Monday, 31 January 2011

Worldwide CO2 emissions

A fascinating graphical report in the Guardian online shows the CO2 emissions from energy use in 2009 from every country in the world.  Here is a link to the article.

The data comes from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and does not reflect total Greenhouse Gas emissions from human activities.  The principal omissions are carbon (as CO2 and methane) released from tropical deforestation and other land use changes and the agricultural production of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide.  Taken as a whole, global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities equal approx. 50 billion Tonnes CO2-e per annum.

What it does show is the phenomenal growth in emissions from China.  A decade ago, in 2000, China emitted 2.8 billion Tonnes of  CO2 from energy use.  In 2009, the country's emissions had risen by a further 4.9 billion Tonnes to 7.7 billion Tonnes, a quarter of the world's total carbon emissions from energy use.  CO2 emissions from energy use in Asia and Oceania as a whole have grown by 6 Billion Tonnes, from 7.2 Billion to 13.3 Billion Tonnes over this period.

Over the same period, the combined emissions from energy use in both Europe and North America fell just 5% from 11.3 Billion Tonnes to 10.7 Billion Tonnes CO2.

The consequence, not seen in this graphic of current energy use, is that the world's annual emissions from energy use have risen by 6.6 Billion Tonnes CO2 since 2000 - more than a quarter of the total emissions in that year.  As reported by BP and other oil companies in January, their outlook is that exponential growth of carbon emissions from fossil fuel consumption will continue unchecked for the next 40 years.  If they are right then catastrophic, runaway climate change is guaranteed.

As Ban Ki-Moon said in Davos last week, the world's economic model is environmental suicide.

Mr Ban's solution, endorsed by the delegates at this session of the World Economic Forum on Friday, is to "tear down the walls between a green agenda and a growth agenda.  There is no time to waste."

In response, the president of Finland, Tarja Halonen, called for a "modern trinity" of growth, social justice and environmental responsibility - the triple-bottom-line of responsible development.

Even the President and CEO of WalMart, Mike Duke, chipped in, "Business should not see a conflict between doing what is right for business and what is right for the world".

Friday, 28 January 2011

On Board with British Gas again

During 2010, I volunteered to take part in British Gas' Customer Panel.  They selected a cross-section of around 30 customers to visit a range of their businesses, talk to lots of managers and staff and share our views on what the company can do better for its customers.

The reason I joined was my passion for energy efficiency and renewable generation: I wanted British Gas and its parent company, Centrica, to help all their customers use energy wisely and to lead the transformation of Britain's energy infrastructure towards a future of intelligent distribution of low carbon power.  

At our final presentation to the Board of British Gas last August, I posed a suite of direct challenges to the company on the theme of leading Britain to a low carbon future.  I am delighted to say that the company and its directors have been completely open to my suggestions and they have indicated their intention to act on the vast majority of these proposals.  Indeed, British Gas has committed to act on many of the recommendations that the Customer Panel developed, across all five themes - customer service, simpler billing, clearer prices, open communications and low carbon leadership.

This year, British Gas will continue to deliver the recommendations of the Customer Panel and has invited a number of panellists - including me - to join their new Customer Board, monitor the way that these improvements are implemented and continue to challenge their senior managers to serve British Gas customers better.

Some people wonder why I am giving my time to a commercial business in this way.  To be treated as a valued guest and shown around a major corporation is rewarding in itself and to develop cogent proposals for improving that business is an exciting intellectual pursuit.  My most important motivation for volunteering is the hope that this investment of time and enthusiasm will influence the strategy and performance of the company and that, as a result, millions of British Gas' customers will be made aware of the reasons and opportunities to save energy in their homes.  

The company tells us that it is "Looking after your world".  
To paraphrase Archimedes, I see the new Customer Board at British Gas as a fulcrum, a place to stand and press the case for clean energy and sustainable business practices, from a customer's perspective.  I might just have a long enough lever to move "your world", that British Gas looks after, a little closer towards the needs of Earth - the world that we all depend on for our very existence.  

Carbon-Neutral Ashton Hayes and a new Climate Leader

Fabulous talk at Transition Maidenhead on Tuesday evening by Garry Charnock, the driving force behind Ashton Hayes becoming Britain's first carbon-neutral community.  As Garry made clear, "carbon-neutral" is a vision rather than a destination, and a vision that has resulted in verified reductions of this community's carbon footprint by around 25% in their first five years.  Exciting plans lie ahead and the goodwill, the community spirit that has built up through the enthusiasm of everyone puling together, has drawn even the most sceptical residents into this unique, sustainable movement.

Carbon-neutral Ashton Hayes asked commercial donors to fund their launch - and quickly had £3,500 cash with none of the strings that come with grant funds.  400 adults came to their launch event, and the BBC World service broadcast it to 120 million people worldwide!  Garry told us that residents like to get their news from their local papers, so this is a much better way of reaching the local community than putting leaflets through doors.  He also observed that, up and down the country, the sustainable communities that succeed are the ones that engage children - working with schools is an essential ingredient.

Another secret of success has been the long-term involvement of the geography department at the nearby University of Chester.  Students and academics benchmarked the Year 1 carbon footprint of the village (5,000 Tonnes CO2-e) and provided feedback to every home.  Ongoing surveys established the carbon reductions of all households in the village - demonstrating that even the people who didn't sign up to the campaign had reduced their emissions as a result of the all the buzz and chatter about it in their village.  The pub landlord was a great example: initially a vocal sceptic, he turned to the carbon-neutral group when his energy bills were threatening his business.  A team from the University spent a day measuring the pub's energy use and he achieved an immediate cut in his monthly bill of 20% as a result.  Thereafter, he became a real advocate for the scheme and 9,000 other Punch Taverns nationwide learned about his reduced energy bills.

Community cohesion is a strong motivator and carbon-neutral Ashton Hayes has kept people involved through parties in peoples' homes.  A community shop provides local food ingredients without excess packaging and a community electric car (Nissan Leaf) will soon be bookable through the shop, which will take a small cut of the fees in return for managing this service.  The village has produced a toolkit to replicate their Carbon-Neutral community and this has allowed Eden Mills to become the first community in Canada to go carbon neutral.

Garry's rules:

  1. Keep it non-political: their MP wanted to speak at the launch but this was not allowed.  
  2. Don't fall out with anyone: the biggest petrolheads and most frequent flyers are key assets in a carbon reduction campaign!
  3. Carbon footprint information and feedback is private but ALWAYS share news of successes (e.g., new renewables or energy efficiency measures installed) with neighbours!
My feelings, having listened to Garry, is that unimaginable change has been achieved by unswerving passion.  There are just so many ways in which his project could have stalled but, instead of letting people say "No", Garry has brought his community together and drafted powerful resource providers in to make great things happen.  He embodies the inspired leadership needed to tackle climate change in  communities of all sizes, from villages to nations, continents and the world.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Two invitations

If you live near to Maidenhead or Egham then one or other of these events may be of interest to you.  Both are free to attend and no booking is necessary.

Transition Maidenhead have invited Garry Charnock to speak about Britain's first carbon-neutral community.  Garry is from the rural village of Ashton Hayes in Cheshire and their community website is a great read.

Come and hear Garry describe the villagers' experiences of going carbon-neutral, at the Desborough Suite in Maidenhead Town Hall on Tuesday, 25 January, from 7 until 9:30pm.  After Garry's talk, there will be an opportunity to meet and chat with members of Transition and Sustainability groups from the Thames Valley and beyond.
Royal Holloway, University of London, in Englefield Green are hosting their Annual Sustainability Lecture on Monday 31 January at 6:15pm.  This event is organised by Dr Laura Spence, one of Sustainable Windsor's founders.  The speaker will be the eminent scientist, Professor Lord Robert May, who was until recently President of The Royal Society, and before that Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and Head of its Office of Science & Technology. He is a member of the UK Committee on Climate Change.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The first results are in ...

America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just published the first analyses of global average temperatures for 2010.

Here are the 15 warmest years from 1880 to 2010
(average of global land and sea surface temperature records):
Rank         Year              Difference vs. 20th century average
1=             2005                0.62°C
1=             2010                0.62°C
3               1998                0.60°C
4=             2003                0.58°C
4=             2002                0.58°C
6=             2006                0.56°C
6=             2009                0.56°C
8               2007                0.55°C
9               2004                0.54°C
10             2001                0.52°C
11=           2008                0.48°C
11=           1997                0.48°C
13             1999                0.42°C
14             1995                0.41°C
15             2000                0.39°C
These are all in my daughter's lifetime.  How old is she?  15.

NASA have just released their analysis, confirming the ranking for the warmest 8 years on record (with a slight discrepancy between 7th and 8th place).

The Guardian reports that more analyses of the world's climate in 2010 are due later this month from the Met Office and the World  Meteorological Organisation.

Update:  Here is the Met Office data, with a handy table comparing these three data sets.  Interesting to note the difference in their reporting of temperature anomalies for these years.