The UK should be proud of the role it has played in clean technology - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Maddie Evans, Guildford.

Recent letter writers have returned again and again to the argument that the UK greenhouse gas emissions are so small that burning less fossil fuel is pointless. I think that deeply underestimates our influence and technical contributions to the energy transition.

As 30 per cent of emissions come from countries that each produce less than 1 per cent of the total, we need to be part of the solution. And let’s celebrate that we are capable of big change and leadership, because the UK is the only country recognised by Carbon Brief for meeting the coal reduction targets for the power sector, having already eliminated the acid rain from our coal-fired power stations.

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An unending argument about reversing climate change misses half the discussion. We need to reduce fossil fuel use for many reasons, and the effectiveness of cleaner technologies includes a major contribution to the nation’s health. What’s important to ordinary people is that the energy transition is delivering far more than the greenhouse gas reductions.

Smoke rising out of chimneys at a power station near Nottingham. PIC: David Jones/PA WireSmoke rising out of chimneys at a power station near Nottingham. PIC: David Jones/PA Wire
Smoke rising out of chimneys at a power station near Nottingham. PIC: David Jones/PA Wire

Clean technology is not a luxury, it delivers economic and health benefits making it an investment; this is why we have been adopting better standards for decades. Alongside the reductions in bronchial illness, asthma and heart disease we get other tangible benefits: steam trains became economically unattractive, but you can see from our heritage lines how much less smoke and fume there is, and as a result curtains don’t need cleaning so frequently, windows don’t need to be washed weekly, and you can have a winter coat that doesn’t have to be black to hide the grime.

Other changes such as the ban on smoking in public areas and restaurants have saved many of us a fortune in dry-cleaning bills. Requiring vehicles to meet higher emissions standards over time is not a waste of effort.

The cleaner air in cities is very noticeable: stepping out of a railway station you no longer taste the diesel fumes in the air, and you don’t have to wash your hair every day to remove the fallout.

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Improving the air is life changing: the ULEZ in London has already reduced the number of children being admitted to hospital for asthma.

In our kitchens, where coal gas once replaced coal-fired ranges with their dirt and physical effort, and natural gas replaced coal gas with its risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, fast induction hobs are now replacing natural gas, which burns like a small chemical works, and releases pollutants such as formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and benzene, all the time leaving a sticky residue on our cupboards and surfaces.

Spending money to develop and deliver better technology is never a luxury, as it often delivers payback exceeding the investment. Everyone who manages a home, or commutes, or takes care over their appearance, can benefit from reductions in pollution and is hardly likely to appreciate a return to coal.

Air quality improvement, both inside and outside our homes, has been a big contributor to life expectancy since the 1950s and accelerating the transition will help more of the 32,000 people in England who die every year due to poor air quality. We can be proud that Britain still has a significant role in developing clean technology that benefits us all.

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