COP26 has finally begun in Glasgow, giving global leaders their last chance to limit the catastrophic damage from Global Warming we’re all on course to experience over coming decades. As it’s the 26th such event, I’m not sure how far we should get our hopes up, but given there’s no Plan B what’s the alternative?
The scale of what is required is unparalleled. Even if switch our entire power grid to non-carbon energy sources, the intermittency of solar and wind mean we’ll need generating capacity substantially beyond our current levels for continuity of supply. In addition, if electrification is our main solution for reducing emissions from transport, we’re going to require even more generating capacity to meet that new need.
Globally the problem gets worse, while birth rates are stabilising at two children per mother, improvements in longevity mean the planet’s population will continue to increase to around ten billion. All of those people will have a carbon footprint and poorer countries won’t accept that several centuries of pollution by the West means they must now be trapped in poverty.
All of which is to say, if we’re going to reach net zero, we will all have to make substantial sacrifices, both in terms of personally giving things up to reduce our own carbon footprints and the opportunity cost of the taxing and spending which will be necessary to transition every part of our lives away from carbon. Reaching net zero isn’t impossible, but I question whether a majority of people will vote for the measures necessary to make it possible in time.
Disagree? Then ask yourself this, given we all already know of countless ways to reduce our own carbon footprint, what aren’t you prepared to do: go vegetarian, stop driving, spend tens of thousands making your home Green, rule out holidays abroad, or keep to a minimum your own personal use of electricity? If any of these seems unreasonable now, then would you or anyone else really vote for a Government which forced you to do them? Ultimately, without that public support, no Government can deliver net zero.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council