Tag Archives: climate change

Green Energy Policy is Practical, Realistic and Popular

600px-Community_turbine_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1234697Far from being wishful thinking, Green Policy is realistic, rooted in evidence and developed to solve real problems that people face. Green Policy does not set out to secure further advantage for powerful elites.

Consider energy, Government policy is unsustainable, protecting the interests of the big energy and fossil fuel companies. As a result of this policy we have spiralling energy costs with one in five households suffering energy poverty. We are seeing the ‘big 6′ making massive profits, and we are reliant on imported fossil fuels that are accelerating global warming. Their policy is to frack the very foundations of these islands to squeeze out the last drops of oil, gas and private profit, making us more reliant on polluting, climate threatening expensive fuels. This is the policy that ConDem and Labour call ‘realistic’.

Greens think differently. For us, access to affordable energy is an essential part of well-being. We will be introducing a new energy policy at the Autumn Conference in Aston. The cornerstone of our policy is to cut waste and make a rapid switch to renewable energy. Our aim is to deliver the energy that people need at a price that they can afford.

An important part of the drive to affordable energy is to foster community owned generating systems, designed to tap into renewable energy sources to meet local needs. Unrealistic? No not at all, this is happening right here in Derbyshire. 4Winds Energy Cooperative has been awarded planning permission by Chesterfield Council to build a wind turbine at Duckmanton. Most of the necessary investment has been raised locally, through a modestly priced share offer, enabling people to invest in their local energy infrastructure, keeping money in the local economy. This is the model of investment used in Germany where the growth of renewable energy has been much more rapid than here, through a much greater level of local engagement minimising opposition.

Central Government has failed to encourage the growth of renewable energy, in marked contrast to its support for fracking and nuclear power. Powerful pro-fossil interests have manipulated policy and also public opinion. The popular press have maintained a ridiculous campaign of opposition to both wind and solar power, leading to planning applications for renewable schemes being refused.

This has happened too often in Derbyshire. This summer Derbyshire Green Party became involved in an appeal against a refusal by Derbyshire Dales District Council for a modest wind turbine on a farm near to Ashbourne. Considering the application DGP looked at the wider context as well as the specific site, as we believe planning decisions must. We pointed out that the Government has a legally binding obligation to reduce carbon emissions and to do this, renewable schemes have to be encouraged. We said that Climate Change, driven by carbon emissions is a real and present danger, recognised by the Ministry of Defence that warns of Catastrophic Climate Shock in its 5th Strategic Trends report. We pointed out that this turbine would help to cut the farm’s reliance on imported diesel and cut its carbon footprint. Surplus electricity would to sold to the grid to help the financial viability of the farm at a time when incomes are under great pressure. We recognised that harvesting energy from wind and sun is a legitimate part of a farm business helping to maintain this vital sector in the rural economy.

We also challenged the claim that there is deep public hostility to renewable energy. An IPSOS-MORI poll in 2012 found that two thirds of people thought the impact of turbines on the landscape ‘acceptable’. A study carried out by Sheffield University for Sustainable Youlgrave found that over 60% of residents would not oppose reasonable turbines in view from their homes. The latest public survey by the Department of Energy and Climate Change found that 70% of the public support onshore wind, compared to 29% supporting fracking.

Despite all the propaganda from the fossil fuel interests, the public is supportive of renewable energy. What they do object to is huge developments by remote companies being dumped on their doorstep. This is why, in our energy policy, we say that local Councils need to have the power and resources to develop local energy plans, designed to match local needs with generation and to address energy efficiency. Councils need the resources to ensure that all homes, including the ‘hard to treat’ properties so often found in rural areas, are brought up to modern standards of energy efficiency. This is an investment in the housing stock that will lower energy demand. It will leave householders with more money in their pockets to spend in the local economy, it will cut the nations fuel import bill so helping the balance of payments. This is practical realistic policy.

Mike Shipley

The Carbon Bubble

In 2010, the Climate Change conference in Cancun adopted an agreement that carbon emissions should be limited so that the rise in global mean temperature should not exceed 2°C. In addition, it was recognised that this rise might need to be reduced to 1•5°C. Although the sceptics didn’t notice, that conference accepted the science of Climate Change. What it didn’t do was to understand the economic implications of restricting temperature rise. It’s not simply calculating the cost, Nicholas Stern did that, it’s around 2% of global GDP and rising. We now have to understand the grip carbon assets have on the global economy and find ways of loosening it.

serious_about_climate_change_splash_860x305If we are to limit temperature rise to 2°C, the Potsdam Institute has calculated that global carbon emissions in the period 2000 to 2050 will need to be limited to 884Gt CO². In the first eleven years of this century, thanks to the inaction of political, economic and business leaders, the world has emitted 321 GtCO², leaving a carbon budget of 565 GtCO² up to 2050. At present, despite the global recession, emissions are rising and the 2°C carbon budget will have been ‘spent’ by 2027. After then, we leave the 2° world and enter 3°+. At the last Climate Change conference in Durban in January, there was a behind the scenes acceptance that we will have to adapt to 3°C of warming, and probably more. That is not a comfortable prospect and millions of people will suffer as a consequence.

The reason why global leaders find it so difficult to implement the policies that will limit temperature rise to less than 2°C is not due to scepticism but because the global economic structure is built on unsustainable practices and resources, notably carbon based fuels. Limiting temperature rise to 2°C or less requires a switch to sustainable practice, and a switch away from fossil fuels. We know this, so why isn’t this happening?

A report called Unburnable Carbon, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative showed that the top 200 oil, coal, and gas companies have reserves that will emit 745 GtCO², these reserves represent their market value, and the market naturally assumes that these fuels will be burned. In addition, these companies continue to prospect aggressively, needing to replace reserves that underpin share price. Around 50% of the valuation of a fossil fuel company lies in its declared reserves. When Shell announced a 20% reduction in its reserves its market value fell by £3 billion in a week. Naturally, these companies try to secure new finds as a buffer to maintain their value, profits and dividends. In the oil and gas sector, this now means ‘unconventional’ sources like tar sands and shale gas. To finance these explorations, investors continue to pour money in to the carbon sector, assuming that this investment will yield burnable reserves that will secure a return on their investments.

Exactly how much carbon, and therefore warming potential, private companies have on their books is difficult to estimate because of confidentiality. Further, the private sector accounts for only about one third of global carbon stocks, add in state enterprises and total reserves would yield 2,795 gigatonnes. Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors has estimated that if all proven and probable oil and gas reserves are burned, CO² levels will rise beyond 700ppm, leading to 3.5°C to 5°C of warming. Add in the proven coal stocks and the planet becomes uninhabitable.

The problem lies not with science but with economics, and all the human failings that are associated with it. The world economic system is built on carbon. This is not simply our reliance on carbon fuels to drive economic activity; global assets are built on the value of fossil fuel companies. Between 20% and 30% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is based on fossil fuel. Fund managers invest heavily in fossil fuel companies, seeing them as a safe haven for investment with above average returns in the short term. The funds invested in fossil fuel assets include pensions, life assurance schemes, and personal savings plans. A majority of people in the western world have their future security tied to the fortunes of these carbon rich companies. We are indeed all in this together.

If we are to restrict the rise in average global temperature to less than 2°C, the rate of burning of fossil fuel will have to be restricted. Sequestration technology is not going to be ready in time. To achieve this target, only 20% of known reserves can be burned over the next 40 years, and this might have to be reduced further if feedback loops begin to kick in. That means that 80% of the assets of fossil fuel companies are un-burnable. None of the unproven and unconventional reserves that are now being prospected for at great expense can be burned. There can be no return on the investment in 80% of reserves and in all new prospecting. This is the carbon bubble. Depletion of fossil reserves isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that they can not be used if we are to save the planet from dangerous climate change. The wealth of some of the worlds biggest and most powerful companies, and therefore of stock exchanges, is based on an unusable asset. If these companies had to devalue their reserves by 80% the carbon bubble would burst – remember what happened to Shell with a mere 20% downgrade.

The heavy investment in carbon assets also explains the reluctance of governments to back renewable energy. Renewables coupled with efficiency measures can replace fossil fuels, and without nuclear power. 120px-EnergiaberriztagarriakWith a range of technologies like wave power waiting in the wings, existing technologies can more than cope with efficient demand. But if governments promoted these technologies, the value of carbon rich companies would decline. It isn’t just scepticism that stops the deployment of renewables, or that stops agreements to limit temperature rise, it’s vested interests and their control over the political process. We can suppose that those who profess scepticism, like many MP’s of the ruling Coalition, have heavy investments in carbon rich assets.

Denial of climate change is a smokescreen that hides the real denial that lies at the heart of global economics: the denial of long-term consequences. Economics does not think in the long term, profit today is the mantra, tomorrow is somebody else’s problem. Greens keep focusing on the scientific argument, refining their arguments with ever more facts, trying to convince the so-called sceptics with the sheer weight of the evidence. Apart from the lunatic fringe, most of these sceptics may well accept the science, however, they are not interested in science and statistics, what they are interested in is how they maintain their position of wealth and privilege in a warming world.

There are ways to break out of this carbon strangle hold. To do so we need:

 political action to require long-term accounting.
 investors to take the decision to begin the switch to low carbon assets.
 everyone who can afford it, to accept lower returns in order to secure the only long-term investment that matters: the future health of our planet and all who live on her.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King has responded to the concern expressed by Carbon Tracker and others and is considering whether over exposure to carbon assets represents a risk to market stability. A small step and it remains to be seen whether investors will similarly take note. However, a globalised economy needs international agreement to require climate change to be factored into market valuation. The markets will not do this until it is too late.

10356153_10152396653039522_7330862721074206686_nA strong political lead is required. We can help this process by being informed about the dangers of another asset bubble bursting, by being aware of our own exposure to this danger, and by demanding effective preventative action. We can also work to help the Greens promote a new, low carbon and sustainable economics.

Mike Shipley
First published 17/3/12

A Concerning Trade Deal: TTIP

By Jean Macdonald

Jean Macdonald

Jean Macdonald

I would like to raise an issue which should concern all parties in the European elections.

I have emailed all East Midlands candidates about trade deals which are giving more power to big business at the expense of people and the environment.

War on Want is asking voters to ask candidates to sign a pledge to say that, if elected as an MEP, they will stand up for trade and investment rules that serve people and the environment and take back power from the corporations.

The main concern is with Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which allow companies to sue governments. The tribunals take place behind closed doors.

According to the United Nations, in 2012, investor-state tribunals decided in favour of the investor in 70% of such disputes, ordering taxpayers to pay billions in compensation.

In the light of climate change, I am particularly concerned about the power that corporations have been given by ISDS to opt out of responsibility for damaging our environment.

For example, Chevron was ordered by an Ecuadorian court to pay $18 billion (US) to clean up contamination in the Amazon rainforest. Chevron is trying to avoid taking responsibility by using ISDS.

A Swedish energy firm is seeking $3.7 billion from Germany because the German government took a democratic decision to phase out nuclear energy and a US company is suing Canada for $250 million (US) after the country imposed a moratorium on fracking because of environmental concerns.

If the UK Government sets up deals with fracking companies, will the taxpayer have to compensate the companies if a future government decides to ban it?

If a future government, in the light of rising sea levels and increased flooding, decides not to go ahead with the proposed nuclear power station in Somerset, will the taxpayer end up having to compensate EDF and the Chinese investors?

The EU’s current negotiations with the US – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – will include ISDS.

At present, the UK Health and Social Care Act 2012 gives companies much greater access to the provision of NHS services.

If a future UK Government decided to change this, the ISDS clause would mean the Government could be at risk of being sued by the powerful US health industry. This would be disastrous for the people of the UK.

If we are to return power to the people and their elected representatives, MEPs must reclaim the power from big business and ensure that trade benefits people and the environment, and not just corporations and shareholders.

First published in the Derby Telegraph

 

Candidates – European elections 2014

Green Party Candidates for the East Midlands Region

Lead Candidate: Kat Boettge
Second on list: Sue Mallender
Third: Peter Allen
Fourth: Richard Mallender
Fifth: Simon Hales

For photos and brief biographies of the candidates see Elections page of this site.

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Fracking on Trial

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Speaking after the first day in court, Caroline said:

“We were moved by the support shown for us at Brighton Magistrates Court on Monday and I would like to thank everyone who wrote and tweeted in support. I am pleased that this has put the focus firmly on the dangers around Fracking.

To avoid catastrophic climate change we need a rapid shift to a zero carbon economy, matched with policies to keep the majority of known fossil fuels in the ground. The window for action is closing fast.”

Today, we are calling on the Prime Minister to redirect the billions of UK fossil fuel subsidies into flood relief and adequate flood protection.

Add your voice to Caroline’s and the other protesters by taking action today.  http://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=46629&qid=1556466

If you want to learn more about fracking and how you can help prevent runaway climate change each day we will share more ways you can take action here.  http://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=46638&qid=1556466

Getting the Fracking Facts Right

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACharlotte Farrell in the Hope Valley speaks about her concerns about Fracking.

Open Letter Against Fracking

Subject: Unconventional fossil fuels / Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive & other projects from the European Institutions

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Kat Boettge – Candidate for the European Elections

The Green Party is the only party opposing Fracking.  As some of you may know the European Commission is to announce non-binding guidance for the shale gas industry this Wednesday 23rd January, 2014. This is very bad news for our campaign against fracking.

In protest over the Commission’s stance and the lack of leadership on this issue from the EU in general, East Midlands Green Party and Derbyshire Green Party have signed an Open Letter along with some 290 civil society groups and NGOs who have outlined their concerns in a joint open letter to the EU institutions.

The letter states that many groups of concerned citizens and environmental organizations are against the development in Europe of unconventional fossil fuels (UFFs) and are concerned about the multiple and unavoidable impacts on the environment, on climate, on people’s health and on a number of fundamental freedoms and human rights.

It goes on to state the main reasons why we oppose this industry; one of which is that the extraction of these hydrocarbons will worsen our GHG footprint and will divert or even jeopardize European energy and climate objectives.

Instead of moving away from fossil fuel energy sources, developing more sources of renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency policies, this industry would lock us into another dirty fossil fuel cycle.  You can find the full version of the letter here.  

You can hear more of our concerns on The Sunday Politics show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esjNP_Acwi4&feature=youtube_gdata

Katharina Boettge – Green Party Candidate for the European Elections