28 November 2012

Christian group challenges Energy Bill

Exactly four years ago, campaigners were thrilled when the Climate Change Act was made law on Nov 26th 2008.  The UK became the first country to set out legally binding and far reaching targets to reduce carbon emission by 2050. The Labour government was proud to show international leadership in tackling concerns over climate change. Cameron campaigned in 2010 to continue such leadership, stating that his would be "the greenest government ever".

Two years is a long time in politics. The current headlines just announced for the next Energy Bill to be released this week indicate that it ignores a key provision of the Climate Change Act - to intentionally reduce emissions by 2020 and beyond. The coalition government simply says that defining a comprehensive energy strategy post 2020 will be up to the next government in 2016.

The vision of Operation Noah is for a complete decarbonisation of the UK economy by 2030 through various measures including reducing energy demand and substantial investment in clean energy. To achieve this, we must start now. By 2016 it may well be too late. Ignoring this issue now goes against both the advice of the government's own independent advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency (which says that emissions need to peak at 2016 to keep below 2 degrees, and be cut rapidly every year after that).

 Operation Noah believes that avoiding our duty to substantially reduce emissions is immoral. It shirks our responsibilities both to those suffering as a consequence of climate change now and to future generations. Around the world exceptional weather conditions continue to be experienced, including this week's UK weather and flooding. The World Bank's report, 'Turn down the heat', published last week, notes that "present emission trends put the world plausibly on a path toward 4oC warming within the century‚Ķ. A 4oC world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally".

 Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth, who delivered Operation Noah's annual lecture on 21st November on the theme 'Overcoming fossil fuel addiction - the next moral revolution?' said that "human suffering now [as a consequence of climate change] and the certainty that this will increase in the future makes this a moral issue. We are breaking our contract with the future if we don't act now".

 Operation Noah welcomes the news that the bill will introduce ¬£7.6bn a year to help fund what the government classes as low-carbon energy by 2020-21 (which includes renewables, nuclear and biomass). But the Government's announcement also makes reference to the imminent publication of the Chancellor's forthcoming gas generation strategy.  Although gas is required to help the UK make the transition to renewable power, long-term reliance on gas will cause us to fail to achieve our Climate Change targets.

In referring to the draft Energy Bill last week Atkins commented:"The coalition has caved in to Osborne's reckless dash for gas and banged the final nail in the coffin of Cameron's pledge to lead the greenest government ever. This decision will help keep the nation hooked on increasingly expensive gas, drive away green jobs and investment and jeopardise UK climate goals." 

The consequences of this Energy Bill will lock us into an unsustainable energy scenario based largely on gas. Whilst this might be good for short-term economics it fails to deliver a secure energy future for our children. In addition, it commits the UK to rising carbon emissions that will continue to contribute to rising global temperatures.

"By failing to act now to curb our carbon emissions," comments Isabel Carter, Chair of Operation Noah, "we are sacrificing the future of our children for short-term economic benefits".

As the Bill comes before the House of Commons over the next two weeks, it will be vital for people to make their views known to their MPs. The Methodists, Baptist, United Reformed Churches and Quakers have been working together to challenge the Energy Bill in its current form. Massive public response helped push through the Climate Act in 2007. Similar public pressure could ensure this Energy Bill looks to the future, sets clear decarbonisation targets and brings massive support for renewable energy, with all the jobs and economic boost this will bring.


For action on the energy bill, click here.  

Operation Noah is an ecumenical Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change.

The Methodists, Baptist, United Reformed Churches and Quakers have been working together to challenge the Energy Bill in its current form. Find out more here.

Operation Noah's Annual Lecture was delivered by Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth on 21st November 2012.

World Bank report



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