Maitland Green: Our weekly update – 11 January 2018
Today, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan, which has laid out ambitious plans for improving and protecting the quality of the natural environment. Plans for reducing plastics waste, supporting the country’s oceans, and an outline of how the Government will achieve a Green Brexit after leaving the EU featured. Maitland Green has done an analysis of the key points of the plan, available for download here.
This week, for the first time, most of the UK’s energy has been calculated to be low carbon, as Britain generated more electricity from renewable and nuclear energy in 2017 than from gas and coal. A long-promised ban on microbeads also came into force this week, seeing the manufacture of products containing microbeads halted from Tuesday, with a ban on the sales of such products to come in July. Theresa May has also announced that the popular 5p plastic bag levy will also be extended to small shops—retailers with under 250 employees—to help combat what she describes as Britain’s “throwaway culture”. In analysis of the week, we look at what the prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle means for energy, climate change, and environmental issues in the UK, alongside commentary from the UK’s biggest green leaders on the Government’s environment plan.
Last year was found to be the second hottest recorded year globally, coming directly after 2016’s record-breaking heat. The Copernicus Climate Change Service, the first major international weather agency to report the news said temperatures averaged 14.7 ⁰C (58.46⁰F) at the Earth’s surface – 1.2⁰C (2.2F) above pre-industrial times. Last year also saw a record $306bn spent on weather and climate-related disasters by the United States. As the facts of climate change continue to stack up, President Trump has recently suggested that the US could enter back into the Paris Climate Agreement. The country is also pushing back against the president’s efforts to revive its struggling coal industry, as US energy secretary Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize uncompetitive coal and nuclear plants has been rejected by regulators.
Looking towards the future, the global offshore wind market is set to grow six-fold by 2030, reaching a cumulative capacity of 115 gigawatts compared with 17.6 gigawatts today. The UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and China will push installations forward, with Taiwan and the US jumping on board as well in the next decade. In India, transport minister Nitin Gadkari, announced his staunch support for electric vehicles to Indian carmakers as India prepares for all of its cars to be electric by 2030, saying “I am going to do this, whether you like it or not. And I am not going to ask you. I will bulldoze it.”
- The Government has released its 25-year environment plan with an aim to reduce plastic waste.
- It has been calculated that, for the first time, most of Britain’s electricity in 2017 was low carbon.
- A UN backed committee on Aarhus compliance has confirmed it is considering whether the UK’s Brexit bill may have broken international environment law.
- The UK government have laid out plans to shut down coal plants by 2025.
- The UK’s plastic bag charge is set to be extended to small shops.
- MPs have called for a 25p charge on takeaway coffee cups – ahead of a possible ban.
- Meanwhile, a ban on plastic microbeads has entered force.
- The carbon footprint of Scottish households has fallen by 25% since 2009, according to WWF Scotland.
- UK car sales have seen their first drop for six years.
- New onshore oil and gas wells have dropped to a 50-year low.
- Celtic Renewables, a pioneering biofuel company, have announced plans to run cars on whisky industry waste.
- President Donald Trump has suggested that the US could “conceivably” return to the Paris Agreement if a deal were agreed to treat America more fairly.
- The global offshore wind market is set to grow six-fold by 2030.
- It has been estimated that weather and climate-related disasters in 2017 cost the US $306 billion.
- India has announced an ambitious drive for all its cars to be electric by 2030.
- It has been estimated that, worldwide, 2017 was the second hottest year on record, directly following 2016’s record heat.
- In the US, aCalifornia bill seeks to ban fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2040.
- The explosion in the use of LED bulbshas been estimated to have contributed a reduction of 570 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 – the equivalent to closing more than 160 coal power plants.
- Climate scientists who were exiled by Trump’s administrationhave formed a panel to continue their work.
- Scientists have warned that our oceans are suffocating as ‘dead zones’ quadruple since 1950.
- A plan by US Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, to rescue struggling coal and nuclear plants has been rejectedby regulators.
- Brussels has announced it is considering easing bank capital rules to encourage green investment.
- Norway has installed streetlamps that dim to 20 per cent when there are no cars nearby.
- Last year, more than half of Norway’s new car sales were electric or hybrid models.
- Rising sea temperatures are causing sea turtles to turn female.
Analysis of the Week
In looking forward to a new year, Edie considers how the green economy could be shaped in 2018. It believes major components include a corporate drive to increase disclosure of climate risks, an increase in the demand for low carbon technologies which will continue to “tumble in price”, a “tipping point” for major clean technologies and a “pendulum swing” in global sustainability leadership in the developing world. Edie praises notable achievements in the UK this past year including record renewable generation figures, the first subsidy-free solar farm and an ever-growing uptake of electric vehicles. It also praises an “extraordinary year” globally, which saw: “a sustainable business case for the future become real. Prices and costs have come crashing down and now there is a positive business case to be made without subsidies in many cases for renewable technologies, including better infrastructure in buildings and so on.” The article concludes that 2018 will likely build on this momentum. Edie singles out China in particular, which has confirmed plans to phase-out diesel vehicles and committed to spending $363bn on renewable power capacity by 2020, as a possible leader in sustainability in the coming year.
Comment of the Week
PM speech & 25 Year Environment Plan: The green economy reacts – BusinessGreen
BusinessGreen collected the highlights across UK green leader commentary to the Prime Minister’s environmental speech and to the Government’s 25-year environment plan, with businesses, charities, and politicians sharing their view. On the plan itself, Environment Secretary Michael Gove noted that it “sets out how over the next 25 years we will radically reduce the waste that is choking oceans and rivers, cleanse our air of toxic pollutants and create new habitats for our most precious wildlife to thrive,” ensuring that the UK builds on its reputation as a global environmental leader. Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, welcomed the speech as “a step forward”, but called for more “concrete legislation” to be put forth to ensure ambitious ideas are translated into law. Unilever UK & Ireland welcomed the launch of the plan as well, noting its support for a new plastics economy. Matthew Farrow, executive director of the Environmental Industries Commission said “Prime Ministerial speeches on the environment are an endangered species, so it is very welcome to hear Theresa May emphasise the crucial importance of the environment, the number of green jobs, the interdependence of economic growth and environmental progress, and the scourge of plastic waste.” Tanya Steele, the CEO of WWF, echoed Caroline Lucas’s concerns about the plan’s commitments needing to be “backed by the force of law” but remained hopeful “that the government’s 25 year plan marks a turning point when we start restoring our environment rather than destroying it.”