Reports of the green movement's demise have been wildly exaggerated
At the risk of sounding like the proverbial broken record, The Times was staggeringly premature this week in publishing an obituary for the green movement by Tim Montgomerie under the banner, "The greens can't defy gravity. They're finished".
"Finished?" I hear you ask. "How finished exactly?" Well judging by the last five days, not really that finished at all. Here are 10 things that have happened since Montgomerie performed the last rites for "the greens":
1. The London Stock Exchange has seen its largest-ever green IPO – Renewable Energy Infrastructure Group raised £300m in an oversubscribed share issue and is already moving forward with plans to acquire 300MW of renewable energy capacity.
2. New data confirmed the UK's renewable energy output increased 19 per cent last year – Yes, our use of coal also increased, and yes our reliance on imported energy increased. But at the same time renewable output soared as significant new capacity came online. The government remains confident we will generate a fifth of our energy from renewables by 2020.
3. Mars is planning a global renewables investment push – One of the world's largest food and drink giants confirmed that emissions, water use and waste levels are all down, but it needs to go much further to meet its goal of being a zero-impact business, so a huge programme for investing its own renewable energy assets is being planned.
4. The European Investment Bank said it will no longer invest in the dirtiest coal plants – Following in the footsteps of the World Bank, the EIB has declared the most carbon-intensive coal power plants verboten for its investment portfolio. Intriguingly, several of the directors wanted the bank to go further and stop funding any coal plants that lack carbon capture technology. The bank's fossil fuel lending rules are only likely to get tighter over time.
5. It emerged that the UK green economy grew nearly five per cent in 2011/12 – Or 4.8 per cent to be precise, and that at a time when the rest of the economy was as lifeless as the Australian cricket team. The official government figures are far from perfect, covering some industries that might not be immediately regarded as green and including companies that have a range of activities, not all of them low carbon. But what they do show is that industries and businesses with a significant green element are comfortably outperforming the rest of the economy.
6. China's green plans went from strength to strength – The week started with Chinese government officials confirming carbon taxation was on its way, and ended with a pledge to invest $277bn over five years in efforts to tackle air pollution. There were also major solar investment announcements from Thailand and India, and the US EPA continued with its plan to regulate power plant emissions. All this at a time when Montgomerie reckons governments are cooling towards green issues.
7. Data revealed US corporate giants use 20 billion kWh of green power a year – That is enough to deliver emissions savings equivalent to that produced by 2.1 million homes. And, more importantly, the true figure is far higher. The latest stats come from the largest 50 companies signed up to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Green Power Partnership and include the likes of Intel, Walmart and Microsoft. But numerous other firms are investing in green energy outside the programme, meaning real corporate usage of clean energy is higher still.
8. Sainsbury's announced that it has 100,000 solar panels – And it's not finished yet. Having reached its latest milestone, the supermarket giant is continuing to step up investment in solar, heat pumps and biomass technologies as it seeks to slash its emissions 30 per cent by 2020.
9. It was confirmed that Northumberland will soon be powered by biomass – The government this week gave the green light to the £250m 100MW North Blyth Biomass power plant, which promises to use sustainably certified biomass to provide enough electricity for every home in the county.
10. The North Pole became a meltwater lake – Just in case anyone still thought there was no longer any need for 'defeated' green campaigners, it emerged this week that the North Pole is now home to a lovely meltwater lake. Not only that, but new research suggests the release of methane from permafrost in the far north could have genuinely catastrophic results for the global economy. It looks like we might need to resuscitate the greens after all.
10 is a nice round number, so I'll stop there and not mention British Gas' £200m energy efficiency programme, BMW's investment in the UK's electric vehicle charging network, Climate Change Capital's plans for a new clean energy mega-corporation or the Renault Nissan Alliance selling their 100,000th electric car.
Montgomerie is right to warn that green policies have not yet led to the steep reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that is urgently required. But finished? If this is what defeat looks like I can't wait for a green economic victory.
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