Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Nelson Touch..

..a patch from a more jaundiced eye?

Brit's Eye View: U.K. climate politics heating up

It is worth remembering that, like many cultures, there are always a few alternative ways something can get taken, depending on the point you are looking from.

In the UK, it often seems there is what happens in the corridors of power and the surrounding London C-zone (in London the C is for congestion charge, but some may say it could also stand for ‘centric’, the way the city’s young, non-parent, tube, bus and flat-road blessed cyclopaths seem to view things) that takes in the media and urban luvvies.... and the rest of the country.

For sure, the environment is BIG. Certainly in government - we just had another budget where they stuck it to those 4x4s again, which will really make a difference to those in the City earning a bazzillion trading carbon credits when it comes to the annual upgrade to a wind-powered Cayenne, but may make it a bit harder in countryside where folk are still running 30 year old Land Rovers. Remind me again, how much of a car’s carbon is in manufacture?

Glad the EU is agreeing to stuff anyway. Well, the leaders are not agreeing to very much they are asking the rest of us to do, if Mr. Baroso's defence of his Touareg is anything to go by. And our dear leader, and equally dear leader of HM’s Opposition seem to have a small problem with the whole not flying thing if it applies to making THEIR lives nicer, easier and/or more profitable. Like the rest of us were doing it, especially on business, because we just love sucking up the bird flu from row 22.

And as to targets, we have enough for even an NRA Glee Club to go ape over. Hitting them... not so good. But we got ‘em. Squillions! And even more folk to assess, measure, interpret, committee, file, report, fine, explain, excuse, fly to Bali to discuss and all round not do very much but add to the demands on the public purse to keep a load of folk in green-gold until Armageddon.

Now I don’t want to get into a ‘Big Oil denier/Eco-Nazi who said what and is funded by whom’ quote-fest, but I would like to know who the ‘most commentators’ were who welcomed this package. ‘Cos I don’t recall it being quite as all round rosy and unequivocal as that. At least outside the C-zone, and even a few media guys from within that seemed a little less than impressed with how recognition of a need ever seems to turn into effective action.

Yes, stuff needs doing. And to ensure it gets done right, what it is needs to be agreed. Sadly, and it pains me to say this, this does necessitate some KPIs, but here is where think-tanks, government, eco-activists, business, the media, the public and real life may start to diverge.
Me, I just want what’s best for my kids and their kids, so all I really care about is the enviROI, the return that the planet gets on any efforts made to reduce man’s impact upon it (if indeed there is any, or whether it is necessary or not to mitigate a possible natural influence... or not). Been there. Got the blog-flames and a nifty hemp T-shirt that says “Make sure your footprint isn’t a CarbCon one’.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, who MAY be Prime Minister from June unless I have missed something, does have a fondness for decrees. Not so popular with the British public though, such things. And as pointed out, there is theory and there is practice, and who is in office and who is not. Plus who has retired with a nice index-linked, gold-plated pension, and who is mopping up afterwards.

Unless I was only reading subversive underground literature, Enviro Minister David Miliband’s floated ideas on personal carbon allowances were more of the lead balloon variety, being meant for no more than a toe dip and not exactly floated very high at all. And the guns seemed pretty well out for it even with the wee outing it did have.

A bit like those punted by David Cameron, the Conservative leader and, possibly, next leader of the land if the current polls are anything to go by. Both see carbon allowances and trading as a wheeze, and it is easy to see how they would appeal to those with mates in London, and being immune from the consequences of their actions ’because they are busy and important’. Just ask how the old road pricing went down. No problem in London. Not so great where folk have 50 mile round trips daily in the provinces.

I am also unclear as to how the science is getting... any clearer. The IPCC report rated two days in the broadsheets and barely got a mention in the tabloids. A few niche TV media had a stab. Then along came the Channel 4 documentary (mentioned in these pages), and fewer people think climate is an issue than did before. And that wasn’t many. Most think it’s a big con to squeeze taxes in the name of green to prop up runaway public spending and ministerial pensions and pointless campaigns from overfunded comms budgets.

If big companies are getting serious, it’s only because they don’t like the look of the fines coming, or see money in the marketing. Major retailers like Tescos are struggling to explain how a wind-turbine on a trial store’s roof makes up for concreting over most of the country with car parks to sell Spanish strawberries in foam packs. Especially as the former will boost profits anyway. Meanwhile Richard Branson is still spinning how sending billionaires up on a column of greenhouse gasses for their own inter-stellar Kodak moment is offset by his air fleet not yet being on biodiesel. And Stuart Rose of M&S has ordered a hydrogen-powered Beemer which will need a truck to follow it with refills. Bless.

Speaking of which, and competition between political parties, it was Mr. Cameron who rather famously cycled to work with his lunchbox following behind in a hybrid Lexus. But at least his wind turbine went up today. I have posed a question online as to its actual enviROI during its lifespan. While I see no problem with forking out extra cash to save the planet, I do have one with churning out superficial guff that will do no such thing. And the spin vs. action surrounding that inner-city propeller blade makes for a worthy metaphor on what we are facing.

I have long been in favour of allowances, but simply can’t see how they are to be managed. Who gets one tax–free flight? Me? Madonna and Guy? What about every Kalahari bushman and Mekong Delta boat lady who didn’t even know they were part of the global reckoning. Or... aren’t they? Is it just for rich folk to trade with each other? Because if 6 billion get one free flight I’d say Ryan Air shares will go ballistic. And the planet will fry in a fortnight.

There’s debate all right. Maybe it’s me, but from deniers and e-fascists on climate change, to politicians trying to score cheap, non-binding e-points, it all seems pretty ineffective stuff. And if it’s passing me by when I care as much as I do, I think it all needs to get a bit more relevant to the rest of the UK population sooner rather than later.

And on the day we see a bunch more taxes go up in the budget, with little to show for it than more beancounters with clipboards, those who are in power, and those in un-elected Quangos doing very nicely from their profligate, unaccountable spending, would do well to remember the people still have a vote.

At least for now.

Nope, still can't see any ships on the horizon quite yet.


Phew. And I thought no one read... or cared... about Little Britain (now a Virgin Atlantic campaign being run in New York under the guise of 'a local initiative'. Go get 'em, Ricardo!).

Heathrow scramble starts as EU agrees historic 'open skies' deal -

'European transport ministers took the historic step of approving an open skies pact to liberalise the transatlantic airline market yesterday, triggering a scramble to launch new services from Heathrow to major US cities' - weeeee, more planes! That will help.

Budget 07: mean not green - - 'The reintroduction of the fuel escalator was the chancellor's only real concession to the environment lobby.' - so, not so green from HMG's next PM then.

Green groups warn of backlash against Budget - - kind of does what it says on the tin

'You can't change world by wearing sandals' - - Luckily, the heads of EU government feel his pain

I'd go on, but then Mr. cc would mock me for my awesome length, and I am feeling Friday fragile.

It would still be nice to get an answer to my question, though:)

I'd like to understand how this CarbCon trading thing works.

No, really.

I won't be the first...

All homes energy efficient within decade says Brown

'Based on consultations with banks and building societies, he said measures to lower a household's carbon footprint had the potential to create a market for a range of new "green" financial products'

Nice idea.

Doing the rounds.

Up on the roof...Cameron's wind turbine arrives

I do wonder what the enviROI - the return on investment to the planet in terms of carbon saved, and the bit that really matters to those serious about making our kids' futures better - was of designing, making, delivering and erecting this edifice?

Is it possible that it actually has been worse (I only ask... I don't know. But if the lifespan is in excess of the payback period, what then)?

If so, then it truly is a fitting testimony to the fact that we live in an era of spin over substance.

You're on Can'd Camera!

Only that was funny ha-ha, not sadder than hell.

Cameras in cans to spill the beans on fly-tippers

Nice to see some authorities still have their priorities straight.

Author! Author!

I am again grateful to reader Dave of Solarventi, who sent me this link to a piece entitled 'Fifteen painless ways to save the World', with the comment 'they are missing re:use'.


One day I am going... need to write a book based on

In many ways it will be totally pointless, because all it will contain is a synthesis of the thousands of pages freely available on the site. But some people just like to pay money for a thing, and as I need money it seems like a good exchange.

Of course, there is the small matter of it being produced in bookly stuff, which may be deemed a tad un-eco, as opposed to squirted down a broadband connection near you, with an almost infinite and searchable database of whatever takes your fancy.

Tricky to browse in the loo of a morning, or the conservatory on a Sunday, I'll grant you, but compromises need to be made, I guess.

Whether on not it will include a link to the author of the piece above, or her book, is rather down to her. When I first heard of it, as always I sent a cheery hello and invited them to upload, for free, onto the site. I even called a few times to see how we could do stuff together for mutual benefit. Sadly, she has people, and people who have people are the luckiest people in the world. Because they are very busy, and thus the people they have can deal with so much more. Or not. They're still welcome to upload, but I am not doing it for them.

And, I guess, despite knowing full well who I am and what does, they are more in the business of selling green rather than sharing it, so we may be on a hiding to nothing.


Because while there are some fine, if obvious, suggestions, I could have suggested a few things, such as...

3 Ask your water company for a free "hippo"..

...or... an even simpler plastic device to put in the cistern from what you throw out, to obviate the need to make a new thing out of plastic simply to fill some space. Oh, and if it doesn't flush properly because of it, careful you don't end up flushing several times, which kinda defeats the purpose.

4 Install a condensing boiler to heat your water and home...

For sure. Though how that is easy and painless I'd like explaining. As stated, at least you get a return for your outlay, but not all have the outlay, and this needs facilitating, Gordon, about... now (Budget speech is on)

5 Use energy-saving light bulbs.

Yup. And the shops to buy them come in all shapes and sizes beyond Many however make claims they don't live up to on lifespan. Write when you fitted one in felt tip on the housing. You can soon see if you are getting your average as claimed. If not, take it back.

6 Don't overfill your kettle.

There may be others, and I'll sahre equally if they let me know, but our EcoKettle does the trick. Maybe they are not good mates like ecobulb.

7 Lower your thermostat.

Yup. Try telling my Chinese missus that is painless. I'd say insulation was a better bet, but there you go.

8 Buy organic food .

Er, maybe. This jury is still out, at least on such a broad claim. Big Barn is good, though, as a start.

9 Reset your computer.

There is theory and there is practice. My monitor goes off. My CPU stays on to get updates. I am also debating the damage due to spinning up and down and hence requiring renewal. Sorry.

10 Save paper.

Ever tried reloading used paper into the printer? It's a nice theory. I am trying to figure out just how much value there is to this (plus security issues) when my paper is recycled and/or from managed forest. Isn't this like creating a carbon sink?

11 Don't buy "sweaty" fabrics such as nylon and polyester

That's the fleece made from old Coke bottles out then.

12 Use your washing line.

Today (lovely & sunny)... no prob, though in the conservatory. It doesn't work so well in the rain. Or if you have a flat. Or don't have much time. I converted our airing cupboard to a drying version of same, and it takes damp from the washing machine to dry overnight. Not so sure about the humid air driven off. I think Dave may have a suggestion on that! A wall mounted solar dryer!

14 Convert to a green energy tariff

Just make sure you do the maths and know the provenance chain. It's one thing to blow extra cash to save the planet. Another to line some green spiv's pockets.

15 Recycle!

This may sound obvious, but try re:use or re:pair first. That way you are stopping stuff going into a target-based system that gobbles up energy and may not be as good for the planet as contractor's profits and public servant's pensions.


Have written to the Enviro Ed, Charles Clover:

One of our readers has just popped this over.

While it's great to see interest in such matters generating informational resources, it can be disappointing when some of the advice may be a bit 'Islington vs. Ipswich' with, for instance, the purchase of a new boiler being possibly slightly more painful to some than suggested, no matter what the long term ROI. With luck Mr. Brown may be helping with this as we speak. A boy can dream:)

I just like to suggest that there could well be many, more, and more down to earth measures than those indicated, and would fly the flag for a few more to add, such as re:use and re:pair to that 15, in time to come.

I am please to say that he replied in short order, and was kind enough to see my point.