Friday, 31 October 2008
Bjork, like many other icelandic folk, believe that now is the time to be rebuilding local economic strength based on sustainable industries and activities. Unfortunately, Iceland, with its' signifcant geothermal capacity, has already allowed the building of three aluminium smelters by Alcoa and Rio Tinto. Now, faced with the collapse of all those banks and with the economy in tatters, there is a drive to fastrack development of more smelting plants, even by ignoring environmental assessments.
The singer feels that on top of the environmental impact of such decisions, the clamour to sell out to aluminium will leave Iceland as exposed to the markets as much as their previous over reliance on financial investment. Bjork thinks Iceland is missing a trick, that Iceland could be supporting seed companies, becoming experts in geothermal technology and exporting their skills in such areas.
All of this forces me to think about Wales and the type of future we face. Like Iceland, we have significant and largely latent renewable energy capacity, we have a burgeoning Green SME sector, underpinned by grassroots sustainability and local resilience networks working on all sorts of issues and we have a constitutional nod to the need for sustainable development. We don't have Bjork but we do have Charlotte Church and if she was making similar contributions to the Times, maybe things would be a little different for this great little country.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Luckily, the list of required competencies for the 'Sustainable Futures' post doesn't appear to include 'a grasp of sustainable development principles' - lucky of course because in Wales, all civil servants should have a grasp of SD principles...so why ask! I for one will not be applying as the sheer stress of deciding which bank to put all that salary in would drive me mad.
Q. I have been offsetting my flights under existing schemes. Have I been wasting my money?
A. 'Not at all - individuals and providers have helped to blaze a trail' see full text hereWell yes, they have indeed.........
Luckily, if you do want to help fight injustice in our world and help tackle GHG emissions, Oxfam are providing just the platform. Their 'be Humankind' campaign was all over our tellyboxes this weekend and of course can be found online. I'd also recommend looking at the short films posted on the Oxfam Climate Orb . Of course, It's important to remember that whilst the climate is in chaos, the global economy continues to struggle with the latest trend being for '..runs on countries' , reports Robert Peston. And what with all this chaos, Ed Gillespie at Futerra identifies a new approach to addressing our global challenges - it's just that I'm left wondering if offsetting might be a be more effective?
Thursday, 23 October 2008
UNEP launch 'Global Green New Deal' - Hilary Benn launched this with Defra today according to the press release I've seen. Need to digest this but there appears to me to be a growing consensus that now is the time to be aligning environmental, economic and social aims through invetsment focused on SD objectives.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
We need to bring this debate into the Welsh context: Our economy essays project seeks to do that so do get involved. In the meantime, this feature in New Scientist is welcomed.
This morning, we were treated to a sort of clash of the titans - Jonathan Porritt spoke first, noting recent economic events and referring to what he called the end of broken capitalism, not all capitalism but the kind of capitalism we've seen for the past few decades. Jonathan linked this sort of capitalism to what the Tories would call our 'broken society' and of course to our broken planet/natural systems (I can't recall the exact term). He highlighted the need to recapitalise not just our banks (needed to support wellbeing) but also to recapitalise our natural systems and our society. Cost unknown - necessity, absolute.
So who to follow Jonathan onto the stage? Jane Davidson, Mark Lynas, John Houghton, Gordon Brown, Alistair, Darling, Lord Peston or our own Morgan Parry? No, today it was the task of Felix Gummer, corporate affairs spokesperson for TESCO, to meet Jonathan's challenge for a radical rethink of our relationship with capital in its various forms. Felix, who according to this article is the son of John Gummer, did a sterling job of explaining what TESCO has been up to over recent years. You can find out all about this at the TESCO Corporate Responsibility site. Felix said that TESCO had reduced its' per sq.m carbon emissions by half since 2000 (possibly 2002), which sounds fantastic. I checked this up on the TESCO website where it states:
"In 2007 our Group carbon emissions were calculated as 4.47 million tonnes* of CO2e (carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases). This was an increase of 8.6% on the previous year, while our floor space grew by 14% over the same period. We have therefore reduced the overall Group carbon intensity per square foot of net sales area by 4.7%." (Click for source link)This doesn't seem to tally with a 50% drop in emissions, espescially considering the above measure appears to refer to net sales area and not an all-operation encompassing floor area. It would be interesting to get some clarity on the actual (all-encompassing) per sq.m CO2e emissions of not just TESCO but other large retailers as well - until then I'll reserve full judgement.
I'm not going to use this blog as a means to criticise TESCO, Felix or any other retailer. Jonathan summed up the situation well in responding to an audience question. If regulation does not force change within a market, people will operate within the constraints as are - whatever the imperatives for change. If TESCO were not the dominant player in the market, somebody else would at least be having a stab at growing a retail business akin to that which TESCO has created. So it is good news that TESCO are doing all sorts of tweaking and improving but it is only relatively good news and relative, let's be honest, to spiralling environmental, social and economic unsustainability.
But the good news......
Felix used a phrase today that I will probably never forget - largely because I've never heard it before and partly because I was so surprised to hear it. It's a phrase that has set off some huge questions in my mind. The only question I can answer so far is 'does this make a great comedy name for a CSR strategy?' - 'yes'.
'Despite our Growth'
Is that phrase, Jonathan, the 'Death of CSR'?
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Monbiot, having banged his head together with Matthew Prescott has come up with a great solution: The100 years committee, who would be detached from short term political concern, focused on long term strategic issues and respresenting those unborn. It's a useful idea, and I wonder whether the National Assembly for Wales should consider creating such a committee.
Monbiot's procedural cure does offer some hope but you can't help wonder if there's a role for the electorate in shaping a politics that is concerned with the bigger picture, not just the day's headlines. If citizens want government to invest in the 'unborn', they need to make that clear at the ballot box, through campaigns and through their behaviours, such as consumption. If lots of people buy reactionary press and fly long haul every other week then it gives carte blanche to politicians to protect and pander to these interests.
Clearly this is a two way process - politicians must make difficult decisions, show leadership, educate and so on but I've seen way too much expectation of leadership from the green lobby and not enough appreciation of poltical realities. Decisions have to be evidenced as sufficiently safe to make and not enough energy goes into proving the space for leadership on long term matters - it's not enough to protest that we should be looking at an issue, we must evidence that the electorate are willing to see an issue addressed, even if it implies some form of short term sacrifice or compromise.
Monday, 20 October 2008
"The most important thing to remember," said Mr Miliband, who has just been approvingly reading yesterday's Western Mail leader entitled, Words alone don't make a climate for change, "is the origins of this economic crisis are partly high oil prices.
"Why have we got a high oil price? Because countries around the world, including our own, are too dependent on oil for electricity, heat and transport."
Essentially, this show explored our historical relationship to Economic and Environmental understanding in terms of 'predict and control' mathematics. We'd like to think we can predict how markets and our climate will work but in reality it takes the smallest flap of butterflies' wings and we're helpless to influence anything. It was late, I'm paraphrasing, badly.
The show featured an interview with James Lovelock who again argued the case for imminent doom very eloquently and with worrying certainty. We're not approaching a 'tipping point', we're on a downwards slide from which we cannot recover. Tipping point implies the possibility of 'tipping back', sliding towards doom does not. He's articulated these concerns before:
"It's just too late for it," he says. "Perhaps if we'd gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don't have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing. I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can't say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do." (Guardian March 1st 2008).
So, what does this mean? I'd love to know what other scientists think about Lovelock's thinking. What is the scientfic consensus on tipping v sliding?
I'm inclined to follow the logic of Mark Lynas who as of August 8th didn't seem to sure when we'd reach a dangerous situation. In questioning the likely accuracy of the climate countdown calculator at onehundredmonths.org he concludes "In reality, this is a matter of risk analysis: how much risk of destroying our planetary habitat are we prepared to bear in order to keep on burning fossil fuels?"
We talked about this in our office Monday meet and all agreed that sustainable development, regardless of whether we can or cannot tackle climate change, is still the way forward for society. If we want to try and tackle cliamte change, whilst planning for major change, whilst addressing inequalities and potentailly improving qulaity of life, then sustainable development makes sense. It would be nice to know what scientific context we're working in though!
40% Helmet wearing, fluorescent 25-40 year old competitive men (who really shouldn't wear lyrca)
30% Bare-headed, i-pod blaring 22-30 year old boys riding at supersonic speeds
15% Cute but worried looking 22-27 year old girls (basket optional)
10% Serene over 50's of either gender ignoring the traffic
4.8% Terrified but bolshy parents with child seats/front boxes - beware, may be armed
0.2% Professional women 30-40 in suits and heels see blog
First off, I'd love to see a race involving that lot and I can only endorse the cry for more mid 30s professional women on the roads (on bikes), not least because this would mean they weren't in their cars, which from a purely carbon emissions reduction point of view would be great.
But where are the missing cycling demographics?
- '40-50's professional male' beating the traffic he used to drive in and 'giving the smile' to everyone he passes.
- 'New courier guy' - I saw this guy coming into our office the other day. There was (alot of) lycra, sweat, imminent itching and utter confusion when he stood in front of the occupants board in the office. Less pedal, more planning next time.
- 'The rusty biked women of Cynnal Cymru' - one of the bikes in our office, ridden by a member of staff, is so rusty I am amazed it moves. This bike, branded by Strongbow Cider for some reason says to fellow road users "I'm rusty, I'm a cider drinker and if I hit your car you have everything to lose". I commend this choice of bike.
- 'Actor-come-sustainability-guru guy' (Rhodri, our Development Manager) who cycles long distances to our office, sometimes hundreds of miles a morning. I know this because he arrives with a fanfare. Rhodri, rather like David Cameron has a car follow him to the office - not because he has papers to carry (that would be ridiculous) but because his bike lock is so heavy he cannot cycle with it, so fair enough.
and as Boris Johnson knows, we all need a bike lock.
I'll let Sustrans pick it up from here Get Cycling folks. You can of course go to the transport section of the Welsh Assembly website and follow the links for cycling, for more information on cycling in Wales.
Friday, 17 October 2008
You can title your own piece as you wish but the headline title is A Sustainable Economic Future for Wales.
Deadline End of November, accepted in Welsh or English and to be translated.
The essays would be collated and electronically published. We'll be looking to distribute the collated essays amongst AMs and appropriate civil servants. The work will help also help Cynnal structure future research and policy work and the sharing of information between contributing organisations should also prove mutually beneficial.
We would seek to promote the finished product through our networks and through Welsh media channels. Cynnal will not be editing content in any way, although we will seek to provide a sense of editorial, identifying common themes and issues of divergence.
It's an opportunity to take a fresh, progressive look at economic policy and explain what policies would allow your organisation to deliver on sustainability over the coming decades.
If you'd like to contribute, do let me know.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
We're going to be calling for contributions to an inquiry on the future of the Welsh economy v. soon. What with the ongoing financial and real economy situation, increasingly known as the 'Pestoncession' AND broader questions of resource scarcity, oil notably AND set against a backdrop of inequalities in the UK and further afield AND given the Climate Change mitigation/adaptation imperatives we face...well we think it's the right time to be asking what shape our economy needs to take over the coming decades. On Cynnal's website We're asking 'How important are 'green'/sustainability issues in the midst of a world financial crisis?' and you can expect a call for short essays to appear on this blog v.v. soon.
I'm confused by this concept of Green jobs, Green-collar jobs, Green economy. My collar is white, not green.
We can't keep othering so called 'greeness' - if the aim is to mainstream sustainability, we must surely recognise that people are unlikely to change their collars - particularly to green ones. I've never even seen a Green-collared shirt, let alone a 'green job'.
It's not 'Green' to set up a renewables company - it's probably just good business sense. It's not 'green' to reduce the emissions from a factory - It's just business sense and environmental sense. Less Green more mainstream!!!
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Weathering the storm in uncertain times’ - by Plaid’s Sustainability Spokesperson Leanne Wood AM.
I flew last year, once short haul and I have a car which I barely use. I also tend to leave my modem and router on standby alot, largely because I'm quite scared of the plug scoket they're plugged into, as it's surrounded by the rising damp coming through my old stone walls (I'm currently addressing this.)
So the calculator gives me an action plan:
- install underfloor heating. Great, where's the grant for that then?
- Turn my thermostat down by 1degree (or even two)
- Consider investing in an A grade dishwasher - I currently have no dishwasher by the way.
- don't leave things on standby (fair cop)
- 'Air travel is making a growing contribution to CO2 emissions'' - it falls short of telling me to cut back.
- Consider buying lowest emission vehicle in class - Which I would do if I thought anybody would buy my car off me in the current economic climate. I barely use it these days, so not too worried about this for now.
So nothing earth shattering but all fair cop really, except the dishwasher, unless an A rated dishwasher is more water and energy efficient than hand washing? I think this is a useful tool for people but like all such tools it has to generalise and assume its way to a conclusion.
As somebody who understands a few things about building performance I know what I could do to improve my home efficiency: Insulate my stone walls, get better and properly fitted double glazing, more loft insulation, solar thermal. What's more, I'd love to do all these things but it all costs. I suppose it's asking too much of this calculator to automatically transfer a hefty government grant into my bank account once completed???
I'd be interested to know how others get on and what you think of the calculator.
Monday, 13 October 2008
Here's some links to their research on Food.
I appreciate these are fairly blind links but they are links none the less, so click and find out....
I'll write up some summaries over time....
Thursday, 9 October 2008
CYNNAL CYMRU - SUSTAIN WALES
Policy Briefing, October 2008
NEWS FROM THE WELSH ASSSEMBLY GOVERNMENT
NEWS FROM THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES
- Plenary debate on the historic environment (07.10.08)
- Sustainability Committee consultation on Rural land use management and carbon reduction
(deadline 17th October
- Consultation on Amendments to the Environmental Noise (Wales) Regulations 2006 (deadline 10th November)
- The development of a family nurse service for Wales (deadline 5th November)
- A review of land management actions under Axis 2 of the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 – 2013 (deadline 19th December)
- A new approach to Adult Community Learning (deadline 31st December)
RESEARCH AND PUBLICATIONS
- Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors publish Wales Climate Challenge report: The Climate Challenge - Your City, Your Responsibility
For any further information, please contact our Policy Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
The way we buy food is obviously a vital driver for sustainability - the Tenderwise website has links to some really good procurement case studies and, more practically loads of advice on procurement practices, particularly for public bodies but equally relevant for private or not for profits.
Here's the case studies anyway, There's a link to the tenderwise website in my clips folder on the right.
To hear about Value Wales' Food for Thought project and its findings view video clip
- Pembrokeshire County Council - Putting some thought into food
- Welsh Health Supplies - NHS Welsh beef pilot
- Higher Education Purchasing Consortium Wales (HEPCW) - Welsh produce pilot
- Caerphilly County Borough Council - Farmers pilot
- Carmarthenshire County Council - A local food strategy for nutritious school meals
- Monmouthshire County Council - Fresh food schools pilot
- City and Council of Swansea - Local supply chain pilot
- HEPCW - Supplier development pilot
- Rhondda Cynon Taf Council - Lamb for lunch school meal pilot
Monday, 6 October 2008
"FCFCG has secured a Big Lottery Wales grant to run the Growing Together in Wales programme, which aims to promote, develop and support community farming and gardening in Wales. We have appointed Katie Jones to be our development worker for Wales and have set up an office based in Cardiff. As the programme progresses we will be building up a team of sessional fieldworkers, creating information resources specifically for Wales and creating a map of city farms and community gardens across Wales."
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
We decided to look at food for a number of reasons:
1. Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, Spoke at our recent conference in Machynlleth.
What was interesting was Patrick's assertion that his selfish interests were stoked by the notion of oil scarcity, more than climate change. I can understand this - Climate demands us to adopt an altruistic position: Yes, it is happening now, affecting mainly those exposed by geography and poverty - but it doesn't seem to resonate sufficiently as a 'clear and present danger'. There's obviously been alot said on the selfish nature of humans so I wont go into that here - but Patrick's relative reponse to the two sides of a similar coin seems to reflect the fact that so many people now understand that cliamte change is happening but find it difficult to engage fully in doing anything about it.
The report, designed to inform the Welsh Assembly Government's remake of the Sustainable Development Scheme, had a few things to say about food:
"The Wales Spatial Plan should set a strategic context for Wales’ response to global resource scarcity (notably oil and food)."
I'll blog a link to it when we publish teh online version - comments gratefully received btw
See the scrapbook on the right of the page
Watch His video (Click the picture