Past Work

Over the past fifteen years, we worked to radicalise environmental debate in the UK, giving others the space to push for deeper change in policy, attitudes and values. This has ranged from highlighting the urgency of the problems we face (in Climate Safety and The Green Investment Gap) to producing pioneering research into the potential for transforming our energy system (in Zero Carbon Britain and The Offshore Valuation) to advocating radical policy solutions (in Energy Bonds and Carbon Omissions).

Climate change breaks NASA’s temperature charts 1

Guest post by Kate at Climate Sight.

The Arctic is getting so warm in winter that James Hansen had to add a new colour to the standard legend – pink, which is even warmer than dark red:

The official NASA maps – the ones you can generate yourself – didn’t add this new colour, though. They simply extended the range of dark red on the legend to whatever the maximum anomaly is – in some cases, as much as 11.1C:

The legend goes up in small, smooth steps: a range of 0.3 C, 0.5 C, 1 C, 2 C. Then, suddenly, 6 or 7 C.

I’m sure this is a result of algorithms that haven’t been updated to accommodate such extreme anomalies. However, since very few people examine the legend beyond recognizing that red is warm and blue is cold, the current legend seems sort of misleading. Am I the only one who feels this way?

We need strong Green Bank to bridge green investment gap

This piece originally appeared on Left Foot Forward.

New research from environmental think tank the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) reveals the scale of the green investment challenge facing the UK.

The Green Investment Gap report (pdf) shows that Britain devoted £12.6bn to green investment in 2009-10 – less than 1 per cent of GDP, and less than half the amount needed annually to renew the UK’s ageing energy infrastructure and set it on a course to a clean energy future.

Read more

PIRC launches The Green Investment Gap

The Green Investment Gap is the first comprehensive audit of UK green investment, launched today by PIRC.

The Coalition Government has declared it wishes to be ‘the greenest government ever’. In a time of fiscal retrenchment and huge cuts in public spending, the surest commitment to the green economy will come through policies to stimulate green investment.

The report highlights the scale of the green investment challenge facing the UK – finding that Britain devoted just £12.6bn towards green investment in 2009-10. This figure amounts to less than 1% of UK GDP; less than what Britain spends on furniture annually; and less than half the annual green investment needed over the next decade to build the green economy.

Yet this challenge also represents a huge opportunity to create thousands of new green jobs, get ourselves off the oil hook and tackle climate change all at once. At a time when the future of our national energy system is being reconsidered, we would be foolish not to invest more in clean energy options. The Green Investment Gap calls on the government to put green investment at the heart of its economic recovery strategy, and recommends that it works with industry and the third sector to:

  • Produce an annual Green Investment Audit,
  • Commit to closing the green investment gap,
  • Legislate for a strong Green Investment Bank.

The full report is available for download here: The Green Investment Gap – PIRC

Accompanying spreadsheet of data: The Green Investment Gap – PIRC – spreadsheet

Press Release (22/03/2011): Press Release – Green Investment Gap report 22nd March 2011

Why won’t the Government investigate its carbon omissions?

This piece was originally published on Left Foot Forward.

It is the received wisdom that the UK’s emissions are falling. But this is not the case. As academic studies and government briefings show, the UK’s emissions continue to rise, once you factor in the impacts of the goods and services we import from overseas. As we have outsourced industry, so we have outsourced a large part of our contribution to climate change.

In Parliament yesterday, climate change minister Greg Barker became the latest Minister to fail to understand the size of this problem.

Read more

The UK isn't reducing emissions; we’re outsourcing them

This piece by Guy Shrubsole originally appeared on openDemocracy.

“One of the easiest ways for the United Kingdom to meet its carbon reduction targets,” stated the Liberal Democract peer Lord Teverson in 2010, “is to send offshore even more of its manufacturing and high-carbon-based industry.”

Teverson’s words were intended as a warning rather than a recommendation. But it appears the Government has been following such advice for the past twenty years – because it’s exactly what’s been happening.

As the graph below illustrates, UK emissions as they’re ‘officially’ recorded by Government have been going down. But real UK emissions – the total once you factor in emissions embedded in the goods we consume from overseas – continue to rise.

Read more

The UK must own up to the full scale of its emissions problem

This piece by Alex Randall and Guy Shrubsole was originally published on Guardian Comment is Free.

Last week the Guardian reported that the UK”s carbon emissions have dropped. In fact they”ve gone up. New material released under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) reveals that the government knows this, but is actively deciding to do nothing.

Recent reports show that the UK”s emissions have risen once our consumption of imported goods and services are factored in. We can now reveal that civil servants, too, have been briefing ministers on this very fact – but that they have failed to do anything about it.

Read more

Holding the 'Greenest Government ever' to its word 2

Remember the Sustainable Development Commission? For ten years it”s been trying to get Government to embed sustainability into its operations and policies – until last July the Coalition pulled the plug on its funding. The SDC is currently sitting on death row, awaiting final termination at the end of the financial year this April. But there might yet be a happy twist to the sorry tale.

Just before Christmas, buried amidst the snow and news about Wikileaks, the Environmental Audit Committee released a report into the future of sustainable development across government, now that the SDC has been scheduled for the chop. Its key recommendation – which could turn the demise of the SDC into a triumph for good governance – is for responsibility for sustainable development to be handed over to the Cabinet Office.

Could the Cabinet Office help green Whitehall? Read more

Why environmentalists should stop taking Martin Luther King’s name in vain 6

This is a guest post by Jon Alexander, who writes for Conservation Economy, a blog about what the marketing & communications industry should do in an economy not based on consumption. This post appeared in its original form back in October 2010.  Jon’s view has shifted somewhat since then, so if you want to engage more with this discussion, please do see what you think of that post as well.

Over the last year, we’ve been hearing references to Martin Luther King in the sustainability debate with increasing regularity.  King, we are told, didn’t inspire change by saying “I have a nightmare”; the implication being that the environmental movement needs to stop being so down in the dumps and instead describe the promised land if ‘it’ wants to motivate change… Read more

PIRC advises 10:10 on policy – inspires Lighter Later campaign

We were honoured when our Climate Safety report, with its recommendation to cut UK emissions 10% by 2010, helped inspire Franny Armstrong to create the 10:10 campaign.

PIRC was asked by 10:10 in autumn 2009 to put together a study of policies that could help reduce UK emissions by 10% in one year – looking beyond individual or company actions to political interventions that Government might make.

One of our range of proposals was to reform Daylight Savings time in order to better align our hours of activity with hours of daylight – thereby saving electricity and hence cutting emissions. This was an idea that others greater than ourselves had previously hit upon, but had been unfairly forgotten of late. We were delighted when 10:10 took up the suggestion and turned it into Lighter Later, which launched in March 2010. It attracted immediate media attention and elicited support from all the main political parties in the run-up to the General Election. As of early November, Lighter Later had attracted the support of a broad coalition of 65 organisations championing its multiple social, environmental and economic benefits, as well as over 30,000 signatories from members of the public petitioning the Prime Minister.

For more details on the benefits that changing the clocks would bring, check out the Lighter Later website.

Green Investment Bank: too little, too late

George Osborne’s Spending Review, just announced in Parliament with the full document available online here, makes provision for a new Green Investment Bank (GIB). This is a vital piece of policy to take forward the low-carbon transition. But the announcements look to be too little, too late.

The Government has pledged just £1bn of direct public funds for the GIB – despite a previously anticipated figure of £2bn – and falling far short of the £4-6bn that analysts and campaigners had been calling for. Read more

What Danny Alexander’s gaffe says on climate spending

Yesterday evening Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was photographed reading an internal Treasury briefing on Spending Review announcements. When enlarged, the paparazzi shot contained some revelations: most of the coverage has focused on the Government”s acknowledgement that budget cuts could see the loss of 500,000 public sector jobs. But few have picked up that the other page of the briefing discussed environment spending.

A few points emerge from the document: Read more