It’s now almost ten years since CAT’s first Zero Carbon Britain report was published. Today zero carbon is becoming a much more commonly accepted goal – but we urgently need to make it happen! Paul Allen introduces a new report, due out in spring, that looks at the barriers to getting to zero and how these can be overcome.
On 5 October 2016, the threshold number of signatories to the Paris Agreement was achieved, enabling it to enter into force on 4 November 2016. This historic agreement is underpinned by a global consensus of science that clearly recognises the need to reach zero carbon. Fortunately, a wide range of detailed scenarios and real-life practical projects clearly demonstrate that we already have the tools and technologies needed to get us there. Continue reading “Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen”
Students from the Centre for Alternative Technology’s (CAT’s) Graduate School of the Environment held an interactive Open Space day to discuss barriers to bringing about a rapid transition to a low carbon economy. The outcomes of the day are being fed into the Zero Carbon Britain – Making it Happen research currently being undertaken by CAT.
The open space style of the event meant the day started with 40 people but no agenda. The participants came up with and held 16 smaller group discussions on a diverse range of topics during the day. This 2-minute film gives a flavour of the day.
The 16 discussions covered a broad range of topics, but the structure of the day allowed each session to be focused, and useful for developing the research. Topics covered included:
- Reaching a wider audience, including reaching out within workplaces
- Using the resources of new build property developers and retrofitting existing buildings
- Community energy, and how you create strong community groups
- Political action, both local and wider
- Creating an inclusive movement, that is founded on equality and diversity
- Looking at a more individual level, at setting personal goals, behaviour change, valuing resources and handling both ‘eco-guilt’ and bad news on climate change
- Values and learning from nature
- Having a hopeful vision that inspires us
If you are interested about finding out more about CAT’s next research project, you can read about Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen initial findings online, or come along to our short course on the 28-29th April, which is just before the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, meaning you can combine the two for a stimulating long weekend in Machynlleth.
Paul Allen, who heads CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project, is in Girona Province talking about the possibility of Zero Carbon Catalonia.
From almost every balcony, rooftop or garden, flags have been flying the hopes and dreams of their owners, for the 9th of November is decision day for Catalonia. In many ways the decision of the central Spanish Government to refuse an official referendum on independence for Catalonia has deepened their resolve to press ahead, albeit with a less official status. For many there is a clear link between energy independence and political independence for Catalonia, hence an enthusiasm for hearing about the Zero Carbon Britain research.
Girona Province has a long tradition of cooperatives and energy projects. Every year the Girona Province regional government supports a day-long education programme for all environmental educators in the area to increase their knowledge and skills in a particular area, and this year the topic was energy. The key aims of the event were as follows:
- To provide environmental educators with practical tools and concrete ideas needed for energy education activities.
- To encourage and support more environmental educators to offer activities on energy education.
- To exchange ideas and best practices.
At La Fábrica de Celrá, the newly refurbished industrial heritage building which would host the event, the final panes of glass were being fixed in place as we arrived. This 19th century dye and pigment factory, with its vast chimneys and castellated roofline, was an icon of the fossil-fuelled industrial revolution and offered an ideal backdrop for the ‘Extraordinary Story of Human Beings and Energy’ I use as a scene-setter for the Zero Carbon Britain scenario, which was to open the conference proceedings. This was followed by a series of presentations exploring practical projects active in the Girona area, from improving the energy efficiency of sports facilities to arranging ‘Green Drinks’ sessions to bring people together in any particular locality. The emphasis then shifted to practical workshops designed to give educators new skills in addressing four key target groups:
- Kids and youngsters
- Municipal Councils, employees, buildings and facilities
- Citizens (in general)
- Private companies (both employees and customers).
I had been given client group B, and a clear steer to be very practical, giving examples, showing specific tools and practices, etc. This allowed me to draw on my work around the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill in Wales and the ‘Wales We Want’ national conversation to devise a workshop that could share the practical experience I have gathered as a Climate Commissioner for Wales in engaging local councils. The initial part of the workshop offered space for smaller groups to gain both the tools and confidence to envision a positive future, followed by a session exploring how the municipal decision-making in their areas could be enhanced to consider the wellbeing of future generations in the choices they make today.
It was a fascinating gathering, provoking many interesting questions and conversations. There is clearly strong enthusiasm to re-think the energy future in Catalonia, and an increasing desire to establish a physical site like at CAT.
My old friend Josep Puig Boix has been a long-time motivator behind ‘Ecoserveis’, the educational charity running the event, and is now spending a happy retirement getting the area’s first fully community-owned large wind project up and running. Wind is by no means new to the area, but Josep is devising this project in such a way as to make the process behind its development accessible to all. The costs for large wind power projects have now come down so much that it is viable with no subsidies at all, so it could be replicated anywhere. In addition Josep has been part of a group that are just publishing an economic analysis of the energy costs of running both Catalonia and Spain on both business as usual and a high renewables transition. The initial figures I saw make a clear case that – even with conventional economic analysis – the switch to renewables is a very good investment.
Although this was a long train journey, it felt like a very worthwhile trip: helping to support the vision for a Zero Carbon Catalonia, which has led to an invitation for a return visit to present at a 100% renewables conference in 2016, planned to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl.
by Paul Allen
Half-term highlights with an autumn theme
Throughout the October half term CAT will be running seasonally themed kids activities in the straw bale theatre ( 11am-3pm Monday to Friday). From celebrating the harvest and the coming winter to story telling, crazy inventing and our specially designed educational tours for children. For adults we will be running zero carbon Britain workshops and specialised tours of CAT. Check out the visit.cat.org.uk website for specific timings.
With over 7 acres of hands-on displays and gardens and with 40 years of experience in sustainability practice, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) inspires thousands of visitors every year. Based in beautiful Mid Wales, the Centre overlooks the Snowdonia National Park, renowned for its stunning scenery and outdoor activities. Join us with your family, friends or come alone and explore what you can do!
This summer there are loads of special activities going on throughout the half term school holidays. There is bound to be something you love, perhaps you want to:
- Ride on our water powered cliff railway
- Explore our 7 acre exhibition site (map)
- Enjoy the scenic beauty and nature of Mid-Wales
- Play our Eco games
- Become a Crazy Inventor
- Learn about CAT on a Guided Tour
- Participate in Specialist Tours about renewable energy systems
- Take part in a workshop and learn something new
- Get to Zero on our Zero Carbon Discovery trail
- Be part of our Living Laboratory and woodland crafts and sustainable building in action
- Get answers to your questions with our free information service
- Nourish yourself with mouthwateringly good food from our renowned restaurant
- Take something home from our onsite Eco store
If you buy your ticket in advance online and choose to gift aid your donation. £8.50 at the gate.
- Free to local residents (SY20/SY19), CAT members, carers and children under 3
- Reductions for concessions and children
- Reductions for groups of 10+
Open 10am to 5pm 7 days a week.
Everyone’s calling it the biggest climate march in history. As Mr Cameron joins other Prime Ministers and President’s in New Your this weekend, people all over the world will be taking to the streets to call for action. We want you to join us in London.
Alice Hooker-Stroud, who coordinated our Zero Carbon Britain research for the report we launched last summer will address the people who march in London to tell them that we know how to stop emitting greenhouse gas. Our research sets out a way we could eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by reducing our demand for energy through sensible changes to our buildings, transport system and lifestyles. And at the same time replacing coal and gas power stations with renewable sources of energy, investing in storage infrastructure and changing the food we produce and therefore the way we use land.
On the March we will be joining the Fossil Free block with our Zero Carbon Britain banner.
Meet at 12:15 by this red telephone box on temple place this Sunday:
Click here for more about the fossil free block.
“Well, maybe you do just eat a little bit too much…” said Laura’s (very tactfully!) when I queried her, slightly exasperatedly about my diet once I’d fiddled around with it in Laura’s Larder – the new online tool about healthy and sustainable diets launched today at CAT. The idea is, you fill in what you might eat during a week and then it tells you the nutritional values of your diet – kilocalorie (energy), protein, fats, salts and micronutrients; and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from what you eat – ‘farm to fork’. Then, you can make changes to try to make your diet healthier, and lower in emissions.
We got a sneak preview as staff here at CAT and I’d had a bit of time to play around with it, but was having trouble ticking the ‘daily kilocalories’ box. It kept on telling me, basically, that I was eating too much.
I started out being quite honest about what I eat. I hadn’t kept a diary of my diet, but I thought about what I’d usually eat for breakfast every day, and filled in some examples of the things I might eat for lunch and dinner, together with the additional snack I have when I get home from work and the multiple cups of coffee that I sprinkle through mid-mornings. I’d included a few drinks of an evening (that I was right in suspecting was too many!), a bit of chocolate here and a portion of chips there. I generally eat pretty large portions of food, and I probably have a fry-up once on a weekend, and a (pretty disgustingly giant, but home-cooked, so obviously more healthy!) sunday roast.
Having worked on the Zero Carbon Britain project here at CAT for a couple of years, the first thing I noticed was that the GHG emissions from my diet were pretty high. I have picked up a couple of things whilst working with Laura herself on the food and diets model in Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future, and on the new report linking diets, GHG emissions and land use: People, Plate and Planet.
I knew that the culprit was probably cheddar cheese. I don’t eat meat (red meat is especially high in emissions), but I do like cheese. Since beef and milk come from the same animals (something I, surprisingly, had not thought about ever before in my life!), I knew that the GHG emissions from hard cheeses like this were almost as bad as those from the meat. So, I started cutting out some cheese from my ‘diet’ in the application (I have been trying to do this in real life too). But I was surprised about the next two things that contributed to my high GHG score – cider (yes, I drink too much of it), and broccoli. Broccoli?! “But its a nice green vegetable, and my mum always used to encourage me to eat it when I was little – its good for you!”, I exclaimed at my computer screen. I challenged Laura: “Yes, I double-checked that one too. All the sources agree. They must have to use lots of fertilisers to grow brassicas like that.” Down went the broccoli. Thankfully, I could replace it with kale – one of my favourite greens that happens to be low in GHG emissions as well. Excellent! I also decreased the cider intake, but thought I’d best leave in a pint or two for a sunny day.
With my GHG emissions now looking more ‘healthy’, I moved onto the next big issue: my energy (kilocalorie) intake was too high. And here is where I got stuck. I tried a few things: I replaced all my portion sizes with small ones, and cut out the chocolate and chips. I thought I’d be onto a winner. Not so. Next I ditched the second slice of toast for breakfast and the afternoon snack. Still no luck. I looked at the resulting overall weekly diet I’d ended up with: significantly reduced, yet still tasty and varied. The rest of my health indicators looked fine – it was a pretty rounded diet. In terms of micronutrients, I had to swap a couple of doses of peanut butter and jam for ‘yeast extract’ for breakfast to get my vitamin B12 up; and found out that I probably needed to eat a bit of seaweed every week to get some iodine without upping my salt intake too significantly, but everything else looked tickety-boo. I had a healthy diet. Apart from those kilocalories.
“I don’t know what to do Laura,” I said. “Unless I start cutting out whole meals – which I am fundamentally against! – I can’t see where I can make any more reductions, and I’m still eating too much.” When I’d told friends this result, they had suggested, encouragingly, that perhaps it was okay because I was a fairly active person and so maybe I needed the extra energy. “This is true,” Laura said “if you are physically active, you may require more in terms of energy than what is recommended in Laura’s Larder”. I do cycle to and from work (most days), but it is only a couple of miles. The recommendations, Laura explained, are based on a sedentary lifestyle (office job, driving to work etc), so I could have a little bit of wiggle room here, but I wasn’t convinced I did enough to get out of this one that easily.
Laura had a quick skim over my ‘model’ diet. “It looks like you eat pretty well!” she said, knowing I’d already made modifications. We went through it together and tried an experiment: first we took out the fry-up, and replaced it with a more normal breakfast. Tick! Kilocalorie intake all good. Then we put the fry-up back in, but took out the sunday lunch, and replaced it with some dahl and rice. Tick! Kilocalorie intake all good. In fact, if I took out either of these meals, I could add a few more things back into my diet – brie on toast for breakfast once a week (yum!), extra glass of wine here and there (fantastic!) and still eat a diet that was healthy, low in GHG emissions and (I thought) pretty tasty looking. Success!
Although I know I won’t be following the diet I ended up with to the letter (there’s no way I’m that organised!), there are a few good things I have already started doing: eating only either a fry-up or a sunday roast, generally eating less for each meal, re-thinking when I pick up some broccoli at the market, drinking less cider (thankfully, the sun doesn’t shine too much in Wales anyway), and having ‘yeast extract’ on my toast a couple more times a week. Now, I just need to find a way to sneak some seaweed into my weekly diet… Perhaps I can hide it in a stew? I’ll ask Mikhael, our excellent chef in the CAT restaurant.
Why not also read about the implications of what we eat on GHG emissions and land use, in our new report – People, Plate and Planet; also launched today.
New independent research from ComRes – commissioned by RenewableUK – shows that political parties that oppose onshore wind development are likely to lose twice as many votes as they gain. In the 40 most marginal Lab-Con constituencies that margin doubles, with parties opposing onshore wind losing four times more voters than they attract.
The research chimes with our experience at the Centre for Alternative Technology, which is that where a positive vision is presented, people respond positively to it. Last year we launched our report Zero Carbon Britain – Rethinking the Future, a scenario for the UK in which carbon dioxide emissions were completely eliminated through concerted action to reduce energy demand, shift diets and build a new green infrastructure including wind turbines alongside a range of other renewable technologies. The research has been embraced by many communities and people calling for serious action on climate change. It is this positive vision that our Renewable Energy and the Built Environment MSc and other masters courses train people to create and implement.
New Onshore Wind Research shows politicians need positive vision
The opinion poll research revealed that of those surveyed:
- 30% of Britons would be less likely to vote for a party that proposed to halt the deployment of further onshore wind schemes, with only 15% being more likely to.
- Supporters of Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are all turned off by an anti-onshore wind attitude: voters of all three parties would be less likely to vote for a party which was anti-onshore wind than would be more likely.
- In the 40 most marginal Conservative/Labour constituencies nearly four times as many people would be turned off by an anti-onshore wind party, with 39% saying they would be less likely to vote for a national party which blocked further development, and just 10% being more likely to.
According to Renewable UK, the findings become even clearer once people were made aware of reports suggesting that household bills may need to rise if renewable targets are to be met through other means, as suggested by the Royal Academy of Engineering earlier this year. Five times more voters are likely to prefer the continued development of onshore wind compared to halting all further projects and bill rises (85% vs 15%).
In contrast, local candidates for election who are in favour of the development of onshore wind are likely see a boost in their support. Almost a quarter of adults (23%) said they would be more likely to support such a candidate, in comparison to just 16% who would be less likely to. The margin again grows in the 40 most marginal Conservative/Labour seats to 23% and 12% respectively.
Kit Jones, Zero Carbon Britain Communications Officer at the Centre for Alternative Technology said:
This research needs to be seen as the basis for a new cross-party consensus that we should be deploying all available sustainable technologies to eliminate Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. This is a clear reversal of the current direction of government policy and rhetoric, which is deliberately making it increasingly difficult for new onshore wind projects to go ahead.
Our own Zero Carbon Britain research demonstrates that it would be possible for Britain to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 whilst maintaining a modern standard of living. Onshore and offshore wind both have an important role in a renewable energy future. Most people understand this, and this new research shows they are prepared to vote for it.
RenewableUK Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said:
This poll shows that anti-onshore wind policy is a clear vote-loser, with Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem voters turned off by anti-onshore rhetoric. Those who espouse anti-wind views should pay particular attention to results in the marginal seats which will determine the next election. The public understands that we need more onshore wind.
Onshore wind is the cheapest form of low carbon technology, and provided enough power for 3.8 million households last year. Voters understand it’s wrong to rule out further onshore wind and will not back candidates who try to. This sends a clear message to politicians to back this technology and the 19,000 people who work in the industry.
Summer holiday activities
CAT has a new Zero Carbon Britain discovery trail giving visitors an engaging new way of exploring the site. The new trail explore Zero Carbon Britain, CAT’s positive vision for a future Britain that doesn’t cause climate change. The Discovery trail, suitable for adults and families, includes twenty-five new permanent display boards and a ‘Getting to Zero’ game.
The trail will be available for visitors to enjoy throughout the summer holidays, alongside children’s activities run every weekday which also explore the Zero Carbon Britain theme and have been specially designed by an artist/educator duo.
Philip James designed the new discovery trail and displays. Philip worked at an energy researcher on the Zero Carbon Britain project and has based the displays on this work. He said:
“When we do interesting research it shouldn’t just get written into a report and forgotten about. We hope the discovery trail is a fun way that anyone can understand our work. We want to inspire people to realise that it would be possible to set up our country in a way that doesn’t cause climate change”
Visitors can pick up a discovery trail game-sheet from the shop. It is a fun way to explore the site and learn more about the buildings, gardens and technologies on display. It puts these technologies in context by showing the role they could play in Britain in the future.
Games, craft, play and learning
Also on offer at CAT this half term were daily children’s activities from 10am until 3pm. The activities will also be running during the summer holidays. Esther Tew (Artist) and Kirsten Manley (Environmental Educator) created the new activities.
Kirsten said: ‘By applying experiential learning techniques through role play, games and immersive experiences throughout the CAT site, participants take a journey of discovery and learning. The feedback from new staff, children and parents has been very positive. We feel excited to be developing accessible ways of understanding the positive message that Zero Carbon Britain is giving.’
Full story in the Cambrian News.
This is the fifth instalment in a series of blogs by Paul Allen as he travels across the USA talking with numerous grassroots groups about CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research project. The first blog explains the purpose of the trip and the second blog details his time in Boston, in the third blog Paul was in Ohio and for the fourth he was in Utah. Now Paul is in San Francisco, where he visits Stanford University and the ‘Magic’ Community.
Visiting Stanford University
My research stop in San Francisco’s Bay Area began with a visit to Professor Mark Jacobson at his office at Stanford University in Palo Alto. Mark’s innovative modelling work had originally inspired my trip; initially he developed a robust academic scenario exploring how world energy demands could be met from renewable energy sources. The interest around this work, from journals such as Scientific American led to much more detailed modelling to create ‘50 plans for 50 States’ across the US showing how each could be powered from 100% renewable energy by 2050.
I spent the morning excitedly sharing notes with Mark in his office at the interdisciplinary Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building or ‘Y2E2’ for short. This is the brand new hub for environmental problem solving forms the heart of Stanford’s Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability, linking expertise in “sustainable built systems”, “climate and energy systems”, “oceans and estuaries”, “fresh water”, “energy”, and “land use and conservation”. The building also accommodates researchers from biology, law, medicine, education, anthropology, and economics, as well as civil engineering and Earth systems science. Clearly one of the “greenest” building on the Stanford University Campus, Y2E2 utilises the latest thinking from Arup in energy and water management. Its ‘Coupa Café’ features the best single estate, certified organic and fair trade coffee on Campus to ensure the different disciplines are attracted to this space to cross-fertilise.
Zero Carbon Britain and The Solutions Project
We explored origins of our work, and how it is used, perhaps the key aspect was our approach to the research funding – we both ensured our research was free from corporate funding, to give confidence in its independence to those who use it. Mark offered his insights into Zero Carbon Britain, and compared our communications work with that of ‘the Solutions Project’ that is rapidly emerging around his modelling. The Solutions Project arose in June 2011 when he was meeting with actor Mark Ruffalo, banker Marco Krapels and filmmaker Josh Fox to discuss how they could collaborate around their opposition to extreme energy extraction technologies such as fracking. Their conversation sparked an important realization – it wasn’t enough for them to be against something. They needed to be part of the solution. That prompted them to create a project that can harness the powerful combination of science, business and culture to catalyse the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy – and in the process change how we think about the future. To help me get a better understanding of their communications strategy, Mark set up a meeting for me with the solutions projects communications expert Jon Wank to share ideas on how we can make the findings of this research accessible to those who will use it.
The overwhelming core of our research methodology and findings were very similar. They key technical differences between our scenarios include the following:
- Mark’s work has a major emphasis on the reduction of the human cost and economic cost of clearer air quality, and so shies away from using any synthetic liquid or gas fuels.
- His 100% renewable scenarios do not include the significant methane emissions from agriculture and so do not aim to get to net zero emissions.
- Mark’s scenarios have a target of 100% renewable energy by 2050, rather than 2030, although he stated that he felt it would be technically achievable by 2030, but that would be too fast a cultural shift for the US
- My meeting with Mark made it very clear to me that our Zero Carbon Britain communications plans should not be modest in their ambitions. Despite much stronger anti-climate change misinformation in the US, the solutions project has attracted the support of a wide range of key celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio, made mainstream TV interviews such as the David Letterman Show (US equivalent of Michael Parkinson), and has attracted significant funding support.
Economics are a big part of the solutions project – they have already enrolled expert Marco Krapels and aim to show how this transition makes economic sense for all of us. Mark’s next area of research is to show how global renewable resources may change as the effects of climate change begin to be felt around the world, and the role offshore wind can have in storm mitigation and well as in emissions reduction.
Whilst at Stanford, Mark had also requested that I make a Zero Carbon Britain presentation to his students on the Atmosphere/Energy Seminar programme, so they can see our perspectives on both the modelling and communications. This is also a good way for me to find new contacts for further meetings and investigation. After the lecture, Stanford provided lunch in the Coupa Café so I could spend time talking with the students. On of the students Aniket was particularly taken by my approach and arranged an invitation to Stanford’s Value-science living laboratory – the ‘Magic Community’ in Palo Alto.
The ‘Magic Community’ and ‘Valuescience’ – living our values
I accepted the invitation, the ‘Magic’ community is a living laboratory for Stanford University, it literally provides a home for people learning and communicating how humans can further ‘common good’ by practicing ‘valuescience’ i.e. scientific methods and principles applied to questions of value. I immediately felt at home, it reminded me of the CAT on-site community and of my time living at the Undergrowth Housing Cooperative that grew out of CAT in the mid 1980s.
Their aim is to maximise human wellbeing whilst also reducing their negative impacts. As we shared the most healthy looking salad and fresh vegetable meal I had seen since arriving in the US, I spent time talking with David, Hillary and Robin who form the core group of fellows, each with a tenure of more than fifteen years, and between them they shoulder primary responsibility for operating Magic. They work with several dozen associates and affiliates, including about a dozen who actually live in the Magic residential service learning community. A board of directors oversees the healthy functioning of Magic and they also draw upon support from a board of advisors. Each year hundreds of volunteers, donors, clients, and program participants contribute labour, material, money, and advocacy to make Magic happen.
I explored further what they mean by ‘valuescience’. Basically it is an approach for getting control of your life, so you can consciously make the best choices available, both for yourself and your environment – and can both learn from your mistakes and predict what might work in the future. They were excited to explain that it uses science principals to explore issues of human wellbeing and how this is influenced by lifestyle choices and the values sets that underpins them. They recognise that everyone practices ‘valuescience’ to some degree, although few of us do so consciously, all of us tap only a fraction of its potential, and so we suffer as a result of relying sometimes on choices subliminally biased by commercial interests. Clearly both Magic and its residents were thriving – at a location in which normal ‘nuclear family’ style residential living costs were unbelievable high! They had just completed the construction of an additional brand new super energy efficient residential unit with loads of communal space and two grand pianos! The findings from their ‘valuescience’ research forms part of the academic teaching at Stanford. But the essence of Magic is in a residential service-learning community so that we may better “walk our talk”. They describe their outlook in Thoreau’s words, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear a word you say.” The evening ended with acoustic guitar and fiddle music ringing around the table, and I caught the very efficient ‘Caltrain’ on to San Francisco with feeling fond comparisons to the CAT on-site community.