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Winter is coming | BusinessGreen Blog Post

It’s hard to believe that the close of the COP26 Climate Summit, with all of its high-stakes drama and carefully warned optimism, was just a month ago.

The pace at which climate action has slipped down the political and media agenda, even as polls continue to show it is a top priority for an overwhelming majority of the public, has been truly dizzying. .

Since the outcome of the Glasgow summit, the punch-drunk British government has wavered from one crisis to the next, accumulating scandals big and small, obsessed with falling poll numbers and defeats in the by-elections, desperately crossing paths with fingers and hoping that the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic turns out to be only moderately catastrophic. All the attention is now less on the historic mission of building a net zero emissions economy, and more on whether hospitals and Boris Johnson’s prime minister are about to be overwhelmed.

Alok Sharma has attempted to provide a small island of sanity amid the chaos in his role as president of COP26, working quietly to build on the progress made through the Glasgow Climate Pact. But he’s found that the strangely volatile and distracted atmosphere isn’t exclusive to the UK.

Days after the hammer blow in Glasgow, Australia, New Zealand and the EU all signaled they were unlikely to reconsider their climate action plans ahead of the COP27 climate summit next year, despite a clear call for countries to do so. This snub was not enough for the British government to try to review its free trade agreement with Australia and use the little leverage it has to demand stricter climate provisions. Instead, last week a trade deal was signed in which farmers and environmental activists unite to see it as extremely damaging.

Meanwhile, the White House is carrying out a new round of oil and gas drilling rentals and the historic climate-focused Build Back Better bill that needed to be delivered in time to help break the deadlock at the Glasgow summit. remains chained to a radiator at Joe Manchin’s lavishly fossil-fueled basement. Russian troops are gathering on the border with Ukraine, challenging an EU that remains dangerously dependent on expensive Russian gas to come and try its luck if it thinks it’s difficult enough. The surge in gas prices that emboldens Vladimir Putin is also contributing to a boom in coal use, with China and India once again burning record levels of coal, according to last week’s extremely grim IEA report , and the EU responding to soaring carbon prices by debating whether to slow the transition to cleaner energy sources by artificially cushioning the price of carbon allowances.

Returning to a more parochial level, the British government decided this week to prepare for the impending deadline of 2030 to end the sale of new internal combustion engine cars by slashing subsidies for electric vehicles by 40%. This decision was justified by the ministers on the grounds that electric vehicles now represent more than 10% of new car sales. And yet in Norway – where generous subsidies remain in place – EVs make up three-quarters of the market. The idea that the UK is definitely on the right track to phase out petrol and diesel cars at the required pace is optimistic, bordering on illusion.

Promises made at COP26 to effect radical change on “coal, cars, money and trees” currently seem as credible as Boris Johnson’s assurances that all COVID rules were followed during the mad social vortex which took place last Christmas at number 10. If the world the 1.5 ° C warming target left COP26 alive, but with a “weak pulse” as Alok Sharma put it, then at in the last few days he has been transferred to intensive care.

It is important to control this discouragement. 2021 will be a record year for renewable energies as well as the use of coal. Last week, the UK quietly launched new clean energy auctions that will unlock investment in new waves of clean energy capacity at incredibly competitive costs. The automotive industry is finally looking into the transition to electric vehicles. The advances made over the past 12 months on hydrogen, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and even electric theft have been truly surprising. The engagement of businesses, consumers and voters with the net zero transition will only intensify.

These underlying trends made COP26 a real success, although still insufficient. Governments around the world have said that the era of fossil fuels is about to end, the foundations are there to mobilize trillions of dollars in investments in infrastructure and technology to net zero, even as the The continued failure to channel more of this money to developing economies remains a glaring problem. injustice.

And yet, last month was a reminder of how challenging the net zero transition will be and how the green economy must both defend the territory it has secured and fight tooth and nail to break into new markets and constituencies.

The sad reality of this holiday season is that the next few months are going to get worse before they get better. Once the current wave of COVID is resolved in one way or another, attention will turn to how the recovery is being hampered by soaring cost of living, mostly due to energy bills. exorbitant. There is talk of the next review of the energy price cap, resulting in increases of around 40 percent, which will put severe financial pressure on millions of households.

An already besieged government will face deafening calls to do something, as many of its so-called allies try to blame climate policies and green levies for rising bills. As for those trying to argue that the Conservatives’ election defeat last week was the result of their grassroots neglect with all their talk about net zero and climate action, the fact that this analysis is completely detached from the evidence and logic won’t stop it gaining traction in the conservative press and behind the scenes.

The government can take action to combat rising bills. VAT on energy bills could be suspended, more direct financial support could be channeled to power poor households, the government could finally implement a sufficiently ambitious national energy efficiency program, helping to reduce bills and costs. broadcasts all at once. Another potential solution will be to move environmental taxes on energy bills to general taxation. It’s a logical move that some energy industry experts and environmental activists have long championed on the grounds that it ensures that the costs of decarbonization are more gradually shared.

But all of these proposals risk being thwarted by a fiscally conservative chancellor who is willfully ambivalent to the net zero agenda and seems more concerned with appealing to the ideological impulses of backbenchers than with tackling a crisis in the cost of government. life and drive an economic recovery.

Assuming the PM gets through the winter (and the odds have diminished further over the weekend with the ‘woe to me’ resignation of Brexit Secretary Lord Frost), this debate will unfold against a backdrop of feverish speculation. on a leadership challenge for Boris Johnson who, barring a Lazarus-like recovery, will likely keep him for the rest of his days in power. The big fear for the green economy is that any forerunners to challenge Johnson are either lukewarm or actively hostile to the climate agenda, eager to appeal to climate-skeptical MPs, small but influential, and far more ideological than Johnson in regarding the role of regulation and the state in achieving strategic objectives. If Johnson is, in her own words, “a Brexity Hezza” then Liz Truss is more of a smiling Ayn Rand playing the part of Margaret Thatcher, but less charming.

Environmental activists and green business groups brace for a street political battle, as libertarian group around climate skeptic Steve Baker and their allies in the press brace themselves to seize the main chance they’ve always hoped for that Brexit might offer to install a prime minister who could engineer a Singapore-on-Thames, laissez-faire, pollutocracy in total disregard of the vast majority of the public’s wishes. It is worth noting that the aforementioned Lord Frost apparently resigned because he was upset both by the government’s net zero strategy and that the small affair of a historic pandemic resulted in higher taxes. Although given that the lifespan of Brexit Secretaries has fleeting qualities and Frost has spent much of the last year performatively complaining about the Brexit deal he has itself negotiated, many will wonder if the current impossibility of “making Brexit succeed” also informed its decision.

Whatever his motivations, opponents of the net zero transition will feel even more emboldened this week, and confident their numbers will rise further as the energy and covid crisis escalates. As such, the challenge over the next few months for those who want to see bolder climate action will be to bring together the broad coalition of the public, business leaders, activists and politicians who recognize the transition to emissions. Net zero is both extremely desirable and the defining economic project of the time, in order to repel this opportunistic guerrilla attempt to torpedo the UK’s climate strategy. This political struggle will run alongside the immensely complex socio-economic demand that all countries face to try to gradually reduce the demand for and supply of fossil fuels, so as to minimize the price volatility that inevitably reinforces those that do. promote a slower transition away from polluting infrastructure.

These challenges are daunting, but they can be overcome. All current economic, consumer and technological trends show how a net zero emissions economy can be built at a high pace and scale, while the terrifying escalation of climate impacts leaves denial voices more isolated and absurd than ever. The public wants a net zero emissions economy. Businesses want a net zero emissions economy. Investors want a net zero emissions economy. And the international community wants a net zero emissions economy. But at the end of another long year defined by what management consultants describe as VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – it is clear that those who want to build a cleaner, safer and more secure net zero emissions economy. healthier will have to continue to scrap for every inch of progress toward this common goal. It shouldn’t be that hard, but then again, all of the best things are worth fighting for.


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