The message in so many headlines: “From January 1st this year, all Dutch electric trains are being powered by renewable energy – wind power. Not so, it is claimed: 100% wind power because it has a contract with various wind farms to produce enough energy to power its rail system, but this is just an accounting transaction. Only a small fraction of the power delivered to its trains actually comes from wind.
Then Jonathan Ford in the FT (former chairman of the Cameron generation of the Bullingdon Club, now responsible for writing and commissioning the FT’s editorials) argued that green jobs are not valuable because of public subsidy (“How subsidy culture keeps Britain’s green industry in the black” – leaving the uniformed or prejudiced reader to assume that fossil fuels receive no subsidy. Statistics for the UK are not readily available here – but the IMF reports that America is the world’s second biggest culprit overall, spending $669 billion this year—mostly by “post-tax” systems which fail to factor the costs of environmental damage into prices.
Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs, Solar Trade Association replied in the FT that the UK subsidy is required only because the “polluter pays” principle has not been fully applied to fossil fuels.
She adds that despite the global market failure to tax carbon pollution, there are increasing parts of the world where solar and onshore wind compete with the cheapest fossil fuels even without subsidy or “polluter pays” taxes.
Lucy Purdy of Positive News writes cheeringly: “It was a tough year by many measures but 2016 also saw some reasons for celebration. We look behind the headlines for signs of progress”. (First republished on a sister site):
- World hunger is at its lowest point for 25 years
- The Rio Olympics featured more female athletes than ever before
- The Paris Climate Change Agreement came into force
- For the 24th year in a row, teenage pregnancy rates declined in the UK and US
- Wild tiger numbers increased for the first time in 100 years
- The number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes has almost halved since 1990
- Evidence suggests that major diseases, from colon cancer to heart disease, are now starting to wane in wealthy countries
- India turned on the world’s largest solar power plant – spanning 10 sq km – in the state of Tamil Nadu
- Public smoking bans appear to have improved health in 21 nations
- Black incarceration rates fell in the US
- Measles has been eradicated in the Americas – the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region
- An HIV cure may be a step closer after a trial cleared the virus in a British man
- Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions
- China installed 20 gigawatts of solar in the first half of 2016
- Volunteers in India planted 50m trees in 24 hours
- Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, it was announced this year
- The amount of money it would take to eliminate extreme poverty is now lower than the annual foreign aid spend
- Giant pandas are no longer endangered
- The number of deaths from malaria is at a global record low
- The World Bank says we are now one generation away from achieving universal literacy
Another sign of progress