As the Paris COP21 climate negotiations begin next week, Clair Gough and Sarah Mander examine George Osborne’s autumn statement and assess its green credentials.
Only days before the start of the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, the UK Government clearly signals just how unwilling it is to make the investments required to support the 2°C objective of the Paris negotiations. Years of vacillation in realising its stated commitment to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology yesterday reached its decisive conclusion. The UK is to close the door on years of research and development into an approach that would substantially reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel generation and industrial sources. At one time, the UK was a frontrunner in CCS having made considerable investments over the past decade or so – through the two FEED studies (at Peterhead in Scotland and the White Rose project in Yorkshire) and in developing a world leading research base.
If the government was strongly pursuing an agenda of greatly increased use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand reduction then perhaps a case for reducing investment into a fossil fuel technology could be made. But with recent changes to Feed-in Tariffs and subsidies to renewables and a huge expansion in gas-fired generation, this is clearly not the case. Any new gas power stations without CCS will blow the UK’s carbon budgets out of the water.
The UK is exceptionally well placed to demonstrate this technology, with a world-leading domestic skills base, proximity to well understood offshore storage sites and an engaged community of stakeholders keen to make the technology work. In the context of the imminent negotiations in Paris, clear evidence of climate change impacts and with no credible alternative in place, can we really afford to pull the plug on this critical technology?