It’s entirely possible the switch to net zero is not possible by 2030 (or even 2040). It’s also possible we’ve already hit a climate tipping point, or will soon (i.e. before net zero). I’m not feeling hopeful at the moment.
Meanwhile, the country that emits 30 times more CO2 than the UK will likely miss the date they have previously set for peak coal consumption.
The world’s largest energy consumer, China will increase its coal consumption until 2026 and will only record declines after 2027 as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy take a larger share of power generation, according to a report from researcher Rystad Energy.
China’s rapid additions of new coal-fired power plants and its lack of a coal phase-out plan are responsible for it falling behind the Paris Agreement pace, despite the country’s record buildout of renewable energy, according to a report released by Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute on Tuesday.
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Something tells me the 2026 date will also be pushed out when we get closer to that year. But even if 2026 is accurate, that is only the year of maximum coal consumption. China will still burn huge amounts of coal, and if they reduce usage by, say, 1% per year, that really doesn’t help things much. The Keeling curve is still on track to go up and up.
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If Sunak = Chamberlain, then who does that make Xi Jinping?
2022 CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion
United Kingdom 344.6 million tonnes
China 10,550.2 million tonnes
Professor Sir Dieter Helm: Well, there are two reasons at play here. The first is that transforming an economy which is overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels to one that going to be net zero by 2050 and indeed the power sector, the electricity sector is supposed to be completely net zero by 2035 in thirteen years is a massive task. And it’s quite naïve to believe that something on this scale could be done other than at considerable cost. We should do it, but it’s going to be expensive. And then there’s the particular issue which comes up now. Yes, gas prices have risen, but there’s a fundamental question as to why the rise in gas prices globally has hit the UK so badly and part of that is because we are extremely reliant on gas to back up the intermittent renewables, particularly the wind, and we haven’t thought through how to do the back-up bit, the security of supply bit, while we’ve been at the same time pursuing decarbonisation.
BBC: So that’s why you’re not convinced, then, that even when this spike in gas prices on the wholesale market is done with, our energy bills will be cheaper?
DH: There’s a juggernaut of cost to come, even if gas prices fall back, and there’s no certainty they will, but they might. And if you look at that juggernaut, you can already see it in your bills. £250 is going just on the legacy costs for those renewables in the past, and there’s a lot more of those subsidies and supports to come. And we’ve got to find other ways of doing this and, I’m afraid, more expensive ones.
BBC: You believe we’ve been peddled some myths about renewables paying for themselves, even maybe working out cheaper in the long run.
DH: They may well work out cheaper in the long run, but as the famous economist Maynard Keynes once said, in the long run we’re all dead.
Aside from more honesty in telling people what is involved for the net zero goals, I think it was more a result of pushback from the peons. You know, consent of the governed and all that.
Sunak said “If we continue down this path, we risk losing the consent of the British people and the resulting backlash would not just be against specific policies, but against the wider mission itself”
Which is the purpose of having elections in a representative form of government.
consent of the governed:
A political theory in which a government or set of governments could only be deemed legitimate if it is supported by the people under which it exercises its political influence.
By all estimates, the cost of doing nothing is much higher than the cost of going to net-zero. The political challenge is that the people paying for the transition are not the same people paying for climate damage. First, there is the generational divide - people alive today pay for net-zero while our children and grandchildren see the savings. Second, some industries and individuals, hello fossil fuel companies and coal miners, and will be hurt by the transition and others, wind, solar, EV makers, will benefit.
So the PM dials back carbon emissions reduction, because the Torys want to be re-elected, while the First Minister says the Scottish government will continue to pursue net zero because they want to be re-elected.
As with all modeling, the results are highly dependent upon the assumptions for the future. This includes both climate and economic models. As an obvious example, the Climate Change Committee (an official advisory body) in the UK reported to Parliament a number of years ago on the cost of net-zero. In it they assumed the cost of an EV in 2021 would fall to £13,000. Currently, EVs cost from £22K up to £157K.