Andrew Warren, chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation, wrote an optimistic column about the increasing priority for energy saving that appears in the January 2020 issue of Energy in Buildings & Industry magazine. Let’s all hope he is right. What are your views?
The year energy saving became fashionable
Let me start 2020 with this bold prediction. During these next twelve months, we shall experience a complete step change in attitudes regarding the profligacy of energy usage. This will be true of politicians. It will be true for TV, radio and print media. It will be true for local opinion formers and influencers. And it will be particularly true of everyday people throughout the British Isles.
Why do I believe that this Cinderella topic will at last receive the attention it has long merited? Why am I confident that energy efficiency, indeed energy conservation, will suddenly become again trendy for everybody? Simple.
It is now almost half a century since there was any wide consciousness of the need to reduce energy consumption , when the slogan “Save It – You Know It Makes Sense ” became common parlance It followed the fuel shortages caused by the rise of OPEC in the Middle East and coal miner strikes. Precipitating a sense of unrest, indeed near panic, culminating in the Three Day Week where offices and factories were shut down by Government diktat, and TV ceased broadcasting after 10.30 at night.
During the second half of 2019 a similar combination of apocalyptic alarm calls from climatologists have been augmented by weekly protests from schoolchildren, the amorphous Extinction Rebellion marchers blocking city centres. All culminating in Parliament declaring formally that there was a Climate Emergency that required Net Zero Emissions within thirty years.
During last month’s General Election every single political party that had MPs elected committed to increasingly dramatically the number of homes, the number of businesses, the number of public buildings, in which extra energy saving measures would be urgently installed. Acknowledging the unprecedented interest, Channel 4 even hosted a 60 minute prime time debate amongst party leaders devoted exclusively to practical measures for combatting the threat of climate change.
Simultaneously, political leaders and climate diplomats from across the world were meeting in Madrid for a fortnight of talks, called COP25, amid a growing sense of crisis. It began with UN secretary general António Guterres announcing that the climate crisis was imminent and political leaders had to respond.
Back in 2016 the Paris Agreement had been signed by every government. It had been agreed that, to stabilise the climate, temperatures in 2030 had to be no more than 2 degrees higher than in 1990. To achieve this minimum goal, greenhouse gas emissions should already be falling by at least 3% every single year. But that wasn’t happening. The previous year (2018) these emission hadn’t dropped at all. Instead they had increased by some 2%.
Guterres warned: “In the crucial 12 months ahead, it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments – particularly from the main emitters – to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050….the point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling toward us”.
Guterres stated that the world had the scientific knowledge and the technical means to limit global warming, but “what is lacking is political will .Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon. Taxing pollution instead of people.”
The talks were held in Madrid, a last-minute decision. Spanish environment minister Teresa Ribera explained that Spain’s decision to host the talks was essential to prevent the collapse in international climate efforts: “We couldn’t have the risk that the conference didn’t take place at a critical moment, and risk the implosion of the whole system to deal with climate change.“
A coalition of small island states issued an impassioned plea to the industrialised world. “We see [these talks] as the last opportunity to take decisive action,” said Janine Felson, deputy chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), adding: “Anything short of vastly greater commitment to emission reduction, a new climate finance goal and tangible support for disaster risk reduction will signal a willingness to accept catastrophe.”
Closing the conference, the new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, stated that in March 2020 she will formally propose a new climate law committing all 27 member governments of the European Union to zero carbon emissions by 2050. She committed to halving the bloc’s emissions by 2030.
She plans to extend her flagship policy, the European emissions trading scheme (EU:ETS), to cover the maritime sector and road transport, plus reducing free allowances currently available for aircraft. Her intention is to shift 75% of fossil fuel road transport to other means, deploying alternative infrastructure like railways and non-fossil fuels.
Above all, the centrepiece of her administration will be a Green New Deal, which will radically improve the energy performance of Europe’s 300 million buildings over the next decade.
On November 9 the UK Government will begin hosting the next international climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow. Given this background, be in no doubt that the Prime Minster will need to have the track record to justify “strutting his stuff” . Demonstrating how the UK has introduced a range of effective new world-leading policies. And that many of these will be delivering so many more energy saving investments than today. I feel very comfortable with my optimism.