Talks about talks

The Durban climate summit produced a surprise (or at least a surprise for natural pessimists like me…). A consensus agreement has been reached to open a new phase of negotiations, to be finished by 2015 at the latest, with targets for all countries kicking in from 2020. Given initial positions of the most powerful actors, this outcome looks Continue reading

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Avoiding the spin

Amongst all the coverage in the build up to Durban last week, I noticed a rather odd-looking story from Fiona Harvey (previously at the Financial Times, now in the green corner at The Guardian) on “government research” claiming that UK carbon-cutting targets would be exceeded. The piece said that a new report claimed that the UK would “over-achieve on its carbon-cutting targets” and that “Since 1990, the UK’s carbon emissions have dropped by a quarter.” This is not Continue reading

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A town in South Africa beginning with D

So the UNFCCC juggernaut gears up again for another year. According to reports, top celebs attending COP17 in Durban include Angelina Jolie, Bono, Leonardio di Caprio, Arnold Schwarzengger and Sarah Palin. But for them, and the thousands of official delegates and NGOs who will also be there, the summit is, by common consent, very unlikely to deliver anything significant on emissions targets, and may not even deliver Continue reading

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Denial Tango

Nice bit of satire from the delightfully named Men With Day Jobs – thanks to John Macgrath via Duncan Green.

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The renewable energy backlash – Part 2

In the previous post, I reviewed the current controversy about the costs of expanding offshore wind, and the argument made by organisations like Policy Exchange that we could meet our 2020 carbon targets more cheaply simply by bringing in a carbon tax and switching from coal to gas in power generation.

The PEx argument raises a number of challenges. Continue reading

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Filed under Energy prices, Renewable energy, UK politics

The renewable energy backlash – part 1

In early 2008, I interviewed the generation portfolio manager (the guy who decided whether to invest in new power stations, and what kind) for one of the Big 6 UK energy companies. In the course of the interview he said something that really struck me – namely that the dilemma the company faced was that they simply didn’t know whether, and how much, the UK public would be willing to pay, 5 to 10 years hence, for renewable energy. It wasn’t necessarily that he thought that they wouldn’t be willing to pay, simply that the company just didn’t know, and that this fundamental uncertainty was a factor weakening the policy arrangements in place to support investment in renewable energy. A company will be highly reluctant to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on investments that could end up stranded and worthless because a support policy collapses in the face of public hostility. For me it was the moment I really understood the meaning of policy credibility. I have since told that story countless times, often to those in the environmental movement, many of whom who believed that the mere existence of a policy is a guarantee of its effectiveness (and its future), but often felt they didn’t get the point, or ignored it.

But the underlying politics is now coming back to bite them in the bum. Continue reading

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Is the UK decoupling?

Interesting new report from Chris Goodall out recently (hat tip to Reg Platt) suggesting that the UK may have reached “peak stuff” – i.e. consumption of  physcial resources, including energy – in the early/mid 2000s. Goodall’s paper is a bit of a mix – some measures are per head, others total, some flows are final consumption, others are intermediary inputs, but the patterns are nevertheless quite striking. The paper is also quite good at picking up Continue reading

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Desertec and energy security

According to media reports, Morocco is to be the site for the first investment by the Desertec consortium led by German energy firms. We argued earlier this year that the Arab Spring opened up a big opportunity for integrating North African and European energy resources and infrastructures (a shame the UK isn’t showing much interest in this). The obvious question is whether, by shifting from dependence on Russian gas and coal to dependence on North African solar electricity, Europe is not exposing itself to an even greater security of supply risk. After all, while you can store gas and coal, you can’t yet store electricity at scale. Suppose a newly democratic (and Islamist?) Tunisia or Libya decides to close down the interconnectors across the Med? Continue reading

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The politics of climate change – where are we?

Bryan Walsh’s piece on Al Gore’s reality versus everyone else’s in Time magazine is an excellent precis of the current politics of climate change. He even gets the UK picture about right; the default position for US environmental writers is to assume European climate policy is a done deal. That said, Continue reading

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Back from the dead

After a long summer away, assessing options for the future of this blog, we are back. We intend to try to blog once a week, at least initially, and see if that is sustainable. First post should be up shortly, looking at the vexed question of the UK’s renewable energy policy.

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