Friday, October 27, 2017

Time for T in London?

Hello this is Anthony Day and this is the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 27th November.
In London it could be time for T, or you could be better off on a bike. Yvonne Teo tells us about her sustainable adventures on a bike. Have you checked your carbon footprint? Best foot forward!
Guilty as Charged?
Transport for London has announced a supplement to the congestion charge - the T-Charge. They say, “Older vehicles driving in central London now need to meet minimum Euro emission standards or pay an extra daily charge. This is in addition to the Congestion Charge. The T-Charge (officially known as the Emissions Surcharge) operates in the Congestion Charge zone and is part of our commitment to help clean up London's dangerously polluted air.”
It’s official then, London’s air is dangerously polluted. The T-charge is £10 per day in addition to the £11.50 congestion charge. My car is 12 years old (last Wednesday) so I checked whether I was liable to pay. No, I have to pay the congestion charge, but not the T-charge. So that’s me feeling smug because I drive a Toyota Prius Hybrid. But then I never drive it in London.
Ultra Low Emission Vehicles and electric vehicles get a 100% discount from both charges. Everyone else driving a private car has to pay.
Tread Gently!
I mentioned my carbon footprint the other day and told you it was 11.7 tonnes, not far off the average for industrialised nations but way ahead of the 7.1tonnes for the UK. How do I measure up?
The biggest element was flights. I took into account a trip to Australia, which adds up to 2.7 tonnes and brings me down to 9 tonnes straight away. I know - but we have family out there, and I do try to cut down elsewhere. At least I thought I did. The next highest item is 10,000 miles in the car at 2 tonnes - and this was calculated on my specific low-emissions hybrid. It surprised me and reinforces the point of Karl Coplan, Kim Nicholas and Seth Wynes that getting rid of the car is one of the most effective ways of reducing your carbon footprint. That would bring me back to 7 tonnes. Next highest is 1.8 tonnes calculated on how much money we spend on food. Not sure what the actual algorithm behind that is. Then comes energy used in the home at 1.2 tonnes. I based this on a guess, so there could be an improvement here. We have solar panels, so the amount of electricity from the grid that we use should be lower than average. Shouldn’t we get a credit for the amount we feed back?
Next is 0.9 of a tonne calculated on the amount of money I spend on the car, excluding fuel costs. I put in the cost of maintenance and repairs, but should I also put in the cost of buying the car - for example purchase price less current value divided by age of the car? I paid for the car in full on purchase, but many people just take out a personal lease, so the formula behind this calculation must be more accurate in some cases than in others. 
The other 3 tonnes are calculated on the basis of what I spend on clothes, papers and books, TV, phone and computers, hotels, restaurants and pubs, insurance and recreation, culture and sport. I’d really like to know more about what’s behind all that. 
What’s your carbon footprint?

On your Bike!
The cleanest journey is of course by bike. If you don’t count the carbon footprint of manufacturing the bike.
Earlier this year I met Yvonne Teo who explained to me how she was promoting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, how she was supporting the Marawi people in the Philippines and how she's been talking to young people and people in schools about their futures. She’s also been talking to people in the House of Commons, riding a bike from London to Edinburgh and she was scheduled to represent the UK at a recent conference in Poland. 
Here’s what she told me:

When you talk about BIKE, it makes me to think about something that is with two wheels which is called bicycle. And then the second is; ''Be Inspired, Keep Empowering'', which is something that I want to do in my life, so I want to inspire more people and I want to be empowering more young people especially to know about sustainable development goals and also to find their passion in their lives. So basically I'd like to introduce about project BIKE, which is; it is a project to raise funds for the Marawi community from the Philippines that erupted by the military and the local terrorist group on the 23rd of May. And then, this plan is to have the leader, which is me, to cycle from London to Edinburgh and also deliver 50 speeches in a year and also to help 20 children with education specifically and also to raise fund for the Marawi as well. 
Hi, my name is Yvonne; 
so I'm 22 and Malaysian. I have mild ADHD which I'm very proud of and I’m the regional director for ASEAN Youths Leaders Association. So, as you can see from this picture, the young kids are very, very happy and of course this place is rich in beautiful landscapes and nature. Wow, they have a very beautiful city that's called Philippines, which is where my heart belongs to. Philippines is a place where I'd say I start from zero to become a hero. Why am I saying zero, because I was a student with nothing and I wasn’t sure or I was really unsure about my life or what I want to be and also about discovering so called career. I’m not sure whether it's a career, but I’d say that's a passion in my life.
So, I was really lucky, I got into Asian Development Bank, which is one of the very big organisation delivering a project with my team called project Neverland and we're pretty lucky to get into the second place and then also this is some of the photos that I was interviewing one of the cleaner for some of the projects. And of course I was really lucky to be in some villages and I met the lady which is the one who carried me and she's really, really lovely. I was actually trying to cross the river by myself, but she insist and she’s actually the secretary from the village as well. And of course, because of Philippines that gave me just one simple chance and of course that conference was actually sponsored by my vice-Chancellor which is Dr. Paul Chan. He actually sponsored me to be in the Philippines, to be in that conference and I'm very grateful till now that changed my life completely. And of course I was granted by UNICEF for being the most initiative delegate in one of the conference which is called ''ASEAN Youth Initiative Conference'', if I'm not mistaken this last year and of course I was also really lucky to meet people like Dr. Amin and Tony Fernandez; the CEO of A-Asia and I also got the chance to be in the House of Commons to meet different kind of people, like-minded people to talk about sustainable development goal and also women empowerment.
And this is one of the recent photos when I was in Japan last May and as a representative of AILA partnership with Plan International and this lady is from Plan International UK, she's the CEO of it and also from one of the CEOs from Plan International Japan. And I also facilitated several sessions in the United Nations Bangkok with one of the conferences named Asia Pacific Youth Exchange. I've also being to India for some conferences as I was also on the news in China and I was also on like some other news and also in Indonesia and other places as well. So this is the map that showed that I’ve been to several countries in a year time to spread and to talk about sustainable development goal, because that's really an important thing that we and everyone should know especially young people.
The Maravi People
 On 23rd of May which was the day after Manchester attack which was really a sad tragedy, that day and I saw this and this. All of these were in the Philippines and it happens in the beautiful land that I care about. At that moment, I have two friends of mine who live in that community called Maravi, he told me that the situation in Maravi is really, really bad, but nobody is concerned about it. Maybe there are some, but I'd say it's not much as compared with the Manchester attack. So, what breaks my heart was, everyone is concerned about just one, but they also forgot about some other places like Iran also having the same situation on the same day. So, I wanted to tell people that we should also spread love, not only because you are same nation or you're just from one particular country. But we should also spread love throughout the world, so that’s why being a Malaysian who lives in the UK, but I still care about what’s happening around me which is the Philippines and of course in Iran too. So I had a thought; honestly I must exert myself in order to return as much as I've received. I honour and I know how much I received from the Philippines and I know that I have to return some day, so I told myself, why not now?
Cycling for Beginners
Being a Malaysian in the UK, in the Philippines, I told myself; let's do something and I was thinking what things that I should do; why not carry out a charity campaign. There goes the bike and I was like, yeah, cycle around the UK. It may sound fun because for me, a person who has no idea about cycling and I have zero, not really zero, but maybe 10% or 20% of experience with cycling because I don’t like to cycle as I had a bad memory as when I was cycling, I fell off from a bike and all. So, I told myself, okay let’s challenge this maybe in the daytime, I expect myself to just pedal 18-20 miles because I have no idea on adjusting the gears and I can't really balance on well and all. With 60 litres gear at the back of my bicycle, that was really heavy, but actually on the first day I did 50 miles, which I never expect that. And normally, I can do 38 miles, but minimum average is like 28 miles, so the longest could be 52 miles. 
The SDGs
Besides cycling, I've being SDG activists, I also concern about sustainable development goals and I slowly realise that SDG are not well known across the UK. And also being an SDG activists, I shouldn't only care about what’s happening or what I've carried before and also that I have to utilise what I have at the moment which is in the UK and doing something similar that I did, which is talk to the young kids or talk to anyone who cares about our future, everyone cares. So, I decided to talk about SDG; well it was really tough because going to the schools and to give speeches is not an easy procedure. So, how many calls do I make in a day? 20, 30, 50 and I got more than hundred rejections. It was really depressing at the beginning, but slowly when the teachers started to revert back to me saying that it would be really nice and I started to build up and especially when I successfully delivered a speech from the face of the kids and I realised that I’m doing something right. So, how about the funding? All the funding that we have collected is not to me, they are doing all on my basis. So, all the donations are through online and all these funding and the website was actually carried out by the US government of Alumni Association from Denver and AFS, which is ''international cultural programs also from the States. ASEAN Youth Leaders Association, part of my organization from Denver, YSALI; ''Young Service Asia Leadership Initiative'' and also Rotary club in the Denver.
So what's the outcome of this? 
So cycling, I cycled in different kind of routes, it would be motorway; A1 crazy main road and also like farm, field and there was one time I got into the field from Ripon all the way to Durham and it was 60% slope and I had no idea what’s happening down there. So, at the moment, after I pass through this way, what came into my mind was; do it or die. I have no choice, I have to do it or else I'll just die in the middle of the field, nobody except horses. When I got down, there were two horses waiting for me, chasing me. It was really fun trying to pedal and also lots of sheep, it's alright. I also cycled under the rain, I conquered one of the fear with myself that I hate cycling under the rain because I fell off when it was raining, so that’s why I stopped cycling. And of course I also passed through like parks and I met different kinds of people, like this is from Bedlington and it was really lovely to meet them too.
Back to School
Delivering speeches in the school, it was really, really, really the happiest moments in my life for all the speeches because you cannot imagine how smart, how lovely these young people are and they really care about the future, so I know I have a big mission that I have to deliver this message to them - and of course to spread love.
New Friends
This is James and Aileen, on the first day when I met them in Cambridge I was very depressing, because from cycling London to Cambridge and I stopped in Saffron Walden and I was really expleted and that’s why I sat in my tent in Saffron Walden which is 10 miles away from Cambridge. And it was 10 PM and I sighted these cars that passed my tent and they stopped. They did nothing and I was waiting in my tent and it was actually not really a spot that everyone can spot me, it was just like under a tree. So I was there, I just stayed in my tent and I was like oh shit, what's happening. Because it’s like the first camping experience that I had in my life, I never camped in my life, so that was my first, first, first time and my parents were actually really mad about it because they didn't expect their kid to be 10 PM out and camping in some other places. And then there was somebody at the time of 12 AM threw the water bottle and also the traffic cone to my tent when I was asleep and I was totally freaked out. It was really sad and it really shocked me and luckily my friends gave me a ring that time, so my phone rang and that's like the voice. So they thought it was the alarm and they just ran off and I heard them laughing and then I was really sad, but I tried to peek what was happening and I realised that it's all clear. I quickly packed everything and it was dark and dim and I just pedalled all the way to Cambridge. That was my first day, it was horrible. And I met them, they were really, really nice and they looked after me.
This is also the lady that I met on the first day as she gave me a place to clean myself up and of course I also met different kind of people in the camp site. This is the boss of the camp site in Fiskerton, his name is called Lass and he’s really nice that he also tried to look after me; he talks to my so-called English parents. I also met English parents throughout the journey and of course I also met really nice people because I was cycling all the way through the muddy areas, the muddy roads and it was like full of muds and it was really completely dirty. I met him because my tyre punctured, I met him in Cramlington and he and his family cleaned my bike up which is really, really nice.
The Right Road
Basically it's more like what’s happening throughout this bike ride and a deep reflection of this campaign is I know I’m doing something right and I’m not wasting my time first of all.
And second, the world is still beautiful because I remember at the very beginning when I was carrying out this charity bike ride, everybody told me that Yvonne, stop this, don't do it, the world is really dangerous and then slowly I still keep the faith in myself and I told them I'm still going to do this, I'm going to carry out this one and I continued cycling and cycling and I’m not listening to anybody, but listening to the voice of myself. So, the lesson that I learned is listen to your voice, just continue doing it and then I made it.
And then the third thing is, invest in young children. The young kids, the young teenagers they are the future because they are the ones who decides what’s going to happen in the future and I really believe that that’s the most important thing at all. And of course, we have to focus on sustainable development goal, that’s the most, most important thing. Climate change is real, education is strongly needed, every single one, if that’s a possibility. The health conscious: everything has to be constant. Thank you very much.

That was Yvonne Teo. Happy Cycling, Yvonne! - and thank you for talking to us.
You can find out more about Project Bike at and Yvonne is on Facebook.

I'm Anthony Day and this has been a special edition of the Sustainable Futures Report. There is a new episode of the report every week on Friday, so if you're reading the blog go to to find the podcast or if you're listening to the podcast go to to find the text. There is an archive of well over 200 editions so please feel free to browse.
For the moment this is Anthony Day and I'll have a fresh new episode for you next Friday.
Thanks again to Yvonne and bye for now.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Clean Growth Strategy

Keep it clean and keep growing

It's Friday! This is Anthony Day and here is another Sustainable Futures Report. Thanks and welcome to all my patrons. Welcome to listeners all over the world – a record number for last week’s episode. I must be doing something right. If I'm not, or if there is something I could do better, let me know at .
My objective with the Sustainable Futures Report is to bring you news about climate challenges and information about technical advances and plans and initiatives which can safeguard our planet while improving the quality of life for ourselves and for everybody else.
So what's new and sustainable this week?
This week the British government published its Clean Growth strategy. Australia updated its energy policy as well. Both will be controversial. One of the major oil companies has seen the light and finds it’s electric. Talking of seeing the light, a famous journalist seems to have had a Damascene conversion. Will the Daily Mail allow him to write for them ever again? Would you like a nuclear power station at the bottom of your street or would you prefer to rely on the tides? But there are more question marks over tidal power from Swansea Bay. Are the developers getting themselves in a hole? Electric cars seem to be coming to a bump in the road in Norway and in Canada there may be problems in the pipeline. How big is your carbon footprint? If you show me yours I’ll show you mine.

Clean Growth Strategy
Leading the way to a low carbon future
I’m often very negative about what governments do about developing a low emissions economy as opposed to what they say about it. After all, David Cameron initially promised the greenest government ever and only a few years later was talking about ‘that green crap'. George Osborne dismantled the differential road tax system which previously penalised cars with a high fuel consumption and high emissions. Now everyone pays the same in the UK, unless they are driving a pure electric vehicle.
Let’s hope that the climate growth strategy which the government published last week represents a true change of direction. They’ve printed a lot of the paragraphs in green ink, presumably to emphasise their commitment. But is there substance behind the show? 
There’s certainly a lot in this document. The executive summary alone runs to 15 pages. It talks about green finance, industrial efficiency, energy efficiency at home, low carbon transport, clean smart flexible power, efficient use of natural resources and the launch of an annual Green Great Britain Week. There are budgets and there are timescales and if the government commits to fulfil them they will certainly make a radical change for the better.
Some of the proposals could go further; some of them seem to be backtracking. For example, the plan is to develop world leading Green Finance capabilities, including setting up a Green Finance Taskforce. But didn’t we have a Green Investment Bank? The government changed its constitution so it didn’t have to concentrate on green investments and then sold it off to an Australian company. 
The government plans to demonstrate international leadership in carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), by collaborating with global partners and investing up to £100 million in leading edge CCUS and industrial innovation to drive down costs. When George Osborne was Chancellor he announced a £1bn fund for the development of CCS, and then withdrew it at short notice.
The government will support the recycling of heat produced in industrial processes, to reduce business energy bills and benefit local communities. Can’t argue with that.
The government will invest around £162 million of public funds in research and innovation in Energy, Resource and Process efficiency, including up to £20 million to encourage switching to lower carbon fuels. It will support innovative energy technologies and processes with £14 million of further investment through the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund.
Warmer Homes
“We want all fuel poor homes to be upgraded to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030”, says the report,  “and our aspiration is for as many homes as possible to be EPC Band C by 2035 where practical, cost-effective and affordable.” 
2035 is some way off, but the challenge of raising as many homes as possible to Band C is not inconsiderable. British homes are some of the worst-insulated in Europe, some of them are very old and until recently building regulations have accepted relatively low levels of insulation. Not only are many British houses old, but many of them are historic.  Data shows that uptake of energy-saving technologies such as UPVC windows, new boilers or cavity wall insulation is lower in areas where many properties are subject to preservation policies. Analysis has found that £3.8bn savings could have been made on energy bills between 2006 and 2013 had energy consumption dropped in these areas at the same rate as in other neighbourhoods.
“Preservation policies play an important role in protecting our historic buildings but our research shows that there is a trade-off,” said Grantham Research Institute associate professor and report co-author Dr Charles Palmer. “The results highlight that preservation policies have inadvertently hindered some households from cutting down their energy use and their bills.”
The government intends to consult on strengthening energy performance standards for new and existing homes under Building Regulations, including future-proofing new homes for low carbon heating systems. And of course all households will have the opportunity to have a smart meter to help them save energy by the end of 2020. 
The ill-fated Green Deal was intended to address many of these issues. The government will have to come up with something in its place. Something that works and something that is less complex and financially attractive to householders. It may have to be an obligation on private landlords. 
Transport Developments
There’s a clear commitment to radically change the transport fleet, and it’s already been announced that the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans will be ended by 2040. In addition the government will spend £1 billion supporting the take-up of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV), by helping consumers to overcome the upfront cost of an electric car and by developing one of the best electric vehicle charging networks in the world. There will be £50 million for the Plug-in Taxi programme, which gives taxi drivers up to £7,500 of the purchase price of a new ULEV taxi, and this is alongside £14 million to support 10 local areas to deliver dedicated charge points for taxis.  There will be £100 million for a national programme of support for retrofitting or purchasing new low emission buses in England and Wales. The greenest journeys involve no power assistance at all, so there will be £1.2 billion to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys.
There will be support for developing electric batteries and trials of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) platoons, where one driver controls three or four vehicles on trunk routes, which could deliver significant fuel and emissions savings.
The section on transport mentions the new third runway at Heathrow. It doesn’t really explain how increased emissions from increased air traffic will fit in with emissions reduction targets, beyond suggesting that sufficient savings will be made elsewhere.
There will be measures to deliver better environmental outcomes from agriculture, there will be a new network of forests in England and a target of zero avoidable waste by 2050.
The government will work with businesses and civil society to introduce a “Green Great Britain” week to promote clean growth, starting in 2018.
Clean Energy
According to the document, “the cost of onshore wind power has fallen by 50 per cent since 2009, but the cost of offshore wind is falling even faster. In the UK, government investment has helped to deliver a 50 per cent drop in costs over just the last two years.” However the accompanying graph shows that the cost of onshore wind is still significantly lower than both offshore wind and solar PV, and competitive with gas.
Nevertheless, remembering that government supporters oppose onshore wind there are no plans to ease restriction on its development. 
There’s a passing reference to tidal power in the paper, but while the Hinkley C nuclear station is mentioned by name, the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is not. Hinkley C is seen as a great opportunity, but I’m not convinced that a nuclear power station financed by the Chinese, already late, built by the French to an unproven design and contracted to supply electricity at twice the price of wind power is a sensible investment. 
Neighbourhood Nuclear
According to Private Eye, a satirical magazine with a reputation for far-reaching investigative journalism (issue 1454), the government has secret plans for neighbourhood nuclear power stations. Small Modular Reactors (SMR) are the sort of power plants found in nuclear submarines, and sailors live in close proximity to them for months without adverse effects. We have British expertise in the field. Rolls Royce is a major supplier. The units are largely built in a factory and delivered to site for final assembly and commissioning. There are no emissions in operation and there is a lot of waste heat from the process, which could be fed into a district heating system. Apparently the government has drawn up a list of potential sites in 50 cities around the UK. The list is secret, and it’s certainly not mentioned in the Clean Growth Strategy. Well, would you want a nuclear power station at the end of your road? Would you vote for the government that installed it?
Tidal Power
A decision on the tidal lagoon has been awaited for well over a year now. There are arguments about the true cost per megawatt hour of the power that the scheme will produce. It all turns on calculating the full working life of the project. There are also doubts about the construction itself. It will involve building a barrage out of millions of tons of stone. That stone will have to come from somewhere, and when it's been extracted there will be a very big hole left behind. The preferred quarry, currently disused,  appears to be in southwest Cornwall in an area of outstanding natural beauty and a site of special scientific interest. The material will be transported by sea - through a marine conservation area. If it all goes ahead, can we say that the power from the barrage will be really green?

All in all, I think the Clean Growth Strategy is to be welcomed. The key issue is whether this austerity-obsessed government will actually find the money to make it happen. One phrase I found in the report worried me: “Every action that we take to cut emissions must be done while ensuring our economy remains competitive.”

Australia in the Dark
Last September South Australia suffered serious power blackouts and this has led to the National government launching a new energy policy. First they commissioned Dr Finkel to review the energy sector, focusing on the sustainability of the current system, its environmental impacts, and affordability for consumers. Among other things he recommended a Clean Energy Target (CET) and demonstrated that a CET would lower power prices by subsidising investment in clean power generation, increasing the supply of electricity.
The government thought different (and who listens to experts anyway?) and has launched the National Energy Guarantee scheme. Under this plan energy companies must source a given percentage of their power from supplies which are available 24/7, which will include coal, gas, batteries and pumped hydro. In the short term at least, that’s a reprieve for coal. In the future there will be no subsidies for renewables and no obligation on energy companies to supply renewable energy. Even so, the government claims that the companies will develop sufficient renewable supplies to ensure that Australia meets its Paris Agreement emissions targets.
The government also claims that the scheme will reduce prices to consumers. Commentators suggest that this may only become significant in later years and will be negligible to start with.

News from Canada
Last week, Generation Energy, a two-day event, took place in Canada. I was able to listen live to part of the debate on line; a panel of provincial energy ministers. I was interested to learn that both Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador get 98% of their electricity from renewables and have enough to export to the US. I assume it’s hydropower.
I was already aware of the Canadian Tar Sands, and it seems it’s controversial over there as well as internationally. The ministers were defensive and emphasised the employment prospects and said that they were committed to responsible ways of extracting the oil and gas and transporting it safely. Jim Carr, the minister of natural resources in the Canadian cabinet, said that 99% of Canadian oil and gas exports went to the USA. He asked the audience whether they thought that was a good idea and nobody put a hand up. Apparently the plan is to develop alternative markets in Asia. This will require the development of pipelines and port facilities in the West. 
In the days after the conference, oil company Transcanada sparked controversy by announcing that it was abandoning plans for a pipeline to the East. The company did not specifically blame government regulations for the decision, but there is speculation that this was part of the reason, as well as difficulties in finding an acceptable route through indigenous tribal lands. 
Maybe with increasing pressures to replace oil with renewables and other fuels they were concerned that the pipeline would never repay the investment. Meanwhile development of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, part of a system delivering Canadian crude oil to Texan refineries in the US, is still uncertain. The scheme was blocked by the Obama administration, but Trump made a campaign promise to reverse that decision and did so in January. Now there is speculation that TransCanada will pull the plug on that one too, “for commercial reasons”. A decision is expected before the end of December.

Shell buys New Motion charging points
Another oil company, Shell, is clearly hedging its bets by buying a network of electric vehicle charging points. It has acquired The New Motion. According to Fleet Europe magazine, the company has been active since 2009, is an industry pioneer and operates more than 30,000 private electric charge points for homes and businesses in the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK. It also operates a network of more than 50,000 public charge points across 25 European countries, with more than 100,000 registered charge cards. Until today, the company was not profitable, with 2016 resulting in a 4 million euro loss over a turnover of 13 million euros, due to the important investments The New Motion made in expanding its network. But as more and more car manufacturers announce electric models and a range of 250 - 300 miles becomes the norm, the market for electric vehicles is beginning to grow. 
The UK and other countries have announced that they will not permit the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles after 2040. That is not going to change any immediate purchasing decisions, but Paris announced last week that only electric vehicles will be permitted to enter the city from 2030. The pressure to the phase out fossil fuels is gradually becoming more urgent.
Bumpy roads in Norway
In Norway the government has announced increased taxes on electric cars. Norway has the highest number of electric cars per head, partly because it has masses of hydro-electricity and partly because the government pays a subsidy on electric cars; not just on purchase but on every year of ownership. Now the plan is to put a tax on new electric cars weighing over two tonnes. This is similar to the tax on new internal combustion cars and the logic is that these heavier cars cause more wear and tear to the roads. It means that the big Tesla will cost an extra $12,000 and there will be an extra $3,500 on the electric Jaguar launching next year. The new compact Tesla will be exempt from the charge, and so will the Vauxhall/Opel Ampera.
Norway is a paradox. It is awash with clean green energy which it exports into other parts of Europe. At the same time it has huge oil and gas reserves in the North Sea. Now it is being taken to court by Greenpeace, claiming that its plans to start drilling for oil in the Arctic are not only environmentally reckless but illegal. Watch this space.
 Carbon Footprint
What’s your carbon footprint? I just checked mine on and it came out at 11.7 tonnes. Apparently the average for someone in an industrialised nation is 11 tonnes, but the average for the UK is only just over 7 tonnes. Even that is way, way above the sustainable level of about 2 tonnes. I’ll look into it in more detail in a future episode.

And finally…..
Peter Oborne is an outspoken journalist who for years has been a strident climate change denier. To everyone's surprise, probably including his own, he's changed his mind.
He’s reported as saying,
“I think I was rather too impressed by climate sceptics to begin with, “I’m in favour of scepticism, you see. But the evidence now is overwhelming. We have galloping climate change.
“I don’t accept the sceptical views that this is cyclical. This is an enormous issue and we have all been culpable. The right has been culpable for not treating this as a serious matter and I intend to start writing about it.”

Suddenly his views are diametrically opposed to those of the owner and the editor of the Daily Mail, the newspaper he most often writes for. If he writes about climate change I hope he finds an equally powerful publisher.

And that’s it…
And that is the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 20th October, brought to you despite a desperately slow internet connection today and a computer which refused to re-open this document after I’d completed 95% of it. Fortunately I have a rolling back-up, so would only have lost the last half-hour’s work if I hadn’t been able to change my computer’s mind. (I switched it off and on again.)
The Sustainable Futures Report is brought to you without advertising, sponsorship or subsidy, but if you’d like to show your support please go to and sign up for as little as $1 per month. That’s about 70p or something less than a euro, but it helps me pay my hosting and transcription costs.
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I’m Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
There will be another next week.
Have a good one until then!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Outlook Stormy

Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report 
I'm Anthony Day  and it's Friday the 13th of October. Lucky for some. Thank you for listening to another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. I haven't kept detailed track but this must be number 224 or thereabouts. Nearly all these episodes, certainly all the recent ones, appear on the blog so if you prefer to read rather than listen go to  and it's all there. I include as many links to my sources as possible so you can find out where I've got these stories from. And no, they don't all come from the Daily Mail. Hardly any.
A big welcome to all my patrons and my listeners in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and 100 or more other countries across the world.– Glad to have you along. And thanks for your ideas as well. PATRONS? Go to to learn more.
So what's new and sustainable?
This week it’s about Our Ocean and the Prince and the plastic bottles, billions of them. More about plastic straws, too. Could the wind be changing? Had you heard that the war is over? That’s the American war on coal. It seems the EPA is fighting a rearguard action. In Siberia they’re using wood - too much of it by all accounts. And they’d rather you went away. Probably a good idea in case you fall down a sinkhole. On the way down you’ll pass the methane - that highly potent greenhouse gas - coming up. 
What can we do about all this? Not a lot, but not nothing either. I’ll share some ideas. And talking of sharing, where’s your nearest community fridge? Community what? Community fridge. Listen up and learn more.
Our Ocean
Last week the EU staged the Our Ocean Conference in Malta. Once again we heard that the volume of plastic rubbish in the ocean was rapidly reaching the level where it would exceed the weight of the fish. 
“The EU seeks to set an example,” it said, “and send a strong message of encouragement to the rest of the world to step up and take action in the face of growing ocean challenges such as plastic pollution, protection of marine life, impact of climate change and criminal activities at sea.”
The commitments – amounting to over €550 million (£482m) – include:
more than €250 million (£219m) to fund marine and maritime research;
€37.5 million (£33m) to ensure maritime security and counter piracy along the south-eastern African coastline and in the Indian Ocean;
€23 million (£20m) of investment in marine environment monitoring under the EU's satellite monitoring programme (Copernicus) in 2017 and 2018;
€20 million (£17.5m) to support the management of marine protected areas in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries;
the launch of a prototype surveillance tool which detects ships to reveal the extent of human activities at sea;
draft measures to reduce the leakage of plastics into the environment by the end of 2017, as part of the EU's upcoming plastics strategy;
phasing-out by end 2017 all single-use plastic cups in water fountains and vending machines 
Enter the Prince
Prince Charles, who has long been an environmental campaigner, represented the UK. In his speech to the conference he said, “As many of you know so well, the eight million tonnes of plastic that enter the sea every year – through our own doing I might add – is now almost ubiquitous. For all the plastic that we have produced since the 1950's that has ended up in the ocean is still with us in one form or another, so that wherever you swim there are particles of plastic near you and we are very close to reaching the point when whatever wild-caught fish you eat will contain plastic. Plastic is indeed now on the menu!”
10 years ago Prince Charles hosted a climate change conference - Mayday 2007. It was held in real-time by video link across a dozen cities in the UK. I was there. There was enthusiasm and determination and a recognition that something had to be done. 10 years on, the prince must be as frustrated as I am as the science has revealed the seriousness of the situation but the issue of climate change has largely slipped away from public consciousness. In fact he went on in his speech this week to confess to mounting despair over how little has been achieved in his four decades of environmental campaigning, fearing we are “no longer a rational civilisation” but are driven by economic ideology.

He pointedly chose not to mention President Trump, who has denied climate change, but warned: “If the unprecedented ferocity of recent catastrophic hurricanes is not the supreme wake-up call that it needs to be, to address the vast and accumulating threat of climate change and ocean warming, then we – let alone the global insurance and financial sectors – can surely no longer consider ourselves part of a rational, sensible civilisation.”
It’s Ubiquitous!
One of the most common forms of plastic pollution is of course the Coca-Cola bottle. It’s estimated that the company produces 209,000 plastic bottles per minute, amounting to 110 billion last year. I’ll say that again. Coca-Cola produced 110 billion plastic bottles last year, but in 2016 just 7% of plastic bottles were eventually turned into new bottles. To some extent Coca-Cola blames the consumer for not recycling more. In the UK the recycling level is 58%, whereas in Germany and Denmark it reaches 90%. The company calls for a deposit scheme on plastic bottles. The government of Scotland - population 5.4m - has announced that it will introduce a scheme which will cover plastic bottles, glass bottles and aluminium cans. There are no plans, as far as I can tell, to do the same in England - population 54m. Ah well, as a well-known retailer says, “Every little helps.”
More Straws
While we’re on the subject of plastic pollution, here’s an update on straws 
I complained last week that Wetherspoons were giving all their customers straws whether they asked for them or not, adding to the global hoard of un-recycled plastic polluting the oceans, damaging wildlife and taking space in landfill. They must have heard me because the company has now announced that from January 2018, it’s banning single-use plastic straws from all 900 venues across the UK and Ireland, in a bid to help the environment.  Instead they will offer biodegradable paper straws. Must have cracked that supplier cost problem that my correspondent identified last week. 
 All Bar One, another chain of bars, has announced that they will be reducing the number of straws that they use, aiming to cut the total by one third. In their bars and restaurants they use 4.7 million of the things each year. And they too will provide eco-friendly biodegradable straws for those that insist that a cocktail just wouldn't be the same without one. Their campaign is #strawssuck, which says it all really. In the first three weeks of the campaign they cut the number of straws they sent to landfill by 91,000.
Will the wind change?
I read this week that IKEA has more wind turbines than stores. Lego has wind turbines too, and not just model ones either. It’s part of a corporate objective to become carbon-neutral. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any of these in the UK, at least not on land, because the Tory party decided its supporters didn’t like onshore wind farms and took steps to ban them immediately after it won the 2015 election. Now, though, opinion might be changing. In an article in Conservative Home, the party’s house magazine, MP Simon Clarke praises onshore wind and says, “As things stand Whitehall prevents local people from approving developments that could provide cheap, clean energy and much needed investment in less well-off areas. Surely local people should be able to decide if they want to take part in this revolution?” 
Will the government change its policy? Or will we change the government first? But that’s another story.
Game Over!
The war on coal is over. So says Scott Pruitt, Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This week he announced that he would repeal the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. This is in line with Donald Trump’s campaign promises and enacted by a man who shares the president’s climate scepticism. In the past Pruitt’s election campaigns have been supported by the fossil fuel industry and as a lawyer he was previously active in representing that industry against the EPA. Power generation in the United States accounts for one third of the nation’s emissions. Unsurprisingly environmentalists are protesting at this latest move and the attorneys general of New York and California as well as the Environmental Defence Fund and the National Resource Defence Council have indicated that they are considering legal action.
Quite apart from whether or not emissions from coal burning cause climate change, there can be no doubt that such emissions pollute the atmosphere and lead to poor air quality and the health problems. None of that was mentioned when Pruitt made his announcement in the heart of the coal-mining region. Despite the move, observers say that the decline in the coal industry will not be reversed as renewable energy rapidly develops. Nevertheless it will slow down the progress of the US towards its Paris Accord targets, although of course the president has said that he intends to abandon them.
I'm left wondering what it will take to make some politicians realise that the science predicts catastrophe if we carry on as we are.
News from the East
Have you been watching BBC2’s series on Russia with Simon Reeve? Quite concerning facts about the effects of climate change came out of his first episode. In the far east of Russia where nomadic tribes herd reindeer they find that the weather can become unseasonably warm and rain falls instead of snow. This rain then freezes into an ice sheet which locks in the lichen which the reindeer graze on in the winter. They can dig through snow but they cannot break through the ice, so many of them starve.
In Siberia, Reeve met a man who tracks the Siberian tiger and who told him that uncontrolled logging was threatening the tiger’s habitat and its survival. Apparently Russia is the world’s largest exporter of timber and widespread corruption means that much logging is unauthorised and unsustainable. This is all part of the Northern Boreal Forest mentioned in a previous episode. Do you remember? It was Greenpeace complaining about Velvet luxury toilet tissue being made from unsustainable timber from the Swedish part of the forest. Important, but pretty trivial by comparison.
Despite having all the correct permissions and paperwork, Simon Reeve and crew were repeatedly stopped and delayed by the local police and eventually bundled onto a train and out of the area. Something to hide? They still managed to visit the Batagaika Crater. This is in an area where the permafrost is beginning to melt and as a result buildings are starting to sink and collapse. The crater itself, more than a kilometre long and growing, is a mega-slump or sinkhole. As the permafrost melts the crater gets larger, and as the crater enlarges it releases methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. More greenhouse gas means more warming, more warming means more permafrost will melt, more melting permafrost means more methane released, and so on. Siberia may be a far off country of which we know little, but what is happening there every day is affecting the global climate, our climate, which supports our lives and provides the food we eat, every day. Avoiding climate breakdown is an urgent issue. More urgent even than Brexit. More urgent than saving jobs in American coal mines.
So what can we do? 
It’s the constant question. Well we could remind our politicians of the urgency of the issue. In particular, we could tell UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove that while it’s a good thing to ban the sale of ivory and take steps to stop elephant poaching, (Nice headlines, Michael,) it’s more important to urge countries like Russia to manage their forests sustainably, even by putting tariffs on their timber. To urge the US not to renege on the Paris accord and to recognise and support those US states that are committed to emissions reduction, regardless of the messages from Washington. Let’s support India where they’ve banned the sale of fireworks in Delhi, because the air pollution after last year’s Diwali was so severe that schools were closed for three days, people were advised to stay at home and all construction and demolition work was banned for five days due to the choking smog. 
We should tell our politicians to penalise cars that pollute, even making the dirtiest ones unaffordable. It’s important to phase out fossil fuels from transport and energy generation as quickly as possible. Of course the car industry like the coal industry will scream and trot out that constant claim that it will cost jobs. But what price jobs when your children can’t breathe? And are there no jobs in renewables? OK - let’s not be over-dramatic but let’s look at the evidence. 
In recent months the UK government has been prosecuted repeatedly by lawyers Client Earth for failing to address air pollution and for being in breach of EU regulations on clean air. Each time the government has lost, but each time it has treated the court with contempt and little has been done. Parts of London have exceeded their total annual allowances for certain pollutants before the end of January. In other cities it’s much the same. It’s a medical fact that young children exposed to pollutants and particulates will suffer lung damage which cannot be reversed.
So that's what we can do. We can remind our MPs and ministers, whose role it is to serve our best interests, that the situation is getting worse and it is their duty to do something about it.
And it’s not just air pollution. It’s sea-level rise, it’s violent and unusual weather; droughts and floods, it’s ocean acidification and species extinction and all the rest. 
When the alarm was given on the Titanic that the ship had hit an iceberg some people went back to their cabins confident that she was unsinkable. Remind you of anyone?
Others stayed on deck to find that there weren’t enough life-boats. ‘Nuff said.
More wildfires
At the moment there are wildfires in Northern California. Apparently this is unheard of at this time of year in that part of the world. They say the weather is changing. Or could that be the climate?

And finally…
Last week I mentioned Hubbub which describes itself as
“a charity that creates environmental campaigns with a difference.” 
The campaign I reported on was #Bringbackheavymetal, urging people to recycle some of the 178 million dead batteries which are lying around in the UK and contain valuable metals. (You did recycle yours, didn’t you?)
Anyway, another idea which they are promoting is the community fridge. Sadly more and more people in the UK are having to rely on food banks because of their personal circumstances. Food banks don't usually offer fresh food, because of the difficulty of storing it. Hubbub’s community fridge campaign lets people donate fresh food by providing a fridge in a community centre or similar location. Let's face it, we all waste food from time to time, and those of us with gardens can have more fruit and veg that we can cope with. Find a community fridge near you and give it away in the knowledge it will help somebody out.
You can find them on Facebook.
And that’s it…
And that’s it for another week. There are more ideas already on the way for next time, but if there’s something you’d like me to look into, or if there’s something you know about and you’d like to talk about, let me know on
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Thanks again for listening. Thanks particularly to my patrons.
This is Anthony Day. 
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Have a great week.

Until next time.