News and analysis by Mathew Carr
—Protestors outside UK Parliament today might be surprised to learn how much climate action was taking place inside
—13 glimmers of hope
Sept. 7-8, 2022 (Parliament House in London)(Added snip of Financial Services & Markets Bill on Sept. 10)
I spent the day Wednesday at Parliament House in London trying to find evidence that the newly rejigged government was giving the energy and climate crisis the urgency it deserves.
It was, apparently. On its first day after the departure of former PM “rocket-booster Boris Johnson”, it was all-hands on deck.
Outside, security guards were preparing for the climate protests scheduled for later and there was (shortly after I passed through) white-paint hurling — 10 members of “animal rebellion” were arrested, according to ITV news.
The police were certainly looking urgent:
In the afternoon, the protests were rowdy enough to make it difficult for me to hear hearings.
Liz Truss, in her first Prime Minister’s questions, was harangued around noon by opposition leader Keir Starmer for refusing to extend Britain’s windfall-profit tax on fossil-fuel companies — to help deal with surging prices for natural gas, crude oil and power.
Truss said she wouldn’t increase the tax, because a country can’t tax its way out of an economic situation that’s effectively a recession.
Starmer said something like Truss was just another Tory leader indulging in a “trickle-down economics fantasy.”
Truss said taxes stymie investment and Starmer was failing to “understand aspiration.”
Mysteriously, Starmer’s estimate for £170 billion “excess profits” in the energy industry because of the Russia-Ukraine war during the next two years is exactly the same number as some leaked estimates for a fund the government will put together under its plan to deal with the cost-of-energy crisis for households and businesses.
Truss said the public would find out details of the energy crisis plan, Thursday (It’s 11:15am apparently).
See this speculative analysis:
After PM’s questions, I decided to listen at an environmental audit-committee hearing. The North Sea Transition Authority was being asked some slightly curly questions about how the U.K. can justify expanding in fossil fuels — using the excuse of war.
Because, that IS the plan, Truss had confirmed earlier.
Andy Samuel, chief executive of the authority, said some UK oil and natural gas fields could theoretically come on quickly – within a year. More likely, any expansion would take five years, boosting global supplies only slightly.
What struck me was the lack of debate about the U.K.’s fair share of the global carbon budget, which has been set by the Paris climate deal.
Caroline Lucas from the Green Party DID question Samuel about the damage that will be caused by Britain’s oil and gas expansion, the heat-trapping emissions caused when the fossil fuels are burned in cars, planes and homes.
While Samuel wasn’t too clear on how many emissions would be produced by the planned new licencing round — there was some hope — the day’s first glimmer:
There’s apparently room to store 38 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the North Sea, or about 93 years of UK emissions.
So, while many are skeptical about the viability of carbon capture and storage, we can now expect that to be a big piece of Truss’s plan.
There was also very little talk about collaborating with other countries using Article 6 of the Paris climate deal, where countries can seek out (and buy) cheaper emission reductions in other countries if it’s expensive to cut them at home.
Using article 6 was not currently part of the authority’s assessment of whether the UK should expand in fossil fuels, Samuel told me after his section of the hearing.
His director of strategy Hedvig Ljungerud said in a hallway conversation the prospect of using Article 6 was “fascinating.”
So there’s another glimmer of hope there — that the climate can, indeed, be saved efficiently by collaboration.
Extending the life of oil and gas in the U.K. may actually be possible using new global carbon markets under the UN, even under increasingly tight emissions targets.
Any use of Atricle 6 would be up to the government’s business and energy department, Samuel said.
That section of government is to be run by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who Lucas called a “fossil fool”, later on Twitter:
I have more faith than Lucas in the “new” government because Truss and Rees-Mogg are probably in favor of market solutions to the climate/energy crisis and they are pro trade, as I said in my story from yesterday, linked above. I believe wealth can trickle down if lawmakers and regulators are smarter about holding corporations to account and if trade unions are made stronger.
I repeat a key bit of yesterday’s article below:
Near the end of my day, Barry Gardiner, a Labor MP for Brent North on the Environment Audit Committee who’s been an MP continuously since 1997, kindly gave me a little time.
He’s attended various UN climate talks.
I put it to him he didn’t question Samuel enough on the government’s oil and gas expansion plan. He disagreed.
Gardiner did agree the UK had probably used up its fair share of the global carbon budget to keep temperature rises to 1.5C.
But here’s what gave me today’s third glimmer of hope:
Gardiner said the lawmaking system will hold Rees-Mogg (who handily is also head of climate policy) and the new government to account, including under the rules of the UN Paris deal.
The other glimmers of hope
A — Some parliamentarians including Lucus unsuccessfully (I think) tried to delay a financial services and markets bill because (in part) it “is deficient in its requirements on regulators in respect of climate and nature outcomes”; I’m saying this is a glimmer of hope because it was even discussed
B — Taxpayers may find out soon where Rolls Royce and the government wants to install five new small modular nuclear reactors in the UK (which still won’t produce power until the early 2030s apparently)
C — There was a petition to tighten the existing windfall profit tax on fossil fuel companies
D– There was peition to debate to develop green belt land
E– There was a petition to help the 400,000 Londoners who have apparently fallen between the cracks of government assistance because they rely on communal heating systems
F– The International Trade Committe debated whether the UK should join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a deal that will encourage the trade in climate-saving tech (search for CPTPP on CarrZee.org)
G — MP Rushanara Ali (Labour) called for better handling of sewage, which is flowing into water ways
H — People using oil to heat their homes (including in Northern Ireland) were facing big increases in costs, which will inspire them to install better, cleaner systems
I — Lithium-Ion battery storage is being addressed in the UK
J — People using communal heating systems may gain protection under the new energy price guarantee (see also E)
(Updates with another glimmer of hope)