A Climate Emergency
Following months of protests and campaigning the UK Government approved a motion on 1st May 2019 to declare a state of climate emergency.
Though the motion does not legally bind the Government to any specific actions on climate change mitigation, this is certainly a major step towards the eventual decarbonisation of our economy.
The urgency of the crisis gained worldwide attention in October 2018, when the United Nation’s ‘International Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC) issued a stark warning that the world has until 2030 to radically curb climate damaging emissions or face catastrophic consequences.
The subject of climate change was also the focus of a recent documentary film broadcast by the BBC during the Easter Weekend. Titled simply ‘Climate Change – The Facts‘, the film was presented by the world famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who explained the magnitude and urgency of the monumental crisis of our times.
The IPCC report served as a wake up call, galvanising a tidal wave of activism across the globe.
Inspired by the actions of Swedish student Greta Thunberg, students in 2,000 cities across the globe have been engaging in monthly strike action to demand a greater response to the climate crisis from their leaders.
Nearer to home, the grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion (which has a very active Brighton chapter) have been staging headline grabbing stunts; occupying bridges, covering the streets of Whitehall in blood and blocking traffic for days at a time in central London.
One of the key demands of the group was for the Government to ‘admit the truth and declare a climate emergency’. The fact that their actions have achieved such as quick response is not only an indication of the impact that the movement is having, but is also a sign that Government is listening to the public on this issue.
Committing To Zero Emissons
The day after the Government declared a climate emergency, the Committee on Climate Change released a report recommending that the UK adopts a legally binding commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The report outlines some of the major changes to daily life that will be required if these targets are to be met. Some suggestions call for people to eat less meat and dairy, to travel much less by aeroplane and to swap all cars and vans for electric vehicles.
Transitioning To Clean Energy
As you would expect, one of the major pillars of the CCC report is focussed on the need to move away from fossil fuels in our energy supply.
In particular, the report identifies the need to reduce our reliance on gas as a heating source.
Most homes in the UK use mains gas as the primary source of heat, which is incompatible with current climate emissions targets. What we need is to replace gas as a heating supply with electricity, which is much easier to generate from clean, renewable sources as the carbon intensity of our national grid declines.
The technology for this already exists, it is simply a case of implementing it on a nationwide scale.
The price of solar panels has decreased significantly in recent years. Where a typical 4kW system, sufficient to meet the needs of the average household, cost £15,000 in 2010, the equivalent today would be only £5,000, providing real energy security and long term affordable electricity.
Solar power can be used to power air source heat pumps, which extract latent heat in the air and transfer it under pressure through the water in the radiators in your home.
Solar power can also be combined with battery storage, enabling access to renewable energy even when the sun is not shining. BHESCo has already installed a 4kW solar PV system with battery storage for a customer in Brighton for no upfront cost.
The Silver Bullet of Energy Efficiency
In addition to decarbonising the source of our energy, it is just as important for the UK to take measures to reduce the amount of energy that we need to run our homes and businesses by improving the efficiency of our properties.
Remember, the most sustainable type of energy is energy which we don’t use.
The easiest way to increase the amount of heat that is retained in your property is to take action to improve its energy efficiency. The additional benefit of using less energy is that you will pay less for your bill.
Responding to the declaration of a climate emergency and to the report from the Committee on Climate Change, BHESCo’s founder and CEO Kayla Ente said:
We have the technology to make this change, we just need the political will to execute an economically, environmentally sound, long term clean energy strategy.
We are hopeful that the UK Government’s declaration of a climate emergency is more than just hot air and we hope to see bold, ambitious policies launched to decarbonise our society as rapidly as possible.
In the meantime, BHESCo, along with other community energy groups around the country, will continue our work developing community funded clean energy projects which reduce carbon emissions and energy bills at the local level.