ZCBlog: Global climate change and reducing carbon emissions in Europe


During October Jan Labohy has been working as an international intern for CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research team, analysing how other rapid decarbonisation scenarios within the international community are similarly exploring how we can rise to meet the threat of dangerous climate change.

Jan studied political, media and environmental sciences at Masaryk University in the Czech republic. He has been working in the Ecological Institute Veronica as the Climate Protection Coordinator since the beginning of 2011, specialising in climate protection on a city-wide scale. His work involves organising the Czech Earth Hour campaign; working within the Czech NGO Climate Coalition to organise conferences or excursions in the field of energy efficiency and climate protection.

Jan’s one-month intern placement with ZCB has been focused on exploring objectives and methodologies used in different scenarios on how to reduce carbon emissions. Fortunately there are many similar initiatives around the globe tackling the big questions present in ZCB2030. Projects are under way, across Europe and beyond, looking at how we all produce and consume energy. Reports such as Energy [R]evolution, published by Greenpeace, illustrate how the international community can reduce their carbon output by cutting the use of fossil fuels. WWF have also proposed energy scenarios for a number of countries. But while many of the energy reports are published by independent organisations, some are sanctioned by governmental bodies with different hopes for decarbonisation. However, every one of these scenarios has one primary concern that unites them: How can we minimise carbon heavy energy production?

By analysing twelve scenarios from eight different European countries, Jan’s research highlights key differences or common threads within each report. It has been an enlightening project and the team are keen to use his findings to improve their research for the third report of ZCB2030.

Unfortunately Jan’s time with the ZCB team has already come to an end. His work has been invaluable and the results will be a great asset for the ongoing direction of ZCB2030. Jan has just begun his PhD studying sustainability communication and the ZCB team wish him all the best.

ZCBlog will be publishing a summary of Jan’s findings soon.

For more info on the zerocarbonbritain2030 project visit our website!


ZCBlog: The new Zero Carbon Britain 2030 blog


Welcome to the new blog for Zero Carbon Britain 2030! All of the team have now settled in and we’re speeding ahead with the current research phase of the project. Learn more about who we are here.

In addition, we have been joined by Nuria Mera, a chemical engineer on a placement from Spain, and Jan Labohý from the Czech organisation, Veronica. Our brand new Artist in Residence, Joanna Wright will also be following the development of the third ZCB2030 report and incorporating a zero carbon future into her output.

The ZCB office is getting full!

In between bouts of rigorous debate, the team have spent half the time with their heads buried in ZCB2030, really probing and testing the work from the last research phase. We’ve been listening to feedback, and adding our own questions and critique. Part of the scientific method relies heavily on a critical mind – asking difficult questions and challenging assumptions. That is exactly what we’ve been doing.

The remainder of our time has been spent starting work on the larger project areas that had already been identified for further work. The two main research streams that we have started looking at in more depth are how to keep our lights on whilst depending on a highly variable renewable power supply, and also how to keep us healthy eating a low-carbon diet.

Over the next few months, whilst work will continue on all of the above, we’ll also be stepping further outside ZCB – looking at research produced by other institutions and organisations. We’ll make sure that the scenario we describe in ZCB is up to date, and incorporates fully the current scientific understanding, and any recent developments in research and technology. We look forward to having you along for the ride and we will be keeping you updated with regular posts, so watch this space!

There may be some exciting new discoveries along the way, but our main aim remains the same. As our new favourite quote states:

“The right target for both mugging little old ladies and carbon dioxide emissions is zero.”

– Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution of Washington

CAT and Volcano Theatre set to host major international arts and sustainability event this September.

From 1st – 9th September CAT will host Emergence Summit 2012: Creating the Future, a major international arts and sustainability event presented by VOLCANO THEATRE and the CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY at CAT’s site in Machynlleth, mid-Wales.

The Summit comprises two parts: an international weekend conference of leaders, thinkers and visionaries; and a five-day Land Journey on foot through Wales culminating at the conference.

The Summit brings CAT’s pioneering work on low-carbon infrastructure together with Volcano Theatre’s work on developing the role of the arts as a crucible of ideas and visions for a sustainable society. Curated, designed and produced by Fern Smith (Volcano Theatre), Lucy Neal, Jenny MacKewn and Paul Allen (CAT), the Summit will explore, exemplify and embed the role of the arts in the transition to a sustainable future. Speakers, contributors and artist interventions include Robert Newman, Phakama UK, Sue Gill and John Fox, Simon Whitehead, Sarah Woods, Touchstone Collaborations, Pete Telfer (Culture Colony), Ansuman Biswas, Nick Capaldi (Arts Council Wales), Patricia Shaw, Miranda Tufnell and Paul Allen and Peter Harper from CAT.

‘This is a unique opportunity for individuals from all disciplines to converge and explore their vision for a sustainable future, escaping the dominant dystopian vision of our future, instead developing a positive, solution-focused and practically achievable vision for the transition to a more sustainable society’ Paul Allen, Centre for Alternative Technology

From 1st – 6th September over 30 delegates will attend the five-day Land Journey across Wales curated by Welsh artist Simon Whitehead. The Land Journey invites walkers to traverse the land in unfamiliar ways developing a deepened dialogue, concentration and reflection of the things we take for granted. Embedding sustainability into the personal and collective journeys of the Land Journey, artists and cuisinières Touchstone Collaborations will be providing locally and ethically sourced food, and the walk will be facilitated by Lucy Neal and Jenny MacKewn.

The Land Journey culminates at the conference. The Emergence conference Creating the Future will see 200 participants take part in a three day event of workshops, discussions, creative practice, performance and presentation between 7th – 9th September.

‘Taking the conceptual form of a sine wave, the conference aims to not only discuss and debate change, but becomes a vehicle for change itself. Participants are invited to take a journey individually and together with other participants to explore our collective issues and find solutions to emerge into a new way of being, doing and making.’ Fern Smith, Volcano Theatre

The Summit will be documented by Pete Telfer of Culture Colony and streamed through the BBC and Arts Council collaborative project ‘the Space’.

Registration for Emergence opens to the public on Monday 23rd July. Individuals can register via the Emergence website. www.cat.org.uk/emergence-2012.


Zero Carbon Britain recognised as ‘inspirational’ in RenewableUK’s inaugural Energy Awards


The Centre for Alternative Technology’s pioneering project Zero Carbon Britain has been recognised in RenewableUK’s first Energy Awards

Zero Carbon Britain receieved the Renewables Campaigner Award, which recognises “campaigning excellence and leadership in winning public support for renewable energy.” The project, which is now entering a new phase of research, provides a clear policy framework for rapidly decarbonising the UK.

RenewableUK described the project as “an inspirational movement for change in the UK,” celebrating its positive, practical message in a ceremony in London on Wednesday night.

Paul Allen, Project Co-Ordinator for Zero Carbon Britain, said that “as the Rio+20 conference reminds us all of the urgent need to rise to our environmental challenges, the Centre for Alternative Technology us proud that our Zero Carbon Britain research has been recognised by the prestigious RenewableUK Energy Awards.

Integrating cutting edge research across a wide range of sectors, Zero Carbon Britain explores our options for rising to the scale and speed of the challenges defined by our most recent science. It clearly illustrates the parallel de-carbonisation and re-vitalisation of the UK’s economy, creating a single document of immediate relevance to citizens, communities, businesses and policy makers everywhere.”

Maria McCaffery, RenewableUK Chief Executive, said “we created these awards to receognise and celebrate excellence in the wind and marine energy industries. The extraordinarily high calibre of the winners, and indeed of the all those nominated, shows there is a great deal to celebrate. The awards pay tribute to these inspiring examples of tenacity and success.”

Zerocarbonbritain2030 blog: Money for Wave & Tidal Energy

In these financially constrained times it is encouraging to see that governments south and north of the border are willing to continue to scrape together money to support marine renewables. It is also gratifying to see that Westminster and Holyrood are playing together on this strategically important area, the harvesting of energy from our tides and waves, by synchronising the funding that is being made available.

In the last few weeks there have been three funds announced.

1. DECC have announced the £20M ‘Marine Energy Array Deployment’ fund (MEAD ). This is being administered by the Carbon Trust and is intended to provide essential funding to help get the leading wave and tidal energy developers plans progressed to the point where they are able to put in groups of machines or ‘arrays’.

2. The Scottish Government has announced two funds. The first ‘Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund’ (MRCF ) will be £18M and the detail is still being worked on, but is likely to follow similar lines as MEAD.

3. The other Scottish fund is the ‘Renewables Renewable Energy Investment Fund’ (REIF ) is a remarkable £103M. This is half of the money that Treasury eventually returned to Scotland (it having been paid by Scottish electricity consumers in previous years and held by OFGEM). This fund is to be more of an investment vehicle that is planned to work in parallel with the Green Investment Bank.

The intention is that it will invest in RE projects in order to get others to join the party, but in due course will expect to get its money back to re-invest in other schemes in later years. This is therefore the ‘patient money’ the industry has been calling for, i.e. less impatient to get a return than venture capital, but still not just a grant.

There are of course a whole raft of rules about how big the projects need to be and when they have to be operating by, but these are very useful sign of the Governments’ continuing commitment to bring this industry into being. Naturally there are concerns that they are just a drop in the ocean compared to the sort of money that this will take to make this work properly, but for the moment it will help developers prove that the prototypes can indeed be rolled out at scale.

To date the developers reckon they have attracted between 4 to 6 times the amount of public money put in from private investors and they plan to continue to bring it in to make this industry a reality.

So we seem to have some more of the key building blocks in place to build the technology to treat our carbon addiction. All we have to do now is to make the most of them.

Neil Kermode


Zerocarbonbritain2030 blog: Marine Energy Parks

The recent announcement by UK Climate Change Greg Barker MP of the first Marine Energy Park represents the fulfilment of one of the manifesto pledges and is tangible evidence of one the Coalition Agreement pledges being fulfilled. (Provide encouragement for Marine Energy).

The South West Peninsular has been designated as the first Park, and the area around Orkney in the north of Scotland is to follow in the coming months. But what does this designation actually mean?

When we think of Parks we have two distinct models. There is the ‘National Park’ model which seeks to preserve abstract concepts by careful control. I.e. landscape, built environment etc. by the application of additional regulatory strictures & authorities, and there are ‘Business Parks’ which seek to provide infrastructure and engender wealth creation though new activity. Marine Energy Parks are definitely intended to be the latter.

The South West Marine Energy Park stretches from Bristol around through to Cornwall and as far as the Isles of Scilly. It’s website says that it will create a collaborative partnership in the region between national and local government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter and industry including Cornwall’s famous Wave Hub. It is unclear if the designation will also spread up the south coast. The maps of the area show the resource up as far as Portland and Poole in Dorset and there are also strong moves being made in the Solent to bring its marine capabilities to bear.The aim of the partnership being created around the Park designation is to speed up the progress of marine power development. Such aims are useful as they will help focus attention on this nascent industry. The designation represents a rallying point for the various disparate interests that are seeking to invent the industry that will harvest energy from our oceans. The key word here being ‘harvesting’. This is NOT about mining the resource. This IS sustainable as the ‘energy crop’ is readily replaced.

So what does the Park status confer? Well to some extent that remains to be seen. There are suggestions that this may provide the fulcrum over which leverage for assistance can be applied by various State organisations. This assistance may take the form of enterprise zones (as already designated in Scotland around marine resources), or it might be a reduced insurance burden, or areas where less carbon-biased grid rules might apply. They might therefore make projects more worthy of investment and help bring private money to bear. The Park status has certainly galvanised agencies in the South West to rally round the concept and has certainly helped raise the profile of the nascent industry in this naturally maritime area.

Will the Park involve a change in the way we use our sea? Well if the industry is successful at harvesting energy as we believe then there will be a change in what we are doing at sea. There will be machines installed in areas where there are big waves well off shore and there will be tidal turbines out to sea. The Parks are likely to see those changes first, but not necessarily exclusively, but the Park status may well be one of the catalysts the industry needs to get to a critical mass.

So at the end of the day the first Marine Energy Park has the potential to be useful to help a zero carbon technology come to life. It remains to be seen if it is enough.

Neil Kermode


Latest Zero Carbon Britain newsletter


A big welcome to a selection of articles from the latest Zero Carbon Britain newsletter. The whole newsletter is available here, and you can sign up to receive the ZCB newsletter straight into your inbox here.

The next phase of ZCB

We are excited to be planning a further research phase of the ZCB project. A welcome process of criticism, feedback and reflection, plus the emergence of new environmental technologies since publication, has clarified the way forward.

Specifically we would like to look how improved wind prediction might reduce emissions from back-up facilities.

We also intend to investigate the possibilities for using the Sabatier process to store energy when there is excess electricity in the grid. During this process the hydrogen released by electrolysis is combined with CO2 to produce methane, which could be stored or introduced into the gas grid.

The ZCB2030 Land Use section provoked a great deal of interest so further work has already been commissioned to expand on its ideas.

Finally, we will develop a piece of modular open-source, energy-modelling software that will allow many more people to understand, use and adapt the basic ZCB scenario.

ZeroCarbonBritain Day on 21st July

For the second year running we are planning a ZeroCarbonBritain Day in order to draw attention to the ideas in our report and the possibility of taking action to prevent unnecessary climate catastrophe.

ZeroCarbonBritain day is being co-organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change and this year will take place on 21st July. The idea so far is for groups to take action in their local areas to draw attention to ZCB and to draw their local MP’s attention to the solutions laid out in the report. Feedback from last year’s demonstration and actions can be found here.

A selection of news from the sectors addressed in ZeroCarbonBritain2030…


According to DECC, in 2010 UK greenhouse gas emissions rose by 3.1% to an estimated 590.4mtCO2e. The government claims that this was caused by the cold winter last year, but the figures indicate that consumption of fossil fuels is increasing. Even by its own measurements the government is failing in its duty to reduce emissions, and this is without taking into account the added emissions from international flights and imported goods.

Climate science

How governments around the world sponsor wrecking the climate.

Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, has been served with a Freedom of Information request with regards to its donors in order to determine if they have vested interests in the fossil fuel industry, which they have hitherto denied. David Attenborough has also criticised Lawson for not looking at the facts on climate change.

The built environment

A new life-cycle analysis study proves what ZCB has been saying all along, that in the main, renovating old houses produces far less CO2 than knocking them down and building new ones.


A new breakthrough on batteries for electric vehicles could mean that they achieve a greater range than other vehicles.

World & UK renewables

On 28th December 2011, a record 12.2% of the UK’s electricity was produced by wind power, smashing the previous record of 10%. Onward and upwards!

World investment in ‘clean energy’ reached $260bn in 2011 and the US topped China again for the first time since 2008.

Policy and economics

There has been widespread confusion in government as to how the Feed-in Tariff for solar PV ought to be changed. CAT’s own information officer, Tobi Kellner, makes sense out of the recent furore.

The Happy Museum Project meets Zero Carbon Britain


Paul Allen, CAT’s director of external relations, writes about a recent Happy Museum Project symposium, where he presented the findings of Zero Carbon Britain.

This week I took train across the UK to Saxmundham on the East Coast to present the finding of Zero Carbon Britain to the ‘Happy Museum’ Symposium. This is a radical and innovative project aimed at exploring how the UK museum sector can respond to the challenges presented by the need for creating a more sustainable future. Its proposition is that museums are well placed to play an active part, but may benefit from re-imagining some key aspects of their role.

My role, alongside Andrew Simms of the new economic foundation was to offer a perspective on the global context of the challenges we face, highlight the inter-relationship of practical solutions in environment, energy, economics and well-being, and present our thoughts on how to build positive, yet realistic visions of the future. The symposium participants represented a wide cross section of forward thinking museums from the National Mining Museum of Scotland to the ‘Cinema Museum’ housed in the Old Lambeth Workhouse, Kennington.

It was a very dynamic, interactive and highly motivated event, reflecting the fact that the happy museum project itself seems to be punching well above its weight, with invitations to speak to museums from Australia to Europe. The key difference that the project intends to make is through creating a community of practice to discover a new role for museums to help foster greater wellbeing with less consumption for the communities with which they engage.

Collections and places are being re-imagined in ways that demonstrate the unique offer of museums. One exciting area of their work is to empower and enable the ‘municipal spaces’ museums provide to explore the link between sustainability and well-being – and there was certainly plenty of motivation and interest from those assembled.

From the conversations that followed my presentation it seemed clear to me that in these days where contemporary culture seems to always portray our future as dark and dystopian, it is vital we recognise that to create a positive future, we first have to be able to imagine one. An important first step in this is telling a realistic and joined up story of how we have got to where we are today, and the assembled knowledge and artifacts of museums from mining to rural life hold the potential to really bring this story to life, in a context framed both by well being and through relationships with the natural environment.

The Happy Museum project is informed by a manifesto and is currently exploring six action-learning commissions. It is a fascinating project and well worth a look – to find out more, visit www.happymuseumproject.org.

A busy week for Zero Carbon Britain

by Bruce Heagerty

Last week was a great week to be working as Zero Carbon Britain’s Communications Officer. Firstly, our latest newsletter came out. We hope to do more regular updates on stories related to Zero Carbon Britain next year, so if you are interested in being kept up-to-date then please sign up to our newsletter.

Secondly, we have just launched our latest appeal for support for the Zero Carbon Britain programme. We want to do further research to back up the findings in last year’s ZCB2030 report to help convince policy makers that we should be taking the necessary decisions to decarbonise now. The new research will include work on dealing with wind variability and plans showing how we can incrementally achieve our 2030 goal.

Last week was particularly busy as I headed off to Oxford on 1st December to give a key note speech about Zero Carbon Britain in Oxford Town Hall at the inauguration of Oxfordshire’s Low Carbon Hub. This was the coming together of 65 groups dedicated to decarbonising Oxfordshire. The organisers have launched a new website linking all of these organisations so that people can find decarbonisation advice and support within Oxfordshire and beyond. With a bit of luck this type of county-wide decarbonisation network will soon begin proliferating as we all pull together to work towards a zero carbon Britain.

Zero Carbon Britain was invited to give a talk at the ‘Bank of Ideas’ and I held a well-attended two-hour workshop there which was peppered with interesting questions about how we can bring about a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030. The next day there was a Climate Justice march from Blackfriars to London involving hundreds of people demanding that the government do more to safeguard our climate future.

Going out and giving talks on ZeroCarbonBritain is a real privilege and it is great to get the chance to share the report’s ideas in the hope that more and more people will be inspired to get involved in bringing about a decarbonised UK. If your local council or environmental group require a talk on ZCB2030 then please get in touch.

Durban Climate Talks


The website of the 17th round of world climate talks boasts that the world leaders will be ‘ working together, saving tomorrow today,’  the reality is once again rich nations refusing to take responsibility and action on carbon emissions, condemning the world to irreversible climate change and a more than 2 degree temperature rise.

As the climate talks got underway in Durban this week, activists from across Africa and the world began to descend on the coastal city.  Inside the conference the talks were already of to a gloomy start with most of the world’s rich nations attempting to delay any kind of binding treaty to slow down greenhouse gas emissions. With the exception of the EU who have taken a surprisingly strong stance- demanding that negotiations on a new legal agreement  begin next year, conclude in 2015, and to enter into force as early as possible thereafter.  The US, Canada, Russia, Japan, China and India  are all pushing to delay the implementation of any legally binding treaty. The delayers,  as they are now called argue that now is not the time to start a new set of negotiations, they point out that countries have only just started to implement their own domestic emissions reduction plans. Critics say that the delayers group is just covering up for the fact that they do not want to commit to a new legal agreement at all.

Outside the conference the buzzword of the moment is Occupy, following from the worldwide movement.  Occupy COP17 is well underway with activists from across the globe taking part in meetings, actions and workshops.. Former Costa Rican President José María Figueres is calling for people to Occupy Durban saying

“We went to Copenhagen [in 2009] with the illusion we could reach an equitable agreement. We went to Cancún [in 2010] where we saw slight but not sufficient progress. Frustration is now deep and building. Now we hear that we will need more conferences. Sometime we have to get serious. We should be going to Durban with the firm conviction that we do not come back until we have made substantial advances.”

There have even been rumours that people are planning to occupy meetings rooms inside the talks, reminiscent of Copenhagen in 2009 when delegates from the ALBA group of countries and Alliance of Small Island States walked out of the Bella Conference Centre.  The role of civil society to put pressure on governments to take urgent action on climate change is ever more pressing. On Saturday 3rd of December will see a global day of action from groups across the world calling for urgent action on climate change.  In London, UK  there is a climate change demonstration being held and a rally outside parliament,  speakers from CAT’s zero carbon britain project will be talking at the Bank of Ideas tonight at 5pm.