Friday, October 26, 2018

Making Policy

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Yes, it's Friday the 26th of October, I'm Anthony Day and this is the Sustainable Futures Report. 
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This Week
This week it's all about policy, about energy policy, about policies to combat climate change. In recent reports I’ve spoken about books, including A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains by Catherine Weetman and Designing The Purposeful World by Clive Wilson.  Links to both of these on the blog at and remember that there’s a 20% discount on Catherine’s book if you follow the link and quote CIRCULAR20.

These books are primarily for business audiences. The book I’m talking about this week has important information for business but is principally aimed at policymakers. Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis and Jeffrey Rissman is published on 1st November.
The Interview
Hal Harvey is the CEO of Energy Innovation, a San Francisco-based energy policy firm. He served on energy panels appointed by Presidents Bush and Clinton and in 2017 he received the Heinz award for his long track record fighting climate change. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University in engineering, specialising in energy planning. He spoke to me from California to tell me more about the book and his work. 

We're talking this afternoon about your new book, Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low Carbon Energy , and I believe that is scheduled for publication on the first of November. 
That's correct. We wanted to write a book that offers in a great deal of practical reality. What's required to actually land in a reasonable climate future. 
Right. With the IPPC report coming out earlier this month this is quite good timing really. Isn't it? 
Well, it's easy to despair when you read a report like that and it's pretty stunning what we're up against. Mostly, not new, but vivid. 
Yes, Well a lot of the points that you making your introduction, as well. There's a lot of crossover between what you started with and what they've put into their report 
One of the things that's important in thinking about climate change is that we have to go after the largest tonnes the fastest and we have to use policy to get there. So, the system is so complex and there are so many factors it's very easy to get bogged down or confused or even worse, to pursue things that won’t make a big difference but use up your political capital, thereby. 
There is a political issue, isn't there? We are well aware on this side of the Atlantic that President Trump Has decided to turn his back on the Paris Accord and he's also told people that the war on coal is over. You know which is pushing things the wrong way, isn't it? 
Emphatically. The president Is abnegating his responsibility to protect the country. It's just no doubt about it. The good news, however, is almost all energy policy in America is set state by state and the states are forging ahead. 
Yes, that's a big difference from here in the UK. Everything Is very centralized on London unfortunately. But, yeah. Well, it's good to hear. I know you're in California has a reputation for taking the lead in an awful lot of this. Isn't, it? 
So, California is if it were a country would have the fifth largest economy in the world, right now. We’ve cut Climate change emissions pretty dramatically already and saved a huge amount of money in the doing. The governor signed both a bill and an executive order recently. The bill requires zero carbon electricity by 2045. Completely zero carbon. And the executive order requires the state to pursue the same and all the other sectors, as well. So, it gives us a chance to understand, uhh, the economics to do some long term planning to push forward on new technologies and most emphatically to deploy what we’ve already gotten. 
Yea, but of course time is of the essence because, ummm, climate change delay is the killer. I think I got that out of your book, as well. Nicholas Stern, the economist, said back in 2006 when he wrote his report that 1%,, of global GDP could fix the problem. We haven't done an awful lot. The IPPC Is now saying that 2% of global GDP could fix the problem, but you make the point in your book that umm if we let things slide even for a few years we are going to have to work very much harder to pull things back again. 
So two important points here. The first says every ton of carbon dioxide we emit will persist much of it for over a thousand years. It’s the gift that keeps on giving--if you will. So, delay creates permanent harm and that’s absolutely crucial to understand. It’s not a matter of waiting around until we have the perfect technology and then deploying it. The second thing that’s important here is many people think of fixing climate change as something that costs a lot of money. It's crucial to remember that we spent about 5 trillion dollars per year already on energy. Almost all of it goes to fossil. But, the challenge is to divert the existing cash flow from brown choices to green choices not to conjure up new money. 
Well, I just came across a report and I don't know if you are aware of it. Ahh, it’s the new climate economy report and that says that we can have a dividend by 2030 of $26 trillion if we go for a decarbonized economy. 
If you go to one our web pages called , there is an
model that works out for seven countries where you can choose any policy you like. We've got more than 50 of them and it will immediately show you in graphics of what will happen to carbon dioxide, but it also shows you what happens to cash flow. And the good news is almost all the clean choices require some upfront capital, but get repaid in well under 10 years through saved energy costs. So, again we have a political choice to override the interests of incumbents, but it is not a sacrifice narrative in any way. 
Right. That’s solutions. Okay. Alright. I’ll make sure I’ll make a note of that. In the book, you start with the power sector which is a major emitter of energy and is guilty of using almost more fossil fuel than anything. Hotly pursued by transportation, of course. You've covered the construction sector and then you looked at industry. One thing you haven't mentioned is agriculture and a lot of people say agriculture with methane from livestock is one of the most serious emitters of greenhouse gases.
There's no question that agriculture and land use more broadly deforestation and afforestation is crucially important. This is a book that focused on the energy system which comprises almost 80% of CO2 emissions. There are some important, there are obviously things we have to do with agriculture. We, We focus on energy for three reasons. First, it is the lion's share with almost 80% of the total. Second that, has centralized decision-makers. The Public Utilities Commission can affect billions of tons, quite literally, of CO2 emissions. Whereas, there are billions of farmers one would have to affect. Umm, and third, ha, bluntly it's our area of expertise and agriculture and land-use is not. 
Yes, okay, fair point. Fair point. We are not going to do this on our own. We've got to I think and engage public opinion. We really have. Now, you've got your midterm elections coming up and I see there's been quite a hot debate on climate change Between Ted Cruz in Texas and his Democratic opponent, but the article that I read said that's one of the very few debates on climate change in the whole of the midterm campaign. Is it really on on on the radar? Umm, as far as public opinion and the states are concerned? 
Unfortunately, the very term “climate change” has become politicized not just in the US but in a lot of anglophone nations--including your own. 
Umm, it turns out to be, ahhh, have been used as a political football for so long by the Republican party that is actually not very profitable to spend political time on that term per se. On the other hand, if you talk about clean energy there's more than 80% support I think in both parties, right now. And 2⁄3 of renewables right now have been deployed in so-called “red” States; it's the republican-dominated states. So, we just need to be a more clever about what political vocabulary we use when we are trying to get important things done. 
Ummhmm yes, that’s a good point. Interesting thing is, of course, Texas is well known as an oil state, but it’s one of the leaders in renewables as well. Isn’t it? 
It is exactly the case. One thing one can discover is there are no Republicans in a child’s asthma ward in a hospital. There are no Democrats, either. They're only kids that are having trouble breathing. When it comes time to pay the utility bill everybody is happy to get a bill that doesn't include huge energy costs. Just free wind or free solar. 
So, we emphatically need to turn this to solutions rather than problems which is actually why we call the book we call the book Designing Climate Solutions. We spend a lot of time talking about the horrors of climate change. We don't even about climate change, per se, in great depth. We really focus on specific things do if you're really serious about solving it. 
Right. Right, okay. Are you aware of the Juliana case? 
I am not. 
Okay, well this is a group of young people in the United States who have been taking the government and the President to court for the last 3 years . 
Yes, I am aware of it. I just didn’t know the name, I’m sorry. 
Right, okay. Well, it’s my shorthand. Yea. Well, the latest thing is the plaintiffs have been given six days to provide documentation or they risk having the action struck out do you think this is the end of the road for it? 
No, I don't. It may be for one particular case, but the idea that fossil companies with full knowledge of what's going on continue to impose long-term cost and pay zero price for it. That idea is evaporating and the oil majors are starting to understand this and so are the coal companies. There's a series of different legal avenues for cities, states, and individuals to pursue to recover damages as it were. I think if I was in the management of a large fossil company I would be very fast to turn around both in public statements and also in investments. You're either going to be holding the bag at the end of the day here or you're going to be part of the solution 

Let me make one more point, too, if that's alright because... 
Of course, go ahead. 
One of the challenges in thinking about solutions to climate change is there are so many options. Should you become a vegan? Should you stop traveling? Should you buy an electric car? Should you protest? Should you try to get a pipeline stopped? And so forth. It's absolutely crucial if we're serious about winning to choose the small number of policies that make a huge difference. We need to focus our political energies much more tightly than we have so far and if we fail to do that we're squandering concern and political energy with strategies that cannot make much of a difference. And this is one of the things that I fear the most. 
Right. Well, that's a very good point, but where would you then say where we should be concentrating our efforts? 
So, the beginnings of wisdom are to look at the four energy sectors that cause carbon emissions. That's electric utilities, transportation, buildings and industry. In every one of those sectors there is between one and three policies that are home runs that deliver a huge amount of carbon savings and there are dozens that are trivial. And then there are strategies which are morally and ethically sound...
but don’t deliver the goods. So, for example divestment. Yea. 
I think it is perfectly fine to divest and a good idea to divest from fossil fuels for lots of reasons, but that’s not a carbon reduction strategy. That’s an ethical and moral pursuit. No company is going to stop releasing fossil fuels if it's making money by doing so. There is no shortage of capital in the world. So, instead, we need to grasp onto those small number of policies numbering less than a dozen in total that deliver a very large return. 
Right, okay, okay. I’d just like a quote something from your book from the conclusion where you say, “This task is by no means impossible. We have the technology today to rapidly move towards a clean energy system and the price of that future without counting environmental benefits is about the same as that of a carbon intensive future. So, the challenge is not technical nor even economic, but rather is a matter of enacting the right policies and ensuring they are properly designed and enforced.” It’s a message of optimism there, I think. 
Empathically, but note those words, “choosing the right policy and ensuring they are properly designed.” 
This is absolutely crucial. We have people who are devoting their lives to abating climate change but landing on strategies that cannot scale or are too slow. And we can’t afford that kind of distraction. That’s the essence of the book. To make sure if we are gonna spend time trying to save the world we do the right things and we do them promptly. 
Yea, Yea, Yea, well. That’s another very good point, Thank you. Okay, well, this has been really interesting. Is there anything else you would like to add before we wind up? 
Just a quick word or two. Once you landed on the right policy and the book, Designing Climate Solutions is a great guide to that. This is where one should focus one's attention and I'll just give a couple very quick examples. 
In the United States, in every country, there's an authority that sets the regulations for electricity. Those regulations will have utilities either buying brown energy like coal or even natural gas or clean energy like solar and wind. Make yourself relevant in that venue. If you're serious about climate change it's not a matter of marching in the street. It's not a matter of re-adjusting your stock portfolio. It's a matter of getting into exactly where those decisions are made and becoming a prominent force. A real factor. It requires more research. It requires more homework. It doesn't mean you have to be an energy expert or utility expert, but that’s where the action is - that is where we save the world. There are similar venues by the way--transportation, building and so
forth. Choose one: get to know it. Get in there and push very hard. 
That’s a very interesting thought, Hal Harvey. Thank you very much for sharing your ideas with us. And as I repeat the book is Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low Carbon Energy . It’s published on the first of November and thank you again. 
Thanks for the opportunity Anthony I really enjoyed the conversation. 

Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation. Find out more at The Energy Policy Simulator which Hal mentioned is at

It’s Juliana - again
I get updates on the Juliana case almost every day but I only bring them to your attention when something important happens. As I mentioned in the interview, Juliana v. United States, brought by 21 young activists against the federal government in U.S. District Court in Oregon, alleges that the United States government's affirmative actions helped to cause climate change, violating the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and failed to protect essential public trust resources.
Although Judge Aiken ruled that the President could not be a party to the case as I reported last week, the government remains firmly in the frame. 
A headline in the Plainview Daily Herald says

…but when I clicked on the link I got:
451 Unavailable For Legal Reasons
Sorry, this content is not available in your region.
Fortunately Forbes Magazine gave me the full story.
On Thursday, Trump’s Justice Department lawyers again asked the High Court to dismiss the case before it went to trial Oct. 29, saying the suit attempts to redirect federal environmental policies through the courts rather than through the political process. They also claimed harm from the costs of litigation.
19-year-old Vic Barrett from White Plains, New York , one of the plaintiffs, said, “We are six business days from a trial we have been preparing for three years. The lengths my own government is going to to get this case thrown out and avoid trial is absurd and offensive. This case is not about money. This is not about the 'harms to the government' or how much money the government has paid its experts or how many hours their lawyers have to work. This is about my future and the future of our youngest generations. This is about fundamental constitutional rights of children. We are simply asking for our right to be heard."
I’ll keep you posted. 

$26 trillion  carries the headline, “We could shift to sustainability and save $26 trillion. Why aren’t we doing it?” Well why aren’t we? 
I tracked down the source for this claim and found the New Climate Economy Report. Find it at  and take 5 minutes to watch the video.
Who or what is the New Climate Economy? According to the website, “The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, and its flagship project The New Climate Economy, were set up to help governments, businesses and society make better-informed decisions on how to achieve economic prosperity and development while also addressing climate change.”
“The New Climate Economy was commissioned in 2013 by the governments of seven countries: Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Commission has operated as an independent body and has been given full freedom to reach its own conclusions. Led by its global commission, it has disseminated its messages by engaging with heads of governments, finance ministers, business leaders and other key economic decision-makers in over 30 countries around the world.”
Names I recognise on the Global Commission include Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and Nicholas Stern, President of the Royal Economic Society. They are among some thirty experts of equal standing from all over the world.
The headline of the report reads: “The growth story of the 21st century can unlock unprecedented opportunities of a strong, sustainable, inclusive economy. The benefits of climate action are greater than ever before, while the costs of inaction continue to mount. It is time for a decisive shift to a new climate economy.”
This chimes very much with the quote I read from Hal Harvey’s book.
As I said, if you go to you can download the report, but if you’ve only got 5 minutes I recommend you watch the video.

On the Transport front…
Heathrow airport offers a special deal to the first electric or hybrid aeroplane to fly in and out on a scheduled service. For the first year it will waive all landing fees which some say could be worth £1 million.
Pocket-Lint (no I don’t know where they get these names from either) reports that future electric cars could store energy in their bodywork. Researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have proved that carbon fibres can be used to store energy directly, which could be of major benefit to electric vehicles.
It means that manufacturers can theoretically turn the entire body of a car into its battery. Apparently it could solve the range problem of electric cars while being 50% lighter. Could be useful for Heathrow’s electric aircraft. If you follow the link which you'll find on the blog you can look at the graphic on the website. 
Vacuum Cleaners
News just in is that James Dyson is building a factory in Singapore to produce electric cars. Let's hope he does better than the last vacuum cleaner manufacturer to get into road transport. The Sinclair C5, a sort of electric tricycle which was billed as the future, really didn't make it even if you pedalled hard. It was so low down that it came with a mast with a flag on top in case lorries and bus-drivers failed to notice it and ran over it. Even without that, it never became a success. Come to think of it, I haven't heard much about Hoover recently.
And finally,
Department store chain John Lewis announces that if shopping is too stressful for you, you can have their new branch in Cheltenham all to yourself for an evening, just as long as you commit to spending at least £10,000. Somewhere to take the family at half-term perhaps? 
Next week I shall be volunteering at the local food bank and pay-as-you-feel cafe. Somewhere to take the family at the  half term holiday, if you can’t afford to feed them when there are no school meals.
I’m not sure whether this societal divide is truly sustainable.
Or moral, for that matter.
We've reached the end of another episode.
I've had a lot of feedback about plastic and I've uncovered several other stories about it, so that will be the theme for next week.
Thank you for listening and thank you to my patrons. As I promised at the beginning here’s how you too can become a patron. You just need to hop across to  and sign up to support the Sustainable Futures Report for a dollar a month or more. This helps me cover the costs of hosting the podcast.
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And that's it for another week.
I'm Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report 

Bye for now.

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