Thursday, May 01, 2008

NEWS/GO3 PR - Into the mouths of babes?

In light of all that has happened in the world of environmental issues, policies, taxes, etc of late, I can but share what has just arrived in my in-box, E&EO:

The Aldersgate Group, a coalition of businesses and environmental groups, supports the Prime Minister's vision for the green economy, which he described as the 'fourth technological revolution' of our time. In a speech today to business leaders, he outlined the need for the UK to seize the opportunities of the transition to a low carbon economy.

He stressed that Government must provide the framework to:

* Create thousands of new businesses and hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
* Export British technology and energy solutions to the rest of the world.
* Seize the opportunity of the environmental sector, estimated to grow to $3 trillion globally by 2050.
* Unlock talent, upgrade skills and stimulate innovation.

Gordon Brown was outlining the Government's response to the Commission for Environmental Markets and Economic Performance (CEMEP) that he himself set up in the wake of the Stern Review, which examined what the UK had to do to ensure that it was in the best possible position to seize the new opportunities of the transformation. This is set out in a new report, Building a low carbon economy: unlocking innovation and skills. The Commission enjoyed considerable ministerial involvement, including Alistair Darling and David Miliband, as well as advisors from outside Government, such as Aldersgate Group Chairman Peter Young. The Prime Minister responded with four key objectives:

* Establish a long-term framework with clear, credible and long-term environmental goals.
* Create the conditions for innovation.
* Develop the necessary skills needed to support sustainable growth and become a world leader.
* Building partnerships between businesses, consumers and the Government, so that all sectors play their part.

The impact of this new low carbon economy blueprint will be far reaching, and unusually very one of CEMEP's 24 recommendations have been taken forward in some respect, with none rejected. The prize is a doubling of the 400,000 high paid jobs in the environmental sector as well as the greening of our whole economy to de-risk the UK from the worst impacts of climate change.

Peter Young, a Commissioner on CEMEP and Chairman of the Aldersgate Group said: 'Gordon Brown today turned the myth that you can't be green and grow on its head. The quicker we move the UK into a low carbon economy, the more competitive we will be and the more employment we will create We must act now to seize the jobs of the future and gain an advantage in a fiercely competitive market.

It is very encouraging that Gordon Brown launched such a detailed and joined up response to CEMEP. In combination with the carbon budgets of the Climate Change Bill, this means the Government will have to work together as never before, providing a coherent partnership with business and the third sector where much of the innovation must come from to deliver this next economic revolution'.

The Prime Minister's speech should be appearing soon on the Defra website.

Closely followed by this from DEFRA (excuse any repitition):

Environmental talent key to economic growth: Ministers

Britain must remain at the forefront of the green industrial revolution, creating jobs and economic growth, ministers said today as they published plans to work with business to build a low carbon economy in Britain.

The Government has committed to working with business to make the UK one of the best places in the world to develop and introduce low carbon, resource efficient products and services, and has today published Building a Low Carbon Economy: Unlocking Environmental Innovation and Skills in response to the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance (CEMEP), which reported late last year.

The Government has identified four main prerequisites for building a low carbon economy:

* A clear, consistent long-term policy framework to provide business with the confidence to invest and to enable the timely development of innovative products and services;

* Policies that positively support innovation, to create the conditions that allow innovation to flourish;

* Developing the right skills by drawing on the talent and creativity of the British people;

* Fostering true partnerships between Government, business, trade unions, higher education bodies and others.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said:

"The UK has a history of moving early on green issues. For example, the Climate Change Bill currently before Parliament is the first of its kind in the world, and it will create certainty for businesses and investors in green industry for decades to come.

"The Government is committed to building a low carbon economy, here and around the world. That means a complete change in the way we live and an economic transformation that will put Britain at the forefront of a technological revolution in the way we use and source our energy. It is the talent of our people that will bring about that revolution."

Business Secretary John Hutton said:

"By the end of the decade, global green industries will be worth as much as the global aerospace industry - in the order of £350 billion a year - and with the potential to create thousands of new green collar jobs in Britain. So there is a clear business case for maximising the opportunities presented by climate change and making sure that Britain unlocks these business opportunities.

"That's why next month we will hold, with the Royal Bank of Scotland, a low carbon economy summit to help identify what further action both government and business need to take. At the same time, we continue to work to ensure a secure, diverse and increasingly low-carbon energy mix for the UK."

Innovation, Universities and Skills Secretary John Denham said:

"By unlocking talent, upgrading skills and backing innovation wherever we can, we will be world leaders in this sector - creating thousands of new businesses, safeguarding millions of jobs, and exporting our knowledge and expertise around the world."

The Government has already:

* announced that it will revise its Manufacturing Strategy to include a low carbon element;

* arranged to host a Low Carbon Economy summit for business on 25 and 26 June;

* committed to launching a consultation on renewable energy, leading to the Renewable Energy Strategy;

* launched a carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration competition;

* established the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which sets a carbon price for around half of European and UK emissions;

* announced the Carbon Reduction Commitment, a cap and trade scheme covering around 4000 - 5000 large organisations not covered by the EU ETS such as supermarkets, government departments, and hotel chains;

* established the Carbon Trust Business Incubator Programme;

* agreed a timetable for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016, and an ambition for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon from 2019;

* launched the Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform;

* established a network of advice and support for businesses to look at their environmental impacts;

* announced its decision to allow companies to come forward with proposals for new nuclear power stations.

The City of London has become a global hub for carbon trading and the UK is also poised to become the world leader in installed capacity of offshore wind. We have a strong history of innovation and remain world leaders in scientific research.

CEMEP was established in November 2006 to examine what Britain needed to do to ensure we are in the best possible position to seize the new opportunities presented by the environmental sector, and how Government can support this. Chaired by two Cabinet ministers, the Commission's members were drawn from business, trade unions, NGOs and universities across a range of sectors.

1. The Government's response to the CEMEP report is available here

So many potential positives to embrace, so many seriously compromised by the entities and individuals that they get concocted between and emanate from, whose agendas, motivations and trustworthiness are shot. And I say this as a representative of an outfit who may stand to gain... assuming I suck up to the right folk in the right way.


See how this one evolves.



Green Concierge Service - London only?

Green Grants Machine - NEW - 'where you can get information on all the latest funding schemes
to enable your company to become more environmentally friendly'

Damage limitation?

I have been banging on since this blog started about the perils of overselling the negatives of 'global warming' in case the realities turn out not to match the predictions.

In advertising we have a saying (at least between the agency and the client... not so sure about the message to the consumer): 'Promise lower.. and deliver higher'. It's a lot nicer basking in an expectation exceeded than trying to explain one disappointed.

This... is a lot more serious than that, but the principle remains. You can ride a wave of positives, but a negative is seldom just one step back. Just as a recommendation gets 3 good pass-ons, a bad critique can be four times as pervasive, and trust is very hard to build up if it is deemed to be compromised.

Global warming may 'stop', scientists predict
- (Who the heck uses 'Global Warming' any more... oh, I get it. But what's this... 'may'? Well that's there because, as with all else, no one actually knows for sure).

So I sought this out having seen it on BBC Breakfast, with the bouffant and blonde 'explaining' well, spinning like tops, that it's well, very complicated and we need to think long term, you see... etc.

All bang on. Thing is, that is not what has been trotted out faithfully in most populist media up until this point. And I rather suspect that those less convinced on the trend may be getting an earful from those actively hostile to the notion. And, frankly, it's going to be tough for those of a more 'climate pessimistic' bent to weather in attempting to mitigate. As I have long predicted.

After all that has been thrown at us over the last few years, in the simplistic, populist way it has, regurgitated by often unchallenging, compliant media, I have to say to 'expect a "lull" for up to a decade while natural variations in climate cancel out the increases caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions' is not the best sell I have ever seen. Especially to get folk on board with a fairly fundamental leap of faith in the shift from global warming to climate change to.... 'things go up and down', and often in short periods geographically that seem an age in human terms (especially with News 24 and ratings to meet)'. So while the sky has not yet fallen as it should have done... it still will, honest.'

I await, with dread, how this is played out, especially by all those who consider that they 'know better'.

It's a little. I just hope it's not too late.

Telegraph - Campaign to sue Al Gore 'gains support'- Hmnn. What was that song? 'Swings like a pendulum do'? This is already silly, and getting sillier. All I am seeing is the extremes grabbing the headlines... and profiting from the chaos. I am on record as saying I have my doubts as to AG as messenger, and many of his messages are in the camp I refer to above, but he's entitled to his opinion and in fact is to be credited for bringing many things to world attention, and at an early stage. But suing....? What's all that about?

Addendum: (and so it starts. I search for, and welcome, counter-balancing views... so long as they are rational, science-based, and don't get us in a 'tis/t'isn't loop. It will be interesting to see what arrives from Real Climate... if it does)

EU Referendum (call 'em Climate Optimists) - "…several decades of global cooling" - I thought it was a one decade correction period, so already the issues are muddying.

BBC - Next decade 'may see no warming'

BBBC - Richard Black: "The projection does not come as a surprise to climate scientists, though it may to a public that has perhaps become used to the idea that the rapid temperature rises seen through the 1990s are a permanent phenomenon."

To quote the response: Where does "a public" get such crazy notions? From the BBC perhaps? Quite. Maybe I should get into the prediction business.

1984, Pt1 ch4. - A share from a blog which I pass on, as it resonates: "Today's issue contained a statement of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance grossly wrong. Winston's job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones."

The thing is, the discussion has passed from where it should to very odd places by this diversion. And, I guess, this blog is part of it all. But I feel my audience is up to weighing all the issues and perhaps seeing that there is still something well worth considering, and allowing for. But I do believe the time may be upon me to go back more to where I have always been, which is a lot more DOING that really can have no effect but to help with mitigation (if in a small way), and leave the grander debates to those who seem keen to slug it out over definitions of black and white... ironically in the name of all that could be green inbetween.

I still maintain, and always will, that trying to play fast a loose with complex concepts, and their conclusions (or lack of them) can, with a busy and time poor general audience in a spin-cycle media environment, end up with a less than optimal result. So erring on caution might be advised, no matter how urgent the perceived threat, or well-intentioned the desire to deal with it by leaping over the parapets.

Lest WMD becomes 'Warming Motivates Diddly', especially when you launch an attack on it calling for public support (and sacrifice), and once you get to a certain point find what was claimed doesn't exist. Only, in this case, 'yet' is a valid qualifier lost now in the furore.

The Register - NEW - Is the earth getting warmer, or cooler? - Doesn't exactly answer the question, but stirs already muddy waters.

Meridional Overturning Circulation will halt global warming. Well, temporarily.

So what on earth is the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) you ask?

It is the 'conveyor belt' that brings warmer water up into the North Atlantic - the gulf stream that makes the UK's climate considerably warmer than it really ought to be. Full story is from The Telegraph.

The MOC "has a 70 to 80-year cycle and when the circulation is strong, it creates warmer temperatures in Europe. When it is weak, as it will be over the next decade, temperatures fall. Scientists think that variations of this kind could partly explain the cooling of global average temperatures between the 1940s and 1970s after which temperatures rose again."

And scientists do not understand quite how reductions in salinity (as caused by fresh water run-off from melting ice sheets and glaciers) may additionally affect these long term ocean circulation trends.

So, although the earth will continue to warm as a whole, probably as a direct consequence of our CO2 emissions, those of us in the UK, and elsewhere around the North Atlantic, are probably going to see little or no overall temperature increase until 2015.

Heads - they win; Tails - you lose!

So you thought that the budget VED increases were well thought out and even good for the environment?

Errrm, no, not in the least. This from TimesOnline highlights the way that our Gov has "quietly abolished the exemption from higher road-tax rates for cars that emit more than 225g of CO2 per km and were registered between March 2001 and March 2006."

So what's the problem you ask?

Well, there are a lot of poorer families out there with older vehicles who will now be considerably worse off. The chancellor reckoned that an average family (how I hate that stupid phrase!) on ~£28.000 p.a. would be better off by some £130 a year. But those with vehicles that fall into the back-dating trap will be paying an extra £220 in VED!

And, probably even worse, similar vehicles registered before 2001 will almost certainly now become worth a lot more than the same model registered after 2001.

“Poorer families who need a bigger car to transport children and luggage will find their car has lost up to £1,000 of its value. They face an impossible choice because many will struggle to pay the higher road tax but won’t be able to afford to buy a more fuel-efficient car with a lower road-tax rating.”

So, rather than helping the environment the back-dating is going to force a lot of poorer people to be worse off, whilst those with vehicles registered prior to 2001 will be forced to continue to run their older high emissions vehicles for as long as possible!

I reckon that this is just yet another green tax grab that was poorly disguised as a sop to the environment!