每日跟讀#718: For Britain, the Clock Is Ticking on Carbon Emissions

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每日跟讀#718: For Britain, the Clock Is Ticking on Carbon Emissions

In the shadow of a noisy, turbulent Brexit, another epic transformation is underway in Britain.


A leading industrial power that built itself on coal and colonialism, Britain is now trying to pivot away from the fossil fuels that powered the industrial age. The government has set a legally binding target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Some of that change is already in motion: The country is fast ditching coal in favor of wind energy and gas. And this summer, for the first time in more than 130 years, it went two weeks without burning one lump of coal.


The new net-zero target, though, demands a far bigger shift that will likely change everything from the way Britons heat their homes to how they get to work to what food they grow and eat.


The good news for Britain is that climate action enjoys widespread political support in an otherwise polarized society. The governing Conservatives proposed the net zero target, while the Labour Party recently one-upped them by calling for a 2030 deadline.


“There’s a high degree of consensus that we need to do something, and the U.K. has a moral duty to lead,” said Bryony Worthington, a member of the House of Lords and executive director of the European branch of the Environmental Defense Fund. “We led the industrial revolution.”


Britain’s historical emissions are the fifth highest in the world, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief, a British website that covers climate science and policy.


Nick Bridge, Britain’s senior climate envoy, said his country wants to position itself as “a global green hub.”


Bold promise, meet the mess known as Brexit.


Britain’s economy is slowing precisely at a time when the country will need to invest the equivalent of at least 1% of its gross domestic product to meet its net zero target, according to the Committee on Climate Change, a government advisory body. Moreover, at a time of peak political dysfunction, the government has not implemented the policies needed to get to net-zero, nor mapped out how it will pay for the transition.


“Brexit is a horrible distraction,” Worthington said. “Politically there’s not enough oxygen to even have a conversation.”


At the moment, the country is not on track to meet its earlier target for an 80% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels.


Alex Kazaglis, an economist who served on the Committee on Climate Change said, to get net-zero, Britain needs to generate much more electricity than ever before — all of it from non-fossil fuel sources.


Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/346374/web/