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Big business is right to be concerned about the chancellor’s equivocal strategy


Walney offshore windfarm, 10 miles west of Cumbria in the Irish Sea . Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

As the coalition prepares to introduce its energy bill into Parliament in the next few weeks, it must demonstrate political leadership and ensure that its policy is based on robust economic analysis, recognising and addressing failures of the market.

The most obvious market failure is created by the fact that, without policy, the price of products and services that involve emissions of greenhouse gases does not reflect the costs of damage caused by climate change.

A strong and stable carbon price corrects this market failure and helps to produce a level playing field on which new low-carbon technologies, such as wind, solar and carbon capture and storage, can compete against fossil fuels. However, it is not the only market failure that holds back these new technologies.

A failure arises as well from the inability of capital markets to manage the risks associated with investments in new technologies properly.

And other failures are associated with the limitations of networks, particularly concerning public transport and grids. Most consumers and many firms do not yet fully understand the technological opportunities that are available.

At a time when the public finances are under strain, it would be better to deal with these market failures through the tax system to disincentivise high-carbon activities or even regulate against them.

But it takes time to design and implement such policies and delaying action is dangerous because it can lock in high-carbon infrastructure, such as fossil fuel power stations with unabated greenhouse gas emissions.

So, in the meantime, while these market failures are inadequately tackled and there is not yet a strong and stable carbon price, low-carbon technologies need government assistance through direct subsidies.

These subsidies should be reduced and eliminated as the costs of development and deployment fall over time, as carbon markets become stronger and as other market failures are tackled.

But it is crucial that the reductions in subsidies for low-carbon energy are carried out according to a predictable rule-based system. Sudden and unexpected cuts undermine the confidence of the private sector and hold back badly needed investment in the UK power sector.

Those who argue against subsidies for low-carbon technologies are implicitly adopting an anti-market approach. Those who want markets to be harnessed to deliver greater prosperity and wellbeing, on the other hand, recognise a role for public policy in ensuring that markets can do their job in providing incentives and promoting entrepreneurship.

Removing subsidies for low-carbon technologies too quickly and erratically would undermine efforts to reduce the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases in an efficient and effective way and delay progress towards our ultimate target of a cut of at least 80% by 2050 compared with 1990.

Such delay would risk relegating the UK to also-rans in the global low-carbon race and could mean that we are shut out of the developing markets for cleaner goods and services.

But most dangerous of all, delay would mean higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and huge risks across the world from climate change.

The coalition must demonstrate leadership through its energy and climate policies, supporting creativity and innovation in the power sector, and boosting the UK’s prospects for sustainable economic growth.

Anything less would damage the prospects of future prosperity and wellbeing, for us, our children and future generations.

Author: Nicholas Stern – The Observer
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/Zj7uD


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Grand Designs’ model ecohouse to be rebuilt in Brighton city centre using local construction and industrial waste

The UK’s first building to be made onsite entirely out of waste is to be built in Brighton this autumn.

Designed by Brighton-based architect Duncan Baker-Brown, it will be built on the University of Brighton’s campus in the city centre from waste and surplus material from local building sites and other local industries.

The walls will be made of waste timber products. Ply “cassettes” containing waste material will be slotted in between the timber structure. These cassettes will be removable so that new building technologies can be added easily.

The design team will set up a production line near the Grand Parade site so that students, apprentices, local builders and school children can get involved with the making of the structure.

“There is a huge pile of construction waste that’s building up in this country and to ignore is quite frankly sinful,” said Baker-Brown, co-founder of BBM Sustainable Design and a senior lecturer at the arts faculty. “Through this project we are going to show that there is no such thing as waste.”

The building will feature the latest eco technologies such as fully integrated solar panels, whole-house ventilation and a heat recovery system. It will be used throughout its lifespan as a pilot for prototype construction systems, components and technologies.

Once completed, it will contain an exhibition and workshop space for use by local community groups. Upstairs will be the university’s headquarters for sustainable design.

The building is known as The house that Kevin built and is named after Europe’s first prefabricated house made entirely out of waste and organic material, also designed by Baker-Brown. It was built in 2008 in London and was filmed by Channel Four for Grand Designs live with Kevin McCloud as the presenter.

Work on the new building will begin onsite in November and should be completed by May 2013, with McCloud at the opening.

Link to this video

Author: Flemmich Webb
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/FRJVV


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The new Blackfriars station, which is being built on a bridge spanning the River Thames, is on its way to becoming the world’s largest solar bridge after Solarcentury begun the installation of over 4,400 solar photovoltaic panels

The solar panels will generate an estimated 900,000kWh of electricity every year, providing 50% of the station’s energy and reducing CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes per year. In addition to solar panels, other energy saving measures at the new station will include rain harvesting systems and sun pipes for natural lighting. Photograph: Ralph Hodgson/Solar Century
Ralph Hodgson

Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/fJ8Ww


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Committee on Climate Change has called for local authorities to have national funding to cut carbon emissions


The Committee on Climate Change, the statutory body set up to advise ministers on how to meet the government’s carbon targets, called for local authorities to be ordered do develop and implement plans to cut carbon emissions. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

Funding cuts to squeezed local authorities are putting the UK’s carbon targets at risk, the government’s climate advisers warned in a report published on Thursday.

The Committee on Climate Change, the statutory body set up to advise ministers on how to meet the government’s carbon targets, called for local authorities to be ordered do develop and implement plans to cut carbon emissions, with national funding to do so.

Prof Julia King, a member of the committee, told the Guardian that local authorities’ climate change initiatives had been badly affected by austerity measures, with climate efforts often one of the first services to go during budget cuts.

But she said: “Local authorities have the potential to significantly impact the UK’s scale and speed of emissions reductions. There is a wealth of good work being done already at local and regional levels, but many opportunities remain untapped. It is essential that these opportunities are delivered if we are to meet our national carbon targets.”

Placing such a statutory duty on councils would ensure that the UK could meet its national carbon targets, and lead to a wide range of new schemes that could also benefit local residents. For instance, energy efficiency would be the cheapest way to cut emissions, and programmes to improve insulation and cut energy use could help to lift people out of fuel poverty.

But without adequate funding, it may be impossible for councils to put such plans in place. King said: “Local authorities need to show leadership and recognise their wider role in supporting local emissions reductions, [but] the government needs to strengthen incentives for action by providing national funding where required.”

Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth’s executive director, welcomed the report: “This is a stark warning the government can’t afford to ignore – UK climate targets won’t be met unless ministers ensure every council plays its part in slashing emissions, and has the funds to do so. The government has failed to support local action on climate change – and only a few council leaders are currently championing action on the scale required.”

Plugging the leaks in Britain’s draughty homes will be one of the most important ways in which local authorities could cut carbon, according to the report. The government’s “green deal”, which has come under fire from within government as well as outside experts, is supposed to provide the financial incentives for insulation, but local authorities have the power to supplement the scheme with their own initiatives, such as improvements to social housing.

But local authorities can make a substantial difference over a range of areas, the report found – buildings, surface transport and waste make up 40% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, and if the right actions are taken, these emissions could be cut by 30% from 1990 levels.

Some of the other key ways in which local councils can cut emissions and improve the lives of residents include improvements to public transport and other sustainable travel options such as cycle routes and making pedestrian routes more accessible, as well as developing advanced recycling programmes and giving planning permission to local renewable energy projects. All of these steps can create jobs and improve the quality of life, and some can cut energy bills both for households and the council.

Other options councils should look into, according to the report, include better town planning, in order to make towns and cities more “liveable”, for instance by ensuring that amenities such as schools, hospitals and commercial services such as shops and banks are near enough to where people live, to reduce car journeys.

Plans to generate energy from waste should also be considered, the committee said – this could include decomposing food waste into biogas, and incinerating the residue of waste left over from recycling to generate electricity and heat.

District heating schemes – for instance, using waste heat from power stations – could also be a key part of local low-carbon strategies, the report found. To date, few such schemes have got off the ground, in part because of a lack of coordination and incentives, and because some potential schemes may fall between different local authorities to implement. Better cooperation among local organisations will be a key factor in realising low-carbon strategies, the report said.

Author: Fiona Harvey
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/8eWQL


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Os dois reactores da central de Dungeness preparam-se para ser desactivados. (Foto: Toby Melville/Reuters)

Os ânimos estão exaltados na cidade de Romney Marsh, em Kent, por causa de uma proposta que começou a ser debatida para aí ser criado o primeiro depósito nuclear do Reino Unido. Para uns autarcas é uma oportunidade económica, para outros um plano “horrível”.

O Governo britânico está à procura de comunidades voluntárias que queiram albergar o futuro depósito subterrâneo que vai armazenar todos os resíduos radioactivos do país. As autoridades de Shepway avançaram com a proposta da cidade de Romney Marsh, para aí ser construído um complexo a uma profundidade entre os 200 e os 1000 metros. Estes autarcas pretendem assim criar emprego, contrariando a perda de 1000 postos de trabalho, agora que os dois reactores nucleares de Dungeness, na região, se preparam para ser desactivados, em 2018 ou 2023.

A consulta pública está a decorrer até 20 de Julho e Shepway garantiu que não irá apresentar nenhuma proposta oficial e definitiva ao Governo antes de ouvir os moradores. “Achamos que os habitantes devem ter a oportunidade de decidir se vale a pena levar esta ideia adiante”, disse David Godfrey, conselheiro de Shepway, à BBC. “Não estamos a dizer que Romney Marsh deve ter um depósito nuclear. Apenas estamos a perguntar às pessoas se querem avaliar essa possibilidade. Se disserem que não, não se fala mais nisso”, comentou nesta sexta-feira ao jornal The Guardian.

O conselho regional de Kent já disse que vai usar todas as suas ferramentas para se opor ao depósito nuclear, noticia a BBC. “Somos totalmente contra o início de qualquer processo que sequer refira a possibilidade de construir um depósito nuclear em Kent”, disse Paul Carter, do conselho regional. “Não tenho dúvidas de que os moradores de Kent partilham o meu horror e estou completamente empenhado em garantir que sejam ouvidos.” Ao jornal The Guardian, Paul Carter disse que o local escolhido para a construção do depósito subterrâneo situa-se numa zona sensível do ponto de vista sísmico e está perto de uma das mais frequentadas rotas de navios do mundo.

O Governo britânico, através do seu Departamento de Energia e Alterações Climáticas, quer escolher um local para guardar no subsolo os resíduos nucleares produzidos nas suas centrais, numa altura em que pretende avançar para a construção de um novo parque de reactores que forneçam electricidade ao país sem emissões de dióxido de carbono. Para isso está a convidar as comunidades a descobrirem mais sobre o projecto e a expressarem interesse, sem qualquer compromisso. O único local, para além de Kent, que está a debater a questão é a região de Cumbria.

Autor: Helena Geraldes
Fonte: Ecosfera – Público
Original: http://bit.ly/JscR2p


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Green candidate says mayor is ‘burying problem’ by using suppressant vehicles to glue particles near monitoring stations

Jenny Jones, the Green mayoral candidate for London, has accused mainstream political parties of lacking the political courage to tackle air pollution – despite strong evidence that it represents a major public health risk.

Jones issued a broadside against the political mainstream as she battles to get London’s poor air quality a hearing at mayoral hustings between now and polling day, amid evidence that a problem invisible to the naked eye is now the second biggest public health risk in Britain after smoking, and is linked to around one in five deaths a year in London.

Jones sought to push the environmental agenda at city hall when she served as deputy mayor to Ken Livingstone between 2003-2004. She is urging supporters to give the Labour candidate their second preference vote in the election.

In her view Livingstone “did ignore” the problem until his second mayoral term, when he introduced the low emission zone, but she reserves her strongest criticisms for the incumbent Conservative mayor Boris Johnson, who she says “has been absolutely ignoring all the evidence” despite a report landing on his desk mid-term in his tenure that revealed 4,300 Londoners were dying prematurely because of pollution, with an average 11.5 years taken off their lives.

Jones has repeatedly criticised the incumbent mayor over his use of pollution suppressant vehicles near air quality monitoring stations to deal with the problem in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games. The trucks spray adhesive to the road surface, effectively glueing pollution to the ground. Jones said this only serves to lower the pollution measured, rather than tackling the actual problem.

She added: “He’s burying the problem and pretending it doesn’t exist. How does he square that with his role as mayor, trying to protect Londoners and make their lives better. He’s actually making their lives worse.”

Other air quality campaigners have gone further, with Birkett describing the move as “public health fraud on an industrial scale”.

Jones has outlined some of the radical measures needed to reduce harmful pollutants by cutting traffic and getting people out of their cars. This includes raising the congestion charge from £10 to £15, slapping a £40 daily charge on “gas guzzlers”, an ultra-low emission zone in central London and replacing the central congestion charge zone with a region-wide road pricing scheme after three years.

Jones, whose pledges sometimes raise eyebrows at hustings, says the Greens are not prepared to shy away from radical policies that may be seen as “politically toxic” but are the only way to clean up the problem.

“Either politicians are not recognising how serious the problem is, or they are choosing not to see it, but you can’t argue against it. The facts are there.”

She added: “Greens are not frightened to tackle politically toxic things if they feel they are important.”

Airborne pollution in the form of fine particulate matter – such as PM2.5, particles of less than 2.5 micrometres – comes mostly from combustion sources, including transport, domestic and industrial sources, and aggravates respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

Research shows these PM2.5s are likely to be inhaled deep into the respiratory tract and with other forms of air pollution can reduce the lung capacity of children. Air quality in the capital is the worst in the UK and also ranks among the worst in Europe, with research suggesting that up to 50,000 people die early in the UK every year as a result of air pollution.

Transport for London, which Johnson chairs, insists that trials in London and abroad have shown the effectiveness of dust suppressants in reducing particulate matter (PM10) levels .

Leon Daniels, the managing director of surface transport at TfL, said: “Transport for London has always been clear that the use of dust suppressants across London is in combination with other measures to reduce harmful PM10 levels at a range of locations where we know there are higher levels of this pollutant. This is in addition to a range of longer terms, sustainable measures aiming to reduce pollution levels at source across the capital.”

Britain is still facing fines of up to £300m over a repeated failure to meet key EU air quality directives since 2005, when Labour was in government and Livingstone was installed at city hall. Under the coalition government, however, there is little sign that concerted action os planned. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently claimed that the costs of meeting EU pollution targets may not match the benefits.

But Jones warns politicians need to introduce the radical measures needed amid signs that the problem is worsening. Last month, pollution in London hit record levels due to a mix of weather conditions and traffic fumes, in particular from diesel cars, vans and lorries.

Jones says part of the problem is that the public don’t realise the scale of the public health risks attached.

“It’s not like the smog of the 1950s that was really tangible. Now, the air looks quite clean but actually it’s not, but people aren’t seeing it. Though if you go to a high building, you can see an orange haze across the horizon and that’s the pollution.”

The Green party has made a six minute film to highlight the threat to people’s health from poor air quality, drawing on the expertise of air quality expert, Professor Frank Kelly, of King’s College London, and Simon Birkett, founder for the Campaign for Clean Air in London.

Jones believes if parents understand the damage to public health, the public will be more willing to accept that a change in behaviour is necessary.

Research by the Campaign for Clean Air in London has found that 1,148 schools in London are within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day, putting children going to these schools, and living near them, at increased risk of developing asthma, and their parents of developing heart problems.

The Green mayoral candidate, who polled just 2% in the latest survey of voting intention on May 3, wants more Green party members to be elected to the London assembly to pressure the next elected mayor to show political leadership on the issue. Jones, currently one of two Green assembly members, will also defend her assembly seat in May.

She says that one of the measures that needs to be considered by the next elected mayor is simply to close roads from traffic, but admits it is tough getting the message across.

“That’s why it’s incredibly important to have a strong assembly team because then we can speak much more loudly and get the mayor, even if it’s not me, to do the right thing.”

Jones is taking part in an event organised by eco-activist group Climate Rush on Thursday evening in protest at the capital’s dirty air.

The event will begin outside the offices of Defra and protesters will then take over a road, calling it London’s “first true clean air zone”, and holding a picnic and street party.

Author: Hélène Mulholland
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://bit.ly/I6Kr1y


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The aim of carbon capture is to is to prevent CO2 escaping into the atmosphere

A renewed attempt to develop ways of making power stations greener has been unveiled by the UK government.

For the second time in five years, £1bn will be offered for schemes to trap and bury carbon dioxide.

An earlier competition collapsed after all nine entrants pulled out, most citing cost as the main problem.

The last to withdraw was a project run by Scottish Power at its Longannet station in Fife, and the prize money was not awarded.

Known as “carbon capture and storage” (CCS), the idea is to prevent CO2 escaping into the atmosphere.

A major part of the government’s low-carbon strategy, CCS has been plagued by delays and uncertainty.

Launching the renewed competition and a roadmap towards commercialising CCS, Ed Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said the industry could be worth £6.5bn a year to the economy by the late 2020s.

“What we are looking to achieve, in partnership with industry, is a new world-leading CCS industry, rather than just simply projects in isolation,” he said.

“The potential rewards from carbon capture and storage are immense: a technology that can de-carbonise coal and gas-fired power stations and large industrial emitters, allowing them to play a crucial part in the UK’s low carbon future.”

Its attraction is that existing fossil fuels including coal and gas can be burned without releasing the usual quantities of CO2, the key greenhouse gas.

Instead of being vented into the air, the gas would be trapped and then piped into long-term storage in old oil fields under the North Sea.

The concept divides environmentalists. Some argue that it makes sense to find cleaner ways of using fossil fuels, while others fear it gives coal and gas another lease of life, which would be counterproductive in the long-term campaign against climate change.

The original hope was for British firms to design systems that could be fitted to the soaring numbers of coal plants in China and India to reduce their emissions.

However, the research has proved costlier and more complicated than many expected, and the timescale keeps slipping.

Tom Greatrex, Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister, said in a statement: “The UK has the potential to be a world leader in this vital low-carbon technology, and therefore the launch of the roadmap and competition are welcome.

“But there are still important questions that the government failed to answer today. The commercialisation programme contained no detail about the impact of Danny Alexander’s raid on the £1bn CCS budget last year. Investors need to know exactly how much money will be available, and when.”

Revised rules

Only last month, the National Audit Office criticised the government for taking “too long to get to grips” with the commercial and technical risks involved.

Now, ministers are hoping that by revising the rules for the competition they will have a better chance of attracting more interest.

In the last contest, entries were originally limited to designs that could only be used at power stations burning coal, not gas.

And the rules also only allowed systems that trapped carbon dioxide after the fuel was burned – so-called “post-combustion”.

By contrast, the new competition will be open to coal and gas stations, and to schemes that attempt to capture carbon before combustion.

As one official put it to me: “Lessons have been learned and we’re not closing our eyes to what industry is suggesting.”

A three-month consultation opens with selected projects expected to be running by 2016-2020.

But, as with the last competition, a key factor will be viability. Although many of the technologies have been proven at a small scale, no industrial-scale project has yet been tested.

Prof Jim Watson of the UK Energy Research Centre welcomed the new competition but warned of the uncertainties that lie ahead.

“We still don’t know when these technologies will be technically proven at full scale, and whether their costs will be competitive with other low-carbon options.

“These questions need answering urgently,” he said.

A further concern is price. With the precise designs still to be settled, estimates for future running costs are uncertain, including the price of emitting carbon and the size of low-carbon subsidy.

The question of costs was raised by the union Prospect, which welcomed the decision but called for more clarity about financing.

The union’s Head of Research, Sue Ferns, said that to ensure the success of CCS, it “must be integrated with electricity market reform.

“Market uncertainty remains a key barrier to investment across energy industries.”

And she warned against seeking to reduce the costs too prematurely before the systems were proven.

“Government is understandably keen to reduce the costs of CCS deployment, but the first priority must be to make sure it works effectively on a commercial scale,” she said.

The announcement comes amid uncertainty about the government’s energy policy, after RWE and e.ON pulled out of a major project for new nuclear power stations last week.

The policy has four key strands: new nuclear stations, a huge expansion of renewables like wind, efficiency measures to cut energy use and reducing emissions from coal and gas by using carbon capture and storage.

So the new announcement marks another important effort to revive a potentially crucial technology that has faltered so far.

The government’s CCS roadmap

– ‘CCS Commercialisation Programme’ provides £1bn in competitive capital funding
– Intended to support the design and construction of practical systems
– Projects must be in UK and operational by 2016-2020; CO2 storage to be sited offshore
– Ministers hope to spur industrial expertise that can be sold abroad
– £125m for R&D, including a new £13m UK CCS Research Centre

Author: David Shukman – Science editor
Source: BBC News
Original: http://bbc.in/Ha8SvW


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