Between the North Sea and west London, it's been a bad week for green policy in the UK.
While large parts of the world sweltered in record heat that focused minds squarely on the impact of climate change, the fragility of Britain’s green agenda was on stark display.
Offshore wind has been the jewel in the crown of UK energy policy since early last decade, with the fact that only the Chinese have more in the water the source of genuine pride to the industry and government alike – the latter always keen to mention the far-sighted support mechanism that has underpinned almost 14GW built so far.
As Vattenfall’s stark announcement over the future – or apparent lack of it – of the Norfolk Boreas project in the North Sea showed, something is going badly wrong. Supply chain inflation and other cost increases have, the Swedish developer says, driven a London double-decker bus-sized hole in the project's business case since it won a UK renewable energy deal little more than a year ago.
It’s clear that while developers will always look for more from governments, and that governments can’t always be expected to give them what they want, something has to change to keep the UK offshore wind show on the road – or as analysts warned Recharge, it is in danger of becoming the first domino to fall in the entire national decarbonisation strategy.
The second piece of depressing news for UK climate action came in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the outer-London parliamentary constituency vacated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson that was against all the odds retained by his otherwise deeply unpopular Conservative Party in a by-election on Thursday.
The reason for the unexpected success for the incumbent Conservative government was apparently the huge unpopularity of plans by the mayor of London to extend the capital’s scheme to tax the most polluting vehicles – the ultra-low emissions zone, or ULEZ – to include Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
The mayor rules under the banner of the opposition Labour Party, and the voters seem to have shown their anger over the green measure by shunning the Labour candidate and backing Johnson’s anti-ULEZ successor.
The most concerning dimension to the Uxbridge result is that it has instantly convinced elements of the influential and already climate-sceptical Conservative-supporting media that the route to a surprise victory in next year’s UK general election is to become devoutly anti-green and start back-tracking on net zero pledges.
If that notion gains traction with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his party, then a lifting of the de facto onshore wind ban that has stalled development in England looks less likely, to name but one area of policy.
If the Labour Party – still odds on to win the election despite the Uxbridge setback – loses its nerves and starts to believe the same thing, it can only be grim news for a British climate and energy policy that looks badly in need of a dose of good news.