In recent years, the world has been grappling with the threat of climate change, which is caused by the emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Coal is one of the largest sources of these emissions, and as such, there has been a global push to transition away from coal and towards cleaner, renewable sources of energy.
Despite this, the UK has recently given the green light for a coal-fired power plant to be restarted in order to provide energy during a period of high demand. Environmental campaigners have widely criticised this decision, who argue that it sends the wrong message and undermines efforts to tackle climate change.
The hypocrisy of this decision is particularly striking when compared to the way African or developing nations are treated when they use coal for energy. These countries are often criticised and penalised for relying on fossil fuels, with wealthy nations and international organisations pressuring them to switch to renewable sources of energy.
The double standard is not lost on environmentalists. "It's a disgraceful and astonishing move, which makes a mockery of the government's climate commitments," said Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace UK. "While the rest of the world is abandoning coal, the UK is banking on it and risking its reputation as a climate leader."
African nations have been particularly vocal about the unfairness of this double standard. In 2019, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, the African Group of Negotiators called for a "just transition" to renewable energy sources, arguing that African nations should not be penalised for using fossil fuels when developed nations have historically emitted far more greenhouse gases.
"There is a growing recognition that developed countries have a historical responsibility for the problem of climate change," said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, the chair of the African Group of Negotiators. "They have used fossil fuels to build their economies, and now they are asking developing countries to do something different. But developing countries need access to energy to develop their economies and improve the lives of their people."
This sentiment has been echoed by other developing nations, who argue that they should not be held to the same standard as developed nations when it comes to emissions reductions. Instead, they argue, developed nations should provide financial and technical support to help them transition to cleaner energy sources.
The UK's decision to use coal is not just hypocritical, but it is also short-sighted. While there may be short-term benefits to using coal during periods of high demand, in the long run, it will only exacerbate the problem of climate change. The UK, as a wealthy and developed nation, has the resources and technology to transition to cleaner energy sources and lead the way in the fight against climate change. However, this will require a commitment to making tough decisions and a willingness to prioritise the long-term health and well-being of the planet over short-term convenience.
In conclusion, the UK's decision to use its coal plants for energy is deeply hypocritical, particularly given the way African and developing nations are treated when they do the same. In order to effectively tackle climate change, all countries must work together and take responsibility for their emissions. It is time for the UK to prioritise the long-term health of the planet over short-term convenience and lead the way in the transition to cleaner energy sources.
"UK’s new coal mine at Woodhouse Colliery faces legal challenge." The Guardian. 4 March 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/mar/04/uks-new-coal-mine-at-woodhouse-colliery-faces-legal-challenge
"African nations call for 'just transition' to renewable energy at COP25." Climate Home News. 13 December 2019. https://www.climatechangenews.com