A Year is a Long Time in Environmental Politics

They say a week is a long time in politics. Well how about a year? This week sees the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP22 meeting in Marrakech. The world’s leading environmental organisations, global power brokers and, it must be said, the world’s most polluting corporates coming together again 12 months after every world leader and Head of State from 195 countries converged in Paris last December in a bid to tackle the planetary threats from climate change.

That gathering produced the monumental achievement where collectively they reached a politically, economically and environmentally acceptable accord to limit global temperature rises through decarbonisation. To date, 100 of those 195 countries have now formally joined up to what is known as the Paris Agreement.

Yes, a year is a long time in politics.

Since that historic Accord in Paris last December we’ve had the not insignificant political earthquake that is Brexit. A democratic decision yes, but one of such seismic proportions that six months on from the EU Referendum many ordinary citizens in the UK, let alone pretty much every world leader across the globe, are still struggling to come to terms with the result, let alone understand the complexities of the financial, economic and social ramifications of separation and divorce – many of which are yet to play out or be fully explained.

The value of Sterling is an early casualty that can be laid fairly and squarely at the door of Brexit. The plummeting pound may be good news for exporters, but UK consumers will doubtless feel a more painful pinch come 2017. New Year, new prices as our import-reliant economy passes on the pain.

Another fallout from Brexit of course, is that we now have a UK political scene that is vastly different to that which then Prime Minister David Cameron – who once pledged to lead the “greenest government ever” – presided over as UK signatory to the UN’s COP21 Paris Agreement.

The new British Prime Minister, Teresa May MP, has been all but virtually mute on the issue of climate change throughout her political career. Tentative hopes rose that maybe, just maybe she might be bold enough to out-green Cameron and do a U-turn on the Hinkley Point nuclear power development when one of her first decisions as PM was to call for an immediate review of the world’s most expensive infrastructure project.

Environmentalists, and we in the renewable energy industry held our breath. But no, this lady wasn’t for turning either. Thus, Hinkley Point and its Chinese investors and French energy developers EDF got the nod when parliament returned after the summer recess.

And now Mrs. May is in India, negotiating in secret a post-Brexit trade agreement with a manufacturing nation that, along with the world’s other leading exporter of cheap manufactured goods, China, is a country in significant industrialisation catch up mode.

As a direct result, the citizens of New Delhi are suffering the most choking levels of pollution recorded for decades. But the march of the makers goes on. Just not in the UK. Okay, Sunderland and bits of the West Midlands. But few places elsewhere.

Two of the world’s most rapidly escalating megoloposes, New Delhi and Shanghai are choking and blinding citizens with record-breaking levels of toxic carbon smog as industrialisation escalates and consumer demand for cheap stuff continues unabated.

At home, we, the world’s fifth largest economy, have a government semi-paralysed by post-Brexit aftershocks and which has just committed to what is likely to go down in history as the world’s most expensive mistake.

Commissioning Hinkley Point nuclear power station at a cost of £18billion, at current estimates, and a decade away from turning on the first lightbulb whilst a mature and capable UK renewable energy industry teeters untethered on the abyss is surely not its finest hour post Paris Accord.

But wait, the worst is yet to come.

This morning, UNFCCC delegates at COP22 in Marrakech awoke to the news that the largest superpower in the world is to be led by an inward-focused, unabashed climate change denier.

The people of the United States of America have elected Donald Trump as their President. A man who is arguably the world’s most strident climate change conspiracist.

A man who only this week affirmed he would “renegotiate” the Paris Climate Agreement if elected President.

A man who just two days before US polling day stated: “We’re going to put America first. That includes cancelling $billions in climate change spending for the United Nations.”

Yes, a year is a long time in politics.

Chancellor Needs to Budget for a Rainy Day

According to the BBC website, an item first broadcast on Radio 4 in 2012* about how many terms Brits had for rain brought forth a torrent of responses. Included among the 428 comments posted on Auntie’s website was an apparently authoritative assertion that the Welsh have 26 words (each listed) for rain. We are headquartered in Wales and can confirm it rains a lot, so are not in the slightest surprised by this. Dreich is a wonderfully descriptive Scottish word for those relentlessly bleak, rainy days. And my have we had our share of those over the winter.

Indeed, data recently released by the UK Meteorological Office† revealed we endured a record-breaking rainfall this winter, the wettest in the record series for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It was also the second-wettest for the UK as a whole just behind the winter of 2013/2014.

The Met Office’s press release issued on Tuesday 1st March makes discomfiting reading: “The latest end of month statistics [for January 2016] show it was provisionally the warmest winter for England and Wales since the record series began in 1910, while it was the third-warmest for the UK as a whole. The warmth has been most notable in the south of the UK with mean temperatures across much of the area more than 2C above average.

“In the Central England Temperature record series, the longest temperature record in the world dating back to 1659, this winter has been the second-warmest at 6.7C, just behind the previous record of 6.8C set 1869.”

NASA†† also released data sets in January showing planet Earth had just experienced its warmest every year since modern records began.

The link between greenhouses gases and precipitation are well documented. The extreme, widespread flooding experienced in so many parts of the UK this winter saw hundreds of thousands of homes, farmland and commercial premises dramatically submerged under raging torrents. Tragically lives, livestock and livelihoods were lost.

The economic cost of this winter’s floods is estimated at £5billion. The human impact inestimable. And the planet?

All this data is surely the final inconvenient truth for the climate change deniers. The evidence is incontrovertible, climate change is happening right here on the breached doorsteps of Cumbria, York, Durham and Lancashire, Yorkshire and Northumberland and any number of other sodden cities, towns, villages and hamlets across the UK.

It is further evidence, as if it were needed, that the UK government must act right now to put practical policies in place to encourage behaviour change that will directly reduce carbon emissions to mitigate global warming.

This week’s Budget presents the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a ground-breaking opportunity to do something genuinely radical to deliver meaningful, practical help to all those beleaguered ‘hard working families of Britain’.

There are plenty of options being discussed around the dinner party tables and workplace water coolers of Britain. Here’s just a couple of ideas customers and prospects eager to make the switch to renewable technologies tell us they would welcome. DECC could radically re-design the RHI scheme by offering (say) a £1,000 incentive payment to those ‘ordinary hardworking families’ George Osborne talks of so often. He could offer those homeowners and responsible registered private and social landlords a meaningful sum to put towards the purchase of clean, green, carbon-neutral heating technologies – such as a biomass heating and hot water system.

Alternatively, he could divert the RHI subsidies towards energy saving home improvements on leaky older properties such as double glazing, tank lagging and loft insulation. A much more simplified, easy to access, less bureaucratic ‘Green Deal’ if you like.

Perversely, the Government’s consultation paper The Renewable Heat Incentive: A reformed and refocused scheme, looks all set to penalise the biomass heating industry for being the most successful carbon reduction technology in the UK to date.

The consequences of a half-hearted re-work and kowtowing to the powerful lobbyists acting on behalf of a few dozen influential super-wealthy landowners, doesn’t bear reflection.

Sources: *BBC News Magazine 18.06.2012

† Met Office Press release 1st March 2016 http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/2016/winter-statistics

†† NASA: 2015 warmest year since modern record keeping began:

http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-analyses-reveal-record-shattering-global-warm-temperatures-in-2015

The Renewable Heat Incentive: A reformed and refocused scheme https://econsultation.decc.gov.uk/decc-policy/the-renewable-heat-incentive-a-reformed-and-refocu

Breaking Bad Resolutions

As we complete the first week of our return to work and get into the swing of 2016, discussion in the office rather inevitably turned to how most of us broke at least some of our New Year resolutions within days. No biscuits went with the first cup of coffee on Monday, absolutely not binge-watching that Breaking Bad box set on Tuesday night was next, closely followed by not actually cycling to work on a Wednesday. As with much of the country each was made in good faith… if not entirely sober. Ah well, seven left.

Like many, we too, spent the final hours of 2015 reflecting on our personal and professional highs and lows of the year just past. We too, variously resolved to do better in all departments.

We too, aim to be sharper, fitter, kinder, smarter and most especially, greener.

Hopefully, the round of departmental Christmas sherry aperitifs and midnight brandies at Chequers will not have blurred the PM’s memory on those carbon reduction commitments made in Paris at the COP21 Climate Change Conference.

Doubtless our erstwhile ‘less blue, more green’ champion will have spent the Parliamentary holiday re-charging, reflecting, reviewing and one can only hope, resolving to do better like the rest of us.

So here’s 10 New Year resolutions we’ve drafted on behalf of the PM and his ministers, which we will somehow contrive to slip into his next week’s Cabinet papers. We just haven’t quite worked out how.

‘My’ 2016 New Year Resolutions by [ahem] Prime Minister David Cameron

1. I resolve to ensure that our actual post COP21 action meets our COP21 rhetoric

2. To that end, I resolve to revoke the reduction in RHI subsidies for biomass

3. I resolve to double the budget for renewables despite my friend George’s Autumn Statement announcement. I am still in charge

4. I resolve to better understand how jobs, growth and prosperity for the UK economy can be achieved through sustained investment in renewable technologies

5. I resolve to reverse the ‘dash for gas’ energy policy and make it a ‘race for renewables’ instead

6. I resolve to ask the Department for Energy and Climate Change to more vigorously explore imaginative community micro-generation initiatives like forestry for UK wood pellet production in the absolute certainty that this will create a more secure and sustainable energy source than importing gas from Mr. Putin’s pipelines

7. I resolve to plant more damn trees

8. I especially resolve to plant many of these trees on hillsides upstream, which will help reduce flood risk, and divert the £millions saved on flood recovery works into renewable energy initiatives

9. I resolve to install an ÖkoFEN biomass boiler in all Government buildings in the UK… as well as in my own home(s)

10. I resolve to keep my resolutions and never utter the words “get rid of all the green crap” ever again.*

*I refer you Honourable gentlemen to this link made some years ago: http:// www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/21/did-david-cameron-tell-aides-to-get- rid-of-all-the-green-crap

COP Out?

Organic Energy MD Andy Boroughs offers a personal perspective on COP21 Climate Change Conference Outcome

Anyone with even the slightest interest in the environment and the devastating global impact of climate change simply could not fail to have been impressed by the sheer scale of achievements in Paris last week at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP21 as it was known. Or could we?

Quite apart from the mind-boggling complexity of negotiating an agreement where 195 countries would collectively reach a politically, economically and environmentally acceptable accord to limit global temperature rises through decarbonisation, the sheer logistics and slick organisation by the French hosts was eye-wateringly awesome. All the more so given that 140 world leaders descended upon a city still reeling from the terrorist atrocity that saw 131 people brutally slaughtered on its streets just two weeks previously.

Then there was the poignancy of the Climate Change Marchers. Literally hundreds of thousands of people, including those from tiny Pacific island communities like the Marshall Islands whose lives and livelihoods are imminently threatened by rising seas from melting ice caps, arriving in Paris from all parts of the globe whilst others took to the streets of 175 cities across the world in a profoundly moving act of global solidarity.

Despite the impressiveness of it all, the historic achievement of bringing all the world’s most powerful players into one place on a single day to declare their commitments to carbon reduction, one can’t help but feel we have been sold an illusion of success that would out smoke and out mirror Dynamo.

Ultimately, deconstructed, picked apart and analysed to within an inch of the Marshall Islands’ perilous flood defences… isn’t this “historic accord” merely words?

Yes, the chosen words are also impressive. A positive alphabet of optimism. Let’s start with words like ambition, aspiration, aims, accountability, accord, agreement.

Then we hit the ‘B’ words and those in the UK swept up in the euphoria of that end of COP21 conference celebratory atmosphere, and suckered into believing the problem is now all but solved by Downing Street’s spinners, just need to perhaps scrutinise the UK government’s recent announcements on energy policy. The Chancellor has his hand all over Rudd’s rudder. It is he who is steering the course.

So moving along the COP21 alphabet I find I can’t quite get past ‘B’ for but…

But… where is the detail on implementation?

But… how does this fit with the DECC’s recent energy policy revisions?

But… what about the UK government’s dramatic reduction in biomass RHI subsidies

But… where is government support and investment in sustainable micro-generation?

But… what about the environmental impact of fracking for shale gas?

But… how is the UK’s energy security enhanced when we have sold the lion’s share of our nuclear industry to the Chinese and will be relying on gas imported from Russian pipelines?

Call me an old-fashioned cynic with a heavy Cold War hangover but none of this screams energy security and COP21 carbon reduction commitment to me. Am I being dim, but where exactly does the action meet the Rudd rhetoric?

Hand-fill convenience at a very handy price!

Being able to combine convenience with environmental responsibility and independence from fossil fuels sounds like the ideal for many homeowners. To be able to do that in an affordable way, just puts the icing on the cake! sf4219 OE Boiler Offer Consumer Leaflet Autumn 2015-1

Fortunately that’s precisely what is now available thanks to the ÖkoFEN hand-fill wood pellet boiler.Hand-fill convenience at a very handy price!

Being able to combine convenience with environmental responsibility and independence from fossil fuels sounds like the ideal for many homeowners. To be able to do that in an affordable way, just puts the icing on the cake!

Fortunately that’s precisely what is now available thanks to the ÖkoFEN hand-fill wood pellet boiler.

This beautifully engineered product represented something of a revolution in wood-pellet heating when Organic Energy first introduced it to the UK market in 2013. It combines the efficiency of an ÖkoFEN boiler with a compact and convenient form, meaning more homes can take advantage of the future of heat generation.

The hand-fill boiler has been popular from the start and appeals to a wide customer base thanks to its space-saving design and low entry cost. Now we’re adding to that appeal with a very special offer; until the end of November you can get your hands on an ÖkoFEN hand-fill boiler from £2,500 less than the listed retail price, only through Organic Energy. That’s a wood-pellet boiler for just £4,999 (before VAT at five per cent for domestic installations).

The product is MCS accredited, which means for eligible installations it could also attract cash back via the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

The hand-fill boiler works, as the name suggests, without the need for an attached pellet store, yet it’s efficiency means it’s clean and simple to maintain and refill. Even better, it can still be installed ready to be converted to an automated solution with a bulk pellet store if that’s the way you wanted to go at a later date!

Remember, this is an offer we can only maintain until the end of November 2015, so please do drop us a line or pick up the phone soon if you would like to find out more.

Climate changing the headlines…

Let’s be honest – the issue of climate change very rarely tops the news agenda. But recent days have seen somewhat of a turnaround in the mainstream press, both in the UK and overseas.

warning Climate change CO2 emissions sign illustration

Climate change issues are being raised

Perhaps it’s because Barack Obama has become the first US president to visit the Arctic – and promised to save remote communities from the ravages of climate change.

Or maybe it’s down to Oscar-winning British actress Emma Thompson reading a self-penned Ode to Climate Change live on television in the centre of London.

Of course, it could be a report from the Institute for Policy Studies which points to a distinctly economic cause: greed. According to the report, dramatically rising CEO pay at major fossil fuel companies in the United States is also contributing to climate change, because it gives these leaders huge monetary incentives to increase their fossil fuel reserves at any cost.

Whatever the reason – we’re glad to see the issue being raised. All too often, climate change is seen as a soft issue compared to the state of the economy, the war on crime and even the marital disputes of whatever celebrity is flavour of the month.

Climate change will affect us all, our children and our grandchildren, and if we don’t look at the problem now and work to find solutions now, it will be too late.

Too late for the town of Kotzebue, where Mr Obama visited, a community of 3,000 people which is battling coastal erosion caused by melting ice and rising sea levels.

Too late for what will be a mass extinction of some of the world’s most threatened species as their habitat is forever changed by the warming of the Earth.

And too late for the Arctic sea ice, which is disappearing. That summer ice is vitally important to a whole range of animals from tiny shrimp to vast bowhead whales, and to local people.

Scary, isn’t it? Sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor thinks so too. His four horsemen of the apocalypse, close to Houses of Parliament, are a political comment on the impact of climate change.

When the water level is high, you can see almost nothing. But as the tide turns, and the water level of the Thames rises and drops twice a day, the four horses and riders emerge.

The sculpture, entitled The Rising Tide, has been installed near the bankside of Vauxhall bridge. For the past decade, Taylor’s work has been motivated by conservation and redressing climate change. For him, it’s about using art to tackle the issue, for Emma Thompson it’s using her talent as an outstanding actress (and budding poet!), and for Obama, the power of his office.

But there are things that we all can do to help.

For more information on climate change, and what action is being taken, visit www.climateactionprogramme.org

Giving power back to communities through the arts

We love this quote from our friends at Arts Alive:

“Organic Energy provides sustainable energy technologies and Arts Alive helps to keep rural communities sustainable by offering access to quality, local community events.”

artsThis connection between our organisations is reflected in a number of
ways, whether that’s using low carbon fuel to heat your home or saving
the emissions by walking to the village hall to see a film instead of
driving to the multi-screen!

We’re delighted to be supporting enthusiastic people who are working to
reclaim some of the best features of community life – it’s why Organic
Energy has partnered with Arts Alive, an organisation that works to
bring more than 1,000 events a year to rural communities.

As well as the hugely popular Flicks in the Sticks touring cinema, this
south Shropshire-based group puts dance, drama, music, puppetry and
storytelling back into the heart of communities – without people having
to head off on lengthy journeys to theatres in the bigger towns and
cities.

And we’re pretty sure they prefer our short video (include link)
screened before each film, to the half-hour of adverts which tend to be
shown before the main feature begins there too!