Some ‘other’ cuts to think about?

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With the Emergency Budget presented yesterday, the word ‘cuts’ is set to become very un-popular. There is a lot of pain we need to go through, but perhaps don’t feel it is all our fault?

Perhaps we should also be looking at some other cuts which could further benefit the country, but would actually affect more positive changes for the man on the street?

A new report released this week says Britain could cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2030, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs and regaining energy security.

 The report published by the Centre for Alternative Technology, includes input from thirteen universities, twelve research bodies and eight key industry players and highlights a path for a zero carbon transition by 2030. This is therefore the first time a comprehensive energy strategy has been produced from such a broad base that suggests ways we could reduce emissions to zero for all greenhouse gases and across all sectors.

The report  shows how the right mix of wind power, hydro, solar, biomass – plus an intelligent grid to manage demand, can ‘keep the lights on’ and supply the energy the country needs.

The report, aims to integrate thinking across a range of sectors and identify potential for what is termed ‘Powering Down’ through reducing demand and ‘Powering Up’ renewables to 100% by 2030 with no requirement for nuclear energy.

It could be argued that we have the lifetime of this parliament to start to break Britain’s fossil fuel ‘addiction’. The BP spill in the Gulf has further highlighted this and may well have opened some eyes in the US and the rest of the World in relation to the broader issues. If we can act now and reduce our reliance on fossil fuel, we can enjoy greater energy security and a more sustainable economy. If we don’t we will lurch from one energy and environmental crisis to another on a downward spiral. The report suggests to us how to begin the transition.

Key aims from the report include the following:

A 63% reduction in energy use for transport to be achieved by:
-Switch from petrol / diesel-powered vehicles to electric / battery-powered vehicles.
-Rail and bus services replacing domestic and short-haul flights.
-Two- thirds reduction in long haul aviation using kerosene fuel produced from coppice in the UK.

A 50% reduction in heat and electricity demand could be achieved by:
– Insulating all of Britain’s un-insulated cavity walls and lofts.
-Using natural construction materials such as wood, straw and other natural materials (will lock away C02).

It also suggests possible (but controversial) changes to land use:

– Britain can grow most of its own food whilst still producing biomass for heating, electricity and transport fuel.
– Land can be used to mop up residual emissions through sequestration.
– A 80% reduction in livestock products that generate 82% of green house gases in the agricultural sector. Non-livestock products generate more food and have a higher nutritional value.

The report does recognize that action in the UK alone is not enough, making any transition would require unprecedented collaboration on a global scale. The report emphasises the urgent need for an international agreement – there, you knew there was a catch!

This is all very well in principal, and I applaud the thinking behind the report. Unfortunately I cannot see some of the more ‘extreme’ ideas being accepted for a long time! Many require a substantial change to life style, both in terms of transport and diet – very unlikely at this time!

However, this does provide an interesting opportunity to start an earnest debate again on this subject. With President Obama now looking more to reducing the US dependency on fossil fuels perhaps we have a chance to move things forward again globally? The Government target is a 20% cut by 2020 and this was always going to be difficult without some ‘drive’ behind it. This may well help?

Certainly these are potentially far less painful cuts than the others we heard about this week!

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