I’m pretty scared, especially with the World Trade Center Right Now making a very loud noise that is scarily scary, - hurricane Sandy hitting New York last month. The alliance of more than 200 major companies, among them – some of the largest in the world, says Sandy caused more than 30 billion dollars’ worth of damage. In an open letter to governments worldwide they argue, such costs will become more common, unless action is taken to decarbonize major economies in the world. That call for governments to do more to combat climate change has been warmly welcomed by environmental charities. Paul Steedman, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth:
I think it’s really significant. It shows that this is no longer a niche green agenda, it shows that this is a mainstream agenda backed by some of the biggest financial interests in the world.
There’s a little fine detail of what the global investment groups want governments to do, but they do provide broad goals. They want governments to set short-, medium- and long-term targets for gas emission reductions and to switch from investing in high-carbon technologies to low-carbon investments. But what form would such a switch take? Paul Steedman again:
What that means in practice is reducing the amount of power that we need to use through energy efficiency. It also means switching where we do get our power from – away from fossil fuels like coal and gas which are currently used to generate around three quarters of the U.K.’s power and instead switching to low-carbon forms of power that include wind, solar, wave and tidal.
But the call to climate change hasn’t been universally welcomed. The Global Warming Policy Foundation was set up by climate change skeptic and former Chancellor Lord Lawson. Its director Benny Peiser says many of the companies involved have vested interests in renewable energy.
I think it’s a desperate call on the government to somehow pup more money, subsidies and initiatives in the renewable sector. I think they’re worried that a lot of their investments are going to lose money.
Dr. Peisner argues that carbon-heavy fossil fuels are actually likely to make a significant comeback. That’s because, he says, the huge growth of the shale gas industry in the U.S. poses a threat to the advance of the renewable energy sources, like wind or wave power.
This is because of the unconventional energy revolution that is now hitting around the world and making natural gas very cheap. And investors are moving away from renewables and are investing in conventional fossil fuels.
Prices have certainly dropped in the U.S. since the advent of shale gas. Gas now costs 3$ a unit compared to almost 13$ a unit just two years ago. Environmental groups argue that shale gas is unlikely to have a similar impact elsewhere. They say, Europe is more intensively populated, for example. And the process of frecking could cause massive environmental damage there. The British government among others says it’s keeping an open mind on the possibility of shale gas production. But Friends of the Earth say they’re worried, for the Chancellor George Osborne haid set to backslide on current targets for renewable energy.
At the moment Chancellor George Osborne is being a major blocker to change. And that’s why it’s so crucial that financial interests, business interests one after another have all come out and told him, “This isn’t just right for the climate and for business, too.” If David Cameron listens to these voices and takes them seriously, as he should, then the government will do the right thing.
A new energy bill is due to be tabled later this month. That will set out how the U.K. generates power for decades to come. But bickering between the coalition partners over the bill has gone on for months with LibDems wanting to get greater emphasize on renewable energy. That’s an argument that today’s open letter would seem to bolster.