Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Too much to blog about

There's too much to blog about in today's papers...

  • At the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth Gordon Brown promises Britain will "lead in carbon-free vehicles, carbon-free homes and carbon-free industry", although he supplemented this by adding that Britain will be a "world leader in energy...from nuclear to renewables". But not energy efficiency?
  • Up in London, the Carbon Trust announced more funding for research into marine energy. It's only £3.5million, but this is helpful, especially in the light of the concerns I expressed about funding for offshore technologies in yesterday's blog.
  • At the United Nations in New York, General Secretary Ban-ki Moon noted that "10 years since Kyoto...most industrialised country emissions are still rising and their per capita emissions remain unacceptably high".
  • Ex-President Bill Clinton has also been focusing this week on combatting climate change in his Clinton Global Initiative, and in an interview with the Financial Times1 suggested that countries such as Britain and Denmark have had faster economic growth than the USA since 2000 precisely because of the development of new green industries. However he was taken to task by the FT's leader column for under-estimating the costs of some of the climate mitigation measures; certainly his own estimates of paybacks on low energy lights and a highly efficient window he had recently installed in his barn were far too optimistic.
  • However in Montreal, all is less optimistic. The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) is set to reject the European Union's plan to permit the inclusion of international aviation into its cap and trading scheme (the ETS).
  • And if all this action gives the impression that global climate change may yet be averted, the string of mini tornados unleashed by a cold weather front running from Farnborough in Hampshire to Scunthorpe via Luton and Northampton has been blamed by some on climate change. Britain is apparently likely to become more vulnerable to tornados because of its location on the edge of the Atlantic with prevailing Westerly winds picking up energy from the warming seas and creating increasingly violent storms.

So if I am not to simply report things, what am I to say in this blog?

The one common factor is a lack of local action, leading directly to real savings. Neat triplets about carbon-free Britain may lead to action eventually, but when the Government is backtracking on local authority initiatives to raise standards above the minimum (for example through discouraging the so-called "Merton Rule", where councils can require 10% of renewables on most new developments), it's hard to take some of these positive announcements at face value.

Of course, some action is being taken; this evening I was asked by my local radio station to explain just how my local council's policy of carbon-neutral homes would work. I was clearly either too lucid or opaque, as the next question ignored my carefully constructed answer and went for the jugular: "Why is it worth it, with the Chinese opening a coal fired station a week?" I should have quoted Ban-ki Moon back at the interviewer, but rather chickened out, referring to the Chinese only building power stations to meet Western demand for consumer goods. True, but in a week where "Moral Hazard" has become a buzz phrase in connection with Northern Rock, perhaps I too could have pointed out that we have a moral responsibility to take action on Climate Change. Or is that just too po-faced for drive-time radio?

1Full Transcript on www.ft.com, 24-9-2007, editorial comment 25-9-2007

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