Think Global. Act Local!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

"Last minute panic"

I received an email this morning from Friends of the Earth, which shows that none of the main parties in Exeter have signed the FOE climate pledge.

Hundreds of MPs nationally are serious about the environment - see if your prospective candidate is one of them here:

Of course, I emailed each of the candidates again using FOE's online form: - each candidate has receive an email titles "Last minute panic" asking why they have not signed this important pledge.

The Green Party candidate has signed the pledge.

Here are the messages I've sent to the other candidates...

Conservative: I received an email this morning from Friends of the Earth -- only 4 conservative candidates nationally have signed the FOE climate pledge - compared to 109 Labour, and 211 Liberal democrats. Please drop me a quick email explaining this and why you have chosen not to sign the pledge as climate is a very important issue for me.

Labour: I received an email this morning from Friends of the Earth -- and discovered that you have not signed the climate pledge - only 109 Labour candidates have signed the pledge nationally compared to 211 Liberal democrats (twice as many!). Please drop me a quick email explaining this and why you have chosen not to sign the pledge as climate is a very important issue for me.

Liberal democrat: I received an email this morning from Friends of the Earth -- and discovered that you have not signed the climate pledge - Please drop me a quick email explaining why you do not support FOE's pledge when many other Liberal democrats nationally have committed their support. I see that the Green party candidate for Exeter has committed to this very important pledge.

I wonder if I will get any responses this close to the election - it will also be very interesting to see if any of the candidates respond after the results are known.

Note: They can sign up to the pledges here


* Policy 1: A local carbon budget for every local authority: that caps CO2 in the local area in line with the scientific demands for emissions cuts and local circumstances; and enough money and technical support to enable councils to do their bit to tackle climate change.

* Policy 2: Sufficient investment in switching to a low carbon economy to: achieve a reduction in UK greenhouse gas emission of 42 per cent by 2020; create jobs and boost the recovery; and eliminate fuel poverty.

* Policy 3: An international deal on cutting emissions where those responsible make the deepest cuts first, and developing countries are supported to grow in a low carbon way.

* Policy 4: A new law which will tackle the major greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation caused by the UK’s dependence on imported feeds for livestock - and which will support better UK farming and domestic feed production.

-- I removed comments as I'm getting a lot of junk, but if in the unlikely event you would like to comment then just email me!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Vote for policies, not personalities!

'Vote for Policies' makes it easy to compare what the political parties are promising to do. It helps you make an informed, unbiased decision about who to vote for. Find out which party you really support... (click below)

I think that voting by personality is certainly the preferred choice for the general public. If the public had their way, Stephen Fry would be Prime Minister...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

What is your candidate promising on climate change?

Send a quick letter to all your prospective parlimentary candidates here, and find out what their plans are regarding climate change.

Check to see whether there is a Green Party candidate running in your area. You can join the Green Party here.

Dear Exeter City PPC,

Since the election date was announced yesterday I have received flyers from both the Labour and Conservative parties -- but neither mention the environment or climate change, despite this being one of the most important issues for whichever party forms the next government.

Most observers recognise that greenhouse gas emissions must peak and begin to drop within the next FIVE years – the maximum length of the next parliament.

We need committed and enthusiastic MPs who will put environmental issues at the TOP of their agendas.

Please show your support by signing the Friends of the Earth Election pledge:

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

*Don't forget to include your name and address*

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Masdar: Abu Dhabi's carbon-neutral city

There is a very interesting and inspiring article on the BBC News Website of a new carbon neutral city being constructed in UAE.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A (quick?) summary of the difference between the two top players...

Having spent part of the morning assisting the Exeter city Conservative candidate to choose the most suitable home green-energy tariff, I thought I'd share my 'essay' here.

"I think they are both great suppliers, but there is a fundamental difference to be aware of if you need to discuss your choice politically.

The argument (fueled mostly by Ecotricity) is that Good Energy encourages and secures only EXISTING renewable sources (although they encourage a climate of investment by paying a premium rate to producers and they directly invest in many small scale generation start ups). The company operates primarily as a distributor of existing green supplies.

Ecotricity argues that existing green supplies would be used anyway on the open grid, and that now other 'brown-tariff' customers have decreased their use of this green supply - thus the net use of renewable energy has remained the same?
But, this argument assumes that only Ecotricity are interested in creating new renewable supplies, and that the premiums offered by schemes like Good Energy's are not sufficient to encourage the necessary growth in the renewables market. If all customers demanded a green tariff from Good Energy (and paid the premium) then we would only have renewable energy (but it would be built and managed by the most efficient third-parties).

Ecotricity invests "all profits" in NEW renewable sources, which they feed back to Ecotricity customers.

Ecotricity is much more aggressive in its pursuit of green power to the masses. They want to move things along faster. It puts less faith in the public to make the switch and therefore doesn't ask them to pay any more. Ecotricity price matches the ordinary electricity tariff in the customers region (not their current deal). However, some [or most?] (the percentage is not advertised) of the energy that standard customers buy is brown (nuclear/coal) and the profits from selling these build new renewable sources for Ecotricity to sell.

I've just seen that Ecotricity has a "New Energy Plus" scheme - it costs around £20 a year more and has the best of both worlds - 100% of profits invested in new renewable sources (owned by Ecotricity), and 100% is green (coming from Ecotricity and other renewable providers) - I wonder if this increases the amount of non-renewable power going to standard Ecotricity customers...

I read both companies blogs, Good Energy is doing a lot of great work for micro generation with ordinary customers (i.e. transition cities, and individuals)

I'm very encouraged by the emerging partnership Good Energy has with the EST, and I will stick with Good Energy because their support for customers generating renewable electricity at home seems more comprehensive at this stage..

If everyone changed to 100% renewable with companies like Good Energy then the problem would be solved. But who is to say that the Ecotricity approach will not work better/faster? Both models should succeed. My only criticism of Ecotricity is that they introduce a lot of distrust into the market and constantly criticise their top competitors. Many confused customers decided the green industry can not be trusted and therefore they do nothing...


Both companies can supply gas - The Ecotricity model sells mostly regular gas and invests in NEW cleaner gas production...

The Good Energy gas model is a bit like the Ecotricity electricity model! they supply regular gas and invest all profits in NEW renewable heat generation in homes "

Friday, 29 January 2010

Carbon confusion

It's been quiet for some time since my last post on 'Carbon Neutral'.

The aim of the blog is to chart our personal progress towards being carbon neutral. Our plans are to install solar heating and electricity, minimise car journeys (close to zero, and do a small amount of offsetting for the essential travel we do take) and other initiatives that I won't bore you with here. It's becoming a long road, we're delayed by our basic renovations to the house and commitments to work.

Why is it important? Because I strongly believe that those that understand the gravity of a problem (in this case climate change) have the responsibility to personally do something about it. Whether climate change is really a problem is still debated in the media, but the science stands up for itself, and the key fact is that we expect large-scale irreversible damage to the Earth's ecosystems if we remain above 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. The expected consequences for mankind are severe.

Yesterday was depressing for two reasons. The first: my boss told me about his attendance at the house of commons to provide expert witness on climate change. The minister asked for a show of hands of who in the room believed that CO2 could be reduced below 350 ppm, and none of our elected representatives raised their hands. We are currently at 387 ppm, and politicians think levelling off at 450 ppm is too ambitious. The science gives a very clear story for what happens when we reach 500 ppm, and it's not just coral reefs that will disappear.

The second thing that got to me yesterday made me question whether I can continue working in my job. My research is on climate change and coral reefs and I feel that an essential part of this is communicating the science to public and policy makers. But the job requires air travel, and later in the year I will have to fly to Brisbane, Bali and possibly the Bahamas as well as back home to England. We're also considering personal flights for holidays, and some long car journeys.

I can not claim that the work I do on climate change is anywhere near sufficient to justify my carbon lifestyle. I'm aware of other people, such as our neighbours, who take mutliple long-haul flights a year for non-work reasons; but I can accept this as they do not understand what the trajectories show- the only way to reduce their carbon footprint is through changes in governmental policy and social attitudes which are not possible without guidance from the science.

But what depressed me most yesterday was the action of scientists who do understand the problem and yet do no take personal responsibility, nor encourage others to do so. They think that they are exempt, because they work on the fringes of the problem of climate change. Maybe my boss does need to fly to San Francisco, Japan, Barbados, then Australia (twice around the world?!) in the next month-and-a-half. But he is deliberately, and massively, increasing the distances he travels in order to collect more "free" air miles. Describing this to our research group everyone encourages the practice and thinks that it is impressive...

Note: Below I show "externalities", these are a measure the true economic (not environmental) cost of air travel which the flyer is not paying. The amount of externalities shown below is the extra amount the flight would cost, if aviation fuel had the same tax as road transport fuel in the EU.

Here is the problem:
My boss wants to fly from Japan to Barbados, a distance of approximately 8,000 miles (east). The only cost incurred is financial.

Direct, this is 8,000 miles out and 4,210 miles back to London = 12,210 miles
2.18 tonnes + 1.15 tones = 3.33 tones of carbon (not offset)
£622 fuel tax + £311 = £933 of externalities not paid (see end of post)

He already has a return flight booked from Japan-London, so he could fly:
Japan - London - Barbados - London = 14,357 miles
3.9 tonnes of carbon (not offset)
£1,117 of externalities not paid

But, instead he finds a ticket for the same price... which will result in more free air miles in his pocket: Japan - London - Toronto - Barbados
Total = 17,863 miles
4.8 tonnes of carbon (not offset)
£1,390 of externalities not paid

If aviation fuel was taxed equally to other fuel, the ticket prices would reflect distance travelled (making us choose efficient routes) and also discourage excessive/non-essential travel (by increasing the ticket price). But if people who understand the stakes (i.e. me, and my boss) are not prepared to travel responsibly (let alone, reduce our personal consumption) then it is difficult to imagine a world where anyone else will change.

I know not to give up the fight, but I do feel at a loss as to how I personally should proceed.

(note - distance EAST from Japan to Barbados was estimated on google maps)

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Five days left: save the Copenhagen talks

President Obama is joining the Copenhagen talks today. But he needs a push in the right direction.

Send him a message, and tell him to get the talks on track.

Dear President Obama,

The world is looking to you to secure a ambitious, fair and binding deal at the global climate change summit.

Please make sure the deal includes real carbon cuts in rich countries (including the USA & UK) of 40% by 2020 and guarantees adequate funding for clean development and adaptation in developing countries.

In research, we appreciate better than most the implications of our changing climate, I can not overstate the importance of achieving ambitious and binding targets at the Copenhagen talks.

Yours sincerely

Ian Elliott
Research Associate
University of Exeter, UK