Despite the fact that Britain is preparing to host a historic climate meeting in Glasgow this week, the landmarks of the country’s own development to a more climate-friendly economy are on vivid show along the train line that connects London and Edinburgh.
An abandoned coal-fired power station in the town of Gainsborough, which is 150 miles north of the city and emits carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, is still in operation. Five wind turbines at an offshore wind farm spin lazily in the breeze another 150 miles north, off the coast of Blyth, a coastal town known for its fishing port.
The two facilities, which are both owned by the French energy firm EDF, serve as a reminder of how far the United Kingdom has come. The coal plant, which was recently reopened to meet demand for power, is scheduled to be closed by the end of next year, and the business aims to put experimental floating turbines in the seas around Blyth.
Speaking to the UK’s objective of becoming a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, Paul Spence, the head of strategy and corporate relations of EDF, said: “We’re talking about a major transformation.” “A lot of things have to happen in order for the lights to stay on.”
Not only is the United Kingdom the host of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, but it also has a legitimate claim to be a worldwide leader in climate policy. The United Kingdom, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, became the first nation to legally require reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions via the Climate Change Act of 2008, which was passed in the United Kingdom. This country’s high-tech windmills and retired smokestacks are merely the most apparent manifestation of a three-decade drive.
With the development of the world’s biggest offshore wind sector, the United Kingdom has cut emissions by 44 percent compared to levels in 1990. According to the Climate Action Tracker, a scientific review of nations’ climate policies, the country’s goal of reducing emissions by at least 68 percent by 2030 is one of the most ambitious of any large economy in the world.
If Britain meets that objective, which is far from certain, it will be one of just a handful of nations doing enough to meet the fundamental aim of the Paris Agreement, which is to keep the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the long term.
Premier Boris Johnson’s government has set a series of attention-grabbing targets in order to achieve its headline number. These include ending the sale of all gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2030, eliminating all coal and gas-fired power plants by 2035, and ceasing the sale of all fossil-fueled home heating systems by 2035.
It was essential to temporarily restart the coal plant near Gainsborough because low winds in the North Sea were causing the turbines to slow down, demonstrating that this transition would not be without its difficulties. Renewable energy sources may be hampered by a lack of wind or sunlight.
The expansion of the onshore wind business has been hampered by opposition from the local community. Fears over the country’s energy sources have prompted the government to explore permitting drilling in a massive new oil field off the coast of the Shetland Islands. There is also a plan for a new coal field in Cumbria, which is located in northwest England and would seem to run counter to the country’s climate change goals.
Climate scientists also criticise Mr. Johnson for failing to put forth a credible road map for achieving his lofty emissions reduction targets. The United Kingdom has been unable to generate sufficient funding to support clean-energy initiatives. It has not shown to farmers, who are important contributors to emissions reduction, how they may make a difference by cultivating peat fields and using other conservation practises.
A little more than half of the electricity produced in the country that was once synonymous with the belching factories of the Industrial Revolution, that once darkened its skies and fouled its rivers, and that gave the world the phrase “coals to Newcastle” now comes from non-fossil-fuel sources, primarily wind.
Similar legislation is currently in effect in almost a dozen nations, as well as the European Union. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Theresa May went even farther, declaring Britain the first major economy to commit to becoming net-zero by 2050, which means that it would remove as much greenhouse gas from the environment as it creates.