The year ahead – twenty fift-green?

Firstly, happy New Year from all those at BaR!

The start of January always seems to herald a surfeit of navel-gazing blog posts. Therefore, I thought I would attempt to broaden my horizons and consider whether, with only five years to go to meet the 20-20-20 EU climate targets, will 2015 be the greenest year yet?

One topic sure to dominate the news agenda in 2015 is the price of oil. In the last six months of 2014, it fell by almost 50% from $115 to $60 a barrel. The root cause of the slide has been attributed to the boom in US shale oil production, where fracking technology has been applied to oil exploration. Paired with a slowdown in consumption in China, a relative glut of oil entered the market which triggered the decline. This was compounded by the failure of Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC to slow production – a calculated failure adhere to the elementary principles of supply and demand. Whilst Opec may have their own agenda for such a move, many oil companies have been forced to cut capital expenditure. In the past, the low price of oil would have spelt trouble for renewable energy sources; however, experts say that the diverse energy market is much more resilient and better equipped to cope with the current situation. It is even possible that governments may be spurred into introducing new carbon taxes whilst their effect would be cushioned by the current low oil price.

The price of petrol may fall to below £1 per litre in the coming months. Photo credit: Wikipedia commons/Rama
The price of petrol may fall to below £1 per litre in the coming months. Photo credit: Wikipedia commons/Rama

We would all do well to remember that however low prices go, it cannot last. Whilst other sectors, such as plastic recycling, may also be temporarily hit by the falling price of virgin products, long-term prospects of cheap oil are a thing of the past.

In the UK, the big event on the horizon is the 56th General election. Scheduled for 7th May 2015, it marks a watershed moment for the current shifting of the political sands. A recent poll found that support for the main three parties is at a record low, and this is widely acknowledged as the first election in years in which smaller parties have the potential to make an impact on the overall result. Much of this has been given a helping hand by the power of social media; the Green Party now has a larger Twitter following than the Liberal Democrats. Whilst acknowledging that small doesn’t always equal green (e.g., UKIP’s consistent denial of climate change), increased numbers of political players give the public more choice and result in greater scrutiny of policies.

On 7th May 2015, voters in the UK will head to the polling booths. Photo credit: Wikipedia commons/secretlondon123
On 7th May 2015, voters in the UK will head to the polling booths. Photo credit: Wikipedia commons/secretlondon123

Close to the hearts of the BaR bloggers, our home city of Bristol has been awarded the status of European Green Capital for 2015. Bristol is the first UK city to be bestowed this honour, by virtue of its thriving green economy and resource efficiency. As well as a plethora of environmental and ethical events, the year is providing funding for local innovation and new partnerships. Its overall aim is to inspire other cities and become a role model for urban centres around the world (though Bristolians are perhaps more concerned with much-needed improvements in Bristol’s ailing public transport system).

Bristol - European Green Capital 2015 and England's first cycling city. Photo credit: Bristol 2015
Bristol – European Green Capital 2015 and England’s first cycling city. Photo credit: Bristol 2015

December will see the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015. This is an annual meeting of 196 countries to build upon the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, namely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of the member states. 2015 is tipped to be the year that the summit finally meets its ambitious target of all member states agreeing a legally binding agreement on climate. This will be no mean feat, given past opposition from global powerhouses USA and China; however, the new proposal of allowing each nation to choose its own plans for carbon reduction has met with widespread approval. If ratified, countries will be legally bound to implement carbon reduction initiatives and spending plans.

Will 2015 be the year that the USA and China finally commit to mitigating climate change? Photo credit: Wikipedia commons/The White House
Will 2015 be the year that the USA and China finally commit to mitigating climate change? Photo credit: Wikipedia commons/The White House

Only time will tell if 2015 really can be twenty fift-green.

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

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About Charly Stamper

I’m an ex-experimental petrologist.
I used to make pretend volcanoes; now I work in renewable energy

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