COP21 in Paris – half time update

As neogtiations enter the 2nd and final week of the climate talks in Paris, Paul Allen has this report.

“The different teams working at the different levels at COP21 are now at half time: one week gone, one week to go, and things are certainly hotting-up.”

The key news in the ‘Negotiating Hall’ revolves around what they call “the ratchet mechanism”. One analyst commented to me “ we are 50% done with the time but only 25% through with the work”. The plan was to have a ‘working text’ ready by Friday night to share with Governmental Ministers over the week-end, but we have two versions going round – the ‘working text’ and a slimmed down ‘bridging text’ with a somewhat further refinement of the options, square brackets etc. The challenge of the slimmed down ‘bridging text’ is some key issues are more vague or missing so many observers don’t see it as ready.

In both these versions all eyes are on the 5 years ratchet mechanism – as everyone knows the success or failure in Paris depends on the upward-ambition of the agreed path forwards, and how well it can be ratcheted up. But how soon does the ratcheting start? Everyone is pushing for no longer than 5 years. However, in the latest version the ‘5 years’ start date is gone or at least hiding. We need the ratchetting to start in 2020 at the very latest; in fact some want it to start in 2016.

Finance negotiations are key to all of the above, but are going slower that expected – basically the long developed countries need to press on and raise their game. Finance touches every aspect of the process. The issues involve – who pays, how we will ramp commitments up to meet the $100bn target, and what do we do post 2020? Negotiators need that pathway to be very clear, with clear targets for mitigation and adaptation, especially as adaptation is clearly under-funded at the moment.

Developed countries have simply not put enough on the table! You see many developing countries have put up a two layer offer, one layer agreed unconditionally and one layer conditional on stated levels of financial support – and helping them get to the second level of action could actually remove a big hunk of carbon and help close the crucial emissions gap. Developed world leaders need to mobilise and marshal their financial sectors to activate additional funding support.

parisclimate650Another key point is that the original ‘working text’ is missing indigenous rights and food security; in the ‘bridging text’ there are also some key omissions in this topic area. Philippines and Mexico have stepped up their commitments, whilst other countries have not. The US supports ‘human rights’ only in the pre-amble rather than the operative text. Human rights are essential in equitable mitigation – so the US is called to make their actions match their rhetoric – but this negotiations is on going as I write…

Bridging text has some good proposals on ‘loss and damage’ – but the ‘financially liability’ for continued burning of fossil fuels is not in there, no mention at all. And bringing up the issues is described as a red hearing – as several countries have stated this topic is not on the table in Paris!

So to sum up negotiations – Transparency and tracking has been smother than in previous COP’s, as negotiations here are (so far) less acrimonious, but all the hard decisions are still to be made. What’s in the both the working and bridging texts is not complete, time is ½ done and there is a clear need to step up speed. The danger is that leaving key things to the last minute can create a craze haze, and it’s harder to clearly see what’s on the table.

As all this has been going on, the ‘Observers Hall’ is absolutely packed with NGO’s academics and campaigners, all sharing notes, learning from each other and building a new dynamic case for change. I certainly feel like everyone is pushing very hard. The NGO/research community have been doing an amazing job in helping raise the game. I have seen some very powerful new pieces of work from Carbon Tracker’s work on $2.2 trillion of stranded carbon assets to Rainforest action Networks analysis of major banks moving away from coal, to Oil Change International’s research that analysis shows that the Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States account for some $80 billion per year in public support for fossil fuels, while their total pledges to the Green Climate Fund only amount to $2 billion per year.

For further information and background on the climate talks, Carbon Brief has an excellent analysis that help break down the issues.

Making it Happen at COP21!

On the 4th day of of the climate summit in Paris, CAT launched it’s new report ‘Zero Carbon: Making it Happen,’ in order to open new conversations on overcoming the barriers to change.

The serious nature of the challenge ahead is much more prominent than I have ever experienced at any UN Summit to date. There is a growing awareness that things need to shift radically. The official UN process’s ‘Structured Expert Dialogue’ made a strong point about 1.50C being a better guardrail for a climate safe future. President Hollande mentioned 1.50C in his opening speech. I was also pleased find the current draft of the UN process’s ADP (Ad-hoc Durban Platform) text now gives more recognition to zero carbon by mid century.

paulallenatcop21The important question how do we convert such goals into national scale action plans which actually acknowledge there is only so much remaining carbon that humanity can safely burn, whilst also recognising the major share of this belongs to developing nations who have not been burning coal, oil and gas for the past 150 years, but now need it to put in the infrastructure for new development pathways.

Between CAT, the International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE), Negawatt, Track0 and The Danish Folkecentre we designed a two part side-event that aimed to open new conversations and showcase the kinds of actions by developed and developing countries that could form the basis of a global agreement.

To set the scene Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre outlined the scale and speed of the actions needed that could hold an increase in global temperature, consistent with science and on the basis of equity. He made a very clear and robust case that to have any chance of achieving this demands deep reductions in energy demand from now to 2030 by the wealthy high emitters, plus a Marshall-style plan build programme of very low-CO2 energy supply.

To highlight what solutions would look like for industrialised countries, I presented the findings from Zero Carbon Britain and introduced the new “Zero Carbon: Making it Happen!” project. This actively seeks to integrate research and cutting-edge thinking from across sectors, scales, borders and disciplines to identify both the barriers to achieving a zero carbon future and the means to overcome them. Over the coming months, we will be building dialogues with researchers working in economics, psychology, sociology, history, politics and other social sciences, as well as in arts and culture, plus insights from those working practically on the ground delivering renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport, sustainable food projects, and more.pacop21

As COP21 marks a vital turning point for humanity, we have pulled together our initial findings to share. We also know there will be an incredible resource of highly skilled people at COP21, so sharing what we have found to-date is also a good way of engaging the great variety of research and practice that is gathering in Paris.

My presentation was followed Yves Marignac from negaWatt who outlined how, with increased energy efficiency, France could rapidly switch to 100% renewable energy. Our long-time collaborator Gunnar Olsen of INFORSE then backed this up with a range of other EU scenarios further demonstrating how such long industrialised nations can shift much more rapidly to recognise the historic obligations of the long time emitters. We concluded the first session by outlining the Who’s’ Getting Ready for Zero report which brings together over 100 scenario, models and practical projects from city to global scale.

I then passed the chairing of the event over to Usha Nair who led us through the second session that showcased new ways of development, drawn from practical real-life examples from majority world nations. Usha led us through an inspiring selection of new ways that countries from the global south can develop to better provide for their citizens, without the need to follow failing western patterns; instead drawing on their indigenous skills and resources, but in 21st Century ways. We were taken on a tour of pro-poor, low-carbon developments from India and South Asia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Senegal also highlighting the key role of women as change makers in their communities.

There was no lack of drive in any of the examples presented; the key barrier was access to the investment from initiatives such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund that supports projects and programmes in developing countries. Another report launched earlier the same day by Oil Change International, highlighted a solution to this, which would also drive the transition needed in the industrialised world. New analysis reveals that G7 countries along with Australia spend 40 times more on support for fossil fuel production than they do in contributions to the Green Climate Fund. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States spend $80 billion per year in public support for fossil fuels, while their total pledges to the Green Climate Fund only amount to $2 billion per year. Alex Doukas, Senior Campaigner for Oil Change International said;

“Though rich countries are crying poor when it comes to what they can offer on climate finance, we already know where to find billions of dollars that could be used to support climate action and adaptation to climate impacts in poor countries: we can shift the hundreds of billions of dollars in public support for fossil fuels and use it to support climate action,”

To close the event we distributed postcard flyers showing how those in Paris could download our new report and engage with the Zero Carbon: Making it Happen project, which received a very positive and enthusiastic welcome. Perhaps Prof. Kevin Anderson summed things up best with the quote from Robert Unger on his final slide.

“At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different.”

To download Zero Carbon: Making it Happen report visit:


Interim findings: Getting to Zero – Making it Happen

The Centre for Alternative Technology has today launched a report exploring the barriers to achieving zero carbon emissions in the UK.

Speaking at a side event during the UNFCCC climate talks in Paris today, Paul Allen, director of the Zero Carbon Britain research project at CAT said:

“Our initial findings show that there is a wealth of research, and insights, from a wide range of disciplines on the barriers to achieving a zero carbon future – and how we overcome them. It must be said, and it is not unexpected, that there is more clarity and conviction about the barriers than the solutions.The initial findings explore a range of disciplines including psychology, sociology, economics, politics, media and communication and the arts and ways that barriers to change can be overcome.”

ZC-MiH_initialfindingsAdrian Ramsay, CEO of CAT said

“The climate science could not be clearer, the world must plan to move rapidly beyond fossil fuels and eliminate our greenhouse gases by mid-century. We know that we have the technology to do this. The initial findings of Making it Happen show that it is time to go beyond talking , we must now make it happen.”

In order to stabilise the world’s climate and stay below the globally agreed limit of 2ºC with high certainty, the world urgently needs to eradicate fossil fuels and adopt renewable based energy systems.

Tackling such a complex global challenge requires a new kind of approach, and Zero Carbon: Making it happen!” seeks to explore cutting-edge thinking from those working across a wide range of disciplines in order to identify barriers to action, and explore the means by which we overcome them.”

The Zero Carbon Britain team at CAT have been encouraging dialogue between researchers working in fields as diverse as economics, psychology, sociology, community, history, politics, law, democracy, arts, culture, business & the media – to explore the barriers to tackling runaway climate change.

Getting to zero: case studies from around the world

Whilst the negotiators hammer it out in Paris, trying to agree on a global deal to stop climate change, thousands of projects world-wide are already reducing carbon emissions, generating energy, alleviating fuel poverty and working towards a safer world. As part of our series of posts we will be doing around the Paris climate talks we will look at positive projects that show us Who’s Getting Ready for Zero.

Name of Project;
Copenhagen – The First Carbon Neutral Capital by 2025

Where is it?
Copenhagen, Denmark

In a nutshell
This  scheme will integrate energy and power resources and enable Copenhagen to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. The city intends replacing coal with biomass,  add 100 wind turbines and solar electricity to the grid, and to upgrade high energy use buildings. Although bikes are commonplace in Copenhagen, local residents will be further encouraged to use bikes and public transport.

København (Copenhagen), Sjælland (Zealand), Danmark (Denmark) Photo: News Øresund - Johan Wessman © News Øresund Detta verk av News Øresund är licensierat under en Creative Commons Erkännande 3.0 Unported-licens (CC BY 3.0). Bilden får fritt publiceras under förutsättning att källa anges (Foto: News Øresund - Johan Wessman). The picture can be used freely under the prerequisite that the source is given (Photo: News Øresund - Johan Wessman). News Øresund, Malmö, Sweden. News Øresund är en oberoende regional nyhetsbyrå som ingår i projektet Øresund Media Platform som drivs av Øresundsinstituttet i partnerskap med Lunds universitet och Roskilde Universitet och med delfinansiering från EU (Interreg IV A Öresund) och 14 regionala; icke kommersiella aktörer.

Copenhagen has already reduced its emissions by 21 percent from 2005 to 2011. The city currently emits about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and earlier initiatives were on target to reduce emissions to 1.16 million tons by 2025. The new Carbon Neutral plan approved last year will cut CO2 emissions  further, to about 400,000 tons by 2025.  Most of the emissions reductions identified will come through using less carbon-intensive ways to produce heat and electricity, via a range of renewables including biomass, wind, geothermal and solar.


What they are doing

There is a planned $472 million to be be invested in the climate plan up until 2025, in addition private funds and investment could hit $4.78 billion over the same period. Officials acknowledge that the city has to invest a lot of money to reach the target, but believe that it will create new sustaianble jobs. They view Copenhagen as a green laboratory for developing and testing new green solutions.

Key challenges

The population of Copenhagen is expected to grow by more than 100,000 residents by 2025 but showing that a modern city can eradicate carbon is crucial in fight on climate change. Cities are responsible for more than 70% of global co2 emissions and two-thirds of worldwide energy consumption.

Future plans

In addition to the plans for energy transiation, the city is aiming for 75% of trips to be made by bike, foot or public transport. They are planning a further 44 miles of cycle tracks that are better lit and connect with neighbouring towns.

What’s happening at the climate talks in Paris

150 world leaders and a lot of inspiring speeches- but what is actually happening in Paris. We have been scouring the news and recommend the following sites to keep up with what is happening at the UNFCCC conference.


One of the key ways to keep up with what is going on at the Paris climate talks in through virtual particpation. The UNFCCC has numerous social media outlets and a live webcast where you can watch the main meetings.


Rolling coverage of events inside the conference including a useful at a glance list of key points.  Many of the world leaders have now left the summit  and now it’s time for the negotiators to try  to turn a 50-page text into a deal that 195 countries can agree on, in less than a fortnight

Greenpeace- Energy Desk

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 11.44.39 AM

The Greenpeace 1st day round up looks at speeches from leaders of the world’s biggest economies and includes this rather amusing tweet from Geoffery Lean. Greenpeace are providing a handy daily digest with the main news condensded into an easily readable format.


Carbon Brief

Provide a fantastic daily briefing on climate change and related news. Their coverage from yesterday includes  John Key, prime minister of New Zealand presenting Chrisitne Figueres with the official communique from the fossil fuel subsidy reform group made up of non G20 countries. They also look at the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a coalition of 20 countries from Afghanistan and Bangladesh to the Philippines, Rwanda and Vietnam, who issued a declaration calling for the Paris agreement to include a 1.5C temperature limit.

The Guardian

Has an excellent range of articles covering all aspects of the climate summit, from the leaders speeches, to side events to what’s happening outside. If you are a footy fan we recommend this guide to the Paris climate talks understood through football teams.

New Internationalist

Meanwhile outside the main conference centre the New Internationalist is providing rolling coverage of civil society events. Notably indigenous communties held a healing ceremony for Paris in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks last week. Furthermore despite bans on demonstrations and marches many are going ahead. Filipino climate campaigner Leon Dulce explains why he will be resisting the bans.



COP21: key events CAT will be attending

Climate Demonstration London, 29 November

CAT and supporters will be present at the climate march in London on 29 November behind the banner of Zero Carbon: Making it Happen.  CAT will be marching with the Zero Carbon bloc, meeting point D. Nearest tube is Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch. We will be assembling from 12:00 onwards, ready to march at 13:00.

To change everything, we need everyone!tower

UN Climate Conference, 30 November to 11 December

Exhibition alongside AIWC, INFORSE and the Nordic Folkecentre for Renewable Energy.

UNFCCC COP21 Side Event, 3 December

Observer Room 4, Time: 16:45 -18:15

Fair Low/Zero Carbon & 100% RE Strategies.
Showcasing low and zero emission strategies and scenarios with 100% renewables, women’s initiatives and eco-village development solutions for poverty reduction in Europe, Africa and South Asia, as ways for operationalising the Paris Agreement and the pathways leading from it.

Climate Generations Areas, 10 December

Room: Salle 2, Time: 11:15-12:45

Side Event at the Climate Generations area organised by the French Government. ‘Getting Ready for Zero Emissions and 100% Renewable Energy: Plans and Scenarios to Pave the Way’. More information at

People’s Climate Summit, 5-6 December

Eastern suburb of Montreuil

The People’s Climate Summit is the main alternative summit and will consist of the ‘Global Village of Alternatives’ (an expo-style event, organised by Alternatiba, showcasing real solutions) and the ‘Climate Forum’ (a space for workshops, debates, events, planning, etc), as well as a peasants’ market. CAT will be running a workshop on 6 December.

Climate Action Zone, 7-11 December, Le Centquatre

There will be daily general assemblies in the ‘Climate Action Zone’ (ZAC) intended to reflect and analyse the day’s news from inside the COP, and discuss actions for the following day. There will also be legal briefings and trainings happening every day in this convergence space. CAT will be running workshops at 2pm on 8 and 11 December.

For further information contact +44 (0) 7709 696 599

CAT in Paris – Media Pack

CAT is going to Paris, here you will find our press pack for the  COP21 UNFCCC climate talks. Packed full of useful information, key events we will be attending and the messages we are taking with us. We will be promoting our ground-breaking Zero Carbon research project both inside and outside the official negotiating hall to raise ambition by showing we have all the technologies we need to do what the climate science demands of us. The work we will present includes the recently released ‘Who’s Getting Ready for Zero?’ and some initial findings from our current phase of research, ‘Zero Carbon: Making it Happen’.zc__mih_header_3

The key messages that we are taking to Paris are:

We know we must! The climate science couldn’t be clearer. In Paris the world must plan to rapidly move beyond fossil fuels and eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

We know we can! CAT’s new ‘Who’s Getting Ready for Zero?’ report offers robust scenarios from across the globe that clearly demonstrate that we can reach zero emissions with existing technologies.

The media services we offer are:

  • Spokespersons for CAT and the Zero Carbon Britain project include Adrian Ramsay, CEO of CAT and Paul Allen, Zero Carbon Britain Project Coordinator.
  • Expert information and commentary on all aspects of sustainable technologies, including the policy environment. Areas of expertise include renewable energy, sustainable architecture, land use and transport.
  • Case studies of and contacts for pioneering projects that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, tackle fuel poverty and provide clean green energy.
  • High quality images of sustainable technologies in action.
  • Our Twitter and Facebook feeds will be closely following events both inside and outside the climate talks. We will be using the opportunity of the climate talks to showcase decarbonisation scenarios from across the globe on our social media channels.
  • Interviews in Welsh language

    Get in contact if you would like any more information +44 (0)7709 696 599

To change everything, we need everyone!

On Sunday the 29th of November the People’s March for Climate Justice and Jobs will be taking place in London. The Centre for Alternative Technology will be there along with staff and supporters to join with thousands of people taking part in this global day of action.

peoplesclimatemarchIf you would like to meet us in London for the Climate Change Demonstration, CAT will be marching with the Zero Carbon bloc, meeting point D. Nearest tube is Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch. We will be assembling from 12pm onwards, ready to march at 1pm.

We will also be participating in the climate demonstration taking place in Aberystwyth on the 28th of November at 1pm, meeting at Plascrug Avenue.

The Centre for Alternative Technology has put out a statement in response to Amber Rudd’s energy policy speech made on the 18th November 2015.

The CEO Adrian Ramsay said;

“We wish we could rejoice in the news that UK coal-fired power stations
will be closed by 2025, as this is an important step in the right direction
in the fight against climate change. However yesterday’s speech by Amber
Rudd, Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy leaves little to
celebrate. Building a new generation of gas-fired power stations locks
the UK into the continual burning of fossil fuels, at a time when the
UK Government needs to be planning to phase out fossil fuels and
supporting clean, green power generation provided by renewable energy.14303695647_81c9e69a4d

Ahead of the Paris climate talks we need to see clear leadership from
Amber Rudd in supporting renewables and phasing out fossil fuels. The
climate science couldn’t be clearer: the world must plan to rapidly move
beyond fossil fuels and eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions by

We know we can do this: CAT’s new ‘Who’s Getting Ready for Zero’ report
offers robust scenarios from across the globe that clearly demonstrate that
we can reach zero emissions with existing technologies.”


· Between April and June in 2015 the UK produced 25% of its energy from renewable sources, outstripping coal and nuclear for the 1st time. (Guardian 24/9/2015)

·Despite the great progress in the production of energy from renewable sources, proposed government cuts to renewables subsidies threaten their continued growth and development

· The UK government pays £6 billion annually in fossil fuel subsidies compared with £3.5 billion of subsidies to the renewables industry- a figure that is currently projected to decline (Independent 12/11/2015)

· A recent report from Good Energy demonstrates that wind and solar brought down the wholesale cost of electricity by £1.55 billion in 2014.

· As CAT’s flagship Zero Carbon Britain research project has shown, we can reduce the amount of energy we need power through energy efficiency measure and meet that reduced energy demand through a mix of renewables, including onshore, offshore wind, hydro, solar, biomass and geo thermal.

CAT celebrates the next generation of graduates ‘making it happen’

Graduates from the Centre for Alternative Technology celebrate their academic successes at ceremony.

CAT Graduation
CAT’s CEO Adrian Ramsay addresses Graduates and their families in the rammed earth lecture theatre

Over 40 students from the Graduate School of the Environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth celebrated the successful completion of their studies with an award ceremony on Saturday 14th November.

The evening also included a buffet dinner, a welcome from CAT’s chief executive Adrian Ramsay and a keynote speech by Professor Herbert Girardet, leading environmental commentator and author of several books including the seminal “Blueprint for a Green Planet” (1987) and “Creating Regenerative Cities” (2014).

class of 2015
The class of 2015 – CAT Graduation

The event saw students graduate from all of CAT’s postgraduate programmes: MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment, Professional Diploma in Architecture, MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies and MSc Sustainability and Adaptation.

Adrian Ramsay, CEO of CAT, said they were the people who would be ‘making it happen’ in the transition to a zero carbon future:

“The world faces many challenges in the transition to a zero carbon future. The knowledge and skills that our graduates learn by studying at the Graduate School for the Environment equip them well to be the people making it happen. We are very proud of this year’s CAT graduates and look forward to hearing about their successes as they take the knowledge gained from their time at CAT into their careers, communities and home lives.”

Five students received particular awards for excellence in their dissertations. Helen Nicholls received an award for her dissertation comparing the impact of different waste water treatment systems on climate change. Lee Eyre received an award for his research into the role of metaphor in the world views of environmentalists. Elgan Roberts’ award-winning study looked at the greenhouse gas emissions from small scale hydroelectric schemes in Wales. Anne-Clare Landolt received an award for her dissertation on storing heat to improve greenhouse growing conditions. Lucy Jones also received an award for her technical report on a more sustainable alternative to supermarkets.

graduation buffet
CAT congratulates the class of 2015 with a buffet dinner

This year’s graduates join over one thousand people who have graduated from CAT’s postgraduate courses and are working for sustainability in their work and communities across the UK and around the world. CAT graduates have taken their skills to many professions which need expertise in sustainability and many companies have been set up by CAT graduates, bringing innovative solutions to environmental problems.

Photographs by Eveleigh Photography

graduation bar
Celebrating in the bar after the ceremony