UK Low Carbon Transition Plan

Earlier this week Ed Miliband, the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change launched The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan.

The plan is comprehensive and lays out several targets for the year 2020:

  • * More than 1.2 million people will be in green jobs
  • * more than 1.5 million households will be supported to produce their own clean energy
  • * Around 40% of electricity will be from low carbon sources, from renewables, nuclear and coal (with CCS)
  • * We will be importing 20-30% less gas than we otherwise would
  • * The average new car will emit 40% less carbon than now.

The announcement is a world first because emissions reductions targets from each sector of the UK economy are quantified and policies to achieve them are laid out. More significantly, the budgets are legally binding making the UK the first country in the world to write its carbon targets into law.

The launch was live covered by Twitter members (esp @GuardianECO and @JamieAndrews) posting using the hashtag #UKCPaper

Highlights from the Twitter posts include:

New funding for elec cars, recharging stations in up to six cities

Why only six cities? Surely this is something which should be rolled out nationwide as a single project. With vehicle to grid technologies this would even help the UK government increase the level of renewables on the grid helping meet the 40% low carbon emissions target (with less coal!).

40% of power from low carbon energy by 2020, more in the future

As mentioned above, this target will be met by a combination of renewables, nuclear and coal (with CCS). The inclusion of both nuclear and coal in this figure is bad news. Coal is dirty for all kinds of reasons (coal fly ash slurry spill anyone? Coal ash contains arsenic, copper, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, and thallium!) and the problems associated with storage of nuclear waste are well known.

Smart elec meters for 26 million homes by 2020. House by house, street by street transformation

Nice, but as @JamieAndrews pointed out, this just means that the timeframe has just grown longer!

It is not all negative though.

From next April, people can generate own power and feed back in to the grid for cash

£60mil for wave technology, up to £120mil for offshore wind, to support 100,000s jobs


Compulsory support from energy companies for vulnerable consumers

are all superb announcements and will help the government reach its targets.

The full announcement is available for download but be warned it is a 228 page pdf behemoth!

In conclusion, this is a hugely important piece of legislation setting out for the first time anywhere legally binding CO2 emissions targets for all sectors of the UK. The policies to achieve them as laid out may not all be perfect (and in the case of continuing to use coal, very far from perfect) but these are just that, policies – they will change at the whim of whoever is in power at any time. The coal and nuclear lobbies are extremely well funded and have managed to inveigle their way into this document at policy level but their days are numbered.

The legally binding CO2 emissions targets will be far harder to change.


June 15th GreenMonk Energy & Sustainability show – Face Off!

Last week I wrote a post in response to Dennis Howlett’s ZDNet article questioning the causes of climate change and therefore our reactions to it.

I also mentioned Dennis’ post in last week’s Energy and Sustainability show so Dennis contacted me and asked for an opportunity to come on the show to put forward his point of view. Dennis is an old friend, so of course I said yes.

So yesterday’s Energy and Sustainability show was a Tom vs Dennis face-off on climate change (actually it was a good natured chat with Dennis basically saying he was asking questions because not enough people were being skeptical!).

What do you think?


Do you take your sick child to a gerontologist?

Dennis Howlett is a good friend. He writes about enterprise software over on ZDNet and is a regular viewer and commenter on the GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show.

You can imagine my dismay then when in his latest post he discusses climate change and asks if we are being hoodwinked! Dennis trots out the old one that

CO2 is an effect, not a cause of global warming and that there is more likelihood that natural activity by the sun is causing climate change.

Sorry Dennis but there is plenty of evidence that that is not the case. To whit:

there is no correlation between solar activity and the strong warming during the past 40 years. Claims that this is the case have not stood up to scrutiny (pdf document).

Direct measurements of solar output since 1978 show a steady rise and fall over the 11-year sunspot cycle, but no upwards or downward trend .

Similarly, there is no trend in direct measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet output and in cosmic rays. So for the period for which we have direct, reliable records, the Earth has warmed dramatically even though there has been no corresponding rise in any kind of solar activity.

Dennis then goes on to use the Great Climate Swindle to back up his case. Oh dear! Seriously. Even the scientists who were quoted in that film have criticised it! Another scientist who considered working with the producer said:

To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were wrong — and may have been deliberately faked… it does show what abundant experience has already taught me — that, left to their own devices, TV producers simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Incredibly Dennis then compares the climate crisis to Y2K

In retrospect the principle reason put forward – that there would be a mass failure of equipment essential to our industrial well being coupled with possible loss of life – was little more than a fraud. At 00:01 1st January, 2000 nothing happened.

Was there some hyperbole in talking about the risks associated with Y2K? I have no doubt there was but just because very little went wrong that is a sign that we were well prepared, not that it was a fraud. That is the same logic which says “I got a vaccination for hepatitis and I never got hepatitis, that vaccination was a complete waste of time.”

Dennis even throws out the old chestnut that

recent media reporting has been skewed firmly in favor of the green lobbyists

Even if this were true, and it is not (actually the reverse is true climate skeptics are receiving vastly more media attention than their numbers justify), reporting for decades has referred disparagingly to anyone talking about climate change as ‘looney lefties’, ‘treehuggers’, ‘sandle-wearers’, etc. It is great to see this message being taken a little more seriously by mainstream media at last.

The real crux of Dennis’ argument is one of the credibility of the science though. He says:

The problem for most of us is that the science on which we’re encouraged to think green is, as Jeff points out, something very few of us truly understand. That means we have to take on faith that what we’re being told is correct.

Dennis goes on to refer to my post last week where I say enough of the half-measures, time to get the thumb out…

Tom’s a good friend and another Irregular but his comment is based upon the recent report by MIT on Climate Change which is making polemic predictions about climate change

[my emphasis]

I’m sorry Dennis but you may have missed the bit where I said the MIT study was the:

most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century

This was by the numbers research, peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Climate – nothing polemic about that.

I could go on further dissecting Dennis’ post line by line but you get the gist.

Basically it comes down to a question of credibility. We live in an age of specialisation. If my child is unwell, I bring him to a paediatrician, a doctor who specialises in the care of sick children. I do not bring him to a gerontologist – who, although also a doctor, specialises in the care of the elderly. By the same token, if there is a problem with the climate, I am more likely to believe the opinion of climatologists than I am that of geologists, chemists or even famous botanists, for that matter. And the climatologists are pretty much unanimous in their belief that mankind is the cause of climate change.

I am disappointed that Dennis chose to publish this post before having a chat with me about it. I would certainly have helped him write a better post by pointing out some of the flaws in the article (and hopefully he’d have written a better post as a result).


Enough of the half-measures

I’m worried. I’m very worried.

The recent report by MIT on Climate Change was the

most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century

It found that

without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago – and could be even worse than that.

Specifically the peer-reviewed study projects a 90% probability range of a global warming of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius by 2100 with a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius.

To put that in context, John Holdren, Barack Obama’s Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, says that the last time the earth was 3 degrees Celsius warmer was 120 million years ago. At that time there were palm trees in Wyoming, crocodiles swimming off the coast of Greenland and sea levels were 20-30m higher. Note – that was 3 degrees Celsius warmer, not the 3.5 degrees which is at the low end of the 90% probability the MIT paper.

The planet and more importantly, all life on it has had 120m years to adapt to the 3 degree cooling which has occurred since then and we have adapted well. However, a rise of 3 degrees in less than 100 years would have catastrophic consequences for most plant and animal species on the planet who are designed to adapt to changes in geological timeframes, not generational ones.

Against this backdrop you have the Barack Obama administration back-pedalling furiously on their climate commitments. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said he is no longer willing to block the construction of new coal-powered electricity plants in the US, despite the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jon Wellinghoff recently announcing no new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States!

Further, the current climate bill working its way through the system in the US calls for a 17% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the 2005 figure. Compare that to the much more ambitious 40% reduction on 1990 emissions that the Chinese are calling for and you start to see just how uninspired the US position appears to be.

People need to watch the video above, grow a pair and act decisively on the problem. Enough of the half-measures.


April 27th GreenMonk Energy & Sustainability show

I embedded today’s show live on on a new page on the site. Moving people to this page will allow me to change the back-end without inconveniencing people, however, it doesn’t appear to be possible for people to login to the chat on this page with their Ustream accounts so instead viewers were labelled “ustreamer-64326” and similar. Those who went to the show’s original Ustream page had no such issues. Need to see if i can fix that!

Had a rich link laden show today!

Here is the chat-stream from the show:
16:31 TomRaftery: Ok, can everyone see & hear me ok?
16:32 TomRaftery: Hello?
16:32 ustreamer-9456: Hello !
16:32 ustreamer-9456: I see you
16:32 TomRaftery: Anyone seeing or hearing me?
16:33 ustreamer-9456: see and hear this is Tish I see 6 others online/
16:33 ustreamer-2665: i got both. yes goiod
16:33 ustreamer-2665: yes
16:34 ustreamer-9456: How do we get a log in with our names?
16:35 TomRaftery:
16:36 TomRaftery:
16:37 TomRaftery:
16:38 ustreamer-9456: just loged in to Ustream to get my name I hope
16:38 Suki_Fuller: Howdy all – on a conf call but no way gonna miss the show
16:39 TolkienLibrary: Hi there all greenmonktv followers!
16:39 TomRaftery:
16:41 TomRaftery:$1290184.htm
16:43 TomRaftery:
16:44 TomRaftery:
16:45 ustreamer-7847: Primefuson here, finally. Best to all.
16:46 TomRaftery:
16:46 TomRaftery:
16:49 TomRaftery:
16:50 yellowpark: wow, ustream’s new design chages really suck
16:50 TomRaftery:
16:51 TomRaftery:
16:52 TomRaftery:
16:53 ustreamer-2582: Hi Tom, Diarmuid from Cork here. What do you think of the ESB announcment about smart grids .
16:53 TomRaftery:
16:55 ustreamer-2582: cheers
16:55 TomRaftery:
16:56 TomRaftery:;title
16:59 TomRaftery:
17:00 TomRaftery:
17:03 TomRaftery:
17:03 TolkienLibrary: thnxs G Bush… glad I can say this one time in my life
17:03 TomRaftery:
17:06 yellowpark: yes, all the shows were recorded
17:06 yellowpark: cheers tom
17:06 yellowpark: one sec
17:06 Suki_Fuller: I was looking for a sponsor to fly me home to attend!
17:06 yellowpark: just grabbing them
17:07 TomRaftery:
17:07 yellowpark: won’t let me post it
17:10 yellowpark:
17:10 yellowpark: i cheated
17:10 ustreamer-5464: How much Have I missed
17:10 yellowpark: so you can link to the homecamp videos here
17:10 ustreamer-5464: Oops I’ll watch the recorded vs
17:11 TishShute: thanks Tom great show!
17:11 TolkienLibrary: thanks Tom… very interesting once again… nice way to close my working day!
17:11 Suki_Fuller: As always I learned bunches even though I couldn’t participate with interaction today. Awesome Tom!
17:11 TomRaftery: Thanks everyone for your time, attention & interest
17:11 yellowpark: bye
17:12 joegarde: cheers tom got here late too


April 20th GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show

Check out the video above of today’s GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show along with chat stream below:

04:30 TomRaftery : Hi all – kicking off the show in a min
04:30 mikeTheBee : Hello Tom.
04:30 ustreamer-40756 : Hiya
04:31 mikeTheBee : Could ustreamers note their names if poss.
04:31 TomRaftery : Audio & video ok?
04:31 mikeTheBee : Not yet for me
04:32 mikeTheBee : Okay
04:32 mikeTheBee : 6 viewers
04:32 Suki_Fuller : Hello all.
04:33 TomRaftery :
04:34 mikeTheBee : 7 viewers
04:35 TomRaftery :
04:35 mikeTheBee : 9 viewers
04:35 mikeTheBee : 11 viewers
04:36 ustreamer-19973 : how do we set out names?
04:36 mikeTheBee : Just a comment will work, or login for name
04:36 ustreamer-19973 : THanks i get it
04:36 TomRaftery :
04:37 monkchips : does the debate now move from Sustainability to Survivability?
04:37 ustreamer-19973 : 19973: Chris Phillips (Will create an account later(
04:37 monkchips : massive implications for which species we protect and so on
04:37 TolkienLibrary-2627 : you can type /nick and a nickname
04:37 monkchips : what the shit? whoa….
04:39 TomRaftery :
04:39 mikeTheBee : 10 viewers
04:39 monkchips : tom- what are the sustainability implications of Oracle acquiring Sun – or is that just too much of a stretch
04:40 monkchips : sun v positive on green.
04:40 monkchips : has done a lot of good work
04:40 monkchips : some nice low power techniques
04:41 TomRaftery :
04:41 TomRaftery :
04:42 mikeTheBee : 13 viewers
04:43 TomRaftery :
04:43 ustreamer-549 : ?
04:43 Suki_Fuller : Internationally also?
04:44 cminion-7005 : We they should have learnt that from history, if you look at how hte national grid came about
04:44 mikthebee-nametest : .
04:44 Suki_Fuller : Awesome.
04:45 TomRaftery :
04:45 mikeTheBee : Good tip re /nick TolkienLibrary, thx
04:45 monkchips : a lot of the good environmental news comes from China. that top down thing can be bloody useful in sustainability
04:45 TomRaftery :
04:46 mikeTheBee : Ought to work for the EU too!
04:47 TomRaftery :
04:48 monkchips : those fucking fucks. that is corporatism at best, fascism at worst
04:48 Suki_Fuller : That makes people in my profession look bad.
04:49 TomRaftery :
04:49 Suki_Fuller : *Shame*
04:49 monkchips : UK police share info with the “department for business, enterprise and regulatory reform”#
04:49 monkchips : which then shares it with a French company, with a huge French government shareholding
04:50 monkchips : to establish coherent PR story etc
04:51 Suki_Fuller : @monkchip – Exactly – bite the nose to spite the face
04:51 ustreamer-73483 : hi folks
04:51 TomRaftery :
04:52 mikeTheBee : 14 Viewers
04:53 ustreamer-73483 : the irish sea?
04:53 ustreamer-73483 : jesus
04:53 monkchips : its easier to catch the fish when they glow in the dark…
04:53 ustreamer-73483 : justin
04:53 Suki_Fuller : lol
04:53 Suki_Fuller : not right James not right
04:53 ustreamer-73483 : what fish?
04:53 TomRaftery :
04:53 mikeTheBee : Sellafield processing rather storage surely.
04:55 JustinParks : long term investment?
04:55 monkchips : i think its goodness
04:55 TomRaftery :
04:55 monkchips : research has shown
04:56 monkchips : that small areas, kept clear, can significantly increase biodiversity
04:56 cminion-7005 : less food transported, less petrol required to drive people around???
04:56 monkchips : @tomraftery – its just the Ryanair model for the globe. pay at the point of excretion
04:56 mikeTheBee : Ah Ryan Air per Kg charing
04:57 JustinParks : Im not going to mention the Cow emissions in congunction with fat folk
04:57 Suki_Fuller : The only people that get upset are fat
04:57 monkchips : more likely to drive? nah – the morbidly obese have those nice
04:57 monkchips : little electric cars….
04:57 JustinParks : better…
04:57 TomRaftery :
04:58 JustinParks : I saw a documentry on this
04:58 JustinParks : paid to farm nothing
04:59 TolkienLibrary-2627 : good concept
04:59 TolkienLibrary-2627 : viva Costa Rica…
04:59 Suki_Fuller : Coolio
04:59 TolkienLibrary-2627 : and Borneo
05:00 TomRaftery :
05:00 JustinParks : Here Tom:
05:00 monkchips : gotta run! client call. thanks Tom. great show as ever
05:01 mikeTheBee : Did you hear? Siemans comment re Dublin’s Carbon Footprint being bigger than Londons, per capita.
05:01 JustinParks : did you check
05:02 TolkienLibrary-2627 : now following you at twitter… this was great! thnxs
05:02 JustinParks : yeah goodo so very environmental orientated site
05:03 JustinParks : that could be fun
05:03 mikeTheBee : Thx all
05:03 Suki_Fuller : Wow. Great articles today & as always awesome show
05:03 JustinParks : spammers contribution to climate change
05:03 TomRaftery : Thanks everyone for a great show
05:03 mikeTheBee : Thx Tom
05:03 JustinParks : thnaks Tom
05:03 JustinParks : lluegoi
05:03 Suki_Fuller : Thanks Tom
05:03 TomRaftery : Justin – you are right – forgot to mention the spam carbon footprint story – d’oh!
05:04 TolkienLibrary-1882 : thnxs Tom
05:04 TomRaftery : Thanks for the kind words Suki
05:04 JustinParks : lolo seriously?
05:05 TomRaftery : I’ll get link – one sec
05:05 JustinParks : I was “kindof” takin the mick… out of spammers
05:05 JustinParks : but I suppose its very true
05:05 cgarvey : sorry, missed it.. will catch the recording hopefully!
05:06 TolkienLibrary-1882 : don’t know who tweeted about this show, but came in by twitter…
05:06 TolkienLibrary-1882 : loved the articles…
05:06 TomRaftery :–633
05:07 TomRaftery : TolkienLibrary – great, thanks for joining in
05:07 TomRaftery : This time every Monday
05:07 TomRaftery : cgarvey – I’ll have the recording up shortly on
05:07 TolkienLibrary-1882 : so spam not only bad for my productivity it seems!
05:07 JustinParks : thanks, pleasure Tom, gotta run
05:08 TomRaftery : TolkienLibrary, exactly
05:08 TolkienLibrary-1882 : what would be the impact of twitter on the environment?
05:09 TomRaftery : Significant too I suspect but it can be a force for good – I use it to disseminate stories
05:09 ustreamer-35467 : Tom sorry Joe and I missed you today, Cheers Mark (Charmer)…
05:09 TomRaftery : np Mark – will have recording on GreenMonk later today
05:11 TolkienLibrary-1882 : whenever you ask a question, the answer is already somewhere on the internet:


What will it take for America to wake up to the threat of climate change?

Open for Questions

President Obama hosted an interesting experiment yesterday. On his Open For Questions site, he requested people to submit questions to him and vote on submitted questions. Subsequently, in a special online Town Hall, he answered several of the most popular questions – fabulous stuff.

However, despite hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans, one of the US’s best known cities and now Fargo and many parts of North Dakota under threat of 43 foot floods, the top two questions in the Green Jobs and Energy category were related to legalising marijuana, not climate. Wtf?

Unbelievable, to me at least.

92,935 people submitted 104,032 questions:

  • 7,444 were in the Green Jobs and Energy section.
  • 2,136 contained the term “Marijuana” (another 31 contained “Marajuana”, 6 contained “marijana”, 7 contained “marijuna”)
  • 262 contained the term “cannabis” (and another 9 contained “Canabis”)
  • Only 294 contained the term “Warming”
  • And a measly 207 contained the term “Climate”


I used to think Jonathon Porritt, founder director of Forum for the Future and chair of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission, was being a bit extreme when he said:

I have occasionally fantasised about a low mortality-count scenario where a Force Six hurricane takes out Miami, but with plenty of warning so the entire city is evacuated with zero loss of life. The insurance industry in America would collapse because this could be a $50-60 billion climate-related ‘natural’ disaster. The industry wouldn’t be able to cope with that. There would be knock-on pain throughout the global economy, massive, traumatic dislocation. This would act as enough of an injection of physical reality, coupled with financial consequences for leaders to say: ‘Ok, we’ve got it now. This isn’t just about some nasty effects on poor countries: this is devastating for our entire model of progress.’ The response to that would be a negotiated transition towards a very low-carbon global economy that builds increased prosperity for people in more equitable and sustainable ways.

But, unfortunately now, I’m not even sure that’d do it.


Britain readies for nation-wide Smart Meter rollout

Smart Meter

An article in the UK’s Sunday Times recently talked about the plans for a nationwide rollout of Smart Meters in Britain.

From the article:

Telecoms giants Vodafone, O2 and BT and system integrators Logica, Accenture, IBM and Capgemini are understood to have started talks to form bidding consortiums…

The government has put smart meters at the heart of its energy policy but progress on its implemen-tation has been slow. A consensus has emerged recently between the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Ofgem, the regulator, and the big six utility companies over how it will be done.

Each utility will be responsible for fitting new meters for its customers, starting a roll-out from 2010…

To ensure transparency, a “central communications” group would be set up to electronically collect, process and distribute data and serve as the go-between for energy companies and the meters in their customers’ homes…

Ofgem is expected to run the tender for the contract, which would operate from 2010 to 2020. The winning group would likely consist of a telecoms provider and a systems integrator. There is an outside chance that the contract could be broken down regionally.

This is great news for Britain as it will allow for demand response projects to be rolled out with the consequent nationwide energy savings and the possibilities to increase the penetration of renewables on the grid. Ireland continues to drag its feet in this area with a limited pilot to begin next year. With the irish government hoping to reach 40% penetration of renewables by 2020, they really need to pick up the pace if they want to come anywhere near achieving that target.


HP Labs Chris Preist discusses the Climate Futures report

London 2023

Photo credit Enigma Photos


My guest on this podcast is Chris Preist. Chris is a principal scientist at HP Labs, based at HPL’s European research centre in Bristol, UK.

HP Labs and Forum for the Future, together published a report called Climate Futures(6.7MB pdf). This report goes through 5 possible scenarios for how the world will respond to the climate changes we are seeing, or as they say on the Forum for the Future page:

Climate Futures analyses the social, political, economic and psychological consequences of climate change and describes how different global responses to the problem could lead to five very different worlds by 2030.

Chris was one of the authors of the report so I asked him to come on the show to discuss it and what followed was a fascinating discussion.

Download the entire interview here
(20.2mb mp3)


What is your company’s Sustainability Communications Program like?


Photo credit _ A l v a r o _

I guess the first question should be does your company have a Sustainability Communications Program? If not, why not?

As I mentioned in my last post, it is now time for everyone to

band together not only at national levels, but at company and community levels to do everything we can to work to reduce our impact on the planet. Don’t rely on your politicians to do it for you. Get together with friends, neighbours, co-workers and make a change.

So, what is your company doing about sustainability? Some companies invest heavily in this space. Others roll it under the marketing umbrella and still more, don’t even have a sustainability policy.

How do you improve your company’s sustainability policies? I don’t know! But more than likely, you or others in your organisation have great ideas about ways your company can be more environmentally responsible. Why not poll them?

Roll out a bottom-up Sustainability Suggestions Wiki in your organisation today. Most people have excellent ideas on how to improve things in their company but assume they will not be listened to. A wiki allows people to make suggestions in a transparent, meritocratic manner.

Incent people to do so. Give prizes for best suggestions every month. Prizes could be anything from something small like a CFL light bulb, or a Current Cost meter, all the way up to sponsorship of an MBA in Sustainable Business, or any number of things in between.

Go further, video and podcast interviews with winners – make them heroes in the company. The rewards for the company will often be cost savings through efficiencies but also a more highly motivated workforce, who see the company as being responsible and caring of what they (the employees) think.

Enabling bottom-up suggestions in this manner (and subsequently acting on them) promotes a “We are all in this together” spirit and empowers people to make a real difference in the fight against climate change, a difference which they may be unable to make as individuals.

Why wouldn’t you do this?