This is the moment that the issue of decarbonization takes center stage in British politics. The question is no longer abstract, but rather concrete – will we clean up our economy, and if so, who will bear the cost? World leaders, such as President Joe Biden, understand the urgency and are taking significant steps to address climate change and ensure economic prosperity. Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is the largest investment in decarbonization to date, and its impact is causing concern among European policymakers.
In the summer of 2023, three inevitabilities are emerging – the politics, physics, and economics of climate change. However, the question remains, who will our political leaders listen to in this defining moment? Influential pundits and politicians are urging Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to reconsider their climate plans. Their argument, however, is perplexing. They acknowledge the financial burden of gas costs but suggest that people should remain reliant on gas for heating. They argue that petrol and diesel vehicles should continue to dominate transportation despite the lower cost of electric cars.
The reality is that generating electricity from renewable sources is cheaper than using imported gas, yet there are calls for fewer renewables and increased gas imports. These arguments not only defy logic but also undermine climate goals and jeopardize the competitiveness of British businesses in emerging green industries.
The plan to end the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 is one of the most cost-effective climate policies. It has the potential to deliver two-thirds of the necessary emission cuts in the coming decade. The transition to electric vehicles is already underway, with a third of cars sold in the UK having zero tailpipe emissions. Investment and infrastructure for electric vehicle charging are also increasing significantly.
To make green options affordable and accessible, we need to invest in green infrastructure. France, for example, offers low-income households the opportunity to lease electric cars at an affordable price. Additionally, improving insulation rates and breaking the link between gas prices and electricity costs are essential steps in tackling climate change.
In order to achieve net-zero goals, it is crucial that upfront costs are addressed and that climate policies prioritize making green alternatives desirable and affordable for households and businesses. The failure to achieve net-zero could result in double the cost to the public. It is imperative that ministers take immediate action, including breaking the link between gas prices and electricity costs, untangling cheap energy sources from planning restrictions, and implementing fair taxes on transportation and energy consumption.
Recent elections in Spain and Australia demonstrate the political consequences of failing to address climate change adequately. Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer must prioritize credible solutions to ensure that the UK remains on course to tackle climate change effectively.