UK fossil fuel industry responsible for £44bn in damage every year

29th March 2019

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Des Bushell

The UK's coal, oil and gas industries are responsible for a massive £44bn worth of environmental, health and social costs every year, research from Friends of the Earth (FotE) has revealed.

The findings are based on 'Social Cost of Carbon' calculations used by academics to measure the damage done by each tonne of gas emissions entering the atmosphere.

And this does not consider other damaging factors like the impact of air pollution on health, with FotE arguing that the fossil fuel industry be forced to pay for the harm it has caused.

The NGO estimates that £22bn of additional public investment will be needed every year to tackle climate change through initiatives like tree planting, public transport upgrades and energy efficiency improvements.

FotE head of policy, Mike Childs, said: “The costs of this industry are being felt by people and nature across the world through more extreme weather, such as floods, droughts and wildfires.

“It's time the industry is held to account for the range of damage it causes, and is made to foot much of the bill for the transition to clean energy. If you pollute, you pay. It's a simple fix to help avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.“

The UK's fossil fuel industry includes coal, oil and gas firms, oil refineries, and the 'big six' energy companies, which are British Gas, E.on, EDF, Npower, SSE and ScottishPower.

FotE said the industry should help pay £10bn a year for home energy efficiency, £6bn for cycling, walking and public transport, £2.3bn to increase the uptake of electric vehicles, and £1bn for renewable energy development.

It also argued that fossil fuel firms contribute to the £1.5bn needed every year for habitat restoration and tree planting, as well as £1bn for extreme weather protection from increased flooding and fires.

The government's spending review this year is “critical“ to the UK meeting its legally binding carbon reduction targets, and to deliver on its Paris Agreement climate change commitments, the NGO added.

“Whatever happens with Brexit, the cliff-edge that is definitely approaching is carbon pricing policies in the UK,“ Childs continued. “The short-term costs of shifting to a low-carbon future are far lower than the devastating human and environmental cost of business-as-usual.

“The simple principle that the polluter should pay to clean up their mess is long overdue.“

Image credit: iStock


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