David Cameron is addressing the world today at the opening leaders’ event at the Paris COP21 climate conference.
The British Prime Minister has until now remained almost entirely silent on the issue of climate change.
So, where does Britain stand going into these negotiations, and what does it hope to get out of them?
From ‘Hug a Husky’ to ‘Cut the Green Crap’
It seems like just yesterday that Cameron was promoting the Conservative Party as the “greenest government ever”.
But at this year’s Conservative Party Conference in October, neither he nor the head of his Climate and Energy Department, Amber Rudd – both of whom have pledged their commitment to a deal at the upcoming Paris climate talks – mentioned the international negotiations in their speeches.
Instead, the government has been going all out for fracking and nuclear energy. And, of course, it continues to maximise the extraction of oil and gas from the North Sea.
On that note, it’s worth remembering that the UK has provided almost £6bn a year of support during 2013 and 2014 to prop up the fossil fuel industry. The majority of this was tax relief for oil and gas companies operating in the North Sea.
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In addition to offering some of the largest fossil fuel subsidies among the G20 nations, the UK is also actively not pursuing the cheapest forms of clean energy: onshore wind and solar power.
But, credit where credit is due: the government did take the bold and unprecedented step of setting a date for the end of all coal-fired power stations in the UK.
This doesn’t take away though from the fact that the UK also faces the very real possibility that it won’t meet its legally binding renewable energy target for 2020.
Meanwhile, the Department for Energy and Climate Change has quietly downgraded its expectations for each of the low-carbon sources of electricity in its newly revised forecasts. This comes as it increases expectations for new-build gas.
As a government Paris summary recently sent out explains, the UK is “cautiously optimistic” about the negotiations.
This is what they say they’ll be pushing for as an EU member state:
· Ambitious mitigation commitments from all Parties (developed and developing), and a plan to implement them;
· A mechanism to review mitigation ambition every five years to bring Parties back to the table to further reduce emissions in line with a long term goal to keep the world moving towards the below 2°C goal;
· A robust, legally-binding rules framework to ensure transparency and accountability around climate action and to help track progress; and
· Climate finance to support the poorest and most vulnerable countries to take action to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
It also adds: “As part of our committed aid budget, the UK is supporting the poorest and most vulnerable to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. In September, the Prime Minister announced a significant increase in the UK’s climate finance of at least 50%, with a further £5.8 billion over the next 5 years.”
Climate Roles in Doubt
However, budget cuts within government departments are looming and it’s uncertain whether key climate roles will be sticking around after December.
As Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow climate minister, told Climate Home: “The rumours – so we have been told – are they are going to axe the climate posts once the COP [Paris climate summit] is over.”
But climate change will be solved by then anyways, right?
Photo: Number 10 via Flickr