Holding on #3

October 8th, 2020

The green recovery has started! 

Well, the words sound good – Boris Johnson has promised to power every home in the UK with offshore wind energy within a decade. The devil is of course in the detail – Greenpeace’s John Sauven said: “If carried through, [the commitment] would help cement the UK’s global leadership in this key technology. But delivering 40 gigawatts of power on to the grid by 2030 requires action in this parliament. We now need to see the prime minister’s newly found enthusiasm is followed through by knocking down all the barriers that the offshore wind industry faces in delivering its ambition.”

And no mention was made of onshore wind, which is the cheapest form of wind energy but has been subject to stringent planning regulations brought in under David Cameron, meaning few onshore turbines have been built in the UK in the last five years.

Politicians still believe, apparently, that our communities are generally anti wind turbines – you could prove them wrong by telling your MP and/or joining local projects to install these essential energy providers. We are a windy country, destined to experience more windy storms – as people like Dale Vincent, founder of Ecotricity, have been saying for years, we need to harness natural power….

At the same time as Johnson’s promises, why has the go-ahead been granted for a new coal mine in Cumbria? Unbelievable double standards….

‘Stay Grounded’ is appealing for help in countering aviation greenwashing – resisting unnecessary flights, and certainly opposing all airport expansions, is the only way to reduce the impact of the aviation industry in the climate crisis.

Companies like Airbus want us to believe that hydrogen-powered aircraft is the answer.

So we can return to irresponsible flying habits.

Waiting for such technologies prevents effective climate action today; and in the meantime emissions continue to rise.

Airlines have not been meeting their own low targets for biofuels for years. Why would they do any better in switching to hydrogen?

The biggest problem about hydrogen is it’s energy intensive to produce. Aviation at pre-Covid levels would need an enormous amount of it. Emission reductions would only be possible with ‘green’ hydrogen from renewable energies. We are already struggling to develop enough renewable energy systems. We should not waste precious energy on a relatively luxurious activity of a global minority – better to simply reduce luxury flying and travel by train, surely?!

Where hydrogen will probably prove useful is to run buses, ferries and even trains. 

Scottish Power plans to use clean electricity generated by a major new solar farm on a site near Glasgow. This electricity will run an electrolyser to split water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Lindsay McQuade, head of renewables at Scottish Power, said: “Green hydrogen is something that everyone is talking about, but we wanted to do something about it.”

She said that by working with industry leaders such as ITM Power and BOC the partnership would be able to offer the operators of heavy vehicle fleets and industry “a packaged solution that brings all of the pieces of the jigsaw together – production, distribution, supply” from as soon as 2022. “All they have to do is provide the vehicles”, she added.

The UK agriculture bill returns to the House of Commons next Monday (October 12th) – there are still serious worries about USA standards (depressingly low) influencing our food and farming….

Minette Batters, National Farmers Union president, has called on our government to make a legal commitment to ban chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef from supermarket shelves.

She said: “If we don’t put a marker in the sand, if government doesn’t put a red line down in the agricultural bill, that allows secondary legislation… to change it. You have to put that marker down and say: ‘No, you know, we’re going to stick by our word today’.”

Mm, that would be good – I’ll try to have faith, in the NFU if not in the government! Henry Dimbleby, the ‘food tsar’ behind the National Food Strategy, is ‘on the case’ too…..

Two positives:

Plans have just been submitted for the first stage of arguably the UK’s most ambitious council-led housing programme in a generation – in York (close to my heart!). The city is planning to build at least 600 homes across eight sites within the ring road, each designed to have a net carbon emissions figure of zero. Every element of the scheme, from the front door out into the transport network, is tuned to tackle the climate emergency head on.

London-based practice Mikhail Riches has been selected as lead architect, the firm behind the acclaimed Stirling prize-winning Goldsmith Street in Norwich (where I also have history!).

I’ve written to them!

A charity called Rory’s Well is pioneering a holistic programme of regenerative agriculture around the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone. ‘Slash & burn’ agriculture is one of the major causes of deforestation, soil degradation and carbon emission in the tropics, but subsistence farmers have little choice if their families are to eat…. This charity has been working for five years to develop paddy field systems in the swamps which provide permanent community farms, and bee keeping initiatives which help preserve both bees and the forest. The third part of the plan is to use Inga, a leguminous tree, to enable the development of permanent sustainable farms on reclaimed forest land. Inga has a range of very impressive qualities that can help transform how food is grown – this new farming system is also powerful in reducing CO2 emissions.

To find out more, you could join the Wotton-under-Edge Climate Action Network meeting via Zoom on October 22nd, or visit http://www.roryswell.org

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