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Scientists attack energy industry

Roger Harrabin, BBC
Britain’s energy systems are no longer fit for purpose, according to leading members of the UK’s best-known scientific academy, the Royal Society.

A meeting of experts at the society said the government must invest hugely to create a new low-carbon economy.

And it must take on the big generating companies who dominate energy policy, participants said.

The government says the key issues on energy will be addressed in its forthcoming energy White Paper.

The experts say ministers must make up lost time by investing massively in research and deployment of renewables; creating a more wide-ranging electricity ‘supergrid’; and ensuring that coal-fired power stations capture 90% of their carbon emissions by 2020.

One leading member of the society said privately that the government’s performance on carbon capture so far had been pathetic – although would agree that criticism should not be confined to the UK.
(28 June 2009)

You can download the Royal Society’s paper “Towards a low carbon future” here. KS.

Treasury faces legal action over ‘dirty’ banking investments

Afua Hirsch, The Guardian
The government is facing legal action after environmental groups accused it of spending billions on “dirty and destructive projects” through the recapitalisation of banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

“RBS has the worst record by far of any UK bank when it comes to financing projects around the world which cause environmental damage [and] particularly bad human rights records,” a claim by three campaign groups says.

The claim, the first to challenge the bank bailout on grounds that it breaches the government’s own policies on reducing carbon emissions, alleges that since it was recapitalised in October 2008, RBS has contributed to loans worth an estimated £10bn in coal, oil and gas companies.

…Last year a new Climate Change Act came into force, which includes a legal duty to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by the year 2050.

The claim also points to the government’s “green book”, which requires assessments of all new projects to promote the public interests, and the groups say, have made numerous domestic and international statements about its commitment to tackling climate change and human rights abuses linked to corporate activity.

But in April the Treasury stated that “the environmental and human rights records of the individual banks were of no relevance” to the decision to bail out the banks, in a letter to environmental group Platform.
(1 July 2009)

Britain’s green shame

Jonathan Owen, The Independent
When it comes to environmental sustainability, the prognosis is grim: Britain is “winning battles, but still losing the war”.

The UK is failing to hit a raft of key targets on sustainable living, according to a new report to be published this week. In its critical analysis, released on Wednesday, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) warns that progress on a number of green targets has been “undermined by stasis or even reversion”. Jonathon Porritt, outgoing SDC chair and one-time “green guru” to Tony Blair, claims sustainability plays second fiddle to the drive for consumption-driven economic growth. “The thing that stands out is the very limited progress we’ve made on reducing inequity in our society… it’s a startling indictment of this Government that more people will be living in fuel poverty at the time of next election than were living in fuel poverty in 1997,” he said.

The “review of progress on sustainable development” details how the “Securing the Future” strategy launched by Tony Blair in 2005 has failed in a number of areas. It says Britain remains the EU’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and is not on track to meet its target of a 20 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010.

…Greenhouse gas emissions

Government target

Twenty per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2010, and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050.

What the report says

Britain remains the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Europe. In 2007, CO2 emissions were 8.5 per cent below 1990 levels.


Britain is not on track to meet its target on emissions. An apparent decrease becomes a significant increase once emissions embedded in trade and travel are taken into account.
(28 June 2009)

The link to the report “Where We Are Now” is here. KS