The decision by the government this week to enshrine the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in UK law is one we should all welcome.
We know the scale of the challenge posed by climate change, not least thanks to the work of Prospect members working in climate science at the Met Office and elsewhere. And we know the urgency of taking action if we are to avoid the worst effects.
The real test however is not setting targets, or declaring an emergency, it is in taking real action. And it is here that this government has so often been found wanting.
Decarbonising electricity generation is the most obvious target for action and the area in which the policy and science is most advanced.
To their credit, there has been an admirable expansion in the deployment of offshore wind generation in recent years, driven by a dramatic fall in cost and the alignment of incentive structures for companies to invest.
Prospect welcomes this progress, although we remain concerned at how this growth has failed to translate into UK jobs, a point we have made in recent research.
Yet in other areas of low-carbon generation, policy has been confused, absent, or actively hostile to progress.
Nuclear is an obvious example of this, as is the failure to support the Swansea tidal lagoon project. But perhaps the most striking example is the government’s outright ban (outside of Scotland) on one of the most economical forms of renewable generation: onshore wind.
New research from RenewableUK this week argues that if the current barriers to deployment across most of the UK were lifted, it would be possible to expand capacity and achieve the target set by the Committee on Climate Change of 35GW of onshore wind by 2035.
They argue that not only would this help reduce emissions, but it could support up to 14,000 direct jobs and a further 17,000 indirect jobs.
We believe this is a timely report and should spur a rethink of government policy towards onshore wind.
We are committed to supporting a low-carbon energy mix in the future, with a mix of technologies helping to reduce emissions and support the economy.
The long-promised Energy White Paper, theoretically still due this summer, must unlock the potential of our future low-carbon generation and create the framework for getting new generation capacity built in the UK and providing green jobs across the country.