How soon is now?

‘Action needs to be taken now.’ It’s the most ubiquitous sentence in any report we’ve seen from the government concerning… well, anything to do with engineering, really, but notably anything to do with engineering and energy. Carbon capture and storage? Action needs to be taken now. Development of wave and tidal energy? Action needs to be taken now. Reinforcing the national grid so it can cope with renewable energy generation? Action needs to be taken now. New nuclear build? Guess what needs to happen?

Adair Turner’s Committee on Climate Change is the latest body to call for action. The UK needs a step change in carbon reduction policies, it said in its report published on Monday. Government intervention in the electricity industry is vital and that market forces are an insufficient driver towards decarbonising the economy. And when a former chairman of the CBI says that market forces are insufficient, it’s surely time to listen.

Yes, there’s a general election on the way and policies are on hold, especially when they involve spending money. But the major parties barely differ on their energy policies, so why is there a problem? Unlike politics, the engineering and energy industries don’t grind to a halt every five years. Government intervention to kick-start the changes that we surely all know need to happen would stimulate the engineering sector, dispel fears of electricity black-outs when elderly power stations start to be shut down, and stop us falling behind in our commitments to cut carbon emissions.

Action needs to be taken now. That’s now, not some time after June.

Where’s the action?

Stuart Nathan
Special Reports Editor