The news from the UN World Meteorological Organisation that greenhouse gases have hit a new high is sobering. Action on climate change isn’t working quickly enough, or as the IEA said, our global response is “totally inadequate”.
Recent reports that Europe is switching away from coal shows there is some good news. But the fact that half of the fall is attributable to switching from one fossil fuel to another – coal to gas – is striking.
Gas has a lower carbon intensity than coal – but it is currently nowhere near good enough to decarbonise the electricity generation sector. We will hit a wall and fail to hit emissions targets if we use fossil fuels like gas to back-up intermittent low-carbon renewable energy.
As Nick Butler said in the Financial Times earlier this month, gas’s poor environmental impact poses a threat to its future.
Leakage in extraction and transmission, including of the potent greenhouse gas methane, is a big problem and it can drive its carbon intensity back up towards that of coal. We welcome the development of carbon capture (CCuS). It will be essential to decarbonise some industrial processes, but we also need a solution to fugitive emissions. In addition, around half of the UK’s gas consumption is imported from abroad. A reduction in dependence on energy imports would increase the UK’s security of energy supply.
In addition, around half of the UK’s gas consumption is imported from abroad. A reduction in dependence on energy imports would increase the UK’s security of energy supply.
Countries using renewables and nuclear together have successfully cut their emissions – those using renewables and fossil fuels haven’t. We need all electricity to be low carbon not just some of it. And emissions outside the UK have just as great an impact on the climate.