In the nick of time? With days to go to one of planet Earth’s most important ever multinational summits, the Government has released two key climate change strategy documents. It hopes the world will take notice and follow its lead before it is too late.
When Doctor Who first appeared on UK black and white terrestrial television, the Daleks were portrayed as victims of an environmental disaster they had helped to bring to on their own planet.
Entertaining? Yes. Scary? Absolutely. Possible? No, of course not – just science fiction! Unfortunately, half a century later fact is catching up very quickly with fiction.
Planet Earth will gather in Glasgow on Sunday 31st October for ten difficult days of tough COP26 negotiations – the summit that John Kerry, the first US special envoy for climate, describes as our ‘last best hope for the world to get its act together’ on climate change.
Who is going … and not going … to Glasgow
Some 25,000 people will be travel to Scotland in the hope of seeing a solution hammered out to prevent temperature rises and biodiversity-losses creating unprecedented environmental damage.
They will include political leaders, environmental action organisations, industry heads, lobbyists and the media. But some very powerful key figures have chosen to be absent – including the heads of state of China, India, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
All are major emitter countries; Saudi Arabia has now committed to reaching net zero by 2060 if its oil exports are not included.
The numbers are high for two reasons. Firstly, many small nations lack the capacity to attend remotely. And secondly, some crucial negotiations can only be carried out eyeball-to-eyeball.
Low Carbon team
Lancashire low carbon expertise will be out in force, explains East Lancashire Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker, with a cohort of our most proactive companies and industry specialists showcasing the county’s unique low carbon potential. More details in a moment.
However, if you are not going to Glasgow, you can still join a Chamber COP26-related event here in the Northwest with panels, speakers, business exhibitions, plus all important networking.
“Powering the Green Industrial Revolution”, will look at how our home region is planning to be the UK’s first to reach net zero by 2040 as it innovates at the epicentre of the low-carbon energy transition … with a unified plan!
To take part in person or remotely on Thursday, 4th November between 9,15am and 4pm at The Heath Conference Centre in Weston, please register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cop26-regional-roadshow-powering-the-green-industrial-revolution-tickets-190913526497.
Alternatively, you can register to take part in a second event in Manchester on Tuesday, 9th November at https://forms.zohopublic.eu/marketingmanchester/form/COP26NorthWestGreenZone/formperma/Qw7dwI7YUOo1R2pTjVUWsKE5xKQlKRY79YI0Doa08gg.
Too little almost too late from the UK?
Unfortunately, the UK as COP26 co-host, is being accused of organising a shambolic event compared to 2015’s highly-successfully COP21 in Paris, even though it had an extra year for international diplomacy and preparation when Covid-19 forced the event forward a year from 2020.
France’s triumph was to create the conditions in which 197 nations could come together and commit themselves to the Paris Agreement and confirm the need to keep global surface temperature rises down to no more than 20C, and preferably 1.50C, by the end of this century.
As the 2021 stable door closes, the Government has released two documents promised months ago. Both are meant to be far-reaching, though many observers feel they go nowhere near far enough.
Whitehall and Westminster are also facing 14 significant amendments sent back to the Commons by the Lords as a revising chamber on the Government’s flagship Environment Bill (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2593).
MPs are due to debate the proposed changes on Wednesday, 27th October, but seem minded to throw key points of contention out.
The Government says it has tabled changes to help improve and strengthen the Bill to build back greener and show itself to be a global leader in tackling environmental issues.
They include measures allowing ministers to introduce charges on all single-use items to cut waste and end the ‘throwaway culture’ (https://deframedia.blog.gov.uk/2021/10/21/environment-bill-strengthened-to-protect-nature-and-tackle-waste/).
The problem the Government has in its mission to be seen as an environmental leader for the good of the world and UK’s export potential is that its new Net Zero Strategy (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/net-zero-strategy) and Heat and buildings strategy (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/heat-and-buildings-strategy) published on 19th October, plus the Environment Bill, were meant to impress in Glasgow.
Promised as the UK centre piece for COP26, they will at best be rushed through Parliament hours before the summit convenes; the Environment Bill target for Royal Assent is the end of 2021.
How these different parts will fit – or not fit – together may be clearer a month’s time in the complex Glasgow’s aftermath. Green finance is likely to be a major sticking point.
Lancashire goes north of the border
A more detailed overview of both the Net Zero Strategy and Heat and buildings strategy are given below. Before then, a closer look at what the team Lancashire will be doing might be helpful.
What differentiates the county is its capacity to design, innovate and manufacture the low carbon technologies needed to decarbonise and remove existing carbon pollution from the atmosphere.
And excellent primer is ‘Lancashire – We are Low Carbon Technology’ which can be seen on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVTZOi6d1cc showcasing low carbon technologies whose development has been fostered by RedCAT – more on that later on.
Green action this day!
There will be pressure on the Government, given its catalogue of delays, to move on from colourful rhetoric to real action based on firm, measurable policy targets, explains Miranda.
“We need to see a global process started at COP26 where one enlightened person puts pressure on another, and another, and another, in a global movement where instead of talking, real things really get done,” she says.
She adds, “We are at five minutes to midnight now with climate change. We simply can’t afford to wait until one minute to the hour!”
Companies large and small
As champions, Lancashire’s team will include sustainable businesses of many sizes. The impressive Senator Group (https://www.thesenatorgroup.com/) based in Accrington has invested a lot of time, energy and knowledge in low carbon and the real roots of the circular economy.
At the smaller end of the scale, Crystal Doors (https://crystaldoors.co.uk/) lead by MD Richard Hagan in Rochdale has puts its whole business onto a higher plain by ‘going green’ at every level.
Meanwhile, at the larger end E+R Group (https://eandr.com/), with ‘Over 100 years spent in the relentless pursuit of quality, innovation and reliability’ is helping to build manufacturing plants for the next generation of electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
Events at COP26
While high-level negotiations hopefully progress between heads of states, networking, lobbying and knowledge-sharing will take place between the many other organisations with green agendas.
These will be in the Green Zone (https://ukcop26.org/the-conference/green-zone-programme-of-events/) of the iconic Scottish Event Campus (SEC) (https://ukcop26.org/the-conference/venue/).
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce will lead two days of presentations and discussion with overseas affiliates to the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC). The focus will be on ‘Climate and business carbon power’ and include a must-see seminar on the International Campaign Against Climate Change (https://www.campaigncc.org/aboutus/missionstatement).
In a separate second two-day session, Shevaun Haviland will examine BCC’s contribution to both policy and politics. Shevaun speaks with authority having been appointed Director General of the BCC in March 2021 after working in the Cabinet Office where she led Business Partnerships.
Making new green friends and influencing people
COP26 is also a high-level networking forum and part of Miranda’s mission will be to meet and persuade the energy giants such as Saudi Aramco, BP and Shell to fund low carbon technology innovation and development in Lancashire.
She will also emphasis how RedCAT, the Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies https://www.red-cat.uk/ provides a pathway of financial and R&D support to accelerate the commercialisation of low carbon technologies.
Conceived in December 2019, RedCAT is led by East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce in partnership with regional bodies (AMRC North West – https://www.amrc.co.uk/facilities/amrc-north-west), national bodies including the Environment Agency, plus low carbon innovation leaders.
Net zero strategy
The Government’s new strategy maps out how the UK will meet its legally-binding commitment to reduce damaging greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions down to almost nothing – net zero – by 2050.
If successful, it should see 440,000 new jobs created by 2030, and ‘unlock’ £90 billion in investment funding to help businesses and consumers combat climate. Some key points stand out.
Vehicles – The sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans must end by 2030. The strategy adds that by 2035 all cars must be fully zero-emissions capable. A further £620 million will go to zero emission vehicle grants and electric charging infrastructure, with a focus on streets charge points.
Green power generation – By 2035, the UK should be powered entirely by clean electricity; the 2030 target is to have a 40GW offshore wind power capacity, plus more onshore wind and solar energy.
Nuclear – The low carbon mix will include at least one new large nuclear plant, which could be at Wylfa in North Wales. However, a further £120m will go into developing small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). These are a Rolls Royce technical speciality in Lancashire.
Homes – Grants of £5,000 will help 90,000 households install home heat pumps, and other low-carbon heating systems, in the next three years.
Woodlands – The aims is to triple the rate of woodland creation in England to at least 30,000 hectares a year, a target that will increase and safeguard biodiversity.
Peat – There will also be a £124 million boost for the existing Nature for Climate Fund in its mission to restore some 280,000 hectares of peat in English regions like Lancashire by 2050.
What the strategy did not mention
However, the strategy is light on details about insulating the circa 19 million homes below EPC band C urgently in need of upgrading to improve their energy efficient.
The government wants to phase out coal by 2024 to cut emissions, but still uses the black stuff when it offers better value than gas. Oil and gas exploration licences will continue, as will production.
Some £27 billion new roads and airport projects will go-ahead; the strategy is very car-focused but includes plans to increase public transport use, cycling, walking, and to electrify more railway lines.
The Government has avoided making any recommendations around meat and dairy consumption.
New forms of taxation are touched on in the strategy; the Treasury foresees a significant loss of revenue as fuel duty drops when people switch to electric vehicles. Road pricing is an option.
Heat and Building Strategy
Meanwhile, £3.9 billion will go towards decarbonising heat and buildings which are seen as two hard-to-abate sectors. Buildings alone account for 21% of annual UK emissions.
This includes a new £450 million three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme designed to lead on to all new home heating systems being free of fossil-fuels from 2035. The three-point approach is: – energy efficiency; electric heat pumps; and energy storage.
From an SME perspective, the strategy could see up to 100,000 green jobs created by the mid-2020s, rising to 175,000 by 2030.
Funding is confirmed for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Scheme and Home Upgrade Grants, plus the Public Sector Decarbonisation, to reduce emissions from public sector buildings by 75% by 2037.
So far, little has been said about buildings standards and the role they can play in raising the overall energy efficiency of housing and other building stocks.
Follow the money
The other notable omission is a strong financial commitment from the Treasury!
BSI are taking this opportunity to review the impact and evolution of the standard over the last quarter century and more importantly to chart it’s possible future course and discuss its critical relevance as a tool for combatting climate change and achieving net zero.
Expert speakers include:
If you’re using ISO 14001 or want to learn more about how it can play an important role in net zero planning, please book your FREE place at this unique webinar now.
COP26 is a globally significant event and the UK’s presidency has shone a light on our own net zero agenda, bringing conversations about businesses and climate action to the forefront of public discourse. The goal of the conference is to bring the global community together and accelerate action on climate change across the international community.
This is a unique opportunity for the Chambers Network to come together to discuss the challenges of the future. ‘Chambers unite for a greener future’, our global campaign which we launched earlier this year, has united our 127 Chambers and has as its centrepiece this hugely significant event.
From Monday 1 – Thursday 4 November, BCC, in collaboration with Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and the international British Chambers Network, will be presenting a full agenda of business-focussed policy debate, thought leadership and exceptional networking opportunities, while giving members the chance to showcase the best of their climate leadership. They will be exploring the key challenges of the coming decades, including:
TRADE DELEGATIONS: hosting members from across the Network, led by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, for a programme of seminars, networking opportunities, and showcasing the best of the network.
POLICY ROUNDTABLES: joined by renowned leaders and experts from across business, politics, civil society and academia, exploring the challenges and opportunities of the future.
KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: hearing from senior members of the UK and Scottish governments, outlining their vision for the green agenda in the years to come.
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: hearing from senior thought leaders on their approach to climate leadership, in conversation with senior BCC figures. Also offer a drop-in business hub, with plenty of space for meetings and networking, showcasing and sharing innovation, knowledge, best practice and new ideas.
Please note that this programme is subject to change at short notice
If you would like to hear more about the Climate Chamber Trade Mission Programme on 2 and 3 November, please contact Richard Muir
Amid the haggling over finance and reluctant last minute promises to cut carbon emissions in the final run up to the world’s make-or-break COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, biodiversity and nature-based solution also have crucial roles to play.
In humankind’s two hundred year industrial history, most things that live and grow on planet Earth have been taken for granted … until now, when if we are not very careful, it will be too late.
Fifty years ago when the word ‘environment’ began to take on its modern meaning, the link between what humans do and the condition of the place where they live was still a vague concept.
Those days of innocence are gone. It is now generally understood that supporting ‘nature’ is not only ‘nice’, but also vital for our own best interests in a warming world.
The other environmental emergency
COP26, with its focus on decarbonisation, is not the UN’s only summit taking place this year to safeguard the environment.
COP15 (Convention on Biological Diversity Framework) – as a virtual conference in October and then in-person in China in May 2022 – needs to agree goals for nature and biodiversity that create a stable natural environment.
Decarbonisation and natural-solutions together are seen as a powerful climate change tool.
With the state of nature in mind, Chamber Low Carbon Programme was delighted to welcome two notable guests to speak to us recently.
Martin Baxter, IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor, joined our Energy and Environmental Forum to update us on the Environment Bill’s progress, business implications, plus the importance of COP26 and COP15.
As explained in a moment, he looked at: – legal changes as the Bill passes through Parliament; new regulations and responsibilities for business, local authorities and government agencies; and progress in forming the new watchdog Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).
Environment Agency’s expanding responsibilities
Chair of the Environment Agency (EA), Emma Howard Boyd, also joined Chamber CEO Miranda Barker in a wide-ranging conversation on the growing importance of nature-based solutions.
The EA is probably best known as a regulator. However, its lesser known roles as an active-enabler helping business and industry to reach net-zero, reduce and trade emissions, adopt low-carbon technologies, and adapt to climate change, were also discussed.
A full recording of their conversation can be seen online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCB5PWXJIeE
Understanding, and misunderstanding, offsetting
Continuing with these themes, Jack Spees of the Lancashire Woodland Connect, plus Chantelle Bandwood of Eco Offset and another senior guest will talk to us about “Carbon Offsetting – Planting Trees is not the Answer” at our next Lunch & Learn event from 12-noon to 1.30pm on Thursday, 14 October.
To join us, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-carbon-offsetting-tickets-166905118703?ref=enivtefor001&invite=MjA2NzIyMzkvam9uaGVyYmVydEB0d2VudHk2LmNvbS8w%0A&utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=inviteformalv2&utm_term=attend
Energy and Environmental Forum – 21st September
Martin’s comment that: “Every single business will in some way at some point be impacted by the bill”, sets the context for the Environment Bill’s significance.
As he explained, its new framework for environmental governance will include a special emphasis on air quality, water, resource efficiency, waste, nature and biodiversity.
It will include specific targets, focus on collaboration between government, local authorities, householders and business, and create new powers for the Government to make important changes happen with the backing of new regulations to open up business and environmental opportunities.
The bill’s consultation stage began in June. After a Lords’ 3rd Reading on 13 October, comments will go to the Commons on 20 October. Royal Assent is expected by the end of 2021.
There is no doubt that the bill will go onto the Statute Book. However, Martin thinks it will be interesting to see what additions are made late in the day before it does.
– Administrative matters
On an organisational level, the new post-Brexit OEP came into legal force with interim status on 1 July https://www.gov.uk/government/news/interim-office-for-environmental-protection-to-be-launched.
Natalie Prosser is Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Designate; non-executive appointments have been made, and the Government is consulting on Civil Procedure Rules for Environmental Review.
The OEP is operating in ‘shadow’ mode and receiving complaints about public authority activities with preliminary powers to take High Court action. Later this year, it will begin to review the Government’ 25 Year Environmental Plan in trial mode (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/25-year-environment-plan).
– Policies and principles
With Royal Assent granted, the OEP will publish a Policy Statement in Environmental Principles and Environmental Targets. Work on an underlying analysis and scenarios is underway. Consultation on proposed targets is expected in October 2021.
– Important amendments
Legally-binding targets to stop the decline of species in England by 2030 will be introduced, with thoughts on how to monitor and measure an appropriate ‘basket’ of representative species at risk.
There will be a duty and powers for the Secretary of State to review, and then increase if appropriate, the minimum time new biodiversity gain sites must be secured – perhaps for circa 30 years.
What this means for businesses with then become clearer.
– Environmental Due Diligence
There will be wide-ranging new powers to ‘re-focus’ habitat regulations in England. The Government must also publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows by September 2022.
– Biodiversity net-gain (BNG)
BNG will extended to include all nationally significant infrastructure.
– COP26 and COP15
Martin stressed that while controlling global temperature rises is critical (COP26), biodiversity is at the heart of the food system (COP15). In his words, “The world does not revolve around net-zero.”
The aim by 2050 is for biodiversity to be “valued, conserved, restored and used wisely, monitoring ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.”
– Target 15
Target 15 (https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/rationale/target-15/) requires all businesses – public, private, large, medium and small – to assess and report their local and global ‘dependencies and impacts on biodiversity’.
They must then cut negative impacts by at least 50%, while increasing positive impacts to reduce biodiversity-related business risks and moving towards full sustainability in operations, sourcing, supply chains, waste and disposal.
Benefits will include biodiversity net gains for developments, biodiversity credits, new environmental markets, conservation covenants, and local nature improvement strategies.
Local authority must conserve and positively enhance local biodiversity; they will have new reporting requirements, plus new legally-binding biodiversity targets. Nature recovery networks will also be set up in tandem with tree planting and peat restoration strategies.
– Lessons for COP26
Martin is adamant about the local and international priorities. “The evidence is clear – we must urgently reduce emissions and take action to adapt,” he says.
There is unequivocal evidence, he adds, that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land on an unprecedented scale, leading to many weather and climate extremes.
Adaptation is now vital to safeguard communities and natural habitats, firstly, by protecting and restoring ecosystems, and secondly, by building defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid the loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives!
The current prognosis is that global surface temperature will continue to rise until 2050. Without early and deep greenhouse gas emission cuts, warming during this century will pass the 1.50C and 20C limits needed to prevent irreversible environmental damage.
Our second guest, Emma Howard Boyd, joined Miranda on 24 September in a revealing conversation that looked at important contemporary issues which as yet are probably not widely discussed.
One was the Agency’s broad remit. The EA is known as a regulator, says Emma, but perhaps less well known by the business community for its risk management role in areas like the UK’s new hydrogen strategy, national economic recovery, emissions trade, and successful environmental commerce.
Strong green regulations are needed to underpin the UK’s green industrial revolution. But as Emma points out, “We have also thought carefully about our role in delivering net-zero”.
– Good corporate citizens
Most businesses want to operate within the law; an increasing number hope to go further in their preparations against environmental shocks. There is also a growing awareness that nature’s protection is important.
The EA’s brief is to work closely with companies by providing information and advice, professional support, strong incentives, and when necessary robust enforcement and penalties!
Green finance is another key subject which includes investing in systems that support the natural environment. Unlocking private sector money at scale is complicated but essential.
It is vital to get new efficient infrastructure investment projects rolling as early as possible. Unfortunately, there are no short-cuts. As Emma explained, “The country will get the environment it is prepared to pay for”.
– Early adopters
Early movers are important in making a green economy work, although the majority of companies are currently weighing up their priorities – except of course companies working with the Chamber Low Carbon Team who have a much clearer vision of where they are going!
For most, this involves being able to recognise opportunities and benefits, but also the costs of missing out. Many need help in knowing where to start.
Miranda noted – with a Northwest slant – that a new generation of small modular nuclear reactors, plus emerging geothermal energy technologies, will be part of the UK’s future sustainable energy mix. Their development and eventual delivery, she says, often involves working in partnership with local authorities.
She also stressed the importance of low-carbon technology being manufactured in the County – backed by grants from RedCAT – the Chamber led Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technology.
A green future will also be a prosperous future, she added, referring to President Biden’s recent comment that, “If I look at climate change, I see jobs, jobs, jobs!”
Water quality, sustainable land use and how we farm, present particularly important opportunities in helping nature to protect us from climate change, according to Emma, who thinks green standards are a starting point for economic recovery that will be important for many years to come.
“If I was a student,” she advised, “I would be looking for a job with a green theme in it.”
– Policy alignment
Money has been created by banks and investors which must now be directed towards green finance. With the formation of the Green Finance Institute (https://www.greenfinanceinstitute.co.uk/) the way to make progress, Emma believes, is collaboration between investors, civil society groups, industry, and public and private sector organisations.
“The more we are aligned, the more we get the policies we need in place,” she suggests.
– EA net-zero priorities?
The Agency EA committed itself in October 2019 to be net-zero by 2030 … and then move on to absolute-zero by 2050.
Its largest challenge is tackling air emissions in construction work (cement); it is working with contractors to use ultra-low carbon concrete. Another often overlooked carbon factor is good asset maintenance to extend the life of existing infrastructure. Retrofitting poor housing will be a priority.
The EA is also reviewing its fleet, IT functions, and travel activities.
Peat … a perfect natural solution
Lancashire peat is valuable and a major opportunity to both encourage biodiversity and the sequestration of carbon.
Wetted reactivated peat can pull carbon dioxide from the atmospheric back into stable storage. Upstream investments in the Wyre catchment are also creating better flood outcomes for businesses downstream.
As a potential ‘peat-broker’, the county’s goal now is to provide a shovel-ready ‘landing strip’ for inward ‘angel’ investors.
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You are invited to the next Special Interest Group about ESG (Environment, Social Responsibility and Governance) and Carbon Net-Zero hosted by Blackburn Youth Zone, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Businesswise Solutions.
As part of the recently launched Northern Net Zero initiative, Businesswise Solutions will be hosting the event at the Businesswise Energy Centre on Friday 15th October from 9.30 to 11 A.M.
The Chamber will discuss the Environment, Social Responsibility and Governance (ESG) agenda, which is rapidly growing in importance for investors, customers, employees and government.
Businesswise will address a specific but massively important element of ESG, Climate Change and Carbon Net-Zero.
This is a personal invitation to attend this inaugural event, an excellent opportunity to hear about the latest developments on these two topics and have the chance to discuss them with your peers.
Attendance is being limited in person to 30 to keep everyone safe, if the demand is there the event will be made hybrid. If you would like to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org and advise how many guests will be attending.
Lancashire will need to act alone if there is poor Government leadership at November’s critical COP26 global climate summit. Northwest companies, meanwhile, are making low-carbon work in practice. And not a minute too soon according to a new report by world scientists.
The latest news from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that the stable climate we have grown used is now almost certainly a thing of the past.
Instead, the future will be fundamentally unstable, the IPCC confirms in the first of three reports – the second two will be published early in 2022.
With many national and international crises now piling in on each other, the global environmental future might seem bleak. The alternative is to make our own regional luck.
The future in our own hands … Plan B
Making a sustainable economy work at a county level is now a strategic aim for both a highly-co-ordinated public sector and Lancashire’s innovative export-orientated private sector.
As East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce CEO, Miranda Barker, explains below, Lancashire County Council and our twelve district councils and two unitaries are planning to work together with industry and local communities to make a low-carbon transition happen.
Autumn – season of mists and intense low-carbon action
In parallel, the Chamber Low Carbon team are organising a series of autumn events to support thousands of SMEs whose individual actions will be important in averting a climate catastrophe.
They include a 21st September virtual conversation on natural solutions with Environment Agency chair, Emma Howard Boyd (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-conversation-with-emma-howard-boyd-chair-of-the-environment-agency-tickets-155915358033), and an Energy and Environmental Forum with IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor Martin Baxter on 24th September where progress on the post-Brexit Environment Bill delayed in Parliament by the pandemic will be reviewed.
But the window for action is closing fast, says Chamber Low Carbon Programme Manager, Stephen Sykes.
“The climate crisis isn’t coming, it’s already here,” he adds. “We must stop thinking about meeting 2030 and 2050 net-zero emission deadlines. The time to act is now!”
There were positive developments too in August with the publication of the Government’s new hydrogen strategy – and the curious dilemma that we need to manufacture ‘blue’ hydrogen (high-carbon) to learn to live with the technology before we are able to make sufficient ‘green’ hydrogen (almost carbon-free).
We also heard that climate change is slowing the Gulf Stream bringing us warm water across the Atlantic. But on a brighter note, the UK is one of six top global locations for surviving disasters successfully!
Enemy at the gates
The main news was that hundreds of climate scientists working through the UN have released a “code red for humanity” notice that the world faces disaster without urgent action (https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/ and https://www.ipcc.ch/2021/08/09/ar6-wg1-20210809-pr/).
Their warning comes two months ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow where 196 nations must make life-changing decisions to keep average world temperature rises below 1.50C … or risk irreversible global damage.
A second UN report early in 2022, showing that it will be ‘game over’ if emissions don’t peak within four years, has already been ‘leaked’ by researchers worried that their key message might be watered down.
A further hurdle is that decarbonisation alone will not be enough; millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere must be removed by untried technologies to keep the world cool.
Whipping up support
Meanwhile, the UK Government as host for the make-or-break conference, is accused of being well behind the COP26 policy and planning curve – despite a mammoth diplomatic effort by Alok Sharma MP.
As full-time President for COP26, he has already visited 30 countries this year to encourage a positive buy-in from economically-challenged states that will need financial help from richer nations to make and keep costly carbon promises.
The support of sceptical nations that still rely on high-carbon energy could also pivot on the ‘green’ authority of the US Biden administration; the current chaotic international backdrop may not be helpful.
Many countries also expect their delegations to be barred from COP26 by pandemic restrictions; digital discussions rather than ‘face-to-face’ negotiations could water down their commitments.
Action this day
Whatever the diplomatic agreements, high-level declarations and post-summit communiques, the success of COP26 will only be as good as real actions on the ground.
Lancashire is on firm ground to decarbonise, but also go much further and provide much-needed entrepreneurial low-carbon leadership with the strong support of its innovative industrial base and advanced manufacturing capabilities, explains Miranda Barker.”
“We need action now,” she says. “No more open-ended strategies. The time for talking is now done! Instead, Lancashire County Council and our district councils are coming together and what we need from them is a real action plan if we can no longer rely on policy from the Government.
“This will mean, for example, that strategic decisions on where and how to provide renewable low-carbon power, and the necessary resources, will be taken locally by councils – working closely with our world-leading private sector.
“What we need is coordination like never before,” she adds!
Made in modern Lancashire
Unlike some northwest metropolitan authorities that are restricting their focus to decarbonisation their industrial base and offsetting, Lancashire is already the home of world-leading manufacturing giants like Rolls Royce, which is part of the effort to develop small modular reactors (SMR) with a high export potential.
In future, the county could be a focus for manufacturing specialist electric vehicle (EV) batteries, ground heat pumps, plus evolving energy-from-waste and energy-from-plastic-waste technologies.
“We have a lot to gain from low-carbon technologies,” Miranda adds. “The more the market pushes in that direction, the more work we will win.” She also thinks SMR nuclear power as an interim energy source is essential.
“There are two key points I would like to make,” she says. “The first is that this is definitely not an exchange or trade-off of growth versus climate. The second is that as a nation we have to get off our backsides and act!”
Being very practical for a moment, Liz Harper from Smart Energy GB. Liz also joined us in August to explain the important benefits of smart meters for businesses.
If you missed her Lunch and Learn presentation, see it again at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kn3ql7b7oE. More Smart Energy information is available at https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/about-smart-meters/smart-meter-benefits-for-small-businesses?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=Partnership&utm_content=East-Lancashire
One area where the county currently lacks resources is in the production, storage, distribution and use of hydrogen. In the first instance, a limited supply chain means that the gas will be used in hard-to-reach power sectors, such as large transport solutions and heating.
This is where the Government’s hydrogen strategy published in August could be important (UK hydrogen strategy – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-hydrogen-strategy).
From a low-carbon perspective, ‘blue’ hydrogen made by stripping methane with the unfortunate by-product of unwanted carbon dioxide is an anathema.
Interestingly, the Government’s view, which is supported by the usually very strict Climate Change Committee, is that until sufficient ‘green’ hydrogen can be produced, ‘blue’ hydrogen will be needed to allow time for businesses to make the crossover.
Ultimately, the goal is for 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity to be in place by 2030.
“Wake up call” climate study to be released
It is important to note just why the IPCC’s August report – the most comprehensive assessment of global heating since 2013 – is so important.
What scientists do is a very precise process that involves reviewing their findings line-by-line with representatives of 196 world governments. The focus in August was human-induced climate change.
In summary, its headline findings were that: – the global surface temperature was 1.090C higher in the decade from 2011 to 2020 than 1850 to 1900; the past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850; the recent sea level rise rate is three-times higher than from 1901 to 1971.
At the same time: – human influence is “very likely” (90%) to be the main driver of a global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s, plus decreasing Arctic sea-ice; it is also “virtually certain” that hot extremes including heatwaves have been more frequent and intense since the 1950s – cold events have become less frequent and less severe.
Warning signs of a Gulf Stream collapse
One concern is that tipping points could flip the world into an unsustainable condition. Climate scientists now think they have detected warning signs for one of the world’s major potential tipping points – a collapse of the Gulf Stream that crosses the Atlantic to heat up the UK and Europe.
Specifically, research has found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), with currents are at their slowest for at least 1,600 years.
A shutdown could disrupt the rain billions of people rely on, increase storms and lower temperatures in Europe, raise sea levels off eastern North America, threaten the Amazon rainforest, and melt Antarctic ice sheets.
Record melt and sea level rises
Greenland’s current daily Arctic ice-melt could already cover Florida in two inches of water. Some 8.5 billion tonnes were lost on Tuesday 3 August.
An all-time record temperature for the region of 19.80C was reached on Wednesday 4 August, followed by a further 8.4 billion tonne loss on Thursday, according to the Polar Portal monitoring website (http://polarportal.dk/en/greenland/).
Greenland’s normal melting season lasts from June to August. But Danish government data shows that its ice cap has shed more than 100 billion tonnes since the beginning of June 2021, adding to global sea level rises caused by human-induced climate change.
Some 7 seven billion tonnes of rain also fell for the first time on Greenland summit some two miles above the sea; it normally falls as snow. This was the heaviest precipitation since record keeping began in 1950, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). Summit temperatures rose above freezing for the third time in less than a decade.
Good places to survive and prosper
The six best places to survive a global collapse are New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Tasmania, Ireland … and the UK, according to one other new university study.
Researchers say “highly interconnected and energy-intensive” human civilisations face severe financial and climate shocks, the destruction of nature, pandemics worse than Covid-19 – or combinations of all of these.
To assess national resilience – and build “collapse lifeboats” – the six were ranked by their ability to grow food, protect borders from mass migration, maintain an electrical grid, and manufacture.
Islands in temperate regions with low population densities came out on top. Which is why billionaires, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and high-spending “preppers” are buying land in New Zealand to build luxury bunkers ready for an apocalypse.
Study team member Professor Aled Jones of Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute commented, “We were quite surprised the UK came out strongly. It is densely populated, has traditionally outsourced manufacturing, hasn’t been the quickest to develop renewable technology, and only produces 50% of its own food at the moment.
He added, “But it has the potential to withstand shocks.”
Sign of our times
Forget Spain and Italy. The National Trust has decided to give its staff and volunteers in the south of England more Mediterranean-style working hours because of climate change, with a long lunch breaks, earlier starting and later finishing times.
Action is needed … soon. The UK road of good intent to November’s make-or-break global climate summit in Scotland lacks hard-hitting pragmatic policies experts warn the Government. The next three months will be pivotal.
Summer at last. Opportunities to relax, refresh and prepare for a crucially-important second half of 2021.
However, the Government is facing criticism that while its net-zero emissions aims are laudable in principle – such as reducing UK greenhouse gas (GHG) releases by 78% by 2035 – practical plans, policies and programmes must be added quickly.
It is being warned that a lack of urgent action is jeopardising the autumn climate change summit where Britain’s international reputation for environmental leadership is at stake; success is vital for UK business in general, export opportunities, plus the world’s wellbeing.
Thirteen weeks to go
On 1st August, there will be 92 days left to the start of COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 hosted by the UK in Glasgow from 1st to 12th November. The Government is adamant this must be a face-to-face in-person event despite the coronavirus pandemic.
But key Whitehall and Downing Street decisions must be made first. As a recent Times’ editorial put it, “The prime minister’s urgent task over the summer must be to turn vague ideas into clear policy.”
Cop-Watch 2021 – northwest support
The Chamber Low Carbon team and the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce naturally want COP26 to be an outstanding success that underscores our sustainable goals of cutting carbon, using green energy, valuing waste as a resource, and using technology to reduce global warming risks.
Lancashire will be well represented at the COP26 British Chambers of Commerce pavilion in Glasgow where RedCAT and other alternative technologies will be showcased, says Miranda Barker.
Local low-carbon innovations and manufacturing will also be on show from 11th to 12th October when the COP26 ‘Carbon Battle Bus’ visits the county on its ‘Zero Carbon UK Tour’ from London to Scotland.
Powerful policies needed urgently
But Miranda also emphasises the importance of creating policies to encourage the uptake of low-carbon technologies. What is needed, she says, is a solid Government procurement strategy effective at a regional, local and national level.
A number of conditions and caveats are essential, she believes. They include basing procurement decisions on net-zero status, social value and climate change impact. Low carbon baseline standards must also be deeply embedded in national and local planning policies and building practices, she says.
Other priorities include landfill tax rates that discourage wasteful waste dumping, plus an automatic minimum percentage of recycled material in all manufactured products;
A contract tendering system that encourages businesses of all sizes to think net-zero, linked to incentives, subsidies and support for all firms and not just early adopters, are also essential.
“But the Government must act now!” says Miranda.
July turns up the heat
July’s record heat and wildfires on the American western seaboard, floods in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, China, India and London, plus the Met Office’s first ever UK extreme heat warning, have underlined the importance of decisions that must be made by 197 nations in November under UK leadership.
Meanwhile, a further split in the European road means Britain could face a global environmental leadership challenge from the EU which has just released its own ultra-ambitious community-wide strategy for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
But before looking at these and other key July developments, a quick reminder to book your 21st September, 12 noon, place now to join Chamber CEO Miranda Barker in virtual conversation with Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-conversation-with-emma-howard-boyd-chair-of-the-environment-agency-tickets-155915358033.
A problem shared …
A series of new IPCC reports to be released before COP26 and in 2022 will show that scientists are now worried global warming will trigger tipping points in natural systems that cannot be reversed.
Life will change for everyone in the decades ahead even if GHG emissions are cut, the International Panel on Climate Change predicts.
Tipping points occur when one impact leads quickly to a domino cascade of events with further impacts. The exact timing is little understood and the IPCC was criticised previously for not giving tipping points enough weight.
An example quoted is where rising temperatures melt arctic permafrost which then releases the powerful GHG methane that in turn causes more warming. Another is that the Amazon rainforest might quickly become savannah with relatively small temperature rises
The IPCC worries that while 1.1oC of warming since pre-industrial times has contributed to recent catastrophes in Europe and the US, the world is currently on course for a 3oC rise this century.
As mentioned above, the EU published far-reaching draft proposals in July that its 27 member states must approve in what are expected to be months of acrimonious negotiations.
From 1990 to 2019, the EU made cuts of 24%. Now, with a 12-pronged range proposals called ‘Fit for 55’, its new target is 55% over 1990 levels by 2030, an increase of 31% in just nine years.
Many goals will resonate in the UK, with taxes on jet fuel and bans on petrol and diesel vehicles in 20 years. Other measures are a carbon border tariff, ambitious renewable energy targets, and the rapid renovation of energy-inefficient buildings.
To demonstrate its resolve, at least 30% of the EU’s €1.8 trillion budget will go to climate-related measures – but serious opposition from poorer eastern members to proposals formulated by more affluent western states must be hammered out first
Heating and road transport will become part the EU emission trading scheme (EU ETS). Carbon border taxes on steel, cement and fertilisers will match the cost of carbon permits paid by European industry. But there are a fears of trade wars with China and the US.
UK transport net-zero pathway
The Government published its Transport Decarbonisation Plan (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transport-decarbonisation-plan) in July setting out additional reductions needed to decarbonise all forms of domestic transport and deliver the sector’s contribution to net-zero by 2050. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the plan as “just the start” and many more details will follow.
However, the Transport Action Network (https://transportactionnetwork.org.uk/) is taking the Government to the High Court on the grounds that its £27.4 billion second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) is not consistent with achieving net-aero by 2050, the Paris Agreement, or commitments to leave nature in a better state for future generations.
UK in the dock
One of the Government’s major critics is its independent advisor, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which warns the UK is failing in its adaptation planning to climate change. It adds that severe weather and economic impacts could be felt much sooner than expected, despite emission cuts.
The CCC says that two years after adopting its binding net-zero target, the UK still has no ‘coherent’ plan to reduce emissions this decade and is on course to deliver only one fifth of cuts needed by 2035.
No single department is moving fast enough, says the CCC, adding that the Government can’t succeed by “setting dates and making heroic technical assumptions”. Ministers, it adds, show little sign of understanding the scale of the problem or its implications.
Blunders and corrections
Specifically, the CCC says ministers are not supporting “important statements of ambition” with “firm policies”. It also points to “high-carbon blunders” in policymaking over aviation taxes, ending home improvement grants and support for a new Cumbrian coal mine.
To rectify this, the Government must publish a ream of new green policy packages in the next three months, without which its overarching Net-Zero Strategy (roadmap) will not be complete.
High on the priority list, says the CCC, are a Heat and Building Strategy promised in autumn 2020, a Hydrogen Strategy, the Nature Strategy, the Biomass Strategy, the Net Zero Aviation Strategy and the first part of the Treasury’s Net-Zero Review. It warns that publishing individual policy packages will not be enough.
CCC chair Lord Deben commented, “Between now and COP26, the world will look for delivery, not promises.”
What a waste
More encouraging news is that the waste management industry plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 with a £10 billion investment in new recycling infrastructure and net-zero vehicles.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) says new technologies will increase methane capture from landfill by 85% by 2030, following cuts of 46% since 1990. Non-recyclable waste – the UK produces 27.5 million tonnes annually, excluding plastics – will be decarbonised by diverting organic waste from landfill to recycling and energy production.
In July, the sustainable leaders Aldergate Group (https://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/) appointed Theresa May as its new chair and also released a new report – ‘Closing the Loop: Time to Crack on with Resource Efficiency’ – which says embedding circular economy principles in major policy frameworks could achieve 80% of the extra emission cuts needed to meet the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget from 2028 to 2032.
The world may also be on the brink of a new nuclear power age, say nuclear specialists who believe that just as centralised computers were replaced by low-cost PCs, relatively tiny, inexpensive factory-built reactors designed for plug-and-play use like oversized batteries are on the horizon.
Simple operation means that they could be left unattended to power industrial processes for five to 10 years before factory refurbishment.
Large-scale carbon-removal in Scotland
A large plant capable of suck up to a million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually is planned for northeast Scotland – equivalent to some 40 million trees. The gas could be stored permanently under the seabed off the Scottish coast.
This Direct Air Capture (DAC) project between UK firm Storegga and Canadian company Carbon Engineering is in an early development stage. With a feasibility study complete, it should begin operating in 2026 as Europe’s biggest DAC plant and potentially the world’s largest.
Global legal experts have drawn up a “historic” definition of ecocide to be used by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in prosecuting serious environmental offences. The Stop Ecocide Foundation initiative addresses concerns that not enough is being done to tackle the climate and ecological crisis.
Ecocide could be the fifth offence the court prosecutes, alongside war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression – and the first new one since Nazi leaders were prosecuted at the post-WWII Nuremberg trials from 1945 to 1946.
Some 4 million people visit Yellowstone National Park annually to see its most famous geyser blow thousands of litres of boiling water hundreds of feet into the air about 17 times a day.
A new study has found that a 10oF (4.7oC) predicted local temperature rise, less snowfall and more rain, could shut Old Faithful down completely by the century’s end. This happened circa 800 years ago when extreme heat and drought brought Old Faithful to a standstill for decades. Researcher think the past could be a mirror to the present and future.
However, the droughts that dried up Old Faithful then were potentially less extreme than what may be happening now. The last Ice Age was only 5oF to 7oF colder than today!
G7 … global and local lessons
World leaders meeting in Cornwall renewed their commitment in June to low-carbon goals that England’s North West is already busy delivering! But there is plenty more yet to be done in 2021 … and the next 10 to 30 years.
The heads of the world’s top seven economies – plus the EU – have been criticised for serious omissions during their first ‘face-to-face’ meeting of minds in two years at June’s 47th G7 summit at Cornwall’s picturesque Carbis Bay.
A lack of practical implementation details needed to ‘get the job done’ was high on the list.
In contrast, copious details were available at the Chamber Low Carbon Virtual Expo also held in June, which as explained in a moment, can be seen again on our YouTube channel.
… plus two more moments not to miss …
However, before looking more closely at what the G7 said, it is important to mention that Brian Butler and John Keen’s 17th June Lunch & Learn webinar on using ‘lean’ principles to generate some £65 million worth of productivity improvements can also be seen again at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_LBFxAzk3M).
Looking beyond the summer holidays, now is a good time to book your 21st September, 12 noon, place now to join Chamber CEO Miranda Barker in virtual conversation with Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-conversation-with-emma-howard-boyd-chair-of-the-environment-agency-tickets-155915358033.
Many global gaps to fill
The G7 meeting between Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, US and EU – plus India, South Korea and Australia – reaffirmed their basic commitment of reducing emissions to minimise damaging temperature rises. Russia, and major carbon-emitter China, are not part of the group.
However, strategic solutions to essential questions that must be answered at November’s COP26 UN make-or-break global climate summit in Glasgow went unanswered – leaving green groups and activists frustrated that there is still just “a plan to make a plan”.
Lancashire shows the way
In contrast, the Chamber Low Carbon Virtual Expo on 2nd and 3rd June offered a great deal of detail which can be revisited at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1bbrt-bzLc&list=PLqF17bEdv5lAys0rGWeDra8tq0Pt36lEm&index=2).
For the second year running, our sustainable showcase explained how our expert team helps business organisations to cut emissions, use renewable energy, join the circular economy, and take low-carbon innovations to market.
But other G7 goals are very important to us too.
The Cornish summit agreed to phase out coal while protecting and restoring 30% of the natural world by 2030. Waste was high on the agenda. But rich nations again failed to give developing countries a promised $100 billion each year to create their own modern low-carbon economies – a controversy that could upset COP26.
It is helpful to look at the same issues from a UK and regional standpoint: –
– Nature and biodiversity – The Environment Bill returned to the Commons in May with new provisions to support our natural assets.
– Waste and plastics – The G7 was asked to set a net-zero plastic waste target matching the UN’s net-zero emissions goal. Helping companies to join the circular economy is one of our core aims.
– Green finance – and the lack of it – While unveiled plans this spring for a UK post-Brexit finance hub, the Chancellor is pressing for infrastructure and technology investments to help poorer nations go green.
Return of the Environment Bill
In May, the Environment Bill returned to the Commons for its Report Stage and Third Reading after Covid-19 delays. Provisions have been added to stop water companies discharging sewage into rivers. There is also a legally-binding 2030 goal to halt the decline of hedgehogs, red squirrels, water voles, bats and all other species.
The landmark State of Nature 2019 report (https://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/State-of-Nature-2019-UK-full-report.pdf) showed that 41% of UK native plant and animal species have declined since 1970, a trend that will accelerate without intervention.
Meanwhile, Defra is to develop a Green Paper on meeting the new 2030 target to protect 30% of terrestrial natural habitats while reintroducing animals such as wildcats to England, beavers to wider parts of the country, and restoring more peatlands and woodlands.
G7 finance ministers also agreed an ambitious agenda for the COP15 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (https://www.cbd.int/) from 11th to 24th October 2021 in China. The Chancellor wants international transparency to tackle illicit finance from the illegal wildlife trade.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) recently publish a new report on spending to protect and improve biodiversity and eco-systems (https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/62/environmental-audit-committee/news/139275/eac-calls-for-climate-and-nature-investment-to-be-prioritised-in-the-economic-recovery/).
Net-zero plastic pollution
The G7 was asked to resolve a major pollution problem. Nestlé, one of the world’s largest plastic waste creators, has joined Aldi, Iceland, the Co-op, major packaging producers and charities in calling for a binding world treaty to effectively end new plastic pollution. The outcome is pending.
The letter pointed out that the world produces some 300 million tonnes of plastic waste annually; globally, circa 3 million face masks are currently thrown away every minute – 129 billion per month.
More green money?
In its final Carbis Bay communique, the G7 agreed to “Build Back Better for the World” in a goal described as a green version of the post-WWII Marshall Plan.
Under the Paris climate agreement, developed nations should provide £72 billion ($100 billion) annually in green financing. A June meeting of G7 finance ministers hosted by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey looked at how they can be encouraged to honour this pledge.
A key problems is that funding is often extended as repayable loans – not grants – which defeats the original aim. The Chancellor is expected to ask October’s G20 meeting in Rome before COP26 to support the International Monetary Fund’s aim of putting climate change into all its financial activities. Banks and multilateral development banks are also being urged to align with climate goals.
Another G7 priority is for business organisations to improve their climate-related financial disclosures. The UK Government may make it a legal requirement for private companies to publish their climate-related business risks in line with Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) (https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/).
If TCFD comes into force in 2022 in the UK to give financial markets and investors clear information on how larger firms manage climate change risks, it will cover pension schemes, life insurance providers and asset managers.
While Covid-restrictions could limit the number of political leaders, scientists, NGOs, media and charities going physically to Glasgow, the summit may be coming to us in the form of a ‘Carbon Battle Bus’ that will criss-cross the country on a ‘Zero Carbon UK Tour’ from London to Scotland.
The Lancashire stage could include visiting the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) low-carbon demonstrator to meet partners, suppliers and companies. There will also be opportunities to see some of the technical projects being developed in partnership with RedCAT.
The aim is to help businesses of all sizes. While 45% of FTSE 100 companies are committed to reaching net zero by 2050 or sooner, only 16% have a real plan in place to do it.
Another June development has been the launch of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) ‘Energy & Low Carbon Sector plan. Under the co-chair of LEP Board Director and Chamber CEO Miranda Barker. This sets out how the county’s ambitious vision will be put into practice (https://lancashirelep.co.uk/2021/06/10/lancashire-enterprise-partnership-launches-energy-low-carbon-sector-plan/.
Green technology to the rescue on a large-scale
Initial results from the UK Atomic Energy Authority show success in a world-first fusion energy breakthrough – the dream of harnessing the power that drives the stars here on planet earth by holding a super-hot nuclear plasma in a powerful magnetic field within a machine called a tokomak.
A new MAST Upgrade experiment at Culham near Oxford has tested an exhaust system that stands up to the extreme heat generated by fusion power stations. The Super-X divertor means that components will last much longer and cut the cost of fusion electricity.
It reduces exhaust heat from a ‘blowtorch to a ‘car engine’ level and is a pivotal step in putting fusion power on the UK grid by the early 2040s – and making it available to the world.
Geothermal gains ground
Geothermal energy is about using the heat of hot rocks underground. Growth has been virtually stagnant. But the new push to decarbonise heating systems could boost the technology.
High initial costs and exploration uncertainties mean that in 2019 less than 0.9% of global energy came from this huge potential source. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says it represented only 15GW of electrical capacity in 2020 compared to 737GW from solar PV. The IEA also believes the time and conditions are now right for change, particularly in the heating sector.
With support and investment, geothermal globally could rise by more than 40% by 2023, the IEA adds. Two-thirds would be in the US and China where geothermal district heating developments could help solve air quality problems. The technology is also rising up the agenda in regions like Europe where heating sectors need to decarbonise quickly for net-zero goals to be met.
There is also considerable potential in UK granite moorland areas and the abandoned deep coal mines of northern UK where ground heat from hot water is increasingly being exploited locally.
Suck it and see!
Meanwhile, a £30 million large-scale UK field trial will test whether CO2 already in the atmosphere can be ‘sucked out’ again effectively and affordably with ‘natural’ technologies (https://www.ukri.org/news/uk-invests-over-30m-in-large-scale-greenhouse-gas-removal/).
Poor-quality Pennine and west-Wales peat-lands, once re-wetted, will be replanted with ‘energy crops’ like willow and miscanthus grass. Carbon emissions when these are burned as a fuel will be captured and stored permanently underground.
To remove more carbon, stone chippings that absorb CO2 as they degrade will be scattered on farms in Devon, Hertfordshire and mid-Wales; biochar – a special kind of long-lasting charcoal – will also be buried at a sewage disposal site, on former mine sites and along railway embankments.
UK ETS post-Brexit carbon market opens with high prices
While SMEs cut carbon, it is reassuring to know that large organisation are under pressure. The new UK ETS – the world’s fourth-largest emissions trading system in volume terms – began trading in May at circa £45.25 per tonne, almost £5 higher than the EU’s ETS – the world’s largest.
Pricing carbon is seen as a major tool in limiting emissions. It was also above the Government’s anticipated threshold level and could be adjusted to avoid international problems and complaints from high-emitting sectors like building materials, mining, oil and gas.
Under the UK ETS, power plants and other high emitters will be charged for every tonne of CO2e they release above a certain limit, but can sell excess reductions for profit to other companies that have broken through their limits. The UK ETS is set to cover 155 megatonnes of CO2e in its first year.
Yuck? Or delicious?
As a final climate change pause for thought, new University of Cambridge research has suggested that “risk-resilient diets” will see us giving up wheat, maize and rice for kelp, maggots and algae.
No time to waste …
Responsible consumption and production is a key part of the low-carbon journey – which is why household bin collections will change soon. Recycled waste also has curious connections with ‘clean’ aviation. But the soils beneath our feet are a threatened carbon store.
At the thin end of the wedge, the cost of single-use plastic bags rose in May from 5p to 10p … and all businesses must now charge the levy.
More widely, the Government is consulting on plans for a major recycling boost covering plastic, paper, card, metals, food and garden waste. The aim is to reduce incineration and landfill … plus emissions of CO2 and the powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) methane.
The triple-goals will be to increase recycling rates, decrease plastic pollution and tackle litter. However, this could feed directly into sustainable air transport, as explained later.
Stop press: diary dates!
Before considering waste developments in detail, two June diary dates are important.
The first is an invitation to attend the Chamber Low Carbon Virtual Expo on 2 and 3 June where we will explain how we can help you to reduce emissions, use renewable energy, join the circular economy, and market new low-carbon technologies.
To register, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-virtual-expo-2021-tickets-140045697451 where the full agenda can be seen.
The second is for 11am on 29 June when the rearranged conversation between Chamber CEO Miranda Barker and Chair of the Environment agency Emma Howard Boyd will take place.
Double waste consultation
Whitehall is currently consulting on proposed changes to household and business recycling (https://consult.defra.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/consistency-in-household-and-business-recycling/). This gives businesses an opportunity before 4 July to input and influence the final plans.
This follows a March consultation (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-reforms-to-boost-recycling-and-fight-plastic-pollution) on landmark reforms to boost recycling, tackle plastic pollution and reduce litter.
That consultation covers Extended Producer Responsibilities for packaging (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/packaging-and-packaging-waste-introducing-extended-producer-responsibility) and puts the full cost of packaging waste management onto companies as an incentive to minimise material use and use sustainable materials.
Consumers will also be incentivised to help via a new Deposit Return Scheme for the “empties” that encourages the recycling of glass bottles and metal cans.
How waste changes will work
A major shake-up of domestic bin collections in England is designed to make it easier for millions of householders to recycle while reducing taxpayer costs. The goal is also to make collections more consistent en route to eliminating all avoidable waste by 2050.
Under the latest proposals, households will have separate food waste collections from 2023. There may also be statutory guidance on minimum service standards, subject to affordability and value-for-money.
Ordinary residential waste should be collected at least once a fortnight, although in urban areas with less space more frequent collections will be encouraged. Households could also save £100 million annual through free green garden waste collections.
The changes are designed to support 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy goals to recycle at least 65% of all municipal waste by 2035 – with a maximum of 10% going to landfill (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/resources-and-waste-strategy-for-england).
Flights of low-carbon fancy?
The UK’s new commitment to a 78% GHG emissions cut by 2035 will for the first time include aviation and shipping. Before Covid-19, aviation represented 3% of global emissions.
To avoid unfair pressures on other key parts of the economy, air and sea travel and transport must become a lot cleaner. The alternative is to minimise their use.
This ties in with a less consumer-orientated global lifestyle, but will make big demands on internet-based shopping where goods from the far side of the world are ordered at the click of a mouse.
Straight and level
One argument is that aviation can never be truly green … electric long-haul flights from, say, London to Singapore are not feasible with foreseeable technology.
But significant steps are being taken towards sustainable aviation which is where recycled household organic waste becomes important.
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) made from domestic and municipal waste will even help to keep RAF Typhoons, F35s and Wildcat helicopters flying on a diet of recycled banana skins, potato peelings, hydrogenated fat and oils, alcohols, sugars, wood and kitchen waste, biomass and algae.
That is one part of the battle. Another is a new generation of lighter materials, efficient engines, and more streamlined aerodynamic profiles that reduce drag.
The challenge for the hard-Covid-hit UK aviation industry is to cut its 36 million tonne annual carbon footprint to net-zero while also carrying 100 million more passengers annually.
Several factors could make a difference. Air transport is currently vital for international commerce. However, a recent YouTube survey found some 66% of former business users expect to fly less than before the pandemic (https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/c9qjhkrrpk/Marketing%20data%20tables%20-%20GSCC.pdf).
November’s crucial COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow is expected to be an in-person event. But flying to Scotland may not be an option if the UK follows the recent French precedent of banning short-haul flights with a rail journey alternative of is less than 250-miles.
How will future aviation work?
The net-zero by 2050 challenge is that while modern aircraft are 70% quieter and 80% more fuel-efficient than their 1960s predecessors, flight fundamentals have not changed.
A new generation of biofuel and electric turbo-generator-driven planes are beginning take off; by 2030, short-haul flights could be 10% to 15% more efficient.
But trans-world electric flights are still well beyond the limits of existing technology. Which is awkward given that 66% of pre-pandemic aviation emissions come from flights of 1,000-miles-plus.
Sustainable fuel production
SAF development advances are being made in the US, Canada and potentially in Lincolnshire where Velocys has been granted planning permission to build the UK’s first waste-to-jet-fuel plant (https://www.velocys.com/2020/06/12/nelc-formal-planning-permission-notice-issued/).
SAF, which is part of the circular economy, could potentially cut emission by 165% compared to fossil-fuel alternatives – by reducing direct aircraft emissions and also cutting landfill releases.
If the Velocys project goes ahead, it could turn 600,000 tonnes of household waste annually – including difficult-to-recycle plastics – into low-carbon aviation and road fuel.
These will cut GHG emissions by 70%, soot and particulates that cause contrails by 90%, and produce almost no sulphur dioxide.
The RAF could use up to 50% SAF, according to the MOD; aviation currently accounts for some two-thirds of defence sector fuel use.
Meanwhile, US aviation consumes some 21 billion gallons of jet fuel annually. Without change, global aviation will release 43 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050.
However, Boeing expects to deliver commercial aircraft that use 100% biofuel by 2030. Airbus is looking at hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen combustion, modified gas turbine engines and cryogenic hydrogen storage; the world’s first commercial hydrogen flight is expected in 2026.
Rolls Royce is said to be considering small airborne nuclear reactors to produce hydrogen in flight.
Faradair in Cambridgeshire has a different flight path. Its 18-seat bioelectric hybrid aircraft (Beha) is currently based on existing technology but could eventually be carbon neutral.
Electric motors are used for take-offs and landings, but a turbo-generator powered by biofuel in level flight – with a boost from solar panels to help recharge the batteries for landing.
Bulk carbon storage beneath our feet
Soils are our friends with the potential to store twice the volume of carbon the atmosphere can hold. But rural and urban soils are under attack.
Sustainable farming and built-environment construction methods are needed. Soils are also crucial for water storage and distribution as storms and drought become more frequent and intense.
Working on our behalf
At the heart of the matter are vast microscopic communities that construct voids in soils which allow gases and liquids free passage. They also create, share and store nutrients, process pollution, support the carbon and nitrogen cycles, and detoxify pollution,
The local residents include macrofauna – moles, mice, rabbits, centipedes, woodlice, snails and slugs; shorter-than-2mm-long mesofauna – springtails (mainly detritivores and microbivores), mites (small arachnids), and tardigrades (often called water bears or moss piglets), plus microfauna (bacteria, fungi and algae). Worms, of course, are top of the heap.
Intense-farming breaks up these minute structures; compaction and more hardstanding in expanding cities is sealing off valuable ground. Acidification, salinization (salt), desertification, deforestation and pollution are also degrading soils worldwide.
It used to be thought that ploughing and aerating soils was good and increased water retention. But we now know that it allows in oxygen which microbes convert to CO₂.
No-till farming – with seeds put into holes drilled in undisturbed ground – is now seen as more beneficial. Especially when linked to an end of the bulk spreading of nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers which can cause ‘eutrophication’ algae and plant pollution in vulnerable wetlands.
Dash for the trees
However, livestock, crops and trees can work better together. Researchers are also studying how ‘silvopasture’ linking shade-tree planting with improved plant growing conditions and biodiversity support can also increase carbon storage, flood control and drought-resilience (https://www.innovativefarmers.org/news/2021/february/18/twelve-year-field-lab-into-the-benefits-of-silvopasture-launched/).
Modern farming relies on predictable weather conditions. The new aim of projects in Devon and the West Country is to plant trees surrounded and protected by foraging plants for livestock. Once established, trees provide shelter and stable conditions for soils, animals, plants, crops and wildlife.
Better urban systems
In parallel, new urban strategies are being developed where soil quality is important in schemes like SUDS (sustainable drainage systems) that replicate natural water management networks.
These store, clean and return water to local environments slowly via carefully-profiles landscape features rather than channelling heavy flood waters quickly to sea through overloaded rivers.
A major hurdle is that relatively little is known about soils. What is known is that since the Industrial Revolution some 135 gigatons of soil have been lost globally from farmland according to 2019 “World Food Prize” winner, Professor Rattan Lal.
In the same period, circa 77 billion tonnes of CO2 have been released from UK soils. It is also estimated that from 1978 to 2008, UK soils emitted 10% of the carbon they were storing.
Good agricultural soils are made up of roughly 50% solids, 25% air and 25% water. It can take a century to create 5mm which can be destroyed in seconds.
However, a number of high-level initiative are homing in on the problem.
Soil and life are mutually-dependent
In April, the UN’s first “Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity (GSOBI21)” considered the future of soil ‘hanging in the balance’ (http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/soil-biodiversity-symposium/en/).
It include Charles E. Kellogg’s 1938 quotation that “Essentially, all life depends on the soil … There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.”
This followed the UN’s ‘bleak’ 2017 “The Global Land Outlook (GLO)” study with findings that a third of Earth’s land is severely degraded with 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil lost annually to intensive farming (https://www.unccd.int/actions/global-land-outlook-glo).
High human cost
The UN estimates that land degradation is damaging the wellbeing of 40% of the Earth’s human population and increasing the risks for migration and conflict.
A key lesson is that sub-soil biodiversity is essential for land surface biodiversity, but the requirements of the two differ and need to be better understood.
Another key reference is “State of knowledge of soil biodiversity – Status, challenges and potentialities. Summary for policy makers” (http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/CB1929EN) which looks at the importance of biodiversity for food security and nutrition.
More optimistically, the EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 aims to protect nature and reverse ecosystem degradation (https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/biodiversity-strategy-2030_en).
The key lesson seems to be don’t treat soil like dirt, it is far more than mere muck!