At present, approximately only 7% of all electricity generated in the UK comes from renewable sources. The EU aims to get 20% of its energy from renewable resources by 2020 with the UK legally committed to achieving 15%. These targets are set to ensure a reduction in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and to limit our reliance on foreign supplies of fossil fuels to meet our energy demands.
Greenhouse gases such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane, trap and re-emit infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface – this keeps the Earth warm. However, the concentration of greenhouse gases now far exceeds pre-industrial levels. The ten warmest years on record have all occurred in the past twelve years (MET office and University of East Anglia, 2006).
Increases in the temperature by only a few degrees are predicted to cause widespread social and environmental impact, including species extinction, millions of people left homeless through flooding, and threats to global food production to name but a few.
The Stern Review, 2006 calculated the impact climate change will have on the world economy and a minimum of 5% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could be lost. If more dramatic predictions are realised, the cost could be more than 20% of GDP which is equal to £380 trillion. To put it simply, each of us in the UK could become 20% poorer.