A big trap, with a sign saying “It’s a trap”, but some still can’t resist it.

11th May 2020

 

The Committee on Climate Change, which I voted to set up and respect their work, wrote to the Government last week to persuade them to follow a ‘Green Recovery’ path out of our current economic depths. They are right to do so. But let’s not charge forward wearing our sack cloths, as the guilt-ridden founder of the Industrial Revolution. To do so risks falling into a trap, a big trap, indeed a trap so big it has a sign outside saying ‘It’s a trap’.

The UK’s current contribution to global emissions is around 1 per cent and we have been reducing our GHG emissions. Other countries emit considerably more, on an increasing basis and as a result, are harming the planet more. Should this stop us doing our bit to reduce GHGs, no, absolutely not. But it should make us recognise that reductions that disadvantage the UK for doing our bit, while others don’t, is not a smart response to the global challenge.

If we simply end up exporting energy-intensive industry to meet climate change targets, we will have fallen into that trap. We lose out economically, jobs lost, incomes down, tax revenues lower and the balance of trade worsens whilst we import those items made overseas, probably manufactured under less stringent environmental standards. It would be madness.

So our climate solutions – if you like the ‘New Green Deal’ – should be based on how we adapt to keep these industries. They will need high grade heat, if methane is off the table, then hydrogen is the only option. The Environmental Audit Committee has just launched an inquiry into the hydrogen economy. Let’s spell out to them what a future pathway looks like. Hydrogen for industry, using the gas networks to deliver it, would also allow for use in shops, offices, and homes. Vehicles would then also get easy access.

Some commentators have suggested hydrogen will not be the heat source for 100 per cent of UK homes, I agree. It won’t. But if we recognise that it will for 80 per cent or more, then at least that consensus can help shape the UK’s energy policy.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO