An article by Roby McKie and Toby Helm, The Observer.
David Cameron’s commitment to the green agenda will come under the fiercest scrutiny yet this week when top climate-change experts will warn that only greater use of renewable energy – including windfarms – can prevent a global catastrophe.
A report by the world’s leading authorities will expose a growing gulf between a Tory party intent on halting construction of more onshore windfarms and the world’s leading scientists, who see them as one of the cheapest ways to provide energy while at the same time saving the environment.
Mitigation of Climate Change, by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel of 200 scientists, will make it clear that by far the most realistic option for the future is to triple or even quadruple the use of renewable power plants. Only through such decisive action will carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere be kept below the critical level of 480 parts per million (ppm), before the middle of the century. If levels go beyond this figure, the chances of curtailing global mayhem are poor, they will say.
The report – the third in a series by the IPCC designed to highlight the climate crisis now facing the planet – is intended as an urgent wake-up call to nations to commit around 1-2% of GDP in order to replace power plants that burn fossil fuels, the major cause of global warming, with renewable sources.
Its conclusions represent a huge challenge for Cameron and the Conservative party – which is now laying plans to block the construction of new onshore windfarms in Britain, the country’s only realistic, reasonably priced renewable energy option other than solar power, which has limited potential in the UK.
Having promised to lead “the greenest government ever”, Cameron now stands accused by the green lobby of watering down his commitments in response to the threat of Ukip, which campaigns heavily against windfarms.
The prime minister’s green credentials have also been called into question by the appointment in 2012 of Owen Paterson, a climate-change sceptic, as environment secretary. Paterson said in September 2013: “People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries.”
An Opinium/Observer poll – which today puts Ukip on 18% support – also finds that just 15% of voters think Cameron has lived up to his promises on the environment, against 46% who think he has not. In addition, only 20% disagreed with the suggestion that the government was giving priority to short-term economic growth over the sustainable use of the environment.
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