First Impressions

Good COP, bad COP?

I have now arrived at the 15th UN Conference of the Parties (COP15) in
Copenhagen to present Zero Carbon Britain,to help illuminate the path
ahead. I spent 9 hours yesterday in a meeting of activists from across
the globe to explore what are we all doing here, and how we can best
have an effect?

The key task at hand must be to negotiate a global agreement that
prevents ‘serious runaway climate chaos’. To achieve this, the
overwhelming majority of science tells us we must keep the global
average temperature increase over pre-industrial levels to ‘below 2oC.
Again, the science is clear, to accomplished this we must:

• Return atmospheric concentrations to below 350 CO2e
• Peak global emissions within 2013-2017 period
• Reduce global emissions by 80% before 2050

These overall aims are straightforward enough; the key aspect on the
negotiations is going to be how do we share out the labour of
achieving them. To have any hope of acceptance by the majority world
nations, negotiators must find a path for achieving this in a way that
fully reflects the historic contribution of the long-industrialised
countries and the rights of majority world to sustainable development.

Twenty percent of the global population have created 75% of the
problem by burning fossil fuels over the past 150 years to construct
the basic human infrastructure such as schools, railways and hospitals
we in the developed west enjoy today. Having seen the benefits, the
majority world also now would like to claim their basic human rights
to the benefits of such infrastructure. So if we are to achieve the
required 80% reduction in global emissions before 2050:

• Industrialised countries must reduce 40% below 1990 by 2020
(including emissions from land use, forest & peat-land degradation)
• Emissions from deforestation and soil degradation must be reduced to
zero by 2020, (cost estimate: $35billion per year from developed
• Developing countries must be supported to cope with the effects of
climate change currently in the system (cost estimate £100
billion/year) and to limit growth in industrial emissions (cost
estimate £95 billion/year)

So to achieve success in the overall goal, ‘new money’ is going to
have to change hands for climate reparations, and the mechanisms for
managing and accounting for that money are going to have to be
exceedingly clear, and transparent. As the public and political
pressure to ‘achieve a result’ is going to be really high over the
coming 10 days, it is not only vitally important that negotiations
stick to the demands defined by the science, but also that they ensure
that double counting is avoided at all times. This will mean that the
mechanisms established to oversee both the carbon and fiscal
accounting ensure:

• It is not possible to count the carbon emissions in offsets twice
(i.e. by the ‘donor’ and by the ‘recipient’ countries).
• It is not possible not count ‘offset monies’ as the new monies for
the climate reparations.
• Existing overseas developments budgets are not confused with the new
monies allocated for climate reparations.

So all eyes are now on those gathering in Copenhagen to see what will
happen. Clearly the pressures for an agreement run high, and countries
have been laying out their offerings and jostling for position. The EU
has been likened to an aging ‘climate wrestler’, doped up with
offsets, a record of bribing referees and backed by 27 different
trainers and coaches who don’t always see eye to eye. As the long
reigning champion, the EU keen to see the end of the match whilst
still in the lead. Meanwhile some new heavyweights have been
approaching the ring, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa and
the USA, who is fighting with one hand tied behind his back by the
‘ghost of Kyoto’ (where the US initially supported a protocol, then
found there was not the political will back home to ratify it).

Despite much talk form all sides on agreeing with the need to be
‘compliant with a 2 degree pathway’, so far, those in the ring have
been gearing up for 20% and perhaps even 30% reductions by 2020, on a
strictly ‘I will if you will’ basis, but no one is yet talking of the
40% which is actually required to do the job. So if no one is yet
offering what is actually needed, politically the options are
‘greenwash’ verses ‘delay’. Clearly green wash will not be acceptable,
so delay looks a hot favourite. But delay itself is not an outcome,
but the prelude to some future outcome; stalemate, collapse, greenwash
or even success. So far, the front-runner to get our leaders off the
hook looks a bit like buying a big shiny new 4×4 on credit: we get
agreement to make the 1st big down payment immediately, plus the
promise to reach some future consensus on a legally binding and
on-going payment commitment.

So will COP 15 it be a good COP or and bad COP? Clearly it is going to
be a fine line balancing the short-term political survival of global
leaders with the long-term literal survival of many species and
communities around the globe. The things to keep your eyes on are
closing the loopholes, and locking in the longer-term commitments.

I must now go and find the parcels of leaflets, and reports we have
had posted to Copenhagen and set up the stall in the negotiating hall.
I will keep you posted as events unfold….

Paul Allen, 7am Monday 7th December 2009.
First Fi

Carbonhagen here we come!

Paul Allen, Kim Bryan , Tanya Hawkes and Alex Randall from The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth set off today to Denmark – via Saturday’s massive WAVE demonstration in London. They are going to Copenhagen to promote the second edition of Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) and participate in the myriad of workshops and events that are taking place as part of COP15- The United Nations Climate Change Conference.

ZCB is a positive, realistic policy framework that is grounded in the latest climate science and devised from extensive research by leading experts in climate change. It provides political and economic solutions to the urgent challenges raised by climate science. Alex Randall speaking on behalf of CAT said:

“ We are going to Copenhagen with something positive that shows how we can rapidly decarbonise- COP 15 represents a unique opportunity for us to get the report (Zero Carbon Britain) out there, The science says we must take action on climate change, existing technology says we can- it is time to say that we will.”

Blog updates from inside and outside the conference will be posted here daily- watch this space

CAT in Copenhagen Continue reading “Carbonhagen here we come!”

Lunch in WISE

Participants of the Artists in Transition conference that took place at CAT today enjoyed a 1st, with lunch served in the WISE building. An early handover of the restaurant extension meant that the sumptuous vegetarian buffet prepared by the restaurant team took place amongst the beautifully polished ash floorboards of CAT’s flagship new building. The whole building will be open in Spring 2010


Dyfi Valley Biosphere

Did you know that Dyfi valley ( the area where CAT is located) is internationally recognised as a ‘special place for people and nature’? UNESCO made it one of their ‘Biosphere Reserves’ in the 1970’s, but we have never taken advantage of this. Modern Biosphere areas explore how local people can benefit from protecting the things they value – local knowledge, language and culture as well as the local and global environment. Dyfi Valley has been officially recognised as Wales’ only UNESCO Biosphere.The unique status means the area joins the likes of Uluru in Australia and Mount Olympus in Greece. There are 553 UNESCO Biosphere areas in the world, but the Dyfi is the only one in Wales and only the second in the whole of the UK.

A Biosphere is a special area in which people work to balance the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are nominated by national governments.

The Dyfi Biosphere needs YOU! , Inaugural Meeting at Y Plas in Machynlleth , 6.30pm Wednesday 25th November 2009

UK Social Enterprise Awards- Vote for CAT

Voting is underway for the UK social enterprise awards.  CAT scooped the award for the largest Welsh social enterprise award on the 19th of November. The eight winners of the Established Social Enterprise categories have been put forward to win the overall grand prize of Social Enterprise of the Year.

Online voting is now open and the winner will be announced at a gala event in London on 3 December. The voting is open to all to participate! please support CAT and the work we do by voting for us

Grania and Veronique at the awards with Leighton Andrews

Continue reading “UK Social Enterprise Awards- Vote for CAT”

CAT gears up for Copenhagen

In the run up to the climate talks in Copenhagen, the CAT team will be analysing, digesting and regurgitating interesting articles, opinions and news to send to our followers and fans.  If you see or write any please send them our way!

CAT will be in Copenhagen to promote our ‘hot of the press’ report Zero Carbon Britain– A New Energy Strategy. We will also be taking part in workshops, writing a daily blog participating in plenary’s  and getting the CAT message out there.

Watch this space for more info and where to catch us in Copenhagen, so far we will be

-Running a stall in the main exhibition area of the Klimaforum

-15th of December , Klimaforum, 4-6pm Moving Towards Zero Carbon Futures- organized by CAT

For a full program of the Klimaforum

For logistic and info in Copenhagen.-


Student Stories- November

This month the CAT media team met new student Ala M Hasany, an Iraqi who is currently living in London.We talked to him about his motivations for coming to CAT, inspirations and his poetry.

I started studying the Msc in Renewable Energies and the Built Environment a month ago. I have been working in Iraq and the Gulf for the last 20 years. I did a BSc in Building Surveying in London in 2008, prior to that I had completed an HNC in Electrical Engineering (1982) and an HND in Air Conditioning and Power (1985) in Baghdad
There are many reasons I have chosen to be here, obviously building my future career is one of them but I also want to look at ways the environment can survive what we are doing to it. I also want to use the course to research solutions to the Iraqi situation- and the relationship between the environment, agriculture and society. I am really inspired by the use of solar energy at CAT as a solution for a short fall in energy and by the idea of making the countryside totally independent of any grids- water or energy.

When I am not studying for my masters degree I am a writer for newspapers, blogs and the web. I write about human rights, in defence of peace, about women and children’s rights, the environment and in support of the environment. I encourage, through my work people to save energy, recycle, halt the depopualtion of the country side, promote clean, green cities and much more.
When I have finished studying I would like to work on the development of zero carbon building that are affordable for investors, builders and inhabitants. Buildings that minimize C02 usage, don’t use fossil fuels for energy. I would also like to see new structures to develop the UK using renewable energy sources. Also in Iraq, I would like to look at the sustainable development of Basra city, which has suffered lot. By 2050 I hope that we will have achieved zero carbon building and have great ways of protecting the worlds environments and be living in a world free of emissions. One of the most important things I have learnt from being at CAT is sharing ideas and information.
Here is a poem I have written about Basra outside the British Libary in London

ed note* We are currently working on a translation.

Would you like to share your student story – please write to

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


Learning by example at the Wise sustainability centre in Wales

It is the biggest scheme ever to be built at the centre. An increasing interest in the environment and sustainable building technologies means demand has risen for the centre’s range of advanced renewable energy courses, and the existing facilities are stretched. The WISE project will provide extra facilities with: a 200-seat rammed earth lecture theatre; a three-storey building housing 24 en-suite study bedrooms; three workshops; three seminar rooms; four offices; one laboratory and a restaurant and bar all arranged around a courtyard. In total, the centre will occupy an area of approximately 2,000sq m. Borer describes the scheme as being like a “mini university”.


Challenging Assumptions: Zero carbon futures

That there is an urgent need for action to address the potentially disastrous consequences of climate change is reflected in the latest UK Climate Change Bill. This aims to achieve an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050, compared to the previous target of 60% (see However, many argue that on
both the domestic and international front measures such as these fall far short of what will be needed to avert disaster. Furthermore, some of the measures already in place, and some of those proposed, may not reduce carbon emissions, and may also have disastrous side effects, as in the much publicised example of biofuels. In other words, the now urgent need for ‘solutions’ can lead to quick-fixes which could have serious consequences, such as further destruction of rainforests to grow palm-oil trees for biofuels, or the creation of ‘biochar’ from biomass.

Scepticism is evident among the students I teach. Many tell me that there is no point in us trying to  reduce our emissions when China is building so many coal-fired power stations. It is true that China has become the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, with 80% of its energy coming from coal. Per capita, however, the Chinese emit less than half the amount that Britons do, and a quarter of that of Americans (UNEP, 2005). Also, we tend to forget that much of China’s energy produced is used to make the goods we buy, and that China has recently announced plans to produce a fifth of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, which is the same as the EU’s target (Borger and Watts, 2009).

Daily Post

PETER Harper and Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, were named among independent, not-for-profit organisation Cynnal Cymru’s 52 sustainable development champions. The “green heroes” have been recognised for taking action to create a brighter, more sustainable future. The Wales Green List celebrates individuals making Wales a better and more sustainable place to live. The CAT visitor centre attracts around 65,000 visitors a year and also runs courses.

Oxjam at CAT

If you are in the area this Saturday then come down to Oxjam, 8pm at the Straw Bale theatre in CAT. Featuring Billy Thompson, award winning improvising violinist, and his bands Amledd and Billy Thompson Gypsy Style. The event is part of the Oxjam Music Festival -a month long festival of music all over Britain in aid of Oxfam

Since 2006, more than 36,000 musicians have played to an audience of over 750,000 people at almost 3,000 Oxjam events, raising in excess of £1 million to fight poverty around the world. Deborah Sale events organizer at CAT said “ CAT is very pleased to be able to support the work of Oxfam in its fight against poverty and support this great local initiative.”

This year the festival will be helping countries in the global south cope with the devastating effects of climate change. As well as raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for Oxfam’s work, gig goers will be painting their faces blue as part of a massive visual statement to the UK government to take action on climate change before it’s too late.

To find out what Oxjam events are going on locally this October, visit or call 0300 200 1255

PHOTOS: building a wind turbine

by Alex Randall

Last week I spent some time with CAT students, engieering staff and tutors as they built a new wind turbine. The students were taking part in our building a wind turbine course. These photos follow the students as they go through each stage of constructing and then putting up their wind turbine.