Ed, E.ON and everyone?

Ed, E.ON and everyone?

Date: 1 September 2009

Today saw the launch of the 10:10 campaign; for individuals and businesses in the UK to reduce their emissions by 10 per cent in 2010. This is matched by a demand for Ed Miliband to commit the UK government to a target of cutting emissions by as close to 10 per cent as possible in the same year.

It would be excellent if UK emissions did fall by 10 per cent next year. As East Africa once again suffers from drought, and latest predictions that climate change is already killing 300,000 people every year, such a cut would be an acknowledgment that dangerous climate change is already with us. We must cut emissions by as much as possible as soon as possible.

The chances of UK emissions falling by 10 per cent looked more likely as we heard that E.ON, along with EDF, Centrica and Scottish and Southern Energy, are joining the campaign. E.ON by itself emits around 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, generating 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity and over 15 per cent of the UK’s emissions from electricity. Presumably E.ON will be shutting down its Kingsnorth coal power station in 2010, five years ahead of schedule, which would meet the 10:10 target and double it to 20 per cent in 2010.

Alas no. E.ON is launching “a nationwide drive to help homeowners and small businesses cut their energy use by 10% by the end of 2010”, rather than doing anything themselves to cut the gargantuan emissions spewing forth from their dinosaur coal power plants at Ratcliffe in Nottinghamshire and Kingsnorth in Kent.

So in our individualistic world the responsibility for tackling climate change once again gets passed on to the choices of individual consumers rather than the business decisions of corporate giants and political decisions of our supposed leaders.

Of course everyone should be aiming to reduce their emissions not just by 10 per cent in 2010, but by as much as possible as soon as possible. Those individuals who have signed up in support of such action should be congratulated. Many may have already exceeded the 10 per cent target. Others may have done all they can, but can’t put insulation in their privately rented home, get electricity from a low carbon national grid or access adequate public transport.

But more importantly, EON’s participation in the campaign deflects from their and the government’s responsibility. If E.ON is allowed to build a new coal power station at Kingsnorth, to be followed by RWE in Tilbury and Scottish and Southern Energy at Ferrybridge, these personal actions will disappear in a big cloud of coal dust. And 100,000 people could lose access to their water supplies solely because of the climate change caused by the emissions from E.ON’s new monster.

The World Development Movement has always argued that political action is the key to tackling climate change. Personal action by itself is not enough.

If Ed Miliband wants to sign-up to a target of cutting emissions by 10 per cent in 2010 that would be great. What will be more important is implementing policies to ensure this happens, such as ending the fuel tax breaks on the aviation industry, granting more subsidies for renewable energy and ensuring all homes are fitted with the best possible insulation – especially those homes not owned by the people who live in them.

What would be even better is doing this in 2009 ahead of the negotiations on climate change in Copenhagen in December, to show that rich countries, those responsible for climate change, are serious when they talk about becoming low carbon economies.

Most important is that we stop using coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, to ensure emissions fall and continue to fall in 2010 and in the decade that follows. Ed Miliband is currently consulting on whether or not to do this – take action before the consultation closes on 9 September so that 09/09/2009 can be a date remembered for ruling out coal. For good.

Respond to the government consultation and stop dirty coal