Chemical industry criticises Government’s climate change policy
The Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has criticised the UK Government's draft climate change policy saying that it lacks long term thinking and planning.
Although the IChemE has historically welcomed the Government’s determination to establish greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions targets in excess of the agreed Kyoto targets, the Institute says it has always highlighted the global scale of the problem and the necessity for long-term planning – both areas it claims the Government has not acknowledged its advice.
“The Institute is disappointed that our previous input appears to have been ignored by Government,” explained Malcolm Wilkinson, IChemE’s director of engineering. “It is regrettable that whilst this latest consultation document outlines the difficulties associated with increased emissions over the next 20 years, it does not provide any coherent policy options to address the problem.”
According to the IChemE, the policy document Climate Change – UK Draft Programme is long on UK politics, aspiration and exhortation, but short on any vision for the development and application of science and technology – an area in which it believes should be an inherent feature of any workable climate change policy (see related story).
The IChemE is calling for a vigorous and co-ordinated application of existing technology and new approaches forged with industry to develop the next generation of technologies. The IChemE argues that, as a result of the planning and construction times for large scale generation plant, the supply side of reducing targets is fixed 10 years in advance, leaving little ability to influence 2010 supply emissions in the existing regulatory climate.
To install new technology will take even longer. To provide technology solutions, the IChemE believes that planning needs to commence now and research programmes developed and supported – another area in which it believes the Government is lacking.
Greenpeace agrees that UK energy technology companies could get more support. Matthew Spencer, climate campaigner for Greenpeace told edie that there is the Government is offering no support for developing the UK renewable energy industry. “The Government is speaking of reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels by up to 90% in the long term. However, there is little support for this phase out and the Government’s policy on renewable energy is weak. UK companies developing renewable energy technology are struggling to get markets in this country, many are totally dependant on overseas sales.”
The IChemE cites the US Government’s to new technology – where the US Department of Energy works with industry to make high-risk investments in energy technology development – as the mechanism which will deliver competitive technical advantages to US business.
The Climate Change Policy document also claims it is possible to uncouple energy consumption from economic growth, a claim which IChemE disputes, citing the fact that many of the UK’s heavy manufacturing industries have relocated overseas.
Likening the Government’s commitment to breaking the link between economic development and higher carbon dioxide emissions to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, the IChemE sees little evidence of any fundamental strategic thinking. In the Institute’s opinion there is too much reliance on developing strategies to deal with possible future needs, as set out in the Government’s ‘Foresight’ programme, which it believes is too ad hoc and under-resourced.
While the IChemE believes that the consultation paper adequately covers the requirements to meet the Kyoto treaty obligations, mainly by substituting gas for coal, it says the document’s major shortfall is its failure to seriously address any of the underlying factors impacting on energy supply and demand in the UK post 2010 and fails to convey any sense that the scale of the problem is understood.
The IChemE believes that the prime transition fuel through 2010 will remain natural gas, but that this will need to be supplemented with contributions from nuclear power, synthetic gas from coal/oil residuals and renewables, and with the help of new supply technology.
The IChemE is calling on the Government to start:
- planning for the development and introduction of new large-scale low carbon energy supply technologies
- addressing the major issues surrounding future transport provision
- providing business with clear long-term strategies for emissions reduction
- making waste reduction and recycling targets more challenging
- change central and local government regulations to promote, not hinder, the implementation of good quality energy generation and waste handling schemes
- making science and technology a central thread of government policy
- planning and educating on changes in social behaviour
- create new structures in government to address the complex interactions, scale and long-term nature of the climate change issue.