A disorienting sight to an Australian: How the UK got on with the climate change challenge

  • Jun 15, 2019
  • Sydney Morning Herald

At 9.20 pm on Tuesday, June 4, the United Kingdom used coal-fired power for the first time in 18 days, six hours and 10 minutes. This was the longest period the UK had gone without coal since 1882 when the nation’s first coal power plant opened at Holborn in London. It came just over two years after Britain’s first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution and according to some analyses, it ended when viewers flicked on their tellies to catch up with an episode of the hit reality show Love Island.

Another significant climate change milestone was passed in the UK a week and a day later on Wednesday, June 12, when the Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced that the UK would abandon the emissions reduction target it had set a decade earlier - to bring down emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 - and instead pursue a target of net zero by the same year.

Theresa May observing machinery which converts carbon dioxide into oxygen on the day she announced plans to eliminate the UK's net emissions. Credit:PA

"Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children," May said in a statement. "Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations. Standing by is not an option.”

Reporting the news that morning the BBC showed footage of bushfire and flood in Australia and said that Australia's bizarre weather conditions over the southern summer had been among the reasons the government had decided to move to ramp up its already considerable commitment.

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