The impressive results of UK decarbonisation. And the opposite situation in Aus

There has been some fantastic news coming out of the UK recently. I subscribed a couple of years back to the online magazine/blog RenewEconomy (much more active than me!) which alerted me to an article on the UK. In short, it reported on how the country had witnessed a drop in carbon emissions of 9% during 2014. Quite impressive reduction. And it probably contributed towards their commendable 5th place in The Climate Change Performance Index 2014.

This was attributed to a 20% decline in coal use and relatively warm winter temperatures. This I can attest to. I saw frost on only a couple of occasions and there was no snow at all in the 2013-2014 winter, unlike this year. Remarkable also in this 9% drop in emissions was simultaneous growth of the economy!

That’s a very positive wake up call for the small army of economists and policy makers who couple fossil fuel use with economic growth.

Historical Coal Use UK

Clicking though a number of pages that linked from the original article, I came across this excellent graph above. I’m impressed that such graphs can be produced dating back to the 1860s. I like also that the graph has a zero on the vertical axis.

But my intuitive thought was of course to compare it to the coal obsessed country that I’m a citizen of. The same quality of statistics weren’t obtainable in my 5 minutes of Googling, but I came up with this one.

Australian Coal Consumption
Does this look like the future to you? Coal coal coal? Certainly a major contributing factor to Australia’s miserable performance in the The Climate Change Performance Index 2014. Only 4 countries of the top 58 global emitters fall behind Australia (Canada, Iran, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia).

Can you spot the difference?

I subsequently found a possibly even more depressing account of the state of the Australian environmental system when I stumbled upon this:

Australia renewables sector

Since 2010-11 the situation hasn’t improved vastly. Certainly not under the present government. You can read about my brief comparative analysis of the wind development situation in Victoria and Denmark in a blog post earlier this month. There are of course some good news stories in terms of solar since this time, so I hope if I were to find an updated version of the graph above I would see a rise in the renewable development percentage again.

The Australian coal mining industry has been kidding itself for a long time about it’s poor environmental record. The nature of their advertising affirms this. Slogans like ‘Coal Hard Facts’ from the Minerals Council of Australia. Or how about their report on ‘Power to the People’ also referring exclusively to fossil fuels. As though they had won some kind of popularity contest.

To understand the current policy of the Abbott government you don’t need to look any further than his comments whilst opening a new coal mine in Queensland.

“coal is good for humanity”

“It is a great day for the world” (whilst opening the Caval Ridge coalmine.

“The future for coal is bright and it is the responsibility for government to try to ensure that we are there making it easier for everyone wanting to have a go.”

“I regard myself as a conservationist.” 

With regards to this last comment, I can direct you to the increasinly popular facebook group: Keep Calm, Abbott won’t be PM forever. And here’s another link to the flat earth society.

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