Energy & Carbon – Review of the Year 2008

From groundbreaking legislation, to the promise of a greener President, to ever more daring protest stunts, the world of climate change and energy had it all in 2008.

The European Commission began the year by announcing a package of measures to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 20% by 2020.

This package became the EU’s main climate and energy focus during the year, as various groups wrangled over the details of the legislation before finally hammering out a deal that was agreed just days before Christmas.

Legislative battles were no less difficult in the UK, where MPs debated the terms of the Climate Change Bill and the Energy Bill.

The Climate Change Committee was set up to examine the issue and eventually recommended an 80% cut in GHGs by 2050, which was adopted by Ed Miliband, the head of the newly-created Department for Energy and Climate Change.

The Climate Change Act became a world-first when it was finally given Royal Assent in December.

On the other side of the pond, the race for the White House dominated the headlines, and once the field was narrowed down to just Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, it became clear that the next administration would have to make the environment a greater priority than it had been under George Bush.

November brought victory for Obama and his promises of a surge in renewable energy and 5m green collar jobs – but also raised fears that the outgoing President would attempt to push through damaging environmental laws before quitting his post.

As the EU and UK finalised their climate plans in December, world leaders also gathered in Poznan, Poland, to negotiate further on a global deal to replace the Kyoto Treaty in 2012, setting the stage for their final round of discussions in Copenhagen in 2009.

But it was not just the actions of world leaders to combat climate change that grabbed the headlines in 2008 – it was also the year when grassroots activists made their voices heard.

In the UK, protestors from groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Plane Stupid forced their way into the public consciousness with protests on the Houses of Parliament, on aeroplanes and airport runways, and outside the Kingsnorth power station.

Superglue also emerged as an unlikely weapon of choice to replace the traditional chains and outfox the police.

There was the usual raft of studies and predictions about the future of the world’s climate, including the claims from US scientists that the northern hemisphere is at its warmest since at least 700AD.

But as the year came to an end, it was the global economic downturn and its possible impact on the climate change and energy sector that emerged as one of the big stories.

Politicians, government bodies and NGOs across the globe came forwards to urge world leaders and businesses not to abandon their green goals in the face of recession – a concern which looks set to continue into 2009.

Kate Martin

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