This week the founder of the Transition Town movement, Rob Hopkins, relates how he has been turning to challenges of peak oil and climate change into action now for a better future. If you’ve not heard Rob speak before, I’d highly recommend it as he is hugely inspirational. Here he describes the thinking behind the community-led process of designing Energy Descent Action Plans and the Transition Town model which is helping ‘unlock the collective genius of the community’. The original Transition Town in Totness is buzzing with creative energy and positive projects:
- an awareness raising programme (film screenings and talks)
- community “open space” days which brainstorm solutions and ideas for action
- oral history interviews – finding out what life was like with less fossil fuel from older people
- specific action groups on food, psychological aspects of change, medicine & health, the arts, energy, economics and local government
- evening classes
- bulk community purchase of solar water heating
- formation of a renewable energy services company
- local food directory
- oil vulnerability auditing for local business
- nut tree planting project
And that’s after just four months…
At the end of the programme we find just enough time to squeeze in a live recording of a lightbulb moment from the Boycott Coca Cola Experience. “Everybody Suddenly Got Real” was recorded live at Club Integral in Brixton earlier this year. Many thanks to the Soil Association and Tim Siddall (aka BCCE) for their kind permission to broadcast this material.
Climate Radio presents the third in a series of four talks recorded earlier this year at the Soil Association annual conference looking at the impact of peak oil on agriculture. This week urban architect Andre Viljoen discusses the potential for urban centres to transform themselves into food producing regions. This would help make urban spaces more self-sufficient lower their carbon footprint. In particular he draws lessons from the experience of Cuba – a country which underwent a transformation when it lost access to oil imports after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Since this talk runs slightly short, we are able to squeeze in an extract from a performance by author and comedian Rob Newman on the subject of peak oil at the very end.
Climate Radio presents the second in a series of four talks recorded earlier this year at the Soil Association annual conference. Author Richard Heinberg talks us through the challenges that peak oil poses to the way we produce our food today. Much of our agriculture relies on fossil fuel intensive inputs such as nitrous fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides as well as the transportation of food huge distances around the globe. Should we be relocalising food production and using more traditional methods of small-scale, labour intensive, mixed farming? Is this the most sensible response to the multiple challenges – of peak oil, climate change and an expanding population – that we now face?
Much of today’s agriculture relies on fossil fuel intensive inputs such as nitrous fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides as well as the transportation of food huge distances around the globe. The logic and stability of this way of producing our food is seriously brought into question by the likelihood of rising oil prices and the urgent need to cut our emissions of greenhouse gases. A relocalisation of food production that uses more traditional methods of small-scale, mixed farming is one possible response to the multiple challenges – of peak oil, climate change and an expanding population – that we now face.
This first presentation is from Colin Campbell founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil who gives a potted overview of the energy depletion issue.
Many thanks to the Soil Association for giving their kind permission to broadcast this material.
Caroline Lucas MEP talks us through the new package of targets and policies on climate change that have just been announced by the European Union. There are new targets on CO2 emissions, renewable energy, energy efficiency and biofuels. We also discuss the effectiveness of EU climate action on aviation, road transport, emissions trading, decentralised energy and, er, lightbulbs!
The Mayor of London has just launched a trail-blazing Climate Change Action Plan which gives London a target of a 60% reduction in CO2 by 2025. The Two Degrees Show spoke to Mark Watts, the Mayor’s senior advisor on energy to find out how this will be achieved.
Almost every week a new Transition Town emerges in the UK – a new neighbourhood committing itself to engaging the community in plan for a future without oil. In the process they are imagining a world that it is cleaner, has an enhanced sense of community, is more local, where people are fitter and healthier, and there is a stronger connection to the land. This programme features an interview with the Transition Town founder, Rob Hopkins – who set the ball rolling three years ago.
Continuing our look at solutions…
In a coal- or gas-powered electricity plant in the UK a staggering 60% of the energy is wasted as heat. In a decentralised model you can use that heat to warm people’s homes using a technology called Combined Heat and Power.
CHP is a proven, market-ready technology (unlike hydrogen or “clean coal”) that is already widely used in Europe. Denmark, for example, generate 50% of their electricity in this way. George Monbiot unconvincingly dismisses CHP in his book “Heat”, whereas The Tyndall Centre have made an important feature of it in their future energy scenarios and it forms a central part of London’s trailblazing plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2025 which were unveiled today (see: here).
For this programme I interviewed Jim Footner of Greenpeace. Unfortunately there was a technical problem with the recording which rendered it unbroadcastable. So instead what you’ll hear is a useful introduction to decentralised energy in the form of the soundtrack to the Greenpeace film “What are we waiting for” which was produced by Memory Box films and narrated by Clive Anderson.
Afterwards, I attempt an assessment and run past some of the main points that came out of the discussion with Jim. At the very least, the UK should institute a law (simillar to the one they have in Denmark) that forbids any new build fossil fuelled electricity plants without heat capture (whether in the UK or abroad with UK support).
- What are we waiting for? – youtube film link
- Decentralising Power – An Energy Revolution for the 21st Century
- Powering London Into the 21st Century (Greenpeace/GLA, 2006)
- Scotland (Greenpeace/WWF Scotland, 2006)
- Energy Revolution – A Sustainable World Energy Outlook (Greenpeace/EREC, January 2007)
- What are we waiting for? – youtube film link
CARBON RATIONING – Your questions answered
“The urgency with which we must make the transition to a low-carbon pathway leaves no option but to instigate a radical and immediate programme of demand management.” – Living Within A Carbon Budget (Tyndall Centre, 2006)
In five years time, we could all have an equal carbon allowance to buy our electricity and fuel with. This would help us play our part as an industrial nation in bringing global carbon dioxide emissions down rapidly to a relatively safe level. In a follow-up to last weeks interview with Mayer Hillman, Phil England puts some of your concerns and questions about carbon rationing (or tradeable energy quotas) to Richard Starkey of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
- How does Mayer Hillman’s scheme differ from David Fleming’?
- How does personal carbon trading compare to a carbon tax?
- Would the scheme make people more carbon conscious?
- Would the scheme allow the rich to continue their energy profligate lifestyles?
- Is there a danger that the scheme could be weakened by allowing carbon offsetting?
- How costly would the scheme be to set up and run?
- Would the scheme encourage a black market?
- How could energy used in the manufacture of products (embedded energy) be accounted for?
- Under the part of the scheme that relates to corporations would buy-out clauses such as the problematic Clean Development Mechanism be included which would render the scheme ineffective?
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions or comments: Alex Smith (Radio Ecoshock, Canada), Naomi Fowler (freelance radio producer), Tam Dougan (Network for Alternative Technology and Technoloy Assessment), Mark Aitken (producer of ResonanceFM’s I Can Hear The Grass Grow), Brian Ross (Stop Stansted Expansion), Roger Levett (Levett-Therivel Sustainability Consultants), Jonathan Essex (Sustainable Redhill).
Continuing our look at solutions, we have the great pleasure of presenting an interview with Mayer Hillman who came up with the concept of carbon rationing back in 1990. Mayer is a much admired policy strategist whose proposal has been snowballing in popularity to the point where Environment Minister David Milliband is now seriously championing the idea. His book “How We Can Save the Planet” (published by Penguin) is a layman’s guide to the idea of carbon rationing. It will finally be published in North America in April as “The Suicidal Planet: How to Prevent Global Climate atastrophe.”
Mayer is acutely aware that our business-as-usual attitude is propelling us towards disaster and that we need to act radically and with great speed. He reminds us of some harsh, uncomfortable truths and presents a compelling solution to our predicament.