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February 3, 2009 / Mridul

International Renewable Energy Agency Launched, US and UK Opt Out

First conceived by Willy Brandt in 1980, an international body which would be responsible for helping developed and developing nations forge a mutual partnership to promote the use of renewable energy came into existence. The International Renewable Energy Agency or Irena is seen as an ‘institutional counterbalance’ to the International Energy Agency, which, in the eyes of some European leaders, favors use of fossils fuels over renewable energy sources.

Europe is continuously pushing for greater use of renewable energy to achieve its emissions reduction goals and has thrown its weight behind this new agency. However, the United States and Britain have, for the time being, refused to be members of the same.

While the U.S., under the leadership of President Barack Obama, is expected to join the group soon, Britain has shown no interest in joining the international agency any time soon. Britain maintains that it would come on-board once the developing countries like China, India and Brazil join the agency and commit to its energy goals.

British government’s decision not to become a part of this agency is one of many actions that have raised questions about its commitment towards use of renewable energy and reducing its carbon emissions. Many environmentalists have accused Britain of dragging feet over the issue of developing a sound renewable energy policy. Many believe that even after announcing ambitious renewable energy targets the British government continues to favor coal based and nuclear power plants over clean energy projects.

Recently, when the European Union agreed to set a 20 percent emissions reduction goal by 2020 it was the British parliamentarians who opposed the target and once it was passed Britain argued that member nations should be allowed to achieve at least 8 to 10 percent of those reductions by offsetting carbon emissions and investing in clean energy projects in developing and poor countries. In addition, the British government is also trying to water down proposed EU emission reduction legislation which would impose tough new emission limits on power plants.

Guardian’s James Randerson summed up British government’s recent actions to undermine various EU proposals regarding renewable energy and carbon emissions.

In September, leaked documents seen by the Guardian revealed that it was lobbying for aviation to be removed from renewable energy targets. The documents also revealed that the Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform wanted to change a pledge that all new and refurbished buildings should be fitted with renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. Instead, countries would only have to increase “gradually” the minimum level of energy from renewable sources. The previous year the UK government lobbied other EU countries to set lower renewable targets.

There is clearly a difference in Britain’s word and its actions. The British government continues to approve new coal plants and nuclear power plants and even though it has made considerable progress in setting up wind and tidal energy plants, it has failed to take steps to meet the goals set by the European Union; instead, it has proved to be a roadblock in EU’s endeavors to pass tough & necessary legislation.

Britain is a significant member of the EU and it must understand its responsibilities; instead of blocking or weakening the proposed plans it should work proactively to reduce its carbon emissions, extend use of renewable energy and help developing countries acquire clean energy technologies.

This article was first posted on Red, Green and Blue

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