Consider a typical modern day in a typical town. We wake up in a house heated by fuel brought to us in ways we are only dimly aware of, by an energy utility now owned in France. They have no fuel reserves beyond a couple of weeks. Our house is located in an area where we know few neighbours and is mostly owned by a German bank. We breakfast on food that was grown heaven knows where, by unknown hands, using methods we never see. Our lunch is bought from shops that would be empty in three days without fuel. We pay for it all through a Chinese bank over which we have little control.
We now depend for our continued existence on increasingly remote suppliers working through ever more distant systems that have no obligations to us, and indeed are not expected to have any.
21st century society must face the long emergency of breaching ecological limits whilst being stuck in the traffic-jam of a very ‘brittle’ society. Just in time delivery – becomes clean out of stock, the least cost option – become the least available option, and as surely as one thing leads to another, failures quickly begin to synergise, carrying things far beyond any Government or local authority’s ability to cope, so leaving us high and dry.
Over recent months communities across the western world are struggling to adjust to a new era of profound and abrupt change. Although not of their own making, these changes compel communities to re-consider how they plan to move forwards into the 21st century.
Resilience can become the new lens through which we filter our lifestyle choices. By working to develop our physical resilience, we also build psychological resilience both on a personal and community level. We are no longer in denial; we are actually working on the task at hand. Being on such a trajectory brings you into relations with others, and so builds pathways into a new community, this alone can do wonders to improve our quality of life, as many of the Transition Towns demonstrate so well.
Resilience is going to play an increasing role as we re-shape our lives in the coming years. Creating resilience in the communities that surround us cannot only help deliver tangible benefits, it can be a creative and empowering process.
Tuesday 30th November 10am
Despite the snow and ice I have just had confirmation by phone that the weeks travels are going ahead. I am now about to embark the first leg of my journey, from Machynlleth to Cardiff to attend the first meeting of Science Advisory Council for Wales
The role of the Council is to advise the Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales and through him the First Minister and the Welsh Assembly Government, on a broad range of scientific issues and policies that will help address the challenges Wales faces, support the economy and improve quality of life.
This brief crosses very closely our work at . Through our Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report, we have attempted to identify our key challenges and to develop a numerical scenario for how we can meet them, using a wide deployment of currently mature energy technologies. CAT is also committed to public engagement in the science of sustainability, helping many people young and old see that studying the core science, technology engineering and mathematics subjects need not to be at odds with our desires to protect the environment, in fact they are essential to achieve it.
Tuesday 30th November 2pm
Arrived in Cardiff and am spending a little time reading over all the relevant papers in advance of my two day meeting. I am pleased to see that a ‘low-carbon Wales’ features as a key priority in both the economic and academic strategies. The question is how can this be turned into action on the ground, and at what pace. The events unfolding around me as I travel re-enforce the need for urgency. This week, world leaders are heading for the next round of the UN climate negotiations in Cancun. Unless long industrialised nations can set real lead in moving away from fossil fuels, the majority world countries will be unable to sign up to the international agreement we so urgently need.
In addition, this really cold weather reminds me just how dependent we have become on abundant cheap fossil fuels. During the cold snap in January this year UK oil and gas consumption reached an all time high. Yet our North Sea oil production reached its peak in 1999 and is now in terminal decline. If we have a cold snap in 2020 or 2030 the North Sea reserves will be all but gone and we will be dependant on imports from far away places like Qatar, the former Soviet Union and Algeria. Due to the impending global peak in fossil fuel production, this cannot offer a reliable long-term solution.
At the turn of the new millennium, a group of us at the Centre for Alternative Technology began a process of taking stock of the trajectory CAT had traversed over it’s first quarter century, and charting the likely path ahead. It had become increasingly clear that since the early 1970s we ‘greens’ had successfully identified a great many problems and a large number of solutions. So much so, that society was faced with a vast array of environmental challenges; recycling, acid rain, organic agriculture, volatile organic compounds in paints, disposable nappies and nuclear power, to name but a few. It was clearly neither socially nor economically viable to expect all these challenges be tackled all at once.
We concluded that the essence of success is to prioritise, from the literally thousands of environmental, social and economic challenges, the really critical areas which were extremely urgent and devise ways to deal with those first. Peter Harper CAT’s head of innovation suggested the criteria for such a prioritisation should based around which challenges were irreversible and which challenges could feedback and runaway out of control.
By 2006, although there were clearly a lot of people doing lots of great solutions driven work, but the end target and timescale for the transition were still unclear. It became apparent to me that it was time for CAT to revisit the original 1977 ‘Alternative Energy Strategy for the UK’, but in very much more detail, and harnessing the research expertise and commitment of our growing numbers of MSc students. Beginning with a reading of the most recent science to establish the required end point, we then ‘back-casted’ to our current position exploring how could we integrate a wide range of solutions from changes in transport, changes in loft insulation, changes in diet and increases in renewable generation to provide the necessary transition.
Published in summer 2007, the first Zero Carbon Britain report was a very first pass over a new and unfamiliar energy landscape. It offered a scenario that could be used as a yardstick to assess if current progress was anywhere near on track in delivering the policy and technology transition required to meet the challenges we know lie ahead. This initial report was presented to all major political parties in 2007 at the House of Commons at the AGM of the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group. It was also presented in the Welsh Senedd, in Brussels, Washington, New York, and the UN COP 14 and COP 15 climate conferences in Poznan and Copenhagen. It helped change how people think of the future and inspired others to begin work on zero carbon scenarios for places as far apart as Ireland and Australia.
But soon after the launch of our first report, the credit crisis erupted. This radically changed peoples outlook across the board, not least due to the incredible energy price rises which preceded it. In response, CAT decided to embark on a new and much more detailed report ‘ZeroCarbonBritain2030’, to update and add to our work to date, but also to expand on the economic and employment analysis by synthesising cutting-edge findings from leading researchers from a wide cross-section of expert organisations.
Published in 2010, the new ZeroCarbonBritain2030 report presents a scenario which shows how we can integrate our detailed knowledge and experience from the built environment, transport, energy industry and agriculture into a national framework offering a common, coherent vision linking government and industry and citizens – endorsing, supporting and connecting actions across all sectors of society.
ZeroCarbonBritain2030 demonstrates how, through taking an uncompromising new approach to energy use and by taking advantage of new technologies and efficient design, we can reduce demand by over fifty percent by 2030 (we call this powering down). By working together, we can pioneer new ways of living that are even richer, far more resilient and that use a lot less energy.
At the same time, for the remaining energy we do need, through the widespread deployment of existing technologies, Britain can re-think its massive indigenous renewable energy assets to satisfy this reduced demand (we call this powering up).
We know the energy is there, the technology to access it is developed and waiting, we just need to up-skill and up-scale the programmes to deliver it.
The credit crunch has shown us the consequences of not reacting ahead of events. Zero Carbon Britain shows that the technology is ready, what we need is the political will to make it happen. Now is the time for us all to begin the great transition to a really sustainable future!
These two graphs show the difference between current land use and a zero carbon britain 2030 scenario. The red bar is the area of land used, green bar is nutritional value and the black bar carbon emissions. In the first graph, showing current land usage it is immediately obvious that current agricultural practices in Britain see a lot of land used from grazing livestock , which has relatively little nutritional value yet high carbon emissions. By contrast the zerocarbonbritian2030 scenario shows a far smaller area of land allocated to livestock products, yet the total amount of nutritional value substantially increased. Any remaining positive emissions are sequestered bringing the UK to zero.
Current Land Use
Zerocarbonbritain 2030 scenario
The launch of zerocarbonbritain2030 was an exciting moment for the Centre for Alternative Technology – hotly anticipated and eagerly awaited- it was always going to be controversial. After all, reducing your greenhouse gas emissions to zero ( in fact below zero) within 20 years is never going to be easy.
The launch of the report was covered by a wide variety of publications- from national and local newspapers, academic journals to widely read popular magazines and trade journals. In the media department it was frenetic, managing the enormous tide of enquiries that arrived in every day. One of the biggest areas of controversy has been the land use chapter. Notably the land use chapter calls for an 80% reduction in grazing livestock. The zero carbon Britain 2030 report shows that acre for acre grazing livestock produce more emissions yet provide the least nutritional value
The National Beef Association who represent farmers and those involved with the beef industry were naturally concerned by the massive cuts in the grazing livestock and the impacts that would have on farming life in the UK. The zerocarbonbritain2030 report shows how changes to land use will be radical but positive and see Britain grow far more of its own food and fuel, whilst creating greater energy, economic security and new rural jobs. The report proposes a reduction in grazing livestock because logic and evidence compel it, not for any other reason. There will still be meat but less of it. The task at hand with zerocarbonbritain2030 report was to demonstrate that it is possible to bring British net greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
A similar controversy of the report is the two thirds reduction in aviation, whilst the era of cheap flights has made life far more convienent and flitting back and forth between countrie sand traveling distances makes life easier,, aviation is responsible for huge amounts of carbon emissions. The zerocarbonbritain2030 report has found that it is possible through land use management to grow the crops needed to produce the kerosene in the UK. Orginally the press team hoped to launch the report at the TUC building in London in order to draw the links between a transition to a zero carbon society and increase in jobs that this would create. However aviation unions within the TUC were unwilling to be linked to a report that demands such a reduction and another venue had to be sought.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Centre for Alternative Technology were hosted by the Guardian online to debate land-use, farming and food. The CPRE claimed that following proposals of the report would mean a massive change in the British landscapes. Producing all our power at home would mean devoting 85% of England’s grazing land to large-scale biomass plantations. They suggested that nearly a quarter of England would no longer be covered by the familiar pattern of meadows and pastures which defines many valued English landscapes. Our response was that zerocarbonbritain2030 is about creating energy security, rural jobs and tackling climate change. It also increases food security. The benefits include many things the CPRE values: rural jobs, biodiversity and locally produced food. But it does result in a landscape that looks very different.
All of these debates are important and there are many more to be had in the transition to a low carbon society. Zerocarbonbritain2030 is just one of many possible scenarios – there are many other mixes- some that include more meat but less aviation or more aviation but less meat- the mix is endless.
As we move towards a zero carbon society there are difficult choices that we need to make. Things are going to change – be it through a change in climate or changes we introduce in order to combat climate change and deal with energy and economic security. The global consequences to humanity of not taking measures now to reduce our carbon emissions and keep temperatures well below 2 degrees will be devastating. We all have a role to play- it is important that we understand the debates in which we engage and the consequences of not taking action
I excited to be this weeks CAT’s ‘face of facebook’!! My name is Paul Allen, and I am the external relations director at CAT. My background is in Electrical Engineering, in fact I first joined CAT 22 years ago as an electronic engineer working with Dulas Ltd, before they became a separate company. Back then I worked on control systems for small-scale renewable systems for the UK and on solar powered medial systems for installation in Eritrea and other places overseas.
Today my current role is ‘External Relations Director’. This means acting like an antenna for CAT, so we keep in touch with what others are doing across the UK and beyond, and ensuring others find out about the work we have been doing here. So as you can imagine it means a lot of time on the road (or rather the rails as I don’t drive!) I am also hading up CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project, exploring the detail of what sort of Britain we will actually need to have by 2030, and how we might create it.
I am preparing to begin this week’s travels, which, bearing in mind the very cold weather, looks like it is going to be quite a week. Tomorrow morning I set off to Cardiff for my very first meeting as part of the Science Advisory Council for Wales. This is an expert group established by Wales Chief scientist to inform the Welsh Assembly.
Then on Wednesday I leave Cardiff for Brussels by Eurostar to make a presentation of CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain 2030 Report in the European Parliament at an event hosted by our MEP Jill Evans. This event will highlight a range of scenarios to researchers, policy makers and NGOs. The aim is to spur discussion and debate on how greenhouse-gas emissions could be eliminated completely from a long-industrialised society. The event is also intended to engage those interested in developing such research for their own country or region, sharing details on approach and methodology.
I then return to the UK ready for Saturday where I have been invited by the Campaign against Climate Change to present Zero Carbon Britain 2030 at their National Climate March in London alongside Caroline Lucas MP, Michael Meacher MP, Ben Brangwyn from the Transition Network plus others
I hope you will enjoy following my story as the week progresses, it looks like it will be a very exciting week!!
Cut carbon now! We can’t bail out the climate”
Staff and supporters of the Centre for Alternative Technology will join thousands of other individuals and organizations in calling for a ‘Zero Carbon Britain by 2030 at the Climate Emergency Rally on the 4th December 2010. The rally is designed to coincide with the international climate talks being held in Cancun, Mexico.
Paul Allen, External Relations Director at CAT will address the Climate Emergency Rally on Whitehall “The cuts we really should be talking about the cuts in carbon emission, we cannot bail out the climate in the same way that we have bailed out the economy. We only have one chance. “
Other speakers include John McDonnell MP (Labour), Caroline Lucas MP (leader, Green Party), Michael Meacher MP (Labour), Paul Allen (pioneer, Zero Carbon Britain project), Tony Kearns (CWU), Maria Souviron (Bolivian ambassador), Deborah Doane (Director, World Development Movement), Andy Atkins (Director, Friends of the Earth) and Ben Brangwyn (co-founder Transition Towns), John Stewart (chair, AirportWatch).
In June 2010 CAT published Zero Carbon Britain, the report integrates thinking across a range of sectors and shows how we can ‘Power Down’ through reducing demand and ‘Power Up’ renewables to 100% by 2030 .
“We can enjoy greater energy security, create new green jobs and build a more sustainable, dynamic, and resilient economy.” Paul Allen
“The solutions needed to create a low-carbon and high-wellbeing future for all exist, what has been missing to date, is the political will to implement them.”
Dr Victoria Johnson, New Economic Foundation
Key priorities of the report include:
63% reduction in energy use for transport could be achieved by:
– A switch from petrol / diesel powered vehicles to electric / battery powered vehicles.
– Rail and bus services replacing domestic and short haul flights.
– Two- thirds reduction in long haul aviation using kerosene fuel produced from coppice in the UK.
50% reduction in heat and electricity demand could be achieved by:
– Insulation of all of Britain’s un-insulated cavity walls and lofts.
-Using natural construction materials such as wood, straw and other natural materials will lock away C02.
– Britain can grow most of its own food whilst still producing biomass for heating, electricity and transport fuel.
– Land can be used to mop up residual emissions through sequestration.
– A 80% reduction in livestock products that generate 82% of green house gases in the agricultural sector. Non-livestock products generate more food and have a higher nutritional value.
The report also recognizes that action in the UK alone is not enough, making the transition will require unprecedented collaboration on a global scale. The report:
– Emphasises the urgent need for an international agreement
– Explores different policy options for emissions reduction including cap and trade, carbon tax and tradable energy quotas
zerocarbonbritain2030 is available free to download or can be purchased from from www.zerocarbonbritain.org,
For further information, copies of the report or to arrange to speak to any of the authors contact
Kim.email@example.com 07770881503/ 01654 705 957
This week, I’m attending the hydro power module of our MSc university course – Renewable Energy in the Built Environment. And I can only say: It’s great fun! Today the day started with a lecture on the different types of turbines, delivered by someone who normally works as a consultant in the hydro power industry. And then, after a short coffee break, CAT engineer Arthur Butler took us on a tour up the hill to CAT’s reservoir and followed the run of our pipes down to our own Pelton wheel turbine, commenting on important practical considerations for installing such a system. Then, as the last thing before lunch, we actually built up a small turbine and carried out some experiments with it. Measuring the flow rate with buckets and varying the number of light bulbs switched on while measuring voltage, current and rotational speed, we checked how well the formulas matched our observations. It’s one thing learning to sit in the comfort of the Shepherd lecture theatre and learn about the runaway speed of an impulse turbine under conditions with insufficient load. It’s quite another to actually hear the turbine make scary howling noises and to be sprayed with water during the practical because you switched off too many light bulbs at the same time.
One element that’s very refreshing about CAT’s MSc course is the fact that the lectures delivered by professionals who tell you about the kind of things that can give you headaches when you’re actually trying to make things happen. From the practicalities of getting your turbine connected to the electricity grid to the complications that could arise if the land on the other shore of the river is owned by someone else, there is an amazing wealth of “real world” experience passed on to us. And that’s it from me for now, the lecture on Civil Engineering in Hydro Electric Systems is about to start, so I better stop blogging.
One of the perks of working for CAT’s Information Service is that every now and then we receive some truly quirky designs for new inventions. To make it perfectly clear: unfortunately, CAT does not have the resources to thoroughly evaluate or test any new machines, concepts or ideas – let alone build actual prototypes. Usually all we can offer inventers is a thank-you letter with a few suggestions as to where they might receive support to take their idea forward. Often it’s a real shame we can’t do more because it is obvious that years of work have gone into designs, especially those which come in the form of pages after pages of hand-drawn diagrams and handwritten notes and formulas.
Some of the most laborious designs describe perpetual motion machines – devices that can run indefinitely without the input of external energy or devices that produce more energy output than they require energy input – something which can only work if some very fundamental laws of physics turn out to be wrong.
Designs we have seen include:
- wind turbines mounted on the roofs of electric cars, where the speed of the car causes the wind for the turbine
- which in turn powers the large underwater wheels turned by the buoyancy of plastic bags, filled with compressed air at the deepest point
- and with the wheel powering the compressormind-boggling arrangements of magnets, cogwheels and springs
And then there’s that idea of digging coal out of the ground to burn it in a very inefficient power station and to then use a huge amount of energy to try and capture the CO2 and compress it back into the ground. Ok, that’s not perpetual motion, just an idea the government wants to spend £1 billion on instead of putting the cash into proven renewable energy technologies. But I’m sure it would look great with a few hand-drawn diagrams.