Link to this post: http://www.lowcarboneconomy.com/_low_carbon_blog#blog6569
Today the UK Government has published its comprehensive plan for decarbonising the UK and maximising the economic benefits presented by the transition to a low carbon economy.
In order to achieve the extremely ambitious and challenging targets set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, the Government has today released four documents which explain how these targets can be reached. Please find a brief description of the documents below, together links so you can download them directly:
The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan: (a White Paper) which outlines how the UK will meet legally-binding ‘carbon budgets’, in particular a reduction in overall carbon emissions of 34% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. Making the transition to a low carbon economy will take strategic action by government and a comprehensive plan. This is that plan. It shows sector-by-sector what savings can be achieved and how every department across government will take responsibility. a particular figure of significance is that by 2020 40% of our electricity must come from low carbon sources. See:www.decc.gov.uk
Papers being published alongside the Low Carbon Transition Plan include:
The Low Carbon Industrial Strategy: This document produced by BIS (The Department for Business Innovation & Skills - previously called BERR, and prior to that the DTI) and DECC (The department of Energy and Climate Change) sets out steps being taken to harness the jobs and growth opportunities across the UK economy in the shift to low carbon. http://www.LowCarbonEconomy.com are specifically referenced in the document as a online resource that showcases new environmental technologies. See:http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file52002.pdf
The Renewable Energy Strategy: DECC detail how the UK will hit its target of getting 15% of energy (electricity, heat and transport) from renewable sources by 2020. In order to achieve this, 30% of electricity must come from renewable energy sources (a five-fold increase from today’s rate of ~5%), 12% of heat must be generated by renewables, and 10% of transport energy must be from renewables. See:www.decc.gov.uk
Low Carbon Transport: A Greener Future With greenhouse gas emissions from transport representing 21 per cent of total UK domestic emissions, this report sets out the contribution that transport must make to the UK's efforts in reducing emissions. It sets out the actions that need to be taken to deliver the necessary cuts in emissions and outlines how the Government is putting the building blocks in place for longer-term change for the period to 2050. See:http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/carbonreduction/low-carbon.pdf
The Low Carbon Economy Ltd are impressed at the scale of the proposals in these papers. Without question this represents a paradigm shift in business as usual, and offers the first evidence we have seen in a very long time that the UK is serious about actually addressing the challenges we face in preventing runaway climate change - by putting in-place the necessary measures to create a sustainable low carbon economy in the timeframes required.
The article in the attached link suggests that Copenhagen will be a disaster because countries have other priorities that are more urgent than climate change. But what if we put sustainable development first as the highest priority for developing countries and pursue sustainable development in a climate constrained world? Any climate change benefits, such as from renewable energy, would be seen as a co-benefit of sustainable development and credited to the country, rather than development being seen as a co-benefit of climate change responses. No country can argue against sustainable development, nor can they argue about climate change being one of the many future development constraints. Therefore, if the international community can reach an agreement on helping these countries achieve sustainable development over the next decade or so, and there happens to be climate benefits too, this seems to be a win-win formula that could lead to an agreement in Copenhagen. Of course, the costs and the funding mechanisms still need to be worked out, however. http://www.aicgs.org/documents/facet/slingerland.facet18.pdf
On July, 13th a group of European companies and the DESERTEC Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the aim to put the DESERTEC Concept (solar power from desert wastelands) into effect in the EUMENA Region (http://www.desertec.org/). Transmitting electricity to Europe by standard powerlines, however, would be very costly and about 30% of the energy would be lost in transmission. Enter wireless power transmission. In 2008 former NASA executive and physicist John Mankins captured solar energy from a mountain top in Maui and beamed it 92 miles to the main island of Hawaii (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/09/visionary-beams/). Mankins claims they could possibly achieve up to 64% efficiency, not far away from wired transmission, without the cost and the need to protect the route. Now take this concept and apply it to space solar. Mankins says we can get a demonstration system (collecting 5 times as much solar energy per unit of collector, than on Earth) in orbit in 6-7 years and could have a full scale operation system up in 10-15 years. I am not one to suggest silver bullets for our current energy and climate change problems, but this looks like technology worth spending some hard money on, at least to a demonstration level.
The march of smart meters into American homes continues, with 8.3 million electric meters capable of two-way digital communications installed – and that number is set to quadruple by 2011. It spells opportunity for the host of companies seeking to provide homeowners with smart meter-linked platforms that measure and, in some cases, control energy use to help homeowners and utilities save energy and money, he said. Dozens of startups are seeking to enter that market, including Tendril Networks, EnergyHub, Energate, Control4, Greenbox Technology, Onzo, AlertMe, OpenPeak, Current Cost, Sequentric, 4Home, Agilewaves and others (see The Smart Home, Part I and The Smart Home, Part II). IT giants Google, Microsoft and Cisco have also entered the field with offerings of their own. http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/8.3m-smart-meters-and-counting-in-united-states/
Overemphasizing consumption and economic growth is fundamentally misguided and ignores data collected over the past half-century which redefines the relation between consumption and well-being, and argues for a more dynamic approach to raising the well-being of all. Relative comparison Research has shown that since the mid-1900’s income has considerably risen in the West while well-being, however it is measure or named, has not seen a relative change similar to that of income as a result of these increases (Easterlin 1974; Layard 2005). The results are what came to be known as the Easterlin Paradox which states that within a given population higher income people are generally happier than lower income people; however richer countries are not necessarily happier than poorer countries; and that overtime as income levels increase happiness does not experience a concomitant increase (Easterlin 1974).Layard as well has found that since the 1950’s while income has greatly increased in the USA, England, Japan, and most European countries that happiness has remained relatively unchanged, while unhappiness has not significantly decreased either (2005). These findings are based on an assumption on the importance of relative income over absolute income– how much an individual earns and consumes compared to those around them matters. This raises the question of the prudence of development policy contingent on forever increasing income and consumption. Indeed, once basic needs are taken care of, however they are defined locally, increases in well-being could be just as well achieved through supporting civil society and education as could developing manufacturing and production. The findings on income and well-being being relatively unrelated are not without detractors, as other researchers such as Stevenson and Wolfers (2008) and Hagerty and Veenhoven (2003) find that increasing national income does increase national well-being though by a much smaller degree proportionate to the change in income. Well-being has risen in some countries along with income, while in others it hasn’t; in other words income can increase individual and national well-being, but it definitely does not guarantee it. Or as Hagerty and Veenhoven succinctly put it “some may be disappointed by the small size of income’s effect” on well-being (2003, 14). Hagerty and Veenhoven analyzed in detail the results of other research and find that in the short term the increase in well-being from an increase in income is greater than in the long term, suggesting adaptation and increasing aspirations as income and consumption increase. In addition they conclude that there is a relationship between increases in national income and national happiness, indicating that relative and absolute income both matter, but they also remind us that correlation does not prove causation - other factors such as democracy and human rights can play just as important of a role as GDP in well-being. In addition Diener and Oishi observed that richer countries report higher levels of well-being than poorer countries, but it is very difficult to explain why, mainly due to the high multicollinearity between relevant variables such as income, health, education, age, and so on (2000, 193). They suggest that satisfaction with income depends more on comparison than simply having more money, and that other life and personal factors indicate an individual’s satisfaction with their income than the level of income itself. Diener and Oishi conclude that the policy recommendation is not to abandon the pursuit of wealth and increased consumption, rather to give greater consideration to how that wealth will be spent, such as public spending in education and parks or by the individual on arts and services. Hagerty and Veenhoven also come to the same conclusion, rather than the amount of expenditure and consumption they suggest focusing on the type of expenditure to which income is put (2003). Essentially in relative comparison individuals compare themselves to others, to their previous selves, and to the life they expected to lead. In effect, we derive much of our well-being as measured in comparison to those around us, and “keeping up with the Joneses” drives us to aspire to higher income and conspicuous consumption. Traditionally this comparison was done against our neighbours and friends, now with the advent of the Internet and global marketing campaigns our neighbourhood has widened immensely. Social comparison of our relative income and consumption can lead to an unending pursuit of material goods. The effect is rather a zero-sum game, though it doesn’t have to be so as well-being can be improved through other economic and political variables than GDP and individual income. When the income of all rises, thereby raising the consumption and short-term well-being of all, our human nature is to adapt to these new levels of consumption and aspire to more, stimulating a pathway of unsustainable consumption due in no small part to our limited natural resources. A society where everyone is seen as a competitor and another’s possessions are seen as an obstacle to one’s own well-being is unlikely to result in much happiness and satisfaction, regardless of the amount of output and consumption. Adaptation An increase in income and material consumption may have a short term effect on well-being, so-called retail therapy, but adaptation to these accumulations of wealth and belongings and limited natural resources makes sustained increases in well-being based on this type of conspicuous consumption impossible. People tend to overvalue the increase in well-being they think they will get following an increase in income and consumption, leaving them less satisfied than expected which in turn perpetuates the cycle as they pursue material goals. In addition to the lower than expected increase in well-being, that increase is soon reduced near to previous levels through the adaptive response human beings have to changing circumstances. Adaptation does not necessarily imply a complete return to previous levels of well-being, the extent of the adaptation depends greatly on life circumstances, in particular culture, education, and age and how we value factors in life other than more goods such as more education, services, and even our leisure time. If the pursuit of material goods interferes with other improvements to an individual’s life through education, personal relationships, and leisure time, then this pursuit of increased consumption may be a hindrance rather than an enhancement of well-being. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that people adapt to good personal relationship as they would income and consumption nor that they compare their quantity of leisure time as they do material goods (Layard 2005). Having experienced the sense of gain from a new TV or vehicle as a result of higher income, an individual cannot easily revert back to previous levels of consumption; the sense of loss of something once had is much greater than the actual gain. Education and life experiences in arts and civil society cannot so easily be reduced or taken away. Individuals may always aspire to greater education or more time spent with neighbours and friends, but the benefits are clearly shared among the individual, the community and the nation. Aspirations As income and consumption increase, individual’s aspirations also change, what Kahneman refers to as the “sad tale of the aspiration treadmill” (2008). If adaptation to changing circumstances was complete individuals would not aspire to earn or consumer more. However it is quite true that material aspirations increase along with income, resulting in individuals getting no nearer to or farther from the attainment of their material goals (Easterlin 2003). In the end, well-being is relatively unchanged by pursing conspicuous consumption patterns. It has also been shown that there is a cumulative effect of aspirations and consumption – as we consume more our aspirations for more also expand to encompass a larger basket of goods. A person with low income might only aspire to purchase basic necessities, and reasonably so. As their income grows so too does their aspiration to consumer far beyond the basics. The idea of a “good life” expands as material possessions and consumption increase. An obvious example of a major driver of expanding aspirations for material goods is advertising and the global reach of the individual through mass media and the Internet. Rather than being compared to their peers in the local community or even the national level, through multinational advertising and widespread access to the Internet we are being compared on a global level (Maniates 2002). The problem of conspicuous consumption is that it grows as more people can afford to consume excessively, or in other words, consume to compete with their neighbours as beyond basic needs consumption is dependent more on relative than absolute measures. Comparison and aspirations are not only subject to external influences and personal relations with others. The Diderot effect drives the “upward creep of desire” towards the acquisition of more and more consumer goods (Schor 1998). Essentially, for a given set of consumer goods, household furniture for example, as new items are bought the remaining items appear less attractive in comparison to the new purchases, often compelling additional purchases based on this relative comparison between personal possessions. An increase in income (or available credit…) leads to a new house which leads to new furniture and so on; the drivers of aspiration in this case are the pressures of unity and conformity and are a difficult pattern to break once begun. Conclusion The simple answer is that consumption and income are not alone in their importance to individual wellbeing, not in the long nor short run. For example other factors of life have a synergistic and variably significant role – education, health, unemployment, civic engagement, and marital status for example. And not to forget the negatives so often associated with economic growth to the nation – crime rates, pollution, urbanization and a decrease in the quality of life in general; and to the individual through more time spent in traffic and at work, to less leisure and family time. Where the discussion becomes complicated however is when the effects of reduced consumption rebound to other areas of life, especially in the short term as the economy and society make fundamental adjustments. As Anand and Sen point out, there is no basic conflict between considering economic growth as important and at the same time considering economic growth to be an insufficient basis for human development (2000). The “maximization of opulence” as they put it (p 2031) has no intrinsic value to improving quality of life, rather it is the instrumental role income can play in supporting public policy and action in social and environmental realms and on alleviating poverty and the constraints and consequences therein. In a nutshell, economic growth and the raising of per capita income as a development strategy should therefore be based on an equitable distribution of wealth and public policy which could be taken from Anand and Sen to be at the very least to be support for health and education. Indeed, many other researchers on quality of life and well-being have found these areas to be instrumental, regardless of the lack of consensus on income and well-being. Increases in income and consumption lead only to short term benefits to well-being. In order to sustain short term increases in well-being consumption must continually increase. Clearly, this has multiple issues. This is where the environmental problems occur as the individual is faced with an unending pursuit, essentially going in a direction with no limits yet requiring resources which clearly have limits. It also provides an extremely limited view on other factors which can influence well-being and our quality of life. Healthy and better educated people consistently report sustained higher levels of well-being, regardless of income. The result is that public policy aimed at increasing consumption is limited in scope and duration as it will have only a temporary effect on well-being. There is a danger for discussions on how changing consumption patterns and even reducing income could lead to greater well-being to be marginalized and romanticized as being idealistic but “fundamentally irrelevant” to practical policies, least of all sustainability (Maniates 2002, 202). Contemporary literature on well-being indicates that beyond a certain threshold level of income that further increases in income and the subsequent increase in consumption do not significantly raise well-being, if at all (Conceicao and Bandura 2008). The implication of these findings for the developing world is that policies which seek mainly to raise incomes, individual and national, to levels equal to that of developed countries are on the one hand incomplete in their excessive focus on GDP and income, and on the other far overreaching in the expectations of the level of well-being that could be attained simply with economic growth. After that threshold has been reached then further emphasis on growth is tinkering at the margins while greater returns could be had by developing other areas.
Waste not, want not, goes the old saying, but it must've ended up in the landfill along with the 6.7 million tonnes of food chucked out in the U.K. each year, including packaged foods that have never been opened. A new study says that stopping the waste of food in the country could avoid 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents from being emitted each year—the same as taking one in five cars off of U.K. roads. The report from the government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme, or WRAP, said the cost of all of this wasted food is $19.5 billion per year, $3.9 billion higher than previously estimated. http://www.cleantech.com/news/2823/food-waste-costs-billions-in-the-u-k
In a few days' time a consortium of 20 German firms will meet in Munich to hammer out plans for funding the giant €400bn (£343bn) project, named Desertec. The scheme is being backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and several German industry household names including Siemens, Deutsche Bank, and the energy companies RWE and E.ON. The Munich meeting will also involve Italian and Spanish energy concerns, as well as representatives from the Arab League and the Club of Rome think-tank. Energy experts have calculated that Desertec could meet at least 15 per cent of Europe's needs, and be up and running by 2019. By 2050, they estimate the contribution could be between 20 and 25 per cent. Although no host countries have been named, Desertec envisages a string of solar-thermal plants across North Africa's desert. The plants would use mirrors to focus the sun's rays, which would be used to heat water to power steam turbines. The process is cheaper and more efficient than the usual form of solar power, which uses photovoltaic cells to convert the sun's rays into electricity. Is this a new form of imperialism, or will it really help an impoverished region? What kind of military power would be needed to protect these installations from Al Quaeda and their friends? What do you think? For further details see: http://www.desertec.org/
DAVIS, California, August 3, 2007 (ENS) - Drivers will be able to keep their gasoline-powered cars for many years, as fuel providers lower the global warming effects of gasoline, according to the first detailed outline of California's new Low Carbon Fuel Standard released Thursday by University of California transportation energy experts.
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard was commissioned in January by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He asked the specialists to design a standard that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fuels by 10 percent by 2020.
Professor Alex Farrell, director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley, and Professor Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis spelled out in detail how the standard will work in the second part of a two-part report.
Daniel Sperling, left, of UC Davis, and Alex Farrell of UC Berkeley (Photo by Karin Higgins, courtesy UC Davis)
"This new policy is hugely important, and has never been done before," said Sperling. "It will likely transform the energy industries. And the 10 percent reduction is just the beginning. We anticipate much greater reductions after 2020."
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard, designed to stimulate improvements in transportation fuel technologies, is expected to become the foundation for similar initiatives in other states, as well as national and international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In Part 1 of the report, completed in May, Farrell and Sperling evaluated the technical feasibility of achieving the 10 percent cut by 2020.
Based on six scenarios using different technologies, they concluded that the goal is ambitious but attainable.
At the end of June, the California Air Resources Board voted to start working toward that goal. The new standard is set to take effect by January 2010.
Now, the authors detail specific policies that together can achieve the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
They recommend that the new standard require only modest reductions in carbon intensity in the early years, and greater reductions later, as innovations reach the market
Triple biofuels dispenser in Santa Fe (Photo by Charles Bensinger, Renewable Energy Partners of New Mexico)
Passenger vehicle owners will find that the Low Carbon Fuel Standard brings a greater variety of fuels to the market, they say.
"Stabilizing the climate will require major changes in the coming years, and the new fuels that will come on the market in response to the low carbon fuel standard will be an important part of that change," said Farrell.
"One of the key roles for the state agencies will be ensuring that the competition among the different fuels results in real carbon emission reductions, more consumer choice, and minimal costs," he said.
Fueling infrastructure will evolve to include E85 filling stations for the ethanol blend, dedicated electric vehicle charging stations and meters in residences, and hydrogen delivery systems.
The menu of fuel choices might vary regionally, depending on availability, so that in some areas of the state, there would be more electric vehicles, in others more hydrogen, and elsewhere more biofuel.
The report suggests that petrofuel providers would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a variety of ways.
They can blend more biofuel with gasoline and diesel; they can buy low-carbon fuels and emissions credits from other producers; they can make refineries more efficient, and use lower carbon sources of energy to run refineries.
Hydrogen dispenser at California Fuel Cell Partnership, Sacramento, California (Photo by Leslie Eudy courtesy FEMA)
Non-liquid fuel providers, who offer natural gas, propane and hydrogen, should have the option to participate in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, most likely by selling emissions credits to petrofuel providers, said the experts.
Revenue from selling emissions credits also would help low-carbon biofuel providers, who deal in fuels from plant and animal sources, such as corn, switchgrass and food waste, recoup investments made in innovation and learning.
Under Farrell and Sperling's plan, trucking, construction and farming vehicle owners will switch to the new standard. They say the standard should apply to all gasoline and diesel used in transportation, including freight trucks and trains, and off-road machinery such as construction and agriculture equipment.
"There are opportunities for double benefits here, such as switching to electricity for freight handling or for overnight truck use, which reduces carbon emissions, air pollution and noise," the authors said.
Growing more crops as biofuel feedstocks will have "mixed effects on greenhouse-gas emissions," they predict.
If biofuels are to be cleaner than fossil fuels, they must use advanced production methods, only some of which are available now, they must be derived from feedstocks grown on degraded land, or they must be produced from solid wastes or agricultural residues.
Sperling and Farrell call on the state to ensure that sensitive lands are protected from conversion to biofuel crop production.
The California Air Resources Board will require more financial resources to develop and enforce the new standard, Sperling and Farrell emphasize.
Electric shuttle buses plug in at Los Angeles International Airport. (Photo courtesy AeroVironment)
"It is imperative that neither the state administration nor the Legislature expect Low Carbon Fuel Standard administration to be a peripheral set of duties shoehorned into current operations without explicit funding," they say.
The California Board of Equalization may play a role. The California Energy Commission will play a role - it already manages the Petroleum Industry Information Reporting Act program, which requires firms that ship, receive, store, process and sell crude oil and petroleum products in California to submit detailed, frequent reports on their activities.
And the California Public Utility Commission will have to tackle "tricky questions" of how regulated local electricity providers should compete with the unfettered global oil industry.
The report identifies many questions that require further study, and recommends periodic reviews and assessments of protocol and methods - but not of the actual emissions targets.
Further study of the sustainability impacts and lifecycle emissions of existing and new fuels will be necessary. And the authors recommend a cost analysis of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard following the cost-effectiveness approach used in evaluating the Clean Air Act.
In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, the report recommends that fuel providers report on the sustainability and environmental justice implications of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
This research was supported by the Energy Foundation and conducted by a team of researchers at UC Davis and UC Berkeley, who coordinated and consulted extensively with the staffs of the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission, and the representatives of many stakeholder organizations.