have got someone offering them some decent hope for the future!
Trouble is, who's gonna replace them (UK idiots) in office? I canni trust the tories and the Libdems are way too weak to get elected, so what do we do?
I'd love to know?
Steve (41dog)
myspace.com/azinko41dog

Hi Quentin

We’re pretty much agreed on the devastating impacts biofuels can have – which is why we don’t support the 10 per cent biofuels target (even the government has serious concerns about that one).

Given the rapacious demand of the aviation industry for fuel, it’s pretty unlikely that there is a sustainable biofuel out there for the sector which can meaningfully contribute to emissions reductions. Whichever biofuel the industry leaps on as an apparently easy way to reduce emissions is likely to have a huge environmental impact if used at scale. (See the August New Scientist, which put the amount of productive area needed to replace the 2007 consumption of jet fuel - 238 million tones - at about the area of Ireland for biofuel from algae, three times the area of Germany for biofuel from biomass or around twice the size of France for biofuel derived from Jatropha...).

Technological / efficiency improvements are unlikely to alter the upward trend in emissions either; aviation is predicted to grow at such an exponential rate that efficiency improvements or alternative fuels just won’t be able to make any significant savings.

Because there are no sustainable low-carbon fuels available for aviation, the industry has been lobbying to get aviation removed from many emissions reductions targets and climate treaties (the climate change bill and international climate treaties, for example). Whichever way you look at it though, the reality is that aviation just needs to stop growing, which is why we campaign to stop expansion and cap flights at their current levels.

On the renewables directive, the target includes all sectors. Because there’s no realistic option for sustainable fuel for aviation, other sectors will need to pick up the slack and increase the proportion of renewables in their sectors - especially the electricity generating sector, which could practically and economically produce vastly more than it does now from renewables by 2020. (The government’s renewable energy strategy consultation assumes renewables will contribute 32 per cent, but in this recent analysis (pdf) we see if offering more like 40 per cent of the electricity generating sector by 2020).

If aviation was removed from the target though, it would be a disaster – as I write in the blog. A precedent will be set where other member states could come to plead their own special circumstances, asking for the removal of whichever industry is the most polluting in their own countries.

Keeping it in the target reflects the urgent need to find solutions where they can sustainably and safely be found, and that where those solutions aren’t forthcoming, that the industry in question has to start limiting its own growth.

To summarise, the best thing your industry can do to tackle climate change is to stop growing. Other sectors – where realistic renewable options are available – need to ramp up the contribution of renewables.

Cheers,

Bex
gpuk

Airlines would be delighted to use 20% biofuels by 2020 or even 100% if they will be available. But it is not up to the industry. It is down to the availability of such fuels. We don’t know whether there will be sufficient supply by 2020. So, rather than setting targets for airlines, governments should be providing incentives to develop sustainable biofuels that don’t compete for land with food crops and are safe. Once the fuel is certified, production needs to be ramped up. Along with advances in technology, the aviation industry sees sustainable biofuels as a key way to reduce its carbon footprint - which is why the industry is also working together to expedite the development of these fuels. Let's ensure we have a sufficient supply of biofuels before setting targets for their use. Quentin International Air Transport Association, Geneva www.enviro.aero/blog

This article just gives me more evidwence to suggest this government we have in the UK is totally abusive, corrupt and incompetent in office! I've bin pushing for 'Solar Power on our roofs' for a few months now and I've had hardly any constructive support from anyone in Parliament! Note: I say 'Parliament' as it's not just John Hutton or the government who's putting the brakes on renewable targets, my local council is tory-led and they haven't bin very forthcoming with support for renewables - my council's put renewables at the bottom of their list of local area priorities! Nearby in west sussex, their council are looking to spend a Billion quid on a waste production/incineration plant insterad of looking more seriously into renewables or recycling, claiming the new plant will be 'fit for the purpose'! Utter madness wherever you look guys! It's no surprise people like John Hutton are kowtowing to 'Big Business' and rejecting efforts to actually clean-up our backyard! Keep the faith tho, guys, some of us actually wanna fix our backyards and we gotta get these idiots like John Hutton out of power before it's too late! If yiu need cheering up, check out Barack Obama's 'Detroit Speech' for inspiration - at least the Americans have got someone offering them some decent hope for the future! Trouble is, who's gonna replace them (UK idiots) in office? I canni trust the tories and the Libdems are way too weak to get elected, so what do we do? I'd love to know? Steve (41dog) myspace.com/azinko41dog

Hi Quentin We’re pretty much agreed on the devastating impacts biofuels can have – which is why we don’t support the 10 per cent biofuels target (even the government has serious concerns about that one). Given the rapacious demand of the aviation industry for fuel, it’s pretty unlikely that there is a sustainable biofuel out there for the sector which can meaningfully contribute to emissions reductions. Whichever biofuel the industry leaps on as an apparently easy way to reduce emissions is likely to have a huge environmental impact if used at scale. (See the August New Scientist, which put the amount of productive area needed to replace the 2007 consumption of jet fuel - 238 million tones - at about the area of Ireland for biofuel from algae, three times the area of Germany for biofuel from biomass or around twice the size of France for biofuel derived from Jatropha...). Technological / efficiency improvements are unlikely to alter the upward trend in emissions either; aviation is predicted to grow at such an exponential rate that efficiency improvements or alternative fuels just won’t be able to make any significant savings. Because there are no sustainable low-carbon fuels available for aviation, the industry has been lobbying to get aviation removed from many emissions reductions targets and climate treaties (the climate change bill and international climate treaties, for example). Whichever way you look at it though, the reality is that aviation just needs to stop growing, which is why we campaign to stop expansion and cap flights at their current levels. On the renewables directive, the target includes all sectors. Because there’s no realistic option for sustainable fuel for aviation, other sectors will need to pick up the slack and increase the proportion of renewables in their sectors - especially the electricity generating sector, which could practically and economically produce vastly more than it does now from renewables by 2020. (The government’s renewable energy strategy consultation assumes renewables will contribute 32 per cent, but in this recent analysis (pdf) we see if offering more like 40 per cent of the electricity generating sector by 2020). If aviation was removed from the target though, it would be a disaster – as I write in the blog. A precedent will be set where other member states could come to plead their own special circumstances, asking for the removal of whichever industry is the most polluting in their own countries. Keeping it in the target reflects the urgent need to find solutions where they can sustainably and safely be found, and that where those solutions aren’t forthcoming, that the industry in question has to start limiting its own growth. To summarise, the best thing your industry can do to tackle climate change is to stop growing. Other sectors – where realistic renewable options are available – need to ramp up the contribution of renewables. Cheers, Bex gpuk

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