There has been a backlash against products which have components glued together and cannot be repaired. In 2017 the first Repair Café opened in Amsterdam and there are now 1900 worldwide.  Repairers celebrated International Repair Day on the third Saturday in October, adopting the slogan ‘Repair for the Future’, an allusion to Greta Thunberg’s global movement that became known as #FridaysForFuture. 

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and only 15-20% of it is recycled. A report from environmental network EEB states that extending the lifetime of all washing machines, notebooks, vacuum cleaners and smartphones in the EU by just one year would save around 4 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030, which is the equivalent of taking over 2 million cars off the roads for a year.

In America, California has become the 18th state to propose a “right to repair” law, which would require electronics companies like Apple to make their devices easier for users to repair some parts when they break or go wrong. Around 20 US states are said to have right to repair legislation in progress.

New laws under the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling directive were long considered by the European Union and in some US states. They required manufacturers to offer replacement parts and repair electronics, including televisions and white goods when they break down. This will reduce volumes of waste and lead manufacturers to make dependable products that are easier to maintain.

This reduction will save carbon emissions; repairing instead of replacing help to cut down on the greenhouse gases produced during mining and manufacturing, it means less waste and items going into landfill, generating methane, 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, though relatively short-lived.

It was finally decided that from 2021, firms will have to make lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges and they will have to supply spare parts for machines. This means that spare parts should be available between 7 to 10 years after the date of purchase, delivered within 15 working days and be installed without special tools and without damaging the device. Campaigners for the “right to repair” say this does not go far enough as only professionals – not consumers – will be able carry out the repairs.

Tefal, maker of cookware, kitchenware drinkware & food storage says that 95% of the electrical products they make have met the repairability classification since 2012 and they are dedicated to ensuring that repairs are carried out at a fixed and affordable price. They place a ‘10 Years Repairable’ logo on the boxes in which their products are packed to remind customers that they back policies to repair and reuse items wherever possible in a bid to help protect the environment.

The British government is supporting the plans. After leaving the European Union the UK’s manufacturing standards will necessarily have to match those of the 27 nation bloc, in order for trade to continue. When she was the Environment Minister, Therese Coffey told The Independent:

“We want manufacturers and producers to make products easier to reuse and repair, to make them last longer. We will consider mandatory extended warranties and clearer product labelling if necessary to achieve this. It is absolutely right that we move away from being a throw-away society so we can achieve our aim of leaving our environment in a better state for future generations.”

 

 

 

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Some points made in the keynote speech delivered by the Prince of Wales at the World Economic Forum in Davos this month.

He called on those present to give their help and practical skills to ensure that the private sector leads the world out of the approaching catastrophe into which we have engineered ourselves, accelerating the transition to sustainable markets and rapid decarbonisation:

We are in the midst of a crisis that is now, I hope, well understood. Global warming, climate change, and the devastating loss of biodiversity are the greatest threats humanity has ever faced – and one largely of our own creation.

In order to secure our future and to prosper, we need to evolve our economic model. I have come to realize that it is not a lack of capital that is holding us back, but rather the way in which we deploy it.

Therefore, I am launching a Sustainable Markets Initiative, with the generous support of the World Economic Forum. Sustainable markets generate long-term value through the balance of natural, social, human and financial capital and can also inspire the technology, innovation and scale that we so urgently need. New employment opportunities, entire new industries and markets rooted in sustainability are within our grasp, with the potential for unprecedented economic growth.

I would like to outline ten practical actions that will drive forward the sustainable markets approach.  

  • First – shifting our default setting to “sustainable”. For sustainable markets this means everyone in a leadership role putting genuine sustainability at the centre of our business models, our analysis, our decisions and our actions. we need to put Nature, and the protection of Nature’s capital – from which we draw an annual return – at the heart of how we operate.
  • Second – outlining responsible transition pathways to decarbonize and move to net zero. It is time for businesses, industries and countries alike to design and implement how they will decarbonize and transition to net zero. clear roadmaps, will create efficiencies and economies of scale and accelerate our transition.
  • Third – we have an opportunity to create entirely new sustainable industries, products, services and supply chains, based on a circular bioeconomy, while in parallel helping to transition our existing systems.
  • Fourth – identifying game-changers and barriers to transition. policy, regulation, infrastructure, investment or the wider enabling environment.
  • Fifth – reversing perverse subsidies and improving incentives for sustainable alternatives. adapt our long-standing incentive structures to reap the benefits afforded by a more sustainable world. For instance, for many years I have tried to encourage the adoption of the “polluter pays” principle in order to provide the necessary incentives. Public policy, therefore, has a critical role to play.
  • Sixth – investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), innovation and R&D. Whether it is AI (where that does not seek to challenge or replace unique human characteristics and intuition), or indeed nuclear fusion, 3-D printing, energy storage, electric transportation, carbon capture, renewables or biotech.
  • Seventh – investing in Nature as the true engine of our economy. Nature-based solutions in sectors like agriculture, forestry and fisheries – indeed, for all the resources that we take from the Earth. Nature’s contribution to the global economy is estimated to be worth more than $125 trillion annually – greater than the entire world’s annual G.D.P., estimated at $85.91 Trillion in 2018.
  • Eighth – adopting common metrics and global standards. People want to trust that the goods and services they buy are socially, environmentally and ethically produced. we now have the ability to tag, track and trace supply chains making supply chain transparency the norm.
  • Ninth – making the sustainable options the trusted and attainable options for consumers. With consumers controlling an estimated 60% of global G.D.P., people around the world have the power to drive the transformation to sustainable markets. If all the true costs are taken into account, being socially and environmentally responsible should be the least expensive option because it leaves the smallest footprint behind.
  • Tenth – there are trillions of dollars in sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance, and asset portfolios looking for investible and sustainable projects with good long-term value and rates of return. Align sustainable solutions with funding in a way that can transform the market place.

How quickly can we get there and who are the leaders who will drive us forward?

I submit that we are, in fact, far further ahead than we might think, making it critical that we leverage the vital work already underway. A few examples demonstrate that in nearly every industry we are seeing progress that we can build on.  

In the last two or three years, we have seen a dramatic increase in sustainable investing. Investment managers frequently tell me that the demand for these investments far outstrip supply.

Returns on sustainable investments are increasingly out-performing traditional portfolios.  

In the financial sector, many central banks and financial institutions have committed to integrating climate risk into stress-testing, supervision and disclosure.

In aviation, there are opportunities to develop commercially viable, hydrogen-powered and electric aircraft within the decade. In the interim, many in the industry are ready to adopt Sustainable Aviation Fuel made from waste material that can reduce carbon emissions

In shipping, the manufacturers of ship engines are proposing it may take two to three years to build engines that run on green ammonia and methanol made from solar and wind power. These ships could start operations in the middle of the decade and become the norm around 2030.

In renewable energy, we are witnessing breakthroughs in the cost of solar that have the potential to revolutionize almost every industry. We are rapidly approaching a time when renewable energy will be an order of magnitude cheaper than fossil fuels. 

In carbon capture and storage, there are a growing number of initiatives that might just buy us vital time as we make our transition to sustainable markets and a net zero economy. 

A new generation of wood-based products capable of offering alternatives to plastics, chemicals, textiles, transport and construction. economic incentive to value the vastly important eco-system services provided by the immense biodiversity and carbon-capture potential of restored and expanded forests, along with huge opportunities in integrated agro-forestry systems.  

Beginning here at Davos, and throughout the year – and in order to identify game-changers, investments and barriers to transition – I will be convening a broad range of industry and issue roundtables including, but not limited to: aviation; water; carbon capture and storage; shipping; forestry; plastics; financing; digital technology; the bioeconomy; nature-based solutions; renewable energy; batteries, storage and electric vehicles; fisheries; integrated healthcare; cement; steel; traceability and labelling; and agriculture to design and create sustainable markets and industries, these roundtables will bring together system innovators, investors and decision-makers to start designing and charting the course.

I believe profoundly in the critical importance, at this juncture, of forming an unprecedented global alliance of investors which can genuinely mobilize the kind of trillions of dollars needed to put our economy on the correct path.

Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink in time to restore the balance when we could have done? 

What good is all the extra wealth in the world, gained from “business as usual”, if you can do nothing with it except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?

This is being done with our children and grandchildren in mind, because I did not want to be accused by them of doing nothing except prevaricate and deny the problem. Now of course, they are accusing us of exactly that. Put yourselves in their position, Ladies and Gentlemen. We simply cannot waste any more time – the only limit is our willingness to act, and the time to act is now.

 

 

 

 

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Philip Stephens notes that the austerity programmes that followed the global crash ‘whipped up a populist storm from which the old politics has still to recover’. He adds that there is a perception, ‘more than half-true, that those near the bottom of the pile were burdened with bailing out the elites responsible for the financial crisis’:

They look at green policies through the same prism as Mr Trump. In their own minds, the left-behinds have already been swindled by globalisation and robbed by the bankers

When measures to cut carbon emissions are put in place, once again the same group — low earners living in provincial towns and villages — will be the most affected:

  • motorists will struggle to accept that the car powered by fossil fuels has had its day;
  • the switch from coal, oil and gas to sustainable energy will require millions of household heating systems to be replaced and
  • cheap flights – to the annual holiday destination – will disappear.

Stephens points out that there are a few obvious ways in which government finance could soften the impact – by: 

  • providing better, subsidised public transport in provincial towns;
  • setting up scrappage schemes encouraging people to swap to smaller, fuel efficient cars,
  • and subsidising the change to sustainable heating systems

He says that unnerving shifts in weather patterns have disarmed all but the most obstinate climate deniers and corporate boards are also feeling real pressure to take global warming seriously.

Financial institutions are already being called on to cut their exposure to fossil fuels. Shareholders and stakeholders want to know how the boards are making their businesses climate friendly, investors are beginning to shun the fossil fuel industry and companies large and small are being asked to produce green audits.

This month the European Commission unveiled a €1tn programme to map the path to carbon neutrality. By 2050 there will be hefty compensation for the big losers from shutting down fossil fuels production as well as tougher regulation and a cross-border carbon tax.

But as yet no one has come up with plans to offset the cost of this on those he calls the ‘left behinds’. They are in no mood to be cheated again or given ‘half-hearted handouts’ –

Mr Stephens wonders whether ‘the liberals leading the decarbonisation charge’ are ready to make these changes politically sustainable: financing the big income transfers and making the tax increases needed to fund decent public transport and better insulation of buildings.

 

 

 

 

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Despite reservations about levels of executive pay and investment in projects for importing energy, it is good to read that 2019 was a turning point in Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, more of Britain’s electricity production will come from zero-carbon energy sources than fossil fuels (National Grid Pensions Briefing).

Annual power generation data from the last decade (above) shows that Britain’s reliance on cleaner energy sources (wind, solar, nuclear, hydro power and storage) has overtaken fossil fuels (coal and gas-fired power generation) this year. This marks an historic achievement in Britain’s journey towards the UK Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050, demonstrating leadership in addressing a global challenge.

One of the factors in helping zero carbon to beat fossil fuels so far this year, is that 64.5% of electricity imported to Britain through underwater interconnectors has come from zero-carbon sources.

Britain’s clean electricity generation: a decade-long revolution

ln May, Britain clocked up its first coal-free fortnight and generated record levels of solar power for two consecutive days, powering more than a quarter of the country’s daily electricity consumption.

John Pettigrew CEO of National Grid, said: “The incredible progress that Britain has made in the past 10 years means we can now say 2019 will be the year net zero power beats the fossil-fuel-fired generation for the first time. Having reached this landmark tipping point, he asks:

“What are we doing today to get to net zero as quickly as possible?”

As significant upgrades to the transmission network are required, National Grid is investing around £1.3bn each year to support this transition. Huge strides are also being made in areas such as:

  • carbon capture and storage,
  • electrification of its fleet of vehicles,
  • the reduction of leakage in its gas pipelines through the use of robots
  • and investing over £2bn in new interconnectors (read more here) in addition to those linking to France, Ireland and the Netherlands, currently delivering 4 GW of capacity.

A November article reports that the National Grid has revised its target for reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions, matching the UK’s net zero-by-2050 goal. Its previous target was to deliver a 70% reduction by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050 for direct emissions from a 1990 baseline. A 68% reduction has already been delivered to date.

Mr Pettigrew’s summary: “The National Grid is moving to a net zero power grid, delivering cleaner, greener energy for Britain’s homes, transport and industry as soon as possible”.

COMMENT: 

Nuclear power -that is uranium – is not renewable. No-one has seen uranium being renewed. It takes a huge amount of energy to mine and process the ore to make the fuel, then there is all the energy embodied in concrete, steel, lead etc of the nuclear power station. It definitely has a carbon footprint, but possibly it could be called low carbon (compared to fossil fuels). The Sun is of course a nuclear reactor and most renewable energy is sourced from the sun, which is natural nuclear energy, in fact fusion energy.

John Newson

 

 

 

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Thousands of people are fleeing to a beach in Victoria to escape bushfires racing towards the coast.

“The sky went red, and ash was flying everywhere,” said Zoe Simmons in Batemans Bay, NSW. Video: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-50952253

Several areas of Britain are more likely to be afflicted by floods than fire and one reader adds a forecast of falling temperatures. She cites a report of simulations by scientists from the University of Groningen and Utrecht University which indicate that meltwater from Greenland and excessive rainfall could slow down or even reverse the North Atlantic Current, blocking the transport of heat to Europe. This research supports the findings of earlier work on the subject.

As Vic Parks said in the first post “We should be planning and taking measures to live with climate change whilst still reducing emissions”. Reclaiming wetlands can, like rewilding, seem to be a romantic and extreme measure, but perhaps quite soon it will be recognised as being relevant to many of our regions, as it is today in Ukraine.

In spring and early summer: this year, hundreds of households were submerged in the western regions of Ukraine in Bohorodchanskyi, Tysmenitskyi, Nadvirnyanskyi districts, cities of Kalush and Ivano-Frankivsk, Tysmenytsia and Pidpechary.

Video of flash flooding in Ukraine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR25ioeLOp4

Water returns to the dried-up wetlands after a dam is removed in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. (Photographs: Bad weather leaves 146 settlements in Ukraine without electricitySource: https://censor.net.ua/en/p3128416)

Vincent Mundy, reporting from Tatarbunary in the south-west of the country, writes: “According to Wetlands International, about 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900 and nearly 90% since the start of the industrial revolution. Rewilding Europe is working to enhance wetlands all over the continent, but especially here, in Europe’s biggest wetland. Only 20% of the Danube Delta ecosystem lies within Ukraine, but thanks to the Endangered Landscapes Programme and a modest crowdfunding grant raised by Rewilding Europe in conjunction with the Dam Removal Europe initiative, Ukraine’s portion is growing”.

Yakovlev is part of a team of biologists and conservationists working for Rewilding Ukraine, a local branch of Rewilding Europe, which is overseeing the dam removal scheme. Former polders are being reflooded and upstream in Moldova, work is beginning to improve the river flow.

Rewilding Ukraine team leader Mykhailo Nesterenko says: “We need to learn from the Dutch, who used to suffer terrible flooding. They learned everything about hydrology, the value of wetlands and large herbivores, and how to withstand and thrive in a watery world. And the whole world needs to know, otherwise we simply won’t survive.”

 

 

 

 

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You can see why alarm bells are ringing … everywhere, it seems, except the White House

In May 2019 General Mark Milley, Trump’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, launched a U.S. Army War College report entitled ‘Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army’, which analyses the vulnerability of the US defence forces to serious climate crises.

The US national power grid could shut down due to volatile changes in climate and rainfall levels. Ageing power plants, electric transmission grids and distribution system components, are all high risk elements in a crumbling US energy infrastructure.

The report also warns that the US military could lose the capacity to contain threats both within the US and wilt into “mission failure” abroad, particularly due to inadequate water supplies – 30-40% of the cost of current US military operations abroad goes on supplying their own troops with water. Simpson comments:

“In a world racing towards water shortages you can see why alarm bells are ringing … everywhere, it seems, except the White House”.

He then adds that Britain has no reason to feel smug about such an analysis – we have:

  • nuclear power stations in flood risk areas,
  • flood and drought threats to domestic food production,
  • a collapsed domestic UK economy
  • and a high climate footprint due to living off cheap imports.

As the World Bank pointed out in October, Britain has a much higher hidden (percentage) carbon footprint than the USA, Japan, Germany or Brazil … once you include imported consumption. The Office for National Statistics adds that the biggest source of these “imported” carbon emissions is China, followed by the EU.

A more complex – but up-to-date – graphic may be seen on Alan Simpson’s paper 

To avoid climate breakdown Alan Simpson advocates the development of an economics that both localises our consumption needs and reduces our carbon footprint, citing as a starting point John McDonnell’s ‘Democratising Local Public Services: A Plan for Twenty-First Century Insourcing’*.and the latest APSE report (the Association for Public Service Excellence) – where 78% of local authorities report that insourcing gives them more flexibility, and for two-thirds it has saved money. This framework is improving the quality of services and could deliver radical cuts in carbon emissions.

In a scrupulously non-political way, this advice is confirmed by the UK’s ‘Energy Systems Catapult’ programme. Drawing on pilot work in Wales, Manchester and Newcastle, Catapult’s conclusions are challengingly clear:

  • the UK cannot meet its Paris climate targets without radical decentralisation,
  • such decentralisation also has to break from a fixation with individual technologies; focussing instead on systems that integrate heat, power, transport and energy saving, and then (crucially)
  • for social acceptability, the poor (especially the fuel poor) must be at the centre of such planning.

Alan Simpson (right) ends: “There is a real chance for Labour to grasp this as its own model of democratic renewal; making insourcing the political antidote to (failed) Tory obsessions with outsourcing/privatisation, and heralding in a new era of more open (and accountable) democracy. National leadership is essential but the real litmus test will be inclusive local ownership of the solutions.

“In this journey, it doesn’t matter whether your starting point is Rome or Rotherham, California or Cornwall, Nairobi or Norwich. The message will be the same. Accountability to the many not the few is the key to successfully delivering the transformative changes now needed to avoid climate breakdown”.

Read the article here.

 

Alan’s full article (and many others he’s written) can be found on his website –alansimpson.org.uk

 

 

 

 

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Nick Butler, chair of The Policy Institute at King’s College London, points out that although the growth in renewable energy supplies is making progress, hydrocarbons — oil, gas and coal — continue to dominate the global energy market. The investment needed to achieve the target of net zero carbon by 2050, now endorsed by more than 60 countries, is not yet in place.

A mixed investment scene

The ONS graph (below) records that in Britain oil and gas investment has fallen significantly since 2014 – but the 30th Oil and Gas survey reveals that around 45% of North Sea oil and gas contractors have increased investment in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) in the past 12 months.

And a Moseley reader draws attention to an article which records that only one barrel in six is being replaced by new resources and that exploration has shifted to geologically challenging venues, ‘typically offshore’.

Butler points out that although in 20 years or so renewables will be the main supplier of electricity, at present oil supplies transport and coal and gas still fuel industry and heating. Coal is also still the largest single source of electricity worldwide and in India, Poland and Indonesia new coal-fired power stations are being built.

Lower returns on investment means that the private sector alone will not deliver the energy transition

Citywire’s Ian Cowie* describes renewable energy investments as ‘a can of worms painted green’, due to entry prices, premiums and lower dividends. Prices vary from one source to another, but Mr Cowie lists

  • Bluefield Solar Income (BSIF) 6% dividend yield
  • Greencoat UK Wind (UKW)  5.2%
  • Renewables Infrastructure Group (TRIG) 5.6%

But Green Energy offers 8.2% – 11.6% per annum

The highest ‘integrated oil and gas’ dividend yield is listed here as nearing 15% but other sources list far lower returns.

Butler continues, “If the capital markets are reluctant to finance the energy transition, alternative approaches will have to be adopted”

He advocates public sector investment, saying that one of the key roles of the public sector is to step in when the market is failing. Making it clear that this does not mean a return to ‘old-fashioned nationalisation’ Butler calls for public financial support for enterprises run to the commercial disciplines of the private sector, citing the example of BP and Statoil who were set up in this way.

To achieve net zero carbon by 2050 he believes that the state will have to provide long-term capital, acknowledging that low-carbon developments have a value beyond short-term financial returns and balancing the relatively low rate of return with the value to the public good.

And will the 99% not only support such government action but actively call for it in all sectors including low carbon energy, fuel, transport and the construction or retrofitting advocated by the Green New Deal Group?

Dismal but informative endnote:

Butler is focussing on UK target but its’s the global picture that matters. A reader writes: “The Americans are producing more home-grown oil (fracking), the price isn’t where Russia or OPEC want it (around $80pb or more) and there’s more oil washing around than ever. Europe is weaning itself off Russian hydrocarbons but the Russians have just done a 30-year deal to sell to China instead. I think global zero carbon is a very long way off”.

*For some reason link may not open. If needed, copy and paste the link: https://citywire.co.uk/investment-trust-insider/news/ian-cowie-fossil-free-future-points-to-renewables-funds/a1209952?section=investment-trust-insider

 

 

 

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