IPR Blog

Expert analysis, debates and comments on topical policy-relevant issues

Topic: sustainability

Expecting the unexpected: what resilience should mean to policymakers

📥  cities, future, sustainability

Dr Kemi Adeyeye is Senior Lecturer in Architecture in the University of Bath's Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering. This post draws on material first presented in a recent published paper.

Evidence, and perhaps the experience of seemingly perpetual rain on one’s face, suggests that the weather is one thing that is increasingly variable and difficult to predict. The impact of this goes beyond deciding whether to take an umbrella, or wear an extra layer of clothing, when you go out in the morning. Like other shocks, temperamental weather can and does affect various aspects of economic, environmental and social life. In an ideal world, both policy and the built environment would be developed with a level of inbuilt resilience (that is, the capacity to cope with and absorb shocks), a recognition of the need to adapt, change and reorganise, and measures to mitigate the impact of future shocks.

flooding

 

Indeed, most human and physical systems are designed to cope with ‘extremes’ – but often within the range of what is ‘expected’. ‘Unprecedented’ is now a common term used by politicians, the media and some experts to describe current weather events that are extreme, but not within the expected range of extremity. One unprecedented event soon supersedes the next, however, and the next one after that – so to what extent are these events really unprecedented? And to what extent can the impact and consequence of weather events such as flooding be considered a surprise? For scientific answers to these questions, I encourage the reader to review the work of my colleague Dr Thomas Kjeldsen. In this piece, however, I will spend some time considering the concept of anticipation, before concluding with what resilience should really mean to urban planners and policymakers.

Anticipating change

Studies show that, as human beings, we are ontologically programmed to engage in ideations that allow the anticipation of space, time, causality and subjective probability. This is referred to as our evolutionary potential[1] – i.e. our ability to promote preparedness and maximise the probability of proactive change through historical memory, knowledge, expertise and experience. Anticipation is innately formed through memory and experience rather than the unknown. To this end, we are prone to engage in mental time travel, reliving past experiences as the basis for imagining the future. However, we should also be aware of the fact that experiences are carried forward in time through memory (individual or collective), which means that such practices can affect welfare. That is, the effectiveness of memory and/or experience to engender actions and preparedness for resilience can vary depending on how we remember, with a consequent impact on the actual outcomes of shocks. The problem with relying too much on memory is that we soon forget – another useful evolutionary skill to help to cope with trauma.

Anticipation can be both forward- and backward-looking. Using the term ‘unprecedented’ suggests that the extent of our anticipation remains backward-looking, and this supports the prevalent reactionary approach to resilience – whereby capacity is only expanded after it has been overwhelmed by an extreme event. But we need both; forward-looking anticipation, particularly in the context of climate change, needs to be underpinned by past learning. Now, I am sure that scenario planning is taking place across the policy realms at present, building on our current tools and codes to explain and take action when the unexpected event happens. However, this approach does not always translate into dynamic planning for potential future uncertainties – when a comprehensive, flexible response may be required for the next unprecedented scenario.

Rising above the flood

Take flooding. There are some good social and economic reasons for current and future developments on or near water. There is also little choice in some instances. For example, most of the Netherlands lie several meters below sea level. As mentioned later, their planning and building developments have therefore advanced to effectively manage the associated risks. For others, flooding can be cyclical, but also sudden. This introduces general and specific issues to the equation to do with quality of life; economic, environmental and social vulnerability; security; physical, urban and building resilience; and so on.

These are factors that should not be ignored. The OECD forecasts that without effective change, the total global population exposed to flooding could triple to around 150 million by the 2070s due to continuous sea-level rise and increased storminess, subsidence, population growth and urbanisation. Further, asset exposure could grow dramatically, reaching US $35 trillion in the same period – roughly 9% of projected annual GDP. The NHS budget for instance is at present around 7% of UK GDP. Unlike the NHS, however, inaction on resilience is a bill that is best avoided. Exposure to risks does not necessarily translate into impact when resilience is “designed in” through coping and adaptive mechanisms.

So how can we design systems that are resilient and able to contend with unpredictable challenges, such as environmental change? Staying with the theme of flooding, we can learn from approaches that have worked at other times and in other places to better anticipate the future. We can learn not to be so set in our ways, but to dare to be flexible and embrace new ways of working. This is particularly important in the UK context, where our planning rules are entrenched in tradition and our design and building practices can be slow to evolve. Although innovative practices have started in some areas, changes remain piecemeal, and inconsistently applied across the country. Unlike global exemplars of building codes and standards, resilience requirements are still not explicit in the UK Building Regulations – so we are therefore missing out on a more consistent, widespread implementation, in addition to losing the opportunity to promote resilience alongside current sustainability standards, especially in housing developments.

Facing the future

Better integration of good governance, planning, infrastructure and architectural design would be a good first step towards closing the gap between where we are today and our future potential. On governance, there need to be visionary, non-ambiguous and tangible planning policies and regulatory requirements for resilience – particularly in the built environment. Formal building and planning policies, as they stand, could do more to promote forward-looking design and planning solutions, or to facilitate the development of resilience and adaptive capacity against natural events.

But new laws and regulations will not be enough. More should also be done to better equip individuals and communities for the task of planning and acting in their own best interests, or even actively participating in or influencing policy processes. It should also be possible to improve individual and collective anticipation by the positive utilisation of experiences of and effective responses to past climatic extremes – “memory”. Actions taken to improve agency by making better use of wider communication networks to provide access to information, raise awareness and improve action for resilience would also be a positive step.

Building resilience

Examples as old as the Indus Civilisation[3] and as contemporary as the Waterwijk in Ypenburg show that good governance and social measures are not enough on their own. Effective planning, good infrastructure and innovative architecture should be combined to reduce physical and social vulnerabilities. This underpins the argument for an integrated design approach to resilience (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Combined: Integrated resilience map showing applicability and impact [Read more]. The chart (after: Roberts 2013 ) presents combined case study findings along two axes, in four quadrants. The x-axis shows the contributions of important stakeholders including governance representatives; professionals such as architects, engineers and planners; and the people. The y-axis shows the physical outputs through planning, building and infrastructure solutions. The content of the map presents the physical and social solutions, highlighting impact (the size of the circles), and the range, based on the 6 applicability measures presented in the conceptual framework. In many instances the applicability measures overlap, and the map therefore shows the most relevant measure for the particular case.

Figure 1. Combined integrated resilience map showing applicability and impact
The chart (after: Roberts 2013 ) presents combined case study findings along two axes, in four quadrants. The x-axis shows the contributions of important stakeholders including governance representatives; professionals such as architects, engineers and planners; and the people. The y-axis shows the physical outputs through planning, building and infrastructure solutions. The content of the map presents the physical and social solutions, highlighting impact (the size of the circles), and the range, based on the 6 applicability measures presented in the conceptual framework. In many instances the applicability measures overlap, and the map therefore shows the most relevant measure for the particular case.

Policymakers and planners of the built environment who plan to adhere to such an approach should aim to achieve three major goals. Firstly, to deliver solutions that emphasise social place-making and capacity building – building communities whilst placing water at the forefront of communal consciousness, for example. Secondly, to implement resilient infrastructural solutions that are flexible but future-proof. Thirdly, to encourage solutions that are not all about hiding water in underground drainage networks, but rather integrate water into the social fabric of a community through planning, engineering and architectural design.

Collaborative working between policymakers and diverse stakeholders – including building professionals – is key to achieving this. Planners should work positively with architects and engineers to deliver the most effective solution possible within the individual context. Innovative architectural ideas and solutions should be encouraged and, further, the needs of the public should be fully integrated within the decision-making process. For this to happen, government departments will need to talk and work more effectively together at the national, regional and local levels. There also need to be better mechanisms to include knowledge agents and the public in solution-forming conversations; technologies such as smart web-tools, and innovative apps can help to facilitate this process.

 

[1] Read: Sahlins, M. D., and E. R. Service, editors. 1960. Evolution and culture. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
[2] Roberts, C. (2013), Planning for Adaptation and Resilience, In: McGregor, A., Roberts, C., & Cousins, F. (Eds.). Two degrees: The built environment and our changing climate. Routledge.
[3] Part 1 of Dr Sona Datta’s BBC documentary series on the Treasures of the Indus may still be available on BBC Iplayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p030wckr/p030w89h

 

Trump, COP22 and the Tipping Point for Climate Change Mitigation

📥  energy, sustainability

Professor Ricardo García Mira is Professor of Social and Environmental Psychology at the University of A Coruña in Spain, and Visiting Professor at the IPR.

Last October the requirement that enabled the Paris Agreement (adopted in December 2015 by 195 countries) to come into force was met; 55 countries who together account for a minimum of 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions formally accepted the Agreement, which came into force a month later. By the close of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22) held in Marrakech last month, 111 countries had already ratified the Agreement, accounting between them for over three-quarters of global emissions. The Agreement has been one of the quickest to come into force as an international treaty for a global agreement.

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The uncertainty generated when delegates became aware, partway through COP22, that Donald Trump had won the US election and would be the next President of the United States did not stop over 200 different countries from signing the Marrakech Action Proclamation with the highest level of political commitment to combatting climate change and reducing its impact. The Proclamation will not be immediately binding on the parties, but will serve as a guide for designing political action towards the drawing up of a regulatory text that will enable the practical application of the Paris Agreement.

A moment of transition

Despite the uncertainties hovering over Marrakech due to Trump’s election victory and his previous criticisms of climate change, the assembled heads of state fixed a deadline of 2018 for the application of the rules in the Agreement. COP22 also led to a better understanding of the numerous questions involved in designing a framework within which the commitments of the Paris Agreement could be fulfilled, defining the areas of convergence and divergence between countries, and adopting a work plan (The Paris Rulebook). The Rulebook covers a wide range of topics, including mitigation, adaptation, finance and transparency, together with a delineation of tools including a new ‘global inventory’ process, market mechanisms and guidelines for the application and fulfilment of commitments based on which definitive decisions will be taken in 2018, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s group of experts, will advance its new report on the effects of climate change and increasing temperatures.

The Prime Minister of Morocco declared that it was an extraordinary occasion, and that there is now no going back on this moment of transition towards an earnest and unified struggle against climate change. Other cities, states and NGOs in Africa, China, Europe and Latin America, among others, declared their concurrence with these sentiments through their heads of government and ministers – including US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The plans in the Paris Agreement include aid for developing states from developed countries to promote the implementation of policies for adapting to climate change and the assignation of specific mitigation funds to eradicate sources of greenhouse gas.

Professor García Mira at COP22

Professor García Mira at COP22

COP22, which brought together over 500 politicians, business people, NGOs and civilians in Marrakech, urged Trump to act for the benefit of the planet, and called for his collaboration. Trump’s leadership, however, is not so critical if we take into account the fact that the struggle against climate change is already being configured as a matter of social responsibility all over the planet, and has already started to generate elements of social identity and socio-political involvement around it. Added to this is the commitment and organisation of municipalities, cities and regions of the world into forums and associations which reinforce this social identification on a local level. Furthermore, China and the European Union are already fighting for the leading position in the struggle against climate change, just in case the United States resigns from this mission. China, for example, has not budged from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, and will keep on fighting against global warming. Political commitment to this cause is real.

Matters still to resolve

Adaptation to and mitigation of the impacts of climate change will require additional funds, especially for developing countries. Hence, despite a high level of consensus between countries, there are certain matters which will need resolving over the next two years; we must reach an agreement to define the climate change adaptation fund, for example, which has been suspended again and will require further negotiations. Another outstanding issue is the Green Climate Fund, which will require more financing.

Climate change exists and is very serious, and people are the main cause. This is stated in the 5th IPCC Report. It is therefore urgent to drastically reduce CO2 emission so that we do not exceed the 2 degrees centigrade threshold, which would be a serious threat to the planet’s stability. The central challenge lies in establishing a real commitment to a green economy, and assessing the positive and negative aspects of applying techniques like geoengineering and bioengineering, which could help establish one.

Finally, scientists as a whole must bear responsibility for the way in which we deal with and supply knowledge to decision-makers in the struggle against climate change. Like the mass media, we also must resist the pressure of powerful lobbying by both large companies and governments that use the results from our reports to pursue their own interests. Furthermore, we can all see – and should greet with concern – the ready flow of money to deniers and sceptics of climate change that facilitates them in discrediting the results of painstaking scientific work.

Commitments underway

Some initiatives towards addressing these challenges are already underway, including Cross-border Cooperation in the Mediterranean (a 5+5 Water Initiative), and others related to energy. The International Civil Aviation Organization is creating a device to reduce CO2 emissions from planes. 48 countries in the Climate Vulnerable Forum undertook to maintain their systems in such a way that global temperature increase will be no more than 1.5 degrees centigrade, and to promote measures to achieve a 100% renewable electricity supply, in the short or medium term. Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada, among others, have announced their target of reducing CO2 by 80% in 2050. The European Union has made a similar statement, although some countries have not evidenced a clear strategy in other aspects, such as phasing out coal.

Trump’s electoral victory did not, therefore, prevent some of the most vulnerable countries from undertaking serious commitments to reduce emissions, transform their traditional energy systems into renewable energy production, and move towards eco-friendly systems in energy management.

Over the next two years, the technical agreements reached in Marrakech will lead to policies, protocols and financial and transparency procedures which, in turn, will provide the framework for moving from commitment to implementation between now and 2050. Signatories will be committed to drawing up the necessary regulatory architecture to implement political action; complying with the ordinances laid out in the Agreement all over the planet; and driving efficient adaptation to climate change, promoting more sustainable lifestyles which depend less on carbon. In their national industries, they will be expected to establish an eco-friendly framework in energy management, including the residential sector; to promote a sustainable mobility and transport policy; and to fix specific reduction targets for each of the main sectors in greenhouse gas emission, in the short, medium and long term (2020, 2030 and 2050). Their commitments to finance and transparency will include promoting and implementing national policies tending towards the reduction of CO2 emission in all sectors of the economy, and the tools for complying with them; guaranteeing an information management system that is free and which can be publicly accessed; and undertaking appropriate financing to be able to reach these targets.

Marrakech as a tipping point

Implementing these policies effectively will also require combining them in such a way that they are more efficient in terms of mitigation, given the transversal nature of the way the struggle against climate change should be deployed. Far from being dulled by Trump’s victory, Marrakech can be seen as a “tipping point”, a marker of the moment when the idea of the struggle against climate change became an irreversible social trend, spreading out over the whole planet as if it were a forest fire.

 

In search of the green economy

📥  Economy, sustainability

Professor Ricardo García Mira is Professor of Social and Environmental Psychology at the University of A Coruña in Spain, and Visiting Professor at the IPR.

On 12 December 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted the Paris Agreement – a first-of-its-kind deal that bound member states to measures for climate neutrality in this century.

Some steps have already been taken as part of what we might call the institutional response to this challenge of sustainability; promoting environmental education programmes, holding awareness campaigns and providing means for accessing information are all positive measures. But are people taking on the challenge implied by living in a more sustainable way to fight against climate change? What changes should we introduce into our economic models to encourage them, and with what impact on our own lives? And are we taking involvement and cooperation seriously?

path3

 

Experts say that human responses to the environment are inconsistent with growing ecological awareness and the general acknowledgement of the anthropogenic origin of climate change. The best way to deal with this situation is not clear, but what is clear is that people, as individuals, need to undertake sustainable lifestyles. This is a challenge, because changing to a new lifestyle requires drastic changes in our daily conduct.

Although there is little general awareness of how serious and urgent environmental change is, there have been some attempts to head towards more sustainable lifestyles, and a good number of organisations are working in that direction. These are sustainable initiatives, starting up social innovation projects which, on numerous occasions, have taken the lead over governments as far as identifying the problem is concerned. They involve part of the population in the initiative, respond to the challenge of climate change with small-scale impacts, and ultimately facilitate the survival of sustainable economies in fields related to mobility, nutrition, construction, the use of energy and the reduction or rationalisation of consumerism, to mention but a few. The analysis of different initiatives for sustainable lifestyles in Europe today shows us that, even though there is no collective response to taking on climate change, there is evidence that it is possible to move towards a more sustainable economy in Europe.

The good life

The challenge of real change in behaviour and lifestyles depends on overcoming the deep-rooted conceptions that we still hold about what success, self-fulfilment and consumption are. Attaining a sustainable lifestyle demands an economic model that is truly different from the current, unsustainable models. Using a bicycle instead of a luxury car or living in a smaller house requires us to investigate the complex interactions between psychological, economic, social and technological factors that promote or hinder the adoption of sustainable lifestyles and the transition to an environmentally responsible social economy. A macroeconomic focus on the study of lifestyles should contemplate the way these sustainable but small lifestyle initiatives can be scaled up to a national and even global level, and what needs changing in our economy so that it can become ecological and sustainable.

If we take climate change seriously we will no doubt have to reduce our general level of consumption, but we do not have to see this as a sacrifice. Research results are showing that Europeans are feeling a greater and greater sensation of dissatisfaction with current consumer-based lifestyles and the accelerated rhythm of modern life. In fact, research shows that we experience a greater sensation of welfare when we enjoy more time for ourselves and when we can spend it with others in meaningful activities; in general, we are happier when we withdraw from everything that is related to a materialist understanding of what the good life means.

Culture is an important factor in this problem too. In our concept of what the good life means, we make consumerism the equivalent of the good life and happiness, and our economy is based on this concept. However, people are realising more and more that the way we live is, in many ways, unsustainable – not just from the perspective of the environment, but also because we feel more and more distant and alone, or that our lives lack meaning. Because of this, we must try to develop and assess a global model that can explain changes in lifestyle, while simultaneously testing the efficiency of different routes of transition to a greener and more environmentally sustainable economy.

Possible economies

The University of A Coruña, in partnership with the University of Bath, endeavours to unravel the multifactorial problem of using economic policy to influence behaviour in the GLAMURS (Green Lifestyles, Alternative Models and Scaling towards Regional Sustainability) project. The overall purpose of GLAMURS is the study of the different economic and behavioural models experts have defined as the most conducive to the development of specific policies and combinations of policies to guarantee sustainable development. Our results will furnish recommendations not only for the European Commission and other levels of policymaking, but also for professionals who work in sustainable initiatives and for people interested in living a more sustainable life.

Three possible economies are being analysed by this consortium of eleven European universities in the context of climate change. The first point of analysis starts with the evaluation of a lifestyle based on what has been called the “green economy”, focused on the ecoefficiency of an economic and production system which orients its action towards producing and consuming in a more responsible manner within a model that respects the responsible and efficient use and management of environmental resources.

Secondly, the model of “degrowth” is analysed; it is possibly the least popular model as it requires a reduction in consumption, which today is associated with social and economic status. According to this approach, it is not necessary to grow continuously. Human beings can live and efficiently distribute their resources by reducing production and consumption, which would alleviate environmental impact and make lifestyle more sustainable and closer to nature.

Finally, a third focal point is based on “growth anchored in the community”, the idea of generating the necessary level of self-sufficiency in a community to become sustainable in terms of emissions, production and the consumption of resources. This model can be adapted to the characteristics and needs of various communities, which in a participative way would responsibly manage their own resources.

Individual behaviour, then, interacts with and is dependent upon other systems in society, such as political, economic and cultural systems. Part of our research includes an analysis of how people use their time, and also the role that identity and social rules on responsible environmental behaviour play therein. Identities, based on feelings of belonging to specific social groups, are also developed through observing our own behaviour, and constitute that part of what makes us unique – in addition to being a driving force for behaviour when we define ourselves as the kind of person who acts in favour of the environment. It is also important for people to be aware of the situations in which their choices are sustainable, how taking choices in awareness contributes to the construction of a personal identity which includes seeing ourselves as in favour of the environment, which in turn leads to more sustainable lifestyle choices.

 

Hinkley Point C and Its Implications for Energy Policy

📥  energy, France, sustainability

Professor Geoffrey Hammond is Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the interdisciplinary International Centre for the Environment at the University of Bath.

Britain faces major challenges in the period out to 2050. Socio-technical solutions will be required on both the demand and supply side of any future UK energy system. Reduction in the energy demand for heat, power and transport will be a significant element of any energy strategy aimed at limiting global warming to <2°C under whatever pathways we take towards our mid-century goals.

Improvements in energy efficiency can be obtained from better thermal insulation of the building fabric, smart appliances and controls, alongside the adoption of efficient heating systems, such as heat pumps, community energy schemes, and the like. In addition, lifestyle or workplace changes may well be needed – but these will be partially offset by so-called ‘rebound effects’. Decarbonising the supply side is likely to see the continued adoption of offshore wind and rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays. It will inevitably need the uptake of carbon capture and storage (CCS) coupled to gas-fired power plants for a cost-efficient transition, together with sustainable bioenergy and biofuels, and possibly hydrogen as a fuel and energy storage media in the long-term. Unfortunately, there are constraints over the use of bioenergy resources, including uncertainties over the availability of sustainably-sourced biomass in the UK, land use challenges, and competition with food supply.

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The energy infrastructure in Britain will also need renewal in order to make it more resilient (to climate change impacts, for example) and to potentially accommodate greater decentralised or distributed generation, including greater use of both large and small energy storage devices. Significant generation, transmission and distribution network reinforcements (operating with much lower utilisation factors) will be needed to meet future changes in demand and generation patterns. However, smart power innovations (a combination of interconnectors, storage and ‘demand flexibility’) could generate £8bn per year in savings. The electricity grid is arguably the most vulnerable part of the power system, reinforcing the case for UK network renewal and reconfiguration by the middle of the 21st Century. Innovation, systems integration, and ‘whole systems’ thinking to identify sustainable energy options (sometimes termed ‘optionality’ in industry) will therefore be critically important in the transition towards a low-carbon future.

Successive UK Governments since the 1990s have argued that new nuclear power plants have an important role to play in our energy mix. The decision by the UK Government to instigate a pause and review before signing off on the contract for the construction of the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station may well be sensible, or even courageous in terms of the diplomatic implications. All energy technologies have unwanted side-effects, including the likes of shale gas extraction (via hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking') and renewables. They vary only in their magnitude and the extent to which they impact on different human communities and natural ecosystems. Fossil fuels give rise to significant quantities of carbon dioxide emissions that are likely to lead to yet further global warming. Wind generators, in contrast, are low carbon but require costly back-up capacity (most likely from natural gas combined cycle power plants) at high concentrations when wind speeds are low. Indeed, even building energy-saving measures on the demand side can have adverse social consequences – the switch of the burden of financing from the large energy utilities to potentially poor consumers, for example, for the installation of modern condensing boilers, thermal insulation, heating controls, or micro-generators.

The real nuclear power ‘balance sheet’ has therefore both credit and debit sides. On the positive front, it represents a low- or near-zero-carbon source of electricity that is available on a large-scale. However, there are potential risks in terms of nuclear plant safety; actual failures in the case of the Windscale fire at the military plutonium facility in Cumbria (1957), the Three Mile Island partial ‘meltdown’ in Pennsylvania that was contained (1979), and Chernobyl meltdown – that was not – in what is now the Ukraine (1986). In the vicinity of Three Mile Island over 630,000 local people self-evacuated the area following the accident. Closer to home, the Irish Government and NGOs have long been concerned about the cumulative impact of low-level radioactive emissions, principally from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing and medium-term storage facility, into the Irish Sea.

Perhaps the most dramatic side-effect of power generation was demonstrated by the nuclear power reactor failure at the Fukushima Daiichi site on the North East coast of Japan in March 2011. That was caused by a tsunami wave of sea water some 14 metres high, and triggered by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake. The plant was built to withstand a wave of only about 6 metres. This was arguably a so-called ‘Black Swan’ event – one that is very unlikely to occur but, when it does, the impact is extremely severe. They may be instigated by natural causes as at Fukushima, although the failure to allow for or respond to them results from human frailties. That has induced major changes in energy policy around the world, particularly the potential shut-down of the programme in Germany and the shift in Japanese public sentiment that has been calling for their nuclear power programme to be abandoned.

The case is often made in the UK for nuclear power generation on the grounds of climate change mitigation. But even a doubling of Britain’s nuclear capacity over the next 30 years would only yield about an 8% cut in CO2 emissions. The Hinkley Point C station would also provide 7% of our electricity under favourable baseload conditions. Nuclear power plant safety and radioactive emissions from a European pressurised reactor, such as that planned for Hinkley, are unlikely to present any significant concern in a UK context because of our tight regulatory regime. Nevertheless, the subsequent treatment of nuclear waste and the high life-cycle costs, when 'back-end' (decommissioning and waste disposal/storage) costs are taken into account, are important downsides. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have argued that nuclear power is one of the least cost-competitive means of carbon abatement. An energy-efficiency strategy, for example, displaces between 2.5 and 20 times more CO2 emissions than nuclear power per dollar (euro or pound) invested. They will fall disproportionately on different sections of British society.

It has been speculated in the press that the new UK Government’s pause of the Hinkley Point C decision is primarily due to a long-term concern by the Prime Minister (Theresa May) on security concerns regarding the involvement of the Chinese. The state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation was due to fund a third of the cost of this European pressurised reactor, with the French energy utility eDF covering the bulk of the investment. It is currently estimated by the French to cost £80bn to build over 10 years, although the UK National Audit Office believes that this could cost British consumers over £30bn per annum to run in terms of top-up payments. Apparently the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, rejected the idea of a "special share" in the Somerset-based Hinkley Point C nuclear power project in order to provide extra protection against potential Chinese national security threats. No European pressurised reactor design has actually been commissioned anywhere in Europe, and those elsewhere are some 10 years behind schedule and way over projected construction costs. Taking time to consider the various negative consequences of this proposal is therefore likely to be time (and money) well spent.