The Centre for Alternative Technology hosted it’s first environmental question time earlier this month. The subject for discussion was politics. A whole host of questions were put forward by CAT’s postgraduate students and also by the general public online via twitter.
The event was part of the politics module for the MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course and gave postgraduate students the opportunity to discuss the subjects they have been studying. On the panel were Paul Allen, project co-ordinator for Zero Carbon Britain; Kim Bryan, CAT’s media officer and a freelance writer on environmental issues; and Andrew Cooper who is chair of the association for green councilors and energy spokesperson for the green party in England and Wales.
The debate was chaired by Adrian Ramsay, former Deputy Leader of the Green Party and visiting lecturer for CAT. Here is just a taste of the impassioned debate that ensued:
Adrian Ramsay: The Green Deal is considered underwhelming and unlikely to achieve the required level of carbon reductions. What would the panel recommend as a viable alternative national scheme?
Paul Allen: I’d recommend the Green New Deal. The economic stimulus would be beneficial. Fuel prices are coming, the days of cheap abundant oil are long gone. An economic stimulus could create a huge amount of jobs and get people back to work… help get the economy back on track. So have a look, not at the Green Deal but the Green New Deal.
Kim Bryan: It’s better than nothing. At least we are trying to encourage change and… make houses more energy efficient. It is a step in the right direction.
AC: It’s not a step forward, it’s a step backwards. Now we have a policy which is going to produce less jobs and less work. Ultimately we need a compelling offer. That’s not going to happen with the Green Deal.
AC: I do wonder in reality if these things are the other way round; green politics disappear from the agenda during elections. It seems like the government has a bit of a one trick pony regarding economic stimulus. The Green New Deal is a way to move it on. Passivehaus retro-fit is what is required but there’s not enough of that work going on.
AR (putting forward a question that was asked via twitter): Could renationalising the utilities help decarbonise the energy supply?
KB: I certainly think privatising the energy supply has not done us any favours. But we need to be promoting community energy schemes, people taking more control of their energy and their usage. Behaviour change and education is a huge part of any retrofit that we do because if we don’t do that then it doesn’t lead to carbon emission reduction.
AR (via twitter): Many green topics only enter politics as election issues. How can we get politicians to commit to environment in the long-term?
PA: Well, that’s the million, million dollar question isn’t it? The experience we’ve had with the creation of the Zero Carbon Britain energy scenario… we got to launch it at the all party parliamentary climate change group. But if we want the the minister to act on it there has to be a shift in public attitude.
AC: I think green issues and green politics are mainstream at the moment but it has to got to be framed in economic terms… to be seen as a solution for getting us out of the situation that we are in. The green politics are going to get us out of the problem.
AR: What do you think has been the [green] movement’s main achievement… and where will it be in another forty years?
PA: We’ve created a whole new vocabulary. There was no such thing as renewable energy [forty years ago]. It’s moved into the mainstream.
AC: This is mainstream technology, this is the way people are going to have to live in the future; future technology. This is now technology!
The event was a great success and the hope is that future debates can expand to include other topics for discussion.
The entire debate will soon become available as a podcast on the blog.