Climate change: UK gets a slap on the wrist, while Scandinavia is top of the class

You remember climate change, right? If you believe the UN’s chief environmental scientist, though, the UK doesn’t. The government has received a sharp slap on the wrist for turning away from renewable energies and back to fossil fuels, based on the complex mix of tax breaks and subsidies that make up the country’s energy policy.

Climate change: UK gets a slap on the wrist, while Scandinavia is top of the class

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Jacqueline McGlade started by praising the global effort, saying: “What I’m seeing worldwide is a move very much towards investment in renewable energy. To counterbalance that you see the withdrawal of subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels.”

She then opened fire on the UK: “What’s disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going – we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced.”

Currently, the world is set to miss its 2030 greenhouse gas targets, and the upcoming UN climate summit in Paris is considered by some to be a “last-chance saloon” to get any real commitment to meaningful change.

A UK government spokesman said the country is “absolutely committed to getting a global deal in Paris, which will create a level playing field for businesses, driving innovation and growing the low carbon economy.” However, a cynic might point out that, linguistically, “a deal” is a pretty neutral term when not ensconced in more positive language. In short, it’s hard to be too optimistic about our commitment when the prime minister is rumoured to have dismissed “green crap” in the run-up to this year’s general election.oslo_city_centre

Compare and contrast this attitude with our Scandinavian neighbours, who seem to be in a contest of one-upping each other in terms of green achievements. First, Denmark managed to generate 140% of its power needs through wind alone, before Sweden announced its intention to become the world’s first fossil fuel-free nation. Now Norway is getting in on the act, with capital city Oslo pledging to ban cars from its streets within just four years.   

It makes our climate change efforts look pretty feeble, but the joke’s on Sweden and Denmark because the EU is measured as a single block for its emissions, ensuring we share the benefits of their good behaviour.

That said, when it comes to climate change, it’s never clear who the joke is ultimately on. But it’s unlikely to be very funny when the punchline finally hits.

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Images: News Oresund and Swansea local boy used under Creative Commons

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