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Opinion: Renewable energy must be our priority

PUBLISHED: 08:30 13 July 2019

East Ham MP Stephen Timms wants renewable energy prioritised.  Picture: KEN MEARS

East Ham MP Stephen Timms wants renewable energy prioritised. Picture: KEN MEARS

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In April, Swedish school student Great Thunberg brought her campaign against climate change to the UK parliament.

And climate change is steadily rising up the list of concerns raised with me when I visit Newham schools.

Last week, parliament passed legislation for a new target: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. I also met last week with constituents at the 'Time is Now' climate lobby in Westminster. 16,000 people came to lobby MPs and demand climate action. They called for fossil fuels to be replaced by wind and solar power.

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As a former energy minister, I have followed developments with renewable energy with great interest. Thanks to technological advances and years of work, renewable energy costs have fallen dramatically. For example, the cost of installing solar power dropped more than 70 per cent between 2010 and 2017. The International Renewable Energy Agency claimed last year that renewable energy sources could be cheaper than fossil fuels as early as next year. This big economic shift could be just in time. It means that investments in renewables make growing financial sense.

Fossil fuels represent a risk for investors. The Bank of England governor has warned of the risk of a 'carbon bubble' in the global financial system. Investments in fossil fuel assets could be left stranded as the world moves away from fossil fuels.

Renewable energy also offers opportunities for cheaper energy, for example through local community-owned solar panel initiatives. These projects strengthen communities, create local jobs, and improve energy security.

Reducing carbon emissions also helps tackle air pollution. High levels of pollution in Newham can trigger respiratory diseases like asthma. Newham Council has announced its intention to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030. This is a welcome development.

Adopting renewable energy can help both national and local strategies to meet our climate targets.

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