Open letter sent to the eight political party leaders at the UK parliament on 13 June 2017:
Dear Madam/ Sir
In the wake of the inconclusive general election result and bearing in mind the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, we are writing to leaders of UK parliamentary parties to urge you to unite around a common cause – tackling climate change – as a way of helping to provide major economic, social and environmental benefits at this time of uncertainty. Not only does there continue to be there very strong scientific evidence on the urgency of this global threat, but measures to tackle it offer major opportunities to exploit science and technology to create jobs, tackle fuel poverty, reduce local air pollution and provide many other co-benefits for British society. The UK could capitalise on the renewed international commitment to tackling climate change in the wake of the ill-informed decision of President Trump to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement.
We have noted the widespread commitment to tackling climate change in the party manifestos. While there is some diversity in the approaches, there are many common factors. Hence, as a priority, we urge strong support for:
- Home energy conservation programmes. These will both reduce carbon emissions and help to tackle fuel poverty, which is estimated to be responsible for nearly 8,000 UK deaths a year.1
- Renewable energy projects – especially wind, solar, marine and biogas technologies and community-led projects. With costs for many of these falling rapidly, the potential economic and employment benefits are very large2 – and government opinion polling shows these technologies are especially popular.3
- Energy storage technologies, including batteries, power-to-gas systems, and pumped hydro storage. Many of these technologies are already rapidly falling in cost, and they have high potential to complement the variable renewable energy sources.4 Electric vehicles will play a key role here, and their widespread adoption will help to reduce the number of UK deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution, currently estimated at 40,000 per year.5
We further recommend the following additional actions, which we strongly believe will complement those above:
- End subsidies for fossil fuels, especially for unconventional sources like shale gas. The growth of a large-scale shale gas industry in this country is likely to seriously undermine Britain’s climate targets, as the Committee on Climate Change has warned.6 Furthermore, the technique of hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) is not popular with the British public,7 partly as it creates significant risks for the local environment.
- End new commitments to nuclear power stations. These create unique and unresolved economic, security, environmental and safety risks.
Finally, we urge you to use any political influence you have in the USA to try to convince President Trump that climate change is a serious threat to his country as well as the world, and that his government needs to change course. Indeed, his failure to support cleaner industries in his own country is very likely to have a negative impact on the economy there.
We would be interested to hear your thoughts on our recommendations.
Dr Stuart Parkinson
Dr Philip Webber
1. Energy Bill Revolution (2015). Fuel poverty. http://www.energybillrevolution.org/fuel-poverty/
2. REN21 (2017). Renewables 2017 Global Status Report. http://www.ren21.net/gsr-2017/
3. BEIS (2017). Energy and Climate Change Public Attitudes Tracker. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/public-attitudes-tracking-survey
4. Goodall C (2016). The Switch: How solar, storage and new tech means cheap power for all. Profile Books.
5. Royal College of Physicians et al (2016). Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution. https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution
6. Committee on Climate Change (2016). The compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/onshore-petroleum-the-compatibility-of-uk-onshore-petroleum-with-meeting-carbon-budgets/
7. As note 3.