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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Election 2017: What the manifestos say on energy and climate change. An analysis by Carbon Brief

On 8 June, the UK will head to the polls for the third time in as many years. In an election dominated by Brexit, Carbon Brief will be tracking the climate change and energy content of parties’ manifestos, as they are launched.

First out of the blocks was the Green Party, with a dedicated seven-page environment manifesto published on 11 May (its full “Green Guarantee” manifesto followed later). The Labour Party saw a draft of its plans leaked on the same day. Its official manifesto launch came on 16 May, as did Plaid Cymru’s “Action Plan 2017“.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto was published on 17 May, with the Conservatives following on 18 May. Following a suspension of campaigning following the terrorist bomb in Manchester on 22 May, UKIP launched its manifesto on 25 May. The SNP manifesto, “Stronger for Scotland”, was published on 30 May.

Carbon Brief has given a detailed table of what each of the parties have said in their manifestos about energy and climate change.  It can be found here:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/election-2017-what-minfestos-say-energy-climate-change

Despite the hopes of some groups, climate change has barely featured as an election issue so far. In his speech launching the Labour manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn made no mention of climate change. Theresa May’s launch speech also avoided the subject.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid all reiterate support for UK climate targets in their manifestos, with the three largest parties also explicitly naming the Paris Agreement. The Conservatives say:

We will continue to take a lead in global action against climate change, as the government demonstrated by ratifying the Paris Agreement.”

Labour says it will “reclaim Britain’s leading role” on tackling climate change, while the Greens say:

With 2016 the hottest year on record, and a climate-denier in the White House, the need for bold and dynamic action on climate change has never been more urgent.”

Plaid Cymru says the British government is “neglecting its international duty to reduce…emissions”. It wants a new Climate Change Act, with “ambitious but achievable” targets for 2030 and 2050. The SNP says Scotland has a “world leading” target to cut emissions 42% below 1990 levels by 2020 and it wants the UK government to “match Scotland’s commitment and ambition”. The Lib Dems say:

With the election of Donald Trump in the US and Britain’s vote to leave the EU, the tides of isolationism and populism could halt or even reverse the progress [on climate change] that has been made. Liberal Democrats are determined that we live up to our environmental obligations.”

The Lib Dems reprise their pledge, also made in 2015, to legislate for a Zero-Carbon Britain Act, while party leader Tim Farron mentioned climate change twice in his launch speech.

UKIP repeats it long-held commitment to repeal the Climate Change Act, which it says “has no basis in science”.

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Labour’s Manifesto on Sustainable Energy

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY

Labour’s 2017 energy policy is built on three simple principles:

  • To ensure security of energy supply and ‘keep the lights on’.
  • To ensure energy costs are affordable for consumers and businesses.
  • To ensure we meet our climate change targets and transition to a low-carbon economy.

The UK energy system is outdated, expensive and polluting. Privatisation has failed to deliver an energy system that delivers for people, businesses or our environment.

One in ten households are in fuel poverty, yet the Competition Markets Authority found customers are overcharged an enormous £2 billion every year.

Labour understands that many people don’t have time to shop around, they just want reliable and affordable energy. So the next Labour Government will:

  • Introduce an immediate emergency price cap to ensure that the average dual-fuel
  • household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year, while we transition to a fairer system for bill payers.
  • Take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control. We will do this in the following stages:
    • Regaining control of energy supply networks through the alteration of the National and Regional Network Operator license conditions.
    • Supporting the creation of publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers, with at least one in every region.
    • Legislating to permit publicly owned local companies to purchase the regional grid infrastructure, and to ensure that national and regional grid infrastructure is brought into public ownership over time.

Labour will insulate four million homes as an infrastructure priority to help those who suffer in cold homes each winter. This will cut emissions, improve health, save on bills, and reduce fuel poverty and winter deaths.

Homeowners will be offered interest- free loans to improve their property. For renters, Labour will improve on existing Landlord Energy Efficiency regulations and re-establish the Landlord Energy Saving Allowance to encourage the uptake of efficiency measures.

Labour will ban fracking because it would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee on Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline.

Emerging technologies such as carbon capture and storage will help to smooth the transition to cleaner fuels and to protect existing jobs as part of the future energy mix. To safeguard the offshore oil and gas industry, we will provide a strategy focused on protecting vital North Sea assets, and the jobs and skills that depend on them.

We are committed to renewable energy projects, including tidal lagoons, which can help create manufacturing and energy jobs as well as contributing to climate- change commitments.

The UK has the world’s oldest nuclear industry, and nuclear will continue to be part of the UK energy supply. We will support further nuclear projects and protect nuclear workers’ jobs and pensions. There are considerable opportunities for nuclear power and decommissioning both internationally and domestically.

Building a clean economy of the future is the most important thing we must do for our children, our grandchildren and future generations. Yet recent years have seen a failure to progress towards our targets. A Labour government will put us back on track to meet the targets in the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement.

The low-carbon economy is one of the UK’s fastest-growing sectors, creating jobs and providing investment across each region. It employed an estimated 447,000 employees in the UK in 2015 and saw over £77 billion in turnover. With backing from a Labour government, these sectors can secure crucial shares of global export markets.

Currently, the UK buys and sells energy tariff free from Europe, an arrangement which saves families and businesses money, and helps balance the power grid. As part of the Brexit negotiations, Labour will prioritise maintaining access to the internal energy market. Labour will also retain access to Euratom, to allow continued trade of fissile material, with access and collaboration over research vital to our nuclear industry.


Also, it may be of interest to readers to view a youtube video made last September:
Also, a longer 11-page paper, Protecting our Planet, written by Jeremy Corbyn in August 2015, can be found at:


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Energy Policy and the Election by Professor Keith Barnham

Prof. Barnham, a member of Scientists for Global Responsibility, had an article published on 10th May 2017 in The Guardian, which can be read in its entirety at the following link:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/10/challenge-conservatives-energy-priorities-cuts-renewables

He states that onshore wind has higher public approval than nuclear energy and fracking,  and questions why the Tories are expanding these unpopular industries, which also have higher carbon footprints.

solar panels

Solar panels were most popular with the public in a recent Government survey

Though the 2015 Tory manifesto claimed that onshore wind farms “often fail to win public support”, the government’s own surveys demonstrate widespread approval of wind farms and support remains high, even for a large-scale local wind farm.  The Guardian article contains a graph taken from the Government’s own survey, which shows that the most popular form of energy is solar, followed by offshore and onshore wind farms.  Coming at the bottom of public approval is fracking, with nuclear energy only a little higher than this.

wind farm

An offshore wind farm

During the Coalition Government of 2010-2015, renewable power expanded exponentially and had a turnover of £14.9bn; this also and had the effect of reducing wholesale electricity prices. If this expansion had continued under the next government, an all-renewable UK electricity supply could have been achieved by 2025.

However, all renewables have suffered since May 2015 and at least six incentives to the highly popular solar photovoltaic (PV) power have been cut. According to the Solar Trade Association, 32% of jobs were lost by last summer.

Prof Barnham goes onto discuss the dangers of nuclear power and analyses other safer new forms of energy.  He concludes that the party that restores renewable subsidies (paid from taxation rather than levies), cancels Hinkley Point C and fracking subsidies while incentivising bio-methane, will get his vote and, as the graphic contained in the article (showing public approval of renewables) suggests, such policies might win them a lot more votes.

Keith Barnham is emeritus professor of physics at Imperial College London and author of The Burning Answer: a User’s Guide to the Solar Revolution

In his article, Prof. Barnham refers  to an earlier Guardian piece, written by Adam Vaughan on 12th February 2017:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/feb/12/uk-offshore-wind-will-lower-energy-bills-more-than-nuclear

This suggests that offshore wind farms (of which the UK is a leader), have the potential to produce cheaper energy than nuclear power and provides other information about the UK renewable’s industry.

Carbon Brief has done an analysis of what each of the political parties say on Energy and Climate Change.  This can be found at:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/election-2017-what-minfestos-say-energy-climate-change

 

 

 


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Great British Bee Count

Some of my readers may have participated in the RSPB  bird count that takes place annually at the end of January.  Now, Friends of the Earth are organising a Great British Bee Count, which runs for 6 weeks from 19th May to 30th June.  You can apply for a pack at:

www. greatbritishbeecount.co.uk

which helps identify the numerous different species of bee to be found in this nation. There is also a Bee Saver Kit, which contains wildflower seeds, a bee identification guide, garden planner and a bee saver guide.  Also, an App that can be downloaded.

DSCN7442

Bees are essential for pollinating many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat, as well as flowers, and their numbers are reducing drastically, mainly due to the use of pesticides.

DSCN7441


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BBC Website gives updates on the Paris Agreement and the Climate Vulnerable Forum

This extract is taken from:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-39861589

According to the BBC, Chinese President, Xi Jinping has vowed to protect the Paris Agreement, which aims to curb climate change and fossil fuel emissions.

In contrast, US President, Donald Trump, is still deciding whether to withdraw from the Accord, one of the issues he promised to do during his election campaign.  According to the BBC climate experts worry that such a move from Trump would throw the agreeent into chaos.  A White House meeting to discuss the topic on Tuesday of this week, was postponed amid reports of divisions among senior Trump advisors.

Under former President, Barack Obama, the US and China issued several joint statements on climate change, even announcing together that they would sign the Paris Agreement.

The two countries are the world’s biggest polluters.

Almost 200 countries have backed the agreement, which aims to keep temperature increases below 1.5 degreesC.

 

A further update on other progress has appeared on the BBC’s website on Science and Environment:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39954423

It provides details of further meetings of the CVF (Climate Vulnerable Forum) and is copied below:

“The world’s poorest nations say the Paris climate agreement is their “lifeline” and must be strengthened.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, (CVF) representing 48 countries, said the deal was crucial to their survival.

In a swipe at President Trump’s oft-used phrase, they said that “no country would be great again” without swift action.

Thousands of delegates are meeting in Bonn to develop the rule book for the Paris deal.

Around one billion people live in countries that are part of the CVF.

The group firmly supports the idea, enshrined in the Paris agreement, that countries would do all in their power to keep temperatures from increasing more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

“Keeping to 1.5 degrees is quite simply a matter of survival,” said Debasu Bayleyegn Eyasu from Ethiopia, which holds the presidency of the CVF.

“For all of us, the Paris agreement is our lifeline.”

Other speakers highlighted the fact that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the current US position on climate change.

President Trump is expected to decide on future US participation in the Paris accord after the G7 summit in Italy next week.

Picking up on Mr Trump’s “make America great again,” election battle-cry, Emmanuel Guzman from the Philippines said: “Without increased climate action, no country will be great again.”

350px-Map_of_Philippines

“The measure of greatness is how you are able to increase and enhance your climate action.”

Mr Guzman said he was calling on all world leaders to increase their ambition and not just Mr Trump.

“I would not like to point a finger at someone, but it is a call for action by all big or small.

“If we don’t achieve the goals of the Paris agreement there are irreversible damages and consequences.”

“It’s a grim scenario – that’s really unacceptable to us.”

The group highlighted some of the important differences between keeping temperature rises under 2 degrees or under 1.5.

The Greenland ice sheet would enter irreversible long-term decline, with significant impacts on sea levels at 1.6 degrees one delegate said.

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Warming beyond 1.5 would also “appreciably increase the prevalence of extreme storms that have already been capable of large-scale loss of life and cutting a year’s GDP in half for some of our members.”

At the last major conference of negotiators in Marrakech last November, members of the CVF committed themselves to moving towards 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.

“Costa Rica produces 100% renewable energy most of the year,” said William Calvo, the country’s adjunct chief negotiator.

“But we won’t stop there: we are tackling now the transport sector and hope to even export renewable power more widely in the region.”

kaart CR-PAWP

The idea that other countries are capable of picking up the slack if the Americans pull out of Paris gained support this week with the release of an analysis showing that India and China are likely to overshoot existing targets to cut carbon.

President Trump’s actions to revitalise the coal industry in the US and to de-regulate oil and gas are unlikely to rapidly increase emissions before 2030 says the study from the Climate Action Tracker.

Between 2013 and 2016 China’s coal use declined each year and a continued slow decline is expected. India says that planned coal-fired power plants may not be needed if recently announced green policies are effective.

“You have to have the U.S. on board ultimately to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement,” Bill Hare from Climate Analytics told news agencies.

“But if there’s a hiatus for four years it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the game”.

 


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Doughnut Economics – a new way of thinking from Kate Raworth

Those of you who have read chapter 7 of my book, or heard my talk at the recent Planet Centred Forum seminar, will know that I believe that a market economy is one of the factors making climate change worse.  I also talk about the obsession with economic growth – growth, growth and more growth – which is being adhered to by politicians in an increasingly panicky way.  It is clear from many experts that the current economic system is based not only on shaky mathematics but is also damaging the planet.

Now, Kate Raworth of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, has come up with an alternative. It is expounded in her book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to think like a 21st-Century Economist (published by Penguin Random House).

Two recent Guardian articles explain the context of her theories, one by Kate herself (The Guardian 6th April 2017) and one by George Monbiot (The Guardian 12th April 2017), who reviews her book.  Raworth redraws the economy, embedding it in the Earth’s systems and in society.  It includes a doughnut-shaped diagram, which explains the concept, which follows the laws of nature, rather than the laws of motion, or physics. Instead of growth at all costs, her economic model allows us to thrive whilst saving the planet.

Kate expounds this theory in more detail, with video clips and diagrams on the following website:

http://evonomics.com/seven-ways-transform-21st-century-economics-economists/

It starts as follows:

No one can deny it: economics matters. Its theories are the mother tongue of public policy, the rationale for multi-billion-dollar investments, and the tools used to tackle global poverty and manage our planetary home. Pity then that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date yet still dominate decision-making for the future.

Today’s economics students will be among the influential citizens and policymakers shaping human societies in 2050. But the economic mindset that they are being taught is rooted in the textbooks of 1950 which, in turn, are grounded in the theories of 1850. Given the challenges of the 21st century—from climate change and extreme inequalities to recurring financial crises—this is shaping up to be a disaster. We stand little chance of writing a new economic story that is fit for our times if we keep falling back on last-century’s economic storybooks.

When I studied economics at university 25 years ago I believed it would empower me to help tackle humanity’s social and environmental challenges. But like many of today’s disillusioned students its disconnect from relevance and reality left me deeply frustrated. So I walked away from its theories and immersed myself in real-world economic challenges, from the villages of Zanzibar to the headquarters of the United Nations, and on to the campaign frontlines of Oxfam.

In the process I realized the obvious: that you can’t walk away from economics because it frames the world we inhabit, so I decided to walk back towards it and flip it on its head. What if we started economics with humanity’s goals for the 21st century, and then asked what economic mindset would give us half a chance of achieving them?

Spurred on by this question, I pushed aside my old economics textbooks and sought out the best emerging ideas that I could find, drawing on diverse schools of thought including complexity, ecological, feminist, behavioural and institutional economics, and set out to discover what happens when they all dance on the same page. The insights that I drew out imply that the economic future will be fascinating, but wildly unlike the past, so long as we equip ourselves with the mindset needed to take it on. So here are seven ways in which I believe we can all start to think like 21st century economists.

Go to her website to see the seven fully-illustrated steps for how this can be achieved.  She also explains on the following you tube clip:

 

And this TEDx talk to economists:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BHOflzxPjI

 


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Green Investment Bank sell off

The UK Green Investment Bank’s purpose is to accelerate the UK’s transition to a greener, stronger economy.  It was created by the UK coalition Government in 2012, who provided the initial capital to invest. It was used to back green projects, on commercial terms, across the UK and to mobilise other private sector capital into the UK’s green economy, with the aim of funding the creation of new, modern, green  infrastructure across the UK.

Now the UK government has decided to sell it off to a private consortium, led by the Australian bank, Macquarie, for £2.3 billion.

The privatisation has drawn strong criticism from environmental groups and opposition parties, who believe that the sale will set the UK back on reaching its climate targets agreed at COP21 in Paris.  It may also lead to the loss of jobs in the renewables sector. Many believe it has been sold off too cheaply.

One contact wrote to her (Conservative) MP about this.  His reply was:

Thank you for contacting me about the Green Investment Bank (GIB).
 
The GIB has proven to be a pioneering venture into sustainable investment, and has now committed £2.6 billion of capital to 79 green infrastructure projects across the UK since its launch.
            
However, as the Independent Chair of the Bank, Lord Smith, has said, attracting new investors is vital if the GIB is to fund its ambitious plans to double the size of its business, expand into new parts of the green economy and deliver more environmental benefits. The Government has always been clear that the GIB was designed with a view to a possible transfer to the private sector. The company was designed to leverage the maximum amount of private capital into green sectors for the minimum amount of public money. Moving the company into private ownership is a natural development that further delivers this aim.
 
It is with this in mind that plans to explore the privatisation of the Bank were announced in 2013. Since then, the Government and GIB have continued to work together to facilitate the introduction of private capital into the bank, and a two stage auction process was formally launched in March 2016.
 
While the detail of the sale process is commercially confidential, I can assure you that the Government has no interest in selling to an asset stripper. Potential investors have been asked to confirm their commitment to GIB’s green values and investment principles, and how they propose to protect them, as part of their bids for the company. In addition, the Government has approved the creation of a special share, held by independent trustees, to protect GIB’s green purposes in future.”
  

It would appear that the sale has been backed by the GIB’s independent board.  We need to keep a close watch on what happens to the GIB in the future and whether it loses it’s green credentials. I don’t feel too optimistic about this. It sounds like the government has been using its “growth, growth and more growth obsession” to damage a bright new initiative of the former coalition government.  I suspect the LDs were most instrumental in getting it established in the first place.