What’s going on here?
The war in Ukraine has the UK government looking for ways to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas. But what does this mean for meeting net zero in the UK?
What does this mean?
It’s been hard to keep up with the government’s position on energy over the past few days. Labour’s shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband accused the government on Tuesday of being “all over the place”.
First, fracking is back on the agenda. Downing Street sources told the BBC the government’s goal is still to shift to renewable energy. But it said “in the transition period we need to pump more oil and gas of our own”. It was “in that context we should look at fracking”.
Second, The Times reported on a plan to keep coal-fired power stations open. Energy giant EDF’s power plant in Nottinghamshire is due to close in September. Government officials reportedly asked if it could stay open for longer.
Then there’s the prime minister’s imminent energy security strategy. It’s expected to set out how the UK can meet its needs from renewable and nuclear power. He’s also suggested more drilling for North Sea oil and gas, says the BBC.
There is also the potential of swapping one tyrant’s oil for another’s. Boris Johnson is seeking more fossil fuels from Saudi Arabia. But his trip has drawn criticism because of the country’s human rights record.
Why should we care?
A return to fracking would be a big step back for net zero. At the weekend, former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged the UK not to re-open its fracking wells. The deputy chair of the Elders said: “It’s very short term gain that will lose the long term interest of humanity.”
The energy crisis is also fuelling the anti net zero squad. An economist interviewed on GB News called it “not politically feasible”. A Telegraph opinion piece said the war had exposed the “shallowness of net zero”.
But there are positives coming from the government too. Last week business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng called the UK’s clean energy independence a “matter of national security”. The Climate Change Committee said the cost of net zero would peak at less than 1% of GDP each year by 2035, in this 9 March report. And a majority of cabinet ministers back a big push for more renewables, according to the Guardian.
- As well as heating the planet, fossil fuels are also financing the war. There’s no better time than now to green your money and how our guide can help.
- Read Carbon Brief’s in-depth Q&A about what Putin’s war means for energy and climate change.
- Donate where you can to the people of Ukraine. If you’re in the UK, take a look at the DEC Ukraine appeal. Every pound given by the UK public to the DEC is matched by the government, up to £20m.