Monday, 23 October 2006

Stopping Standby

The EU's energy commssioner wants to set new energy efficiency standards for electrical appliances acrosss the continent. These rules, targeted at the European Union's 480 million consumers, would reduce energy use by 20% by 2020.

Why wait? You can start saving energy (and money!) at home and at work right now. One of the easiest and most painless things you can do is slay your electrical "vampires". These are appliances that consume electricity even when you think they're switched off. Think about that for a minute - even when they're not doing anything useful, those little boxes are costing you money and energy.

I've gone around my house and spotted at least 20 of these standby devices - the microwave, the answering machine, the television and set-top box, even the charger for my beloved iPod.

Let's assume for a moment that each of these devices uses 5 watts of electricity on standby. If each of them sits unused for, say, 22 hours per day, that's 350 kilograms of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere - about the same as some short-haul flights.

350 kilograms is only a fraction of the CO2 emissions from the average UK household, but switching these items off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby would save nearly £45 in electricity costs. It's an easy and painless way to save money. And that would cover the cost of offsetting the remaining emissions from household electricity and gas.

Stopping standby is only one way you can reduce your emissions. We'd love to hear your suggestions.

Drop us a line at blog at

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

A Long, Hot Summer

October 21st is National Apple Day here in the UK. But in my neighbourhood the apples ripened and fell from the trees a month ago. The leaves are still green and the grass is growing. My colleague Mark tells me that tomatoes are still growing in his back garden. People are walking around in T-shirts.

All this in late October, in England.

It's not just people who are noticing the change:

"The redwing, a species of thrush that was once a frequent visitor from Scandinavia in winter, is disappearing from our skies. 'It used to fly to Scotland to eat our berries and avoid the freezing conditions of its Scandinavian homeland, but now winters have become so mild over there, it is staying put,' said Paul Stancliffe of the British Trust for Ornithology."

The scientific community was convinced ages ago that climate change is real. But there's nothing like seeing with your own eyes what a warmer world will look like.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Thursday, 19 October 2006

U.S. Companies Expect Climate Change Law By 2010

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change reports that many companies in the United States are beginning to address their climate change impact now. Their moves are in anticipation of eventual U.S. action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“If you look at what is happening today at the state level and in the Congress, a proactive approach in the policy arena clearly makes sound business sense” said the Pew Center’s Eileen Claussen. “In the corporate world, inaction is no longer an option."

"All companies will be affected to varying degrees, and all have a managerial and fiduciary obligation at least to assess their business exposure to decide whether action is prudent."

Trees That Work Harder

We've known for a long time that trees absorb the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere. In fact, tree planting is an approved carbon offsetting approach under the Kyoto Protocol's "Clean Development Mechanism" - signed by the UK and 165 other governments.

But planting trees in developing countries can do more than fight climate change - it can create a "virtuous circle" of environmental and social improvement.

Desertification affects over 250 million people worldwide, as climate change and poor management practices in the past cause vital agricultural land to be lost to deserts. With less land to grow food, insecurity and poverty become more of a threat. Now trees are helping local communities fight back.

Tree roots prevent soil from being blown away by the wind, and can help replenish the soil. Meanwhile, the branches and leaves provide shade for smaller bushes and crops. The leaves and fruit of the trees provide food and medicines for the community, and nutrients to fortify the soil. This helps farmers grow more food and fodder for their livestock, and the livestock's manure enriches the soil even further.

Thanks to an ambitious tree planting programme, Niger, a country on the borders of the Sahara Desert, has managed to reclaim 250,000 hectares of degraded land and return it to production. Local farmers, and especially women, are seeingthe benefit:

"Thanks to the increase in the vegetation coverage, we are not dependent on others any more," said Idder Addo, a 60-year-old farmer from Batoudi, near Tahoua. "We can do vegetable and fruit plantations that bring us money."

"Women can spend more time developing crops, they have more money, and then they can do other businesses such as livestock and forestry. That means their children can go to schools and their land is more valued...Child mortality has dropped in the region as well, partly thanks to food diversification, [Nigerien Agronomics Research Institute researcher Germaine] Ibro said.

At Carbon Clear, we're strong supporters of efforts like these. We recognise that people in the developing world are most at risk from climate change. That's why we invest in tree planting projects to help local farmers restore degraded land and reduce their vulnerability, while absorbing CO2. And of course, we employ rigorous monitoring and tracking to ensure that the climate benefits from these projects are real.

The developing world needs a lot more trees. When you buy an offset package from Carbon Clear, you're contributing to this effort.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

World urgently needs post-Kyoto climate deal: U.N.

Reuters reports that the United Nations wants immediate action to put in place rules for a post-Kyoto climate change agreement. The Kyoto climate treaty expires in 2012, and uncertainty about what comes next has limited long term investment from the corporate world.

"Business officials told the conference they needed long-term, stable regulations to invest in new clean energy technologies and develop the emissions trading market further.

"There has to be a value for the carbon beyond 2012 in order to drive the changes necessary ... The time to act is now," said Graeme Sweeney, Executive Vice President Renewables, Hydrogen and CO2 at oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

ABN AMRO's sustainable development director Richard Burrett agreed: "A lot of the technologies we are talking about have economic lives of 15-20-30 years. There is no way people will commit to invest with a scheme that runs out in 2012."

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Run Your Electric Meter In Reverse

Imagine if you could reduce your carbon footprint, and actually get the power company to pay you. My friend Andy knows how.

I first met Andy Kruse of Southwest Windpower back in 1996 when I used his wind turbines for a project I was managing in South Africa. He hasn't lost his passion for making CO2-free energy reliable and affordable.

Andy's company recently announced a new product that allows you to feed excess electricity back to the grid.

It's called reverse metering, and it has the potential to make renewable energy a more viable option for home power generation across the developed world.

Generating electricity with wind and other renewable energy systems is a great way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. But you may not need electricity at the exact moment the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. So you either have to let that power go to waste, or buy an expensive set of batteries to store it. Either way, that's more money spent.

With reverse metering, you connect your wind turbine or solar panels to the grid, and get credit from the utility for any power you don't need. With any luck, you're not only reducing your overall carbon emissions, but might actually make a little money.

Reverse metering is still very rare in the UK, but this arrangement could really change the economics of home power. Call your electric utility today and ask them about it.

Monday, 9 October 2006

Stern Report: Climate Change Costs Manageable, For Now

Nicholas Stern is a former World Bank economist commissioned by the UK Government to evaluate the economic costs of climate change. In a closed door briefing to world leaders at a climate change summit in Mexico, he warned yesterday that the costs of combatting global warming are manageable.

However, the longer we wait to take action, the more difficult it will be. What's more, the cost of environmental impacts from doing nothing will rise even faster.

The full Stern Report is due to be published here in a few days.

Saturday, 7 October 2006

All the Reductions, None of the Pain

Earlier this week, a New York Times journalist wrote about his efforts to go on a "carbon diet". He set a target of half a tonne of CO2 reductions and wanted to put the measures in place that very day. He had one clear ground rule: if the measure was unpleasant or painful, he wasn't going to do it.

That meant no energy saving lightbulbs if they made his home look like "the restroom in a bus station", and no way was he giving up his big-screen TV.

Guess what? He did it, by reprogramming the thermostat, switching appliances off instead of leaving them on standby, and similar simple acts.

Was this journalist being a bit selfish by demanding that his "carbon diet be painless"? Perhaps. Could he hadve done more? Definitely. But he was being realistic. If his carbon diet were unpleasant and something to dread, he knew he'd eventually give up. Better to start with the easy steps and work up to the difficult stuff.

At Carbon Clear we understand. That's why we encourage you to take the first step and reduce what you can. We'll offset the rest of your climate pollution this year. Next year you can reduce a little more, and offset a little less.

But you can get started now. It doesn't have to hurt.

(Link to Carbon Clear Website)

Friday, 6 October 2006

What Difference Can One Person Make?

Climate change is a huge problem. Global, in fact. It's easy to think that one person can't make much of a difference.

Easy, but wrong.

Global warming is happening because of the individual decisions each of us make every day. Our individual actions, summed up, got us where we are, and they can help solve this problem, too.

Carbon Clear was formed to help bring people together to tackle climate change. We pool the resources and brainpower of our individual supporters who want to scale up their carbon-reduction efforts.

Our fixed costs as a company rise much slower than our project-related expenses. This means that the more individual supporters we get, the greater the share of money we can put into work on the ground.

At present, nearly 70% of every penny we bring in goes directly to carbon reduction projects that improve local livelihoods. Most of the rest goes to identifying new projects, communicating with our customers, and growing the movement of people who work with us to solve this problem.

Each individual and company who joins us makes our work even more effective. We'd be thrilled if you could help us make a difference.

(Link to Carbon Clear website)