Action notes and an appeal for help

The minutes and action points from our March organising meeting are now available for viewing or download.

There were two particular actions that we would really appreciate your help with.

We have taken out a subscription to the Zoom online conferencing platform and we plan to hold regular online public events. Please email suggestions for topics and for speakers to triple.e.scot@gmail.com.  If you would like to offer to do a presentation yourself do let us know.  We’re aware that online meetings may be a new experience for some people or you may not be familiar with Zoom. There is a now a simple guide to accessing Zoom meetings on this site.

We have five new briefings in production

  • The role of Hydrogen in a sustainable economy
  • Organising at work
  • The COPs and COP 26 – a guide
  • Is nuclear part of a sustainable solution?
  • Decarbonising Transport.

If you know of good resources on any of these topics and can share links or references that would be really helpful.  Our aim when we produce briefings is to develop a concise summary of the issues on 2 sides of A4 with links to further readings and resources via the website.  If you’ve an interest in one or more of the topics and would like to link up with 2 or three others to help write the briefing and collate the web links do let us know. You can just email us at triple.e.scot@gmail.com

Finally if you have ideas for other topics that would work in the briefing format or for updates to existing briefings do get in touch.

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Towards Net Zero?

On the 7th February 2019 Edinburgh City Council resolved to declare a climate emergency. On the 25th October Edinburgh City Council’s Policy and Sustainability met to consider a draft report from the Place-Based Climate Action Network (P-CAN) research project on Achieving Net Zero in the City of Edinburgh. The report will form the basis for discussion of an action plan at the February 2020 meeting of the committee.

In this post Pete Cannell gives a personal response to the report. We hope to publish further contributions on this important topic and we welcome comments, responses to the questions he poses and further contributions.

It’s important and encouraging that, in response to pressure from the School Student strikers, XR and the wider movement, Edinburgh City Council is set to discus actions to reduce carbon emissions. This post takes a critical look at the report that forms the basis for the council’s discussions.

‘Achieving Net Zero in the City of Edinburgh’ is a technical report that summarises research undertaken by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI), drawing on expertise from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Leeds. Net zero means that carbon emissions from activity in Edinburgh are balanced by an equal amount of carbon being removed from the atmosphere. The net zero target applies to emissions from within the local authority boundaries. Critically, however, some emissions, most notably those from aviation are not included.

The cost-benefit analysis used by the research team is based on the same methodology that was used in the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change that was published in 2006.

The report notes that Edinburgh’s baseline emissions have declined by 40.3% since 2001. This reduction is almost entirely a result of changes in the way that Scotland’s electricity is generated with coal fired power stations closing down and replacement by renewables – primarily wind. Renewables are now such an important part of the grid that there is little scope for further reduction from this source.

The report models three scenarios for how much energy use and emissions could be reduced by 2030:

1. A 56% reduction in carbon emissions as a result of ‘cost effective’ investments amounting to £3.976 billion over the next 11 years. The savings resulting from these investments would repay the investment in 7.5 years and continue to generate savings thereafter.

2. A 62% reduction as a result of ‘cost neutral’ investments of £7.492 billion over the 11 years to 2030 that would be paid back in savings over 12.5 years.

3. A 67% reduction exploiting the full technical potential of the different mitigation measures proposed. This is estimated to require investment of at least £8.135 billion with the cost neutral pay back extending to 16.1 years.

The figures aggregate emission reduction strategies across multiple sectors – commercial, transport, domestic and industrial and the report provides some detailed proposals for the kinds of investment that needs to be made in each of these.

The report is honest about the scale of the technical and investment challenge but confines consideration of politics and strategy to the observation that:

Whilst the opportunities outlined here are all feasible and ‘win-wins’ for stakeholder groups across the city, they will require near-immediate and unequivocal support from institutions and the public.

Will the City Council’s action plan be framed in a way that faces up to the urgency of the crisis and wins unequivocal support? And will it address the gap between the reductions proposed in the report and net zero? Climate campaigners have a critical role to play here. We have a responsibility to build a movement embedded in working class communities across the city that is active, restless, rebellious and probes, questions and criticizes at every stage and every step. And we need to develop a collective understanding of how actions to reduce emissions and the unequivocal support of the mass of the population are achieved and built through democratic engagement and a focus on social justice.

There are a host of questions that we need to address. In the hope of starting a debate I’ll mention just a few!

The activities of the city council are responsible for only a small percentage of Edinburgh’s emissions. So how does an effective action plan ensure that the investment into emissions reductions envisaged by ‘Towards Net Zero’ take place across all areas of energy consumption? How does a council action plan leverage action across the whole city? Clearly there’s a role for regulation – for example imposing building regulations that mandate carbon neutral new builds. There’s also a case for investment in large-scale public initiatives – for example building insulation.

‘Towards Net Zero’ focuses on a cost benefit approach together with the implementation of existing low carbon technologies – and holds out the promise that in future emerging technologies will bridge the gap to net zero. Is this an appropriate methodology in the face of an existential crisis? Can it actually work? It’s not business as usual but it suggests that conventional methods together with technology can achieve net zero. So is net zero achievable without system change? And if it’s not, what does system change look like?

Treating carbon reduction as an issue about investment and technology may also hide real issues of policy. So for example business and tourism planning in Edinburgh have both had huge impact on how and where we live, the distances we travel to work and how we travel. As Edinburgh’s workforce is pushed further outside the city boundaries to find affordable accommodation the carbon footprint of our daily working lives has grown. But the ‘Towards Net Zero’ effectively excludes these issues, as it does the massive rise in aviation emissions, which are so strongly linked to current planning priorities. So while we can commend the City Council’s steps towards an action plan there is a powerful case for integrated planning across the region and for new policy frameworks for housing, health, work, transport and tourism that centre on zero carbon and social justice.

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Image: Pete Cannell, CC0

There is an opportunity to discuss the issues raised in this post at the  Scot.E3 conference that takes place on 16th November.  Book for the conference on Eventbrite and email triple.e.scot@gmail.com if you want to book one or more crèche places.

A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM

An Energy Policy Consultation paper – A shock to the system – the case for a publicly owned and democratically accountable Scottish energy company

In 2014 the Scottish government initiated an energy policy review. The purpose of this review was to examine the present state of Scotland’s energy economy and consider future options in the light of both a looming climate crisis and also the optimum strategy for replacing ageing fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity with a range of renewable technologies.

In 2017 in order to ensure employment and fuel poverty issues were taken into account in this review, an infant SCOT.E3 decided to submit its own paper in an attempt to ensure that a full spectrum of related energy and environmental issues were incorporated into a memorandum of evidence.

Yet five years on and despite an almost universal acknowledgement of an accelerating climate crisis, little has been done- in practical terms- to address an impending environmental disaster and its related social and economic consequences. Also, within the intervening period, we have seen the commercial collapse of the BiFab renewable power technology company at Burntisland as well as the continued interest of the petro-chemical company Ineos in activating its shale gas fracking options to the point that it will feel confident to test the validity of the current Scottish governments ‘anti-fracking’ moratorium.

So it is against this present uncertainty that SCOT.E3 is now initiating another energy policy review to which it invites all interested parties to participate. The aim of this exercise is to re-examine the range of issues needed to be addressed; a renewable energy economy and the availability of appropriate technologies, the issue of fuel poverty and affordability of energy, energy efficiency, energy related employment and just transition possibilities regarding current energy and defence related employment, improvement of housing stock and carbon neutral public transport systems- to name but a few.

And as can be seen from the attached paper, SCOT.E3 have made a start in outlining the historical record of electricity generation and supply in Scotland in order to reinforce the case for a major stage in meeting Scotland’s forthcoming energy and environmental needs- a long promised Scottish state owned energy company.

We are therefore inviting you to participate in this exercise by adding your comments and/or contributions under the section headings so far left blank. This is to ensure that any report fully takes into account the range of opinions that truly reflect the technical and scientific know-how- as well as the concerns of environmental, community and trade union campaigns and interests engaged in these vital and urgent issues.

In order to ensure that this exercise is properly democratic, it is our intention to hold a consultative meeting for all consultees in the near future, as well as a major workshop type conference in the autumn.

We hope that you find the introductory notes both useful and of interest and we look forward to hearing from you in the near future. For any further information please contact:

SCOT.E3 at www.scote3.wordpress.com, email triple.e.scot@gmail.com 

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