- More than 90% of our energy comes from burning fossil fuels. This gives rise to air pollution, acid rain and climate change. Government figures show that air pollution causes up to 24,000 early deaths every year. Every year, worldwide, over 31,000 million tonnes of carbon and more than 255 million tonnes of methane are pumped into the atmosphere. The earth’s ecological system – the vegetation and the oceans – absorbs just over half the carbon and four-fifths of the methane. The result is global warming. Extreme weather is becoming ever more frequent.
- Such figures underline why the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports calls for a 60% reduction in the global emission of greenhouse gases. Even though this underlines the magnitude of environmental problems facing us, governments are carrying on, business as usual, with very few strong environmental policies in place. There is no shortage of solutions, just a chronic lack of political will. Wholesale changes in lifestyle are needed and new policies must be launched, aimed at cutting energy consumption and large-scale pollution. Energy conservation and renewables must replace fossil fuel dependency. Global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut dramatically by international agreement. We should have started years ago, but better late than never.
- Environmental and energy audits including extraction and waste disposal show that the true costs of fossil fuel and nuclear plants are very large. All support for the nuclear industry, other than research into decommissioning and safe storage of nuclear waste, should be switched into renewables research. Nuclear power stations and reprocessing facilities must be decommissioned as soon as possible and no new ones built.
- Wessex needs an integrated energy policy based on long-term sustainability. Our region has enormous potential for energy generation from renewable sources and could become self-sufficient if energy demands were reduced and more efficient use of resources encouraged. Wide-ranging energy conservation measures are essential. Small-scale renewable energy schemes – whose impact on the landscape can be more readily absorbed – will take priority over major projects. Examples include wind turbines for isolated individual properties, solar panels and modest hydro-electric power. Like the water- and wind-mills of the past, such schemes would serve individual villages or at most a group of villages. Larger projects, generating electricity for the grid, need very thorough assessment. A Severn Barrage, while potentially very productive, would have ecological consequences that appear to outweigh any benefits. Because main road and rail routes in Wessex run largely east-west there is scope to install photo-voltaic cells on noise barriers, as well as on south-facing structures generally, provided that visual impact is acceptable.
A regionalist government in Wessex will:
- restructure energy taxation so as to reflect the environmental impact of the generation method, making renewable energy more price-competitive
- support the development of local renewable energy co-operatives.
Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:
- seek to encourage the use of energy-saving technology, such as combined heat and power generation, district heating grids, renewable energy and better insulation, seeking to have these built into local planning requirements wherever practicable.