Friday, August 1, 2008

Setbacks in UK

Britain suffered two blows to its climate change credentials today. It looks as if the proposed acquisition of British Energy by the French government-controlled EDF will not go through, leaving a hole in the UK government’s energy plans. British Energy operates eight nuclear power stations in the UK, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity, but several of these need decommissioning over the next few years. The sites of most of these reactors are also on the shortlist for new nuclear power stations, so EDF’s experience (France produces over 70% of its electricity from nuclear sources) would have been very useful in modernizing the UK’s nuclear energy industry.

Meanwhile the government has also got some not entirely warranted bad press concerning its progress on greenhouse gas emissions. It claims a 13% reduction in emission relative to 1990 levels, which puts it well on track to satisfy its Kyoto commitments, but a report by York University suggest that in fact emissions have increased by 13% if the effects of aviation, shipping, and imports are included. Aviation and shipping were excluded from the Kyoto agreement for a number of reasons, while emissions from manufacturing accrue to the manufacturing country rather than the consuming one. Globalization has moved a lot of manufacturing to developing countries, and the associated emissions move with it, thereby making the developed world’s progress seem better than it is. (In addition, industry in the developing world is often less efficient, while transporting these goods around the world adds still more emissions.)

In the UK government’s defense it should I think be pointed out that they are no different from other developed countries in this regard, and that they are merely reporting progress against the yardstick agreed in Kyoto. This progress is I believe better than that of most other developed countries. The government also points out that the report was in fact commissioned by them to point out the problem with that yardstick. Hopefully, 2012 will see a better replacement for Kyoto.

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