Friday, 19 December 2008

European Sustainable Development Network | Newsletter 2008-12

ESDN Logo

ESDNewsletter December 2008

This ESDNewsletter informs about the following topics and activities on SD in Europe:

If you have colleagues who may be interested in SD governance in Europe, please feel free to forward this newsletter. We invite them to subscribe to the quarterly ESDNewsletter by clicking here.

 

New ESDN Quarterly Report on "Interfaces between the EU SDS and the Lisbon Strategy: Objectives, governance provisions, coordination and future development"

The ESDN Quarterly Report December 2008 provides an overview of the interfaces between the EU SDS and the Lisbon Strategy. After a brief outline on two major governance issues in relation to both strategies (policy integration and multi-level governance), the QR presents an overview of objectives and governance provisions of both strategies and reflects on their similarities, differences and interfaces. This is followed by two scenarios of future strategic development in the EU post-2010. Finally, the QR presents the results of a survey among SD coordinators, conducted by the ESDN Office, on the links between the EU SDS and Lisbon Strategy processes on the Member States level.

>> Read the current ESDN Quarterly Report

Back to overview

Extensive update of the 'country profiles' section on the ESDN homepage

The ‘country profiles’ section on the ESDN homepage has been updated extensively. The country profiles of 33 European countries have been updated on all topics, plus another topic on ‘sub-national activities’ has been added. Moreover, the country profiles are now more easily accessible and the design of the individual country profiles has been renewed.

Back to overview

Documentation 3rd ESDN Workshop in Brussels

The 3rd ESDN Workshop on ‘Post-2010: The Future of the EU SDS and its Interface with the Lisbon Process’ took place in Brussels on 19 November 2008. It was hosted by the ESDN in cooperation with the Sustainable Development Observatory of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). For a full documentation of the workshop, including a workshop summary report, please click here.

Back to overview

News on the governance of SD from European countries

This part of the ESDNewsletter provides regular updates on the governance of SD across Europe.

Cyprus: Update of NSDS and sustainable development indicator set

Cyprus is currently in the process of updating its NSDS and preparing a national SD indicator set. More information on the proceedings regarding these issues will follow in 2009.

Denmark: Update of sustainable development indicators

On 30 September 2008, Denmark published an update of its sustainable development indicators. The new indicators are currently only available in Danish. The indicators show continued challenges regarding nature protection, marine environment and agriculture. Despite some reduction achieved in air pollution, there are also some challenges left in this topic.

Finland: Workshop on sustainability assessment in February 2009 and new term of sub-committee on regionally and locally sustainable development extended

The Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development (FNCSD) will organize a workshop on Sustainability Assessments on 11 February 2009 in Helsinki. The objective of the workshop is to identify potential tools and outline various feasible ways in assessing the impacts of sustainable development policy objectives. The special focus is to find out how the tools developed could be used to assess in an integrated way the likely environmental, social and economic impacts of a National Sustainable Development Strategy.

In order to learn from various experiences and good practices, some European researchers and policy-planners working on sustainability assessments are invited to the workshop. One important objective of the workshop thus is to create a dialogue between scientists and civil servants and to outline a roadmap from methodology development to policy-process and an actual assessment outcome. In the Finnish case, the workshop aims to feed into a comprehensive sustainable development assessment process taking place in 2009 and ultimately to produce an assessment report in December 2009. The ESDN member countries will be provided with more information on the workshop in early January.

The ‘Sub-committee on Regionally and Locally Sustainable Development’ of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development (FNCSD) was established in June 2007.  Its term was now extended until the end of 2012. The sub-committee has 35 members from national ministries, regional organizations and municipalities, association of local authorities, employers and trade federations, labour union, local NGOs (consumer, youth, women, indigenous people, health and environment) and the church. The work plan of the sub-committee has been revised in December 2008. The sub-committee will concentrate in the future on the promotion of sustainable climate and energy policies as well as on eco-efficient land-use and transport systems and sustainable community structures in the regional and local levels. 

Germany: Progress Report 2008 on the NSDS and monthly meeting of State Secretaries' Committee on Sustainable Development

On 29 October 2008, the cabinet of the German Federal Government adopted the Progress Report 2008 on the National Sustainable Development Strategy, ‘For a Sustainable Germany’. Currently, the progress report is only available in German; an English version is expected to be available in January/February 2009. The development of the progress report was accompanied by a wide ranging consultation process, running from November 2007 to June 2008. A documentation of the process (in German) was published together with the progress report in October 2008. With this progress report, the German government adopted sustainable development as a leading principle for policy-making.

The purpose of the progress report 2008 is - similar to the previous reports – twofold: to evaluate the progress of the NSDS on the basis of concrete targets and indicators and to further develop the strategy of 2002 by setting up new topics. The report focuses on four thematic topics: climate and energy, steps towards a sustainable resource management, demographic change/opportunities for greater social cohesion, and world food affairs. Furthermore, the report includes additional thematic chapters along the EU-SDS structure, an independent analysis of sustainability indicators by the Federal Statistical Office and contributions of the German Parliament, the federal regions (Bundesländer), the German Council for Sustainable Development and from the national associations of local communities.

Additionally, the report stresses and adopts the management rules for sustainable development which were revised slightly due to different global conditions and the experience made since the NSDS was adopted in 2002. For the first time, the report explains the governmental organisation of sustainability politics and specific institutional responsibilities. The report strengthens the management of sustainable development in Germany’s federal government. A new management tool for implementing the strategy in daily policy-making will be the assessment of new regulations concerning impacts on sustainable development; it will be an obligatory part of the law-making process.

Beginning in December 2008, the State Secretaries' Committee on Sustainable Development will have monthly meetings. The work programme for the committee will deal with relevant sustainability issues like sustainable use of resources, land use, demographic change or the EU SDS. Additionally, there will be reports of the different ministries on the implementation of sustainable development in specific policy fields and on their priorities concerning sustainability.

Lithuania: Report on NSDS implementation and update of NSDS

The report on the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy 2005-2007 has been finished recently. At the moment, the report on only available in Lithuanian: www.am.lt/VI/files/0.485255001229418908.doc . Moreover, the process to renew the NSDS and the SD indicators has been set up. The process will start when the new government has given its approval. More information can be found on the homepage of the Ministry of Environment.  In August 2008, the government approved a resolution on the regulation of the National SD Commission which resulted in changes in the membership and the organisation of the Commission’s meetings.

Romania: Renewed NSDS approved

The renewed National Sustainable Development Strategy of Romania was approved by the Government and officially launched on 16 December 2008, including a presentation at the European Commission. The review process of the current NSDS was a common project of the Romanian Government, through the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MESD), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Romania. The reviewing process ensured a broad dialog between different stakeholders, and included national authorities, public bodies, universities, the business community and civil society. The renewed NSDS takes into account the objectives of the EU SDS. Please click here to view the renewed Romanian NSDS.

Switzerland: Monitoring Sustainable Development - Switzerland in a Globalised World

Switzerland’s lifestyle and economic system are closely intertwined with other countries through a variety of global interplays. A number of indicators show whether these interplays are sustainable with respect to the use of environmental, economic and social resources. This publication is available in German, French and Italian at http://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/portal/en/index/themen/21/22/publ.html?publicationID=3444.

Back to overview

Other news

ESDN Conference 2009 in Prague: 17-19 June 2009

Next year’s ESDN Conference will take place in Prague. It will focus on the interface between the EU SDS and the Lisbon Strategy. We invite all ESDN Members and Associated Partners to mark this date already now. For an overview of previous ESDN Conference, click here.

EEAC: Bordeaux Declaration / 16th Annual Conference

At the annual plenary session of the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils (EEAC), held in Bordeaux on 11 October 2008, representatives of national environmental and sustainable development councils decided to give their view on the current financial situation in the context of their statement on Sustaining Europe for a long way ahead. As a result the EEAC steering committee created the "Bordeaux declaration". It is addressed to the Council of the EU and the European Commission, as well as for EEAC member councils to take to their national governments. For more information on the EEAC’s annual conference, click here.

5th Annual Meeting of the OECD LEED Forum on Partnerships and Local Governance

The OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Program invites members and partners of the ESDN to its 5th Annual Meeting on Partnerships and Local Governance to be held at Austria Trend Hotel Savoyen Vienna, Austria on 9 - 10 February 2009. For more information, click here.

EASY-ECO Trainings on Evaluation of Sustainable Development

EASY-ECO offers a special opportunity for researchers (with less than 10 years of research experience) and public administrators (dealing with SD or evaluation of projects and programmes) to attend trainings on evaluation of SD. The participants of EASY-ECO trainings learn about key elements in sustainability evaluation, e.g. roles of evaluation in the policy cycle, stages of evaluation as well as methods and techniques to conduct an SD evaluation. The trainings consist of an online training phase and a 5-day case training. Two trainings are foreseen in 2009: The online course for the upcoming training in Lund/Sweden (14-18 April 2009) starts at the end of December 2008. The second training will take place in Bilbao/Spain (6-10 July 2009), with online courses starting in February 2009. To register for either of the trainings, please contact the EASY-ECO coordinator, Mr Michal Sedlacko (michal.sedlacko@wu-wien.ac.at) as soon as possible. For more information on the EASY-ECO trainings, please click here.

 

Back to overview

If you want to give us feedback on this newsletter, please click here.

e wish you a peaceful Christmas and all the best for 2009!

The ESDN Office Team at the Research Institute for Managing Sustainability

Andre Martinuzzi
Gerald Berger
Markus Hametner
Ursula Kopp
Wilhelm Zwirner

http://www.sd-network.eu

Our subscription policy

We send you this newsletter because you have subscribed to receive it at www.sd-network.eu. If you wish to unsubscribe, please click here.

ESDN Logo

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Reverend Billy Says 'Stop Shopping'

The Reverend Billy is on a mission, a mission to stop us shopping. You can see a trailer of his film 'What Would Jesus Buy' below, or go to the website here
The blogs are good too, including the latest Christmas offering.
'The big ritual of giving is changing. We have thousands of reports coming into Revbilly.com. Families are approaching the holiday as an open experiment, often in step with other families in their neighborhoods or in their places of worship. In this Christmas Revolution, we ignore the veiled threats from the media that we’re bad Americans if the retail corporate grosses sink. We are returning to the very seed of the whole thing: the act of giving.'

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Collapse of the Stuff Market.

Well, it was bound to happen in the end. The highstreet stores are now entering into all out price-slashing war. In the battle to sell the most stuff, the now failed Woolworth's and the not so badly off Tesco are firing 50%-off-rockets at eachother. The media are whipping it all up - the Western Mail report 'Sales Chaos Forecast..' , the Daily Express '50% off bargain Britain' , apparently, 'Britain went bargain crazy yesterday''.

Meanwhile, the FT reports that FTSE continues to plummet after the US senate failed to conjure up the big bucks necessary to prop up two motor manufacturers you may have heard of - General Motors and Chrysler, who claim they'll go bankrupt, yes bankrupt if the taxpayer doesn't cough up. Robert Peston thinks UK taxpayers could be coughing up to help Vauxhall, a subsidiary of GM.

There's clearly a human story here too - the Woolworth's workers, the $1 detroit homes nobody wants - nobody likes the fall-out when a business collapses.

I can't help wondering if the reason Woolworth's is struggling, that Tesco is selling discounted Ipod speaker sets and that GM are begging for help, is that between them, they sell alot of stuff that just doesn't fit the future. From the giant GMC trucks doing 12 city miles per gallon, to the low quality electricals that will last only a few years - these products deserve to struggle off the shelves because (during tough times) because they don't really offer relevant value to customers. If they ever did.

If you do have some money to spend this christmas and you're genuinely feeling the pinch why would you buy more usless stuff, when you could invest in your hard earned cash on something that will increase you or somebody else's resilience or efficiency.

So top tips:
100 quid - go to a DIY store, buy insulation (preferably recycled or natural fibre), insulate your loft.
200 quid - go to this DIY store, pay them to do the above, or the same to do your cavity walls (check the eco credentials of their method first).
6 quid - go to Oxfam Unwrapped and Buy school dinners for 100 children or for...
25 quid - buy somebody a goat
1-50 quid - buy yourself or somebody with a garden, a vegetable plot, or seeds, ready for the spring. You can go to any garden centre and many local hardware stores for these.
4-5 quid - a tap flow reducer - there's lots on the market, but here's an example.
3-30 quid - a wind up torch - I have one, I've used it many times and I haven't bought a battery since. E.g. here.
0 - make a gift, throw a party, bake a cake......

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Great Minds......

A few months ago, we put a call out for essay contributions. We wanted to capture the moment, stimulate and document debate at this most confusing of times. At the time financial institutions were dropping like flies, the UK government had just announced it would sign up to an 80% cut in GHG emissions by 2050 and there was a growing sense that now was the time to do some thinking.

That feeling hasn't passed. As finance ministers meet parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan this week, Oxfam call for 'Bold action on Climate and Recession' and Mark Lynas tells us that 'high economic growth cannot be reconciled with limited resources'' in his excellent republished piece from the New Statesman. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government has published drafts of it's new Sustainable Development Scheme and Green Jobs Strategy  - both of which pose some significant questions for policy makers, espescially those outside of the obvious 'green' agendas. Politicians in Wales will need to get to grips with the notion of a One planet Wales and the context in which Wales and it's economy will operate in coming years.

Our hope is that our essay symposium will help inform some of those decision makers. Having spent last Thursday afternoon reading through the contirbutions, I'm enthused. We'll be publishing the essays online, via this blog and the Cynnal Cymru - Sustain Wales website , early in the new year. We'll also make sure that Assembly Members and senior civil servants get copies and hopefully getting some debate through the Welsh media.

We've had contributions from:

Calvin Jones, Cardiff Business School

Eluned Morgan MEP, Welsh Labour

Gerry Gold, A World to Win

Tim Jackson, Sustainable Development Commission

Stephen Brooks, Oxfam Cymru

Lee Waters, Sustrans Cymru

Mal Williams, Cylch (Community Recycling Network)

Morgan Parry, WWF Cymru

Leanne Wood, Assembly Member (Plaid Cymru)

Owen Evans, Business in the Community

Andy Middleton, TYF Group (Cynnal Cymru Board)

Peter Jones, RSPB Cymru

Peter Wells, BRASS, Cardiff University

Rachel Auckland & Jan Cliff Sundance Renewables

Steve Harris, Science Shops Wales

Charlie Mason, Friends of the Earth Pembrokeshire

Victoria Winckler, Bevan Foundation

David Melding, Assembly Member (Welsh Conservatives)

Steve Williams, Improvement Team, WLGA

Kirsty Williams, Assembly Member (liberal Democrat)

Bill Thomas, Sharp Electronics

Nuria Zolle, NEA Cymru


Meanwhile, George Monbiot is getting understandably frustrated by David -  '"Have you noticed there is a wind turbine on Teletubbies? That's subliminal advertising, isn't it?" -  Bellamy and the climate change deniers, which reminds us that whilst the great minds of Welsh politics and academia are committed to finding a sustainable future, lots of people are still pretending there's nothing wrong with the world as it is. I'm sure Kirsty WIlliams, the new leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be feeling just fine about the world today, even if Betsan thinks she faces 'one hell of a job'. If the essay Kirsty sent us is anything to go by - she'll be just fine and she's well aware of the challenges Wales faces.

Apologies for the lack of comments sections below - Blogger has gone crazy but I'm working on it....

Monday, 8 December 2008

60k a year to save the planet - CDM has arrived in the Middle East.

"Due to business growth and increased customer demand, a pioneering Environmental Advisory Services Consultancy based in the UAE seeks to hire a Carbon Sourcing and Advisory Manager to join their successful team." reads the job description for the post of 'Carbon Sourcing and Advisory Manager' . Its seems like a fair deal - go to the UAE, identify ways to reduce emissions and get paid a fair loaf for doing so. Nobody thought sorting out climate change would be cheap did they?

Last week I spent some time reading up on CDM, or the Clean Development Mechanism. As the UN(FCCC) website explains: 'The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), defined in Article 12 of the Protocol, allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.'' See here.

Or as George Monbiot put it to Yvo de Boer (see below post and link to video) 'a money printing exercise'. There certainly appears to be a growing industry around the CDM and the trading of CER credits. There does also seem to be a wide variety of projects undertaken and proposed that look as if they will achieve emissions reductions 'that are additional to what would otherwise have occurred' (UNFCCC).

But the efficiency and effectiveness of the CDM as a process for realising GHG emissions, globally, is very much open to question. Spend a bit of time looking aorund the CDM Bazaar webiste and you'll get a feel for how the market is sturctured.
Sellers are runnning emissions mitigation projects, or looking to set them up. They therefore have CER credits to sell, or are looking for investment from Buyers, on the basis that they will achieve credits, which can be bought out and then traded on the markets.

Let's imagine I have mate in the Phillipines, who has some land and a 'positive relationship' with the local planning officials. We might form a company - let's call it 'SolarDrain' and put together a propoal to build a small solar farm, linked into local factories, homes etc.

We then make a guesstimate as to the emissions reductions our plant might be able to deliver over a given period of years. This will give us a sense of how many CER credits we would receive.

Now we can go to potential investors, or buyers, and invite them to specultatively buy up our CER's. They'll be looking to pay the bare minimum and we'll be looking for enough to cover the project and a nice meal or two.

Sufficed to say, I'm now going to work out, by looking at existing projects, what you might expect to get per CER from a buyer and what sort of expenditure a Seller might be expecting to make for each CER they realise. E.g. if it costs me X to build a solar plant and I can get >X from selling CERs, then I'm getting straight onto my man in Manila. To save some Carbon of course......

George Monbiot meets Yvo de Boer

Link to video interview posted on Guardian this morning. Makes interesting viewing. I'll be following up by looking at CDM later - Cean Development Mechanism, or not so clean, perhaps.
clipped from www.guardian.co.uk

George Monbiot meets Yvo de Boer

George Monbiot charges the UN's leading climate change official with lacking ambition for a global emissions deal, and takes him to task over expensive carbon offset schemes and his support for the US president, George Bush. Includes stock footage from Greenpeace

 blog it

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Equality? 2/3rds of worlds poor are women or girls

clipped from www.oxfam.org.uk

There are around 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide. More than two-thirds of them are women and girls.

 blog it

Mid-life climate crisis? Well I'm talking about my generation

If you're 50 years old today, you'll have been born in 1958 - Lord Rockingham's XI were number one with 'Hoots Mon'. By the time this song had been adapted for the 'there's juice loose aboot this hoose'  Maynard's Winegums advert, circa 1991, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were already spiralling up towards the high 300's where we now find ourselves.

Over the period 1950 - 2000 many in the increasingly affluent West entered into a brave new world, from which we are yet to exit - an era of fossil fuelled consumption catalysed by adverts, such as this, for the Ford Freedom. As the lady says, before they owned two cars 'I couldn't get out and shop' - 'It's a whole new way of life'.

Yes, suddenly anything was possible and anybody could and should own an inefficient fridge capable of holding '49 pounds of food'. This Pearl and Dean compilation makes for good watching - highlighting the rise of new markets in luxury products - The Rimmel and Supersoft beauty products, the Choc Ices, the Cordial - this was the birth of aspiration, not for the good life (as sold) but the good stuff.

After a brief period during the 60'/70's when some people took LSD, got worried about the cold war, marched for civil rights and generally did some world changing from the comfort of a music festival then wore flares, people got back to the serious business of consuming as much as possible and in the process underpinning the continued destruction of the planet's ecosystems. I'm recklessly paraphrasing history here and not necessarily attaching any blame to you crazy 50's cats.

Product of that generation are the kids born into a world already locked into climatic change and a consumption culture that has come to drive so much of our social interaction and shaped our culture so profoundly. I grew up, surrounded by the home comforts of the 50's, 60's and 70's and exposed to dog-eat-dog wealth aspiration of the 1980's - Alan Wicker and Rowan Atkinson selling me credit-fuelled dreams of fossil fuelled overseas travel. Just look where all that got us!

Simultaneously, at school and sometimes via the media, noteably Newsround, I was learning of the Greenhouse effect, global warming and the hole in the ozone layer. I do remember feeling that the world was in great danger - that if we were stuck in a greenhouse, we needed to get out.

We've carried on as usual though - many of my peers have consumed, travelled and disregarded the planet more than any prior generation during their brief time on earth. I include myself in this category. We've grown up in a world where it's easy to carry on regardless, even though the science we've seen from our formative years has told us we face a problem.

We're the first generation that's lived through the emergence of the mainstream climate change debate and the information age. We're connected on facebook and by email, by mobile phones and through online media: virtually. But we're largely disconnected from the decisions that shape our future. We turnout in the 30-40%s at a general election and we have never marched, on mass-scale, in unison on any issue of significance.

Yet, as leaders meet in Poznan, as Adair Turner publishes his climate change commission report and as today the Climate Change Commission in Wales meets again - all of those top tables are dominated by the middle-aged. If you're under 40 and you are influencing the climate change debate - how to achieve a technological, logistical and cultural shift unlike any previous, you are very much in a minority. The rest of us are spoken for, by a generation who may live to see us fail on emission reduction targets but will by that point have a less immdeiate concern as to the consequences of that failure.

We've all been part of the problem, at different times - we must all shape the solutions. Achieving a sustainable world or Wales will never succeed if we populate decision making arenas only with those whose age and experience qualifies them for senior roles: They have no more to offer than the next person to be born and much less to lose.



Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Monday's Newsnight

You can watch Monbiot, Paxman, Adair Turner and David Porter thrash out their wildly differing stances on the state of the world here, via the iplayer.

Paxman gets fairly irate at one point, questioning whether the public will care about the value of investments in energy supply, if they're not alive. I rather enjoyed it, brief as it was...





Monbiot has a plan - 25% cuts by 2012

 blog it

Turning Carbon into Gold

clipped from www.oxfam.org.uk
The $50bn-a-year needed to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change can be found without squeezing extra cash from rich country taxpayers struggling in the credit crunch, Oxfam said today.
 blog it

Friday, 28 November 2008

The New Default

Henry Hicks at Futerra picked up on the presumed consent for organ donation debate yesterday, in this piece. Henry explored the idea of defaults as a driver for behaviour change and as a tool in business, giving some good examples (such as rolling contracts) in the process. The final example given, that of Sainsbury's changing the default for plastic bags in their stores. Old default: loads of bags at the end of the checkout, New default: Cashier must deal out teh bags one by one. Henry's insticntw as that this would reduce plastic bag usage - I'm inclined to agree.

This article and my subsequent trip to Sainsbury's in Cardiff city centre yesterday on the way home has really crystallised my thinking on a key element of behaviour change for sustainability. I didn't have any carrier bags on me when I went into Sainsbury's yesterday and sure enough the cashier said 'do you need a bag' - I did, I really did, given the other stuff I was carrying. More importantly, as that bag was handed to me I felt how precious it was. For a moment, I felt like the scum of the earth and I'd say that this represents a successful shift of defaults. I should have had a shopping bag on my person and I normally do - the default just reinforces this in my case but should stimulate such a realisation in the minds of others oblivious to the scurge of the plastic bag - it would help if the plastic bags carried messages informing customers as to why they shouldn't be used.

Anyway, I'm on the look/think-out for more existing and potential default shifts and triggers to sustainable behaviour. Here's a few world changers for nothing:
- Petrol Stations: What if every petrol pump had a sign saying 'If you had a (insert name of top 5 efficient cars), a full tank would cost you xxx, if you had no car you wouldn't even have to be here"
- Steakhouses: Instead of serving a beef steak, steakhouses could serve a beanburger style, vegetable steak product, unless customers specifically asked for a 'beef steak'. Beef is extremely resource intensive in its production you see - once customers had got over the fact they weren't eating beef, but beans instead - a sizeable number would decide that the low carbon alternative was the way forward. Maybe not.
- Housing: On buying a house (new or old), lenders would be required to ensure the property was brought up to a reasonable level of energy effciency, potentially lending extra, match funded energy efficiency sums to buyers on the proviso that they immediately improved the efficiency of the house.

Best go and get on the Eurostar, off to Paris and as we all know, the train is the new default for this journey.







Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Solar powered public toilets arrive in Portland

I know what you're thinking - you want one. It took me a while to work out why toilets need power at all but from watching the video, the main issue is that it's cold sometimes in Portland. This is green jobs in action - expect everything ever made to have a solar/renewable/recycled version sometime soon. There'll be solar everything: calculators, clocks, torches, radios. After the toilet, anything is possible. Oh hang on...
clipped from greenposting.org
blog it

Good News: UK Still Pessimistic and Cynical!

The HSBC Climate Confidence Survey results were released today. At a global level, the results make for some nice spin and all round optimisim. The survey, organised via HSBC's Climate Partnership, sought to understand attitudes and commitment towards action on tackling climate change in a number of developing and developed countries. In summary: those in developing nations are optmisitic and engaged, while those in developing countRies are fatalistic and disengaged:

"Climate change is having a significant impact on public opinion in the developing countries surveyed. Around 60 percent of respondents registered a high level of concern in China, India, Mexico and Brazil, compared with only 22 per cent in the UK and 26 per cent in Germany; and" (from HSBC, here)


In the UK, fatalism really doesn't just reign, it pours. The Country Profile for the UK tells a sorry tale:

"The HSBC Climate Confidence Index 2007 shows the UK as the least engaged of any of the economies surveyed. People in the UK have the lowest level of concern, the lowest confidence in what is being done today to address the issue, the lowest level of personal commitment, and nearly the lowest optimism about the outcome. A fatalistic view is prevalent, with significant 'green rejection', especially in younger age groups." (HSBC, emphasis mine)

On face value this sounds terrible and I'm sure that some of what the HSBC survey data reveals is indeed bad news. The fact that UK citizens have the lowest level of concern about climate change is particularly worrying and as a percentage, half of the global average (in terms of %age repsondents recording a high level concern over climate change). Ranked above climate change are 'Terrorism' and 'Children's Future' as high level concerns for UK respondents.

There is a sad irony then, not enough of us are making the links between climatic change and a rise in terrorism, conflict and a potential decline in the security of our children's wellbeing. On a personal level, I'm surprised that respondents are worried about terrorism - I really hadn't realised that so many people would feel this way. The National Security Strategy sets a tone I suppose: Terrorism first, potential causes second:

"The Cold War threat has been replaced by a diverse but interconnected set of threats and risks, which affect the United Kingdom directly and also have the potential to undermine wider international stability. They include international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, conflicts and failed states, pandemics, and trans-national crime. These and other threats and risks are driven by a diverse and interconnected set of underlying factors, including climate change, competition for energy, poverty and poor governance, demographic changes and globalisation."

On the positive side of the HSBC report, I wondered whether all of this good old fashioned British pessimism and fatalism was born out of the fact that the public are well informed - that they understand the situation we are in and are understandably worried that we may not be able to address the issues sufficiently well.

Sadly, something worse seems to be at play - the product of a dis-informed society, we seem to have settled on a rainbow fatalism. Over 10% of the UK respondents think we should 'adapt to climate change, not try to stop it from happening', 9% think it's 'impossible to stop', 7% 'the earth will self-regulate (sic)', 3% 'it's not our role' and scientists will find a technological solution..'.

Meanwhile the young repsondents are spitting poision - with quotes suggesting a widespread view of climate change as a government led conspiracy. (if only!).

It seems we're not under-informed, this survey tells me that people are baffled, that there is a failure of trust and a subsequent failure of faith. Oh, to live in China, where most people are optimistic and trusting of their government in leading them from climatic disaster. If we can just get the Olympics right, who knows what will happen...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Bad news, none of us are right

George Monbiot has started another argument over on his Guardian blog today. It's all his fault for fulfilling his journalistic duties by writing his piece on climate change. I can't really remember what the original piece said, it was bad news though. I read Monbiot then scrolled down and the gloom and doom of Monbiot's outlook was superseeded by a deeper darkness. The people don't agree, we don't have a clue who's right and probably none of us are.

The comments flow, they snipe and counter snipe, blogger names thrown about like opening punches in a tired final bout - the heavyweight championship of the potential end of the world (or not). One participant, Moveanymountain, goes in strong, on the counter. Monbiot, he says, has it all wrong. There is no warming, hasn't been since 2001.

Then the home crowd dive into the ring, spewing their ire onto the page, grabbing their chance to retell the science: Lovelock, Porritt and a company called MPI. Someone Monbiot's quoted is called into question - 'Sharron Astyk' who Monbiot described as an 'American thinker'. The trouble is, she is just a thinker - and worse, a farmer - how can she understand Geophysics? How can anybody?

The science is depressing enough, but the invisible melt of arctic ice you really can't tally with life in a small city in Wales is worse. The truth, the lies, the video and pictures and greenwash and the next IPCC report cannot replace a real truth, not written but lived. What the crowd needs is a disaster, a big one, ugly and unjust and certainly caused by anthropogenic climate change - An environmental twin towers. Can such a crime have been organised, the sceptics will cry! Was New Orleans, is Bangladesh?

A majority of Scientists may have moved to predict our fate but in doing so it they have challenged us to trust their words. There is an understandable lack of hard evidence and where this exists it tends to chart change, not total disaster. For that, we are lucky. The science tells us that the change we are seeing, in heat, of ice, in seas, is symptomatic of a dangerous time ahead. But we are here, now and we must decide how much we gamble now for an uncertain future. Alistair Darling must know how that feels.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Summary Version of One Wales:One Planet consultation

PM at the CBI today: Choice Cuts of a New kind of New deal

Some interesting language in the below extracts from the PM's lengthy address to the CBI this morning.
clipped from www.number10.gov.uk

We now have a unique opportunity to do - in a twenty-first century way — what was done in the twentieth century by the new deal. As they built roads and bridges to create the infrastructure for the years ahead; we can use this period of adjustment to build both the technological base and human capital to equip us for the opportunities ahead.

Now, at the very moment of an economic downturn is precisely when we need to step up our welfare reform and invest in our human capital - as many of you who recently put your names to the statement in the newspapers would agree.

And to ensure Britain can make the most of the opportunities in the environmental revolution, we will support investment in the low carbon economy. A worldwide market that could by 2050 be worth as much as $3 trillion per year. And which could employ more than 25 million people. Because I want Britain to benefit from these new jobs - with at least 1 million jobs in the green economy by 2030.

 blog it

Potential 25% Cut in Transport Emissions by 2020

The Campaign for Better Transport have produced a report by Keith Buchan of Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU) which finds that Transport's contribution to climate change could be reduced by a quarter by 2020:

See the press release here

and the full report is here


WAG Green Jobs Strategy Consultation

Transformation Nation, Turnpage Version

One Wales: One Planet Consultation Document

Friday, 21 November 2008

Obama Raises the States on Climate Change: Video



We don't know what he'll do yet, we don't know how much is rhetoric and how much reality, but it's clear that the US president elect, Barack Obama, is not afraid to do what most UK politicians cannot yet do: Acknowledge the reality of Climate Change and spell out the scale of the challenge we face. He's even able to make the links between addressing climate change and oil dependency and economic prosperity as well as national security. No Sugar Sherlock.....

The challenge is set to all Political parties across the world: Keep pretending a business as usual approach with a few tweaks will make a difference, or acknowledge reality and start playing a new game. Given the sickeningly warm welcome Obama has been given across the political board, largely welcoming his energy and representation of 'change' - maybe it's time those so keen to welcome his election stopped and thought about why the American public bought into his campaign. Could it be that Obama's appeal derives principally from his command of a fundamental facet of leadership: The ability to acknowledge reality and responsibility, however awkward that might be.

It's not that Obama is saying anything radical in this clip, far from it - he's reflecting mainstream science and a common sense response to that evidence base. But it's the tone, the language, the sense of urgency and the comfort with the subject matter that excites the most. Obama hasn't just been briefed on how to insert a few key words into a business as usual outlook - he quite clearly gets it, feels it and knows he doesn't need to be ashamed of saying it.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

How much is that plastic worth?

The Western Mail reports today that Welsh councils (and one would assume, those elsewhere in the UK) are facing a struggle to sell their recyclate (collected recylable waste) as prices for materials plummet. Councils will have to store recyclate in warehouses as they struggle even to find a buyer for the plastics, paper, glass and so on. The fall in revenues from recyclate will hit Council budgets hard of course.

This whole affair reminds us how truly unsustainable our economy and the link between that economy and ecosystems is. When everybody is clamouring for products in our shops, fuelled by cheap and, as we have seen, all to often ill-judged credit allocation - the price of raw materials stays high, feeding into the manufacture of new products and packaging. Only when things turn sour do we realise the folly of our wasteful ways - not only are we still producing huge amounts of waste in a slowing economy, we are doing so at a rate that doesn't tally with the reduction in manufacture and production companies have made. Put it another way - all the junk sitting in warehouses around the UK, is worth next to nothing - because producers, manufacturers and retailers aren't confident that we'll carry on buying products at the rate we have been.

The irony is that the warehouses of recyclate have drawn upon huge amounts of natural resource in order to be produced - they may have no value in the current market but they have incurred great ecological cost in their production. If we started to value these real costs, there might be a lot less waste and a much higher price put on recyclate streams.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Launch of New Sustainable Development Scheme

Wake up Wales! It's the launch of the Welsh Assembly Government Sustainable Development Scheme tommorow. This is a biggie, if Wales is to prosper in the coming decades whilst significantly reducing our collective environmental impact and reducing inequalities then this strategy has to be right.

It doesn't matter if you're a policy wonk, a politician a business owner, a nurse, a farmer, a school child....anybody and everybody should engage with your government and help them make sure the consultation draft released tommorow turns into a scheme fit for Wales' future.

More to follow: I'll be blogging the press releases over the next few days, getting a feel for how various organisations have responded to the draft document. Tommorow we'll be at the launch in Swansea where WAG have set up a consultation event.

Finally, we'll be producing a progressive, helpful, real-world Cynnal Cymru response over the coming weeks/months and we need as many views as we can get. become a member of Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales here and Get involved in shaping you and your countries' destiny!

Simplistically, what we really need to know is - 'Will the Scheme help you or your organisation to live more sustainably?' and 'Will the scheme ensure Wales delivers Sustainable Development?'. More details to follow, but get in touch with any comments or your email contact details over the coming weeks and we'll make sure we invite you to contribute to our formal consultation response.

Green Jobs Consultation

Welsh Assembly Government launched the consultation draft of their Green Jobs Strategy today. It's here

It's not the expansion, or the planes, it's our patronage

The Guardian reports that Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre has warned the government that airport expansion cannot go ahead if we are to achieve a 60% (or 80% even) cut in emissions by 2050. This warning, which I'm pretty sure Kevin has been making for a couple of years now, comes just as Geoff Hoon is expected to approve further expansion of Heathrow Airport. Of course, it's not the expansion of the airport that will result in a failure of emissions reductions, it's the planes that will do that.

Having assessed the likely impact of improvement technologies on aviation emissions, Anderson, speaking at the Royal Society concluded that "The urgency with which the industry must make the transition to a low-carbon pathway leaves no option, but to instigate a radical and immediate programme of demand management."(Guardian article). This isn't rocket science, although it's not far off.

From a sustainability point of view, there's two seperate issues at stake: 1)the expansion of the airport 2)the increased emissions from those new flights able to start and finish at Heathrow once expanded further. I'm not just being pedantic: the impacts are both local and global. If you live anywhere near Heathrow you may well be annoyed the construction, the noise, the traffic the potential for homes to be destroyed or relocated (there's plenty of campaign websites at this level). You may also be concerned about increased aviation emissions.

If you don't live locally, it's the emissions increases that will probably concern you most (if you are concerned at all), espescially if you've read a Tyndall Centre report recently. The impact of an airport expansion is shared by all of us and of course by the rest of the world - and not just because more Brits will turn up on foreign beaches in a few years time.

As such, Heathrow can be seen as proxy for the bigger developmental dilemma: Carry on regardless in the hope that technology will leap to the rescue or start doing things differently. This dilemma plays out at individual level as much as at National or international level and the two are connected.

As consumers become aware of the need to change behaviours they seek affirmation that they are not acting alone (see I will if you wIll by the SDC). There can seem little point bending over backwards to live a sustainable life, while all those around you do the opposite - it's certainly a test of character but encouragingly a goal that increasing numbers have the strength of will to pursue. Nevertheless, the decision to fly or not to fly, at an individual level will be influenced heavily by the decisions of fellow citizens and of course by the lead shown by government. In the end, it's not airports, or even aeroplanes that are the problem - it's the fact we continue to endorse them.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Put your Chopper Away and Save the Planet

Helicopters and aircraft seem to me to form the backbone of many a TV show these days. Faced with an hour to fill and limited factual content, the license fee/budget burdened producer takes to the skies to show us the birds eye view...of everything and anything. So, what I'm wondering is who monitors GHG emissions from TV networks, inparticular the BBC (see their CSR environment page).

Over the last few years, things have gotten serious: The shot from the sky is now king.
Witness: Andrew Marr, Britain from Above, Bruce Parry, Amazon (oh the irony) and my personal favourite,the X factor with its branded helicopters, private jets, huge trucks (great link) and SUVs galore - a real inspiration for Britain's young (see Ethical and Green blog on this).

Aside from the emissions these helicopters and planes must produce (often, on the license payers behalf), the noise is becoming an increasing nuisance. By the time Andrew Marr has flown overhead, the local police have circled the area from above (to improve my well-being presumably), the sports tv crew have filmed the Millenium Stadium pitch from above and the X Factor team have stopped off to shatter another dream or two, my quiet afternoon in the garden has been ruined. I only wish I was joking.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Fancy a Ride?

Fancy a bike ride in Wales this weekend? Then look no further than the Sustrans Route to Ride site, search for cycle routes near you and have a healthier, traffic free weekend.

Thrift? I'm Gonna Make Me a Wind Turbine

Inspired by the news that 14 former colliery sites are to be used as windfarms, I've decided that it's time to explore building my own wind turbine. Like all such projects, if you do a google search and read some forums, messageboards your initial excitement will be drowned by a tide of naysaying. All the evidence is telling me that:
- There is limited wind in residential areas,
- It's all terribly complicated
- You need to know what you are doing.

I say nonsense to all that - 1) There's enough wind to blow down a fence in my garden last week, so there's enough to turn a turbine, or blow it around a bit at least. 2) Complicated means 'somebody makes good money out of putting simple systems in boxes' (Think the telephone) 3) You don't know what you're doing until you've done something and even then you might not be sure.

I've been here before, with the 'dark art' of plastering and with most other DIY related tasks I've researched whilst renovating my 1880's terrace house over the last couple of years. But if you wade through the forums and look beyond the advice telling you that 'it's probably best to get a professional, you might make a mess' you will always find a website or a blog that makes it all seem so simple, usually written by somebody with scant regard for health and safety and a half decent sense of humour.

Step up to the plate Mike Davies, who's written this helpful, amusing and free guide on building your own wind turbine. I'll be looking into this and very likely building my own turbine, if only to see whether it works or not. Like all great do'ers, Mike seems able to see beyond the nonsense and use his instinctive sense of physics to create something workable: "Next I needed a mounting for the turbine. Keeping it simple, I opted to just strap the motor to a piece of 2 X 4 wood. The correct length of the wood was computed by the highly scientific method of picking the best looking piece of scrap 2 X 4 off my scrap wood pile and going with however long it was". This is a mantra for all would be DIYers or frankly for anybody wishing to use their initiative to do anything - use what you have and get on with it!

This can-do-mentality is something we should be embracing in the current economic situation: My feeling is that so many skills, techniques and practices have been professionalised and capitlaised upon such that the average Joe/Joanne is left feeling like a reckless maverick should they wish to grow their own food, do their own car repairs, make their own clothes etc etc...
There is much talk of a return to austerity, of the merits of thrift (good article that, espescially if you have a horse) and with slightly more merit the need to reconsider notions of capacity. I'm struck though by the wonder with which so many of the reports and weekend magazine articles I've read announce the discovery of a new 'thrift tip' - yes you can make your own gifts, didn't Blue Peter teach us all this stuff?

If anybody seriously injures themselves, makes a mess or wastes money as a result of reading this piece, I'm sorry, I take no responsibility and after all..... you should have called in a professional.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

6 Degrees of Desperation

The International Energy Agency (IEA) today released their 2008 World Energy Outlook. Here's the press presentation  and here's the executive summary. The headline message: "It is not an exaggeration to claim that the future of human prosperity depends on how successfully we tackle the two central energy challenges facing us today: securing the supply of reliable and affordable energy; and effecting a rapid transformation to a low-carbon, efficient and environmentally benign system of energy supply." (From the exec summary).

The IEA say we need a 'rapid de-carbonisation' of the economy in which energy providers, governments and consumers will all have to make changes. I'll let you soak up the detail, if that's your thing but the message is that if we carry on with existing policies, approaches and investment models "The projected rise in emissions of greenhouse gases in the Reference Scenario puts us on a course of doubling the concentration of those gases in the atmosphere by the end of this century, entailing an eventual global average temperature increase of up to 6°C." (exec summary P9). The 'Reference Scenario' mentioned is explained on p2 of the summary. There's also plenty within the report in terms of energy availability, supply and investment but that's a whole can of worms I'm not opening today.

Six degrees warming (or 3, or 4, or 5), even if this is by the end of the next century, is not good news. The Stern Report paints it's own bleak picture of that scenario and of course, Mark Lynas talks of 'nothing less than a global wipeout' if we see 6 degrees of warming by the end of the next century. He does the same for 2, 3, 4 and 5 so there's something for everyone.

I'm not one for doomsday thinking, nor for believing we can't work to chart a different course (That's what Wales is trying to achieve) but it's worth keeping ourselves in check and reminding eachother exactly what the stakes are.

Launch of Green Building Charter

The mood was warm this morning at the Millenium Stadium, where Jane Davidson launched the below charter. Follow the link to the WAG website below. Despite the gloom in the construction industry at present It is apparent that the SDC in Wales have succeeded in developing a 'coalition of the willing' that should help Wales move ahead of the field in achieving sustainable homebuilding (and refurbishment) industry.
clipped from new.wales.gov.uk



Welsh construction companies and organisations sign up to UK’s first green building charter




More than 40 leading organisations representing the construction sector in Wales have teamed up to sign the first green building charter of its kind in the UK. Environment, Sustainability and Housing Minister Jane Davidson said: “Today is another Wales first in the battle against climate change demonstrating our ‘can do’ attitude. We all believe early action is needed, and the charter confirms Wales’ commitment to do all we can to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.”

 blog it

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Free Holiday for Two in Maldives..in 2030

Andrew Simms at the New Economics Foundation thinks Governments have a chance to act now to 'take responsibility and protect their people from disaster' . According to the Global Carbon Project, we're on an emissions increase path worse than the worst case scenario outlined by the IPCC, and that can't be good news. Coupled to the collapse of markets and public bailout of private institutions (See Robert Peston's Alarm at the ECB propping up of VW), Andrew thinks it's the right time to make the major shift towards sustainability. Best to read the original post as linked above - he makes a strong case.

It seems he's not alone: The Guardian reports that Mohamed Nasheed, newly elected president of The Maldives (there's a political-cultural story to this too!) has outlined his intention to secure a future for his 300,000 citizens, not in the Maldives but on another land mass - India, Sri Lanka or Australia perhaps. Mr Nasheed sees the buying of land overseas, using revenues from tourism as an insurance policy that might avert the creation of a refugee people in coming years. There is of course a bittersweet irony at play - the reliance of carbon intensive tourism (including 100,000 British a year) has helped contribute to the climatic change now threatening the Maldives, whilst providing its' only means of securing finance for a secure future. The other option, according to The Daily Mail, was to Build walls on all 193 inhabited islands - now that really would ruin the tourist industry (and it was too expensive).

The Maldives is extremely low lying and like many other island states, atolls and archipelagos this small patch of paradise faces an uncertain future as sea level rises threaten ever more. Having spent a fair bit of time in The Philippines a few years ago I'm unsurprised by the approach Mr Nasheed is proposing.

It's hard to stand on a desert island (not that hard) and not consider the vulnerability of the land to a one or two metre sea level rise (I'm not vouching for the science behind that link!), or even to isolated tidal events. The Tsunami that struck so many South and South East Asian (including the Maldives) coastal and island communities will doubtless have added to a sense of urgency for increased resilience - managed retreat/withdrawal being the ultimate, if chilling option.

Climate change brings similar challenges to landlocked communities too - I stayed with a Ladakhi community in Northern India in 2004 and learned of the struggle to irrigate farmland sufficiently due to the increased speed of Himalayan Ice melt during the summer months.

The picture below (my picture, no copyright) shows the villagers of (Saspool?) in the Indus Valley, diverting streams between plots at sunrise - something I was repeatedly told was a recent practice and one that was causing new community tensions. It was apparent that agricultural yields were dangerously low as the already limited growing season in the region was compounded by the increased scarcity of water. Much has been made of the likely impact of Himalayan Glacial decline upon the hundreds of millions on the subcontinent's plains but it is those communities living amongst the High Himalaya who are already shouldering the burden.


The Maldive experience and the Himalayan scenario may seem so overtly exotic as to seem unconnected to Welsh life but as the Natural Trust's 'Shifting Shores, Living with a Changing Coastline' report reminded us in 2006, the UK and espescially Wales, where we all live within 50 miles of the coastline, will not be immune to the impacts of sea level rise and increased dangerous weather events as a result of climate change. We too must plan for an uncertain coastal future.

The Question then, is whether Wales should be buying land somewhere and if so...where?