Friday, June 26, 2020

Outlook Sunny!


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Outlook Sunny!

Yes it's Friday again! It's Friday the 27th June, this is the Sustainable Futures Report, and I’m Anthony Day. Welcome, thank you for listening, and thank you for boosting listener numbers to record levels this month.

Dark Shadows

Whatever we do, whatever we suffer - pandemics, racism, urban terrorism - the climate is still in crisis and our environment continually abused. I don’t intend in any way to minimise people’s suffering from the COVID pandemic, from rights for centuries denied or from the random murders which took place in a Reading park last weekend. These all need our urgent attention but add to our ongoing challenges. 

This Week

Remembering last week’s warning from the IEA that we have but 6 months to head off the worst of the climate crisis, there’s worrying news of unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic and there’s serious river pollution in the UK. Whatever the need for urgent action we need continuous research and innovation, steadily building an infrastructure for a low-carbon future.  I bring you news of solar farms and energy storage, stories of the future of fossil fuels, news of ways of processing waste. And the advice and ideas for establishing a green recovery still keep pouring in, though not to universal approval. The Republicans have discovered that  Joe Biden is taking advice from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Green New Deal guru, and they don’t like it.

Remember, links to the sources of all the stories can be found on this blog.

We’ll start with a weather report.

Climate and Environment 

Arctic Heatwave

Last weekend a weather station in Verkhoyansk logged a temperature of 38℃. That was the highest temperature for the region since 1915, 38℃, but Verkhoyansk is in Siberia, north of the Arctic Circle. The whole of Siberia has experienced warmer weather this year, as much as 18°C above average maximum temperatures for June.. Scientists have been expecting increasing temperatures as a consequence of global heating, but increases of this magnitude were not expected before 2100. These warmer temperatures have brought wildfires to boreal forests and peatlands. These fires have continued to burn throughout the winter, but seem to be largely ignored like the massive oil spill up there that I told you about recently. As the trees and the peat burn they release CO2 and are no longer available as carbon sinks. More CO2 in the atmosphere brings warming and melts the Arctic ice. As increasingly more ice melts, less sunlight is reflected and more is absorbed by the darker ocean surface. This creates a vicious cycle whereby the temperature increases, resulting in further sea ice loss, and so on. Is this the tipping point that we have been warned of? The self-reinforcing cycle that we will be unable to stop? It puts into perspective last week’s warning from the International Energy Agency, that we have only six months to get things under control. Will governments take note and take action? Distinguished Economist Sir Nicholas Stern urged governments to act, predicting that the climate crisis could be solved at a cost of around 1% of global GDP, but significantly more for every year’s delay. But that was back  in 2006.

Closer to Home

Quite apart from saving the global climate, we don't seem too good at protecting our local environment. This story comes not from some distant failed state, but from the United Kingdom where the River Wye has been described as a deathtrap for wildlife and looking like pea soup. The river rises in central Wales and descends via Hereford until it joins the Severn estuary. It is bordered by dozens of free range chicken farms. The excrement from the chickens is washed by the rain into water courses until it finds its way into the river. This run-off is rich in phosphates which cause algal blooms which in turn suffocate the fish and damage native plants. This destroys the habitats of kingfishers and other birds and mammals which are live along the river. Apparently all this is legal, but maybe when we are released from European directives new British regulations will clean this up. We'll have to wait and see.

Green Recovery

More news, opinions and advice on how we sort out the climate crisis as we exit from lockdown. The UK government promises to reveal its plans next month. It has apparently already set up working parties, according to Lexology, an international legal news website. The groups will focus on five key themes, including “Green recovery: how to capture economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero carbon emissions”.

Each working group will contain approximately 20-25 participants, consisting of businesses, business representative groups, and prominent academics. Business Secretary, Alok Sharma chairs the “recovery roundtable” meetings, which began on 8 June 2020. Sharma has said, “These roundtables […] will undoubtedly lead to a cleaner, greener, more resilient economy which will create new jobs.”

Who’s Responsible?

Writing in, Tristan Kennedy  says, “Reversing the Climate Crisis Isn't On You. We Need to Change the Entire System.” He makes the point that 71 percent of all global carbon emissions come from just 100 companies. 

While we as individuals can cut our carbon footprint by driving less, avoiding single use plastic, changing our diets and simply buying less, this will have a negligible effect in the face of pollution from these enormous companies. It is only regulation by government that can make the change. Governments have been fully aware ever since the Rio Earth Summit back in 1992 that we are facing a crisis. But rather than legislate, they prefer to shift the burden of responsibility onto companies (which all too often can't see past their immediate bottom line), and onto us as individuals. The danger is that we will believe that we are responsible and that what we are doing is making a difference. Meanwhile these mega-polluters continue with business largely as usual.


The committee on climate change has written to the British government about the future of carbon pricing. After leaving the EU the country will no longer be part of the EU ETS carbon trading scheme and will therefore have to set up its own mechanism. The committee warns that the proposals currently put forward by the government will not allow it to achieve its net zero target by 2050.

Consumer Guilt

Consumer guilt is reinforced by The Environment Journal Online with the headline, “ Overconsumption must be addressed to solve climate crisis”. Like The they are quoting a new report in the journal nature communications. The authors say,

“For over half a century, worldwide growth in affluence has continuously increased resource use and pollutant emissions far more rapidly than these have been reduced through better technology. The affluent citizens of the world are responsible for most environmental impacts and are central to any future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions. … Any transition towards sustainability can only be effective if far-reaching lifestyle changes complement technological advancements. However, existing societies, economies and cultures incite consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change.”

“[Having identified] affluence as a driver [of overconsumption], the strongest pillar of the necessary transformation is to avoid or to reduce consumption until the remaining consumption level falls within planetary boundaries, while fulfilling human needs. Avoiding consumption means not consuming certain goods and services, from living space (overly large homes, secondary residences of the wealthy) to oversized vehicles, environmentally damaging and wasteful food, leisure patterns and work patterns involving driving and flying. This implies reducing expenditure and wealth along ‘sustainable consumption corridors’, i.e. minimum and maximum consumption standards. On the technological side, reducing the need for consumption can be facilitated by changes such as increasing lifespans of goods, telecommunication instead of physical travel, sharing and repairing instead of buying new, and house retrofitting”.

Cutting GDP

They do admit that achieving reductions in consumption will reduce GDP, with varying consequences from country to country. They explain how the current capitalist system is founded on consumer expectations and ambitions, leading them to consume to keep up with their peer groups, thus driving growth.


The authors present alternative solutions. Some writers propose policy changes,  including, among others, stringent eco-taxes or cap-and trade systems, directed investments in green industries and public institutions, wealth redistribution through taxation and a maximum income, a guaranteed basic income and/or reduced working hours. They believe this would work within a capitalist framework. 

More radical solutions are proposed by reformists, eco-socialists and eco-anarchists. They require policy changes as described above but focus on a specific de-growth strategy, with a major role for the state. (Not for the anarchists.)

It's an interesting article and well worth a read. It's freely available and there is a link on the blog. The question is whether this will actually stop over-consumption and whether it will be incorporated in government policy or even the policies of the UK’s Labour opposition. One of the authors, Julia Steinberger, has agreed to an interview. I’ll bring it to you next week.

Energy News


There’s always news on the energy front. The Shift Project, a French think tank, warns that the EU is likely to see an oil shortage by 2030. The volume produced by EU oil providers is expected to fall by 8% between 2019 and 2030. The production from Russia, from the former USSR countries and from Africa, which together supply 50% of the world’s oil, is also in decline. Even though there will still be millions of barrels of oil in the Earth, Peak Oil is now predicted for 2030, and supply will never reach that level again. As a result, countries which are slow to implement low carbon policies, notably the introduction of electric vehicles, are likely to be subject to wild price fluctuations.

Fossil Finance

Apparently fossil fuels are not all over for everyone and The Ecologist magazine complains that the British government has spent nearly £4 billion pounds of UK public funding on fossil fuel infrastructure in the global south in the years since the Paris Agreement was signed. The government has revealed that 90%  of the energy deals struck at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in January were in fossil fuels. Projects included fracking in Argentina and China, oil refineries in Bahrain, and power plants that run on heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel in Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Guinea and Mali. 

Don’t they know that global heating doesn’t respect national boundaries?

Says The Ecologist, “These investments are made in the interests of private profit rather than the public interest, enforcing fossil fuel dependency on global south economies and frustrating attempts to tackle fuel poverty via a just transition to renewable energy.”


Support for fracking in Argentina? It’s ironic that Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng let slip this week that fracking in the UK is effectively dead. Dead, after millions of pounds spent on policing the exploration sites to exclude protesters. Dead, after promises of millions of pounds to communities which would welcome fracking into their areas.


Looking at renewable energy, I spoke last week about a major new solar farm in Kent in south east England. More information on the project comes from Private Eye magazine. Their correspondent reveals that the developers of the site applied for a unit with over 50 MW capacity and it now appears that the final size will be 350MW. In addition, the development consent order gives them authority to deposit at sea … plastic, synthetics [and] marine coatings among other waste materials. How can this be permitted in the 21st-century? 


The other aspect of the development is energy storage. The developers have also received permission to install more than 50 MW of electricity storage. Should this turn out to be a 350MW unit it will be the biggest in the world. If this means a conventional battery the outlook is not good. Quite apart from whether it is appropriate to locate the storage alongside the generation, storage batteries in other parts of the world have suffered terrible fires, releasing what Private Eye describes as “ultra-toxic hydrogen fluoride.”

No Hot Air

But maybe they don't intend to use conventional batteries at all. I've recently come across High View Power and you’ll find a link to their website on the blog. High View Power uses air to store energy from surplus and off-peak electricity. It uses the electricity to run a refrigeration plant which reduces the temperature of the air to the point that it liquefies and stores it in that state. When power is needed liquid air is returned to ambient temperature and as it gasifies it releases energy to drive a conventional turbine which drives a conventional generator. Sounds simple, and of course there are no harmful or environmentally damaging emissions of any kind on the site. No risk of fire or explosion either. No need for rare earth metals or other chemicals as part of the storage process. I'm not sure whether there is an installed base of these units, but the company has projects under construction across the world. Is liquid air the future?

Cooling the Charge - and a dead end!

Still on energy and batteries, I came across a report from the Faraday Institution for Science and Religion about research into methods of cooling the core of electric car batteries under charge. The holy grail of the electric car is a battery which can be charged very rapidly, but apparently the main problem is getting rid of excess heat during the rapid charging process, which otherwise will damage the battery. My first reaction to this story was that while electric vehicles make far more efficient use of energy than petrol and diesel vehicles do, how much energy is going to be wasted if electric cars have to discard excess heat as they recharge? I attempted to follow it up with the Faraday Institution. This organisation is a charity based in Cambridge which coordinates and supports battery research. The story was indeed to be found on their website. I clicked on the link only to be taken to The Times newspaper which was carrying the story behind a pay wall. I attempted to complain to the Faraday Institute about this, but there is no contact point of any kind on their website, so I can't bring you the truth of the story.

Driving on

And a final note on batteries. You can now get a kit to convert your VW Beetle to electric power.

Don’t Waste It!

Looking at other sources of energy, although some will hotly dispute whether this is renewable energy, the East Rockingham Waste to Energy plant at Perth, Western Australia, will process 300,000 tonnes of the city’s waste, leaving just 4% to be diverted to landfill. Waste goes in at one end, electricity comes out at the other. Along the way particulates are scrubbed out of the flue gases and can be used for road construction or similar.

By coincidence, this week I took a virtual tour of the Allerton Waste Recovery Plant in North Yorkshire. This has a lot of similarities with the plant in Perth, except that it has a vast waste treatment system on the front, long before anything gets into the furnace. Waste that comes into the plant has already had glass, paper, plastic bottles and metal containers removed by citizens who separate it for the kerbside recycling collection. Even so, some of these materials are still put in the landfill waste which is sent the plant. This waste is mechanically sorted and separated into cardboard, plastics, ferrous metals, aluminium, glass and rubble. All of this is sent for recycling. Organic materials go into an anaerobic digester and the digestive gas drives a generator which feeds electricity into the National Grid. Everything else goes into a furnace just like the one in Perth, raises steam and drives a turbine and generator also supplying the grid. The residue which is sent to landfill is 3% of the input. 

Incinerators have a bad name and are not popular with environmentalists, but the Allerton plant is much more than an incinerator. Emissions from the stack, by the way, are constantly monitored on site and minute by minute data is sent to the Environment Agency to ensure that the plant is operating cleanly at all times. 

Across the Pond

The Americans are preoccupied, as they will be for the next four or five months, with the coming presidential election. Forbes magazine says, “Biden’s Mask Of Moderation Has Finally Slipped”. What's all that about? Well it seems that the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is associated with left wing extremists. People like Bernie Sanders who wants to reform healthcare and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, outspoken supporter of the Green New Deal. According to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation, even the most stripped down version of this plan could increase household electricity expenses by 14%, eliminate more than 1.4 million jobs and yield an aggregate GDP loss of $3.9 trillion by 2040. To meet the proposal's goal of 100% renewable power would cost more than $5 trillion.

The Heritage Foundation is a rightwing conservative think thank associated with the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It is closely aligned with the Trump administration. In advertising a webinar entitled “Freedom or Equality: The Key to Prosperity Through Social Capitalism” it explains that “Socialism, unnecessary interventionism, and other choices promise equal outcomes but inevitably fail.”

Others may disagree with its analysis of the Green New Deal.

And Finally…

This week Zeroavia made a 20-minute test flight in an electric-powered Piper M-350 aircraft. Energy came not from batteries but from a hydrogen fuel cell. Interesting development. The question must be, which has the higher energy density, batteries or hydrogen? Let’s see how this develops.

And that's it…

…for another week. I’m Anthony Day and that was the Sustainable Futures Report. I'm off to enjoy this amazing sunshine - which is probably damaging the planet - and to think about what I'm going to bring you next week. I've already decided that I'm going to take August off but there are at least five more episodes between now and then.

Thank you for listening, thank you for getting in touch with ideas and suggestions. I haven’t forgotten, Stephan Gill. I am going to get back to you with a detailed response. 

And if the rest of you like the Sustainable Futures Report please spread the word and I hope together we can help to change the world in some small way. Mind you, we need a really big change so don't give up. 

I’m Anthony Day.

Have a great week.

Bye for now.



Climate and Environment

‘It's like pea soup’: poultry farms turn Wye into wildlife death trap

Sorting the Climate Crisis

Climate Change Committee

71% of all emissions come from 100 companies. Governments must act - not individuals.

Energy and Storage


Europe could face oil shortage in a decade, study warns

UK funding fossil fuels 

Fracking over


Faraday Institute

See Private Eye re Kent solar farm and storage

Electric Beetle

Waste to Energy


Across the Pond

And Finally… 

Friday, June 19, 2020

No Going Back


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No Going Back

Hello. I’m Anthony Day and this is the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 19th June. Today's theme is No Going Back. 

I've read so many articles recently saying that there is no going back to business as usual and more are pouring in every day. “Green Recovery” and “Build Back Better” are rapidly becoming clichés as people want to use the exit from lockdown as an opportunity for change. There are calls to do things differently from charities, pension funds, scientists, political parties, the Ecologist, XR and The Climate Coalition, among many others. Will you be lobbying your MP about it on 30th June, and will climate campaigns survive the pandemic or is this a dress rehearsal for the climate crisis? In some places traffic levels are already climbing beyond what they were before the virus, so are we already too late? The IEA gives us 6 months to get things under control and in other news BP takes a hit, sustainable coffee takes a new tack and Unilever takes aim to reduce its impact.

Let’s start with a quotation from economist John Maynard Keynes.

"The idea of the future being different from the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behaviour that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice.”

J M Keynes

It’s bit deep, so I’ll read it again.

I think it’s particularly true if you change it to read, “The idea of the future being worse than the present…” although if you promise that the future will be just as good or even better than the present there is still much resistance to change.

Fire Drill

Writing for The Guardian, Fiona Harvey quoted the UN’s sustainable business chief. 

“The coronavirus pandemic is “just a fire drill” for what is likely to follow from the climate crisis, and the protests over racial injustice around the world show the need to tie together social equality, environmental sustainability and health.

“The overall problem is that we are not sustainable in the ways we are living and producing on the planet today,” said Lise Kingo, the executive director of the UN Global Compact, under which businesses sign up to principles of environmental protection and social justice. “The only way forward is to create a world that leaves no one behind.”

She said there were “very, very clear connections” between the Covid-19 and climate crises, and the Black Lives Matter protests around the world, which she said had helped to reveal deep-seated inequalities and “endemic and structural racism”.

Pandemic is a Portal

In an article in FT called “The Pandemic Is a Portal” novelist Arundhati Roy says,

“Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality’, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.” —

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Commenting on this, Ted Franklin of says, “Capitalist economics vacillates between apologetics, obscurantist mathematical fantasies and nostrums that advance the interests of the power elite while purporting to serve the common good. None of this will meet the challenge of rebuilding an economy that works for common folk, let alone one that can save us from looming ecological collapse — the catastrophe that awaits on the other side of Arundhati Roy’s portal.”

And he warns that some expect the pandemic to persist for at least three years, and that’s the best-case scenario. Talk of a v-shaped recession is hopelessly optimistic.

Come back Lenin

Andreas Malm is associate senior lecturer in human ecology at Lund University. In an interview for he says, “To Halt Climate Change, We Need an Ecological Leninism” which he describes as drastic state intervention. Echoing Arundhati Roy’s comment about the virus making the mighty kneel, he says there is 

“…one major difference [between the virus and the climate crisis]: the anomaly that COVID-19 also hit the rich at an early stage, with capitalists, celebrities, and political leaders falling ill, people who have no vulnerability to the climate crisis at this stage. Unlike the impact of global warming, the transmission of coronaviruses follows aviation lines and, to put it simply, rich people fly more than poor people. While the pandemic was spread by other channels upon arrival in different countries, aviation provided the primary entry point for the virus, giving rise to the paradox that rich people were among the first to contract the virus. In Brazil, for example, it was the affluent section of society who introduced the virus, but now it is ordinary working-class people who are dying in droves. This has simply not been the case with climate change disasters, and it is one of the key factors that explains the strikingly different reaction on the part of governments.”

Will climate action survive?

Mark Cliffe, writing in Think Economic and Financial Analysis from ING Bank, asks “Will climate action survive COVID-19?” He believes that any green recovery will only succeed if it respects the concerns of the people, principally jobs. The pandemic has reinforced respect for scientists and made it clear that there are serious penalties for delays to taking action. It has demonstrated that many people are willing to make sacrifices but many are facing unemployment and bankruptcy. 

Turning Away

There are undoubted pressures for a return to business as usual and as quickly as possible. The United States seems to have turned its face against a green recovery and has even lowered the fuel efficiency requirements for vehicles. China has delayed the introduction of its own vehicle emissions standards. The collapse of the oil price which currently stands around $38 a barrel compared with $60 at the start of the year puts pressure on the competitiveness of renewable energy. The need for social distancing is forcing many people to take the car instead of public transport. Nevertheless, maybe governments can take drastic action as Andreas Malm suggests. Governments have taken drastic action during the pandemic and may be trusted to take more drastic action to ease the exit from lockdown. The level of trust will of course vary across the world.

And the occurrence of storms, fires or floods would help to remind people of the seriousness of the climate crisis and reinforce support.

What’s the Solution?

Universal Basic Income

Writing in The Conversation, D.T. Cochrane of York University in Canada says we need immediate implementation of a universal basic income (UBI) combined with a job guarantee. I'm not sure about the job guarantee but I fully support the idea of a universal basic income. As he says, a basic income supports financially precarious people with the money they need and keeps money flowing through the financial system. He calls on governments to protect people this time rather than institutions as they did after the financial crisis.


There are two common objections to a universal basic income. Some say that it destroys the incentive to work and others say that they don't need it so it should only go to those that do. If we look upon UBI as a social dividend, a share in the wealth created by the nation as a whole, then surely everyone should share in it equally. If everybody is entitled to a universal basic income then it is far simpler to administer. And when I say everyone, that means children as well, although possibly at a lower rate. A basic income will make far more difference to people at low income levels than to the well-off, and the tax system can be adjusted so that higher earners pay it back.


Is it a disincentive to work? Only to those who have low aspirations and are content to live on a basic minimum. In the UK at present, anyone on benefits will lose all or part of those benefits if they get work. It’s been calculated that that’s equivalent to an 82% tax rate, far more than the rich have to pay. That’s a disincentive to work. If claimants get a short term contract at a level which stops all their benefits the risk is that at the end of the contract it could take some time to get the benefits reinstated so they could face several weeks without any income at all. That must be a disincentive to work. If they can take a job, even a full time job, and know that they will not lose any of their UBI then they are more likely to work. They will have more money, and more spending power to support other parts of the economy.

If we are to have a green recovery or any sort of recovery after this pandemic it needs to be on a firm foundation and I believe that UBI is an essential element to the stability of that foundation. For more on this read “Basic Income: And how we can make it happen,” by Professor Guy Standing of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Green Jobs

Greenpeace is petitioning the government to establish green jobs as part of the recovery. If you want to sign their petition you'll find the link on the blog.

Call to Action

This week the Climate Coalition sent a letter to the Prime Minister countersigned by 59 charitable organisations ranging from the Women’s Institute and the Soil Association to Oxfam, Islamic Relief UK and Surfers Against Sewage. The letter enclosed a ‘Plan for a Green, Fair and Healthy Recovery’, and set out seven priority areas for action. Briefly these include:

  • Create over 100,000 clean energy jobs in the areas of greatest need.
  • Set up a Climate Infrastructure Bank, increase financial powers for local authorities and develop  a Climate Finance Plan.
  • Get us on track to net-zero and 1.5°C & ensure all bailouts for business are conditional on plans and action to do the same.
  • Prioritise investment in the transition to a UK land use and farming system that delivers for nature, climate and human health​ 
  • Align all UK public finance abroad with a just energy transition​, ending fossil fuel finance.
  • support debt relief to enable developing countries to tackle both the COVID-19 and climate crises.
  • Engage with the international community to halt and rapidly reverse the decline of biodiversity and nature globally.

This is an abbreviated summary. Links to the letter and to the recovery plan are on the blog. The letter requests an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister. I’ll let you know how that goes if it happens.

Action This Day

Whatever happens, it needs to be done quickly and it needs detailed planning. It’s essential to get it right. Let’s hope the government and other governments across the world will assemble the right expertise to make it happen.

Christine Allen, director at aid agency Cafod, said: "Ministers have said a lot about drawing up recovery plans which recognise that helping the economy means creating green jobs and investing in measures to protect our common home. Now we need the Prime Minister to turn words into actions.”

Firstly though, I think we need some specific plans.


Jonny Barstow in Energy Live says that the government should help establish pension ‘superfunds’ to invest in the  UK’s green recovery. That’s the suggestion from think tank The Social Market Foundation, which says merged pension funds would be the ideal financier of building new roads, power sources and communications networks. The taxpayer would take much of the risk and the pension funds would have a solid long-term investment matching their preferred risk profile. I’m not clear how this differs from the government borrowing to spend on building infrastructure. Given that governments can currently borrow at extremely low rates - 1% or less which is vastly less than you or I will have to pay for an overdraft, mortgage or credit card - let’s do it. But at all costs let’s avoid the PFI (Private Finance Initiative), which left schools and hospitals paying the costs of new buildings several times over.


A recent article in the journal Nature Climate Change examines the temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement. The team, led by Corinne Le Quéré of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, reports that “…Daily global CO2 emissions decreased by –17% by early April 2020 compared with the mean 2019 levels, just under half from changes in surface transport. At their peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by –26% on average. The impact on 2020 annual emissions depends on the duration of the confinement, and could be between –4% and –7%. 

The estimated decrease in daily fossil CO2 emissions from the severe and forced confinement of world populations are extreme and probably unseen before. Still, these only correspond to the level of emissions in 2006. The associated annual decrease will be much lower, which is comparable to the rates of decrease needed year-on-year over the next decades to limit climate change to a 1.5 °C warming. 

The authors warn that several drivers push towards a rebound with an even higher emission trajectory compared with the policy-induced trajectories before the COVID-19 pandemic, which include calls by some governments and industry to delay Green New Deal programmes and to weaken vehicle emission standards, and the disruption of clean energy deployment and research from supply issues. The extent to which world leaders consider the net-zero emissions targets and the imperatives of climate change when planning their economic responses to COVID-19 is likely to influence the pathway of CO2 emissions for decades to come.

Traffic Jams

Reports from the RAC, the BBC, Autoweek and others indicate that traffic levels are not only likely to reach pre-COVID levels as we leave lockdown, but to exceed them. On the one hand the problems with social distancing and reduced capacity on public transport make it much more attractive to travel by car. On the other hand a lot of organisations have found that the productivity of people working from home is as good as or better than if they were coming into the office. Commuters have said that they have been glad to give up the commute. Will we really all go back to travelling in to some remote office to do things that we've proved we can do at home?


Bright Green reports that the 31st European Green Party Council: Securing a Green Recovery from COVID-19 took place last week. The Restart Panel discussed the options for a sustainable recovery. All were in favour of a sustainable recovery but the Green Party Council is of course is an influencer, not a decision-making body. reports that some of the UK’s leading nature conservation charities have produced a blueprint for how plans for up to a million new homes can include nature to create happier and healthier communities for people and wildlife. The idea is to put these houses in what is known as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, and conservationists are asking the Government to look at this as the perfect opportunity to invest in nature, improve people’s lives and realise the green recovery by building the new nature friendly towns and communities everyone wants to see. In other reports there is criticism of plans to build new communities on the edge of existing towns. These will not be big enough to support shops, schools or any community infrastructure, so residents will have to do everything by car. Hopefully this will not be the situation in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

I mentioned the Climate Coalition and they are setting up a virtual lobby of members of Parliament for the 30th of June. The plan is for people to request their MPs for an online meeting to urge the adoption of green policies as part of the recovery. If you want to take part you'll find the link on the blog.


There's always news on energy, and  reports that green energy firms have been found to be more profitable. This is according to new research from the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. They urge the government to introduce policies to drive low-carbon technologies in emissions-intensive sectors, such as transport and steel. The government should also support financing costs for green investments and encourage investment in new technologies along the supply chain to ensure decarbonisation is economically viable. Mandatory labelling to identify the emissions impact of a product or service is also recommended.

News Just In…

There's a special report just out from the International Energy Agency. They say,

Since the scale of the economic crisis began to emerge, the IEA has been leading the calls for governments to make the recovery as sustainable and resilient as possible. This means immediately addressing the core issues of global recession and soaring unemployment – and doing so in a way that also takes into account the key challenge of building cleaner and more secure energy systems.

As they design economic recovery plans, policy makers are having to make enormously consequential decisions in a very short space of time. These decisions will shape economic and energy infrastructure for decades to come and will almost certainly determine whether the world has a chance of meeting its long-term energy and climate goals. 

The IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan – as set out in this report – shows governments have a unique opportunity today to boost economic growth, create millions of new jobs and put global greenhouse gas emissions into structural decline. This work was done in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund.

They continue:

The biggest global economic shock in peacetime since the 1930s is having a severe impact on employment and investment across all sectors, including energy.

In response to calls from governments around the world, the IEA has produced a Sustainable Recovery Plan for actions that can be taken over the next three years.

Based on rigorous analysis conducted in co‑operation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Sustainable Recovery Plan has three main goals: boosting economic growth, creating jobs and building more resilient and cleaner energy systems.

Governments are set to make major decisions that will affect huge amounts of investment and shape infrastructure and industries for decades to come. 

Our Sustainable Recovery Plan shows it is possible to simultaneously spur economic growth, create millions of jobs and put emissions into structural decline.

A link to the full report is on the blog.

Listen Up!

All in all, the calls for a green recovery are becoming pretty deafening. Will governments rise to the challenge?

And in Other News…


BP announces that it will slash up to $17.5bn (£14bn) from the value of its oil and gas assets, and may be forced to leave new fossil fuel discoveries in the ground, after its own forecasts found the Covid-19 pandemic may affect the world’s oil demand for the next 30 years. And the accelerating move towards electrifying the transport fleet may have some effect on that as well.


Sustainable coffee can now arrive by sustainable transport. Yallah Coffee, based in Falmouth, Cornwall in the southwest of England, received a shipment of coffee beans delivered by sailing boat from Colombia. The carbon footprint of the shipment is far lower than by container ship or aeroplane and Yarrah have held prices comparable to coffee shipped by those more usual means. Shipping by sailing boat takes longer and is only possible when the weather permits, but Yarrah Coffee is coping with this by holding larger stocks.


Finally, Unilever has announced that it will spend €1 billion to help reduce the impact of climate change throughout its production and distribution processes.

Working alongside farmers, governments and organisations in the next decade, the climate and nature fund aims to restore forests, soil and biodiversity, with likely projects including reforestation, wildlife protection and water preservation.

The company has also committed to achieving net zero emission by 2039 – more than a decade ahead of the 2050 Paris Agreement deadline – as well as a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023.

And that’s it…

…for another week. Thank you for listening to the Sustainable Futures Report and thanks to my patrons for supporting the production of this podcast. Unlike many podcasts the Sustainable Futures Report is not monetised through advertising, sponsorship or subsidy. I do get support through Patreon, however, which covers the costs of hosting, transcribing interviews and the occasional purchase of research papers. This comes from a select band of patrons who contribute anything from $1 per month. You, too,  can join that number and all you need to do is visit . I'm also very grateful to the people who get in touch with ideas and information which helps me develop the content for each episode. Please do contact me to share your ideas about future and past episodes. There's no point in doing this if it isn't what you want to hear. Contact me at

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

I’m Anthony Day.

I'm already stacking up stories for next week, so I'll be back then.

Bye for now!  


Green Recovery

Climate Angle



Greenpeace Petition

Climate Action Letter




Traffic after lockdown 

London congestion charge increased

News Just In 

In Other News

BP expects to take $17.5bn hit due to coronavirus writedown

Coffee for sail: wind of change in sustainable shipping