There is a way for a Labour Britain to be a world leader in zero carbon, to benefit some of the poorest parts of the world and reverse their de-population and emigration, and at the same time to grow our national bank balance and revive serious manufacturing.
Instead of pushing the onus onto individual energy users, this points to government-level solutions. It doesn’t require us to think small, turn out lights, fit solar roof panels, or submit to coercive EPC inspections.
What it does require is for our political leaders to question and abandon our dedication to “home grown” energy sources to replace fossil fuels. We should no more expect to grow our own electricity than to grow our own tea and coffee.
Labour’s Green Manifesto rests heavily on a piecemeal combination of home-grown renewables (such as wind, waves) and home-fitted solar PV power generation that sounds right-on and bottom-up. But these panels have just experienced a two-year market slump after their suppliers and fitters got too greedy. And their technology has for a dozen or so years been overtaken. (see footnote # for technical lowdown)
The “home-grown” assumption has blinkered policymaking from seeing or knowing about (let alone costing and exploring) the far more effective, up and running, large scale and systemic solar technology − Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) − that can be cabled in and imported from the solar farms spreading across the hot sunny south . And it’s available in plenty, right now.
A Labour government could buy into this solar industry that turns the sun from a global-warming enemy to a carbon free friend. This industry, established but still growing, is crying out for partners and investment, both corporate and state, to speed its growth.
A Labour government thinking outside the “local” box and clued-up on CSP could find ways to pitch into CSP ownership or co-ownership, to own and to harvest sun-power to boost our economy and fund Labour’s social programme. It could be a publicly-owned asset from the start, delivered with price incentives to drive a rapid switch from gas and oil.
With the global warming timeline now critical, this could bring forward by several crucial years our carbon-free plans. And the earlier the deals are made, the better the terms we’d get, so we need to get talking now.
The potential results of a Labour Britain buying into solar farms are not only about getting an improved and faster carbon balance sheet. These are some of the win-win spin-offs:
• Investing in industrial solar plants would give us a cheap and plentiful state-owned clean energy source, a key to lifting our whole economy, with proceeds going straight to the Treasury, not to EDF and not to the PV panel hucksters. Cutting household bills would keep cash in people’s pockets, lifting many households out of extreme poverty and creating healthier homes.
• This solar energy could bring down business running costs, drive trains, light our streets, run factories, and heat our schools, public buildings and hospitals. All at a substantial saving to the public purse and the budgets for education, health and local services.
• Historically, solar power could see a re-run of the influence that coal and steam once had in driving our great industrial leap. Abandoned industrial regions could go back to work manufacturing the components and the infrastructure for the solar farms, as well as making and even exporting electric cars and their charging points and batteries.
• Supporting the growing solar industry could also transform northern Africa, which is losing its people to migration, yet is sitting on the prime untapped resource, the “coal of the future”, sufficient to power the continent and be exported to Europe, offering good jobs in solar farm set-up and maintenance. An industry handout says “These barren wastelands boast some of the world’s highest solar levels and offer sufficient availability of land. Their governments and financial and development institutions are actively promoting the development of solar capacity, and … there are dreams of powering entire remote continents through the solar harvests of Africa’s deserts.”
• Labour’s Energy Manifesto refers to a “fully integrated scheme of co-production” with “the countries in the Global South”. Another CSP source says: “Fully realising the true potential will need visionary governments, courageous development finance institutions, pioneering investors and experienced developers and the right platforms for these parties to meet, share ideas and form effective partnerships.” https://bit.ly/2T2ljBX
• Internationally funded climate change projects in Africa could include beneficial carbon-negative works of water de-salination and irrigation, enabling new-growing trees that soak up atmospheric carbon, with underplanting that can restore productive soils for communities and wildlife. Trees.org lead in exemplary best practice. Could their work be scaled up to make a bigger difference?
British government-led investment could speed up CSP and help to put it centre stage. We could not just be “doing our bit” on our one small island but might gain a voice on the international climate change stage, help against powerful fossil fuel lobbies, and point the way for others. Few major economies on the planet are beyond cabling distance from a blistering hot desert getting hotter by the year.
Solar PV (Photovoltaic) panels use light to produce power directly, stored and transferred via batteries. PV for UK home fitting is commercially viable, but is weather-dependent in our latitude. The companies that supply and fit the panels take a continuing cut from the users’ energy bills. Some even demand part-ownership of the roof.
Concentrating solar power (CSP) uses heat in hot, cloudless places nearer the Equator with reliable year-round long sunny days. Its mirrors concentrate the sun’s heat to boil water, and the steam drives a turbine to generate electricity that can be transported by cable across land or sea and fed into a national or international grid. So Britain can’t make it but can be a consumer, and could also buy into its production.
Land-dwelling wildlife species have declined by 40% since 1970.
Marine animal populations have fallen by 40% overall.
Birds populations have been reduced by about 20-25%.
Freshwater animal populations have plummeted by 75% since 1970.
Insect populations have also declined dramatically. In Germany alone, insects have declined by 75% in the last 30 years.
Almost fifty percent of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years.
We need to do better. That is why Earth Day Network is undertaking a campaign to elevate understanding and foster action to stop the decimation of species around the globe.
by Rebecca Newsom and Rosie Rogers (Greenpeace)
Here is our analysis of the good, the bad and the missing aspects of the Labour Party’s most recent manifesto commitments in relation to climate change and the environment.
Energy and climate: Highlights include “aiming for 60% of the UK’s energy to come from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030”, “insulating 4 million homes” to make them more energy efficient and banning fracking.
Air pollution and transport: a commitment to a Clean Air Act, electrifying our railways and investing in electric vehicles.
Oceans: a commitment to prioritise money for farming and fishing that is small scale and sustainable and a promise to safeguard the habitats and species in the seas and oceans in a ‘blue belt’ around the UK and its overseas territories.
Nature: luckily for our bees, there is a clear policy from Labour to “protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids”. There are also strong statements to protect our environment by promising to “plant a million trees” and promote and protect animal welfare.
International climate leadership: a commitment to the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement.
Peace: it’s good to see policies such as “publish a strategy for protecting civilians in conflict” and “lead multilateral efforts with international partners and the UN to create a nuclear-free world.”
Overall: good policies on issues ranging from sustainable fishing, to tackling plastic pollution, a sustainable energy system, air pollution and defence of the Paris Agreement.
Continue to promote North Sea oil and gas: of course we need a transition from oil and gas to sustainable energy, but this policy sends the wrong signals to the industries. Labour should be moving away from dirty, old fossil fuels towards backing the thriving offshore wind and smart technology, which could deliver thousands of new skilled jobs.
Continue to support further nuclear projects across the UK: this makes no environmental or economic sense, given the absurdly expensive costs of nuclear technology, in contrast to the dramatically falling costs of safe and secure renewable alternatives.
Cautious support for expanded airport capacity in the South East: Expansion anywhere is incompatible with our climate change commitments. It is promising, however, that Labour has guaranteed that any airport expansion must adhere to tests on noise pollution, air quality and climate change
Support the renewal of the Trident weapon system – Nuclear weapons are incompatible with a green and peaceful world. There are 196 countries in this world and only 8 have nuclear weapons. We promised the international community we would negotiate ours away. It’s a promise we need to keep.
Devil in the detail: what’s really missing is proper detail on the policies Labour would adopt to deliver their environmental vision. Some of this detail is clearer for energy, which is fantastic. However, it’s not quite clear how Labour plans to do things like “invest in rural and coastal communities” and “safeguard habitats and marine species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and ocean. More detail on how Labour plan to do things like this could make or break their policies on our natural world and the creatures in it. For example, does “guiding targets for plastic bottle schemes” mean introducing a deposit return scheme with ambitious targets; does safeguarding habitats mean matching the current Government’s commitments to 127 marine protected areas, or even going beyond? Equally, it’s great that Labour promise to “guarantee the protection and advancement of environmental quality standards”, however it’s unclear how they will do this, especially in a post Brexit world.
Diesel: when it comes to air pollution, Labour’s manifesto is disappointingly weak on plans to tackle the root of the problem: diesel. We know that toxic emissions from diesel vehicles are a large cause of the air pollution on our roads, but the manifesto fails to recognise this, or outline substantial measures to address it, like revising Vehicle Excise Duty for new diesel cars. While more investment in electric vehicles is vital, it is also unclear how much Labour is prepared to put into this.
New discoveries in Spain have shown that the Neanderthals were not stupid.