At a recent and rather rumbustious general election hustings at the Maltings, our three parliamentary candidates were heavily scrutinised on one of the most keenly debated themes of this very modern election, climate change. As the representative of the incumbent Government for the last 10 years, Jeremey Hunt casually dropped into the debate a very interesting and comfortably reassuring statement:
“36% of the UK’s energy” he said, “now comes from renewable sources.”
Without pausing to elaborate or be challenged, he quickly moved on, leaving the assembled audience to reflect that, under successive UK Governments, good progress was being made to combat the scourge of global warming.
But maybe he meant to say that, in 2018, the UK generated just 23% of its electricity from those sources, wind, solar and hydro, that people generally consider renewable.
Or perhaps he meant to say that, in 2018, the UK generated just 19% of its overall energy, including fossil fuels burnt for heating and transport, from ‘low carbon’ sources, if you care to include nuclear and heavily polluting biomass.
But I suspect that no-one in the audience realised that wind, solar and hydro together provided not 36% but a mere 3% of the actual UK’s energy requirement last year.
At a time when we are now locked in an existential battle against climate change but, at the same time, when trust in politicians is in acutely short supply, the truth is more important than ever. Genuine, unvarnished, universally accepted facts are what is needed so that we, as a society, understand the need for deep-seated and urgent change and accept the sacrifices required.
And that is exactly why Extinction Rebellion’s first demand is to “Tell the Truth”.
(1) UK Energy in Brief 2019, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, p13.