A European Green New Deal

6 November 2019

Tim Yeo.jpg

Tim Yeo


The New Nuclear Watch Institute

Not a day too soon a step change in international concern about climate change has occurred in 2019. It's just over a year since the IPCC warned of the dangers of a rise of more than 1.5 C in global average surface temperature.


During that time a variety of organisations - the International Energy Agency, the UN, the OECD and others - have emphasised the urgency of the need for drastic cuts in carbon emissions. Perhaps the most dramatic development has been the upsurge in public concern stimulated by young people like Greta Thunberg and reflected in support for movements like Extinction Rebellion.


Europe has been at the forefront of the world's response to the challenge of climate change for more than two decades, setting increasingly tough standards and targets. 


Britain's scientists have raised public understanding of the issues and its policy makers have pioneered initiatives like legally binding carbon budgets and carbon emissions trading.


Despite these achievements far more must be done, and be done far more quickly, than ever before if dangerous irreversible climate change is to be avoided.


Today's Forum is about the role nuclear energy should play in this process. Its focus is on Europe and its message is applicable worldwide.


My contribution is A European Green New Deal. Green New Deals are becoming fashionable and pop up in varying guises with net zero targets often a prominent feature.


Setting targets is the easy part. It's widely accepted that, in the absence of cost effect carbon capture, fossil fuels must be completely replaced for power generation, heat and cooling, and for surface transport. Common themes include the need for more energy efficiency and better demand side management. 


There's less unanimity about what should replace fossil fuels. With the prospect of increasing use of electricity for transport and data processing the question of how electricity is generated is particularly urgent. 


Time is not on our side. The world is fast approaching the safe limit for total greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.


I welcome unreservedly the expansion of renewable energy and the fall in the cost of solar and wind power. These trends will continue and renewables will supply a growing part of the world's energy. 


But historically only two countries, France and Sweden, have ever cut carbon emissions in the past as fast as every country must do in future. Both did so by investing in nuclear power.


The New Nuclear Watch Institute therefore believes that nuclear energy is needed alongside renewables, for the next few decades at least. Both must be part of Europe's Green New Deal.