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.

Where next for sustainable development?
8th February 2011

The Sustainable Development Commission has been quangoed. Its functions will be absorbed into government at the end of March this year. We’re gathering friends and colleagues at a Big Sustainability Summit on 1 March, to plot the way ahead for sustainable development after the SDC, in partnership with our good friends at Futerra. And we’ve just set up the Big Sustainability website for blogging and discussion – please join us. I’ve posted a rather nostalgic, personal account of six years of the SDC – you can read it here.

The murky world of maggots and stuff
20th January 2011

My friend Julie Hill is a class act. She turned up for the launch of her brilliant book The Secret Life of Stuff in a glamorous green and black geometric print dress –  from her local Barnado’s. The shoes were a charity shop find, too. And the most memorable passage in her very readable book is when she’s hosing out her mum’s wheelie bin, getting rid of the maggots who have been profiting from the confusing collection schedule. As you’ll have guessed, Julie knows a lot about waste, and how to avoid it. Her book is everything you don’t really » Continue Reading.

After the mince pies have gone: what I’m up to in 2011
6th January 2011

The last mince pie has been scoffed, and I’ve hovered up all the needles from the Christmas tree. Time for work. This is what I’m up to in 2011:

It’s the last couple of months in the life of the Sustainable Development Commission, following the government’s quango bonfire. We’re planning a session in March to make sure that others can take forward our work, and keep government on its toes. More soon.

For Green Alliance, I’m part of a team working flat out on the next phase of our Climate Leadership Programme for MPs. Over forty MPs have already » Continue Reading.

Retrofit Cumbria: Low-carbon solutions for existing buildings
17th December 2010

I’ve been asked to spread the word about a Cumbria event in January offering top tips for carbon savings in existing buildings. It’s aimed at businesses, social landlords & others whose New Year’s resolution is to make their buildings cosy and low-carbon.

Lots of practical demonstrations and stuff to look at. It’s free, thanks to support from the Lake District National Park, Envirolink and others.

Details here.

The ‘green energy revolution’ – what hope for the revolting peasants?
16th December 2010

We’re hearing a lot about the ‘green energy revolution’. Politicians love the phrase (here’s a good example.)  Four years ago, when I published this report, Grid 2.0, community energy was a rare and exotic pursuit. Now, it seems that every community worth its salt is investigating ways to grown their own power. Revolutionary stirrings are in the air.

But community energy is still not an easy thing to do. I’ve seen plenty of schemes founder, because of problems with permitting, planning, finance, land ownership and lack of specialist expertise. Feed-in Tariffs mean that many renewables schemes can now » Continue Reading.