Monday, 16 November 2009

Grasping the golden opportunity for a low carbon economy

Dr Phil Webber, Programme Manager, Kirklees Warm Zone.

Copenhagen needs to be a massive wake-up call for governments to realise the huge economic and social benefits that a low carbon economy can offer.

All the evidence we have from the Kirklees Warm Zone scheme shows that rolling out insulation and other large-scale energy efficiency schemes generates multiple benefits. Economically it brings job creation, skills development, fuel savings and increased benefits uptake. Every £1 invested returns around £5 into the local economy. This equates to over £90m going into the economy. An area-based scheme like ours delivers significant efficiency savings too.

The social impact means fewer families living in fuel poverty; warmer homes for the elderly and people with long term health conditions and fewer cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Add to this the environmental impact of reduced carbon - the estimated CO2 savings from 32,000 households are 22,556 tonnes per year for our measures installed up to June 2009. The expected savings at the end of the Warm Zone scheme are 55,000 tonnes per year.

A new report by the Audit Commission (October 2009) concludes that reducing CO2 emissions from domestic energy use is one of the quickest, cheapest and most effective ways to achieve the UK’s CO2 reduction targets. We would like the UK government to use existing Winter Fuel Payments to roll-out schemes like Kirklees Warm Zone on a wider scale. This should be part of the fiscal stimulus measures advocated in the Stern Report and would be a clear signal to the international community that the UK is taking serious and concerted action to reduce its own emissions.

We already have the evidence of what works. Copenhagen is a golden opportunity to convert this evidence into positive action that will save us all from the nightmare of climate change.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

Kirklees Council’s Kirklees Warm Zone scheme won the Ashden Award Local Government category in 2009. The scheme is now used as an example of good practice across the UK by government departments, key environmental groups and other local authorities and has won several awards.

View the Ashden Awards video of Kirklees Council:

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Our schools can show the way to a better future

Richard Dunne, Head teacher, Ashley school, Walton On Thames, Surrey.

Climate change is an ugly problem with devastating consequences. But it is a problem based fundamentally on our use of energy and it is a problem that can be solved. Indeed climate change offers us exciting opportunities to create a better, cleaner, more sustainable model of energy practice. But it needs all of us to find the solutions; to find them in our workplace, in our schools, homes, and communities. And we must start now.

But how? Ashley School has set up committed and passionate energy teams who challenge the status quo and identify where and how we can become more energy efficient. These teams measure and analyse the school’s energy use, and set tough targets that engage our communities in energy saving. We know from experience that these energy reduction initiatives need to be supported through grant funding programmes – which ideally should be sourced by a carbon tax – so that site-specific renewable energy technologies can be installed.

Most importantly, we recognise and reward our successes. In our school we are proud to have reduced our electricity consumption by nearly 80% in two years and our heating consumption by close to 30%. With creativity and commitment it can be done and we whole-heartedly encourage others to do the same – we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

Ashley CofE Primary School, Walton on Thames in Surrey was joint winner of the UK Schools Ashden Award 2009. The school takes a pioneering approach to energy saving by setting targets to reduce energy consumption both inside the school and at home.

View the Ashden Awards video of Ashley school:

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Friday, 13 November 2009

The real agenda for Copenhagen is tackling poverty

Harish Hande, CEO, Selco Solar Light, Bangalore, India.

Poverty is the greatest threat to our environment. The poor use some of the most inefficient technologies and polluting fuels - not because they are cheap but because they don’t have a choice.

Today’s debate on the climate change treaty is seen as between the developed world and the developing world. It has led the rich in developing countries to hide behind the poor and the poor in developing countries to be short changed. The reality is we all have a vested interested in getting this treaty right – rich and poor.

We have before us a wonderful and unique opportunity – to implement climate change solutions that will also reduce poverty, like affordable solar energy systems. My social enterprise, Selco India has provided 112,000 solar home systems to low income households and institutions. We ensure that the systems are affordable by partnering with microfinance organisations that provide small loans. We have also set up a pilot fund to guarantee the deposits on solar systems for very poor families. Nothing can compare with the thrill of someone switching on a light for the first time and knowing how this can change their life!

Much, much more of this can be done and we are showing just what's possible. If we partner with the poor to create options for them to produce their energy sustainably – be it through renewable energies or clean stoves or biogas – we will get a double whammy: a curb on climate change but also a route for them out of the relentless poverty trap.

We must put poverty at the centre stage of Copenhagen and not focus on the false confrontation between developing versus developed world. When the discussion finally turns towards providing sustainable energy solutions for the poor a new dawn of social justice and economic progress will begin.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

Selco Solar Light designs and sells solar home systems, primarily to meet the needs of the poor. The company was winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy in 2007 and a 2005 winner.

View the Ashden Awards video of SELCO:

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Stoves can help save the planet

Svati Bhogle, Managing Director, Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE), India

So far India’s media coverage on Copenhagen is all about dissent, discontent and dissonance when it should be about collective resolve and action on climate change.

Copenhagen is about reducing emissions globally but it is also about equitable and efficient use of energy. We require more sustainable use of energy as opposed to today’s abuse in the developed world and misuse in the developing world.

Two billion people - mostly in the developing world – still depend on traditional fuels like wood and charcoal for their cooking and heating. Each day they consume something like 1.2 million tons of biomass for cooking. With fuel efficient stoves these families can cut their energy use in half. They can also avoid the terrible toll of black smoke from inefficient stoves that literally choke the lives of so many women and children.

My organisation, TIDE helps some of the eight million small businesses in South India by providing improved woodstoves and kilns that burn biomass more efficiently and save at least 30 percent of fuel. We're saving well over 40,000 tonnes of wood each year and giving more than 150,000 workers a better, healthier and safer environment to work in as a result.

So let’s hope the leaders at Copenhagen will get behind simple and affordable solutions like these and steer away from the gloom and doom that can paralyze people from acting. We have the opportunity to make life cleaner, healthier and better for billions in the developing world – and at the same time improve our chances of tackling climate change.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

TIDE received the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy’s “Energy Champion” award in 2008. TIDE develops woodstoves and kilns for small businesses across Southern India to burn biomass fuel more efficiently.

View the Ashden Awards video of TIDE:

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Know How Now - technical support services fair and forum

EWB-UK is delighted to announce the Know How Now technical services fair and forum. This free event will bring together leading providers of knowledge for international development and humanitarian relief. Many organisations - including RedR, Engineers Against Poverty, Practical Action, WaterAid, and many more - are coming to exhibit and share their "know how" with you!

Know How Now is free of charge and will take place at the ICE headquarters in London (One Great George Street, SW1P 3AA; near the Houses of Parliament) on 6 November from 11 AM to 5 PM. For more information, contact knowhownow [at]

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Monday, 2 November 2009

Ashden Awards advocate warns against countries pursuing 'narrow interests' in Copenhagen

Speaking as officials gather in Barcelona tomorrow for a final round of negotiations, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said:

"I gave all the world's leaders a very grim view of what the science tells us and that is what should be motivating us all, but I'm afraid I don't see too much evidence of that at the current stage.

Science has been moved aside and the space has been filled up with political myopia with every country now trying to protect its own narrow short-term interests. They are afraid to have negotiations go any further because they would have to compromise on those interests."
Read the full story in the Guardian

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