Study finds UK is not keeping up with European neighbours
Study finds UK is not keeping up with European neighbours
A Europe-wide study has found the UK ranks just sixth amongst its continental neighbours in the race to become a truly sustainable nation.
The study, which analysed energy consumption and our attitude to climate change was conducted over ten European countries and saw Spain come out on top.
The report, which was conducted by EDF Energy to coincide with the second Green Britain Day, found only just over a fifth (29%) of Brits feel that climate change is a serious and urgent problem, ranking us a lowly ninth in attitude behind top ranked Italy where 61% agreed with the statement.
Within the UK the Welsh lead the way with just under a third (30%) saying they are very concerned about climate change, while Northern Ireland was the least concerned with only 6% alarmed by the state of the planet.
It appears London is where people are most actively working towards a greener lifestyle with 85% of Londoners having already made changes to their lifestyle, compared to the East Midlands where only a tenth (11%) have made any changes to their habits and furthermore don’t believe they need to.
When it comes to energy consumption in the home Britons are adapting well, with the UK in fourth place behind first placed Spain and ahead of Russia who had the highest energy consumption of the countries surveyed.
And gratifyingly, Britain tops the polls when it comes to energy savings. The survey found over 70% of us have loft insulation, with 70% having secondary or double glazing.
UK Government to meet its CO2 targets
Practicing what it preaches!
The UK Government has announced it is expecting to meet its targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its occupied buildings. The announcement comes as the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) publishes key performance data on Whitehall’s own sustainability targets and as the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) publishes its commentary on Government performance.
Data, signed off by Permanent Secretaries, shows last financial year there was a 10% reduction in CO2 emissions from offices relative to a 1999/00 baseline (compared to 6.3% the previous year).
According to latest projections, which are built up from departmental plans, the Government is in a robust position to exceed its current target of 12.5% by the end of March 2011 and can achieve a 17.8% reduction in carbon emissions against the baseline.
Commenting on the figures, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Ian Pearson MP says:
“The figures released today demonstrate the strong commitment and progress being made across Whitehall to address the crucial matter of reducing the environmental impact of Government’s day-to-day business operations.
“We are dedicated to encouraging more radical and innovative approaches to tackling negative impacts on the environment, and we will announce new targets for Whitehall next year, following a comprehensive review, to ensure they remain relevant, ambitious and lead best practice.”
Rebecca Willis, vice chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, says:
“It’s great to see the progress that has been made in the last twelve months, thanks to considerable efforts from Government. We have seen improvements from road transport, water, waste and recycling targets. The next task for Government is to get to grips with its supply chain, and to look at the performance of all Government agencies, including its non-departmental public bodies.
“The world is coming to understand the urgent need to cut carbon dioxide emissions and live within environmental limits. The Government now needs to make sure that its own performance†matches the scale of the challenge.”
£11.8mn package for wind farm development
North Cornwall is proposed site
The Good Energy Group has announced an £11.8mn financing package for the repowering of its wind farm at Delabole in North Cornwall.
Planning approval for the repowering was granted in December 2008, with final permission coming through in December 2009. With the finance now in place, construction can begin and the entire project is expected to be completed this year.
The repowering of Delabole will see the ten existing turbines replaced with four modern, more powerful, Enercon turbines to harness the wind resource more effectively. With a total combined capacity of 9.2MW, these turbines will increase the wind farm's output by roughly two and a half times, enough to supply over 7,800 homes.
The repowering of Delabole is Good Energy’s first wind farm development project. The Good Energy Generation team is actively progressing with a series of other opportunities for further investment.
Juliet Davenport, Good Energy’s chief executive says: “The Co-op and Good Energy have both been at the forefront of renewable energy development for many years and I am delighted to have them as co-funder in this project.
“Increasing the capacity of Delabole will help contribute to Cornwall’s renewable energy targets, increase price stability for our customers and take another step in helping the UK reduce its carbon footprint.”
Business Development Manager at The Co-operative Bank, James Sutcliffe, who has been heavily involved in the project and specialises in funding onshore wind developments, says: “Delabole is a very exciting opportunity for our ‘Renewables Team’ at The Co-operative Bank and we are continually looking to fund more of these types of projects”.
“We are very pleased to be working with Good Energy Group on this project and our aim is to utilise the experience gained from working with them going forward on other similar projects where there is an established demand for funding for such schemes, which is a sector that fits perfectly with the Bank’s ethical and environmental ethos.”
UN climate change chief urges nations to act on Cancún
The United Nations climate change chief has called on countries to follow up on the recent conference in Cancún with higher global emissions cuts and the rapid launch of new institutions and funds.
The agreements reached at the conference, which concluded in the Mexican city of Cancún on 11 December, include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to tackle deforestation, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.
Delegates at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also agreed to ensure no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the Convention that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.
“Cancún was a big step, bigger than many imagined might be possible. But the time has come for all of us to exceed our own expectations because nothing less will do,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.
She stressed that the ‘Cancún Agreements’ needs to be implemented as quickly as possible, and be accompanied by “credible accountability systems that will help in measuring real progress.”
If all these targets and actions are fully implemented, UN estimates show they could deliver only 60 per cent of the emission reductions that science says will be needed to stay below the agreed two degree rise in average temperatures, and two degrees does not guarantee the survival of the most vulnerable peoples.
“All countries, but particularly industrialized nations, need to deepen their emission reduction efforts and to do so quickly,” said Figueres.
Agreement was also reached in Cancún on a package to help developing nations deal with climate change, including new institutions, funding channels and a technology transfer mechanism to help the developing world build its own sustainable, low-emissions future, adapt more effectively to climate change, and preserve and protect its forests for the good of all nations.
Figueres stressed that these institutions must be launched quickly, noting that millions of poor and vulnerable people around the world have been waiting years to get the full level of assistance they need.
She added that the UNFCCC will support all governments in this new work, and said she hoped that it will be possible to point to new and concrete examples of success when the parties to the Convention a year from now in South Africa.
“I expect in particular to see rapid decisions on appointing the board of the new Green Fund and the Committee of the Technology Mechanism. I also look forward to receiving the details of fast-start financing from industrialized countries so the secretariat can compile the information that shows clearly the amounts that have been raised and are being disbursed,” she said.
The Green Fund establishes a long-term climate finance institution for the first time under the oversight of the parties to the UNFCCC and with a 24-member board that balances representation between developed and developing nations.
“Cancún has significantly expanded the menu of climate implementation and resources available to countries under the United Nations,” said Ms. Figures. “The imperative to act is now.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also highlighted the achievements of the Cancún conference in a message to the closing ceremony for the International Year of Biodiversity, held in the Japanese city of Kanazawa on Saturday.
In particular, he noted the important agreement reached on REDD Plus, backed by the financial resources to implement it. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.
REDD-Plus goes beyond deforestation – which some estimates show has contributed up to one-fifth of global carbon emissions, more than the world’s entire transportation sector – and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
“By promoting the conservation and sustainable management of forests we can not only mitigate climate impacts and increase resilience, but go a long way towards slowing the accelerating rate of biodiversity loss,” Mr. Ban said in the message, which was delivered by Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
UK told to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2030
The UK's Committee on Climate Change has today recommended a carbon budget for 2023-27 and a target for emissions reductions in 2030 – halfway between now and 2050.
The recommended target for 2030, to cut emissions by 60% relative to 1990 levels (46% relative to current levels), would then require a 62% emissions reduction from 2030 to meet the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act.
It implies a back-ended path for emissions reductions over the next four decades, and therefore sets a minimum level of ambition in 2030 compatible with the 2050 target. The Committee estimates that the recommended target can be achieved at a cost of less than 1% of GDP (i.e. a fraction of one year’s growth over the next two decades).
In order to achieve deep emissions cuts required in the period to 2030, the Committee recommended that the carbon budgets currently in legislation (which cover the period up to 2022) should be tightened to reflect a 37% reduction in GHGs in 2020 relative to 1990 (from the currently legislated 34% cut), which could be raised further again to 42% once the EU has moved to more ambitious climate change targets.
New carbon budgets should be legislated by summer 2011, as required under the Climate Change Act.
In making its recommendations, the Committee set out a detailed assessment of opportunities for reducing emissions in the UK over the next two decades. This assessment shows how the 2030 target could be achieved through a combination of the following measures:
* Radical decarbonisation and reform of the electricity market - Investment in low carbon technologies including wind, nuclear and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) applied to coal and gas could reduce the carbon intensity of the electricity we use by 90% by 2030 (i.e. from 500 gCO2/kWh to 50 gCO2 /kWh). Rolling out smart meters to homes and non-residential buildings would provide opportunities for people to better control their consumption, and reduce their energy bills. Achieving these very challenging levels of investment, will require the equivalent of 25 new large scale low-carbon generating power stations to be added to the grid (up to 40 GW), and this will require radical reform of the electricity market. The Committee recommends that new market arrangements are introduced whereby the Government tenders long-term contracts for low carbon capacity; proposals from the Government on new market reforms are due before the end of the year.
* Widespread development and deployment of low-carbon vehicles – a 45% reduction in emissions from surface transport is achievable by 2030, mainly through the widespread development and deployment of electric cars and vans. The Committee suggests that a 60% share of electric vehicles in new vehicles by 2030 would be compatible with the recommended target, by which time there could be 11 million electric cars and 1.5 million vans on the road. Hydrogen could be used to power Heavy Goods Vehicles and half of all buses. More could also be done by Government to reduce car trips, by 5% by 2030, (through initiatives including encouragement of car pooling and use of public transport).
* National transformation of homes and non-residential buildings – could see many more homes better insulated, with half of all homes that have leaky solid walls insulated by 2030 (3.5 million), and almost 30% of all households using heat pumps (a low-carbon technology) to heat their homes rather than conventional heaters. In addition, there may be a role for district heating systems using waste heat from low carbon power stations.
* Halving of emissions from industry by 2030 – through the application of more energy efficient processes and CCS technology to industrial processes and the use of biomass and biogas to meet 25% of all industrial heat demand by 2030.
* Widespread use of more carbon-efficient practices on farms – the Committee identifies scope for cutting agriculture emissions by up to 20% over the next two decades through a range of more efficient farming practice both as regards livestock and the application of fertiliser to soils.
Unlocking this potential may require stronger policies than the current voluntary approach, and the Government should consider the full range of levers to strengthen incentives for farmers.
In making its recommendations, the Committee considered the latest evidence on climate science, including a review commissioned of 500 recently published peer-reviewed papers. This led them to the conclusion that the science remains robust and the case for action is stronger than ever.
The review of climate science confirmed that:
• Global climate change is already happening, as is evident through a comprehensive range of measurements.
• It is highly likely that this is largely a result of human activity (the greenhouse effect is very well understood and accepted; the current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, resulting from human activity, is higher than at any time during the last million years).
• Without action, there is a high risk of warming well beyond 2 degrees which will have significant consequences for human welfare and ecological systems over the course of this century and beyond. e.g. (species extinction, widespread flooding, drought)
• Recent controversies concerning the University of East Anglia and IPCC have raised some concerns about transparency and process that are now being addressed, but did not raise any concerns about the fundamental science.
In light of this, the report says that the climate objective to limit estimates of global mean temperature change by 2100 to around 2 degrees, and the associated 80% emissions reduction target for the UK in 2050, continues to be appropriate; the fourth budget and the 2030 target recommended by the Committee are designed to be compatible with the 2050 target.
The Committee also reassessed the international context and global emissions pathways, concluding that in order to stabilise global temperatures, emissions need to peak by 2020 before starting to fall by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2050.
Although it looks unlikely that a binding international agreement will be signed at Cancun, the report analysed the 85 pledges made by countries under the Copenhagen Accord, finding that if these were delivered, they would put the world on the right pathway to achieving a peaking of emissions by 2020. A failure to reach a global deal this year should not stop countries from continuing to reduce emissions.
In addition to electricity market reform and consideration of new policies for agriculture, the Committee made the following recommendations to support delivery of the fourth carbon budget:
1. New policies to drive the step change in emissions required – in particular a national programme to improve energy efficiency, a roll-out of smart meters, support for public transport, more widespread use of carbon-efficient practices on farms.
2. Funding and policies to support the development of new technologies and markets required to 2050, in particular CCS for power generation and industry, electric cars and vans, and electric heat pumps. Comprehensive programmes should be developed in each of these areas as a matter of urgency.
3. More ambitious EU-wide policies – government should support an EU-wide move to a 30% emission reduction target in 2020 (relative to 1990), and a 55% cut by 2030 in emissions, with tighter regulations put in place for new cars and vans and reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy so that it links subsidies and incentives to climate change mitigation.
Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Adair Turner said: “We are recommending a stretching but realistic fourth carbon budget and 2030 target, achievable at a cost of less than 1% of GDP. Any less ambition would not be compatible with the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act.
“We therefore urge the Government to legislate the budget that we have recommended, and to develop the policies required to cut emissions over the next two decades.
“The case for action on climate change is as strong as ever: climate science remains robust and suggests that there are very significant risks if we do not cut emissions. And countries acting now will gain economic benefits in an increasingly carbon constrained world.”
RenewableUK, the country’s leading renewable energy trade association, said it supported today’s CCC's recommendations. But the Association warned the Government against the introduction of tendering for low carbon capacity and emphasised the need for further investment in renewables.
Binding targets for carbon emission reductions by 2020 already exist, but RenewableUK said today’s call for a 60% cut is the next logical step on the path towards decarbonisation of our electricity supply. The Association also stated that the target is well within current technological capabilities of the renewables sector.
Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s Director of Policy commented: “We very much welcome the Committee’s carbon reduction announcement but we must warn against tendering of long-term contracts for low carbon capacity. Given our unsuccessful experience of tenders during the 1990s under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation we would strongly urge the Government not to go down this route.
“The 2020s will be a key decade in our journey towards decarbonisation of our electricity supply and we need clarity on the contributions of the various technologies so we can plan ahead and get the maximum benefit for the UK economy.”
Commenting on the need for further investment in renewable technologies Dr Edge continued: “Renewables have a key role to play in achieving these targets but investment will be needed to bring down the cost of these technologies. For example, significant investment will be needed in offshore technology over the next decade in order for it to deliver what is expected.”
Amazon rainforest devestation continues
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest was four times higher in June than the previous month, according to official data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.
The figures, taken from satellite images, come in the same week UK Energy and Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband is visiting the country to discuss global warming.
Satellite imagery analyzed by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed 578 square kilometres (223 square miles) of Amazon woodland was burned or cut down. The area is roughly the size of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva.
The forest is under threat from the logging and cattle ranch industries. The Amazon holds up to 86 billion tonnes of carbon and if destroyed, would vastly speed up the effect of global warming.
According to the Space Agency, nearly 4,700 square kilometres of rainforest has been felled in the past year despite promises from the Brazilian Government to slow deforestation by 70 percent over the next 10 years.
Earlier this week Ed Miliband urged world leaders ahead of the Copenhagen meeting in December to protect the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous tribes whose livelihood are at risk from deforestation.
Every building in England to be recorded for energy efficiency
The UK Government has announced plans to record the energy consumption and efficiency of every building in England and Wales.
In its business plan published this week, the Department of Energy and Climate Change confirmed it was creating a huge new database that would log energy consumption, installed energy efficiency measures and housing type for every domestic and non-domestic property in the two nations.
The National Energy Efficiency Data (NEED) scheme is designed to analyse energy consumption and help cut carbon emissions and will be made available to companies and households.
In its newly published business report, the Whitehall department confirmed: “DECC is creating a new national data set of domestic and non-domestic properties in England and Wales.
“Called NEED (National Energy Efficiency Data framework) it combines at property level data on annual electricity and gas consumption, housing type, installed energy efficiency measures, and socio-demographic indicators for around 4 million properties since 2004.
“NEED will be a key tool in supporting action on energy efficiency and reducing emissions through the Green Deal. First, as an analytical tool for Government, NEED should dramatically improve our understanding of what drives energy consumption, and improve the impact of policies and focussing of delivery, alongside aggregated data.
“We will look to share the data within NEED – at an appropriate level of aggregation to preserve anonymity – with communities, firms and households to support decision making at a local level and unlock barriers to behaviour change.”
Commission aims to get even more from bio-waste
The European Commission today laid out steps to improve the management of bio-waste in the EU and tap into its significant environmental and economic benefits.
Bio-degradable garden, kitchen and food waste accounts for 88 million tonnes of municipal waste each year and has major potential impacts on the environment. But it also has considerable promise as a renewable source of energy and recycled materials. Today’s Communication aims to promote actions to unlock this potential by making the best use of existing legislation while giving Member States discretion to choose the options best suited to their individual circumstances. Supporting initiatives at EU level will also be necessary.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potonik said: "We already have a significant body of legislation governing bio-waste in the EU. But through better implemention and enforcement, we can squeeze even more benefit from bio-waste. This will not only help in the fight against climate change: producing good quality compost and biogas will contribute to healthy soil and slow biodiversity loss."
Bio-waste – an untapped potential
A Commission assessment has identified significant environmental and economic benefits from improved management of bio-waste in the European Union.
Today’s Communication lays out recommendations on the way forward to reap these benefits in full. The most promising approaches include the prevention of bio-waste and biological treatment with the production of compost and biogas.
The main environmental threat from bio-waste is the production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. If biological treatment of waste was maximized, the most visible and significant benefit would be avoided greenhouse gas emissions – estimated at around 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020.
About one-third of the EU's 2020 target for renewable energy in transport could be met by using biogas produced from bio-waste, while around 2% of the EU's overall renewable energy target could be met if all bio-waste was turned into energy.
Good quality compost and digestate from anaerobic digestion would improve resource-efficiency by partially replacing non-renewable mineral fertilizers as well as by maintaining the quality of EU soils.
Full implementation of existing policies supported by improved bio-waste management should deliver environmental and economic benefits estimated at between €1.5 and €7 billion, depending on the ambition of recycling and prevention policies.
According to the Commission's analysis there are no policy gaps at EU level that could prevent Member States from taking appropriate action. Progress achieved in several Member States shows that existing waste legislation is an excellent basis for advanced bio-waste management. For this, the available tools need to be used to their full potential and rigorously enforced where necessary in all Member States.
Priority actions include rigorous enforcement of the targets on diverting bio-waste away from landfills, proper application of the waste hierarchy and other provisions of the Waste Framework Directive to introduce separate collection systems as a matter of priority.
Supporting initiatives at EU level – such as developing standards for compost – will be crucial to accelerate progress and ensure a level playing field across the EU. This will involve specific guidance and indicators for bio-waste prevention with possible future binding targets, as well as compost standards and guidelines on the application of life cycle thinking and assessment in the waste sector.
Bio-waste management in the Member States
Member States have vastly diverging national policies for bio-waste management, ranging from little action in some Member States to ambitious policies in others.
The environmental and economic benefits of different treatment methods for bio-waste depend on local conditions such as population density, climate and infrastructure.
Composting and anaerobic digestion offer the most promising environmental and economic options for bio-waste that cannot be prevented. However, an important pre-condition is good quality input to these processes. In the majority of cases this would be best achieved by separate collection of bio-waste.
Highly efficient systems based on separating various streams of bio-waste already exist in Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Cataluña in Spain and certain regions in Italy.