Author Archive Debbie

2020 – A different kind of summer

2020 – a different kind of summer

Chasing the sun is harder this year. But as the Met Office launches a new decade-long warning service of winter storms that it says are clearly driven by climate-change, the skies above are becoming increasingly important to our low-carbon lives.

Whether away on a break with real travel, or at home on a coach-based staycation, this year’s weather – rain or shine – could prove to be an interesting holiday conversation topic.

After a record-wet winter, record-dry spring and an iffy summer, winter is probably still too far away to bother most people, with the exception of Met Office researchers.

In what is described as a major scientific breakthrough, a team of scientists have been hard at work making North Atlantic storm patterns much more predictable. The Met office has also shown that climate change is now definitely a driving force behind extreme UK weather events.

Elsewhere, researchers revising the 41-year-old link used since 1979 between atmospheric carbon levels and rising global temperatures have reached an important triple-conclusion.

Firstly, they confirm that there is no room for complacency at lower emission levels. Secondly, luck alone will not save us. Thirdly, the high-end worst case scenario is now considered to be less likely. However, a warming world still poses serious problems for human survival.

Net Zero carbon emissions for businesses

James Napier, the founder of CBD Expert (www.cbd.expert), has been looking closely at the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere. His expert field is the stringent efforts all UK companies must now make to support the UK’s legally-binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, or sooner.

In our July Lunch & Learn online webinar – “NET ZERO – What it means and why it’s as important to SMEs” – James explained the both obligations and commercial advantages for businesses. If you missed his presentation, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1ZJNuh4WXk.

What Net Zero means

Under the 2015 COP21 Paris climate agreement, countries must collectively cut carbon by making Nationally Defined Commitments (NDCs) before the 2021 COP26 summit in Glasgow that are sufficient to meet the 2050 science-based net-zero target. China is part of the process; the US, with Nicaragua and Syria, is one of only three states that are not.

To play their part, large corporates such as Sky and Apple are working towards a 2030 deadline. A key argument is that if interim 2030 targets cannot be met, the 2050 goal will be unreachable.

Some 61% of UK energy is now low-carbon. However, a 7.6% year-on-year reduction is needed to stay on track – a fivefold increase on 2019 pre-Covid-19 cuts. Offsetting is insufficient. Many governments are expected to enact legislation to achieve an 80% drop by 2030, or 90% if possible. This will have a direct impact on all companies.

How companies are affected

Net Zero is important for SMEs in helping their customers to win or lose work. It is also a growing employee concern and reduces real business costs. However, starting soon is essential because 2030 is effectively just five operational years away.

And that will involve all businesses – from manufacturers to professional service providers –understanding their carbon footprints intimately and knowing how to go about reducing them.

In practice, greenhouse gas emissions are categorised into three groups or ‘Scopes’ by the most widely-used international accounting tool, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. Tackling Scope 1 and Scope 2 will be mandatory. Scope 3, however, is optional and much more challenging.

Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources and can include gas boilers, vehicle fleets and even air-conditioning leaks. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions such as from bought-in electricity, steam, heating and cooling systems.

However, Scope 3 is potentially complex because it includes other indirect emissions which a company may not control in its cradle-to-grave value chain – typically from business travel to procurement and waste to water. In fact, an initial task is to define the parameters of Scope 3 which might, for example, be set on an organisational or lifecycle basis.

Although there are major commercial benefits to be gained within Scope 3, it can be 6.5 times larger than Scope 1!

Lower costs

Cost savings can be made in two areas. Cost reduction involves questioning how often clients really need to be visited, what fraction of energy bought is wasted, and looking at consumables – paper made from sugar waste can have a zero-carbon certification! Most energy providers now offer ‘green’ and ‘brown’ energy with similar cost points.

The other area is cost avoidance. COP26 is expected to confirm carbon pricing, a cost that could rise sharply. By reducing carbon emissions businesses can reduce their embedded costs.

A handy five-point reminder is: – to be efficient; reduce travel; use low carbon products; buy green energy; and recycle.

CBN Expert passionately supports SMEs on their Net Zero journey by: – helping them to calculate and report carbon emissions swiftly and accurately; providing a supporting community that offers insights and access to experts; ensuring clear targeting and progress reporting to stakeholders; being aligned with Government and UN objectives; and giving a real return on investment (ROI).

For full details of CBN Expert’s carbon footprint dashboard and other services, talk to James.

Met Office news – cold comfort

As an autumn diary note, the long-delayed Environment Bill will be considered by a Public Bill Committee on 29 September (https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/environment.html). The bill, which is the Government’s flagship post-Brexit legislative programme, has been hit by Covid-19.

 

With luck, we might also see a late Indian summer. The Met Office, however, has had its eye on wintery developments far out to sea.

 

Given the erratic extreme weather patterns of recent UK winters, it has published “How predictable are European winters?” (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2020/nao-predictability-paper), an analysis of six decades of climate modelling data which suggests that decadal variations in North Atlantic weather patterns are actually highly predictable.

As a result, it should soon be possible to know well in advance whether winters over a whole decade are likely to be stormy, warm and wet, or calm, cold and dry.

Improved crisis planning

On the basis that the best defence strategy is “preparation, preparation and preparation”, this should make water and flood management more effective so that the energy sector can plan for potential blackouts and power surges more efficiently, and airports can anticipate disruption.

The Met Office has also published its sixth State of the UK Climate report (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2020/state-of-the-uk-climate-report-2019). As lead author Mike Kendon explains, “Our report shows climate change is exerting an increasing impact on the UK’s climate. This year was warmer than any other year in the UK between 1884 and 1990, and since 2002 we have seen the warmest ten years in the series. By contrast, to find a year in the coldest ten we have to go back to 1963; over 50 years ago.”

Clouds, carbon and new calculations

Climate and clouds affect the warming equation in other ways. A new UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study due to be published in 2021 suggests that a better understanding of the role of clouds could mean that worst case warming estimates need to be revised upwards (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-ii/).

However, another study is particularly interesting. Research published by Review of Geophysics (https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019RG000678) has revised the 1979 link between CO2 and surface temperature rises, plus the effect a doubling of the pre-industrial carbon level of 280ppm (parts per million) to circa 560ppm by 2060 could have on warming.

Recalibration

The expert team’s approach has been to define more accurately the likely range of warming’s most probable climate impacts, a concept known as “equilibrium climate sensitivity”.

Since 1979, the IPCC has assumed that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would mean a 66% chance of the planet heating up by between 1.50C and 4.50C.

However, the latest work reduces the 66%-certainty range of climate sensitivity to between 2.60C and 3.90C – or 2.60C to 4.10C with more uncertainties included – and a most likely estimate a little above 30C.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement aims to keep warming below 1.50C. Sensitivity under 2.50C is largely ruled out by the new findings. But the chances of meeting the Paris goal at the high end are minimal. According to one author, the world would “… need to go into overdrive to avoid catastrophe.”

Some like it hot

With their body’s unique physiology, most humans live successfully in a narrow 110-150C temperature band around the world; a smaller number survive in 200-250C areas. That might be changing.

The World Meteorological Organisation believes that there is a 24% chance in the next five years of the average global temperature rising more than 1.50C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year (https://hadleyserver.metoffice.gov.uk/wmolc/WMO_GADCU_2019.pdf).

 

By 2070, circa three billion people in a projected world population of 9.4 billion could find themselves in ‘near un-liveable’ 290C, or above, conditions if global warming continues unchecked, according to Tim Michael, Professor of Climate Change and Earth System Science at the University of Exeter (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52543589).

 

UK 400C heat

In July, US weather forecasters warned of a potentially life-threatening heat wave with temperatures of up to 500C in southern California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. The UK also faces risks.

Following an all-time high of 38.70C was recorded at Cambridge University Botanical Gardens in July 2019, the Met Office Hadley Centre team has examined the likelihood of reaching 400C in the UK, the equivalent of an average summer Sahara Desert day, but with severe public health, transport and infrastructure impacts. (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2020/chances-of-40c-days-in-the-uk-increasing-due-to-human-influence).

To model the future, the team looked at a “medium RCP4.5” scenario where GHG emission rise but level off after the mid-century point, a “high emissions RCP8.5” scenario where little effort is made to reduce climate change, and a “natural climate” with no GHG emissions at all.

The UK south east, which is most at risk because of its proximity to warm European influences far from Atlantic storms and cold cloudy weather, will see temperatures above 35°C more regularly. But many northern areas could exceed 30°C at least once per decade.

However, the predicted frequency of 400C is more dramatic. Moving from today’s once in every 100 to 300 years norm, even under moderate climate change conditions where world temperatures rise but then level off in the second half of this century, the UK mercury could hit 400C every 15 years.

With high risk warming if the world decides not to cut GHG emissions seriously, this could fall to just 3.5 years; as a baseline comparison in a “natural climate” scenario with no human-induced GHG emissions the interval would be 100 to 1,000 years.

Their overall conclusion is that the probability of extremely hot UK days has and will continue to increase this century at a rate potentially 10 times higher than in a natural climate with no human influence.

Hot and wet

However, simple temperature rises are not the only problem. High humidity levels make sweating impossible. This is where wet-bulb temperature (WBT) is important – a temperature read on a thermometer covered in water-soaked cloth in an air current.

In fact, extreme humid heat overall has more than doubled in frequency since 1979, may have been under-reported and is becoming increasingly severe. A WBT of 350C can lead to hyperthermia.

Even with the advantages of walking on two legs – offering a smaller profile to the sun than quadrupeds – plus hairless skin and the ability to sweat, Homo sapiens (wise, sensible, judicious) is being pushed out of a safe ecological niche.

Resilience

Cities most at risk have tried different remedies – painting roofs white to reflect heat and suppress the heat island effect (New York), using a reflective road asphalt sealant to cool tarmac (Los Angeles), planting tree corridors to channel cool air down from surrounding hills (Stuttgart) and intensive vegetation-planting (Singapore). All at a considerable cost.

The best solution is to prevent overheating in the first place. Which brings us back to James’ webinar.

1,986

Chamber Low Carbon supports the Environment Agency’s 2025 ambitions

The Environment Agency have published their five-year plan to facilitate the UK’s path towards a greener and fairer country in 2025. EA2025 sets out the Environment Agency’s ambitions to build resilience to climate change, protect and restore our land, sea, air, and the valuable services they provide, and facilitate sustainable growth. The Environment Agency also reasserts its commitment to reducing its own emissions to net zero by 2030.

The report has been published against a backdrop of efforts to build, transform, and grow as we embark on our road to recovery from the pandemic. We are in a climate of change, and our emergence from difficult times presents a unique opportunity to ‘build back better’. Furthermore, this climate of change has come at the beginning of a critical decade for the future of our planet. The Environment Agency’s report addresses the sense of urgency that has stemmed from the convergence of a critical requirement to act on climate change, and a fleeting opportunity for change.

Chamber Low Carbon supports the ambitions of the Environment Agency and the strategy set out in EA2025. By supporting businesses with understanding and reducing their environmental impacts, we continue our contribution to supporting sustainable development, and protecting our natural environment. Additionally, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce have taken responsibility for our contribution towards the UK’s net zero ambition through becoming a signatory of the International Chambers of Commerce Climate Coalition.

Such transformational change as is needed to address the economic and environmental challenges that we face, will be achieved through partnerships and cooperation. Chamber Low Carbon supports the Environment Agency’s 2025 ambitions and will continue to act to help businesses develop sustainably.

LUNCH & LEARN: ‘Zero Hour’ Zero Carbon and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Join us for this Free lunchtime workshop in Accrington to find out why now is the time to embrace renewable energy and the fourth industrial revolution. Learn about the challenges and opportunities for business in with the region’s zero-carbon agenda.

Topics to be covered:

  • Zero carbon – what does it mean?
  • The likely implications for key organisations and SME’s
  • The danger of missing out
  • Possibilities for taking advantage of opportunities
  • Call to action for those wishing to be part of the new supply chain

The session will be led by Charley Rattan who is a renewable energy strategist and corporate trainer who has previously worked for SSE, EON and Shell. He has led or risk managed offshore wind farms at Islay and Seagreen, and has clients which include Canadian corporates and the US government. Charley is passionate about encouraging local North West based supply chain companies to engage with the offshore wind industry.

The event will start at 12:00 with lunch and networking, with the session starting from 12:30. Following the session there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and for further networking over refreshments.

The Chamber Low Carbon team will be on hand to discuss the support and funding available through the Low Carbon programme.

This workshop is part of a regular Lunch & Learn series giving Lancashire businesses the knowledge and tools to go green. To keep up-to-date with further workshops subscribe to the Chamber Low Carbon newsletter.

Book your free place:

12th April 2019 –  Accrington  

Lancashire Low Carbon Showcase – 6th December 2018

Brought to you in partnership with Chamber Low Carbon, The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation, Lancaster University, The MaCaW Project, University of Central Lancashire and The Knowledge Transfer.

There is a wealth of support available across the county for Lancashire based businesses to help them save money, develop new technology and reduce their carbon footprint.                                     To help you understand how your business could benefit, the three low carbon projects, all part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, have come together to host an event designed to give you a flavour of what’s on offer and how you can get involved.

Registration is from 8.30am with 9.00am start and a 12.00pm close.

Following the briefing there will be a chance to network with your fellow delegates and experts.

The event will be hosted by Andrew Leeming, Boost Programme Manager, Lancashire County Council. All low carbon teams will be on hand to discuss the support and funding available through each programme.

To register for this event: Click Here

 

A small island versus a heating world

Last chance! We must cut carbon emissions to the bone in 12-years to avoid an unbearably hot planet UN climate scientists now warn. Responses from the world’s largest carbon emitters have been “cool”. Can UK companies make a significant difference? The answer is yes on several levels.

The climate battle is about to become personal

What leading climate experts gathered at a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) October summit in Incheon, South Korea actually said is that limiting global temperature rises this century to no more than 20C will no longer keep us out of danger. We’ve already put too much carbon into the atmosphere.

“Rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are now vital to hold rises down to a much more demanding 1.50C maximum. This means reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions far more rapidly than thought necessary three years ago. The human species hasn’t been trying hard enough!

Worse still, the IPCC team calculates that the earth is currently heading towards not just 20C but a catastrophic 30C rise which will affect global weather, food chains and sea levels, cause extreme drought and flood events, and damage human health, commerce, economics and biodiversity.

Can we rise to this challenge? Yes, they say. But it means monumental changes now and far into the future on the part of governments, corporations, ordinary businesses … plus each and every one of us as individuals.

It will also be horrendously costly. Meeting the 1.50C target will need an average annual investment of some $2.4 trillion up to 2035, or 2.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP). The longer we wait, the higher the price-tag will be. Why? Because we will then have the additional problem of pulling earlier emissions back out of the atmosphere on an enormous scale.

UK versus the world

The response of the world’s largest carbon emitters – China, the US, India, plus Australia – is not particularly encouraging. Which begs the question of whether low carbon programmes on a small European island like the UK can deliver the innovations and low-carbon breakthroughs needed to make a real difference?

Unquestionably yes, for reasons explained later. To help, the Low Carbon Programme offers low carbon technology development support in three key areas – on-site energy generation; innovation and manufacturing; and supply chain and support services. It is designed to help regional companies develop, manufacture and take new pieces of low-carbon technology successfully to regional, national and international markets. The services are free and can also help you to access funding.

However, as Supply Chain Manager Darren Thomas explains, the programme helps in another vital way – creating closely-integrated supply chains that raise efficiency systematically, reduce energy or resource consumption, and therefore cut costs. As a result, many additional companies with key skills can help frontline product innovators and champions become even more competitive. Sales increase, profitability rises, carbon footprints sink, everyone benefits. It’s a win-win-win outcome.

Before looking at this part of the programme in greater detail, a quick world overview illustrates the size of the problem the IPCC has identified … and potential opportunities.

Still kicking the can

China – Recent satellite imagery shows that while China’s central government has issued suspension orders for more than 100 coal-fired power station, almost all have gone ahead. The reason given is that local Chinese provincial authorities now have planning powers and are loathed to close down economically active projects.

China has 993 GW of coal power capacity and plans to increase this by some 25% to 259GW. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that to meet a 1.750C warming target, China would have to close all plants without carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities in 30 years.

Down under – Australia’s largest export is coal as the world’s 13th largest emitter – China is number one. Some 60% of its electricity comes from coal, plus 50,000 jobs. Political reaction to the IPCC’s findings was stark. Deputy PM Michael McCormack confirmed that Australian coal policy won’t change, “just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything we should do”. Environment minister Melissa Price added that the IPCC was “drawing a long bow” in calling for coal use to end by 2050 and be replaced by new low-carbon technologies.

India – Australia’s coal problem is partly-Indian. The Adani Group is struggling to develop its controversial $16 billion Carmichael coal project near the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. It expects a six-fold rise in output by 2021. Exports will then fall.

India itself is in flux over carbon, cars and coal. It wants to put low-cost cars within the income range of ordinary families but also move swiftly to renewables and electric vehicles (EVs). Most Indian coal plants breach the country’s air pollution standards; many are expected to close by 2027. Meanwhile, annual demand is still rising, making India the world’s third largest GHG emitter.

US – As head of the world’s second largest GHG polluter, President Trump no longer believes climate change is a hoax but says climate change scientists have a “political agenda”. He says warming is cyclical and doesn’t want to “spend trillions of dollars and lose millions of jobs by cutting emissions”.

What has changed so suddenly?

There has been a sea-change in three years. The received wisdom since December 2015’s UN Paris climate summit has been that the maximum additional surface temperature rise the world can take relatively safely is 20C. That diagnosis has changed. In a 33-page Summary for Policymakers, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (http://un.org.au/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/ & https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/) spells out clearly that 1.50C is now the maximum.

Half a degree may not sound like much. But the report says it will make a traumatic difference to how we live. It means saying goodbye to red meat, milk and dairy products, sourcing seasonal food locally, throwing less away, using washing lines rather than tumble driers, walking, cycling or driving “clean” EVs when possible, using trains and roads rather than planes if we must travel, video conferencing more, buying less fast fashion, wearing sweaters in winter and insulating buildings. In short, a ground-breaking cultural shift – although no-one has suggested virtual holidays – yet!

The IPCC says there must be rapid and significant changes in four big global systems: – energy, land use, cities and industry. It does not tell governments what to do but does suggest scenarios.

It believes the situation is now so dire that the 1.50C target will be breached around the year 2040 without gargantuan global efforts. After that we will depend on technologies that can claw carbon back out of the atmosphere at huge expense. That means planting billions of real trees, manufacturing “artificial” trees and using untested mechanisms still on the drawing board. Some changes will be irreversible. It is better to cut faster and deeper now, the IPCC says.

The UK – good world citizen

The Prime Minister says the UK intends “to legislate for a net aero emissions target at an appropriate point in the future” and joined 18 other nations in signed up to the Carbon Neutrality Coalition at the UN General Assembly’s 73rd session in New York recently.

Business, energy and industrial strategy minister Claire Perry describes the IPCC report as “a really stark and sober piece of work”. She adds, “The question is: what does government need to do, where can the private sector come in, and what technologies will come through?”

She has also asked the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to show how the British economy – from homes and transport to industry and agriculture – can become zero-carbon as soon as possible. She questions whether the UK’s existing commitment to an 80% GHG cut by 2050 below a 1990 datum is still sufficient and wants costs and comparative benefits.

This underlines the role of UK business in making a genuine difference in a number of ways. An obvious starting point is that someone has to show global leadership.

If that sounds too optimistic, then a more sanguine approach might be that as impacts become worse, demand will increase for products and services designed for a warming world. Being a market leader then becomes hugely beneficial. One valuation of the world’s renewables market is more than $2,000,000 million by 2025! There will be matching opportunities in food chains, health products, green manufacturing and many other sectors.

Low Carbon Programme technology support

Through an expert partnership between East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Businesswise Solutions Limited and BOOST, the Programme helps companies to break into these sustainable markets at the right level. Specifically, we provide low carbon technology expertise in three separate but integrated areas.

The first is on-site power generation where we can introduce you to low carbon technology adopters, while also arranging for you to view demonstration sites, attend showcase events and apply for funding if you want to invest in renewable energy on your own site.

The second provides product innovation support and design verification, helps you to establish product readiness and meet a local manufacturer able to help you start production. Our team will guide you in taking your product to market and finding your demonstration customers.

The third is supply chain and support services. Our low carbon support network introduces businesses with new low carbon technology concepts, prototypes and products at various development stages to like-minded people. Regular manufacture and supplier events provide one-to-one opportunities for discussing, comparing, sharing and cooperating in new idea development.

“When companies want effective business support, meeting the right people can be a daunting challenge in unknow territory,” Darren explains. “We compare individual needs against a panel of selected manufacturers and then make carefully-match personal introductions,” he adds.