What was Achieved in the Latest UN Climate Talks?

UN Climate Talks 2019

A compromise deal was agreed in what were the longest United Nations climate talks on record. Weary delegates finally reached an agreement on the crucial question of increasing the global response to curbing carbon.

Governments at the UN climate talks in Madrid acknowledged the increasing urgency of the crisis with a partial admission that the current carbon cutting targets are too weak. However, there were few substantial plans made to strengthen them in line with the Paris agreement.

After two weeks of talks COP25’s executive leaders came to a formal recognition of the need to bridge the gap between greenhouse gas targets set in 2015 in Paris and scientific advice that says much deeper cuts are needed.

Scientists have warned that the current targets would put the world on track for 3C of warming, which would lead to coastal cities being devastated and agriculture being destroyed over large swathes of the globe. In order to avoid dangerous climate, change the gap between what the science says is necessary and the current situation needs to be addressed. If we continue as we are the world is set to go past this threshold in the 2030s.

Research published during the two weeks of talks showed that greenhouse gas emissions have risen 4% since the Paris accord was signed in 2015, and the world will need to cut carbon by more than 7% a year in the next decade to heed scientific advice.

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It was agreed that all countries will need to put new climate pledges on the table by the time of the next major conference in Glasgow next year, 2020. The two extra days and nights of negotiations led to a deal that will see new, improved carbon cutting plans by the time of the conference next year.

Even minor issues such as the role of carbon markets which are mechanisms by which countries can sell carbon credits, based on their emissions-cutting efforts and the financial assistance needed for poor countries to cope with the impacts of climate chaos were all put off until next year after agreement between delegates proved elusive.


This aspect of the deal was welcomed by campaigners.

Mohamed Adow, with the group Power Shift Africa said:

“Thankfully the weak rules on a market-based mechanism, promoted by Brazil and Australia, that would have undermined efforts to reduce emissions has been shelved and the fight on that can continue next year at COP26 in Glasgow,”

The push for higher ambition though supported by the European Union and small island states was opposed by a range of countries including the US, Brazil, India and China.

In the end a compromise was reached with the richer nations having to show that they have kept their promises on climate change in the years before 2020.

Only a few countries came up with new targets at these talks, but the hope is that next year there will be more. It is thought however that strong public and political pressure will be needed to achieve effective, new targets as the latest talks were characterised by bickering over technical details. Brazil, Australia, the US, China and other major emitters were all accused of holding up progress.

The EU came up with the strongest new plan, finally agreeing a bloc-wide goal of reaching net-zero carbon by 2050. Many of the smaller countries agreed similar long-term targets, but other major emitters held back.

The fact that next year’s big climate conference will be held in Glasgow puts enormous pressure on the UK Prime Minister. Environmentalists have warned him that he will be humiliated if he tries to lead other nations whilst the UK is still failing to meet its own medium-term climate targets.

Climate advisers in the UK have informed him that tens of millions of homes still need to be properly insulated while other experts have warned the Prime Minister that his plans to build £28.8bn of roads are not compatible with eliminating CO2 emissions. Added to that experts also say that even having fully electric cars won’t solve the problem completely and are urging the government to help people walk and cycle to benefit their health and the environment. Further to this any expansion in aviation will increase emissions. Currently, the US won’t discuss climate change in any trade deal made with the UK while the EU is putting a border tax on countries that don’t cut greenhouse gases. This puts the UK government in a difficult position.

Pleas from activists who staged a 500,000 strong march through Madrid made no difference to the tempo and strength of ambition of the talks. In fact, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish school striker, said the last year of protests had “achieved nothing” as countries were still failing to bring forward the measures needed.

Furious activists spoke out at UN COP25:

 “Stop taking up space with your false solutions.”

Many delegates who attended the climate conference were also unhappy with the deal, feeling it did not reflect the urgency of the science.

Spain’s acting Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said the mandate was clear.

“Countries have to present more ambitious NDCs (nationally determined contributions) in 2020 than what we have today because it is important to address science and the demands of people, as well as commit ourselves to do more and faster.”

in 2020 than what we have today because it is important to address science and the demands of people, as well as commit ourselves to do more and faster.”

Overall, negotiators were happy to have kept the process alive despite the rather difficult and complex talks in Madrid.

This conference was not expected to produce a significant breakthrough on new emissions targets. It was however hoped that a spirit of cooperation and a resolution to act would set the stage for higher ambition next year.

Chema Vera, the interim executive director of Oxfam International, said:

“The world is screaming out for action, but this summit responded with a whisper. The poorest nations are in a sprint for survival, yet many governments have barely moved from the starting blocks. Instead of committing to more ambitious cuts in emissions, countries have argued over technicalities.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was disappointed by the result:

“The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

Laurence Tubiana from the European Climate Foundation, and an architect of the Paris agreement, described the result as “really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed.”

“Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations, but thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters.”

Helen Mountford, a vice-president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, said:

“These talks reflect how disconnected country leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens in the street. The can-do spirit that birthed the Paris agreement feels like a distant memory today. Instead of leading the charge for greater ambition, most major emitters have been missing in action.”

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), The world is now nearly one degree Celsius warmer than it was before widespread industrialisation. The 20 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 22 years, with the years from 2015-2018 making up the top four.

Temperatures could rise by 3-5c by the end of this century according to the WMO. It has long been believed that a threshold of 2C is the gateway to dangerous warming. In recent times scientists and policy makers have argued that keeping temperature rise to within 1.5C is a safer limit for the world. However, an IPPC report in 2018 advised that keeping to the 1.5C target would actually require  “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

The conference saw widespread recognition that long-term targets are not enough, and the pressure is now on to forge a short-term climate plan for the next 10 years.

Katherine Kramer, the global climate lead at Christian Aid said:

“The UK now has a gargantuan task of overseeing a successful climate summit in Glasgow next year. That meeting is supposed to be the moment the world responds to the climate crisis by strengthening the pledges made in the Paris agreement. To avoid failure, the UK will need to put its own house in order, in creating and implementing policies to rapidly reduce its own emissions.”

Nottingham Set to Become the UK’s First Carbon-Neutral City by 2028

Nottingham

As international concerns mount over the environmental issues facing the world today, Nottinghamshire have taken steps to ensure that everything is being done to tackle climate change. The environment is more and more at the forefront of people’s minds as climate activists such as Extinction Rebellion take to the streets to protest that nowhere near enough is being done. Demonstrations have taken place in Nottingham and climate activists have continued to urge authorities to declare a ‘climate emergency’.

In recent years Nottingham city has experienced poor air quality which has led to the authorities taking action and introducing several schemes to reduce the environmental impact of city life.

Businesses, councils and public bodies are looking at what they can do to improve the environment for the people around them.

Nottingham City Council’s announcement in January this year that it intended to become the UK’s first carbon-neutral city by 2028, was the latest step in years of ambitious, innovative and forward-thinking environmental policymaking that has already yielded amazing results.

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Nottingham met its 2020 target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26% four years early; more than 40% of all journeys in Nottingham are made on public transport and solar panels have been installed on more than 4,000 council houses.

Council buildings have cut their energy consumption by 39% and it is on target to generate 20% of it’s energy from low-carbon sources by next year.

Last year it was decided that a Clean Air Zone was not needed after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs concluded that the city’s air pollution had fallen.

The council was recognised for its vision and persistence when it was named the overall winner in the Guardian’s Public Service Awards.

The Guardian’s public services editor, David Brindle said:

“This has been the year when argument over the climate crisis finally ended and the imperative for radical action became widely understood. Many public services are still barely off the starting blocks in the race to tackle the emergency, but Nottingham has shown what can be done through inspired leadership and gritty determination. In scrutinising every aspect of its own practice and taking bold steps to shape behaviour in the wider community, the city council has truly set the bar for excellence in how public agencies must respond to the threat to the planet.”

Every year, 180,000 tonnes of Nottingham’s household waste is burned at the Eastcroft incinerator, on London Road. This then heats water, which is pumped around 5,000 homes, and 100 business premises for heating and hot water.

Thermal-imaging drones are used to check the network, alerting engineers as to where the problems might be and saving significant amounts of time and money.

New, fully electric taxis are being gradually rolled out. By December this year, the aim is to have 132 electric taxis, saving around £234,000 a year in fuel costs, and reducing their carbon dioxide output by 154 tonnes.

By the end of the year Nottingham City Transport will have 120 biogas buses on the road, helping to emit 7.5m kg less of CO2 per year, and 59,000kg less of NOX per year. 

Greater Nottingham also has one of the largest electric bus fleets in Europe, with nearly 60 electric buses.

The Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change was created in Nottingham almost 20 years ago and was signed by more than 300 councils up and down the country.

This declaration was commended by Friends of the Earth and constituted a political commitment to tackling climate change long before it has the attention it does now.

At the time this was a breakthrough in political support by councils and means that Nottingham has been synonymous with tackling climate change for almost two decades.

Sally Longford, the Labour council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for energy and environment said that Making the carbon neutral commitment was only possible because of the work that had gone before especially the efforts of her predecessor in the environment role, councillor Alan Clark, who died in 2017.

She said:

“He was determined to make progress and drove forward quite a lot of the early development. We got a lot of stick over the years. People thought we were anti-car, because we introduced various schemes to try and reduce car usage and congestion. But it has paid off. When I was talking to the officers about how far we could push this they were confident we could go further than other councils because of all the work we’d already done.”

Nottingham City Council spent £25m on its own gas and electricity company, Robin Hood Energy. It is the UK’s first publicly owned not-for-profit energy company and as of July last year, all its energy comes from renewable sources. Originally funded by the city council it is now paying back loans it received, as well as turning a small profit, which it has re-invested into schemes designed to help customers lower their energy usage.

With around 115,000 customers, it supplies clean energy to thousands of homes and business, both inside Nottingham and elsewhere in the country. 

It also has ‘white label’ affiliations – essentially partnerships with other local authorities which mean its energy can be bought by people living across the country from companies like ‘RAM Energy’ in Derby, ‘Leccy’ in Liverpool, and Angelic Energy in Islington.

The city council has also installed tens of thousands of solar panels across the county including on 4,000 council houses.

Together, they’ve created 10 million Kw/h – that’s enough to power a single TV for the next 11,415 years until the year 13,434 AD.

Nottingham City Homes has also carried out 40,000 energy efficiency measures, including 14,221 more efficient boilers, 4,140 loft installations and 12,588 cavity wall measures as well as installing the solar panels on council houses.

They also have a huge solar farm in Gedling complete with 6 beehives which creates enough energy for 1,000 homes a year.

Further to all this the largest community battery in Europe is being installed in Nottingham. This giant battery built by Tesla powers homes in the Trent Basin development, which is part of the 250-acre Waterside Regeneration area next to the Trent. It’s connected to the grid as well as storing energy from solar panels. When electricity is cheap overnight, the battery can store it to be used at peak times. These homes also have ground-source heat pumps and heat stores, making them among the most eco-friendly in the country.

It is clear from looking at all the measures being taken to tackle climate change in Nottingham that the Council are making a concerted effort to reach their goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral city by 2028.

Councillor Sally Longford, said:

“We’re really proud of the work we’re already doing to try to improve the local environment and do our bit to tackle climate change. We’re constantly looking into new ways of adding to the wide range of projects and services already implemented or underway which play their part in reducing our carbon footprint as a council and a city and improving the air quality for everyone. We have one of the best networks of sustainable transport in the country and have been turning our waste into energy for years rather than sending it to landfill. We are adding to these great assets by pioneering many new approaches to deal with the climate emergency, such as piloting virtually zero carbon homes, developing community batteries linked to solar power and making it increasingly viable to consider electric vehicles with the UK’s first Eco Expressway and a network of public charging points. All of this means we are taking a lead on climate change and are committed to becoming the first carbon neutral city by 2028.”

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City Parks Have Potential to Heat 50,000 Homes Using Heat Pumps

Park London

The many parks and playing fields of Glasgow have long been the pride of the city but now scientists believe they could be its power too.

Calculations by engineers indicate that having heat pumps under these green spaces could warm up to 49,000 homes.

Being greener than most cities, Glasgow has been identified as the local authority area in Scotland with highest untapped capacity for ground source energy.

It has been revealed that Glasgow which is keen to be Scotland’s first city to achieve zero net carbon is purposefully considering such technology.

A report recently created as part of the Powering Parks project, by climate charity Possible, Hackney Council and Scene, a social enterprise is exploring the potential benefits of installing heat pumps under green spaces.

According to this new report putting heat pumps under parks and public green spaces could provide warmth for up to 5 million homes. If this potential was harnessed, 30 gigawatts equivalent to 10% of the country’s total peak heat demand could be generated as well as UK carbon emissions being cut by 8 million tonnes each year more than 2% of UK emissions.

The study finds that using a heat pump would also avoid the contribution to local air pollution that a new gas boiler would make.

Saughton Park in Edinburgh already has heat pump technology, which works like a fridge in reverse to generate warmth from the difference in two temperatures.

The report calculates that Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and the capital all have substantial ground source heat potential.

Climate charity, Possible said that Glasgow alone could use its parks and other green spaces to meet 297 megawatts of peak heat demand, cutting UK carbon emissions by 83,000 tonnes each year. The study looks at how installing heat pumps under public green spaces could help to tackle climate change, improve air quality as well as generate income for councils and park authorities to re-invest locally.

The report also revealed that the equivalent of five million homes could be warmed with clean heat by putting heat pumps under parks and public green spaces in the whole of the UK.

According to the report Birmingham City Council is the local authority with the greatest ground source heat potential from public green spaces in the UK. The London Borough of Richmond came first when considering the potential from parks only.

To prove the model works a heat pump will be trialled in Hackney and any learnings will be shared with other local authorities in the UK.  Climate change charity 10:10 Climate Action is working with Hackney Council and energy consultants Scene to explore whether ground source and water-based heat pumps in parks and green spaces could be used to generate sustainable energy for heating nearby buildings, offering stable, low risk revenue in the process.

The Powering Parks project could see buildings being able to switch from using fossil fuels and save money or generate income for the council. Previously an internationally acclaimed Solar Schools project run by 10:10 Climate Action helped schools boost budgets, built relationships with the community and cut carbon emissions by raising money to install solar panels. They now hope to see success with parks and heat pumps.  A similar scheme is already operating in Edinburgh.

Neil Jones, project manager at Possible, said:

“Heating is a carbon bomb in the UK. One-third of all UK greenhouse gas emissions comes from heating and yet it’s often overlooked. But, in order to effectively tackle the climate crisis, finding ways to warm our homes and buildings with low carbon heat must be a priority. What’s so exciting about this report is that it not only offers a way to kick-start a society built on clean heat, it offers both economic and health benefits at the same time. It’s a win-win-win.”

Deputy Mayor of Hackney, Cllr Feryal Demirci, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to look at ways of making our parks and buildings more sustainable and for us to continue to invest in our beautiful parks and green spaces for our residents to enjoy.”

Alice Casey, Head of New Operating Models at Nesta, said:

“Our aim is to help parks innovate to ensure they can sustain and develop as free, open and truly valued community spaces for the future. Parks are wonderful, free public resources, that communities, treasure; particularly in urban environments. They support activity, health and wellbeing, as well as play, socialising and connection to nature. Rethinking Parks will demonstrate ways to ensure that our parks will continue to be protected and loved by communities everywhere for generations to come.”

The project is funded by the Rethinking Parks programme from global innovation foundation Nesta. The first phase will consider whether the scheme is feasible. If successful, the project will share learning with other parks authorities to allow them to roll out similar programmes.

Max Wakefield, lead campaigner at 10:10 Climate Action, said:

“While this scorching summer has seen the public flood into the UK’s parks, it’s one of the clearest signs yet that our climate is changing fast. To avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to rapidly cut carbon and that means stopping burning gas and oil to heat our buildings. Heat pumps are one way to do that and what’s so exciting about this project is the possibility of tackling climate change and helping protect the green spaces all of us value so much at the same time.”

Though Scotland is one of the countries in the EU with the highest proportion of renewables in its electricity supply it also has the least renewable heating, still heavily reliant on gas mostly with individual boilers.

Louise Waters, senior consultant at Scene, said:

“Parks are unique in their ability to cultivate a space where all sections of society mix. So, it’s incredibly exciting to be able to demonstrate their role in creating climate solutions. We’ve shown how previously untapped heat, stored in the ground below lawns and playing fields and replenished by nature, provides a huge part of the solution for low-carbon heat for our buildings, made possible through the wonder of heat pumps.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said:

“De-carbonising Glasgow’s heating systems has to be an essential part of the city’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2030. We are currently investigating a wide range of options that will have the potential to minimise the carbon emissions produced by heating the city. Glasgow has thousands of hectares of parks and open spaces and ground-source heating networks are currently part of our considerations.”

Saughton Park is going green after installing a £500,000 turbine on a weir on the Water of Leith. It also has two ground-source heat pumps.

Shona Nelson, chairwoman of the Friends of Saughton Park, said:

“The micro-hydro is the last piece of the jigsaw in the re-development of Saughton Park and we think it will really put the park on the map.”

The scheme was part of a ParkPower project being developed by GreenSpace Scotland, a charitable social enterprise.

The park is lit using the hydro power plant while its buildings are heated from the ground.

Importantly, Ground, air and water sourced heat pumps are all being recognised as a safe and carbon-free alternative to Scotland’s gas central heating systems.

On the whole engineers prefer water-sourced systems. An example of this is the major heat pump district heating system being built in Clydebank, at the old John Brown shipyard.

Another scheme in Orkney is heating public buildings using the sea. The heat pumps used for the Warehouse buildings in Stromness cost half the price of conventional fossil fuel boilers and have half the carbon footprint.

In Orkney public buildings are being heated using the sea. This scheme sees heat pumps being used for the Warehouse buildings in Stromness which costs half the price of conventional fossil fuel boilers and has half the carbon footprint.

Well designed, installed and operated heat pumps can be very energy efficient. Over time, as grid electricity is increasingly sourced from renewables, the electricity used by heat pumps will also become lower carbon.

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Plans Go Ahead for Green Housing Revolution

Green Home

Homes, both new and existing, account for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK making the reduction of carbon emissions from new homes essential to meeting the Government’s net zero emissions target.

At a Conservative party conference in October this year a new green standard for new build homes was announced which will bring an environmental revolution to home building in the UK. The new green standard will tackle climate change while keeping household bills low.

Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, revealed the Future Homes Standard which sets minimum environmental standards for new buildings and will see polluting fossil fuel heating systems such as gas boilers banned from new homes by 2025. They will be replaced with the latest generation of clean technology to include air source heat pumps and cutting-edge solar panels.

A consultation on stronger building regulations that paves the way for the Future Homes Standard launched just hours after Mr Jenrick spoke at the conference and was set to run until January 2020.

Views are also being sought on how changes to building regulations can drive down the carbon footprint of homes built after 2025 including changes to the ventilation and efficiency requirements as well as the role of councils in getting the best energy standards from developers.

The government said that the consultation will cover “proposed options to increase the energy efficiency requirements for new homes in 2020”, while the standard itself will see fossil fuel heating systems “banned from new homes by 2025”.

The 2020 changes aim to improve the environment by cutting carbon emissions in new homes by almost a third, while keeping bills low.

Developers will need to ensure they are doing their bit to tackle the threat of climate change by cutting carbon emissions using these new technologies.

The new green standard for all new build homes will be helped by an ambitious overhaul of planning rules to create a simpler system that works for all and the publication of the first ever Government design manual to promote the building of beautiful new homes.

Ministers will also consult on a new blueprint to revamp the planning system in order to create a simpler, fairer system that works for everyone from homeowners to small and medium businesses, local communities to housing developers.

Plans have also been announced by the government for a new national design code to be published in the new year which will ensure that developers build beautiful, well designed homes that people are proud to live in.

The National Design Guide will set out a blueprint for how local authorities can achieve quality and great design, and recommends what developers need to deliver to help win the support of communities, ensuring new homes are built quicker and better.

In the months ahead every single local authority across the country is expected to create their own design guide to not only meet the national standard but to reflect their unique setting, character and history.

It is thought that developments in the fabric of the buildings such as insulation and heating will help to reduce the cost of keeping the home warm resulting in homeowners paying less for their energy bills.

Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

“Building new homes isn’t just about bricks and mortar, I want to ensure everyone including developers do their bit to protect the environment and give the next generation beautiful, environmentally friendly homes that local communities can support.

That’s why I am requiring carbon emissions are cut by up to 80% from 2025 for all new homes and have published a National Design Guide, setting out simply what we expect from new development.

We are also reforming the planning system making it faster and more efficient for everyone, from households to large developers, alongside giving families greater freedom to extend their homes to meet their changing needs.”

There will be a further consultation on the Future Homes Standard in the months ahead to cover proposals for changes to the energy efficiency standards of non-domestic buildings and for building work to existing homes and non-domestic buildings as well as on the prevention of overheating in buildings.

As the Green housing revolution is realised the expertise of sustainability-driven contractors such as Solihull’s ORBS Electrical will no doubt be essential.

The team at Orbs Electrical have almost 30 years’ experience in offering electrical and mechanical design, engineering and installation solutions across the UK and they pride themselves on their adaptability and flexibility.

Managing Director at Orbs Electrical, Clive Pinnick said:

 “An ability to change and adapt working practices is a necessity in an industry where pressures to reduce energy consumption, make cost savings, reduce waste and incorporate new technologies are all increasing.

This philosophy of flexibility drives everything the firm does and has been realised in several landmark “green” projects for ORBS.

We have been instrumental in realising the sustainable aspirations of the University of Birmingham’s Green Heart Project.”

The university of Birmingham’s Green Heart Project has incorporated within 12 acres of green space an LED lighting scheme with individually controlled fittings, sustainably sourced timber lighting and an energy-generating footpath system.

Clive Pinnick said:

“Additionally, a design brief for the Milton Keynes Museum that we worked on require the project to be completely carbon neutral.

We designed and installed a multi-rooftop solar photovoltaic array; this will generate an estimated 60,000-kilowatt hours of energy a year enough to boil 24,000 kettles and make 2.88 million cups of tea!”

With climate change high on the global agenda, we are all being encouraged to reflect on how our lives impact the planet and to look at ways of making more sustainable choices from the groceries we buy to the journeys we make. And while cutting single-use plastics and reducing car journeys, are sensible strategies, we can make an even bigger difference by considering the eco credentials of our homes.

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How Scottish Power Plans to Boost the Green Energy Capacity on its Wind farm Sites

wind farm Scotland

Scottish Power has announced it plans to put solar panels and batteries next to its wind turbines up and down the country. Their plan is to ‘squeeze maximum potential’ from clean energy sources to help the UK hit net zero carbon. Scotland is on the verge of a power revolution from the sun since the energy giant disclosed their plans.

Scottish Power are developing more than 1,000MW of new onshore wind capacity. Plans have begun for a major expansion of onshore windfarm projects across Scotland. Almost 100 sites for a new generation of windfarm have been considered by the renewable energy arm of this big six power supplier. The idea for the new generation of wind farms is to use a smaller number of more powerful wind turbines and to fit with solar panels and batteries to generate clean electricity. Although most of the sites are in Scotland a few are being considered in Ireland.

Permission is being sought to build its first solar power projects beneath the blades of its existing windfarms in Cornwall, Lancashire and Coldham.

This major breakthrough for renewable electricity in the UK was revealed at the global climate emergency summit in Madrid and will mean that electricity will be produced even when the wind doesn’t blow as light will be harnessed instead.

Depending on whether ground conditions are suitable for panels, Scottish Power hopes to include solar panels in the vast majority of its future onshore windfarms across Scotland and Ireland.

Keith Anderson, the Scottish Power’s chief executive, said:

“Every green megawatt of electricity will be crucial if we stand any chance of hitting net zero in 2050. This means squeezing the absolute maximum potential out of every clean energy project that we consider. This means squeezing the absolute maximum potential out of every clean energy project that we consider. In the UK and Ireland, the perfect blend of clean power from onshore renewables should include a mixture of clean energy technologies.”

According to the Committee on Climate Change, though Scottish Power is developing more than 1,000MW of new onshore wind capacity, the UK will need to build at least this capacity of onshore wind every year for the next three decades if it hopes to meet its 2050 climate targets. CCC believes that this steady rollout is necessary, in addition to building offshore windfarms at four times the present rate.

Keith Anderson said:

 “As well as retrofitting additional technologies to existing sites, as we are already doing, our strategy going forward will see us deliver hybrid projects as standard. In the next 18 months I believe hybrids will be the new normal for all renewable energy developers. The costs for building wind, solar and batteries have reduced considerably in recent years, and they complement each other very well. They perform best at different times of the day and at different times of the year.”

Scottish Power believe that in some cases, adding 10MW panels and 10MW of energy storage could double the green energy capacity of small windfarm sites.

The new strategy comes one year after ScottishPower became the first integrated energy company in the UK to solely generate 100 per cent renewable energy.

ScottishPower is owned by Spanish giant Iberdrola, which has invested in major solar power stations, in places generally sunnier than Scotland. Putting solar, battery and wind resources together should reduce both the impact and cost of such developments.

Solar is already a prominent feature in Spain, the US, Mexico and Brazil for the wider Iberdrola group,

The largest solar project currently under construction in Europe is the 500MW Nunez de Balboa solar scheme in the south of Spain.

Plans for a 50-Megawatt battery at the UK’s largest wind farm, Whitelee, outside Glasgow have already been approved by the Scottish Government.

Although Glasgow is known to be one of Europe’s darkest cities much of Scotland enjoys long, light days in the summer when there is less wind.

Bids have been made by both Glasgow and Edinburgh to become Britain’s first net zero carbon cities.

Lindsay McQuade, the chief executive of ScottishPower Renewables, said:

“Scottish Power is developing an ambitious pipeline of onshore renewables that could deliver investment, create jobs and power our lives in the most economical way possible – if the commitment of net zero is to be a reality, I expect to see support from government to match it. There is broad political consensus to decarbonise our economy as rapidly as possible so that we live and work in a clean, green and sustainable manner. We expect cross-party commitment to deliver a viable route to market for onshore wind, the cheapest form of new electricity generation.”

Scotland has long been tipped as a renewable energy powerhouse, though more because of its wind and tides than because of its sunshine.

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Does the UK Already have the Technology to be Zero Carbon?

Passivehaus

The Campaign against Climate Change believes that net global emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced to zero as quickly as possible and that this should be the main goal of the entire global community working together through a fair and binding international climate treaty.  

Some sections of the global community have a greater responsibility to reduce emissions more and faster than others. Being part of the richer developed world the UK, which has a higher per capita level of greenhouse gas emissions as well as being the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution has an enormous historical carbon footprint. They believe that the UK can and should do its fair share to reduce global emissions and be prepared if necessary, to lead the way. Britain was indeed the first major nation to propose cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero, promising to do so by 2050.

The Campaign against Climate Change is calling for a target of around zero net carbon and zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in the face of an immense threat from catastrophic destabilisation of global climate. They cannot be certain that this will be enough to prevent catastrophe and they do not pretend that it will be easy, but they are sure that with political will and an abundance of urgency and determination it is possible. 

The Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales has been working through its Zero Carbon Britain Project on a strategy for rapid decarbonisation of the British economy for many years.

CAT has produced a report which says that a net zero-carbon Britain is already possible without having to rely on future developments. According to this new report greenhouse gas emissions can be eliminated in the UK using only the proven technology available. This way the UK can do its part in addressing the climate emergency.

The report, ‘Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency’ shows how this can be done by changes to energy, buildings, transport, industry, diets and land use. These changes cover reducing energy demand by 60%, providing 100% renewable energy and cutting emissions from agriculture and industry at the same time as capturing natural carbon through reforestation and peatland restoration.

The Powys based charity, CAT believes that changes to buildings, transport and industry could help significantly reduce energy demand to 60% in the UK.

Project Coordinator, Paul Allen said:

“We have the technology to combat climate change and we can start today.”

The Centre for Alternative Technology claims that making changes to energy, diets and land use could help provide 100% renewable energy at the same time as cutting emissions from agriculture and industry.

The amalgamation of ‘powering down’ energy use by increasing efficiency and behaviour change, ‘powering up’ clean renewable energy supplies and transforming land use could lead the UK to being able to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions without depending on as yet unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage or direct air capture.

Project Coordinator, Paul Allen went on to say:

“Relying on speculative future technology to get to net zero risks overshooting the remaining carbon budget, resulting in the very real possibility of global temperature rises of 2°C or more.

“By modelling a zero-carbon scenario using only technology that is ready to be rolled out at scale, CAT’s research shows that there is no good reason to take this risk. We have the technology to combat climate change, and we can start today.”

Mr. Allen said that using alternatives to already proven technology that is ready to be rolled out at scale was “not worth the risk”.

The UK government, however, has described carbon capture as a ‘game changing technology’ in addressing climate change and has said that the country’s first project should be operational by next year.

Some of the key features of the Zero Carbon Britain model include having high ‘Passivhaus’ standards for new buildings, retrofitting all existing buildings and improving temperature control. Doing this could cut energy demand for heating by around 50%. Passivhaus is a building performance standard that anyone setting out to build a low-energy home might be interested in. The universal features of this building performance standard are massive insulation (average depth 300mm), triple glazing with insulated frames, extreme airtightness levels (must score better than 0.6 air changes per hour) and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

Another of the key features of the Zero Carbon Britain model involves transport and advises reducing how much we travel and changing how we travel. Suggested ways of doing this are, making more use of public transport, walking, cycling, switching to efficient electric vehicles and cutting down air travel by two thirds. It is thought that this could reduce energy demand for transport by 78%.

CAT said that new houses should be built to high Passivhaus standards that could reduce energy costs to just £15 per year by using insulated masonry and concrete, triple glazing, LED lighting and air-source heat pumps. Some of these changes could also be fitted to existing buildings to improve temperature control and potentially cut heating use by around 50%.

The report illustrates how it is possible to supply 100% of the UK’s ‘powered down’ energy demand using renewable and carbon neutral energy sources without ever needing fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

Many different renewable energy sources are suited to the UK including, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal and others. These sources could be used to produce electricity and heat with wind energy providing around half of the energy supply. Most of the energy (around 66%) in a zero carbon Britain could be supplied by electricity.

An important part could be played by using carbon neutral synthetic fuels where it is not possible to use electricity. Examples of where it might be required are in some areas of industry and transport or as a back up for the energy system.

It is possible to fully match the UK’s entire energy demand, based on the past decade’s weather and energy use by using renewable and carbon neutral energy if CAT’s recommendations are adhered to according to their report.

To make sure that energy is always available CAT’s researchers analysed 10 years of weather data to see how much energy could be captured by renewable energy systems. By matching this to 10 years of energy demand platforms, adjusted to take account of the modelled energy savings researchers were able to plan for possible shortfalls. 74% of the time the hourly modelling shows a surplus of energy with energy provided at other times by shifting demand using smart appliances and by storing energy.

Batteries, pumped storage and heat storage can be used for short-term energy storage over hours or days, whilst hydrogen and carbon neutral synthetic gas (for quick dispatchment into the electricity grid when needed) can be used for long-term energy storage over weeks or months.

CAT Chief Executive Officer, Peter Tyldesley said:

“CAT’s research shows how the UK could achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in a way that also helps improve our quality of life and enhances biodiversity. What’s now urgently needed is a UK Zero Carbon Action Plan with policy frameworks and large-scale investment to support the roll out of these solutions as quickly as possible.”

The CAT report highlights the multiple additional benefits that not only improvement in air quality and a reduction in fuel poverty can bring but improvement to health and well-being via better diets and more exercise. Further to this, other benefits include the creation of green energy and an increase in biodiversity both through tackling climate change and through freeing up land to allow nature to thrive.

CAT is urging politicians to come up with action plans with policy frameworks and large-scale investment as a matter of urgency.

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