Tag Archives: climate change

The Future must be Green in a Warming World

MikeIt is most heartening but not surprising that a growing number of young people are joining the Green Party. They have taken the brunt of the failed austerity economic package that was designed to force privatisation of state assets. The promise of advancement through education has been broken by the coalition government scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance and raising university fees. Many are forced to take low paid or zero hours contracts that leave them in debt, unable to enter the property market and unable to start developing a long term career. Had the Green New Deal, offered by the Greens in 2010 been implemented, none of this would have been necessary; we would now be investing in the future, not shoring up the vested interests of the past.

But this is not the only reason why more young people are turning to the Green Party. The little reported UN Climate Change Synthesis report spelled out yet again that we are running out of time to avoid dangerous climate change.

For many global leaders and financial managers, the warnings posted in this report are in a future that either they won’t see or from which they expect to be protected by their wealth. But for the young generation, this report is talking about their future, the time when they hope to build their careers, raise their own families, enjoy their own retirement. What it is telling them is that they will see a continued rise in temperature, a continued rise in sea level, an increase in violent and unpredictable weather that will threaten their property, their health and safety. They will have to face the prospects of a 3C rise in temperature by the end of the century, a time when they might hope that their children are securely settled in to career and family life. But security is something they will not have in the rapidly degrading world of three degrees of warming.

serious_about_climate_change_splash_860x305Because the needs of the present economic order are seen to be more important than the needs of our life support system and the future, politicians and economists are accepting that we may well have to overshoot the 2C mark, and accept 3C of warming. To keep below 2C, that is too high anyway, we have to leave 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground – this I have explained in earlier articles on this site. We have to start now to decarbonise the energy sector, we have to invest now to bring global carbon emission to zero by the end of the century, starting with the developed economies. But this strategy conflicts with the interests of wealth.

A 3C rise would be catastrophic. The Amazon rain forest would be lost with global implications for both climate and biodiversity. Sea levels would rise to 25 metres, based on the last time Earth’s temperature was 3 degrees above the 20th century average. Large areas of the planet would be uninhabitable, water scarcity would reduce food production considerably, billions would starve. The people of wealth would live in enclaves at high latitudes, guarded by private militias, like the medieval barons. This is the world being planned by the politicians and corporate bosses today. Small wonder young people are turning to the Green Party.

The next international climate meeting, COP21, will be in Paris at the end of 2015. This Conference is meant to agree a replacement to the largely failed Kyoto Treaty, to force deep and binding cuts to global emissions. Much of the talk will be about adaptation and tech-fixes, because the global corporations see huge profits in multinational tax-payer funded schemes to enable us to live with the effects of climate change. The UN Synthesis Report makes it very clear that without deep cuts to emissions, ‘ warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence).’

10356153_10152396653039522_7330862721074206686_n2015 is election year. The media led campaign will focus on divisive issues like migration and Europe, stirring up fear and hate among us. The Green manifesto is one of hope for a better future for all. We can all live sustainable lives in stable communities within the natural limits of the Earth. It will mean that some have to do with less so that most can have enough. But that is the Green idea of fairness. Our candidates and campaign teams will be bringing our message of Hope not Fear to the electorate. Join us and help us build the political momentum ahead of the Paris Summit, make it clear that this time we want an agreement that works for the Common Good.

http://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_SPM.pdf

Mike Shipley  November 2014

Your Money’s Better on your Roof than in the Bank!

John Youatt 6Three years ago, the cost of a solar electric panel (PV) array on a roof was about £4000 per kW installed. The feed in tariff was 45p per kW generated. The incomes paid off the capital cost within about 8 years. I know, because we installed 12 panels (3 kW) at the time and the returns have been better that predicted. Even better, with local publicity, there are now 10 installations in my small, national park village.

Some say the turning point was when the Daily Mail’s economics editor declared “your money’s better on your roof than in the bank”. Then there were scare stories and jealousy stories. Despite those teething troubles, the industry has now settled down, as demonstrated by the following article in the Solar Power portal:

“In the current talk of power shortages and lack of generating capacity, domestic solar photovoltaic, which could be readily implemented and is now cost-effective, has been overlooked. Prices are now close to the projected viable level of £1 per watt. A 4Kw solar PV domestic system can be bought for under £5,000 installed and can produce 4,000kWh a year with a 20-year guaranteed life. This gives a capital cost of £1,138 per kW, with an amortised annual cost of 5.7p per kWh, with no maintenance or distribution costs. If 10% of existing houses (2.8m) converted at 4kW, it would give 11.1TWh, with 11GW capacity, 12% of current UK capacity, equivalent to 3% of UK production, at an installed cost of some £12bn.”

“The annual value at the current domestic price of £0.15 a unit is £600pa. FIT tariff subsidies give a five-year pay-off. I write as a pensioner user with installed PV, which even at the old prices gives an 8% return guaranteed for 25 years, better than annuities or savings – and I am looking at how to fit in more capacity.” John Read, Clitheroe, Lancashire

The stunning point is that even at John Read’s cautious prediction of only 10% of roofs, solar electricity alone will fill the gaps left by the closures and accidents in the dirty fossil fuel and dangerous nuclear power plants. It can

31Oct sunflower 007• Be clean, secure and home grown.
• Create thousands of jobs in a very well regulated industry of panel makers, scaffolders, roofers and electricians.
• Add some income for hard pressed farmers, who like harvesting the sun’s energy. Harvesting is what they do.
• Spur the search for power storage, such as millions of electric car batteries, among many other storage methods
• Reduce transmission losses on the networks

So get installing
Check for the adverts in the press for your local established installer – beware the non-local companies who aren’t there to mend and maintain. The fault rate with local companies is very low.

John Youatt
Regional Co-ordinator (Derbyshire Dales area)

Post Carbon – where will the smart money go?

Fracking 9Last weekend, Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney made the most important political statement of the year. Speaking at a World Bank seminar in New York, Carney said: the “vast majority of reserves are un-burnable”. He was referring to fossil fuels, he was speaking to financiers and industrialists.

Carney is no liberal Green giant, he is a very conservative minded Canadian who encouraged the exploitation of his country’s tar sands, about the dirtiest fuel in the world. Yet he has had to swallow a dose of reality and accept the warnings of Nicolas Stern about the full impact of climate change on global finance. He has at last accepted the dangers of putting too many of our economic eggs into the oil basket.

In the spring of 2012, I wrote an article called ‘The Carbon Bubble’, published on the DGP website. [ http://derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk/2012/03/17/the-carbon-bubble/ ] That article showed that a huge amount of global wealth is invested in oil and gas reserves. If these reserves are burned, as they have to be to give a return on the investment, then global temperatures will rise to between 3.5 & 5.0 degrees C. If the wealth invested in coal is added in, then the planet becomes uninhabitable.

At that time investors continued to pour their wealth in to fossil reserves. We are still seeing that in the UK over fracking. The rich and powerful individuals and organisations making these investments fully expect a return. For them to stay rich, the world must fry.

This is the problem that financiers and politicians of all shades except Green have allowed to happen. If the carbon reserves are not burned, to keep temperature rise to below 2C, colossal amounts of private and corporate wealth will be lost, markets will crash, the Carbon Bubble bursts, unleashing a financial crisis that would dwarf that of 2008. If the reserves are burned to return the expected profit and wealth, then the cost of the resulting climate chaos will be far greater than the value of the reserves, the economy will be bankrupt.

Carney’s predecessor at the BoE, the ever cautious Mervyn King, recognised that the warnings about over investment in carbon assets by the Stock Exchange needed due consideration. The new Governor has indeed considered the matter and is issuing his quiet warnings to the market. Is it a coincidence that the markets have dipped this week? Is the move to divestment in coal, gas and oil really so altruistic? Are we seeing a steady retreat from carbon assets as the reality of climate change begins to penetrate the minds of corporate investors? If so this will create its own problems.

Where will the wealth go? If it is pulled out of oil and gas, it will be looking for a home. Is this the real reason for the drive for privatisation of public service. Not an ideologically driven policy at all, but a pragmatic response to the need to find a safe haven for private and corporate wealth. What could be a better long term investment than the supply of food, water and health? These are what everyone in the world needs on a daily basis, just like energy but on a far bigger scale. Hand all of this supply to the private sector and the potential market is huge and growing.

Greens oppose this commercialisation of the basic needs of people. For us, the supply of the essentials of life, food, water, energy, health and education, should be under public democratic control so access is not determined by personal wealth, but by need. Hand this supply over to the private sector then it will be driven by profit, not the needs of the consumers. Many will be priced out of the market in these services so that the rich and powerful can maintain their privileged positions.

Mike Shipley

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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