We recognise the inequity of our current consumption patterns in which we are using up a greater share of the planet’s resources and that the poor are most vulnerable to climatic change.
by Paul Rainger
22 February 2013
Infographics seem all the rage right now, and rightly so a great visual communication tool.
And what better time to share this infographic with you than as today’s Friday food for thought?
With the Kyoto’s expiration last year, they have taken emissions data from the UN and PBL to assess its impact so far. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the data shows that while there have been more successes than failures amongst nations with Kyoto targets, global emissions as a whole have continued to soar.
Check out the InfoProductReview.org website for more. From DIY sheds to homemade solar panels, InfoProductReview specialises in finding information products that will help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
by Paul Rainger
06 December 2012
Nor is he popular with his fellow climate scientists, as he meticulously takes apart current climate models, and entertainingly examines the physiological reasons why most climate scientists are not speaking out.
The real climate change scandal it would seem is an almost conspiratorial underplaying of the data to maintain the political consensus that holding at a two degree global temperature increase is still possible.
Listening to Kevin speak recently at Bristol University’s annual Cabot Institute lecture, it seemed to this lay person that Professor Anderson’s analysis includes three big problems with the carbon descent models we currently base policy on:
- Ignore the data; nearly all the modelling today continues to use the 1% figure adopted by Stern as the ‘current rate of emissions growth’. But since Stern we have nearly 10 years of real measured data showing actual growth of 3% to 6% which is just ignored.
- Invent a Tardis; most models then go on to use a peak emission date of around 2014-16. That is not very far away now and nobody actually believes China or India will peak before 2025 at the earliest. Hilariously, some of the past influential US reports even predicted peak emissions a couple of years before the report itself was even published. Again just ignoring the real data, or perhaps they really do have a Tardis!
- Throw in some magic; finally there is the question of the rate of decent from that peak. Most models give ourselves ‘a bit of room’ on the way down by including a chunk of negative emissions at the end. Of course people other than Harry Potter are working on this ‘sucking carbon out of the air’ technology, but today it is still firmly in the realms of science fiction along with that working Tardis.
So if we do use today’s real data where does that leave us? Probably on course for a 4 to 6 degree increase seems likely. Indeed a PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) review this month warned that we are on a disastrous four degrees trajectory.
And that’s the physiological problem. It is easy to understand the reluctance to say this when so much political capital has been invested in holding the line at two degrees, which scientists agree give us a 50/50 chance of avoiding disastrous outcomes.
Admitting we have already failed to act over the last 10 years in time for two degrees risks creating a political form of ‘learned helplessness’ or worse, given that the scientific consensus is four degrees plus is beyond our ability to cope with adaptation.
Remarkably, Kevin Anderson is still upbeat. His analysis shows how we could still fix this in the next ten years with radical change. Interestingly these ‘last chance’ next ten years renders power supply issues, like new nuclear, irrelevant because they will not be delivered in time. The battle is purely on the demand side, and it could be done.
But this correspondent cannot help reflecting on our abject failure to do anything meaningful over the last ten year as emissions have got worse. Will we really take the radical demand side action required in the next ten?
I am reminded of the infamous quote from my Forum for the Future colleague, Sara Parkin, that “we could end up the only species to have minutely monitored our own extinction”.
You can probably add this article to that archaeological time capsule.
by Helen Burley
24 August 2012
At a first glance, it has to be said that the latest per capita carbon emissions for Bristol released this month do not look good. The data, compiled by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, shows that Bristol’s total per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by 0.1 kilotons from 2009 – 2010.
That means that the average emissions per person in Bristol totalled 5 kt of CO2, compared to 4.9kt the previous year. These figures come from the national dataset compiled for international reporting – which is apparently why they are already so out of date.
DECC breaks the figure down into emissions from industry and commerce (1.9kt/capita), domestic (1.9 kt/capita) and road transport (1.1kt/capita) – the figures are rounded, which is presumably why they don’t add up.
The perhaps surprising good news is that out of these three categories, per capita road transport emissions for Bristol actually fell, from 1.2 kt/capita in 2009. Less traffic? More walking and cycling? Domestic and industry emissions were both up.
The other good news is that compared to the national average, we’re not doing so badly as the Guardian’s map of per capita change shows. Emissions increased by 0.2 kt per capita for the UK as a whole, and some areas saw big jumps, mainly as a result of increased industrial activity.
Rising levels of domestic energy use are bad news – domestic energy use accounts for 32% of our national per capita emissions and while cold weather will always cause fluctuations, it is an area where there are huge potential opportunities for savings.
It is also an area that is very much affected by our behaviour – whether we’re turning down the thermostat, insulating our lofts or running a plethora of electrical devices.
DECC’s comparable data goes back to 2005, and looking at the longer trend, Bristol is at least going in the right direction, down from overall per capita emissions of 6.2 in 2005. That’s a fall of almost 20%.
And there’s also good news for Bristol City Council – DECC publishes a separate set of data looking at emissions which are considered to be within the scope of influence of local authorities. This excludes data from big industrial sites and from motorways. These figures show that Bristol’s overall per capita emissions stayed the same for 2010 – although per capita domestic emissions still rose.
(Thanks to http://cyclinginfo.co.uk/blog/1510/cycling/cycling-in-bristol-photos/)
by Helen Burley
11 June 2012
Bristol’s BIG Green Week started on Saturday with a colourful market stretching from St Nick’s to the Harbourside. Chef, Arthur Potts Dawson gave an inspiring low energy cookery display, celebrating local ingredients and summer. It all kind of left you feeling pretty good about this whole green thing.
To simplify horribly, the gist was that given that we are now living in the Anthropocene – an age where man has determined conditions on Earth – we need to acknowledge our managerial role. The question is not how we live with nature, but how we manage the Earth’s systems – and there are big questions about how this done.
Hamilton picked a few geoengineering projects to illustrate his point. Faced with rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, scientists have come up with a number of creative ways in which we might try to manage (or geoengineer) the climate.
A number of these schemes have attracted the attention and the cash backing of some pretty big investors – including Bill Gates. They have also been seized on by former climate sceptics, who suggest that by engineering the climate, we can obviate the need to tackle climate change.
One advocate, the US astrophysicist, Lowell Wood, is quoted by Hamilton as saying:
“We’ve engineered every other environment we live in – why not the planet?”
Tar sands developer Murray Edwards is, perhaps for obvious reasons, another geoengineering fan.
Hamilton describes the geoengineering advocates as “Promethians” – after the character from Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mortals. Promethians like technology, they like speed, they like to get things done.
In opposition to this, Hamilton puts the Soterians, named after the Greek goddess of caution, Soteria.
And as Hamilton pointed out, we live in a world where speed, not caution, tends to win.
This is perhaps particularly true in the financial markets, where deals are done in nano-seconds – and markets do not wait while politicians – or indeed ordinary mortals – hesitate.
Just as we have allowed our markets to race ahead, unregulated, regardless of the costs, will we, as a global society, let the Promethians seize the opportunities offered by new technologies, spurred on by the chance to profit from these new planet management opportunities? And will the Soterians sit on the sidelines, warning of the environmental damage being done?
Or maybe we will recognise that we are ill-qualified as planetary managers – that our track record so far is pretty poor and that caution is perhaps wise. That while we may be poor masters, we have learnt a lot about the complex world we live in, including the fact that our actions trigger consequences we cannot control. And that just as at city level, different interests have to be balanced to create sustainability…
by Helen Burley
17 February 2012
Bristol could be fast-becoming the retrofitting capital of the UK. Already home to Bristol Green Doors and Refit West’s whole-house refurbishment scheme, retrofitting in the city has just received another boost with projects in the city securing cash from the government’s Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF).
One of the recipients is Future Fit Bristol, a project being run by the Knowle West Media Centre, re:work and Tree of Life offering the local community the opportunity to have up to half a day with a qualified local builder installing energy saving measures in the house.
The Bedminster Energy Group also received funding form LEAF, and Easton Energy Group and Transition Montpelier will be working with their local communities to find ways to make their homes more energy efficient.
Bristol Green Doors has teamed up with a group of residents in St Andrews to pilot external wall insulation on a Victorian terrace of four homes. According to the Government, some 7 million homes require some form of solid wall insulation, with the Committee on Climate Change recommending that 2.3 million homes with solid wall need insulating by 2022 if the UK is to meet its carbon reduction targets. Needless to say, we’re not quite there yet.
What makes the St Andrews project unusual is that all four of the properties are privately owned (three owner-occupied, one let as flats) with the four property owners co-operating to ensure the work is more effective. Tackling the four houses together avoids breaks in the insulation, which could lead to heat loss, and retains the terrace’s visual character. Fitting external insulation on terraced housing is not in itself new, but most projects to date have been carried out by social landlords.
The St Andrews householders are being asked to monitor their energy use before and after the insulation has been fitted to see how much money and how much carbon is saved. The project will also monitor temperature to see how much difference the external cladding makes to the comfort of the home.
Bristol’s Georgian and Victorian terraces are one of the distinctive features of the city – but while this architectural heritage might add to Bristol’s character, it also means many of us have chilly homes. So learning a few lessons about how to insulate these buildings could be good news.
The St Andrews terrace will be on show as part of Bristol Green Doors open homes weekend on 17-18th March when forty homes across the city will be open to the public, showcasing a range of energy efficiency measures, from low-cost draught-proofing to complete retrofits.
And there’s also the chance to find out more about making your home warmer by dropping in at the Create centre’s WARM exhibtion, including a large scale model of a Victorian house on show until 8 March.
by Paul Rainger
09 February 2012
Bristol City Council, the UK’s leading green city, has announced funding to develop its own renewable energy services company – a first for British local government. The new prioject will establish a citywide energy services company to spearhead renewable energy and energy efficiency projects worth up to £140 million and helping to create 1,000 green energy jobs in Bristol.
The broad range of low carbon projects planned in Bristol will inspire similar cities in the UK and across Europe to look at ways to accelerate deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy schemes. Although the focus is mainly on solar energy, the Council is also looking to install relatively small Archimedes Screw type turbines on the River Avon.
Bristol is the first UK local authority, outside London, to receive a £2.5 million grant from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to meet most of the costs of developing an energy services company and investment programme. The investment programme should also kick-start and attract much bigger investment in the city potentially up to £2 billion.
Bristol City Council Leader Barbara Janke said: “This is a bold but necessary move for the city and we will be one of the first local authorities in the country to drive forward with such ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy plans. In practical terms this will lead to cheaper bills for thousands of residents through investment in energy saving measures. This will also mean that as a city we will be generating our own energy, primarily through a major investment in solar energy generation.”
Bristol’s energy services company will be owned by the City Council on behalf of the citizens of Bristol. It intends to secure half of its funding – around £70 million – from the European Investment Bank, the rest from private sector investment. It would be an arms-length organisation and generate income through energy savings and energy generation.
Bristol’s investment programme will initially be focused on:
· Improving the energy efficiency of over 6,000 homes and public buildings through wall insulation and other measures
· Installing over 7,000 renewable energy generating systems on homes and public buildings such as solar panels and wood fuelled heating
· Developing small district heating networks where several buildings are heated from a single, efficient boiler.
As part of this programme, the city’s schools will also be installing energy efficiency works such as energy efficient lighting and insulation and rolling out energy awareness activities with staff and pupils in the school.
Peter Madden, Chief Executive of Forum for the Future said, “This major scaling-up of investment in energy efficiency and renewables reinforces Bristol’s reputation for green leadership. It doesn’t just put Bristol at the forefront of carbon reduction today; it will also make the city more resilient, more competitive and more economically successful in the decades to come.”
by Helen Burley
16 December 2011
The UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa – where I’ve been for the last two weeks – seemed a long way away from Bristol’s real-world endeavours to green the way we live and work as a city.
Given the weaknesses of the deal agreed in Durban, this distance is perhaps a good thing. Politicians in Durban may have failed to agree on the kind of emissions cuts needed to keep global warming within the supposedly safe limit of 2 degrees, but we still need to shift to a low carbon economy – in Bristol and around the world.
Indeed the urgency for that shift is increasingly apparent, not least on the African continent where the UN talks took place.
Parts of Africa have seen severe drought, floods and famine in the last year alone. A Ghanaian delegate told me how parts of the village where he grew up are now under water as a result of sea level rise.
As the African Group spokesman Seyni Nafo told media at the start of the conference: “We have contributed the least to this problem and we are paying the greatest price.”
There is no doubt that Africa will be hit hard by climate change. Studies suggest that even a 1.5 degree rise in temperature will severely affect harvests in Africa. At the moment the world is on course for a rise of 4 degrees. The impacts for Africa are too horrifying to imagine.
“We cannot compromise on the lives of millions who are already threatened, who are already dying from climate change,” Mr Nafo urged. But in reality not compromising didn’t even seem to be on the agenda.
The politics at play in Durban were never going to result in ambitious targets from all the players at the table – and indeed the deal agreed in the early hours of Sunday morning did not increase global ambition to cut emissions beyond what was agreed in Cancun last year. That means that the a gap between where we need to be and where we are likely to be in 2020 of 6-11 gigatonnes, according to UNEP.
While a global deal with more ambitious targets would have provided a clear sign to business as the need to change gear, there are some who argue that we are reaching a tipping point where green technology will lead the way where politicians have failed.
Have we got there yet? I am not sure. Some parts of industry in Europe have proved an effective block to more ambitious action. The economics of energy use still favour fossil fuels. But it is a challenge we need to meet.
There are other signs for hope. This week Forum for the Future highlighted efforts by business not just to change their own behaviour, but to change the behaviour of their customer base. This is the kind of thing is part of the solution – changing the way we live our everyday lives.
The Durban Platform did deliver the promise of future action, a loosely worded commitment to do a bigger better deal further down the line…
It might not sound like a lot, and it completely ignores the urgency of the situation we are in, but there were some watching the talks who feared that the whole process could collapse. And that would have truly spelt disaster – for the UN process, for multilateralism, for the poorest countries and our global future.
by Paul Rainger
01 December 2011
Bristol City Council, in partnership with Regen South West, the south west of England’s renewable energy body, have launched a new Tidal Energy Forum at Bristol Port Company’s offices at Avonmouth, to further enhance Bristol’s position as a UK centre for tidal energy research and technology development.
“Bristol has a growing international reputation as a base for the renewable energy sector, attracting companies such as Vestas and LICenergy over the last year” says Bristol City Council Leader Barbara Janke. “We have the expertise, the natural resources and the ambitions to make Bristol and the South West the hub for offshore renewable energy in the UK.”
Merlin Hyman, Chief Executive of RegenSW commented: “Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy creating huge opportunities for business. This new partnership will enable us to work with Bristol City Council on our mission to support pioneering renewable energy projects with thriving local supply chains.”
As well as hearing about the huge potential energy resources which could be harnessed in the Bristol channel, industry delegates heard presentations from leading technology developers and industry experts including; Tidal Energy Limited, Pulse Tidal, Marine Current Turbines, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Bristol University and Garrad Hassan. Highlights included the very exciting plans outlined by Martin Murphy, MD of Tidal Energy Limited, to deploy a 1.2 MW demonstration tidal turbine at a high energy site in Ramsey Sound, and the equally ambitions plans to deploy Pulse Tidal’s latest technology at a test site off North Devon.
Overall the forum concluded that while Bristol is already recognised as a centre for technology development, more could be done to promote the commercialisation of the industry. The call for action included support for collaborative research, identifying demonstration and early deployment sites for tidal technologies and crucially working together with other regional partners in Wales, Cornwall and across the South West.
The forum was the first in a programme of activities designed to raise Bristol’s profile in the booming offshore renewable energy sector.
by Paul Rainger
11 November 2011
We at Forum for the Future think it’s one of the best we’ve seen…. probably the best in the world?
The West of England Carbon Challenge have drawn on the knowledge and experience of their 100 member businesses to produce this handy “how to” guide.
You can download their Starter Pack guide here.
The Pack takes you step by step through the process of setting a target (a collective 10% reduction by 2013 for West of England Carbon Challenge members) to implementing those all important changes. It also contains loads of great tips and links to resources (both general and industry specific) that businesses can take advantage of.
Using this Pack, once you have a handle on your energy data and you have identified the areas where you can make improvements, you can put your plan into action. Whether you are looking for immediate energy cost savings, assistance or more long term solutions, this new West of England Carbon Challenge guide for business can help you.
by Paul Rainger
05 October 2011
South Gloucestershire residents, in the north of the UK’s Bristol city-region, can now recycle their waste cooking oil, helping to supply safe, clean, renewable electricity to the National Grid.
Across the UK, taxpayers foot an annual bill of around £15 million for cleaning up drains and watercourses damaged by household cooking oil that is often poured down sinks. YouGov research found that the most common way to dispose of oil is down the drain, causing Water companies to spend around £15m per annum clearing up 170,000 tonnes of used cooking oil put down the drain.
But now in South Gloucestershire all waste cooking oil can be recycled at four special “SORT IT!” centres in Yate, Thornbury, Mangotsfield and Stoke Gifford to be converted to clean electricity by green energy firm Living Fuels.
Normal biodiesel needs relatively high chemical and energy inputs, but Living Fuels use natural settling and filtering processes to produce a more sustainable bioliquid that is the first to have been granted ‘end of waste’ status by the Environment Agency.
South Gloucestershire Councillor, James Hunt, executive member for communities says of the scheme: “Many residents have been in touch with us to ask for a way to make good use of their used cooking oil, so I am delighted that this initiative, working with Living Fuels and our recycling contractor SITA UK, is now in place for the benefit of residents.”
Rob Murphy, Operations Director of Living Fuels adds: “Just one litre of used cooking oil that we collect generates enough renewable electricity through our chemical-free processing to make 240 cups of tea. Since we started out three years ago, we have collected enough waste oil to power 5,000 UK homes for a year. But we can still do much, much more so I’m delighted that environmentally conscious residents in South Gloucestershire can now recycle their used cooking oil easily and help the fight against dangerous climate change”.
• Stoke Gifford - Station Road, Little Stoke, BS34 6HP
• Mangotsfield - Carsons Road, BS16 9LL
• Thornbury - Short Way, Thornbury Industrial Estate, BS35 3UT
• Yate - Collett Way, BS37 5NL