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Are We as Bad as the US for Ignoring Net-Zero Guidelines?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

The USA have recently come under fire from climate organisations over Biden’s approval of the Willow Project in Alaska, which will allow for a peak production of 180,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The project has been criticised by many media outlets for its environmental implications and the set-back it puts on the US for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Everyone’s eyes are on the US, but are we paying enough attention to what’s going on in our own country? The UK has also pledged to this achievable target, and yet their actions seem to be internationally less recognised in the media, despite their matching lack of effort. At the end of last year, a coal mine was approved to open in Cumbria, the first new opening in the UK for 30 years.

In May 2021, The International Energy Agency published a report describing a roadmap plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and suggests over 400 guidelines to achieving this. On its website it states: ‘net zero means huge declines in the use of coal, oil, and gas. This requires steps such as halting sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars by 2035 and phasing out all unabated coal and oil power plants by 2040.’ No new fossil fuel development of coal, oil or gas can take place if we are to remain in the 1.5C limit. It suggests instead focusing on electricity and recommends a ban on new coal mines and mine extensions, a policy the UK seems to be ignoring.

The UK government claims that they can open the Cumbrian coal mine and still remain within the net-zero guidelines, suggesting that the mine will have a neutral effect on the environment. The opportunities for thousands of jobs are cited as a huge benefit to the operation, but the likely biggest reason for the scheme is political. Both the UK and US are seeking to avoid foreign import on oil and coal, and unfortunately this self-sufficiency comes at the cost of the environment. Friend of the Earth said that the mine would not replace Russian coal anyway, and so the long-term benefits of this operation are widely unclear.

They also aim to export much of the oil, despite the leaning towards greener energy by many European steelmakers. The coal mine scheme is anticipating being sued by climate groups who will seek proof of how the mine will fail to have major environmental implications, as this seems to have been glossed over in a similar way to how Biden and the US are failing to answer basic questions on how this is necessary and how it can be forgiven for the affect it will have on our planet.

News like this shows how frustrating holding governments and companies accountable is, since it is the role that they choose to play which will determine environmental outcomes for years to come. The average person can do all they want to help curb impacts but at the end of the day it is these larger groups that will decide our fate and therefore these decisions that need to be challenged and should be making more noise within both international and national medias. These governments need to be held accountable, and hopefully these plans will be questioned for their impact before they go-ahead.

Further reading:

UK’s first new coalmine for 30 years gets go-ahead in Cumbria | Coal | The Guardian

Coal 2022 – Analysis – IEA

The Willow oil project in Alaska won’t bridge the energy gap – The Atlantic

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Rachael Daly

Nottingham '23

Hi! I'm a third year English with Creative Writing student at the University of Nottingham :)