Tomorrow Saturday, the 27th of March at 8:30 is Earth Hour. More about that in a moment.
Let me welcome two new patrons: Mauro Pereira from Lisbon in Portugal and Takanobu Iwasaki from Tokyo in Japan. Welcome and thanks for your support. Thanks as always for the continuing loyal support of all my other patrons. It’s much appreciated.
Stories this week include riots in Bristol against restrictions on protests, time is running short to get a grip on the climate crisis - where have we heard that before? - and there are calls to speed up renewable energy growth. Health risks from oil - who knew? Apparently the oil companies did, but they weren’t telling. British government cuts electric car grants, puts climate change at the heart of its integrated strategy and announces an increase in its nuclear weapon stockpile. There are allegations of greenwash, and finally, Ecotricity is drilling - for heat.
But first, you’re urged to mark Earth Hour on Saturday. Earth Hour is an initiative of WWF, the world wildlife fund, which started in 2007. At 8:30 pm on Saturday turn off the lights, sit in the dark and think of nature, wildlife and biodiversity and the threats which they all face. This year, because across the world most of us are under lockdown, WWF is launching a video and asks everyone to share that video on Saturday to send it virally across the world to raise awareness of the damage that we are doing to our environment, the effect that damage is having not only on the climate, but on our health, on our food supplies and ultimately our survival. Long before survival becomes an immediate issue the world will become an uncomfortable and dangerous place to live, if we don’t take action.
The Earth Hour logo shows 60+. The significance is that there is much to be done beyond recognising the 60 minutes of Earth Hour each year. They say it has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people and collective action. Earth Hour aims to increase awareness and spark global conversations on protecting nature.
“2021 presents an unmissable opportunity for change,” they say. “In 2021, world leaders will come together during key global conferences and forums to set the environmental agenda for the next decade and beyond. Crucial political decisions will be made on climate action, nature, and sustainable development –- decisions that will directly affect the fate of humanity and our planet for years to come.
“With your support, Earth Hour 2021 could be a spotlight moment that puts nature at the centre of international conversations. Together, we can speak up and show world leaders and other decision-makers around the globe that nature matters and urgent action must be taken to reverse nature loss.”
One of the key conferences they mention is the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China on 17th May.
The video they want everyone to share will premiere at 16.00 on Friday 26th March. Presumably that’s GMT. There’s a link below or you can just search for Earth Hour on YouTube or elsewhere on social media. Don’t forget to share on Saturday.
By the way, you may remember that I’ve been interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer of Talk Radio in the past and I think the kindest way of describing her style would be contrarian and combative. I was invited to talk to her about Earth Hour this week but I had to decline because it clashed with a visit to the dentist. The researcher told me that for Earth Hour Julia plans to turn ON every light in her house. I’m delighted she’s chosen to mark the event.
And in other news…
I mentioned last week, the British government is introducing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill which among other things has the potential to severely restrict the right to protest. There have been protest marches across the country against the bill and last weekend a minority turned the demonstration in Bristol into a riot. A police station was attacked, a police van set on fire and a dozen police officers injured, some seriously enough to be hospitalised. The local chief constable rightly referred to the rioters as criminals. Subsequent arrests show that the existing law is already sufficient to deal with such people. I am very concerned that the right to protest should be curtailed by the new legislation but in no way do I condone the actions of the violent minority. Extinction Rebellion, an organisation most likely to be restricted by the new legislation, has in the past been attacked by the Home Secretary and the police. At one stage the Metropolitan Police even announced their intention to classify XR as a terrorist organisation. This is totally unjustified for an organisation that condemns violence at every opportunity and runs training sessions for its supporters in specifically non-violent protest.
So far the bill is progressing through Parliament and amendments to soften its effect have been rejected. I fear that if it makes its way into law it will have the opposite of its intended effect.
Getting a Grip - COP26
Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Alok Sharma says, “Time is running short – but we can get a grip on the climate crisis.” Sharma was formerly Secretary of State for business and industry but has now moved over to devote all his time to his role as President of COP 26, the United Nations conference on the climate crisis which will be held in the UK in November.
He recounts the consequences of the climate crisis that he has already seen and warns that we are on track for a warming of 3.5°C. While he notes that many countries now have net zero or carbon neutral commitments, he says we must act now to do more and to do it more quickly.
“Of all the competing issues,” he says, “fighting climate change and preserving biodiversity is now the UK’s number one international priority. That is the clear message from the prime minister’s comprehensive strategy for international policy – the integrated review – published this week, which also affirms our commitment to aligning all future UK aid with the Paris agreement.” More about the integrated review in a moment.
Nobody can argue with the plans and promises that Alok Sharma lays out. All eyes must be on COP 26 because we cannot afford for world governments to over-promise and under-deliver. We must hope that the countries meeting in November will not come to tell us about what they plan to do, but about what they have already done.
To meet our targets and preserve our environment we must develop more renewable energy to displace polluting fossil fuels. Published by the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, the World Energy Transitions Outlook Preview charts a pathway to holding warming to 1.5°C.
Key findings of the preview include:
- Proven technologies for a net-zero energy system already largely exist today. Renewable power, green hydrogen and modern bioenergy will dominate the world of energy of the future.
- A combination of technologies is needed to keep us on a 1.5°C climate pathway.
- In anticipation of the coming energy transition, financial markets and investors are already directing capital away from fossil fuels and towards other energy technologies including renewables.
- Energy transition investment will have to increase by 30% over planned investment to a total of USD 131 trillion between now and 2050, corresponding to USD 4.4 trillion on average every year.
- National social and economic policies will play fundamental roles in delivering the energy transition at the speed required to restrict global warming to 1.5°C.
Let’s hope the governments at COP26 are up for the challenge.
A worrying story from The Guardian. They say, “The oil industry knew at least 50 years ago that air pollution from burning fossil fuels posed serious risks to human health, only to spend decades aggressively lobbying against clean air regulations, a trove of internal documents seen by the Guardian reveals.
The documents, which include internal memos and reports, show the industry was long aware that it created large amounts of air pollution, that pollutants could lodge deep in the lungs and be “real villains in health effects”, and even that its own workers may be experiencing birth defects among their children.”
“Echoing the fossil-fuel industry’s history of undermining of climate science, oil and gas interests released a torrent of material aimed at raising uncertainty over the harm caused by air pollution and used this to deter US lawmakers from placing further limits on pollutants.”
I fear that this is all part of the organised denial that has been promoted not only by the fossil fuel industry but was promoted by the tobacco industry before that. I also fear that we ain't seen nothing yet. Climate change and its consequences are steadily becoming more visible to the population at large. As this begins to threaten established industries and business as usual expect a massive push back through every means of communication, from press, radio and TV to the growing and unchecked power of social media. I think there will be much more to say on this in the coming months.
Electric Cars and Subsidised Oil
Talking of oil, I pointed out last time that the British government is effectively subsidising petrol cars by freezing the fuel duty for the 10th year in a row. It's now been revealed that they have also reduced the subsidy on the purchase of new electric cars.
World Oil News reports that the UK is considering phasing in a ban on North Sea drilling permits, but government ministers say that permission to drill will be granted as part of a careful transition away from fossil fuels, safeguarding jobs and the economy.
Mel Evans from Greenpeace said: “This is a colossal failure. The UK will make a fool of itself in the run-up to hosting the COP26 global climate talks if our energy minister signs off on new oil and gas licences that serve to rip up the Paris Agreement (the world deal to hold global temperature rise to 1.5C).
“We know the government has already approved too much oil and gas extraction to meet our climate obligations under Paris, and the oil industry itself says that we’ve passed peak oil demand.”
Add this to dismay at the government’s indecision over the construction of a new deep coal mine in Cumbria, and its green reputation in advance of COP26 is already fading.
Nevertheless, the government this week published its integrated strategy document entitled “Global Britain in a Competitive Age”. It says,
“Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss will be the UK’s international priority through COP26 and beyond. Our priority actions will be:
- To accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050,
- To accelerate the global transition to net zero,
- To strengthen adaptation to the effects of climate change that cannot be prevented or reversed,
- To reverse biodiversity loss by 2030,
- To drive sustainable and legal use of natural resources.
- To invest in nature and a ‘nature positive’ economy,
The document then presents a 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution and looks at energy security and supporting a resilient ocean.
Elsewhere in the document are plans to increase the nation’s stock of nuclear weapons.
Some have criticised the integrated strategy as an idea, not a policy. There’s no doubt that the ideas around climate and sustainability are very good ideas. Let’s hold the government to account and make sure they are defined, refined and implemented.
Yes, it’s essential to walk the talk and just too easy to simply talk the talk. There’s a report led by New Weather Institute called “Sweat not Oil. Why sports should drop advertising and sponsorship from high-carbon polluters.” Greenwash has been with us ever since people realised that humanity was damaging our environment, and the report confirms that it’s still with us. Indeed the authors go so far as to head their introduction: “Sport floats on a sea of high-carbon sponsorship”
“At the 2021 Australian Open tennis championships the prominent court-side sponsors included a fossil fuel company, an airline and a car maker.” - and the story goes on from there. They recount the value of the soft power of sports sponsorship, the effect of climate change on sport and the effect of sport on climate change.
Recommendations for change include:
- Positively screen corporate sponsors and turn down any from companies promoting clearly high carbon lifestyles, products and services,
- Sign up to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework
- Set clear annual targets and steps on how to achieve them.
- After 2030, any global sports events or tours that are not zero carbon should be cancelled or postponed until they are.
- Increase support to low-carbon, local grassroots sport.
I think the soft power is a key factor. The image of the sponsor gains from the positive image of the athletes and players.
which claims to be the world’s first green energy company is drilling for geothermal energy in Cornwall. Despite what they say, it’s not the first geothermal installation in the UK, but probably the first at such scale. This project involves drilling down 3,000 metres, about 10 times as far as Dandelion Energy’s boreholes for ground source heat pumps. Down at 3,000 metres the temperature is around 200°C and the heat is constantly renewed from the earth’s mantle. Sounds a great idea and it’s likely that geothermal will form a significant part of the world’s energy supply in future.
It’s not a perfect solution, and Dave Borlace explains why in one of his Just Have a Think episodes. There’s a link to that and to the Ecotricity video below.
Before I go…
The Faraday Institute
has produced a paper on the future development of the lithium ion battery. If you’d like to read it there’s a link to that below as well.
And that’s it,
For another week. Before I go let me thank all the patrons who support the Sustainable Futures Report, especially new patrons Mauro Pereira from Lisbon in Portugal and Takanobu Iwasaki from Tokyo in Japan. For a small monthly contribution you too can also become a Patron and you can help me cover the costs of the Sustainable Futures Report. It’s the only source of income as there’s no advertising, sponsorship or subsidies. As a Patron you will have exclusive access to the A-Z of Sustainability which I’m launching this month. (A is for Action as I told you last time - and for a lot more besides.) I’m always grateful to patrons for information and ideas. If you want to sign up you’ll find the details at patreon.com/sfr.
Next Friday is Good Friday and there won’t be a Sustainable Futures Report. I’ll be beavering away at getting the A-Z of Sustainability started before the end of the month.
Thank you for listening and have a great Easter.
There will be another Sustainable Futures Report on 9th April.
I’m Anthony Day.
Until next time.
Police chief fears further violence after ‘kill the bill’ protest
Time is running short – but we can get a grip on the climate crisis
Renewable energy growth must speed up to meet Paris goals, agency says
Oil firms knew decades ago fossil fuels posed grave health risks, files reveal
UK slashes grants for electric car buyers while retaining petrol vehicle support
Major polluters accused of greenwashing with sports sponsorship
Before I go…