UK Leader Endorses Ambitious Carbon Reduction Goals

by William Yeatman on March 4, 2003

in Blog

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has thrown his support behind a government plan that would severely restrict greenhouse gas emissions, require large increases in the use of renewable energy, and block any further construction of nuclear power plants. The plan, which was set out in a white paper policy document released by the government on Feb. 24, was hailed by the prime minister as a “step change in the UKs energy strategy over the next 50 years.”

The plan calls for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 60 percent by the year 2050. The massive reductions would to take place without the aid of nuclear power and would rely heavily on building renewable energy capacity as well as energy efficiency. The plan calls for a large increase in renewable energy production, requiring that 20 percent of the nations energy be produced from renewable sources by 2020.

In a speech endorsing the plan, Blair claimed that the technology is available to make the steep reductions in CO2 emissions without hurting economic growth. He also stated that, “It is clear Kyoto is not radical enough” and that he will “continue to make the case to the U.S. and to others that climate change is a serious threat that we must address together as an international community.”

The Financial Times criticized Mr. Blair in a Feb. 25 editorial, stating that, “Having fixed the end, he has not willed the means.” It goes on to say that the white paper “opens a necessary debate on the conflict between energy and the environment but does not provide an answer on how to combine them.” The editorial noted that a Downing Street document published last year said that, “It would be unwise for the UK now to take a unilateral decision to meet the [60 percent] target in advance of international negotiations on longer-term targets.”

It concludes that, “Eventually, the government will have to temper its moral passion for renewables with certain realities,” namely with “awareness that renewable energies can never be a complete solution, because most of them do not work on calm or cloudy days. If avoiding carbon emissions is the priority, this is better performed by nuclear reactors than anything else.”

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