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.


Zero Carbon Britain discussed in the Welsh Assembly


Last Wednesday, the 16th of November, Zero Carbon Britain was discussed in the Welsh National Assembly during a Plaid Cymru debate on climate change. A motion was raised by Jocelyn Davies to propose that the Welsh government “affirms the targets of One Wales: One Planet and the Climate Change Strategy for Wales and welcomes the notable contribution to meeting these targets of the Centre for Alternative Technology in its strategy for Zero Carbon Britain 2030.”

I’d like to help create a sustainable Britain. Please help us raise £80,000 to take this vital research to the next level. Find out how you can help.

Of the report, Davies said that it “puts before us a clear analysis of what Britain as part of the United Kingdom could do to tackle climate change.” Later on in the debate – which highlighted concerns around the lack of global agreements of action on climate change – Rebecca Evans said that “if there is not urgent action on a global scale to tackle climate change there will be far-reaching effects on the world’s environment.” She then went on to say that:

The Zero Carbon Britain report states that, because climate change is a global problem, it lends itself to the denial of personal power and the blaming of others. It is easy for individuals to argue that their individual impact is not as great as that of some other people and so it is not their job to take mitigating action. The report also shows that, although many profess to care about climate change—and increasingly a large proportion of people are undertaking some actions to reduce energy use—the vast majority are continuing with patterns of behaviour that make the problem worse. For many people, there is a large gap between their concern about the environment and their actions. The report also shows that the reasons for this are many and varied and that different approaches must be employed in order to cause behavioural change in different people.

Zero Carbon Britain has made a significant impact since its release last year; it’s been read by Energy Minister Chris Huhne and has been downloaded 28,000 times. To keep on developing the report, and answer some of the crucial questions it raises, CAT is now looking to raise £80,000.

Three new exhibits coming to CAT to show how a healthy carbon neutral world is achievable

In the era of smartphones and digital ink, the word ‘technology’ has become synonymous with ‘electronic gadgets’, all too often overlooking mechanical devices and even abstracted methods and practices. Here at CAT we strive to show people how to create a sustainable lifestyle through appropriate applications of technology. This means that as science progresses we must study and research all options in order to continually reduce our environmental impact while improving our quality of life.

However, we must understand that science is merely a tool; the responsibility is in our hands to use it in ways that either protect or threaten our environment and our future . To live sustainably is to act in the present in order to ensure our great grandchildren’s world will be just as habitable as—if not more than—it is today. No more borrowing from the future.

The displays around CAT encourage visitors to learn about the complete picture. Among many things, it includes creating a zero-carbon world (no greenhouse gas emissions) by working for change at all levels of society: from the roots all the way to the very top. This summer we are hard at work to bring you not one, but three brand new exhibits to show how a healthy carbon-neutral world is achievable.

First, the Big Picture will allow visitors to orient themselves with the big issues surrounding us today, preparing you for the rest of the site. This includes our new exhibit in the Solar Dome, exploring and comparing the carbon costs associated with everyday activities.

Secondly, the Eco-Retrofit display is a new venture with CAT’s Graduate School for the Environment. Nearing completion, it was built by current architecture students, and it shows how visitors can use the local and sustainable materials internally or externally for insulating your home. It highlights a variety of building styles and focuses on money-saving solutions.

And finally, the Zero Carbon Britain exhibition will fill the whole upper floor of the Wind Pavilion (immediately above the Eco-Retrofit display). In a complete exposition, it will explain the context, reasons, policy decisions, infrastructure, behavioural changes, technology, jobs, skills and vision that is required for us to have a zero carbon society. It is the culmination of almost 40 years of experience, and it is the first fully integrated UK solution to climate change. We will be assembling it over the remainder of this year, so please come along and see it being created, ask us questions, read the zcb2030 report (download it FREE at, and support our efforts. We can’t wait to see you around the site!

Radio 4 afternoon play “getting to zero”. A play based on CAT’s report Zero Carbon Britain

Click here to listen to the play on BBC iPlayer

GETTING TO ZERO By Sarah Woods With George Monbiot, Paul Allen and Peter Harper.
Have you got what it takes to get to zero carbon? Our expert panel set one average family the task of eliminating their carbon footprint… and living with the consequences. Originally broadcast in March 2009.

Sue ….. Kate Ashfield Ian ….. Don Gilet Chloe ….. Poppy Lee Friar Jack ….. Ryan Watson Bill ….. Malcolm Tierney Meter ….. Jonathan Tafler Narrator ….. Janice Acquah Delivery Man ….. Stephen Hogan
Producer/Director: Jonquil Panting.

Time for a Zero Carbon Britain Day -July 16th 2011

Centre for Alternative calls for Zero Carbon Britain Day on July 16th 2011

CAT is to join with 100’s of other organizations across the UK calling for July 16th to be a Zero Carbon Britain day. In June 2010 CAT produced the second version of it’s ground breaking report zero carbon Britain 2030. The report lays out how we can reduce our carbon emissions to zero using existing technologies whilst maintaining a high sense of well being. As the threat of climate change increases and energy shortages loom it is vital the world takes urgent action. The Zero Carbon Britain day being organised by Campaign Against Climate Change and others is calling on people around the UK to promote the goal of a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Climate Change said:
What the government is doing is piecemeal, inadequate and in some ways counterproductive. We need a more coherent, energetic and determined approach to reducing emissions – and a bolder more ambitious national target. We need Zero Carbon by 2030”

Activities and events include:

•    Urging MP’s to  sign Early Day Motion 853 which calls for Zero Carbon Britain by 2030.

•    Workshops focused on the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 Report produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology, (CAT) which outlines a practical, well researched plan for reaching a Zero carbon economy by 2030.

•    Cycle rides, picnics and photo opportunities
Bruce Heagerty Zero Carbon Britain Communications Officer said;
“Every day we do any number of things without being aware of the greenhouse gases that are given off as a result of them. We drive to work, to the shops, to see friends, go to the cinema, club or gym. All of these normal things contribute to rising levels of greenhouse gases. We are organizing this day to highlight ways in which we can decarbonise.”
Events around the country include a demonstration in Bristol, a Zero Carbon Britain picnic at Drax power station, workshops, photo stunts, a beach party in London, actions in Manchester city centre, ZCB banner in the sea, cycle ride to the house of local MP, sustainable Guernsey, unveiling of new zero carbon britain.

For more information please contact

Meeting with the education department. From Zero Carbon Britain to Zero Carbon Europe?

We are usually very busy with lots of different schools visiting the CAT site for tours and teaching. However, we also manage to put some time aside to get together as a team and both report back on some of the projects we have been involved in and share games and ideas for new activities we could run.

In our last meating, Jo reported back on his trip to Portugal where he ran a session on Zero Carbon Britain with people from the arts industry. Ann told us about a project she has been leading on working with several of the local schools to develop new teaching resources about sustainable buildings for them to use in the classroom. My contribution was to talk about a trip I made to Germany where I also ran a session on Zero Carbon Britain… with a twist.

In Germany I was helping to run a seminar about Climate Change and media campaigning with 27 young people from 9 different countries across Europe. In one of the session I started by talking about Zero Carbon Britain and then, using a big map of Europe, we tried to create a vision of what a Zero Carbon Europe might look like. This was a great activity because by pooling our collective knowledge of the resources that were available in each country we were able to get everyone involved in creating a really positive vision for the future.

Join a guided tour of CAT or a Zero Carbon Britain talk during your Easter holidays

Between the 16th of April and the 1st of May, there will be daily tours of CAT and talks about Zero Carbon Britain that you can join during your visit to CAT.

Guided tours of CATMeet at 2pm by the lake.

Make the most of your day and get a personal insight into the Centre for Alternative Technology on this one-hour stroll around the site.

Discover CAT’s vision for a Zero Carbon FutureDaily at 12pm

A bite size whizz through CATs 368 page renewable energy strategy. Find out CATs vision for a zero carbon future – what does this mean for transport, agriculture, houses, lifestyles and jobs?

An opportunity to find out more, and have your say.
A full copy of the new report is available as a free pdf download at


2000 people call for a zero carbon britain by 2030

Saturday 4th December 8.30am

The day started just after eight am with a telephone interview on what we are doing for the march in London to Radio Shropshire. Although the questions were clearly aimed to be very challenging (i.e. “but what ever you do won’t people just object to it?”), I was pleased to be allowed enough time to answer in full. Now there is just time to collect my thoughts before the first presentation of the day. I have been asked to present Zero Carbon Britain at the start of Campaign Against Climate Change’s bicycle rally at Lincoln Inn’s Fields behind Holborn.

addressing climate march
addressing climate march

Saturday 4th December 10.36am

Arrived at Lincoln Inn’s Fields park around 9.30. I began to think it was strange that there was no one about. Then I saw a large flock of fluorescent-coated cyclists circling the perimeter. I immediately went over to join them, but as I approached I realised they were all police cyclists. However soon after that there was the sound of distant music and the cycle convoy appeared. An array of cyclists on all sorts of strange and wonderful machines then began arriving from all directions. Clearly there was not as many as the organisers were expecting, but there had been a week of ice and snow, and those who were there were in good spirits. Aided by a cycle-powered amplifier I presented a brief overview of the history, purpose and findings of the Zero Carbon Britain report. Everyone seemed very pleased to hear about it. It’s always re-assuring when people come up to you at the end of a talk and thank you for what you are doing. Anyway, it was then time to head to Marble Arch by tube to find the rest of the Zero Carbon Britain team and get ready for the march.

Saturday 4th December 12.25pm

There must be somewhat over a thousand of us assembled at Hyde Park Corner ready to march off through London towards Parliament. But before we go, we are assembling into a huge 2030 shape at the foot of the watchful eye of a cherry picker full of photo-journalists. Everyone seems in good spirits and the police are being very polite and most helpful. A sub-crowd is gathering rapidly around a Hari Krishna trailer that is giving away free vege-curry and rice, which is much appreciated. As the march gets underway the Hari’s break out into a kind of ‘mandolin steam-punk’ version of their usual chats – sounds great but a totally new one on me!

Saturday 4th December 2.10pm

After a very peaceful and well-received march across the capital, the houses of Parliament are now in site. I must say it is amazing to look upon a veritable sea of Zero Carbon Britain 2030 placards and banners. I can see Alex and few others taking photos and video. We have taken the CAT banner up towards the front, and are handing out cards to the public explaining about the report and how they can download a copy. I have just heard the loud hailers crew doing a “What do we want? – Zero Carbon Britain!” call and response. I remember a few years ago at an early project meeting a few of us discussing whether we would ever hear it being called on a demo, and it really warms my heart to hear it come true. Clearly there are not as many people here as with previous climate rallies, but calling for a positive vision of what we actually want has added a different feel to the day.

over 2000 people marched through london
over 2000 people marched through london

Saturday 4th December 2.30pm

We arrived outside Parliament to the sound of Seize the Day. The speakers included Caroline Lucas MP and one of my long-standing hero’s Michael Meacher MP – one of the most honest and dedicated politicians I have ever met. Then it was my turn, just as a stepped up to the stage an official looking person said politely, “you have three minutes”. These minutes seemed to pass very very quickly, but I think I got most of my points in and people seemed to get the point and were clearly excited about downloading the report. Then a few more speakers took the stage including my good friend Ben Brangwyn from Transition Network. I think the day went well!!

Saturday 4th December 21.02pm

The train as far as Birmingham New Street, was, as always, swift, comfortable and on time. My next train from Birmingham to Machynlleth was standing room only, due to an earlier cancelled service from Shrewsbury. There was a bit more space after Wolverhampton, but within ten minutes of setting off it stopped suddenly. Then after an announcement they were trying to find the cause of the problem, it proceeded towards Telford at about 10 miles per hour. I think I am going to be very late home, but I am on a train and it’s moving; and for that I am always grateful!

Saturday 4th December 21.24pm

I am almost back in Machynlleth now. What a week! Thank you for travelling with me. I really love my job, I find it most engaging and exhilarating and the only way I know of staying sane in such insane times. But before I sign off as this week’s “Face of CAT Facebook”, I would just like to add a note of thanks to the ever-so-hardworking Kim Bryan, CAT’s media officer who has collected all my late night ‘on the road emails’ and images, diligently up-loading them to the CAT site. I have really enjoyed sharing a week of my life with you all, and am now looking forward to a restful Sunday at the CAT Christmas Fayre!

Good night…….

Paul Allen

External Relations CAT