Account Nick Bridge (1972, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, England) that the first special representative for the climate change of the United Kingdom was an environmental activist. Then, the charge fell to a retired admiral of the Navy and, later, to a scientist. And since 2017, Bridge, a career diplomat, occupies that position under the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "I am an economist," he says. "Now we need to show the economic transition in the fight against climate change," adds Bridge, who has participated this week in a conference in Madrid on cities and the fight against warming.
The United Kingdom was one of the first countries in the world to adopt a climate change law. From 2008 dates the known as Climate Change Act, a norm that is an international reference in the policies against global warming and in which Spain has also been set to prepare your law, that, in spite of the repeated announcements from the Government of Pedro Sánchez, has not yet reached the Congress.
Goodbye to coal
Bridge – which has also been his country's ambassador to the OECD, the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency – highlights the "carbon budgets" of the UK law. With this expression we know the amount of greenhouse gases that a country sets as the limit of emissions for a specific period of time. "We have found that long-term objectives, with five-year carbon budgets and independent advice, offer clarity."
"For us, the law has served to mark a path towards decarbonization very quickly," he says. And it shows the numbers of its country: "from 1990 to today we have reduced our emissions in more than 40% while the economic growth has been of more than 70%". The secret, he adds, goes through "having a simple and long-term structure" to be able to coordinate "decarbonization" among all the actors.
It also highlights as a success the speed with which your country has managed to disengage from coal -A fuel that practically was born in the United Kingdom with the Industrial Revolution – to generate electricity: "coal has left our mix energy almost completely. It has gone from 40% of electric generation five years ago to almost zero now. " Also, he points out, "the wind energy has entered the system in a very powerful way". "For example, the largest offshore wind facility in the world is in the United Kingdom."
But, after more than a decade of application, what has failed of the British law of climate change? Bridge refuses to talk about failures, but highlights how "easy" it has been to transform the production of electricity -with the elimination of coal and the incorporation of renewables- in the face of how complicated it is to act on the transport sector. "As it happens in Spain, transport has practically not advanced. Industrial processes are very difficult to decarbonize. I do not think that it can be said that it has failed, but it takes a long time for this very complex process in which companies, governments and civil society must be agreed upon. We have ten years of law and only now we are beginning to take measures in these sectors. "
"We have said that in 2040 we will remove the combustion engines from the system. And I think the market will advance even faster, "he says about the veto that the British Government has also raised for diesel and gasoline. That date, 2040, is the same as the draft climate change law that the Ministry for Ecological Transition presented last year. That rule has not yet reached Parliament.
"The technology is already there with cleaner cars, such as electronics, hybrids, hydrogen cars (…) You will not find any taxi driver from London who has switched to electric and then return to the old model. It's cheaper, cleaner and more pleasant to drive. The issue is no longer the car, it is the recharging infrastructure, the batteries, its recycling and cultural change, "he says.
Bridge speaks of the need for governments to send "signals" to manufacturers to bet definitely for this type of vehicle. "I think the signs are already clearer; There are more governments that have established limits, such as the United Kingdom, such as France or India, which has established a limit of 2030. "
In Spain, the Balearic Islands has been a pioneer in establishing that new diesel vehicles will not be able to circulate in the islands in 2025 and petrol in 2030. Bridge admits that it does not know in detail the norm, which has just been approved. "But it does seem to be the way the world is leading," he says of that calendar.
Uncertainties with Brexit also affect the fight against climate change. The United Kingdom has always been an actor within the European Union that pushed towards ambition against climate change. What will happen after the Brexit? "It does not change our commitment, our ambition," he says. "In the EU, climate change is a central identity issue. I believe that Europe as a whole, including the United Kingdom, will continue to lead climate change. We have to lead it globally. We have caused much of the problem and therefore we must work on it. " "The United Kingdom and Spain must work urgently – together with other European partners – to be more ambitious and demonstrate real leadership in the face of climate change. We need long-term commitments and detailed implementation plans, "he concludes.