Energy: December 2008 Archives

waronterrorafghanistan.jpgDuring this summer's Kingsnorth climate camp the police kicked into full fear-mongering mode, going in in riot gear and generally making £5.9m of work for themselves. 

They even confiscated a copy of "War on Terror - the Board Game", because it contains a balaclava with EVIL written on it. Apparently troops in Afghanistan are allowed it, though (left).

I have the game, and if you're prepared to do some work on the game dynamics and balance I recommend it. Spin the axis of evil and decide who wears that balaclava. Buy yours here.

Anyway, at the time, seventy officers were reported injured by the Kingsnorth protesters, which you can see might justify a heavier touch and some arrests. Today, however, it transpires that the total injuries were just twelve, and they included "stung on finger by possible wasp", "officer injured sitting in car" and "officer succumbed to sun and heat". No officers were injured by protesters, or if injuries occurred they weren't deemed prosecutable. The Guardian reports that: 

One officer cut his arm on a fence when climbing over it, another cut his finger while mending a car, and one "used leg to open door and next day had pain in lower back".

Other officers had toothache, diarrhoea and headaches. Given the protesters took the blame for this motley list of afflictions, Kent Police presumably believe climate campers included special voodoo operatives with dolls in police uniform, poking them with plastic wasps and shining bright lights on them from a nearby teepee. The only other sensible explanation is that it was just the usual New Labour war on peaceful protest, using the police as a tooled-up PR department, just as they used the army on the eve of the Iraq war.

Facing in both directions.

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The SNP have a tendency, like the Liberals, to try and be all things to all people. The First Minister and the Liberal leader accused each other of this exact sin on Thursday at FMQs, like two men stuck down a sewer, each accusing the other of having a bad smell.

The last ten days have shown the SNP's inconsistencies on the environment up in the most graphic manner.

First, they published the Climate Change Bill, which, for the avoidance of doubt is intended to reduce climate change. It's weak in some key places, and even the Tories have pledged to fix some of the loopholes, but I've seen worse Government proposals as a starting point.

However, this week they launched the Strategic Transport Projects Review, which has no hint of a strategy in it, covers public transport ideas so vague they can hardly be called projects, and which failed to demonstrate any actual review of the various roads schemes supposedly under consideration. New bypasses, dualling the A9 all the way to the moon (copyright Alex Johnstone MSP), you name it.

Next they published the National Planning Framework 2, which is full to bursting with warm words about sustainability, but which is designed to remove local planning oversight from demented schemes like the Second Additional Replacement Whatever Forth Road Cars Only Bridge. Public transport and renewables largely take a back seat, although there's some worthwhile grid stuff in it.

Overall, these latter documents could have been designed as an experiment to see how much CO2 can Scotland can feasibly emit. The inconsistencies are glaring and painful.

The roots of the problem are two systematic SNP failures of understanding. First, they think that reducing transport emissions can be done by simply building railway lines, even while boosting road capacity. 

Second, the word "sustainable" confuses them. It appears in the phrase "sustainable economic growth", which is their official Purpose. Purpose, in this usage, is a term so pompous it must always be capitalised, like Historic, as in the Historic Concordat. However often they say sustainable, though, they've misunderstood the meaning completely. They love economic growth, and wish to sustain it. This, for the SNP administration, is the entirety of what "sustainable growth" means. 

For the avoidance of doubt, here's the proper definition of sustainable development, from the Brundtland Commission. It's development which:

"meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"

Relying on the private car and coal-fired power stations, whether "CCS-ready" or not, lets those future generations down. It's time to choose, and I fear it's the climate and the future which will lose out.

Meltdown in East Lothian.

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As followers of Scottish politics know, there are tensions in East Lothian Labour between the MP, Anne Moffat, and the MSP, Iain Gray (aka the LOLITSP, and yes, if you google LOLITSP you get the Labour site). 

She's having trouble being reselected, and in the process accused him of being close to a group of local activists she describes as "bullies", "cowards" and "nasty people". The Nats are rubbing their hands together so vigorously they could start a fire, and it'll almost certainly not have gone away by the LOLITSP's unfortunate Christmas hostage-to-fortune deadline.

All of which makes this picture even more entertaining - thanks to Lindsay for the suggestion. 

The pair of them are pictured being kept apart by what looks like a 20th birthday cake for Torness itself, made in its own likeness. The cake is presumably composed of real but sweetened nuclear waste and cooled with radioactive jam. After the photocall she's going to try and stuff him into the reactor core, but I think he'll fend her off with a cooling rod. 

Anyway, it's dying to be used as a caption competition, I reckon. Entries in the comments please, again with an unspecified prize for the best (Susan, I owe you a bottle for the last competition).

On a more serious note, Labour representatives for seats with nuclear power stations in them are often the most gung-ho for this dinosaur technology - think Brian Wilson, former MP for Hunterston, or Jack Cunningham, former MP for Sellafield. This may matter more when you're hoping to lead a country which is far more nuke-sceptical than your local patch.

The Scottish Climate Change Bill.

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floodedcars.jpgWell, it's not the Bill I feared, but nor is it the Bill we need. Some areas are better than I expected, others worse, but Parliament has the structure it needs in order to improve the final legislation. 

I'm in a hurry, so all I'll add here are our six recommendations:

i. Accountability. The Bill currently contains no consequences for Ministers who miss their targets. Given that they are responsible for their success or failure, Ministers need to know what will happen if they fail.

ii. Urgency. The current proposal for annual targets suggests a very relaxed start, with very low reductions in emissions until 2020. Earlier shifts will make the biggest difference to Scotland's overall contribution to climate change and provide better opportunities to gain the competitive advantages a low carbon economy will bring. A stronger start is therefore needed. 

iii. Domestic action. The draft Bill contains no limit set on the proportion of Scotland's emissions reductions which can be "bought in" through international credits. It is vital that all or almost all of these reductions are actually achieved here in Scotland. Support for emissions reductions in developing countries is vitally important, but it not a substitute for putting our own house in order.

iv. Scientific independence. The Bill proposes to use the UK Climate Change Committee to provide scientific advice, and to allow Ministers to create a Scottish version if they see fit. However, the Scottish Committee would, if the Bill is unamended, be appointed by Scottish Ministers, not Parliament, which reduces its independence and credibility, not least because Ministers do not always have a working majority in Parliament.

v. Scale. The Bill proposes a long term 2050 target of 80% reductions in Scotland's emissions, but the evidence from the internationally-respected Tyndall Centre and others is that a 90% reduction will be required over this same period.

vi. Policy shift. The Scottish Government's policies as currently designed will aggravate climate change, especially in the areas of transport, energy and demand reduction. Ministers cannot promote airport expansion and a massive road-building programme and simultaneously deliver a credible policy on climate change. The Bill does move towards discussion of the implications for each sector of the economy, but does not mandate sector by sector targets and an action plan to deliver them.

Anything else you'd add? 

And what marks would you give the SNP? I give it a B+, could try harder. It's certainly better than the B- I'd expected.

An admission.

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CCBill.pngI actually enjoy reading legislation. Not the coolest hobby, but there we go.

Sometimes, though, it's magnificent - notably the Scotland Act, which starts with the line "There shall be a Scottish Parliament". As the late Donald Dewar said, "I like that". 

I would have liked the Act to incorporate those extra three words, but I can see why the clerks might not have gone for it.

Last month I even delved into subordinate legislation, the Mogadon of the legislative sphere, but even then I returned with facts relevant to the real world.

This morning's task is the SNP's draft Climate Change (Scotland) Bill. I won't review it until I've read the whole thing, but if there are any policy wonks out there, get stuck into it.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Energy category from December 2008.

Energy: November 2008 is the previous archive.

Energy: January 2009 is the next archive.