In 2018, the movement Fridays for the Future was born. It was the consequence of the demand of a young Swedish woman, Greta Thunberg, who every Friday demonstrated in front of the Parliament so that Sweden align itself with the Paris Agreement. This movement has been growing worldwide, and its main demands revolve around the need for States to seriously commit themselves to the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment.
It is surprising to discover that, in November 1989, Margaret Thatcher declared before the United Nations General Assembly: "What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate — all this is new in the experience of the Earth. It is mankind and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways". In other words, three decades earlier, in the United Kingdom (UK) the challenge that we must face urgently was already glimpsed. This country has been a pioneer in energy and environmental issues.
One of our latest studies on the energy transition in the United Kingdom presented the UK as a country with a long history of coherent and stable energy policies, which has experienced several energy transitions.
The UK's energy system has evolved over the last forty years, with the abandonment of domestic coal, the enhancement of the North Sea's own gas and oil resources, the transformation of its electricity system towards another one with a more significant presence of renewable and low-emission technologies, the reconstruction of a credible nuclear option and the evolution towards a progressively lower-carbon economy.
The Energy Transition Strategy in the United Kingdom arguably has been organised around the fight against climate change and, therefore, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, more than a decade ago, in 2008, the country's Government passed the Climate Change Act, which had strong support from all political parties and linked the United Kingdom to ambitious reduction targets of greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to 1990 by 2050, which were subsequently updated to 100%. To this end, it established five-year carbon budgets, which currently run until 2032. These budgets restrict the volume of emissions that can legally be emitted in a five-year period.
In April 2013, the Government also implemented a minimum price for carbon (Carbon Price Floor, CPF), in order to achieve the necessary investment in reducing emissions that the EU emissions trading scheme had not achieved. Likewise, that year began the reform of the electricity market.
The UK Clean Growth Strategy, adopted in 2017, established an investment of over £ 2.5 billion in low-carbon innovation as part of the largest increase in public spending on science, research and innovation in more than three decades. This investment seeks to make the UK a world leader in new technologies such as carbon capture, smart grids and hydrogen fuel cells. This strategy has developed a list of actions and financing programs.
As a result, since 1990 the UK has reduced its emissions by more than 40%. Today, around 400,000 people across the country work in decarbonisation-related businesses and in their value chains (among them innovators who develop electric batteries and automotive manufacturers who install them in their vehicles). It is considered the most prosperous country in the G-7 in achieving a growing economy but reducing emissions. Today, the UK uses three times less carbon to produce one pound of GDP than in 1990.
The UK believes that it is agilely developing a zero-emissions economy. Thus, in the summer of 2018, it reached maximum levels of solar production. This success is accompanied by a commitment to 2025 to proceed with the closure of coal generation. In this way, it is positioned as a country that can also help others in their post-coal transition process.
As the country prepared to leave the European Union permanently, one of the country's industry's objectives was to reach an agreement with the EU that covers energy and climate explicitly, since this would allow, in addition to protecting the environment, to take advantage of new growth opportunities. It announced the creation of a British emission trading scheme (UK ETS) to accompany the country in the challenge and already issued regulations establishing the structure of the UK ETS, including a cap on emissions each year to 2030. Therefore, climate action remains a pragmatic economic strategy and one of today's industrial opportunities.
Thus, having reached considerable achievements in the decarbonisation of electricity and waste much remains to be done in transport, building, agriculture and industrial thermal consumption during the next decade. The goal remains to base its clean growth in creating businesses and technologies that decarbonise these sectors.
Despite all the before mentioned, the United Kingdom is committed to decarbonisation. Perhaps responding to what according to Professor Megginson mistakenly established another Briton, before Margaret Thatcher; Charles Darwin "it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself."
Macarena Larrea, Researcher at Orkestra, holds a Ph.D. in Business Fostering and Development from the University of the Basque Country, she wrote her thesis on the “Internalization of the External Costs of Electricity Production”.