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Britain Braces For Green Policy "Fireworks"


Two and a half years ago, the UK committed itself to cutting its emissions by 50 percent (compared to 1990 levels) by 2025. It’s an aggressive goal, going even further than the EU-wide targets of 20 percent emissions reductions by 2020. But Britain’s ministers left themselves an out: if the government’s Climate Change Committee determined that the UK was outpacing the rest of Europe in its emissions-curbing, it could scrap the 2025 targets altogether. That review is almost upon us, scheduled for December, and has already sparked a fiery debate over the country’s green goals. The FT reports:

The crunch comes when the review is carried out. But the skirmishing has already begun, with one government figure predicting a “massive row”. “If the EU is heading south there will be a legitimate case to reopen this,” he said.

Another senior Tory figure told the Financial Times there would be “fireworks” over the issue. “This could be the biggest row over renewables during this parliament,” he said.

“The other EU states haven’t stepped up to the mark and we believe that means the rip cord needs to be pulled on these targets,” said Gareth Stace, head of climate at the [Engineering Employers’ Federation]. “If we go ahead we will be locked into tougher targets than the other members states.”

Green policy suggestions—in this case emissions reductions—rarely bolster economic growth. Instead, they typically burden industries, countries, or trading blocs with higher prices for something, making it more difficult to compete. It’s why the EU has been so hesitant to put in place a carbon market capable of actually incentivizing reductions: Britain, like the rest of Europe, fears that it would lead energy-intensive industries to set up shop in parts of the developing world that don’t have strict emissions rules. They might even decamp to the US, which is currently flush with cheap natural gas.

The UK has some soul-searching to do on its green ambitions in the run-up to December’s review. At the top of the list of questions that need answering: what to do with the UK’s estimated 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas.

[Emissions image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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