Author Archives: Green Alliance blog

Legal action is a last, but necessary, resort

no2dirtyair-at-royal-courts-of-justice-11No 10’s former energy and environment adviser, Stephen Heidari-Robinson, suggested on Inside Track that ClientEarth’s legal action against the government would obstruct progress on air pollution. This response is by James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth. 

Why do governments get taken to court?
My view, as an environmental lawyer dedicated to the public interest, is simple enough. Legal action ensures that governments comply with the law and act in the best interests of the environment, the country and its citizens. Read more

A strategy to solve air inequality and keep Britain moving

leedsThis post is by Stephen Heidari-Robinson, former energy and environment adviser to David Cameron.

Unlike smog, today’s air pollution is an invisible killer: according to the Royal College of Physicians, 40,000 Britons die from it each year, twenty times the number killed in road accidents. Children are the most vulnerable: research suggests that their long term health and learning both suffer. Read more

How do we store low carbon power long term? The answer is in sight

4993115725_411c7d610c_bThis post is by Chris Goodall, author of The Switch, which describes how the world can cost effectively move to a zero carbon economy.

Sometimes we just don’t notice how well things are going in the race to decarbonise the world economy. Solar photovoltaic panels (PV) continue to decline sharply in cost. Batteries are becoming rapidly cheaper and we will have inexpensive electric cars with 200 miles of range within eighteen months. Wind turbines are improving in price and performance, particularly offshore. Energy use is proving easy to manage second by second. Optimism about a prosperous low carbon future for all seven billion people in the world is more justified with each passing month.

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I’ve changed my mind on renewables targets

Off sure wind turbineThis post is by Chris Huhne, former UK energy and climate change secretary from 2010 to 2012 and current co-chair of ET Index which analyses the carbon risk of worldwide quoted companies. He advises Zilkha Biomass Energy and the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association.

One criticism of British energy and climate change policy over the past few years is that it has involved a ‘dash for renewables’ predicated on high oil and gas prices. That is not true.  During my time as secretary of state for energy and climate change, and subsequently, we were careful to balance all three families of low carbon electricity generation: renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels, with carbon capture and storage. The reason? We could not predict the future, and did not know which would turn out the cheapest (or, indeed, what the oil and gas price would be).  In a time of great uncertainty, energy policy should be akin to investing in a portfolio of shares for retirement: however good one share looks now, do not put all your eggs in one basket. Read more

What the steel crisis can teach us about Britain’s new industrial strategy

Steelmaking workshopThis post is by Green Alliance’s Dustin Benton, head of energy and resources, and Jonny Hazell, senior policy adviser.

Forget the theory: the first test of Britain’s new industrial strategy will be how it handles the steel crisis. Steel used to be the sign of an advanced manufacturing nation, and it still provides the sort of skilled employment outside London that Theresa May has promised to protect. It’s at the heart of the debate about exporting carbon emissions and Brexit Britain’s industrial future. The world will inevitably draw lessons from how it is handled.

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Never mind the ‘knick knacks’: it’s sustainable procurement

The supply chain

This post is by Shaun McCarthy OBE, chair of the Supply Chain Sustainability School.

I was a student at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry when the Sex Pistols first and only album, ‘Never mind the bollocks’ went straight to number one in 1977. The BBC had banned it so there was nothing at number one in the BBC album chart. The New Musical Express was full of it, reporting that Woolworths in Coventry had posted their album chart with Never Mind the Knick Knacks at number one.

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Plastic pollution in our oceans: what we know, what we don’t and what we can do

Plastic ocean pollutionThis post is by Erik van Sebille, lecturer in oceanography and climate change at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, Alyssa Gilbert, head of policy and translation at the Grantham Institute and Dustin Benton, head of energy and resources at Green Alliance.

Plastic is a great material. It’s lightweight, durable, cheap, and over the past 50 years it has become embedded in every part of modern life. Unfortunately, it’s now embedding itself in the earth’s largest ecosystem, the ocean. The visibility of plastic pollution has put it onto the agenda of campaigners, scientists and policy makers alike. But, unlike climate change, air pollution or deforestation, we don’t yet have a grasp of many of the basic questions about marine plastic pollution.

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Retailers need to up their game to address the global resource crisis

SupermarketThis post is by Thomas Fischer, head of the Circular Economy Programme at Environmental Action Germany (DUH)

This week we celebrated a rather tragic landmark: the point when we used up all the resources that our planet can regenerate in one year. The fact that Earth Overshoot Day happened in early August points to the gravity of resource overconsumption, but the costs are already visible in ocean acidification, water pollution, destruction of forests and nearly every other environmental problem. Fortunately, there is a solution: a resource efficient circular economy. Germany has pursued a circular economy agenda for the past decade in industry, but retailers haven’t been keeping up.

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Is business deregulation putting environmental safeguards at risk?

big ben and tree

This post is by Donal McCarthy, an economist at the RSPB with a special interest in regulatory reform and its implications for the environment. He recently co-authored a report assessing the performance of voluntary (ie self-regulatory or co-regulatory) alternatives to regulation in delivering on public policy objectives.

Over recent years, political concerns about the costs of regulation to business have risen in prominence, with accusations that rules, such as those protecting rare species and habitats, are placing ridiculous costs on business and the wider economy.

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Why we have to put ‘beauty’ back into policy

derwentwaterThis post is by Green Alliance’s chair, Dame Fiona Reynolds. It is a version of a piece which first appeared in the The Guardian.

Beauty. It’s a word we all use to describe our delight in the world around us: a landscape we love; a butterfly’s wings translucent in the sunshine; or a wondrous piece of architecture. We all love beauty; we only have to watch the numbers glued to BBC’s Countryfile, and the way we head for the beach and the countryside as soon as the sun shines, to see that it’s something which meets a real human need.
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