Making it Happen

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic.

zcb cat IV

In February the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) launched their third Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) Research based publication called Making it Happen. More about this below but let us first see how the story has unfolded.

The first CAT ZCB publication in 2013 Rethinking the Future, demonstrated that we could achieve a Zero Carbon Britain with minimum changes to modern living standards. We could do this using current proven technology for renewable energy generation, energy efficiency measures, rethinking our transport and changes to our diet and land use. They showed it was possible to this by 2030. It was a very comprehensive and well evidenced report full of helpful explanatory graphics. Transition Malvern Hills gave presentations in Malvern.

The main criticism levelled at the report was that their research did not take into account how intermittent renewable energy was, in the UK the wind doesn’t always blow and sun shine.

This prompted CAT to do an extraordinary research project, they modelled the weather records in hourly slots over a 10 year period and the power demand figures for all forms of energy use in the UK for the same period. This resulted in the publication of second report giving both the levels of intermittence and the energy storage that would be necessary to meet demand in the periods of low or almost no generation as well as the most effective ways to create the storage. Again this was well received and there has been a considerable increase in storage solutions since then with large schemes being built and domestic scale products now being sold.

CAT soon realised that demonstrating the solutions that would enable us to get to ZCB wasn’t enough. The reports and presentations were helpful but the change wasn’t happening fast enough or in an integrated way. They then started a multi-disciplined research project on the barriers that were stopping what needed to happen. This brings us to the third report just published, Zero Carbon Britain – Making it Happen.

Once again very well researched with great examples of how the barriers can be reduced or dissolved they go into detail on Politics and Governance, Economics and Finance, Psychology and Behaviour, Overcoming Carbon Lock-in, Changing Worldviews and Values and Communications.

The comprehensiveness of the interlocking issues explored demonstrates very effectively how we are so often trapped in a world view with its supporting structures and social norms that get us to believe the very opposite of what is in both our and societies best interest and often carry on doing things that we know in our hearts are not sustainable.

There are excellent summaries of psychological research, here is a helpful paragraph on our values and how we perceive others, there is more on how those negative perceptions are reinforced.

“Perceptions and misperceptions are fundamental to believing in the possibility of change. As described elsewhere in this report, research by the Common Cause foundation revealed how, regardless of age, geography, wealth and voting behaviour – 74% of people attach more importance to compassionate values – embracing justice, tolerance and responsibility – than to wealth, image and ambition – so called selfish values. But 77% of us think others hold dominantly selfish values. The contradiction might partly explain the lack of political enthusiasm for more shared, common, collective solutions to our problems. A shift in attitude and faith in each other matters far more than any post-facto, obsessively detailed platform of minutely priced policies.

This links to an excellent section on the underlying assumptions (about human nature) embedded in the Neo-Liberalism worldview that is currently so dominant and has led to so many of our current problems both environmental and social.

A very simple example linking politics and carbon lock-in is we are told that renewable energy subsidies are the problem leading to us having higher energy bills. We are not told about the massive tax breaks given to Fossil Fuel companies which are subsidies by another name but paid for by us indirectly. An IMF quote used in ZCB Making it happen illustrates this.

“Low carbon alternative technologies, infrastructure, services and behaviours are often more expensive than fossil fuel-based alternatives. This is because there is not a level playing field: there is a greater level of government subsidy given to the fossil fuel industry, and the societal or ‘external’ costs of the industry (for example, the health costs of air pollution) are not currently accounted for in their pricing (IMF, 2015).”

A recent example:

“Theresa May gives a £10,000-plus bribe if you live near a frack site. If you live near a wind farm, nothing …The asymmetry is amazing.” Barry Gardiner, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary (Mason, 2016)

There is so much informative reading in this report and you can download a short summary or the full report at no cost from www.cat.org.uk we hope it stimulates you think and act with us on this major challenge of our times.

We leave you with a thought provoking quote

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs (29:18)