With negotiations over a new global climate deal taking place in Paris this December, it is more important than ever that the world’s leader’s work together to demonstrate their commitment to combatting climate change. Above all, that means the leading countries on climate change in Europe.
That’s why I am so delighted with the new statistics released yesterday showing UK CO2 emissions fell by nearly 10% in 2014, while the UK economy grew at well over 2% annual growth. This represents the largest ever fall in UK emissions while the economy is growing, turning low carbon growth into a modern reality in Britain.
The biggest cuts in emissions are in the energy supply sector, down more than 15% over the year partly due to energy efficiency improvements, and an amazing 20% increase in renewable electricity generation last year. But perhaps most importantly, 2014 saw the UK’s use of unabated coal power, the most polluting and carbon intensive form of energy production, fall by more than 25%.
Indeed, these figures are consistent with the wider trends we have seen in the UK over recent years, with GHG emissions down 15% since 2010, energy efficiency improving across all sectors of the economy and low carbon power growing to make up 38% of our electricity mix. And it is a timely testament to this Government’s hard work to decarbonise our economy while creating jobs and wealth at the same time.
Looking forward, thanks to the combination of EU and domestic policies we have put in place, the UK is well on course to meet our national GHG targets, and to phase out unabated coal power almost entirely by the mid-2020s. Moreover, the recent joint statement on climate change from leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party leaders means that whichever government is in power after May’s elections, the UK will remain a leading voice for ambitious climate action and for driving unabated coal emissions out of our energy system.
But the UK is not alone in Europe in showing real ambition on climate change – far from it! In Brussels, we recently agreed the EU’s climate pledge for the Paris climate summit this year, including the ambitious domestic emissions reduction target for 2030 of at least 40%. This is the first climate pledge from any of the world’s major economies and sets the bar of ambition high.
Last week, we also agreed to establish an Energy Union for Europe, which will make it cheaper and easier to decarbonise our economies by enabling low carbon power to flow freely across national borders in the future. And we are actively working closely with our partners in Europe to substantially strengthen the EU’s Emissions Trading System, a critical tool for driving investments away from polluting fossil fuels and towards low carbon technologies.
France recently passed a new domestic energy law, which includes a similar approach to the UK’s carbon budget model and puts them on a secure path to meeting their climate goals. And as the CoP hosts, France is showing the leadership the world needs to ensure that the Paris Climate Summit this December delivers something extraordinary: the world’s first genuinely global climate agreement.
Germany passed an ambitious domestic climate action plan last December to deliver GHG reductions across all sectors, including from fossil fuels. Also, holding the Presidency of the G7 this year gives Germany a unique opportunity to put climate change at the heart of the global agenda throughout 2015, adding real leadership and momentum on the path to Paris. Indeed, Germany can showcase successes from their domestic energy transformation and demonstrate that German industrial low carbon expertise is a global asset for countries to draw on in transitioning away from fossil fuels and into low-carbon technology.
If ever there was a need for European leadership on climate change, it is now, ahead of the global climate summit in December and a potential breakthrough moment in efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change. Fortunately, whether it is in London, Brussels, Paris or Berlin, Europe and Europeans are facing up to this challenge.