10 ways we can make the system better for people and planet
How can our economic system be transformed so that it helps us to meet the key challenges of the 21st century?
How can our economic system be transformed so that it helps us to meet the key challenges of the 21st century?
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:
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:
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:
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
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:
If you buy your ticket in advance online and choose to gift aid your donation. £8.50 at the gate.
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.
The opinion poll research revealed that of those surveyed:
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.
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.
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.