French President can teach British something about decisiveness on energy

18 June 2007

When he greets Nicolas Sarkozy tomorrow, Gordon Brown might wish to ask the new President how France has managed so successfully and decisively to plan its future energy supply.   

France took its tough decisions on 21st century energy years ago, whereas in Britain the climate change White Paper has demonstrated that the country is no closer to addressing energy and climate change than it was 12 months ago, despite the Government-commissioned and much-heralded Stern report of last autumn.  

The Royal Society of Chemistry believes that Government rhetoric on climate change has to stop now and be replaced by a clear roadmap and tangible actions.

The society's chief executive Richard Pike said: "Whatever one's views on the optimal balance of nuclear, fossil fuels and renewables, the French moved swiftly and boldly on the issue, unlike our own Government. 

"The British Government now needs to be honest and tell the public that to achieve a 60 per cent emissions cut by 2050, as the Stern Report called for, will require a significant and necessary change in behaviour and lifestyle, supported by the right technology and skills."  

The RSC believes that the only way for critical, tough decisions to be taken on energy policy is to form a cross-party energy commission that is independent of the Government of the day.

Dr Pike added: "The White Paper is a missed opportunity to demonstrate leadership by providing an ambitious pathway that delivers secure, affordable and clean energy in the long-term.  The most glaring failure was the vacuum of solutions in transport and heating, which account for three-quarters of carbon emissions in the UK.

"The White Paper makes much play of electricity, which is fine in itself but it is merely a part of a larger picture."

He said that it was frustrating to hear yet another call for a consultation on nuclear energy and urged the government at least to take steps on home insulation since heating accounts for nearly 50% of UK carbon emissions.

"Only 40 per cent of UK homes that could be insulated are, in fact, insulated which is surprising and worrying.  Remember that 75% of the homes that we will be living in by 2050 already exist- we agree that new houses should be carbon neutral but we cannot ignore the opportunity presented by the current housing stock."

This year the Royal Society of Chemistry is campaigning on energy and transportation, with a series of workshops under the banner Fuelling the Future.

"Transportation accounts for more than a quarter of UK carbon emissions and the RSC is working hard to provide answers along with colleagues in industry and academia - we do not feel that the White Paper goes anywhere near far enough in putting in place a strategy to massively reduce emissions from this sector.

"The paper did make much of carbon capture and storage, essential to reduce climate change if fossil fuel usage is to continue, so we should acknowledge the stated determination of the Government to bring it about. 

"But, as for the rest of the report and for the government's overall readiness to actually get things moving, we have to say that all we see so far is lost opportunity."

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