Britain's Anti-Pollution Plan

The country is taking tough steps to change the way it produces energy.

Apr 28, 2012 | By Eben Harrell for TIME
CHRISTOPHER FURLONG—GETTY IMAGES

A wind turbine and a coal-power station stand side by side in Selby, England. Both generate electricity.

Burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil sends huge amounts of polluting greenhouse gases into the air. Many industrial countries have promised to limit the amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO[subscript 2]) they produce each year. But in May 2011, Britain became the first nation in the world to take legal steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

Chris Huhne, Britain's Energy Secretary, set a "carbon budget." He pledged that the United Kingdom (U.K.) would cut carbon emissions in half by 2027, compared to what they were in 1990. And he promised that by 2050, emissions would be down by at least 80%.

Such bold steps would change the way Britain produces energy. An industrial country has never before taken such serious steps to develop a low-carbon economy. The new rules put the U.K. on a very tough course. It is not known what sacrifices, if any, will be needed to make the changes.

The agreement will certainly be good for the environment. British officials hope it will also boost the economy. It seems likely that companies specializing in wind turbines will build in the U.K. Renewable energy, or power that comes from such sources as wind, could bring big business to Britain.

The bad news might be the price of electricity, which will likely rise. But, says British Prime Minister David Cameron, it will be worth the cost. "The transition to a low-carbon economy is necessary, real and global," says Cameron. "By stepping up, showing leadership and competing with the world, the U.K. can prove that there need not be a tension between green and growth."

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