29 September 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: do you think the state has a part to play in subsidising infrastructure relating to nuclear energy and should it do so now? Given the ambitious target of trying to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and the desire for Cambridge to become a ‘zero carbon city,’ how likely do you think it is that this will be achieved without the energy produced by these nuclear plants?
Nuclear energy, alongside fossil fuels, must be phased out of the energy sector entirely. Once investment is secured, the plants are created, and energy is being produced, we will have passed the even more critical 2030 net carbon emissions target. Existing plants should live out their planned lifetimes and not be replaced. Critically, we have no safe solution for disposing of toxic waste and have already seen the devastating results of nuclear plant break-downs. As the climate emergency worsens, nuclear plants will be exposed to more extreme conditions; an unpredicted natural event could be catastrophic.
The focus should be on renewable sources, developing local energy hubs and community energy projects. Houses and businesses should be retrofitted with solar panels to be able to produce enough energy for themselves, with surplus energy put back into the grid to support local services and businesses. A central or national grid, supplied by offshore wind and tidal energy, would act as a back-up during peaks in demand. This would be far more cost-effective than new nuclear plants and would empower local communities. Cities like Cambridge would have greater control over their energy supply and net-zero carbon emissions would become more achievable.
We need to direct efforts much more towards efficiency and energy reduction. Too much energy is lost due to poor energy efficiency. All houses, for example, should be built to Passive House standards. This would help reduce the huge demand for energy and end fuel poverty. Business, industry and agriculture need to prioritise energy efficiency and adapt existing models and processes to reduce energy consumption. Research into relevant new technologies, particularly electric cars, must be accelerated.
Such initiatives, while ambitious, are deliverable and sustainable in the face of a climate emergency. They will empower us as individuals, as communities and as a country.
Our response was written by Mark Slade. Mark is a secondary school mathematics teacher, NEU rep and the Cambridge Green Party's campaign manager.