zero carbon controversy

The launch of zerocarbonbritain2030 was an exciting moment for the Centre for Alternative Technology – hotly anticipated and eagerly awaited- it was always going to be controversial. After all, reducing your greenhouse gas emissions to zero ( in fact below zero) within 20 years is never going to be easy.

The launch of the report was covered by a wide variety of publications- from national and local newspapers, academic journals to widely read popular magazines and trade journals. In the media department it was frenetic, managing the enormous tide of enquiries that arrived in every day. One of the biggest areas of controversy has been the land use chapter. Notably the land use chapter calls for an 80% reduction in grazing livestock. The zero carbon Britain 2030 report shows that acre for acre grazing livestock produce more emissions yet provide the least nutritional value

The National Beef Association who represent farmers and those involved with the beef industry were naturally concerned by the massive cuts in the grazing livestock and the impacts that would have on farming life in the UK. The zerocarbonbritain2030 report shows how changes to land use will be radical but positive and see Britain grow far more of its own food and fuel, whilst creating greater energy, economic security and new rural jobs. The report proposes a reduction in grazing livestock because logic and evidence compel it, not for any other reason. There will still be meat but less of it. The task at hand with zerocarbonbritain2030 report was to demonstrate that it is possible to bring British net greenhouse gas emissions to zero.


A similar controversy of the report is the two thirds reduction in aviation, whilst the era of cheap flights has made life far more convienent and flitting back and forth between countrie sand traveling distances makes life easier,, aviation is responsible for huge amounts of carbon emissions. The zerocarbonbritain2030 report has found that it is possible through land use management to grow the crops needed to produce the kerosene in the UK. Orginally the press team hoped to launch the report at the TUC building in London in order to draw the links between a transition to a zero carbon society and increase in jobs that this would create. However aviation unions within the TUC were unwilling to be linked to a report that demands such a reduction and another venue had to be sought.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Centre for Alternative Technology were hosted by the Guardian online to debate land-use, farming and food. The CPRE claimed that following proposals of the report would mean a massive change in the British landscapes. Producing all our power at home would mean devoting 85% of England’s grazing land to large-scale biomass plantations. They suggested that nearly a quarter of England would no longer be covered by the familiar pattern of meadows and pastures which defines many valued English landscapes. Our response was that zerocarbonbritain2030 is about creating energy security, rural jobs and tackling climate change. It also increases food security. The benefits include many things the CPRE values: rural jobs, biodiversity and locally produced food. But it does result in a landscape that looks very different.

All of these debates are important and there are many more to be had in the transition to a low carbon society. Zerocarbonbritain2030 is just one of many possible scenarios – there are many other mixes- some that include more meat but less aviation or more aviation but less meat- the mix is endless.

As we move towards a zero carbon society there are difficult choices that we need to make. Things are going to change – be it through a change in climate or changes we introduce in order to combat climate change and deal with energy and economic security. The global consequences to humanity of not taking measures now to reduce our carbon emissions and keep temperatures well below 2 degrees will be devastating. We all have a role to play- it is important that we understand the debates in which we engage and the consequences of not taking action

CAT hosts Bristol Schumacher Conference 2010: Zero Carbon Britain – from Aspiration into Action.

“In the shadow of economic globalisation, an extraordinary variety of creative voices have emerged to challenge and reverse the dominant trends.”

On 16th October 2010 delegates from the European Environment Agency, Good Energy and the Centre for Alternative Technology will lead a day of lectures, workshops and discussion on the most pressing issue of our time – the need for a transition to a zero carbon Britain.

Britain has the potential, skills and natural resources to lead the world in carbon reduction. Join in workshop discussions with Paul Allen (CAT), Eugenie Harvey (10:10), Prof. Peter Reason (University of Bath), Victor Anderson (WWF), Jean Boulton (Sustain), Mark Gater and others.


Become part of the solution. Put the date in your diary!

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Ideas, solutions, ACTION! Campaigning courses at CAT in November.

Two inspirational courses running at CAT this November explore the ideas, solutions and action needed to tackle climate change. The People Power course runs over the weekend 5th – 7th November and looks at the methods behind grassroots campaigning, taking your campaign ideas to the next level. The Climate Crisis course from November 9th to 14th provides in-depth understanding of the climate debate needed to develop coherant, sophisticated campaigns.

Climate Campaign against drilling for oil in tar sands

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Naycher Korner Tackles the Tricky Subject of Insect Genitalia

Rennie writes…A brief dissertation today on the subject of insect and arachnid legs and insect genitalia. This train of thought was brought about by Christine’s invitation to accompany her to the ladies toilet outside top station ( an offer I obviously could not refuse). Here we discovered those fragile looking spider like creatures which flatten themselves on walls and doors as if stuck on with glue. On counting the legs to ascertain whether they were insects or arachnids (insects always have 6 legs, spiders 8 ) this particular specimen had 7! It was in fact one of several species of Harvestman which although spider-like are only distantly related.


They get their name because the adults appear in late summer. They often sacrifice a leg if attacked by a predator and can get along quite happily with one or two missing. Incidentally, if you watch a beetle or other insect walking you will notice that they proceed in a zig-zag fashion, because they move two legs on one side and one on the other which has the effect of tilting their body first in one direction and then the other. Oh yes, insect genitalia — there are over 5000 different species of fly in Britain alone and most of them are practically impossible to tell apart even to an expert. The only way to distinguish them is to dissect their genitalia, because amazingly the male and female bits fit together like a lock and key and one species key won’t fit another’s lock! And no, I haven’t the faintest idea how you go about dissecting a flies bits and pieces– but if anyone would like to borrow my ‘Boy’s Own Bumper Book of Insect Genitalia’ for a bit of bed time reading you are welcome.

Bolivia Climate Conference Update

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Over 20,000 people have convened in Cochabamba to take part in the People’s World Conference on Climate Change that opened earlier this week. The event is being held because of the  real threat to the existence of humanity and the environment from climate change and the failure of the Copenhagen Conference to reach any fair and binding deals. boliviapic

Evo Morales opened the conference speaking before an estimated 15,000 people, including several Latin American heads of state; government representatives from Africa, Asia, and Europe; and indigenous delegations, Morales detailed his government’s proposal for establishing an international climate justice court, passage of a U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, reparations from rich countries to assist poor and low-lying nations that will be impacted by the effects of climate change, and financing of clean energy technologies. He also urged countries to open their borders to future waves of climate refugees.

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Playing for the planet 2: the power down carnival

by Alex Randall Media Department

This summer children visiting CAT had the chance to explore climate change and renewable energy in a series of play activities and carnivals. The activities allowed children to explore how our reliance on fossil fuels affects the climate and what the alternatives are.

Here are some photos from last weeks ‘Power Down’ carnival in which children made their own transport out of recycled materials, dressed up as people from their vision of a zero carbon future, paraded around site and finished on the lawn with smoothies from the bike powered smoothie maker and music powered by our bike generator.

Playing for the planet: how we use play to help children understand the environment

by Alex Randall Media Department

During the school holidays we run a programme of children’s activities. These photos are from the ‘slug and bug hunt’ sessions where kids explore the gardens and identify the various animals and plants that live around the centre.


A young girl finds a slow worm during the slug and bug hunt

These activities are designed to help children understand the natural world and the impact that humans can have upon it. The activities go beyond  simply looking at wild life – they help children understand ecosystems and how human activity affects them . Other sessions involve games and activities to help children understand climate change, renewable energy and waste.


A young boy looks for insects in the specially designed insect wall

The staff adapt each days activities to suit the children that are there that day. So sessions could include hands-on workshops, co-operative games, puppet making, painting and story telling.


Looking at the different plants and animals that live in the pond

Find out more about CAT’s education department and what they do. You might also be interested in Julie’s blog posts about teaching climate change and her work with the local school in Machynlleth

Measuring the footprint of the Dyfi Valley

by: Julie Bromilow Education Department

“I would thoroughly endorse the value of the learning experiences these pupils benefited from” said Jan Bond, External Subject Expert for Geography at the Welsh Assembly Government after visiting Machynlleth primary school to interview children about the Dyfi Footprint project they had just completed.


The Dyfi Footprint is a joint venture between CAT who work with schools, and Ecodyfi, who work within the local community. An Eco Footprint measures the amount of land that we use to produce the resources that we need, to deal with our waste and sequester our carbon, and tells us that if everyone in the world lived the same lifestyle we do in Wales then we’d need nearly three planets to support us. My work in the school was set to investigate the notion that the wider community can be reached through schools. The project mainly focused on an eight week programme with an enthusiastic year six class, but also included workshops for the school governors, all the teaching staff, the PTA, and members of the Eco Committee and School Council. The Year 6 work began with a planning session with Mr Jones the class teacher – I told him what I wanted to do, and he told me what targets needed to be met in all the core subjects. Incorporating these curriculum needs into the project made sure that it was never an ‘add-on’ – instead it was integrated into the teaching.

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The Education Department

by Jo Gwillim Education Department

I’m Jo – part of education team at CAT. There’s 7 of us in all looking after different aspects, running the residential eco cabins, organising schools that visit for the day, running activities for pupils, students, and teachers. Where? Mostly here but more and more we spread the “Education for Sustainable Development” message by going out to people as well as waiting for them to come to us.


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