Getting serious about energy demand: my new pamphlet for Green Alliance
13th December 2011

I’m really pleased to have published my new Green Alliance pamphlet, Demanding Less: Why we need a new politics of energy. It has been great to collaborate with Nick Eyre, of the UK Energy Research Centre, who knows more than I could ever hope to know about energy demand.

I wanted to write the pamphlet because it’s always struck me as strange that energy – and energy demand in particular – receives so little political attention. From the moment that our ancestors first discovered fire, energy use has been closely linked to progress. Agriculture is basically a way of diverting » Continue Reading.

Solar subsidies in perspective, or why government still spends more on the old than the new
1st November 2011

Yesterday the Government announced drastic cuts in financial incentives for solar power through the Feed-in Tariff (FITs) system.

Lots has been written about how problematic this decision is. How it creates conditions of chronic uncertainty for fledgling renewables businesses. How many of the 25000 people employed in the industry may now be facing redundancy. How its impacts will be felt most strongly by housing associations and community groups. How it may even be illegal, given that the ‘consultation’ on the proposals ends on 23 December, yet the cuts come into force two weeks before that.

But the biggest issue for » Continue Reading.

Explaining climate science – in three pages…
19th July 2011

I know that you can’t get people to take climate change seriously just by talking at them about science. Lots of excellent work (like Sizzle, Futerra’s guide to climate communications) says that you need messages that are  relevant, engaging, positive and inspiring, before people tune in.

But you can’t do it without the science. Over the past couple of years, with Green Alliance, I’ve worked with over fifty MPs, to help them understand the science, policy and politics of climate change. At each session, we spent quite a long time grilling the very patient and very eminent climate » Continue Reading.

A co-operative approach to energy
9th June 2011

It was back in 1997 that the blades started spinning on the UK’s first co-operatively owned wind farm, Baywind, in the Cumbrian fells. Since then, others have followed, from commercial-scale turbines in community ownership like Westmill, to small-scale water power like Torrs Hydro and ‘renewables building societies’ like this one in Oxford. And we know that co-operative ownership can make commercial sense. In Denmark, communities have a stake in most wind energy developments.

But it’s far from easy to make an energy co-op happen, and they are still the exception, not the rule. The market for large-scale, » Continue Reading.

A new job…
23rd May 2011

I’m really pleased to have been appointed to the Natural Environment Research Council, as a Council Member, starting this summer. Council Members contribute a few days each month. NERC (as it is rather prosaically known) is a government body responsible for the £400 million of public money for research and training in environmental science – from the British Antarctic Survey to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Climate change, volcanoes, biodiversity, soils and seas – NERC scientists work to improve our understanding of these natural systems.

On the glamorous side, I get to think about (but probably not jump » Continue Reading.

Reflections from the bonfire – or where we went wrong with sustainable development
15th April 2011

This week I spoke at a gathering of sustainability thinkers in the NorthWest, organised by Lancaster University’s management school. It was my first chance since the closure of the SDC two weeks ago to reflect, so I rather cheesily called my talk ‘reflections from the bonfire’, trying to capture that moment on Guy Fawkes Night when you stare into the flames and think deeply…

There has been lots of criticism aimed at government, and Defra in particular, for abolishing the SDC, and rightly so. The decision was poorly thought through, and handled incredibly badly. But I wanted to see » Continue Reading.

Osborne is nudging us – but in what direction?
1st April 2011

Great to see Green Alliance launching its new report and short documentary about how government can encourage us all to be greener. They’ve also published some great thinkpieces on the subject. Here’s what I think…

Does government need to do more than nudge us toward sustainable living?

I think the short answer to this question is a simple no. If government seriously turned its attention to nudging people toward sustainable living, and made that an overriding objective of its administration, we would be much closer to achieving our green goals. Nudge authors Thaler and Sunstein refer to altering the ‘choice » Continue Reading.

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Smashing the green consensus: Osborne’s anti-enlightenment budget
24th March 2011

Yesterday’s budget is far more than just bad news for the environment. I think it rips up more than two decades of careful, cautious progress on green politics.

Since the late 1980s, (and yes, that includes a previous Tory government) we have been edging toward some kind of political consensus: a growing agreement that, in order to sustain our economy and society, we need policies and a politics that values the environment. The Climate Change Act of 2008 was a milestone. For the first time, all political parties agreed a set of binding environmental limits, in the form of carbon » Continue Reading.

The fat lady is singing
4th March 2011

I’m so glad the Sustainable Development Commission decided to go out with a bang, not a whimper. This week we held our final event, the Big Sustainability Summit, joining nearly 200 friends and colleagues to reflect on progress and, most importantly, plot and scheme for the future. Read more on the Big Sustainability website.

Together with our friends at Futerra, plans are afoot for a ‘People’s Sustainability Commission’ – a sort of crowd-sourced version of the SDC, which will provide government with the advice they need on sustainable development, whether or not they want to hear it! The BBC » Continue Reading.

Green Economy Council: a call to action, or paralysis by analysis?
16th February 2011

Today, the Government’s new Green Economy Council meets, with a brief to look at how government and business can work together to “rise to the low-carbon challenge”. I don’t know whether to cheer or weep.

Over the past decade, there have been no fewer than ten official government Reviews, Councils and Taskforces into the green economy or sustainable production and consumption. I’ve listed them at the end of this post. The Green Economy Council is, at a pretty conservative reckoning, number eleven. That’s one a year, not even counting the reviews of energy and climate change policy, including the » Continue Reading.