Nina Skorupska is chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association source
First do no harm
Sitting on the board of Women in Science and Engineering, it’s been my passionate hope that we can inspire a new generation of young women to take on the mantle and find solutions to the biggest problem we face in the world-climate change. Yet I never thought a 16 year old girl with her simple, clear and no holds barred message would inspire me so much in return. On the other end of the scale, a 92 year old is hoping to do for climate change what he did for the plastics debate over a year ago.
In between those, we have seen thousands of protestors of all ages take to the streets and slowly demand the attention of the media and politicians. They have turned up to say “enough is enough”. This past month could be seen in the future as a turning point for this country, who were ahead of the game internationally ten years ago, but have started to lag behind as supportive government policies slowly disappear one by one.
That is not to say the government cannot point to a good record; some inherited, some despite their action. However, the banning of coal, the early adoption of banning petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and the offshore wind deal are all significant in their own right. Yet we need to see much more.
The solutions are simultaneously simple and complex. Greta’s words are stark and binary, and Extinction Rebellion’s messages about overthrowing capitalism are uncomfortable to the very people we need to convince. Put simply, at the REA we are convinced we can have a greener, cleaner and cheaper energy future within a market based economy, but this must be coupled with an imperative to see urgent action now.
“Heat, transport, agriculture and aviation are going to be much more difficult, and we don’t have all the answers.”
Yet we should be wary of the hype of politicians or campaigners who think there is a silver bullet or the need for a revolution. Many of the answers lie in having a different way of thinking, not a revolution but an accelerated evolution. We have already changed the electricity market, from below 5% of the grid, to well over 30% renewable power in under a decade. Solar and wind are now the cheapest forms of new power generation, but we still face many entrenched people resisting this change.
Heat, transport, agriculture and aviation are going to be much more difficult, and we don’t have all the answers. Following the Committee on Climate Change’s new guidance, it is a given we need to introduce new proactive policy that can bridge the void that is government policy post 2020, and should act on the CCC recommendations. As equally important though, is the need to stop cross government policies that are having a negative impact. We can see this in housing policy, building a new generation of homes that aren’t fit for the future, in transport we are still obsessed with new runways, yet not even a percentage of that infrastructure spend is earmarked for the development of advanced fuels for those planes. Every government decision should be held to a simple question, is this helping or hindering our climate targets? If the golden rule of medicine is ‘first do no harm’, we need a similar dictum to be the basis of any declaration of a climate emergency.