The Green Tau: issue 24

5th November 2021

Green Wash or Green Tonic

Half way through the COP26 climate conference and what has been delivered? Green wash or green tonic? Or is it like the mushroom in Alice and Wonderland and it depends from which side you are eating? 

It may be several months before we know whether what we have been given is a green tonic that will invigorate and rapidly promote growth in our transition to a sustainable global lifestyle; or whether it was in fact a green wash of carefully chosen words that don’t actually mean what they say, or don’t actually lead to any action.

Thursday was set aside for discussions and agreements on energy. It should be strikingly clear that fossil fuels in every shape and form can do nothing other than add to the climate crisis. They are termed ‘fossil’ fuels because they are the carbon content of plants and animal remains laid down/ locked away millennia ago. They are stores of carbon intended to be released gradually over not just millennia but eons of time, but which became the miracle power source for the industrial revolution. Carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere at a far faster rate than the planet can re-absorb. It is like a bath tub where the overflow is way too small to cope when the taps are open at full bore. Our carbon dioxide bath is all but overflowing and the consequences will be the total loss of icecaps, ice sheets and glaciers that will cause summer water shortages; rising sea levels that will drown not just towns but whole countries; rapidly rising temperatures, expanding deserts, diminishing  agricultural output and the consequential increase in deaths across the globe. Current atmospheric CO2 levels stand at 413.96 ppm compared with the preindustrial level of 280 ppm and predicted maximum, after which climate change becomes uncontrollable, of 440 ppm.

40 countries have pledged to phase out coal-fired power stations by 2030 – or 2040 if they are one of the smaller economies. Note this doesn’t phase out all use of coal, nor does it phase out gas fired power stations, nor the use of oil, petrol, aviation fuel etc. In the UK we have 3 remaining coal fire power stations, which will be phased out by 2025. But we also have 30+ gas fired power stations, and, despite legal challenges, the government has given the go ahead for what will be the largest gas fired power plant at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

20 countries, including the UK, have agreed to stop providing finance for overseas fossil fuel developments by 2022, and to divert the funds to clean energy projects. However earlier this year the International Energy Association had already announced that the world had already reached the maximum number fossil fuel extracting operations that would be compatible with the 1.5C temperature rise target. Why then provide another year’s worth of funding to develop even more? And why has the UK government given approval for a new coal mine in Cumbria and and oil extraction from the seas around the Hebrides?

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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