Monthly Archives: December 2016

Low Carbon Policies

A personal view from Fred Miller,  Nov 2016


There is an urgent need for national policies to achieve goals that are essential to tackling climate change. We need to be aiming for a per capita emissions rate of greenhouse gases of two tonnes of CO2e 1 per person per year.  This is a rate of per capita emissions that is quoted by the economist Nicholas Stern 2 and others, taking into account the equitable budget of carbon that we have available in order to avoid dangerous warming.

Although, it is hard to effect change on an individual level, it is useful to have this figure in mind, to have some idea of what we are aiming at. If you scale up that figure, you can get an idea of what the population of  Gloucestershire should be aiming for, in the entirety of its emissions, including what we buy from elsewhere.3 This is truly challenging.

But I was inspired by a recent talk by Prof. Kevin Anderson 4, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester, who itemises relatively simple and achievable objectives to rapidly bring our emissions down. The question is how can we in Gloucestershire help to achieve such policies ?

These first two points are lifted directly from the talk given by Prof. Kevin Anderson in 2016 5 .  The next two draw from other sources.

1. Reduce the need/demand for energy: ‘POWERING DOWN’        ……….and thereby reduce energy demand by 40 – 70 % :     

Housing:  We could retrofit housing at a cost of £40,000 per house so that they are low-energy and low-CO2 emitting, and are better adapted to the changing climate, as well as solving fuel poverty. (10 – 20 % of all households are in fuel poverty). This will cost 2% of GDP but would create a lot of jobs and training, and is regarded as an effective and quick way for £££’s to be spent on emission reductions.

Put in progressive metering tariffs, so that the more you use, the more you pay per unit (above a threshold of basic needs). At the moment, people who are on low incomes in rented housing (using less energy) have to pay more per unit of electricity with pre-pay cards etc. This is grossly unfair.

Fuel efficiency of cars:    Create a maximal standard of fuel efficiency for all new cars (i.e. less than 100 g CO2 per km) . The average in the UK is 185 g of CO2 per km, but 85 g-per-km-cars are now available. As two thirds of vehicles in the UK are less than 5 years old, this would create very rapid change. And if we bring in vehicle electrification we would transfer the energy supply for transport to renewables (which generate electricity).  We also need to invest in and improve emission-free buses.

Electrical goods:    Create highest efficiency standards (A+++) for all electrical equipment. An ‘A+++’ fridge uses 80% less energy than an ‘A’ rated one. These are standard in Japan. A saving of energy ‘at the plug’ scales up to at least five times that back at the power station, because of the losses of energy in generation and transmission.

Individuals’ energy consumption: Support major behavioural change focusing on the 10% of the world’s population who are the highest emitters. The Oxfam report (Extreme Carbon Inequality 6 ) highlights the fact that the richest 10% of the world’s people are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions, and if they merely lowered their level to the average European, it would reduce carbon emissions overall by 33%!

A moratorium on airport expansion

2. Maximise renewables: ‘POWERING UP’

  • Sustainably exploit the huge renewable potentials, e.g. by putting solar panels on all south-west facing roofs, which would generate a third of all UK electricity. (and, I would add, continue with building wind generation capacity)
  • Rapid re-tooling of the oil industry into a renewables industry
  • Electrify household heating and transport which are two of the biggest users of fossil fuel. Electrification helps the transfer to a renewable supply (which generate electricity rather than make fuels)
  • Roll out smart grids, intelligent metering and community energy which enable better tracking and monitoring of energy use.
  • A moratorium on new fossil fuel developments


 3. ABSORB CARBON….in soil and rocks

  • Increase soil organic content through the grazing and arable practices of agro-ecology and ‘restorative farming’, habitat restoration, and tree planting. Carbon can be sequestered at rates of 1 – 10 tonne per hectare per year, as well as improving local resilience to floods and increasing food supply. This is a known technology by which to sequester billions of tons of carbon 7  and increase local production of food to reduce food miles.
  • Absorb carbon in the rocks:    Explore Carbon Capture and Storage in geological deposits, linked to industries such as the steel industry and solar panel manufacture, perhaps using oil wells in the north sea.



  •  Food imports such as soya feed for livestock, and palm oil for food products, are causing deforestation of the Amazon and the burning of Indonesian rain forests and peat lands. These represent huge carbon emissions, and while it is right to change land use in the UK, it is meaningless if we ignore these off-shore land-use related emissions.
  • Cease the global transportation of plain simple food products that can be produced more locally.

Notes and references

  1. CO2e stands for CO2 equivalent.  Different gases have different strengths in their greenhouse effect. A unit volume of methane has much more effect  than the same amount of CO2. It is a more powerful greenhouse gas. The gases – methane, NO2, and HCHC (and some others) –   are given a rating of how much CO2 they are equivalent to. With this common unit of measurement these greenhouse gases are comparable in their forcing effect and they can then be added in to the mass of CO2 to give the CO2 equivalent – CO2e
  1. Nicholas Stern, Blueprint for a Safer Planet, 2009
  2. Population of Glocs. is about 850,000 . So the emissions we should be heading down towards is 850,000 multiplied by 2 tons, equals 1,900,000 tons per year. But I have not yet been able to find an estimate of the Glocs. total actual emissions.


  1. Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester and Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
  2. See this 45 Minute lecture by Kevin Anderson, given in 2016 touching on carbon budgets, the Paris Agreement and some suggestions for ways forwards.
  3. Oxfam: Extreme Carbon Inequality
  4. See for example:

– Graham Harvey, ‘The Carbon Fields’, and ‘Grass fed nation’, 2016, icon books. Methods of concentrated grazing followed by periods of rest, are said to build soil carbon at astonishing rates, alongside the planting of herb leys, and crop rotation (largely abandoned by modern farming).


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