Author Archives: Green Alliance blog

Why isn’t there a wind turbine emoji?

This post is by Dr Alice Bell, co-director of the climate charity Possible.

Chatter about emoji might seem frivolous. But whether it’s a drop of blood symbol helping to lift the taboo around periods or adding emotional context to conversations that have moved online during lockdown, emoji play a crucial role in modern culture. Like gifs, memes and other cultural references, emoji are part of how we talk to each other today. As such, it only seems sensible that the ever growing emoji vocabulary should include symbols relating to climate change. There’s an oil drum, a gas pump and a power station, so why nothing relating to green tech?

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Why a green recovery needs a blue recovery at its heart

This post is by Tom Fewins, head of policy & advocacy at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT).

Here’s a question for you: what does ‘Ramsar’ stand for?

While some may see it as shorthand for the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, it is actually named after a place. The Iranian city of Ramsar sits on the shores of the Caspian Sea, where this multilateral agreement was first signed; this year the Ramsar Convention marks its 50th anniversary.

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Will the government do the right thing about aviation emissions?

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This post is by Matt Finch, UK policy manager at Transport & Environment .

Cutting aviation’s carbon emissions is a challenge, but it’s achievable. In previous years, discussing this would have resulted in a frown, a shrug and a sigh: “It’s simply too hard”, people would say. However, in recent years technology has advanced and the opportunity to do so is here. The UK government has started to take action by setting up the Jet Zero council. This council, composed of both senior government ministers and industry leaders, has an ambitious aim: the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced last year that its goal is to “demonstrate flight across the Atlantic…. within a generation…. without harming the environment”. So far, though, there has not been a meaningful policy introduced that would start to bend the curve towards achieving this aim.

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Will joining the CPTPP tarnish the UK’s green credentials?

This post is by Aradhna Tandon, policy assistant in the Greener UK unit at Green Alliance

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced recently that the UK had submitted its request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade agreement between 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The US played a central role in the initial negotiations but withdrew when it failed to gain domestic support to join the trading bloc.

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Airport expansion plans show that national and local decisions are at odds on climate

This post is by Agathe de Canson and Jo Furtado, policy advisers at Green Alliance.

Last week, the French government scrapped plans to expand its largest airport, Roissy Charles de Gaulle, citing environmental concerns. A few days later, Leeds City Council voted to expand Leeds Bradford Airport.  

Aviation emissions accounted for seven per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, but this figure will inevitably grow if demand increases, making it harder still to limit the emissions of a sector that has no straightforward way to decarbonise. Airport expansion, like road expansion, increases demand, so will make it much harder to reach our climate goals. 

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What has gone wrong with the Green Homes Grant?

This post is by Jan Rosenow and Louise Sunderland of the Regulatory Assistance Project.

The Green Homes Grant risks becoming the second government home energy efficiency scheme in a decade designed to fail.

The last decade wasn’t a good one for energy efficiency policy in the UK. We all remember the Green Deal, the coalition government’s flagship energy efficiency policy that was supposed to support 14 million home retrofits by 2020. It was terminated in 2015, after two years, having achieved fewer than 20,000 home retrofits. If anything, it was an example of how not to design an energy efficiency policy. The failure of the Green Deal left a gaping hole that was never plugged.

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Pursuing the hydrogen economy as a climate solution will be a big mistake

This post is by David Cebon, professor of mechanical engineering at Cambridge University.

There has been a lot of talk about hydrogen in the past year or two. Advocates for a ‘hydrogen economy’ make claims about how ‘green hydrogen’ (made by electrolysing pure water with renewable electricity) will power future energy systems. The idea is that green hydrogen will be generated at times of day when renewable electricity is cheap (ie when supply is high and demand is low). The hydrogen gas will be stored in underground salt caverns until needed and then either converted back into electricity and injected into the electricity grid or piped around the country to heat buildings and fuel lorries.

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Why Europe doesn’t need Cumbria’s coking coal

This post is by Valentin Vogl, an academic working on sustainability transitions in the global steel industry.

This was supposed to be the UK’s climate leadership year. In November, global leaders will gather in Glasgow to try to tame and temper humanity’s climate disruption. Meanwhile, a mere 137 miles south in Cumbria, the UK is set to do the polar opposite and open up a new coal mine.

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Kunming: what’s needed to make this year’s biodiversity summit a success

This post is by Stanley Johnson, international ambassador for the Conservative Environment Network.

The date of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) has still to be confirmed.  It was originally scheduled to be held in Kunming, China in the second quarter of this year (having been postponed from 2020), but it seems increasingly likely that an autumn date will be preferred in view of the continuing disruption caused by Covid 19. At the moment, the second half of October this year seems to be the favourite option, but the final decision must obviously rest with the host country, China.

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Why the economy needs biodiversity

This post is by Professor Diane Coyle and Dr Matthew Agarwala. The article was originally published on the Bennett Institute for Public Policy’s blog.

The UK government commissioned independent review on the Economics of Biodiversity, by our Cambridge colleague Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, is a landmark. Launched on the 2 February it sets out forcefully the imperative for action to halt, and reverse, a catastrophic decline in biodiversity over recent decades. The case it makes is a pragmatic one. Many people will agree there is a moral case for humanity to be good stewards of the rest of nature, but the review’s point is that the economic case is powerful too; ethics and economics are not separate.

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