“For the world to achieve the rapid emissions reductions needed to avert the worst effects of climate change, governments, policy-makers, utilities and climate activists need to focus unwaveringly on driving down on one simple metric: the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of energy consumed.
This represents a phenomenal challenge; such an undertaking will require unprecedented levels of determined co-operation between governments, across jurisdictions and political divides. We will need to electrify almost every aspect of our current power consumption, alongside developing innovative, scalable technologies to decarbonise those areas of our economy that are notoriously ‘difficult to reach’: industrial processes, heavy transport, district heating, shipping and aviation.
There is no doubt that solar and wind power are valuable renewable sources of energy, produced at near-zero marginal cost, but it is important to recognise the limitations and challenges associated with these energy sources. These limitations include their inherent variability of output, and the additional system requirements and costs – in providing the grid flexibility, back-up (most often provided by Fossil Gas), storage and transmission that they require. There is reason to be optimistic that in the long-run, these issues might be solved, but it’s debatable whether these solutions will materialise – at sufficient scale – in the ever-shortening time frames available to us.
At the time of the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 – 23 years ago, 63% of global electricity was generated by fossil fuels, and fossil fuels accounted for ~80% of total global primary energy supply. In 2019? Around 63% of global electricity was still generated by fossil fuels, with fossil fuels still accounting for 80% of primary energy supply. The cherry on the cake of this terrible realisation is that in 1997, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was ~365ppm. In 2020, CO2 concentration was >410ppm. This is the very definition of “walking up the down escalator”. This needs to change, and quickly.
So let’s be straight about this – we need every clean energy tool in the box, and renewables have a major part to play, but it is clear that we are not making anywhere near sufficient headway to meet our climate targets. Furthermore, given the startling magnitude and velocity of our climate emergency, it makes absolutely no sense at all for environmentalists to turn their back on low carbon Nuclear Energy, and even less so for them to actually clamour for its early closure, as has happened elsewhere in Europe, mostrecently in Belgium with the newly-formed coalition government, at the explicit behest of coalition partners the Belgian Greens.
I’d therefore urge all anti-nuclear greens and environmentalists to reflect on their position on Nuclear Energy and reconsider their biases. We have entered an age where everyone needs to radically re-evaluate previous habits of thought and behaviour, and fellow Greens and the environmental lobby should not feel themselves to be above that requirement themselves.”
Mark Yelland, Green Party member, Brighton & Hove