Let’s be honest, it’s not often I am impressed by Ministers on carbon. So praise where it is due for Greg Barker’s speech on Green Deal to Ecobuild a couple of days ago.
His summary (below) is interesting, particularly the second and third bullets:
Today, I wanted to draw out three key points to unpack that simple description of the Green Deal:
- Firstly, this is a brand new way of approaching energy efficiency. Not a continuation of CERT, CESP, not a son of this or daughter of that;
- Secondly, it will create a brand new market and opportunities for industry. A market for the aspirational, not just for the worthy or energy sensible;
- Thirdly, don’t underestimate the power of communities in their many shapes and forms. These will be key to delivering this agenda
Along with many others, I’m often heard emphasising that ‘doing the right thing’ on carbon and sustainability needs to be seen as aspirational, not hair-shirted or twee. Unfortunately, many ‘green’ messages do come across as the latter. So it’s good to recognise this.
My present concerns about Green Deal, though, relate to whether we will be able to deliver on – and build on – an aspirational approach.
Green Deal will fail if, in the first instance, not enough households take up the offer. This is recognised by all as a real risk, but little work has been done on how to manage this risk.
A second risk of failure is if Green Deal in practice does not build local skills and economies. This risk needs to be understood and addressed by local government; the centre will not take the lead. So when I hear tales of local authorities taking the lead in bringing together local consortia, with clarity about building local skills and using local SMEs to deliver, I’m pleased. But I don’t hear these stories often enough.
A third risk is beginning to be recognised by some in local government. This is the very real fear the the actuals savings on householders will not be realised as they ‘take comfort’. As it stands, there is no real incentive for private sector installers to tackle the behaviour change issue head on. My concern here is that it is now quite late in the day for local authorities to be solving this. And yet we’ve known since Kirklees first carried out mass retrofitting that half of the potential (carbon and financial) savings can be lost to people taking advantage of living in more energy efficient, less draughty homes by ‘walking around in t-shirts’.
The fourth risk I would identify is less recognised even by sustainability professionals and climate officers. This is the risk that we do not take the opportunity of engaging with people on energy use – with a clear carbon imperative – to also find ways of encouraging behaviour change in relation to our consumption-based carbon footprint. In reality, household emissions are a small proportion of our total footprint. This could be a great opportunity to help people take responsibility for their wider footprint. I suspect that few authorities are on the case with this, but I’d love to hear from any that are.
Can’t argue with conclusions of @greenallianceUK @mrskumquatkid report on #localgov & climate change
I recommend this report as an overview of the current state of play in local government on climate change strategy and action. Download it for free from the site linked below. It doesn’t make for happy reading, suggesting a retrenchment overall, with few authorities seeing the arguable additional ‘localist’ freedoms as an opportunity to move action on carbon and climate up the agenda.
I like that Green Alliance (author Faye Scott is @mrskumquatkid on Twitter) seed the report with reminders that local action needs to be about building resilience and making the transition to a low carbon economy and society. Sounds like one of my blogs. But I’d like to see more recognition from them that this will require a major focus on lifestyles and (in carbon terms) acting on consumption emissions. Local government is free to ignore these, and nearly all authorities do; the report contains just two explicit references to local authority interest in the consumption perspective.
So, on the gloomy side: there is a downward trend, and many authorities aren’t hitting the low bar that has been set. On the plus side, the green shoots of local interest in consumption metrics. I hope Green Alliance and others will encourage these.
Is localism delivering for climate change? Emerging responses from local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and neighbourhood plans
This report explores the impacts of the coalition’s localism agenda on climate change action. It asks:
- Are local authorities continuing to work on climate change?
- How is action being encouraged?
- What potential do local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), local nature partnerships (LNPs) and neighbourhood plans have to strengthen local action on climate change?
Based on extensive interviews and two surveys, the report finds a three-way split between local authorities. A third are maintaining their action on climate change, a third are narrowing their work and a third are opting out of action altogether. Overall, the results suggest that climate change work has narrowed, is very weak or absent in 65 per cent of local authorities.
It’s good that LGC has used this story to highlight some of the real progress made by local authorities in reducing carbon. But I’m afraid that the stats showing falling emissions in every authority only tell part of the story: the territorial part.
Once we take into account the emissions we are all responsible for, the emissions needed to create the goods and services we use and buy, the story is very different. These embedded emissions have been increasing, but central and local government don’t report them. So the real story is that every area is responsible for way more carbon that we admit, and most of it is outsourced.
Some authorities, such as West Sussex County Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, are starting to understand the consumption footprint of their area, and explore how it can influence policy. And they are part of a growing trend: only this week, an Inquiry was launched by the parliamentary Energy & Climate Change Committee to investigate the case for consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions reporting in the UK.
Council carbon data published
19 September, 2011 | By Rachel Salmon
Carbon emissions fell in almost all local authority areas in recent years, according to government figures.
Figures released last week by the Department for Energy and Climate Change showed an overall fall of 14% across all local authority areas between 2005 and 2009.
The report found that domestic emissions had fallen in all local authority areas but there were rises in industrial, commercial and road emissions.
Progress: a Parliamentary Ctee Inquiry into UK consumption-based #emissions reporting #carbon #climatechange
I just want to celebrate that this is happening. If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that I bang on about consumption-based emissions a lot. Because it’s vital, and because so few other people do. But most of all because naive me still cannot believe how blinkered policy-makers at all tiers are in ignoring this perspective. Rant over. Thanks to Tim Yeo. Let’s hope it’s an important step on the road to having governance arrangements and policy-making that takes account of the carbon in supply chains.
Consumption-Based Emissions Reporting
The Energy and Climate Change Committee, chaired by Tim Yeo MP, is today launching an inquiry to investigate the case for consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions reporting in the UK.
The UK’s reported greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since 1990, in line with our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. However, it has been suggested that this is a result of the way that emissions are currently accounted for, which is on a production basis. Production-based emissions reporting only takes account of emissions produced physically within a particular territory. If a consumption-based accounting approach was to be used—that is, reporting the carbon embedded in all of the goods and services consumed within the UK—it is very likely that the emissions attributable to the UK would be shown to have been increasing.
The Committee will examine the case for consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions reporting in the UK. The Committee invites responses addressing some or all of the following questions:
- How do assessments of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions differ when measured on a consumption rather than a production basis?
- Is it possible to develop a robust methodology for measuring emissions on a consumption rather than production basis and what are the challenges that need to be overcome to deliver this?
- What are the benefits and disadvantages associated with taking a consumption-based rather than production-based approach to greenhouse gas emissions accounting?
- Is there any evidence of industry relocating from the UK to other countries as a result of UK climate change policy?
- Would it be (a) desirable and (b) practicable for the UK to adopt emissions reduction targets on a consumption rather than production basis?
- What are the potential implications at the international level of the UK adopting a consumption- rather than production-based approach to greenhouse gas emissions accounting?
- Are there any other issues relating to consumption-based emissions reporting that you think the Committee should be aware of?
I recommend ‘Climate Check’, a new report from Green Alliance, Christian Aid, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF, aimed at holding the Coalition Government to account on its low carbon commitments. In summary, it’s a mixed verdict. I want to hightlight this for two reasons:
First, to raise the profile of this as an accountability mechanism. It is vital that this sort of analysis is happening, and high profile, not least in the absence of the Sustainable Development Commission.
Second, to raise the issue (as I often to) about consumption-based emissions policy. Now that we know that half of the emissions for which we are responsible are not covered by the territorial emissions commitments the government has made, there is also a role for these NGOs to be challenging the Government to do so. This report is not about lobbying for further commitment, but …
I would like to see future editions of ‘Climate Check’ track progress on the one commitment relating to consumption-based emissions that this Government has made: in its Carbon Plan, published in March 2011, it committed to “gather evidence on the contribution that the production of goods and services that are consumed in the UK is making to carbon emissions in other countries. The Government will develop plans to reduce the most significant emissions …. for example, management of emissions through supply chains.” This may be a modest commitment, but it is the only one linked to half our footprint, so arguably more important to advance than any one of the many government pledges relating to the territorial half of our carbon impact.
The Coalition government was formed in May 2010 on the basis of a common policy platform thrashed out over several politically charged days. That platform, the Coalition Programme, contains some significant commitments to the UK’s low carbon transition which should increase the UK’s economic resilience by decreasing the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels.
This report is an assessment of the Coalition’s progress against the low carbon commitments set out in its programme for government. The analysis has been undertaken and produced by five of the UK’s leading environment and development organisations – Christian Aid, Greenpeace, Green Alliance, RSPB and WWF.
The report assesses both the quality of the policies that underpin the government’s low carbon commitments and the timeliness of their delivery. It makes recommendations about how performance on individual policies can be improved, as well as three high level recommendations which tackle the major barriers to better performance.
Here’s the full version of an article I wrote for the recent SOLACE Foundation Imprint on Local Government and Climate Change. My chapter (theme: new metrics, new thinking) had to be edited at the last minute, so a useful graphic, and the summary, were missing from the published version. This version, I think, tells the story a bit better.I’ve embedded the full article below. Have a look, and let me know what you think.
By me, from my old-fashioned website.
I did this diagram with Ian Christie that lots of people have found helpful. So I wanted to share it more widely. So I built an article for a SOLACE Foundation Imprint around it.
But the article was on hold for a year, and I had to put in a more recent diagram. So I’m sharing a cut of the original article. One year late. But I still think it’s helpful.
(By the way, the real thing is out next week; I’ve developed some of the thinking below).
shaping low-carbon communities (the pre-mix)
Friday, 1 July 2011
Next week, SOLACE will be publishing its latest Foundation Imprint on climate change. This will include a chapter of mine which focuses on consumption-based metrics and carbon budgets. It’s more intuitive, more fun and more of an opportunity for local government than you might think.
The thing is, all the contributors first wrote their chapters a year ago. So when publication was back on, a lot of time had passed, and I made plenty of amendments, to include the most up-to-date thinking and approaches. This meant that, regrettably, I removed a section that I really wanted to see the light of day, particularly the diagram that Ian Christie and I worked on together to help decision-makers get a clear perspective on carbon, and help them take a broader perspective. So here it is, instead:
“It pays to go back to first principles to see what emissions targets really mean for a local authority, because it makes us raise our sights from the processes that were put in place to enable authorities to respond to the demands of the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan and the previous government’s performance framework. I have often argued that local government needs to avoid treating climate change as ‘just another agenda’, on a par with the dozens of other agendas we work on. There are a number of reasons why this is important, not least the consequences of failure.
One approach that can help raise members’ and officers’ sights – and help establish a place-based understanding – is to visualise the emissions in the authority area. This can be done in a number of ways; the diagram below shows one way, focusing on responsibility. It seeks to outline who is responsible for the emissions in the locality. For the sake of readability, it exaggerates the size of the council’s own emissions and those of public sector partners: typically, an authority will be directly responsible for 1-2% of emissions and the total impact of the local state (including what it procures) is a little over 10%. So Zone B in the diagram represents nearly 90% of emissions.
Emissions in a place: who’s responsible?
Having a place-based understanding of emissions helps in a number of ways. Below are a number of reflections from recent discussions with leading members and officers.
Many readers will be well versed in the principles of adaptive leadership. At an organisation level, this makes sense in dealing with emissions reduction: it hasn’t been done before; relying purely on technical solutions would miss many important aspects; and serious innovation and realignment is needed. But the diagram above shows how the leadership required needs to be projected to the community level. SOLACE Enterprises’ Leading On Climate Change, a course which sets out to develop the new types of leadership skills required to address climate change, focuses on how ‘community-wide adaptive leadership’ can work. There is already some excellent community engagement in places (some Transition Towns, for example), but people involved often feel marginalised. One of the challenges right now is to join up the people who already want a low-carbon place to happen; Islington’s Climate Change Partnership is a good example.
Infrastructure, behaviour change and capacity
Zone B of the diagram is difficult territory for local government (despite some successes addressing emissions with businesses, landlords, community groups and others), but in some respects simplifies the challenge: we do not have the technology to enable us to maintain current lifestyles and reduce emissions at the required rate. So we need to see both major behaviour change and major change in infrastructure, to enable low-carbon choices to be made.
The infrastructural challenge is starting to be grasped. For example, feed-in tariffs for PV panels make it possible to construct financial packages which are beneficial to residents and authorities, as well as the banks. Developing the skills and capacity on which a low-carbon economy can be built is an urgent part of the challenge, being grasped now in London, Greater Manchester and elsewhere.
On behaviour change, however, we are at a fork in the road in local government. There is plenty of good work leading behaviour change towards low-carbon lifestyle; in West Sussex alone, there are around ten pro-environmental initiatives supported by the County Council. And there is plenty of theory and research now being produced, such as the recent Mindspace report. But hardly anyone in local government has behaviour change in their job description, and there is very little practice transfer or sharing of evidence. So we can either begin to professionalise local government’s work on behaviour change, setting up the networks and capacity building that will enable us to be more effective and scale our efforts, or we can continue to leave it to the wilful individuals who currently take the lead.
In my view, the perspective we get from this sort of analysis is timely. The sort of solutions we need to put in place to enable genuinely low-carbon living in our localities are completely consistent with the solutions we are now developing to deal with rapidly reducing funding for public services.
With radically reduced resources, through place-based budgeting and other innovation, local government is in the process of re-designing services to support resilient communities, individuals and families – the big society. I see very little difference between the reality of a sustainable, low-carbon community and the sort of resilient community described by those re-designing local services. For example, a resilient community will be sheltered from food and energy insecurity, will have strong capacity and social capital, and waste little. That sounds like a low-carbon, sustainable place.
These are the places of the future. In local government, we can help create them.”
Below, I’ve clipped the blog of Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, who took part in one of the events set up chiefly to consult on the content of the draft Greater Manchester Climate Change Strategy. At the event, I ran a session on carbon metrics, beginning with the Windfall Game Cllr Leese describes.
The solution to the Windfall Game doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the fact that everyone who has taken part so far has instinctively included all the CO2 in the supply of the product or service we asked them to consider the impact of. Which is the point of the whole exercise.
So, I now feel even more confident in asserting that the consumption-based perspective is the most appropriate way of understanding our carbon footprint. It’s the one we instinctively use. No-one, asked to estimate the footprint of their flying to Barcelona, only includes the emissions from vehicle fuel for that part of their drive to the airport that takes place in their own authority, offsets it against the CO2 from the energy they save by not being at home, then excludes the flight emissions as these aren’t included in NI186 or national accounts. Yet that is the logic of the machinery and metrics that government has built at local and national level since Kyoto.
Why have we so meekly accepted the use of this perspective in policy-making? And is there still time to take the much more easily-understood consumption-based approach?
Fascinating meeting of the Environmental Advisory Panel yesterday evening which included a few guests from elsewhere in Greater Manchester as we were discussing the city-region’s climate change action plan. There was a challenging section on metrics.
Pretty much every climate change action plan including Manchester’s is based on reducing our direct emissions, challenging enough in itself. However, if you look at indirect emissions as well, the total emissions based on our carbon footprint, then the task becomes even more daunting. But fact is for the last couple of decades our direct emissions have been coming down largely because we have been exporting them, principally to the developing world. Not the path to a sustainable future.
The session on metrics began with a game. You have had a lucky windfall – a £1,000 to spend , and a choice of nine things to spend the whole thousand pounds on. Which has the lowest emissions? Not surprisingly, spending it on home energy efficiency measures scored best, and a European city-break ( travelling by air ) scored worst. In between, champagne socialists will be delighted to know, spending a grand on a champagne party for your family had far less emissions than buying a thousand pound bike, lap-top, or blowing it all on low cost clothes for the family. On this basis the Conservative Party might also like to re-consider their ban on champagne when their conference comes back to Manchester in the autumn.
I saw this post (h/t @bankfieldbecky) and thought it highlighted the dilemma faced by policy-makers working out how to ‘do’ low carbon. This blog presents one side of the story, I’ve chosen to put the other side, here and also in the comments below the original blog post.
James argues for a moral revolution on climate change, similar to that witnessed in the Arab Spring, but I don’t think the analogy works. It’s not as though Egyptians, etc had ever felt as though they were choosing to live with no voice. In contrast, the high-carbon behaviours that are putting our species at risk are ones that we, as people in the developed world, are choosing. Not in full knowledge of the throughput of natural resources or an understanding of natural limits or awareness, but choosing nonetheless. In these circumstances, the idea of an analagous moral breakthrough (“We’re not standing for this any more; and we’re going to put ourselves in mortal danger to say so”) doesn’t stack up.
Climate change and moral revolutions
By James Garvey ⋅ June 10, 2011
I gave a talk on the ethics of climate change last night to the good people of 10:10, “a movement of people, schools, businesses and organisations, cutting their carbon 10% at a time”. They’re in a tiny, buzzing office down a back alley in London, and from that little spot a handful of exceptional people co-ordinate the carbon-cutting activities of more than one hundred thousand individuals, thousands of businesses, schools, colleges, universities and other organisations, including 155 local councils representing over 24 million people. They’re sometimes in the Skype Hut (a soundproofing measure) liaising with other 10:10 campaigns in 40 countries. The team involved are environmental X-Men, each one with a different superpower. If you let your guard down for a second, you’ll find them inspirational.
What do you say to a roomful of committed, bright, energetic people, who are actually doing something about climate change? I trotted out some moral arguments for action on climate change – trying to do something about the thought that morality is a turn off. I hear that a lot – the claim that we ought to find reasons other than moral ones for fighting climate change. Maybe we should talk about energy independence or saving money instead. You can read the talk here, but it is informal, not a careful piece for a journal.
It got me thinking about moral revolutions. There are moments in human history when the stars line up and people insist on something else entirely, largely or anyway partly because they think that it’s right. Think of the end of slavery in the US, campaigns against child labour or in favour of suffrage. Think of the Arab Spring and the part of that motivated by the thought that autonomy is right and despotism is wrong. I wonder what it is that shifts moral talk from irritating moralising that no one wants to hear, to a reason for standing in front of a tank. Any idea?