As the latest Conference of the Parties is in full swing at Sharm El-Sheikh the global heating crisis continues to confound world leaders. The inconvenient truth highlighted as the COP 27 opens is that there is a widespread scientific consensus we are going to miss the 1.5 °C target. A target has shaped climate policy across the globe. So why should we in Scotland be concerned?
The 1.5 °C target was adopted in 2015 in the Paris Agreement. This agreement sought to coordinate national efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases so that the overall global temperature increase would be 1.5 °C. It now seems that these same countries have been unable to cut their emissions leading to more frequent catastrophic climate events. Climate related disasters are proliferating, Pakistan inundated by this summer’s unusually intense monsoon, Florida had its deadliest hurricane in September, the 2022 heatwave in Europe. These climate events cause enormous economic damage, wreck infrastructure and sap national productivity. These events affect all of us.
According to The Economist, cutting global emissions will require much more money than the current $1tn a year we spend presently. They estimate that we should be spending three times this amount to see serious progress in limiting rising temperatures.
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was initially too busy to go to the COP27 meeting. He had too many domestic issues to attend to. Apparently he now has space in his diary for the most pressing issue facing humanity. After a volte- face, he now is claiming the clean energy world leader accolade as the COP27 opens. Sunak claims he is uniquely placed to ‘’galvanise’’ world leaders to save the planet. We shall see.
The Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, claimed in yesterday’s Observer that Sunak was ‘’a fossil fuel prime minister in a renewable age’’.
Scotland’s potential contribution to the fight
The big question for us is what can we do about this issue? How can we as citizens of a small country on the Northern edge of Europe contribute to finding a global solution to this most pressing of issues?
One contribution we could make to limiting global heating is taking action to decarbonise our electricity supply. This means moving to wind and solar power. We all know we live in a windy country with much potential to generate clean, renewable electricity. Let’s turn that to our advantage. We need to invest in local wind, solar and hydro schemes that will reduce our carbon emissions whilst providing electricity at a price people can afford. We need to quickly establish a series of local grids that work for the benefit of our communities, not for the financial gain of corporate players which is currently the case through the National Grid UK.
John Pettigrew is the CEO of National Grid UK. He is a corporate player. On the internet it says of him that ‘’Through his leadership of the Group Executive Committee, he demonstrates commitment to safety, operational and financial performance’’
He draws a salary of a mere £5.322m per year. I leave you to decide if you think this is an outrageous amount of money. A sum of this size could pay for a lot of home insulation where it is badly needed to reduce our energy consumption.
The current electricity market works against microgeneration of renewables. People with solar panels on their roofs who want to sell their electricity to the grid can command a price for their electricity of around £0.03-£0.05p/kWh according to the Energy Savings Trust. The national average price of electricity in the UK (October 2022) for customers buying from the National Grid is £0.34/kWh. For domestic electricity prices for medium sized consumers, measured in pence/kWh, the UK ranks the tenth highest within the EU.
These prices do not encourage people to invest in renewables.
We need to install batteries to allow households to store the electricity their system makes for their own use. This technology exists. Unfortunately, we are behind the curve on battery manufacturing but if the Prime Minister intends to champion green technologies of the future, he can direct national resources to catching up with China and start manufacturing these products at scale in the UK. Doing so would secure our energy supply as well as make a major contribution to reducing our national Carbon footprint.
Scotland could lead the way in developing and installing renewables on a national scale. This will benefit customers and build national expertise that we could export to other countries that want to develop along this path.
We have the natural resources and the technology we need to do this. All we need now is the political will to invest on a national scale.
Over to you, Rishi, for a little galvanising.
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