Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tackling Climate Change

The second guest speaker at GC was the Labour MP for Llanelli, Nia Griffiths, on the very topical subject of “Energy policy”. Nia is the PPS to Phil Woolas, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Nia pointed out the huge challenge that the government has to face. It has agreed to reduce present day emissions by 60% in 2050 when at the same time it is estimated that unless something is done there will be a 130% rise in C02 by 2050.

Internationally, despite being a very dirty fuel “Coal is still King” and is likely to be so for the next 20-25 years. So there will have to more work on Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS). This is where the carbon waste from burning fossil fuels is stopped from being released into the environment and stored. The new Energy bill is split into four main parts – CCS, Nuclear waste, Renewable Obligations Certificates (ROC) which will see a shift of emphasis away from wind to other renewables and finally Gas infrastructure.

Nia said that the emotive subject of Bio-fuels is complicated. There is good and bad issues. It is the sustainability of sources that is key. Using waste wood that would otherwise be dumped to burn alongside coal in power stations is one thing. While displacing food crops is wrong and a serious moral issue.

She also pointed out that the public subsidies (up to 50%) for solar panels and wind turbines are being exploited by the “better off”. Those who suffer most from fuel poverty have little or no chance of putting up solar panels on their roof.

Since the collapse of high energy prices in the early 1980’s there had been a lack of interest in alternative energy, which has only now ended with the new hikes in prices. There has been decades of research to make up for as well as the massive underinvestment in power stations by the privatised utilities.

At the end, there was a question about Nuclear energy. Nia said that the decision has to be taken by the electric companies whether or not to bid to build nuclear power stations. The government had made it clear that for the first time these bids would have to include the cost of dealing with waste and dismantling the stations at the end of their working lives. They may well decide not to bid. In Sweden, where they are embarking on a nuclear programme, the new power station they are building has run into serious problems with delays and cost overruns.

After Nia, we even had a Parliamentary report from our local MP, Lyn Brown.


Anonymous said...

Solar panels are being exploited by the better off? Er.. how long has the Government been in power? Is there nothing that you accept any responsibility for? What have you done for the poverty levels in ten years? A bit less spent on Prescott's mock tudor panels for his house and a bit more on the burning issues of the day would be good...oh yeah and who led us into the Iraq war? This Governemtn has been "owned" by the electorate.

Tom said...

Sounds interesting.

It will be interesting to see how the union right adapts itself to this issue for the next couple of decades... must it really be jobs vs sustainability?

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
I suppose Climate change is the "burning issue of the day".

John Gray said...

Hi Tom
Apologies for not responding sooner – Yes, I think that the unions (left and right!) must address this question. I suspect that no matter how “green” unions say there, I think that I can guess what the response will be if jobs are “at risk”.

Anonymous said...

Did you attend the fringe meeting at National Delegate Conference on the role of trade union reps in tackling climate change?
As I don't recall seeing you there - lot of info out within UNISON, BUT needs political will to support it....

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
No I didn’t go to that fringe. I am a bit of a fringe junkie and would have loved to have gone to all the conference fringes but alas this is just not possible.

You are 100% right about the need for "political will" over climate change. I just don’t think it is there.