Archive for category CO2 and the economy

Economic crisis - the perfect opportunity for green measures - if only they could see it

No cutsIt’s 2012 and the world is undergoing major economic upheaval. In pretty much every major country the buzzword is ‘cuts’. Cuts to staff, cuts to expenditure and cuts to investment. Although governments are talking about long-term plans, most actions seem very short-termist, and it’s therefore not a very good time for green initiatives, most of which will take time and need investment. This is all meant to save money, but it’s definitely putting a stop to saving the planet!

And, from a CO2 reduction point of view, I think they’ve got it wrong in so many ways. I realise you probably need financial training to work it out, but it seems to me that governments are putting their own welfare over that of the people. Throughout the 4 years that I’ve been writing this blog (ok, not so often recently…), I have focused on one message above all others: the measures you take to reduce emissions can also save you money.

Instead of reducing investment in green initiatives, governments - and especially the UK government should be pushing them forwards and helping individuals, companies, even their own institutions reduce their costs. Here are some examples:

  1. A greater push and tighter regulations on company emissions. Greater awareness on electricity consumption alone could reduce electricity bills hugely across the country.
  2. Backing off from cutting the feed-in tariff. I know the government has just suffered a defeat on this, but they really need to rethink and maintain the higher rate for now. A huge opportunity exists here to help whole communities save money by installing solar panels.
  3. Tightening vehicle emissions rules still further and even considering subsidising the development of EVs. It’s a no-brainer. Let’s make our cars more efficient and stop this bank-breaking dependency on petrol.
  4. Encouraging other forms of green transport. How’s about giving tax breaks to people who cycle? Or allowing them to claim expenses to maintain their bikes? How’s about making the ‘Cycle to work’ scheme obligatory in every company over a certain size? Millions have already flocked to two wheels (me included) but more would follow if given a little push in the right direction.
  5. I know that there are some initiatives coming up that use this kind of thinking, including an loan scheme to help home owners invest in green energy, but more could and should be done.

    There, rant over for today. But I think I’m going to keep on at this one.

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The Queen installs hydro power: A right royal reason to get things going again

Ok, so it’s been nearly 2 years since my last blog. Life has got in the way for a while, but it’s time to get things going again. I never meant Reduce Your CO2 to be a militant, ‘you must do absolutely everything green’ blog, but rather one that looks at the different things people are doing to reduce their emissions and / or save money - a particularly important challenge during these hard economic times. Typically however I’m getting back on track with less of a money-saver and more of a ‘good thing’.

Windsor Castle - soon to be powered by hydroelectricity

I’ve just read in the papers that the Queen is in the process of installing 2 Archimedes screws at Romney weir near Windsor castle. The aim is that they will power some, or even all of the electricity needed by the castle (allegedly her favourite residence), and this by November of this year. Estimates quoted suggested that this solution will reduce her carbon emissions by 790,000 kilos per year (not sure why kilos are quoted instead of tonnes - bit odd really, but it makes the figures look bigger!). So that’s pretty impressive, eh?

Admittedly she is spending something like £2 million to get this up and running so it’s not like she’s ever going to make the money back, and this has already got some people ranting about how pointless a gesture it is. The usual noises about people with money, about the inefficiency of these solutions, and about not helping anyone else out.

But this got me thinking. Surely this is a good example of a form of redistribution of wealth? If everyone who could afford to install green energy solutions, efficient or not, did so, then this to my mind would achieve several things:

  • It would relieve power stations of a large weight, especially as it goes to reason that wealthier people use more electricity
  • It would channel badly needed funds into the green energy industry, facilitating ongoing development
  • It would create a large splash in the news - something needed in an area that is crucial to our future whether or not you believe that the world is going to end. We need new energy solutions as our current ones will not last for ever
  • It would contribute to bringing the cost of installing green energy down, making it more efficient, and opening solutions up to the next financial tranche. For instance, if solar panels cost half of what they did today it would make financial sense for far more people to install them

If you think of many technologies, they start by only being affordable for the ultra rich, and it is the interest and investment of those very people that helps bring costs down and makes them accessible to the masses. By setting up her own hydroelectric powerplant even if it costs far more than she will save, HMQ is setting an excellent example to others ’sheltered from need’. Let’s hope they take note and follow.

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How can we continue to reduce CO2 emissions and stimulate the economy?

In these difficult economic times, many people have voiced concern over the fact that the many advances made over the last few years in the battle against global warming may be negated due to the sudden massive reduction in investment in this area.

It has always been recognised that investment is required on a public and, to a lesser extent a private level in order to reduce our CO2 emissions at the speed recommended to avoid major global incidents. Governments need to invest in our infrastructure, in planning for a future where oil becomes more and more scarce, and where less is more with regard to energy consumption, and everyday people need to invest in changing their lightbulbs, replacing inefficient appliances, and in more efficient, but more expensive fuel sources. Suddenly noone has any money: the governments have spent it on saving our banks, and people have lost it on the markets, in the drop in the value of housing, or quite simply by losing their jobs. Everyone is tightening their belt, and this is not good news for the new, Green Economy.

Barack Obama, I am glad to say, has made huge steps to counter these concerns by guaranteeing investment in the Green Economy. He has openly said that his goal is to stimulate the economy by investing in this new area, creating new jobs, planning for a better future, and, ultimately, saving people money in the process. In the UK, however, we haven’t quite got that far. There is proposed investment in improving efficiency in our homes, but many other potential areas of investment still seem up in the air, either due to lack of funds or lack of decision-making.

Which is why a briefing paper published this week by Lord Stern of Stern Report fame and Alex Bowen, entitled ‘An outline of the case for a ‘Green’ stimulus is well worth paying attention to. This short but perfectly formed document takes an intelligent, practical approach with the aim of identifying how boosting the Green Economy can boost our economy overall, thus justifying ongoing investment in spite of hard times.

The report looks at a range of different solutions currently which have been, are being, or should be considered to help us reduce our CO2 emissions. It then looks at each of them from several angles, with the goal of identifying those solutions that can both promote economic recovery and limit the adverse effects of climate change. How quickly can each solution be implemented, is the investment required short or long-term, how much will it help reduce emissions, and will it help businesses and everyday people save money, thus aiding recovery?

Based on these scoring criteria, the 5 best performers are:

  • Improving residential home energy efficiency
  • Improving public building energy efficiency
  • Replacing boilers on a massive scale
  • Replacing lights and other appliances
  • Producing new, fuel-efficient cars

And the worst 5 solutions are:

  • Domestic renewable energy
  • Encouraging energy R&D
  • Connected urban transport
  • Advanced Battery development
  • Carbon capture and storage projects

I don’t totally agree with the scoring in every case, and it would be easy to change around the order by changing the criteria, but the approach is still very interesting and makes you think. I’m happy to know that point 1 seems to be already in progress, but I feel that point 2 needs far more investment and point 3 is simply too expensive to consider today. And don’t even get me on to fuel-efficient cars, as the car companies are really dragging their heels here, and because for me this is totally linked with advanced battery development.

Still, at a time when difficult choices have to be made, I am impressed by this attempt to help clarify the arguments for the different solutions. If you want to learn more, you can read the whole paper here - it’s not too long and well worth the read.

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