Friday, July 20, 2018

SDG Special

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Hello and welcome to a special episode of the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 20 July. I’m Anthony Day. Yes July, that's right. Actually today is Thursday 21st June, but if you are a patron you are getting this episode a whole month early. If you're not a patron and you’ve had to wait until 20th July to hear this and should like to be a patron, well just hop across to patreon.com/SFR. And while I’m talking about patrons let me welcome my latest patron, Shelagh Jones who has joined as a Gold Patron. Welcome Shelagh, your Sustainable Futures Report enamel badge is on its way and I’ll be in touch to set up the promised discussion groups very soon.

Goals
Goals. This special episode is mainly about goals. But not football. About the SDGs, the sustainable development goals from the United Nations and about how they relate to business. And as an extra extra, at the very end of this edition I've included the interview I did the other day with Julia Hartley Brewer on Talk Radio. She wanted to talk about carbon dioxide but it might not be what you think. 

Books
First I'd like to mention a couple of books which I'm going to review later this year. I thought I'd tell you about them now to give you time to read them and see whether you agree with what I have to say. The first is a Circular Economy Handbook For Business and Supply Chains by Catherine Weetman. It has testimonials on the back cover from Ken Webster from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, from Mike Barry of Marks & Spencer and from Dr Juliana Powell a senior lecturer at Cranfield University. My review will appear in September’s episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. The other book I wanted to talk about and will be reviewing later this year is Designing The Purposeful World by Clive Wilson. It's particularly relevant to this next interview. Both these books are available from all good bookshops, including the ones that pay their taxes.

And now to those goals, and to an interview.

Interview
Kristina Joss is Head of Salterbaxter North America, a leading sustainability agency working across the whole spectrum of strategy and communications for multinational businesses. Prior to Salterbaxter, she worked at Business in the Community in London. She has more than a decade of experience in strategy and communications having worked in the private and nonprofit sectors in the UK and the US.

Transcription of Podcast with Anthony Day on ‘Moving the Goal Posts’

A: Today we are going to talk about goals – we are going to talk about business goals, sustainable development goals from the UN and Salterbaxter’s recently published ‘Moving the Goal Posts’, which brings all these different goals together. Would you like to expand on that?

K: Leading up to 2030 goals Salterbaxter began by reflecting on -  what are companies looking at? The sustainable development goals had really gained momentum and support from the business community in a way that many people did not expect or predict. We discussed how can we support businesses, what really needs to be changing because there is so many external factors at play, the sustainability community is moving so quickly and there are huge trends that are really starting to emerge in a new way.

We decided companies are not doing enough for that transformational change that everyone is talking about and the need. We really felt that at the heart of all that, is approaching it from a goals perspective – where are they are putting their stake in the ground?

There were a few examples here and there, but systematically companies need to have stronger goals in order to reach their aspirations set out in the 2030 Sustainability Development Goals agenda and to address the challenges that we are facing on the day to day now. That was really the catalyst behind this piece and the core of our argument.

A: Businesses have been setting goals and KPIs forever, are they now fully aware of the SDGs, are they seeing them as an issue which is relevant to business?

K: I do [think so]. It’s hard to say categorically that every business is thinking about it in the same way but as I mentioned there is definitely a huge uptake on the SDGs in the private sector. In a way that nobody really predicted and that continues to evolve year on year. 

When the SDGs were first announced there were a lot of companies that jumped in from a communications perspective and putting their hand up and saying ‘we support them and this is what we are doing in these specific goals’.  

But in the last 18 months we have really started to see companies take a much more strategic perspective and those communications and actions are still ongoing, and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. But I definitely think there is a movement towards more support of the SDGs as companies actually start to feel the impact of those challenges.

A: And are you talking about a specific industry or sector here, or are you seeing this right across the board?

K: We are seeing this right across the board, but there are absolutely certain sectors that are feeling the pressure – both from an operational standpoint e.g. food beverage and from a customer perspective e.g. consumer packaged goods, apparel and retail. But in general, I think all companies are starting to think about them.
A: What about the scale of the company? Are small companies in on this or are they leaving it to the major organisations to take the lead?

K: It’s a great question and I don’t think there is really one answer. There are definitely some smaller companies that are pushing social issues at the heart of their business – social enterprises are a great example and there are some really amazing and interesting things happening in that space. There are also smaller companies that are in the supply chain of really big companies and have either taken the lead for that business or have followed suit.

So, there is definitely a lot of activity on the social enterprise space but I would say yes there are more inconsistences and gaps in smaller companies and they just don’t have the same high pressures or resources to address it. But the supply chain is a great opportunity for those companies to get it on the opportunity.

A: You mentioned supply chain, but how important is it for a company to then engage its suppliers?

K: It is critical really because you know one single business no matter what size they are cannot do it on their own and that’s really what is behind systems thinking - which is an emerging narrative and piece of work that is happening in the sustainability space. You need that collaborative effort and a lot of the challenges in sustainability are happening further down the supply chain with Tier 2 suppliers and beyond. So in order for a company to have a thorough and strategic approach to sustainability, they absolutely need to be engaging their suppliers and there are some interesting things happening in reverse.

There was an article I read the other day which highlighted that supplierers might become more of the push behind bigger businesses. There is a big push and pull happening right now. 

A: I can think of some examples of supply chain both related to the electronic industry, one is criticisms of working conditions in electronic assembling factories in China, which affect big brands over in the ‘West’. The other area in electronics being conflict minerals right down the supply chain and where are materials coming from?

K: Absolutely, the Human Rights agenda has really elevated the need to look at supply chain and there are some amazing organisations in that space that have done an excellent job in really highlighting those issues and getting businesses engaged.

A: There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals so businesses are concentrating all of them or are some more important than the others, or I suppose it really depends on the nature of the business.

K: It’s a great question and we get asked this a lot.  The beauty of the SDGs is that they are all interconnected, so if you are looking at one then, in theory, you are really looking at all of them.  But I would really recommend from a deeper strategic perspective and a communications perspective that companies just focus on a few (3-4).  To really drill down and get focused to have the big impact.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t be looking at the other SDGs, even in a strategic way, there are certainly ways to connect all of them, from the way you work with your employees on a day to day basis and the opportunities you provide to them, all the way through how you are engaging your supply chain and your consumers on sustainable lifestyles. 

But from a deeper strategic communications perspective I think focus is really what goes a long way, as this helps you to allocate resources, it helps your stakeholders really understand what you are trying to do, and it gets the business more focused to have an impact.

A: Do you find that this is a strategic issue at board level or do you find that the companies you work with actually make employees at all levels aware of their involvement in the SDGS.

K: I have seen both, but the board level seems to be a little bit harder. It doesn’t mean that board members aren’t aware of the SDGs, but that topic is not always escalated as frequently as us in the sustainability field would like. But employees definitely represent a great opportunity and everything a business is doing in CSR or sustainability really needs to be resonating with employees, it needs to be implemented and activated by employees and it is a great way to engage them and make them feel pride for the company they are working for and incentivized by what they are doing within the business. But the board level is really the area that needs to be unlocked further.

A: I am surprised to hear you say that because I thought it was the other way round and if corporates were engaging with the SDGs from the top-down, but you are saying that they aren’t necessarily. It’s like a lot of sustainability down at the shop floor with people who are really into sustainability but have to try and persuade those people further up the line. Is it being taken seriously, or is this another example of greenwashing?

K: Also another great question and I would say again that there are examples of both. I definitely see some great examples of companies taking it seriously, but there is also an opportunity for companies to be a bit disingenuous. But I’m increasingly having conversations with companies who are saying ‘you know we haven’t done that much in the SDGs...’- but they see the value in applying it and they don’t want to be disingenuous in the way that we position them. I think this is a healthy perspective and it doesn’t make sense for all companies to change their strategies around the SDGs, but this is a tool that can be applied in different ways across the business. I think it is great that companies are using them but also understanding the need to be authentic, but absolutely greenwashing is not something that we have completely overcome, but we are all definitely getting smarter about identifying it.

A: You mention that there is value in developing a suite of sustainability goals to support a larger strategy, which links back to what you were saying earlier, don’t go for all 17 but one or two. Is that the approach that you would recommend?

K: Absolutely, this is something that we cover in the thought leadership piece Moving the Goal Posts and this idea that we are creating a suite or a family of goals. In the piece we talk about the need for companies to create more transformative and strategic goals for sustainability that are akin to business strategy goals – you will get more return, you will get more interest, uptake and ultimately greater value. 

But the idea behind the suite of goals is that not everything needs to be transformative and goals can serve different purpose. There is absolute value in having more performance driven goals and investors are absolutely looking for that, in order to benchmark and assess the sustainability of a business and the long-term viability of that business. That is a growing trend that we absolutely need to be considering, so there are operational driven goals which definitely play a part. But there is a need and an opportunity for businesses to think far more strategically about their sustainability goals to develop ones that are inherently unique to that business and provide an opportunity to benchmark and showcase performance from an industry perspective and serve a wide range of needs.

A: I am going to put a link to the SDGs on our webpage relating to this podcast and a link to ‘moving the goal posts’ because your document is freely available, so people can read and download for themselves. If people listening to this know that they are not doing anything on SDGs and feel like they might want to, what would you suggest that they start doing tomorrow morning?

K: Well they could call us! But I think the first part is to get familiar with the 17 goals. Absolutely check the UN website, they have done a really great communications job. Start to understand the goals and the targets within them, each of the goals have a high-level statement for example. There is a lot of really interesting content that sits below this so you can get familiar with the goals and then start to align with what you are doing as business and try to find those synergies where you think you can have the biggest impact. That is a really great start, so do that mapping exercise, find what you are doing and what you are not doing.

The second step would be to find really great partners, there are organisations working across all these issues.  Find out what you should be doing and could be doing.

A: I am happy to put your contact details on the blog and when companies have gone through the first two stages they can ring you if it is appropriate. You are operating in the US though and not in the UK though?

K: I am based in the US, but Salterbaxter have their Headquarters in London and an office in New York, so we have teams on both continents and are happy to support either way.

A: Is there anything you would like to add before we close?

K: I would like to thank you so much for this opportunity and I am really excited to speak to you. I am really excited that the SDGs have had such an uptake and I think there is so much more that can be done in this space and it is interesting to see how companies are being really innovative and creative. The UN consistently asks for support in just communicating the SDGs and we really want to get the news out to anyone and everyone, because that’s really where the impact starts to happen. So if you can play a role in that it would be great. 


Plenty to think about there. If you’d like to contact Kristina her details are kristina.joss@salterbaxter.com 

Losing the Fizz
And now for something completely different. I'm talking to Julia Hartley Brewer on Talk Radio about carbon dioxide.

[There’s a CO2 shortage in the UK. We discussed why this happened and how it will affect carbonated drinks, including lager, food production and chicken farmers.]

If you're listening to this in July I hope you got a drink and I hope your team won. If you’re a patron and you're listening to this in June you've got everything to look forward to.

And finally…
I'm Anthony Day and that's all for this special edition of the Sustainable Futures Report. If you're listening to this in July the next edition will be out on Friday 3rd August, but if you're a patron and listening to this in June the next edition will be out on Friday, 6 July. Either way, I’ll be back very soon.
I'm Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report and I’m off to research the next one.


Bye for now.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The Elephant in the Room

Find the podcast on iTunes or at susbiz.biz

Hello and  welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 6 July.
And a special welcome to my latest patrons Shelagh Jones and Mark Rutherford.
I'm Anthony Day and I’ve called this episode The elephant in the room. Why the elephant in the room? Because it's very big, it's a serious problem and nobody wants to talk about it. Quite a lot of people refuse to admit that it's there. Listener Eric de Kemp has told me about a big and important problem in the Canadian oil industry, and we’ll learn about that in a minute. First I want to talk about a big and important problem closer to home - my home in the UK that is. It’s an elephant called Brexit. For those of you not listening in the UK let me remind you that the British government is leading the United Kingdom to leave the European Union after some 40 years of close integration. Not everybody thinks it's a good idea, which is probably why the governing party is totally split on the issue and so is the official opposition. Business leaders warn that it’s likely to cost jobs, the value of the £ sterling has declined and 100,000 people marched on Parliament last month to protest against it.
Environmental Regulation after Brexit
During our time as members of the EU we have become involved in some 40 regulatory agencies covering everything from health and safety, radio isotopes, medicine and drugs to air travel, food security and consumer rights.. As a consequence of Brexit, instead of sharing the costs of these institutions with the other 27 member states the United Kingdom is going to set up regulatory agencies of its own. As it does so, the relevant bodies of European legislation will be transformed into UK laws. Of course, as this transfer takes place the government can tweak and tailor as it sees fit and there is a lot of controversy about how this will be done, involving both Henry VIII and the Scots. (Don’t ask) 
Today I'm going to look specifically at how this will affect environmental regulation. The Institute of environmental management and assessment (IEMA) has published its Briefing and Initial Position on the DEFRA Environmental Principles and Governance Consultation. DEFRA is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs. This consultation is to help the government formulate its environmental policies after Brexit. I’ve been able to talk to Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA, about this.

Unfortunately IEMA were unable to provide a transcript of the interview. You can hear it on the podcast via iTunes or susbiz.biz

More on Tar Sands
As I mentioned at the beginning, listener Eric De Kemp got in touch about issues in the Canadian oil industry. He sent me links to radio broadcasts including one where the prime minister of British Columbia explained how he had been contacted very early that morning by Justin Trudeau the Canadian Premier to say that the government had purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline. (I’ve put the links below ) There is an existing trans-Mountain pipeline but Trudeau was talking about the new pipeline designed to triple capacity. Although they take different routes, both pipelines go from Edmonton in Alberta to Vancouver on the West Coast of British Columbia. The purpose of the pipeline is to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the port at Vancouver for onward shipment to markets in Asia. For many years the majority of Canadian oil has been sold into the United States, but at much lower prices than are available from Asia. Hence the desire to ship the oil out to new markets. Of course, there is continuing controversy about the whole tar sands oil extraction process. It requires significant inputs of energy to soften the material and separate the tar from the sand. It typically uses steam which means there are vast ponds of contaminated water as a by-product. Oil is a fossil fuel; burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases and it is well-known that we can burn only so much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves before we make the planet uninhabitable. On the other side, oil production creates jobs and delivers wealth. Presumably the Canadians of Alberta believe that other producers should restrict their output in order to save the planet while they keep pumping the tar.
Crossing Borders
The pipeline from Edmonton travels west from the province of Alberta across the province of British Columbia. There has been much controversy about the route of the new pipeline, particularly about the plan to drive it through the tribal lands of indigenous peoples. Quite apart from the disruption caused by constructing the pipeline, there are concerns about the risks of pipeline failure and oil spillage which could contaminate the water table and pollute the lands for ever. There has been an ongoing dispute between British Columbia and Alberta, becoming increasingly acrimonious. Kinder Morgan, American owners of the original pipeline and developers of the new one, lost patience and threatened to pull out of the project altogether. This led the Canadian government to step in and purchase the pipeline for a reported figure which varies between $3 billion and $4 billion. Justin Trudeau's credibility as protector of the environment has taken a severe knock, and no wonder that the premiere of British Columbia sounds shocked on that radio broadcast which was recorded just after he'd been woken up to be told that the pipeline would go ahead regardless of what the government of British Columbia decided.
CBC Business commentator http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/calgary-eyeopener/segment/15547529 

Pilot’s-eye View
I strongly recommend that you go to the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report and follow the Globe and Mail link. 
 This is one of the best visual presentations that I’ve seen, and not only shows how the pipeline will reach the coast but highlights the risks involved in shipping the oil out.
The Port of Vancouver is approached along a narrow seaway around Vancouver Island and through an archipelago of many smaller islands. Environmentalists claim that since this is one of the busiest and most tortuous shipping routes in the world, the risk of a collision or a grounding and a catastrophic oil spill are enormous. For the moment though, the project seems to be going ahead.
The Guardian quotes Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema: “Trudeau is gambling billions of Canadian taxpayer dollars on an oil project that will never be built – a project that Kinder Morgan itself has indicated is ‘untenable’ and that faces more than a dozen lawsuits, crumbling economics, and a growing resistance movement that is spreading around the world.” 

A Word from the Wise
In the past I have drawn your attention to Jeremy Leggett and his website at www.JeremyLeggett.net. Here’s a link to one of his latest blogs
He calls it The Week of the White Elephants. There’s a theme here somewhere! He’s picked up the story of how the Canadian government is bailing out the trans-Mountain pipeline with public money and he also highlights other governments investing in projects which he sees as white elephants. Apparently the US Energy Department has plans to force utilities to purchase electricity from failing coal and nuclear plants. In the UK, after decades of insisting that there should be no more nuclear and that power generation should be in the hands of private sector, the British government has announced a public investment in a new nuclear plant in Wales. Leggett also includes a chart which shows how renewables, particularly onshore wind and solar, now generate electricity more cheaply the nuclear, coal or gas. But of course as far as the British government is concerned, we've had enough of experts and government decision-making amply demonstrates that. That’s why onshore wind, the most cost-effective source of renewable energy, is effectively banned in the UK while there are proposals to exempt fracking from local planning regulations. More on that in a future episode.

And Finally…
Well, that's all from this episode but it's not all for this month. I have said that the Sustainable Futures Report would only be monthly from now on but I've got an interview on the Sustainable Development Goals and that will be available on Friday, 20th July. If you’re a patron you already have access to it. The next episode after that is scheduled for Friday, 4th August, but there is so much going on that I may slip in yet another bonus episode.

Yes, this is Anthony Day, that was the Sustainable Futures Report and thank you for listening and thank you for your ideas. I'm particularly grateful this month to Eric De Kemp and of course to Martin Baxter of IEMA. Thanks for the info on the carbon tax, Eric. Not enough time this time I’m afraid!
Please continue to let me have your ideas and let me take this opportunity to thank you for being a patron if you are, and if you’re not you might like to be one for as little as $1 per month. Just hop across to patreon.com/sfr .
And that really is it for this month. Don't forget 20th July for the next episode.
I'm Anthony Day.
Bye for now



Friday, June 01, 2018

Any Change, Guv?

Find the podcast on iTunes or via susbiz.biz

Hello. This is Anthony Day with your Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 1st June. Welcome if you are listening for the first time. Welcome if you are a returning listener and a very special welcome if you are one of my patrons. You too can become a patron, and help with the cost of hosting this podcast and preparing the transcriptions. Your help from as little as $1 a month (I know, it’s an American site) is always appreciated and for slightly more than one dollar per month you get a stylish Sustainable Futures Report enamel badge. If that sounds interesting just hop across to patreon.com/sfr and find out more.
This Month
Among this month’s sustainability news I want to tell you about the lecture I didn’t get to and the lecture I did get to. About how the government is making it easier for fracking and plans to make it more difficult to own a wood burning stove. It's cleaning up cars, eventually, although it's told us that once already and it's promising world-beating environmental standards, although that’s not nearly as good as it sounds. And carbon capture and storage is popping up again! Neoliberalism seems to keep popping up as well. Oh, and don’t buy an electric car.
Bees and the Weather
But first, I’m British so let’s talk about the weather.
After a dreadful March, a pretty awful April and a disappointing May - at least to start with - a few warm days make it easy to forget all that and to believe that summer is truly acomin in. I’ve mentioned in the past that I keep bees. Not very expertly, although I seem to get a lot of honey. Last Autumn I had two colonies. In January I still had two colonies, but by the end of that cold spell in March I had only one. In winter bees cluster together for warmth around the queen and they generate warmth by vibrating their wing muscles. They can keep the centre of the hive at 35ÂșC, but to do this they need energy from the honey that they stored away for the winter. There was plenty of honey in both my hives and I supplemented it with sugar fondant. Unfortunately it was so cold that some of my bees wouldn’t leave the cluster to find the food, so one colony starved. That left a very weak colony with a bad attack of chalk brood. This is a fungal disease which infects the larvae and kills them before they develop into bees. You’re left with little white lumps - hence the name. There’s no real treatment for this apart from shaking the bees into a clean hive, but that’s only recommended for strong colonies. All I could do was keep feeding and let them get on with it. I’m pleased to report that when I last inspected I found clean comb and healthy larvae, so it looks as though the colony will survive. Incidentally, my local beekeeping association had its annual auction of beekeeping equipment and supplies on 12th May. For the first time ever there were no colonies of bees for sale. Clearly I was not alone in suffering winter losses.
Lecture No 1
What about that lecture I didn’t get to? I think I mentioned that I’ve started researching for a PhD in Sustainability at Leeds Beckett University in the north of England, so when I saw a lecture entitled “What are the justified reasons why we don’t do more about Climate Change?” I thought I had to go. This was in Newcastle, so I set off in good time on the train but when we got to Thirsk we stopped and then we were taken back to York. Apparently there had been a fatality on the line. We were offered buses to Newcastle instead, but by then it was too late. I did make contact with the lecturers and I’ve been able to follow up their work in related fields. Joanne Swaffield and Derek Bell of the Department of Politics at Newcastle University have published: “Can ‘climate champions’ save the planet? A critical reflection on neoliberal social change.” Climate Champions are internally recruited by organisations. They are people who believe in saving the planet, but also believe in neoliberal values. Profit is therefore the first priority over everything. Individuals are more important than the community, so while these champions will advise their colleagues about climate issues, they will leave their colleagues to make up their own minds about whether to do anything about it. They say, “Encouraging climate champions to engage in ‘ordinary moral reasoning’ about climate change with their colleagues might be an important first step to prompting critical reflection on the limits of a neoliberal approach to social change.”
Lecture No 2
And the lecture I did get to? A similar theme. It was called “All about change: understanding motivation and how values influence behaviour.” It was presented by IEMA and the Going Green Working Group of the British Psychological Society. It was led by Jan Maskell who you may remember started as an architect and is now a psychologist and was interviewed on the Sustainable Futures Report in March last year. Opposite number from IEMA was Nick Blyth, Policy and Practice Lead. The objective of the Going Green Working Group is to minimise the negative aspects of one's actions on the natural and built world. Jan was also keen to draw a distinction between occupational psychology, which is what she does with organisations, and occupational therapy, which is what some people do with basket weaving.

This event was in fact not a lecture but a full day workshop with four speakers. First was Andrew Simms, Fellow of the New Economics Foundation and the New Weather Institute, who was talking about whether rapid transition could be possible. In other words are we realistic in expecting that people’s attitudes can fundamentally change towards climate change or any other issue in a relatively short time? After all climate change is quite urgent, given that scientific opinion indicates that the crucial 1.5°C threshold could be breached within five years. There was a record rise in CO2 levels last year, despite emissions reaching a plateau; fossil fuels still produce 82% of the world’s energy, which has doubled since 1978 and global material use is still increasing. If we are serious about an environmentally sustainable future then industrialised countries need radical reductions to consumption: changes of a scale never before seen. Pathways to change to 100% renewable energy do exist, but the political will is not there. 
Yes we can…
How realistic is it to believe that we can change rapidly and in time? Andrew told us that history shows that a short sharp shock can lead to rapid change. For example, in April 2010 that volcano in Iceland exploded. It filled the atmosphere with corrosive dust which meant that air travel was cancelled across much of Europe. And the world adapted. Supermarkets sourced food locally, businesses used video conferences, people shared cars and adapted to a slower pace of life without air travel. Of course the problem only lasted for a few days, but adaptation was almost immediate and life went on much as before.
Andrew quoted other examples of rapid change from the past. While it took 15 years to electrify the East Coast main line, Victorian engineers laid 4,000 miles of railway in only seven years. In one weekend in 1892 they converted Brunel's broad gauge railway from London to Plymouth to standard gauge in one weekend. He told us how the US under Franklin D Roosevelt’s  New Deal built extensive infrastructure, spending about 3 1/2% of GDP between 1933 and 1940. Incidentally that was less than the amount spent more recently on quantitative easing. He reminded us how people adapted during the Second World War. A diet constrained by rations, which had the unexpected consequence of improving the nation's health. More use of public transport and people spending what spare cash they had all enjoying themselves rather than on consumer goods. He told us about how Cuba reacted to the short sharp shock which came when Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union stopped supporting the Cuban economy almost overnight. Urban organic agriculture produced 26,000 food gardens in Havana alone and the obesity of the population fell by half. Cuba became self-sufficient.
The 2007 financial crisis showed how states can act swiftly and at scale - although whether the response to the financial crisis was the right one is another debate. Changes at a smaller scale: the Presidents Club in London collapsed almost overnight as a result of scandal, all male conference panels are no longer acceptable, veganism is rapidly becoming mainstream and we are seeing an inflection point in our attitudes to plastic. And there were many other examples. 
In conclusion Andrew said that we are good at change but we need public leadership; we need a political will to act at scale and speed and we need a realisation among political leaders that action is needed. The current neoliberal political philosophy, where profit is the over-riding goal and the individual is encouraged to be more important than the community, is not conducive to the changes required.

What should we do?, asked an audience member. Join your nearest transition towns organisation, was Andrew’s answer. He’s involved in an organisation called the Steps Centre https://steps-centre.org which has run conferences on rapid transitions and you’ll find more about transition towns at https://transitionnetwork.org 
#5thingsclear
Simon Jordan followed with a hard-hitting presentation. He explained how he had changed his own life from a very low ebb. “Only you,” he said, “Can make the change. Action trumps hope.”
In little more than 12 months Simon has set up an international movement called #5thingsclear. It started like this. He was horrified to find the amount of plastic washed up on to a remote beach in Wales close to where he lives. To find birds, animals and fish maimed and poisoned by the plastic they consume. I mentioned nurdles at the start of this episode. Nurdles are plastic granules which are the raw material for many plastic products. In the news this week nurdles have been found on British beaches in addition to all the abandoned fishing tackle, plastic bottles, plastic bags and other detritus which is becoming the norm. Simon says we must stop closing our eyes to litter and expecting that others will clear it up. #5thingsclear calls on you to pick up five pieces of litter every day and take it away for proper disposal. You don't have to find it on the beach. Sadly litter is all too prevalent wherever you go. Picking up 5 things is a start, especially if we all do it. Especially if we see litter picking as a civic responsibility and not as a punishment, but of course that’s at odds with the neoliberal philosophy which values the individual above community.
Did you know that some supermarkets are now wrapping carrots individually in plastic? Please don’t buy them. Avoid plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic bottles, plastic cups. Carry your re-usable coffee cup. Don’t release helium balloons or candle lanterns. They can choke livestock where they land and candle lanterns have caused serious fires. There is no Plan B, said Simon. There is no Planet B. Our economy must be better, not bigger. There is no future in growth-based, debt-fuelled, over-consuming consumerism.  

So how does he think we can achieve change? People respond to trigger issues and to imminent threats. Hectoring, elitist attitudes are not effective. It's a question of living by example and constantly promoting the message. One questioner asked whether it was justifiable to place so much emphasis on plastic and litter when this is only one of a wide range of issues threatening our environment and our survival. But surely it is better to address at least one issue than to admit that the whole thing is far too difficult and complex and to use that as an excuse for doing nothing at all.
The second part of the event was devoted to two workshops. More about them in a later episode.
More Fracking
The British government continues its love affair with fracking. It was announced this week that planning regulations for new fracking operations will be eased. Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites in England without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level. Announcing the changes in Parliament, the Secretary of State explained that the UK had moved from being a net exporter of gas to a position where more than 50% and rising is now imported. As North Sea gas production declines the intention is to make up some of the shortfall from onshore shale gas deposits. The government's position is that the continuing use of gas is consistent with its long-term carbon reduction targets. Maybe so, but gas is still a fossil fuel and its consumption leads to carbon emissions, whether or not these are within targets. Gas provides about a third of the energy used in the UK and is widely used for heating homes and commercial premises. Changing from gas to another form of heating implies investment in new heating equipment. A national campaign to insulate buildings could cut demand and reduce the need for more gas, or energy of any kind.
Whatever the solution, fracking for shale gas remains controversial. At this stage we are talking about test drilling, so the actual availability of gas reserves is so far unproven. There is no doubt that there is a strong protest movement against fracking. Activists claim that the operations can cause earth tremors and pollute local ground water and water supplies. They complain about the high level of lorry traffic needed to service the sites and carry away the product. They have already shown that they are ready to disrupt operations at existing test sites by continuing civil disobedience. Of course the fracking sites are far away from London, but many are in Tory shires. Some even, despite promises, are planned  for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. This government was quick to block the expansion of on-shore wind, the cheapest wind-power, because it upset some of its supporters. Do they think these supporters will be any happier with thousands - and yes, it will have to be thousands to achieve a worthwhile level of production - thousands of fracking wells?


Another campaign from Greenpeace
“Just a few short months ago, Environment Secretary Michael Gove promised "a world-leading body to give the environment a voice and hold the powerful to account””, they say, “and Prime Minister Theresa May pledged "Brexit will not mean a lowering of environmental standards.”"
Talking to the press, Environment Minister Michael Gove has indicated that a regulatory body will be established post Brexit, but there has been wide criticism of its very limited powers. For example, it will not be able to take the government to task. At present any EU government which breaches environmental regulations is answerable to the EU at the European Court of Justice and faces penalties and fines. Britain has been referred to the ECJ several times for failing to deal with dangerous air quality, but after Brexit that will no longer be possible, and critics including the United Nations warn that weakened regulations will damage the UK’s reputation. The Institute for Government reports that its analysis of European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgments from the last 15 years shows that almost half of the cases the Commission brings against the UK relate to the environment and that the UK loses most of them. It is difficult to see how a more relaxed regime will deliver better environmental protection, as the proposed new regulatory body will be able to issue “advisory notices” but no penalties. Comment in The Guardian and The Observer seems to imply that if the government itself is not held to account it will be able to preside over weakened regulations across the board. A strong letter is not going to deter polluters from cutting costs by ignoring regulations.
Losing cases
Not only has the government been prosecuted by the EU for poor air quality, it has lost at least three actions in the High Court brought over the same issue by campaigning lawyers Client Earth. Maybe this is why Environment Minister Gove has been talking specifically about clean-air provisions recently. From 2040 no new petrol or diesel cars will be permitted to be sold in the UK - as announced several months ago. At the time it was pointed out that Norway was planning to do this from 2025, and India, among others, from 2030. There’s now a rumour - strongly denied - that hybrids will be banned as well. Whatever happens, leaving it to 2040 will limit and postpone the effect. After all, many cars sold up to 2039 are likely to still be on the roads in 2050.
Electric Cars?
But don't buy an electric car! That's the advice given to at least one researcher from the universities of Suffolk and Aarhus. They posed as potential buyers and visited car dealers across Scandinavia, seeking advice. Many dealers failed to offer electric cars even though they were available from the manufacturers that they represented. Electric cars were often hidden away at the back of the site and frequently not even charged. Some dealers even claimed that owning an electric car would be financial ruin.
The researchers concluded that dealers were badly informed about electric cars, and there were two strong disincentives to their sale. The first was that dealers are incentivised on the volume of cars that they sell and taking time to explain an electric car reduces their time for making sales. The other issue is that servicing is frequently the major profit centre of a dealership and electric cars need very little maintenance. The conclusion appears to be that you shouldn't trust a car salesman. Who would have thought it? 



Clearing the Air
The other air quality issue addressed by Mr Gove was wood-burning stoves. They look essentially green, don’t they? They must be environmental because they burn a natural non-fossil fuel and any carbon dioxide emitted will be absorbed by new trees growing up to provide the next crop of logs. Maybe so. Maybe. The immediate problem with wood burning stoves is particulates: small fragments of ash which escape into the atmosphere. Particulates can act as nucleation sites. They stimulate the formation of clouds or fog like the London smogs of the 50s. Worse, they are small enough not only to be breathed into the lungs, but to transit the lung membrane and be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. About 10% of UK homes (2.5 million) have an open fire or wood-burning stove and account for 38% of damaging particulate matter in the UK. Michael Gove says he is ready to legislate to ensure only the “cleanest” domestic fuels will be available for sale.
Have your say. 
The government’s consultation is open until 15th June.
Captive Carbon
If you clean up particulates you're still left with carbon dioxide. The solution for major installations like power stations has been carbon capture and storage, although this has never been achieved at a commercial scale. The plan is to strip the carbon dioxide out of the exhaust gases from the power station, compress it and pump it along pipelines for indefinite storage in exhausted oil and gas wells under the North Sea. George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, offered a £1 billion fund to make the technology work, but like other elements of the government’s energy policy this was withdrawn at short notice. Now Drax Power, operators of the U.K.'s largest power station, are looking at carbon capture and storage again. The difference is that instead of pumping the carbon dioxide away to remote caverns beneath the sea, the plan is to store the gas on site and to sell it for use in industrial processes. At this stage no buyer is in view. It’s interesting that they will be using CCS on their biofuel boilers. Perhaps the process isn’t as carbon-neutral as they like to claim.

A while ago I reported on a plan to make use of surplus CO2, but I’ve had no luck in finding the episode. If you can remember who it was who was going to develop this process please tell Drax.

And finally…
And that’s it for another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. Thank you for listening, thanks for supporting and thanks for coming up with ideas. 
I have several interviews planned for future episodes. In September I’ll be reviewing a new book on the Circular Economy and I’ve just come across the Green Deal again. It seems to have been much more successful than many people thought and in fact it’s still in operation. More about that, too. 
As always, if you have ideas, suggestions or a sustainability story to tell do get in touch. mail@anthony-day.com 
I’m told that June is going to be incredibly hot - even hotter than the temperatures we enjoyed in the UK for the last weekend in May. Have a great June, and I hope you won’t be affected by a repeat of the flash floods and lightning storms which hit the south of England this week. I think it may be something to do with climate change.
Until next time
This is Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Bye for now.