Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Green Double Whammy for George Osborne

George Osborne has made no secret of his environmental scepticism and claims that emissions targets and environmental measures could damage British industry. He’ll find it more difficult to maintain this position in the face of today’s call from the world's largest investors for more decisive action by governments on climate change.

The letter from global investor networks representing institutional investors responsible for over $22.5 trillion in assets calls for a new dialogue between investors and governments on climate policy.

They set out seven key tasks, including the need to favour low-carbon investment over high-carbon investment and to stop subsidising fossil fuels. This does not fit well with Osborne’s plan to redevelop Britain’s power stations with a new dash for gas!

The investors conclude that “governments are key in reducing the serious risks, losses and damage that climate change will cause, and the risks to the investments and retirement savings of millions of people. While we commend governments that have implemented supportive policy, much further work is needed to decarbonise economies and portfolios and to stimulate private investment in low-carbon solutions.”

At the same time, the influential Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is urging the Chancellor to “restore investor confidence” in the government’s energy policy with a clear decarbonisation target.

Joining the growing chorus of calls for a 2030 decarbonisation goal for the power sector in the forthcoming Energy Bill, Committee chair Joan Walley MP says:

“The government needs to reassure investors by setting a clear target in the Energy Bill to clean up the power sector by 2030. A second ‘dash for gas’ could lock the UK into a high-carbon energy system that leaves us vulnerable to rising gas prices.”

The Committee wants the Treasury to explain how new incentives for gas-powered energy generation can be compatible with the UK’s legally binding carbon reduction targets.

Walley also alludes to the much-reported rift between the Treasury and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

“The Treasury must end the uncertainty on energy policy and give investors and businesses the confidence to seize the enormous opportunities presented by new clean technologies,” she adds.

So what future for the “greenest government ever”?

And what future for us?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Scenario Sandy

Do you ever find that audiences react to long-term scenarios with either disbelief or total resignation that they can do nothing about it? Maybe super-storm Sandy will at least act as a case-study and show people how disruption to things we take for granted can have far-reaching consequences.

New Yorkers have found that once the power goes off they can only stay in touch with the world for only as long as their mobile batteries work. That if they live on the 29th floor there’s no water because the pumps won’t work. That unless they have a gas hob there’s no hot water and no hot food. No way of washing and no way of escape except down multiple flights of stairs. Once at ground level there’s no petrol, either because the tankers can’t get through or because there’s no electricity to pump it. At the moment all seems to be calm, but if frustration spills over into civil unrest in the next 24 hours that’s cooked Obama’s presidential goose!

Isn’t it tempting to say “NOW do you believe me?” Unfortunately until people experience this sort of thing first hand many remain in denial. Even when we persuade them that unexpected things happen it’s difficult to make them realise that while they can’t stop these events they can usually take sensible precautions to mitigate the effects. Of course there doesn’t seem to be much of a lead from the top. I know we now have record stocks of salt around the country - (just as well – it was snowing the south yesterday) -  but if the power goes off there doesn’t seem to be any plan to cope with darkened traffic lights, closed supermarkets or silent petrol stations. Or maybe the plans are there but the government’s keeping them secret. If so, I hope they are better than the ones they had at the time of the 2000 fuel strike! If not – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Last time I made a presentation one of my delegates said, “You know, whenever I hear you talk I just want to go away and slit my wrists.”  It shouldn’t be like that. How do we get people to take a positive and pragmatic view of the future?