Archive for May, 2011

Though not officially announced, the news on the grapevine is that after days of disagreements the coalition government will agree to implement the recommendations set out by the Committee on Climate Change to meet a target of a reduction of 80% of carbon emissions in 2050 compared with 1990 levels (590Mt), with an intermediary target of 60% by 2030 [1, 2].  The UK CO2 emissions for 2010 have been provisionally estimated at 492 Mt (a reduction of 17% from 1990 levels) [3].

Reaching these targets will involve substantial changes to the UK electricity source and coincides with the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which states that the UK must generate 15% of energy through renewable sources by 2020 [2, 3].

Other ways to reduce emissions will include reducing carbon intensity in the transport sector, which is also covered by the EU’s Transport Policy which aims to reduce conventionally (petrol and diesel) fuelled cars  by 50% by 2030 and eliminate them altogether by 2050 [4] and increasing energy efficiency in homes and work places.

This target is great news and, as it was first proposed by the Labour government [5] and will now be accepted by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, is unlikely to be overturned in the near future by a change in government.

Things to look out for:

1)      The incentives the government must put in place to ensure that the UK achieves its carbon targets. As the UK is not a command and control economy, government cannot simply dictate that emissions be dropped. Instead, incentives and disincentives must be put in place in order that industry will move themselves towards these targets. Examples include subsidies (including tax breaks) and taxes.

2)      Will carbon trading be part of the agreement? Will the government allow targets to be achieved through buying carbon offsets (paying for carbon reductions) in other countries? Whether this is allowed or not will affect how this deal changes the UK economy and infrastructure. Insisting that all carbon reductions be made within the UK will have a considerable impact on the UK economy and infrastructure and could pave the way for the UK to lead the way in green technology. Allowing for emissions to be offset in other countries will mean that only immediately cost-efficient changes to the UK economy and infrastructure will be carried out.

3)      Unaccounted exported emissions. A frequent argument against the claim that the UK has reduced carbon emissions since 1990 is that we have outsourced our emissions by importing products produced in developing countries such as China – production emits greenhouse gases and often times the production process is more carbon intensive than it would be in the UK.  It is unlikely that this will be included in the UK official carbon count, but we should all keep this in mind [6].

Read more:

[1] Coalition commits Britain to legally binding emission cuts – Toby Helm and Robin McKie, The Guardian

[2] Committee on Climate Change – Renewable Energy Review

[3] DECC – UK Emissions Statistics – 2010 UK Provisional Figures


[5] Heat and energy saving strategy consultation – DECC

[6] UK’s total emissions set to rise: new data obtained by PIRC – Guy Shrubsole, ClimateSafety

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It seems as environmental economists that a lot of our work involves translating carbon into monetary terms. What is the value of avoiding the emission of a tonne of carbon? Should we value it by the damage it would cause or by the opportunity (of the actions of which carbon is a byproduct of) lost by not emitting it?

Last night I went along to the launch of The DoNation – a very interesting concept that does almost the opposite – it provides a service for people to ask their friends to sponsor them – not with money, but through changing their behaviour over a period of time to reduce carbon. Examples of this include air drying your clothes instead of using a tumble dryer, going vegetarian a few days a week and cycling to work.

I ‘sponsored’ the London to Morocco bike ride that kicked off the first incarnation of the website by going vegetarian for 4 days a week. Last night we learnt that collectively we had saved 16 tonnes of carbon – enough to fly from London to Morocco every day for each day of the bike ride! Even better, many are still continuing their actions, leading a lower carbon lifestyle (although I have gone back to omnivorous ways most days of the week).

This concept to me is beautiful in several ways:

  1. Those who are concerned about climate change can ask their sponsors for something they actually want – and not through a roundabout way of asking for money and then buying carbon credits.
  2. It motivates people to change their behavior – from people who would never have changed their behavior otherwise to people who have already realised it would be a good idea but never got around to doing it; and
  3. It employs one of the biggest motivators to engender that behavior change – friendship (it has also, for me, kickstarted other friendships with its capacity as a great conversation starter – “I’m eating vegetarian today because this girl I know is cycling to Morocco…”).

To check out The DoNation and start Doing, head on over to www.TheDoNation.org.uk

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We don’t normally like to use this blog to ring our own cowbell about the work we’ve done in the pasture, but we recently completed some work involving our leviathan cousins that we thought might be interesting to our readers. After all, how many of us didn’t have at least a passing interest in whale conservation at some point in our lives?

Following on from the WWF report in 2009 where we found that whaling in Norway and Japan were heavily subsidised by the government, the WSPA asked us to conduct an in-depth investigation into the economic viability of whaling in Norway.  Using existing evidence from Norway’s whaling industry and a public opinion survey on whale hunting and views on eating whale meat, we found that there is a falling support for whaling and falling demand for whale meat in Norway. Support is so low, in fact, that the whaling industry is only kept afloat through financial support from the government – support that is greater than revenue earned from whaling.

On the other hand, Norway’s whale-watching industry has been plugging along without support for at least the last ten years. Our public opinion survey showed that there is plenty of interest in whale watching  that could facilitate the future growth of the industry. Unfortunately, however, we also found evidence that the growth of whale watching in Norway could be kept back by the continuing whale hunts.

At the beginning of this year’s whaling season (early April) WSPA’s partners NOAH – for Dyrs Rettigheter and Dyresbeskyttelsen Norge presented a copy of the report to the leader of the Trade and Industry Committee in the Norwegian Parliament, but we have so far not heard back from them. I guess it is a matter of waiting and seeing – will the Norwegian government continue to subsidise a failing industry and potentially hold back one with a large capacity for growth?

If you are interested in reading more, the WSPA have summarised and linked to the report here.

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Every morning for the past few weeks I’ve woken up feeling like I was breathing mildly diluted ground chilli pepper. I have been struggling to concentrate on my work, and because of my medication, struggling to stay awake. Oh yes. It’s hayfever season again.

At least 1 in 5 people in Britain suffer from hayfever [1], and it is thought that this number could rise to 1 in 2 by 2020 [2]. It apparently costs the UK £7.1 billion in lost productivity (mmm foggy brain syndrome) [3].  I know the UK is a nation that is addicted to its lawns, parks and golf courses, but couldn’t there be another way?

Okay, so not all hayfever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen, but 95% of us are. Seeing as there are literally thousands of varieties of grass that are used for lawns alone, do we really have to use the varieties (rye and timothy) that cause us hayfever?  I’m thinking no.

I’m not saying we should rip up all our parks and gardens, but could we at least start replacing lost turf with hypoallergenic grass? After all, it can’t cost £7.1 billion more a year to use, can it?

[1]Baucahu, V. and Durham, S.R. Prevalance and rate of diagnosis of allergic rhinitis in Europe. European Respiratory Journal 24(5): 758-764

[2] http://www.medicentre.co.uk/Hay-Fever_Medicentre_Special_Feature.html

[3] http://www.responsesource.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=46630

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