UK can’t go it alone on climate or energy security

Written by Editor, CIR

The UK is facing unprecedented new energy challenges and will be unable to secure its future power supplies by acting alone, according to a new report, Investing for an Uncertain Future: Priorities for UK Energy and Climate Security, by Nick Mabey of E3G and John Mitchell of Chatham House.

Against a backdrop of dwindling UK fossil fuel reserves and increasingly unpredictable relationships with supplier countries, UK energy security and climate security will depend on securing access to low carbon technologies and investment in power supplies, the report argues.

The end of Britain’s self-sufficiency in oil and gas means that its energy policy must become more proactive internationally if it is to deliver economic, climate, and energy security for the country. Until uncertainties over energy policies and timescales are addressed, the utilities are likely to turn to gas instead of lower carbon options: renewables, nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage. Securing the electricity supply presents the most immediate challenge for the new coalition government, since about a quarter of generating capacity will probably close by 2020.

“The UK cannot plan for the world on these issues, but it can have a strategy for its actions in the world. With the exception of its approach to managing climate change in the UN negotiations, the UK does not have such a strategy”, said John Mitchell of Chatham House.

The report assesses the changing global landscape for energy supplies and for climate politics, and evaluates the ability of the UK energy systems to respond to new challenges, including ageing power generation capacity, oil price spikes and changing priorities among fuel exporters.

It concludes that European and international cooperation on strategic technologies, infrastructure and investment is fundamental to meeting the UK’s future energy needs. This paper puts forward the elements of such a strategy: promotion in the EU of more ambitious emission targets; full liberalisation of trade and investment in energy technology; a strategy for a European ‘supergrid’ and a co-ordinated EU-wide approach to trade and investment relationships with critical energy oil and gas suppliers.

The UK needs to work with the European Union and strengthen relationships with countries, such as China, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Russia, to build a successful international climate regime with continuing international trade and investment in the energy needed for UK and global development.

Nick Mabey, CEO of E3G, commented: “UK energy security depends on securing investment and securing access to technologies, not just securing supplies of fossil fuels. Achieving Britain’s strategic aims will require using our influence in Europe to build competitive energy markets and to work with emerging economies to develop a global climate regime.”

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