Sustainable Land Use Seminar

Over 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds met yesterday at CAT to discuss and debate sustainable land use in a Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) scenario. The seminar asked key questions that society must address if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change. Peter Harper speaking for CAT said,     “ ZCB is a plan for a rapid decarbonisation scenario, at 5% reduction in emission per year”

Peter also said that there is currently is a “huge gap between what is physically needed and what might be politically realistic”

The seminar called for a re ranking in the priorities of land use away from highly emitting practices and towards looking for economic incentives for low emission practices to be deployed across the agricultural sector. The seminar asked some hugely topical questions and agreed that whilst there was no absolute answer yet we must deal with the realities of climate change. The next seminar on ZCB will be from the 2nd- 4th of October Power and Place: good energy practice in the transition from fossil fuel dependency

Consumption versus Community: article for Ethical Consumer magazine

“The task of the truly concerned citizen is not simply to navigate through various consumer choices remaining as ethically pure as possible. Our task must be to fully engage in whatever way we can to bring about positive change”

Last month Ethical Consumer magazine asked us to write a piece about technological versus community or political solutions to climate change. You can subscribe to Ethical Consumer here. The full article is below:

Technology obviously plays a vital role in tackling climate change. Smart meters of various kinds and smart appliances are clearly a crucial part of the jigsaw that allows us to monitor and reduce our carbon emissions. But we must be careful not forget the rest of the jigsaw. Looking at the impact of the rest of your lifestyle is still vital. Engaging in the climate change debate, communicating the issues and using your voice a citizen to bring about wider change are all crucially important at the moment.

Continue reading “Consumption versus Community: article for Ethical Consumer magazine”

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.

Turned on! The UK’s First Micro Grid Goes Online

This week, Jase Kuriakose an engineer at CAT turned on the UK’s first totally renewable micro grid. The systems works by combining all the wind, solar, bio mass and hydro energy we produce at CAT and storing it in a battery bank. When it needs more energy it simply connects to the grid through an intelligent electronic control device to take more, when we are producing too much it gives the energy to the national grid.

Jase, the engineer behind the island generation project
Jase, the engineer behind the island generation project

Currently we waste around 65% of energy from power stations by transporting it to our homes, not only that but the electricity sector in the EU is responsible for over 1,2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Something that Jase says is unsustainable.

There is a vital need and enormous opportunity to move towards a more sustainable decentralised system, which protects the climate and provide future generations with secure energy.”

Continue reading “Turned on! The UK’s First Micro Grid Goes Online”

PHOTOS: construction site tour of the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education

On Friday Phil Horton the project manager of our biggest building project took some of the CAT staff on a tour of the construction site. The Wales Institute for Sustainable Education is the biggest project we’ve ever undertaken. Phil showed us many of the sustainability features of the building including the hemp lime render and rammed earth walls in the lecture theatre.

Here are some of the photos from the tour

Blog of the week: this week we’ve been reading (and talking about)

by Alex Randall

Climate Ethics takes a rather different slant to the numerous other climate change and environment blogs.


News and commentary on the latestest climate change events is relativly easy to find in the climate blogoshphere. Climate Ethics has a different aproach. Rather than looking and analysing the science or policy behind the headlines they take a look at the ethics. While other blogs and news outlets might use a science, policy or a particular political outlook to examine climate change, keeps it’s commentary firmly grounded in ethics. We can’t promise you that you’ll agree with everything they write. The nature of ethics is that its open to question and debate. But if you’re looking for a new slant then we highly recommend reading it for a couple of weeks and seeing how you get along.

If you’d like to suggest something for next weeks blog of the week, post a comment.

CAT in the news: who’s talking about us this week and what they’re saying

Learning exercise: Welsh universities have a wealth of natural resources on tap for adventurous students

For schools, colleges and universities in Wales, the centre at Machynlleth in Powys, half an hour’s drive from Aberystwyth, is a resource that runs a free information service, visits for schools and residential courses.

The centre has teamed up with the University of East London which validates specialist diplomas and Masters degrees delivered by academic staff at the centre. It offers an architecture MSc and a Masters in renewable energy and the built environment. Student Owen Morgan, 26, says enrolling on the MSc course helped him land a job with Bright Light Solar, a mid-Wales renewable energy company which provides solar powered vaccine fridges, water pumps and heating systems to rural areas worldwide.

“Everyone is there because they are passionate about sustainability. We inspire each other to push the frontiers of what can be achieved,”

Q&A: Renewable energy: The UK aims to produce 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020. Alok Jha explains the technology behind the target

By 2007, there were 2GW of turbines installed. The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) says 9GW of offshore wind will be in place by 2015, overtaking installed nuclear power. This month, Centrica and RWE npower came close to approving two offshore wind farms costing an estimated £3bn.

According to the Centre for Alternative Technology, wave power could supply 10% of the UK’s energy needs but this technology is at a much earlier stage. Although there are scores of British designs for wave energy converters, none are anywhere near commercial scale.


Eco homes: how to slash your fuel bills. Funding is available for those wanting to go green.

The Centre for Alternative Technology, a think-tank for energy-saving devices for more than 35 years, says the credit crunch has led to a surge in interest in eco-measures.

“People are beginning to think about investing their money in something that will provide them with affordable, reliable energy, whatever the economic climate,” says spokesman David Hood.

Continue reading “CAT in the news: who’s talking about us this week and what they’re saying”

Video Round up: the videos that have got us talking this week

by Alex Randall

Three short films have done the rounds and got us talking in the staff room this week. All three have also generated a fair amount of chatter on the Facebook page.

The first two films are very different but powerful demonstrations of the effect climate change will have on less developed countries. The third film is a lecturer by American academic Jared Diamond in which he outlines why some of the greatest societies in human history have collapsed and explores whether we are headed in the same direction.

The videos are embedded below. If you’d like to suggest something for the next video round up please post a comment.

Continue reading “Video Round up: the videos that have got us talking this week”

VIDEO: Is biochar the answer?

by Lewis Winks Biology Department

The charcoal industry has had an interesting history, once being the staple commerce of woodlands in the British Isles, it provided work for many and was a quintessential part of our landscape. Soon after the discovery of coal as a fuel source in the early 1700s charcoal became an unprofitable venture, and the woodsmen who made it became a part of history, lost to the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

So who would have thought, that 250 years after the first use of fossil fuels we would be turning back to charcoal as a means of undoing the damage of those emissions. Poetic it may seem, but to those who are studying the capacity for Biochar to sequester Co2 from the atmosphere, this is an all too real opportunity. And it doesnt stop at mopping up emissions; Biochar has the potential to improve degraded agricultural land and reduce fertiliser dependency while creating rural jobs, providing a use for organic waste and becoming an integrated part of our biomass energy systems. Continue reading “VIDEO: Is biochar the answer?”

News roundup. The news stories we’ve been talking about in the staff room: green jobs and climate change refugees

Two stories that have caught our attention this week. First news of a new study that claims that the green economy in the US is creating new jobs twice as fast as traditional industries and on a less positive note a study into forced migration caused by climate change.


Refugees in Darfur. Creative Commons. UNHCR

The news that climate change could cause millions of people to leave their homes and look for somewhere else to live comes as no surprise. But this study really caught out attention because it gives some idea of the numbers of people who might be forced to migrate. It’s not surprising that this caused a fair amount of staff room discussion. We talk about climate change migration in several of our resources and it’s used as a discussion topic with visiting school groups. The slightly vague assertion that climate change will cause mass migration now has some solid numbers to go with it  which is enormously useful for us.

The report calls immediate plans to be made to deal with mass climate migration and funding to help people move out of flooded or drought ridden areas.  The report states that certain levels of migration are now inevitable and regardless of our effort to halt climate change we must start planning now to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people:  “In coming decades, climate change will motivate or force millions of people to leave their homes in search of viable livelihoods and safety.” This aspect of the report raised the issue of whether our resources should be focused on mittigating climate change by reducing our green house gas emissions or putting our resources into adpating to climate change. However focused we might be on preventing climate change it is difficult to argue that we should not expend resources helping people who are already being effected. You can read the origional research here.

News that America’s green economy is creating jobs quicker than other industries sparked slightly more positive staff room discussion. You can have a look at the research here. The report was actually conducted before the economic down turn and before the US government’s stimulus package so there was some debate about whether the findings were still valid. On one hand traditional US industries have been badly hit by the down turn – so green industries may well be creating even more jobs in comparison. On the other hand there is evidence that the green economy has been hit badly by the down turn too. The US government’s stimulus package and various bail outs have offered boosts to both traditional industries in the US like car and steel manufacturing  as well as the green sector. The report gives us confidence in the green sector to create jobs – but the ecomoic down turn,  government stimulus packagaes and bailout mean we probably need more research before we can truly estimate the power of green economy.

You might be interested in our education resources that look at various aspects of global equity and how it relates to climate change. In our research project Zero Carbon Britain we will shortly be looking at the economic impacts of decrabonising the UK. You can listen to our podcast about the project or get involved in the research here.

Join the discussion. Post a comment.