Archive for April, 2012

I recently attended the TEEB 2012 conference in Leipzig titled:  Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: Challenges for Science and Implementation.  A huge variety of presentations were given, too many to begin to catalogue here but the standouts included:

  • An IUCN analysis on whether MPAs can improve the livelihoods of local communities.  The impacts were far from clear and hadn’t received much attention, but I took away from the presentation that distributional impacts are key.
  • Earth Economics’ encouraging story of providing environmental economics and ecosystem services concepts and analysis to local communities who were threatened with a copper mine. The community used the analysis to overturn the decision to mine.  A rewarding presentation if not commenting on displacement effects or the immovable force that is copper demand.
  • Stephen Polasky’s talk demonstrating the trade-offs between environmental protection and growth.  It was nice to see production possibility frontiers (a graph that represents the trade-offs between two commodities for a fixed level of resources), that I haven’t seen since my degree days being  used in an applied setting.

Without being in four different sessions at the same time for the duration of the conference it was difficult to draw out key themes. But luckily members from Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ were in each and every session and were able to report back at the end of the conference.  My key findings…of UFZ’s key findings were:

  • Application is key. The TEEB ‘community’ believes in the TEEB process as a part of a solution to the natural environment crises currently faced, with this belief comes an urgency to see it begin to take hold in policy. For this reason TEEB and the research surrounding it must ask clear policy relevant questions.
  • Inter-disciplinary work and a common language is required. Not everyone is yet on-board with the TEEB process, or the concepts behind it. TEEB must get allies in all disciplines, for this reason the language adopted must be clear and unambiguous.
  • Mainstreaming was an apt subtitle for the conference and the next challenge for TEEB and environmental economics.

It was an encouraging conference, meeting people from around the world using TEEB concepts in different environmental settings, but there was a sense of preaching to the converted. TEEB ideas need to spread further in order to achieve the desired environmental outcomes.

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Watching the 10 o’clock new a few nights ago, it struck me that the connection between fossil fuel use and climate change isn’t present in the BBC’s editorial meetings. One of the headlines was the continued threat of strikes by fuel tanker drivers. Their gripes include pay and training/safety, but are also linked to rates of fuel taxation in the UK. As usual, climate change didn’t feature in the coverage.

10 minutes later in the same news bulletin and we have the UK’s current weather patterns: large fluctuations in temperature grab the headline, but they also report the drought over the south of the country. Insightfully this includes implications of climate change predictions for gardeners and farmers. The coverage shows dry crumbling soil on a typical arable farm and moots the potential economic cost.

Climate change deniers will probably point out that fuel taxes won’t solve climate change on their own, and that fluctuations in weather aren’t the same as climate change. Both of those are true. But then cutting taxes will make climate change harder to address, and will slow down the UK economy’s adaptation to global carbon constraints… increasing our risks of future economic problems. Also, having led the world into fossil-fueled industrialization, we should lead on the low-carbon alternative.

On patterns in the climate, the logic of this argument is that we need to see a long term trend, which means that by the time we are sure it is happening it will definitely be too late (is it already?). More to the point is this is what is predicted for the future, so if we are wondering if climate policies are worth it, take a look around. We have an exceptional drought, we have had increased incidence of flooding in the UK, we have had hard winter cold snaps the last few years. All of these are in line with climate change predictions. If it looks like climate change, and smells like climate change …

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– experiences of fitting household solar energy – Getting FITS XV is part of a series of blog posts by Limu on the attempt to install solar power at home with the help of the UK Feed in Tariff.

Its Easter now and its been a very sunny March – great for solar panels. I’ve also had our first electricity bill with the panels operating. Our bill for 3 months in the autumn was £120. You’d expect this to increase for the 3 months of winter due to longer hours of darkness. However, our bill fell to £70! Saving more than £50 – the first bit of payback on our investment.

The next payback will be our first FITS payment. I’ve received confusing information on this from our electricity supplier SSE. The letter confirming we had registered for FITS said they would need the first reading from the 31st of March. However, a recent letter said it should be for the 31st May.

The company who installed our panels has given some useful advice. I need to take reading for the 31st March as the FITS payment rates go up from the 1st April with inflation. Therefore, I need to take a further reading on 31st May, and then send in both the March and May readings by 5th June. So I am now getting 45.4p per kwh generated according to this DECC document (which didn’t get checked for plain English).

On 31st March the generation meter read 572kw. To repay the loans and investment as planned we’ll need to have generated around 2670kwh by November. That might seem like a long way to go, but the next few months offer much greater generation potential due to the longer daylight hours. Certainly a few more months like March and I think we will reach that target.

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