Emerging #1

July 1st, 2020

So, how many of us were actually aware of Boris Johnson’s speech yesterday, promising to ‘build back greener’….? It was so hyped and when it actually happened was full of hot air, avoiding the crucial green issue, focussing more on build, build, build – in the old, destructive way….

How on earth (apt pun…) does our government think it’s/we’re going to meet zero-emissions targets?

I’ve written to Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, (even though he may not be in office for much longer…?), blind-copied in to my ‘friend’ at the Committee on Climate Change Chris Stark….

An extra blow is that the ‘New Deal’ speech came hard on the heels of a report by Green Alliance, saying that an extra £14bn a year is needed to help the UK meet its climate commitments. The cash is needed for clean transport, nature restoration, and low-carbon buildings.

On the subject of transport, I noticed charging points for electric cars in a Bristol park yesterday (on a socially distanced walk with family – that bit was lovely!) – a great initiative by Bristol City Council, but pointless if people aren’t helped to buy electric cars….

National government is letting us down…

A new poll has revealed that only 6% of the public want to return to the same type of economy as before the coronavirus pandemic. Trade unions, business groups and religious & civic leaders are uniting in calling for a fairer financial recovery, the ‘Build Back Better’ campaign. They include former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake (my daughter in law’s former boss!) and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. 

My husband cynically commented that the 6% who want to return to the ‘bad old days’ are unfortunately all in Government…

They’re all we’ve got at the moment, though – we have to keep trying to make them listen.

I really hope we’re not just knocking our heads against a brick wall…

Now I’m going to return to the subject of oil.

‘Europe could face a major shortage of oil within decade’ reads a Guardian headline recently. Mm, I remember hearing about ‘peak oil’ years ago; and in the early days of this blog (June 25th, 2019) I referred to Bob Dudley (then BP’s CEO) admitting the world is on an unsustainable path…Now,  ‘the move to increase the use of low carbon energy is even more urgent’…

The emphasis of the article, by Jillian Ambrose, is on production, supply and market prices, all business factors affected by coronavirus; but an environmental conclusion can be drawn – as Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis at Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy, said the forecasts offer “yet another reason” for economies to reduce their reliance on oil. 

There is no simple solution, of course. The transition to green economies is a challenge; but at least there now seems to be a consensus that this change is necessary – among so many, including the business and finance ‘worlds’. Our government still hasn’t got the message, though, it seems….

Aberdeen, the centre of the oil and gas industry in Europe, is an example of the challenges of the transition time. Jonathan Watts has written a very interesting article (in the Guardian, of course).

‘Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, thousands of oil workers have been laid off in the Scottish city. The pandemic looks likely to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy, raising hopes for a greener future but also throwing up huge concerns about intergenerational injustice. Without government intervention, the young look set to take a double hit from the post-lockdown economic downturn and the energy transition. No age group is immune to the shift, but those closer to retirement are more likely to have a nest egg saved up from the golden era of North Sea oil.’

The article goes on to quote several oil workers, both old and young, with an impressively positive attitude – “I would advise anyone entering the industry to focus on developing experience and expertise in areas that are CO2-neutral, because that is the future”, from one who sees the only growth areas in Aberdeen as decommissioning old rigs and offshore wind energy; and “if they could help me with training as a wind turbine technician, that would give me an extra chance.”

The Scottish government has gone further, apparently, than the rest of the UK in preparing its economy and workforce for a shift to renewables (why am I not surprised…?).

Rachel McEwen, part of the Just Transition commission and also chief sustainability officer at SSE, one of Scotland’s leading companies, said: “Companies like us have pinned our whole being on finding profitable solutions to climate change. If that transition is unfair, you delegitimise it. So we have an interest in ensuring it is done in a thoughtful and just way.”

I really hope these are not just words… And Colette Cohen goes even further… she is the CEO of the Oil and Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen – despite that off-putting title, she claims to believe in a green future. “From industry perspective and from government connections, I would say the only recovery is a green recovery. A lot of people have seen a better world and want a change. It’s very exciting. It’s an amazing time to be involved in energy and technology.”

I really want to believe her! 

I’ve written to her. 

Another piece of good news – the US shale gas giant Chesapeake Energy has collapsed.

And France has been swept by a green wave – ecology candidates won a number of major victories in the country’s local elections. Anne Hidalgo in Paris said voters had chosen to make Paris more “ecological, social and humanist”. Lyon, France’s third largest city (and home to some of my relatives – bonjour to you all!), also choosing a Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) candidate.

Back home, our only Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, bravely battles on. She is supporting a new National Nature Service – it will train and employ people to restore nature as we rebuild from the Covid-19 crisis. Please, all of you, help convince the Government to take this forward by pledging your support – just visit nationalnatureservice.org and submit your support. It’s a lovely green form!

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