Today’s announcement by Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made no meaningful commitment to phase out coal.
A full and fast phase out of coal fired power stations is needed in order to reach climate change targets and protect communities at home and abroad from the damages of opencasting and other mining practices. This needs to be backed up with legislation and a legally binding ban on opencast coal mining in the UK.
CAN did however agree with some elements of the announcement, (available on https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amber-rudds-speech-on-a-new-direction-for-uk-energy-policy) however we did not agree with many of the conclusions she reached.
Amber Rudd said, “it cannot be satisfactory for an advanced economy like the UK to be relying on polluting, carbon intensive 50-year-old coal-fired power stations.” CAN agrees, lets phase them out quickly.
“To set an example to the rest of the world, the UK also has to focus on where we can get the biggest carbon cuts, swiftly and cheaply. That is hard to do when, after 20 years of action on climate change, 30% of our electricity still comes from unabated coal.” We agree entirely, lets take decisive by ending our coal addiction.
“One of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal fired power stations..” Exactly, but not with gas, as she suggests, as it is another unsustainable fuel.
“For centuries coal has played a central role in our energy system. But it’s the most carbon intensive fossil fuel and damages air quality. […] Unabated coal is simply not sustainable in the longer term.” It really isn’t.
She goes on to say, “So I want to take action now.” Then why wait until 2025 to phase coal out? Lets act now and stop emissions from coal in a far shorter time scale.
“Our consultation will set out proposals to close coal by 2025 – and restrict its use from 2023.” Waiting ten years while we continue to burn coal is not an option, we simply do not have that amount of time available before we take action on climate change. We need to stop putting our desires for electricity over the rights of the people living in coalfields, the ecosystems which exists in these areas or a liveable climate.
“If we take this step, we will be one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to take coal off the system.” Great, lets take this step and make it mean something, lets do it quickly and thoroughly.
“We must develop technologies that are both cheap and green […] Of course, one of the best ways to cut bills and cut carbon is to cut energy use itself. That’s why energy efficiency is so important.” The UK needs a wholesale rethink of its energy system, which must move away from our reliance on damaging extraction processes and the relentless exploitation of finite resources. This change must be founded on the principles of serious reduction in demand for and production of energy.
The announcement falls far short of the needed decisive action on climate change and to protect communities. The decisions this government makes have far reaching implications both in the countries which supply our coal, Russia, Colombia and the USA in particular, and for those most affected by climate change. CAN will be lobbying for a far tighter time scale and a meaningful phase out combined with a ban on opencast coal mining in the UK.