Scotland starts to ask the big infrastructure questions

Train entering a tunnel, Forth Rail Bridge, ScotlandWorking on UK climate and energy policy in our office in London, it’s easy to regard with envy the politics north of the Scottish border. The Scottish government has adopted far more ambitious targets than the UK as a whole, aiming at a largely decarbonised electricity sector by 2030, almost complete decarbonisation of road transport by 2050 and a largely decarbonised heat sector by 2050. Continue reading

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What’s holding business leaders back on sustainability?

This post is by Justin Keeble, managing director, Accenture Sustainability Services in Europe, Africa and Latin America. It is one of five expert essays featured on our microsite Business strategy for a better world, which explores how businesses can go further on sustainability.

In 2013, Accenture and the United Nations Global Compact produced the largest ever global study of CEO opinion on sustainability. We found that more than 90 per cent of CEOs don’t think the global economy is on track to meet the demands of a growing population. Furthermore, 83 per cent didn’t think business was doing enough to address global sustainability challenges. Continue reading

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Business sustainability strategy: is collaboration outcompeting competition?

This post is by Matt Prescott, chief executive of Robertsbridge. It is one of five expert essays featured on our microsite Business strategy for a better world, which explores how businesses can go further on sustainability.

Environmentalists are never happy. We wanted companies to do something about environmental degradation and social inequity. Now, when most of the big corporations have, we are upset that sustainability has become fertile ground for competition, causing good ideas to be branded or jealously guarded. The new game in town is collaboration. Will it cheer us up? Continue reading

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Why technology needs the friction of politics

google logoA version of this post first appeared on The Guardian’s Political Science blog.

The headquarters of Google in Mountain View, California is a confusing blend of the laid back, hi-tech, over achieving image the company likes to cultivate, mixed with an earnest schoolboy’s slightly clumsy eagerness to gain approval for doing well and doing good. Garish multi-coloured bikes are scattered around the ‘campus’ for staff to move from one building to another; there’s a Holodeck (a dizzyingly immersive experience of Google Earth); and two of the meeting rooms are called Flux and Capacitor. So far, so Google. Continue reading

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5 things you should know about government and your energy bill

Energy bills are back in the news, with the Office of Budget Responsibility calculating new figures for the cost of low carbon power, the Competition and Markets Authority investigating energy companies, and both IPPR and Policy Exchange releasing reports in the past few weeks. With so much to debate, and a lot of seemingly conflicting numbers to grasp, here are five things you should know:

1. The levy control framework (LCF) makes up three per cent of the average energy bill.
The claim that government controls a large proportion your energy bill rests mainly on the costs of electricity and gas networks, which make up around 22 per cent of bills. In contrast, efficiency policies, which reduce consumption, and therefore lower bills, make up around three per cent. Low carbon power, covered by the levy control framework, also makes up just under three per cent of the bill. So called ‘policy costs’ are, therefore, mostly due to networks, not low carbon power. Continue reading

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Innovators need a voice in government too

bubblesThis post is by independent researcher and Green Alliance associate Rebecca Willis.

It’s obvious, when you think about it, that emerging industries and innovators have less of a voice in government than established players. Incumbents have a lot of advantages: they have a proven technology or system which regulators understand; they can afford to pay staff or consultants to engage and lobby; and policies and regulations are designed with them in mind. In contrast, innovators put all their effort into getting their new approach off the ground (with little time left for lobbying); regulations aren’t designed for them; and policy makers may not understand what they do. Continue reading

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Ring-fences and roller coasters: why the Budget looks bad for DECC

red boxLast week, Green Alliance outlined how pre-election Conservative Party spending promises might affect DECC’s budget. The headline was that 90 per cent of DECC’s staff budget could vanish by 2018-19 due to four factors: Continue reading

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The EU has the power to switch on innovation

This post first appeared on Business Green.

Think of innovation and what comes to mind? Blue skies, blank sheets of paper, keeping your thoughts showering and definitely outside of any boxes? These might be helpful for great leaps forward, but most technological development occurs through a series of small shuffles: a one per cent efficiency gain here, a five per cent weight reduction there. This is the kind of optimisation that delivers a competitive advantage rather than creates a whole new market, and a long term study by McKinsey has shown that focusing on a few key objectives is a vital part of successfully innovating to deliver incremental improvements. Continue reading

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Letter from America: no man is an island

Small Island in HawaiiAlastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He participated in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change. This is the final report of his trip.

My visit to the United States ended where the current president began; Barack Obama grew up just a few miles north of Waikiki Beach, his parents meeting at the University of Hawaii. I find his effortless cool more understandable now I’ve experienced the sea turtles, basketball courts and island-time attitude of his old neighbourhood. Continue reading

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Low carbon infrastructure is vital to UK investment ambitions

Boat in offshore windfarmGeorge Osborne has two main objectives for government expenditure as chancellor: eliminate the deficit by cutting day to day spending and increase investment by prioritising capital spending.

As public expenditure has been reduced the chancellor has looked to the private sector to make up the shortfall.  So far, this strategy has worked: 2010-14 saw cumulative growth in GDP of seven per cent, helped considerably by £40 billion growth in the private sector investment component of GDP over the same period, a rise of 16 per cent.  This level of business investment was one of the strongest sources of growth the last parliament. Continue reading

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