The Six Dangers that Brexit Poses to Renewables by Alex O‘Cinneide

With the UK set to vote this month on whether to remain in the EU, Alex O‘Cinneide warns that a ‘no’ vote could be catastrophic for the renewables sector both in the country and further afield:

We’ve already heard from Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd that Brexit would cost an extra £500 million ($700 million) in energy bills for UK consumers, but surprisingly little has been said about what the impact would be on the UK’s renewables sector and the pressure to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector.

Perhaps we have heard very little of what an independent UK would look like in these terms because so many eurosceptics are also climate change deniers (think Lord Lawson, Owen Patterson).

The impacts, however, could be catastrophic and everyone else should certainly be worried about what the impacts of Brexit might be on the renewables industry across Europe.

Here are six ways in which Brexit would shake up the renewables sector:

1) The UK regresses on its renewables targets:

While the UK has committed to some carbon reduction targets through the Climate Change Act in 1998, many of the international targets such as those agree at Paris last December are set at the European level, meaning that the flagship renewables targets for 2020 and 2030 would no longer be binding if the UK left.

While the UK is unlikely to completely abandon the targets (it was, after all, instrumental in pushing for them) we could certainly imagine an under-pressure UK government taking the opportunity slip further on its renewables policy.

Even if the UK recommitted to meeting its current targets, the damage to investor confidence would mean untold wasted opportunities in the intervening period.

2) The UK loses €7 billion ($7.8 billion) in funding for energy projects:

One thing we can be relatively sure of is that the UK would lose its funding from the European Investment Bank, which is a critical funder of capital intensive projects in the UK.

In 2014 the EIB invested €7 billion into the UK, of which half were energy projects.

Projects already funded by the EU would be placed into dramatic uncertainty as they try to work out whether their funds can be redirected, or prepaid, or (failing emergency UK government support) they go bust.

These projects include some of the most crucial infrastructural investments to the UK, supporting the general grid infrastructure as well as the all-important development of a renewable power supply.

3) Investment in energy connectors fall, threatening our energy security:

Currently the UK relies on a wide range of infrastructure to provide energy. Gas connectors import 8% of the gas we burn and electric cables from France pick up the supply when the UK grid is under strain.

The situation is even more interlinked in Northern Ireland where the entire system is interdependent with the committedly EU nation to the south.

If the UK were to leave, these connections wouldn’t disappear but the political will to create and maintain new projects would be severely damaged and, inevitably, the future investment for them would be reduced. This development would leave the UK more isolated, and facing wider range of energy problems than it does currently.

4) The UK moves from policy maker to policy taker:

The UK has traditionally had a very strong voice in the EU policy developments, particularly around the liberalisation of the European markets. Exiting would make the UK move from being a policy maker to a policy taker.

The UK might negotiate to stay part of the bodies that co-ordinate the EU energy policy or, failing this, it might just closely follow the EU’s policies.

For instance, the UK might continue to participate in the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme to reduce emissions but it wouldn’t be have any of its current influence on how the policy is decided.

5) Coal plants are forced to stay operational for longer:

As the UK’s energy infrastructure is put under greater strain, the temptation to extend the lifetime of the UK’s coal power plants would be massive.

Currently, the plan is to close all the UK’s coal stations by 2025, but that project is based on the ability of the UK to develop the renewable and gas capacity to replace them.

Exit from the EU would create the flexibility for the UK to slip on this target though, as future governments might find tempting if projects like the troubled Hinckley Point nuclear plant fail to deliver. Indeed, we have already seen creeping attempts to do so, given the pre-existing strain on the UK grid; the government has recently offered to maintain subsidies for two of the UK’s largest coal plants.

6) European leadership on global environmental policy declines:

An EU without Britain would be a radically different political animal, and this would change the face of future European energy policy.

Would we still expect the EU to lead in pushing for renewables targets globally as it did in Paris in 2015?

Would European policy still push for liberalised markets in the same way, or would we see a drift towards sanctioning more protectionist national renewables schemes?

The loss of Britain’s voice in this mix would likely reduce the ambition of the EU; but more than that, it might even affect its ability to have a unified global energy policy.

The fear of further political fragmentation would reduce its ability to lean on individual members and achieve ambitious consensus.

Distant Strangers and the Illusion of Separation

The peoples of the world’s developing nations are far-off, vague and unfamiliar strangers to us in the developed world – a collective group of people whom we feel little or no responsibility towards. So argues leading philosopher, climate change and human rights expert Professor Henry Shue in his recent lecture on climate justice in Trinity College. ‘The illusion of separation’ as proposed by Professor Shue, sets up a model where there is an ‘us’ in the developed world and a ‘them’ in the developing world. This model allows ‘us’ the ability to act immorally and without responsibility for our actions, as the consequences of those actions are not witnessed by us and so we can easily wipe our hands clean of any responsibility.

Pictured at the occaision (l-r): Katarzyna Czaplicka (UNDP), Jonathan Claridge (European Commission), Dr Lorna Gold (Trocaire), Professor Henry Shue, Professor Juliett Hussey (VP for Global Relations Trinity). Soource: Trinity News and Events
Pictured at the occaision (l-r): Katarzyna Czaplicka (UNDP), Jonathan Claridge (European Commission), Dr Lorna Gold (Trocaire), Professor Henry Shue, Professor Juliett Hussey (VP for Global Relations Trinity). Source: Trinity News and Events

Continue reading “Distant Strangers and the Illusion of Separation”

Mapping Language on the Tube

If you have ever spent time in London you will know that it is a very diverse and multicultural city. As a result, there are a plethora of languages that you would hear in any given day. This is especially evident when travelling on the tube.

Map of languages on the tube
Map of languages on the tube

The diversity of languages along the tube has been mapped by Oliver O’Brien, researcher in geovisualisation and web mapping at University College London’s department of geography. O’Brien has created an interactive map showing what the most common second language is at certain tube stops across London. O’Brien used 2011 Census data to map the second most commonly spoken language that people who live nearby speak.

The interactive map also contains other information about tube journeys in London, including an interesting breakdown of the occupation of locals near tube stations.

See see the map click here: Tube Map

For a news report click here: London’s second languages mapped by tube stop

A City Divided

There has been some interesting work recently published by Richard Florida, among others, on the geography of class within cities in the U.S. as part of a report for the Martin Prosperity Institute, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Richard Florida is a prominent urban theorist who coined the term ‘the creative class’ to describe knowledge workers who, he argues, drive urban economics. The report attempts to better understand the relationship between class and geography in modern cities in the U.S. using data from the 2010 census.

The geography of class in New York City. Source: The Divided City, p. 12
The geography of class in New York City. Source: The Divided City, p. 12

The analysis charts the residential locations of the major working classes in 12 large U.S. metro areas. The report separates the workers into 3 classes; the knowledge based ‘creative class’ who make up about a third of the U.S. workforce (which includes work in advertising, business, education, the arts, etc.); the ‘service class,’ which makes up the largest and fastest growing sector of the economy (retail, food service, clerical jobs etc.); and the dwindling blue-collar working class (manufacturing, construction, industry, transportation, etc.).

The geography of class in Boston. Source: The Divided City, p. 32
The geography of class in Boston. Source: The Divided City, p. 32

The study used GIS to map the residential location of the 3 classes, and found clear patterns of class division across each of the cities studies. The creative class occupy the most economically functional and desirable locations, often clustered in and around the urban core. The location of the other 2 classes are ‘structures and shaped by the locational prerogatives of the creative class.’ The service class often surround the creative class, concentrated in areas of disadvantage, or are pushed to suburban fringes. The study also found that there are ‘strikingly few’ working class concentrations left in major cities in the U.S.

The geography of class in Washington D.C. Metro. Source: The Divided City p. 24
The geography of class in Washington D.C. Metro. Source: The Divided City p. 24

The study concludes by identifying key locational factors that shape the class divided city, each of which ‘turns on the locational imperatives of the creative class.’ The key factors include:

  • Urban centres where the affluent creative class concentrate in and around the central business district
  • Transit hubs where the creative class cluster due to ease of transport
  • Knowledge institutions where the creative class cluster around universities and knowledge based institutions
  • Natural Amenities where the creative class cluster, especially waterfront locations.

The data has been expanded further by ESRI, the geospatial company that are home to ArcGIS.  The data maps these class divides across all of America’s 70,000-plus Census tracts, and allows for the observation and comparison of the dominant locations of the three major classes, median income levels, and the location of the highly educated across many U.S. metropolitan areas. These interactive maps can be found here.

The Geography of Class, Education, and Income in the United States
The Geography of Class, Education, and Income in the United States. Source: ArcGIS

Reference

Florida, R., Matheson, Z., Alder, P. and Brydges, T. (2014) The Divided City: And the shape of the new metropolis. Martin Prosperity Institute (pdf)

For more see:

CityLab

The Washington Post

NextCity.org

 

Authored by Kevin Lougheed, Teaching Fellow, TCD Geography

Another Eruption Caught on Camera

Mt. Ontake, a popular tourist spot lying 200 kilometers from Tokyo and containing five beautiful crater lakes, was in the news recently for some tragic reasons. On Saturday the 27th of September the volcano erupted, causing more than 30 deaths. Luckily some hikers managed to escape, and caught the amazing event on film as they were overtaken by a huge cloud of ash.

The eruption can be seen from a view further away here:

Report from the Second Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice

On September 17th and 18th two Masters of Science in Development Practice students – Bryan Lee and Julia Schroer – on the jointly delivered course by TCD and UCD attended the Second Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice. The ICSDP is co-hosted by the Global Association of the Masters in Development Practice Program (the MDP’s home on TCD’s campus is the Geography Department in the School of Natural Sciences) and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The conference is also supported by the Earth Institute and it was held at Alfred Lerner Hall on Columbia University’s campus in New York City, New York. Nearly 400 students, practitioners, academics, and government officials converged on Columbia University to attend the conference.

Careers Panel with Julia Schroer. Source: Facebook.com/SustainableDevelopmentConference/photos_stream
Careers Panel with Julia Schroer. Source: Facebook.com/SustainableDevelopmentConference

Continue reading “Report from the Second Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice”