Land Intensity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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

land use is a zero carbon britain 2030 scenario

Zerocarbonbritain 2030 scenario

land use is a zero carbon britain 2030 scenario

zero carbon controversy

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.

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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

CAT hosts Bristol Schumacher Conference 2010: Zero Carbon Britain – from Aspiration into Action.

“In the shadow of economic globalisation, an extraordinary variety of creative voices have emerged to challenge and reverse the dominant trends.”

On 16th October 2010 delegates from the European Environment Agency, Good Energy and the Centre for Alternative Technology will lead a day of lectures, workshops and discussion on the most pressing issue of our time – the need for a transition to a zero carbon Britain.

Britain has the potential, skills and natural resources to lead the world in carbon reduction. Join in workshop discussions with Paul Allen (CAT), Eugenie Harvey (10:10), Prof. Peter Reason (University of Bath), Victor Anderson (WWF), Jean Boulton (Sustain), Mark Gater and others.

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Become part of the solution. Put the date in your diary!

Continue reading “CAT hosts Bristol Schumacher Conference 2010: Zero Carbon Britain – from Aspiration into Action.”

Site Community and Open Day

It’s all go in site community this Summer… for the last few weekends the cottage area of site has been opened up for visitors to come by and take a look at what is going on. The community at CAT started in 1975 when a group of people disillusioned by modern day living and concerned by what they saw as a looming environmental crisis moved to the abandoned slate quarry that is now known as CAT.  Over the years, the hard work and enthusiasm of 1000’s of people has meant that the quarry has transformed into a  fertile oasis with abundant flowers, fruits, vegetables and tree’s. Although CAT has expanded and grown there is still a living community here at CAT.  It is  home to 16 people including three children and three cats ( of the feline variety) who live in a variety of different houses, from renovated old slate cottages to eco-buildings, tried and tested at CAT.

Chris, Carlos and Mary tread the clay, whilst Neru wathes on
Chris, Carlos and Mary tread the clay, whilst Neru watches on

The site community residents aim to put into practice the ethos of CAT through sustainable low impact living. All the houses are very well insulated, water is heated through a combination of wood burners and solar water heaters. Wood also provides heating for the houses. The community aims to reduce it’s carbon footprint by sharing resources such as washing machines etc   buying food together and putting into practice sustainable low impact living. As well  environmental sustainability the community is also concerned with sustaining ourselves as a community. All the decisions about the community are made through  consensus decision making process in which all residents are involved. Regular meals together and work days are also important elements of community life.

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The new community kitchen

As well as the weekend tours this summer,  residents of site community are also working on their amazing new kitchen. The building dubbed ‘mini WISE’ as it is in the shadow of the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education is a timber frame, straw bale building with a hemp and lime render on the outside and clay inside. The kitchen is going to provide much needed cooking and eating space for the site community and long and short term volunteers who come and stay at CAT.

Architecture Students find inspiration in WISE at this years professional diploma summer school.

This week the new WISE building at CAT has been buzzing with architecture students, all working on their final projects.  We took the opportunity to go and quiz them about what they are doing and how their course is going.

The WISE was alive with creative energy, paper covering the studio floors, cardboard models and sketchbooks spread out across the tables, the huge windows were filling the airy rooms with light, connecting and framing the woods and mountains around CAT.

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Continue reading “Architecture Students find inspiration in WISE at this years professional diploma summer school.”

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.

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

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?”

A new arrival: the final piece of our renewable heating puzzle

by Dave Hood Engineering Department

With a mix of excitement and trepidation, I watched the 3½ tonne hot water storage tank get craned into place next to our new woodchip power station. Its job is to act as the thermal store – a big hot water storage tank – for the whole of our district heating scheme. This was the final piece of the puzzle the CAT engineering team had been waiting for.

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Its importance is that we can now begin the final stage of connecting the new Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system up to the site district heating network and the new WISE building, and get all of the testing done in time for the winter heating season. This will draw to a close the design and installation stages of a project I have been working on for almost 3 years.

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However, it does not stop there, as the installation is only one part of our site energy strategy. In September, I will start my doctorate research into biomass CHP, and its potential for community scale systems in the UK. Hopefully this will give others the opportunity to learn from the results of our experiments in this fledgling field of energy generation.

I tried to remember the importance of this, as the tank was lowered into place and set into its permanent home, ready for its connection, but a wry smile crept across my face every time I saw the big yellow crane and I remembered that engineers never really grow up!

You can watch a slide show the entire delivary of the new hot water storage tank by clicking the button below.

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For help with flickr slideshows click here.

Measuring the footprint of the Dyfi Valley

by: Julie Bromilow Education Department

“I would thoroughly endorse the value of the learning experiences these pupils benefited from” said Jan Bond, External Subject Expert for Geography at the Welsh Assembly Government after visiting Machynlleth primary school to interview children about the Dyfi Footprint project they had just completed.

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The Dyfi Footprint is a joint venture between CAT who work with schools, and Ecodyfi, who work within the local community. An Eco Footprint measures the amount of land that we use to produce the resources that we need, to deal with our waste and sequester our carbon, and tells us that if everyone in the world lived the same lifestyle we do in Wales then we’d need nearly three planets to support us. My work in the school was set to investigate the notion that the wider community can be reached through schools. The project mainly focused on an eight week programme with an enthusiastic year six class, but also included workshops for the school governors, all the teaching staff, the PTA, and members of the Eco Committee and School Council. The Year 6 work began with a planning session with Mr Jones the class teacher – I told him what I wanted to do, and he told me what targets needed to be met in all the core subjects. Incorporating these curriculum needs into the project made sure that it was never an ‘add-on’ – instead it was integrated into the teaching.

Continue reading “Measuring the footprint of the Dyfi Valley”