We need to save ourselves from fire

This post is by Walt Patterson, associate fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources Programme at Chatham House in London.

I’ve just published my fourteenth book. For the first time, I published it online myself. I did so because the topic is urgent and I did not want the book to wait a year on a publisher’s schedule. I also wanted set a price low enough that anyone interested could afford it. The book is called Electricity vs fire: the fight for our future. It asks a simple question: can electricity save us from fire? Continue reading

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Most climate action has little to do with the UN process

Desertec v4This post is by Ben Caldecott, Green Alliance trustee, associate fellow of Bright Blue and author of Green and responsible conservatism: embedding sustainability and long-termism within the UK economy.

The build up to the UN climate change conference in Paris this December began at Durban in 2011, when negotiators agreed to deliver a ‘new and universal greenhouse gas reduction protocol, legal instrument, or other outcome with legal force by 2015 for the period beyond 2020’. Paris is the last opportunity to secure such an agreement. Continue reading

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Why government has trouble dealing with big environment issues

Planetary_Boundaries_2015.svgThis post is by Martin Nesbit, head of the Climate and Environmental Governance Programme at IEEP and former director for EU and International Issues at Defra.

A longer version of this piece appears in the latest edition of Green Alliance’s journal, Inside Track, which looks at how the UK should respond to the Great Acceleration.

Why do governments have difficulty dealing with planetary constraints? I have my own ideas, based on my own experience of, well, failing to think about planetary constraints when I was working in government. Continue reading

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Letter from America: how cowboys cope with climate change

Alastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He’s currently participating in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change. This is his third report on his experiences.

As we make our journey over the shale wells and wind farms of the Great Plains to Colorado, we are joined by the pope. On the airport TV screens, on the front covers of the newspapers and in the conversations overheard in the terminal shuttle, his encyclical on climate change dominates our journey. As we are now in the early stages of the presidential nominations, His Holiness has also featured as a political debate starter on talk shows. Continue reading

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Letter from America: the US’s secret green test site

welcome to verrmontAlastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He’s currently participating in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change. This is his second dispatch reporting on his experiences.

There is no typical America or American, but Vermont makes a particular effort to be untypical. Our tour group’s van driver is a polite, thoughtful man named Reg Godin. He normally waits in the van, but when we visit Montpelier for a meeting in the grand State House, he decides to join us. The place is shut down except for a few offices, but Reg shakes hands with the security guard, then ushers us through to the State’s Senate floor, where he allows us to take pictures of ourselves brandishing the gavel. Before the last election, Reg explains, he was a Democratic state representative, serving as one of the 150 in this state. That was his job for a while, he says; now he has another one. His modest attitude is in profound contrast to the power-chasing world of DC. Continue reading

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Letter from America: Washington and the art of compromise

The capitol building in WashingtonAlastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He’s participating in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change and will be sending dispatches over the next couple of weeks based on his experiences.

Washington is a city that changes startlingly from block to block. Take the Capitol Building, which looms over its surroundings like the younger, stockier brother of St Paul’s Cathedral, reflected in the water landscaped in front with the Washington monument in the distance. Dotted around it are countless police, tourists and lobbyists. You are vividly aware of where you are. Continue reading

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What does the spectacular rise of the sharing economy mean for the environment?

Over the past five years there’s been a lot of hype about the sharing economy. Hundreds of start-ups are popping up (many of which epically fail) providing opportunities to share everything from sofas to secrets. There’s still much debate about what the sharing economy actually is, and how it overlaps with similar concepts like collaborative consumption and the peer to peer economy. Continue reading

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Can the Prime Minister deliver his climate pledges?

climate planThis post first appeared on BusinessGreen.

Many didn’t believe the Prime Minister would ever agree to make a pledge on climate change. Not in the middle of a general election. And not when Lynton Crosby was so busy getting any barnacles off the boat to ensure that nothing distracted from the long term economic plan. Colleagues inquired what we would do when he didn’t sign. Did we have we a backup plan? Continue reading

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David Cameron must now lead a green Conservative government

David Cameron_2_No10sourceThis post is by Ben Goldsmith, founder of green investment business WHEB and chairman of the Conservative Environment Network. It first appeared in The Spectator.

Those on the left tend to think that British Conservatism is a derivative of US Republicanism. But environmental policy shows that it’s a far more pragmatic mix. The latest Conservative manifesto encompasses George W Bush’s marine conservation ambition and Obama’s selective interventions to raise the pace of clean technology innovation.  This partly reflects the fact that the environment is still a largely non-partisan issue in British politics, but also that Cameron has protected discrete space for Conservative modernisers to bring forward new green ideas. As one of them I’m pleased with the progress we’ve been able to make. The manifesto commits our party to making ‘almost every car a zero emissions vehicle by 2050′, it reconfirms support for the Climate Change Act and promises to set up a ‘blue belt’ of massive international marine reserves. Continue reading

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Top 10: circular economy resources

Abstract circular backgroundA representative of a leading US company recently told me that it was seeking a bigger presence in the UK because of our “thought leadership” on the circular economy.

That is in large part due to more than fifteen years of work by WRAP and Green Alliance, two organisations I have the privilege to work with, along with the Royal Society of Arts, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and a host of progressive business organisations.

But how to access the wealth of excellent material available on the subject? For key entry points, here are my top ten suggestions to help you get to grips with the circular economy: Continue reading

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