UK's 'Victorian Era' CO2 Emissions Achieved Without Driving Up Energy Costs

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Statkraft

It was recently reported that UK emissions are now as low as they were when Queen Victoria was in power. That's an incredible achievement. And given the very real societal, environmental and economic costs of climate change and air pollution, it's an achievement that should easily pay for itself even if energy bills rise as a result.

But here's the thing: The low carbon transition hasn't actually pushed up bills.

As Business Green reports, analysis from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has revealed that while the direct costs of subsidizing renewables and energy efficiency programs have added £9 (around US$11 in post-Brexit Britain) per month to the average household energy bill in 2016. But that added cost was more than offset by a £20 decrease attributed to increased energy efficiency gains—gains that have in large part been supported by the subsidies for efficiency.

This is very good news. While pro-fossil fuel special interests continue to decry the costs of going green, the fact is that an aggressive push for renewables and efficiency ought to help the average pocketbook. And that's before you even factor in the negative costs of pollution that'll disproportionately impact lower income communities.

In many ways, it's the same story in the States. While car companies successfully lobby for gutting fuel efficiency standards—and cite upward pressure on car prices as justification—the real truth is that car prices are rising primarily because of gadgets, gimmicks and additional safety features. Consumer groups have been adamant that stricter fuel economy standards will help, not hurt, the average car buyer.

James Murray, editor of Business Green, is unequivocal in his opinion of what reports like this mean for the green economy. And he directly contrasts this vision with the short-term, anti-environmentalist thinking which is prevalent in some parts of the world:

"President Trump is continuing with his semantic-bending experiment to deliver clean air and water by torching air and water regulations. But Spring is coming, the sun is shining, and quietly, inexorably, the idea that a genuinely sustainable economy can be delivered is starting to look less like an environmentalist pipe dream and more like the inevitable by-product of an unstoppable technological revolution."

Let's just hope we get there fast enough.