Can we sustain sustainability without government support?

Is sustainability sustainable?

The first year of the majority Conservative Government was a difficult one for sustainability. The axe fell on a raft of green initiatives as the suits in Westminster charged headlong in their pursuit of other energy programmes, such as nuclear and the controversial fracking proposition.

The Green Deal, offshore wind subsidies, the zero-carbon standard for non-domestic buildings and the code for sustainable homes were cast aside, to name a few of the more high-profile casualties .

Curiously, despite this seemingly scorched earth policy towards schemes designed to help the UK meet its carbon emissions targets, Minister Amber Rudd has more recently conceded that new policies will be needed during the term of this parliament to give the UK a chance of hitting its legal obligations concerning targets for the mid-2020s and beyond, as per Business Green.

Which makes the job of answering the question posed by the title of this blog a difficult one.

We are living under a Government that accepts it needs to do more to meet the targets it has been set, and yet the same government has almost indiscriminately set about cutting off much of the policy created to help us get there.

It’s a puzzle, and perhaps a look at some of the leading European countries on carbon emissions reductions can provide us with a better steer.

Iceland heads the field, according to the 2016 Energy Performance Index, with the 2016 EPI report stating the country generates “nearly all of its electricity and heat generation derived from renewable energy sources, including geothermal and hydropower. Geothermal energy provides more than 87 percent of the country’s heat and hot water demand, and hydropower supplies 75 percent of its electricity.”

Granted, it is a country blessed with considerable resources beneath its feet, but it still impressive that the capital Reykjavic powers all of its buildings from geothermal energy, (Blue & Green Tomorrow). It is targeting a totally fossil fuel-free existence by 2050.

Copenhagen enjoys a similarly good score for its decarbonisation efforts, with emissions reduced by 21% between 2005 to 2011 and an estimated £287m of city money to be spent by 2025 on bringing emissions down further.

It would seem that city pride might be the way for the UK to catch up, rather than waiting for central policy to take hold. This approach is given further encouragement by the most recent EPI report, which states: “As atmospheric carbon concentrations exceed dangerous thresholds and average global temperatures break records, the global climate policy community has sought actors to propose and implement climate programs in the void left by national governments’ inaction. 

Karen Fletcher is Director of Keystone Communications

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