According to the papers in the UK over last weekend, the government is looking harder at the need to reduce Britain’s dependence on oil, given potential oil price rises as the result of the unrest in Libya.
The Guardian said that government departments will be obliged to revisit their plans to reduce the need for oil so that the government can give a coordinated lead to the country as a whole in moving to renewable energy sources. Ministers will be assessed on environmental targets and environmental pressure groups, such as Greenpeace, will help assess departments.
It means, for example, that recent proposals to increase the speed limit on UK roads will be abandoned while the need for an electric car infrastructure will be pushed forward.
There was a great quote from John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, who pointed out that only some in government appeared to understand the need to break free from oil; "Sadly, over at transport, Philip Hammond (Secretary of State for Transport) is still confused. Cuts to public transport, coupled with his recent proposals to raise the speed limit, appear designed to reduce fuel efficiency and increase our dependence on oil. Huhne (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) really needs to drag Hammond away from Top Gear and force him to spend some time watching the news".
So now there is a renewed focus on the Carbon Plan, the draft of which has just been released this morning. It’s the Government’s plan of action on climate change, which sets out actions and deadlines, department by department, for the next five years, as well as spelling out international activities. The draft plan is here, together with a summary of the actions in an Excel spreadsheet. The final version of the Plan will be published in the autumn and updated annually.
At least the Government now seems to be taking the issue of climate change and oil dependency more seriously. It was only a week or so ago that I complained about the lack of clear targets for government departments and any reference to the part that technology can play.
Unfortunately, the Carbon Plan doesn’t add much on the use of technology. The only references to ICT I can find are about procurement of greener products and the fact that ICT allows people to work from home. And the word ‘technology’ does not appear in the Action Summary at all.
The Government needs to accept that only ICT can deliver the efficiency gains that will help the UK achieve a low-carbon economy. Unfortunately, large-scale IT project failures over the years have had the result that Green ICT only has a minor role to play in government plans.