Rishi’s Risky Climate Commitments
In the space of a month, Rishi Sunak has gone from promising power for Britain from Britain to handing it over to overseas oil and gas giants. In July, the promotion of Great British Nuclear was announced as a way to try and shake up the energy industry and provide the UK with its own power generation. Now, the focus has shifted to bleeding the planet dry in the North Sea instead.
One of the main issues with nuclear power is that it takes a lot of time and resources to build the infrastructure, even before any power is generated. The UK has decommissioned seven nuclear power stations in the past, and the cost of this rose on a yearly basis, estimated to be £20.5 billion in 2022.
Despite many PMs and MPs announcing new nuclear strategies throughout the years, the plan with Great British Nuclear is to make use of small modular reactors, or SMRs. Grant Shapps believes the body will help provide a quarter of the UK’s electricity from nuclear power by 2050. By providing investment now, it’s hoped that the technology will become cheaper and quicker to build.
Unfortunately for the government, it seems as though they are believing the hype they are trying to push. Greenpeace scientist Dr Doug Parr is astounded that the Conservatives are repeating bold claims that are completely unfounded. SMRs are not a tried and tested technology, much like the carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems that they are also relying on to get to net zero targets.
“By continually obsessing about nuclear, the government is taking its eye off the net zero ball, which will have to be delivered through a predominantly renewable, modern electricity grid. No number of SMRs will fix the government’s lacklustre effort to address issues of delayed connections, smart local grids and home efficiency.”
Dr Doug Parr – Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK
The worry that resources will be diverted from proper net zero infrastructure has been confirmed with Rishi Sunak’s announcement last week about new oil and gas licences in the North Sea. In a move that can only be described as tone deaf, the PM has tried to put the spin on helping with the transitionary period towards net zero. But why does he think Just Stop Oil has been protesting?
In our last Home Energy Survey, the older demographics were more in favour of North Sea drilling, with those aged 73+ most in favour. However, this was still their least preferred option over renewables and nuclear power. They were more in favour of fracking, and even that had a 13% approval rating across all age groups.
Zac Goldsmith, former climate minister, believes the PM is on a losing streak with voters. As a general election is coming up next year, the government needs a compelling reason for voters to keep them in power. Instead of ignoring the pleas for immediate general elections and not listening to what the electorate wants, they should be driving meaningful change rather than wasting resources on unproven technology and different avenues. The PM has been accused of watering down environmental promises and dragging the country away from being a world leader in low carbon technologies and net zero progress.
Unsurprisingly, Rishi’s father-in-law recently signed a billion dollar deal with BP two months ago with Infosys. Now that his family can increase its wealth, Rishi Sunak is abandoning calls for reasonable, sound environmental policies to adopt the Conservative approach of keeping the wealthy wealthy. Infosys also has Shell as a major client, whose CEO only joined the PM’s new business council two weeks ago.
The convenience is only too apparent, despite Rishi Sunak informing us that the UK will still need its own oil and gas supplies. With privatisation at every stage of the energy process, companies have been profiteering since the late 80s, which was another Conservative decision. The energy grid is even privatised, but it’s failing to keep up with the huge demand of renewable technologies.
To protect jobs in energy, like Rishi Sunak is promising to do, any process for energy generation in the UK should at least be partially publicly owned. This means more people will have a stake in how their energy is generated and limit the price hikes that energy companies profiteer from. Green jobs can be made and the economy can be boosted with a big green transition, which is something Greenpeace was calling on the government to do back in September.
The risk for Rishi Sunak has come from his recent actions, despite the world being its hottest on record. Flying to Scotland (which may have broken ministerial code) to make the announcement about more North Sea drilling, rolling back green targets and relying on CCS to continue a reliance on fossil fuel use are not signs of an environmentally-conscious leader.
Are you tired of the government not pushing for more green technology? Why not get solar panels fitted to your property?