Tuesday, 11 December 2007

US Senate Passes Major Carbon Reduction Bill

The tide is turning.

First Australia signed Kyoto. Now the U.S. Senate has approved a bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions 70 percent by the year 2050. Carbon Clear is committed to bold action to fight climate change, and looks forward to seeing this measure turned into law.

The Senate bill, which calls for emission reductions of 70% below 2005 levels, must also be approved by the House of Representatives before the President signs it into law. It would affect virtually every sector of the U.S. economy, and signal decisive leadership in the effort to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Like the emissions caps under the Kyoto Protocol, the proposed U.S. rules would allow trading and carbon offsetting between polluters, so that emissions take place at the lowest possible economic cost to society.

According to the New York Times, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer called the measure "the greatest accomplishment of her 30-year career."

A 70% emissiosn cut would be great news. To be sure, it goes farther than the 60% cut originally proposed in the UK's own Climate Change Bill, and is a huge improvement on the original 12% overall cuts in the original Kyoto Protocol. And because the US is one of the world's largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, cuts of this magnituded will make a tangible difference in the fight to tackle climate change.

However, many scientists and activists think we need to reduce emissions by 80%. That's one reason Carbon Clear works with companies to help them achieve the maximum internal reductions possible, and then use carbon offset credits to achieve a 100% reduction.

In the fight against climate change, half measures aren't enough. Everyone needs to take bold action. Carbon Clear is here to help.

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Monday, 3 December 2007

Australia Joins the Fight Against Climate Change

Australia's new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, ratified the Kyoto Protocol today. It was his first official action after taking the oath of office.

According to the New York Times, "This is the first official act of the new Australian government, demonstrating my government's commitment to tackling climate change," Rudd said in a statement.

The previous government refused to back legally binding emisssions targets, arguing that they would harm the economy. The Times reports that this view has now shifted:

But a new report from the environment think tank the Climate Institute, written by government and university scientists, found that Australia's economy could easily cope with strong cuts in greenhouse emissions.

It said growth would fall by only 0.1 percent of gross domestic product annually if Australia set a target of 20 percent cuts in emissions by 2020 and aimed to be carbon neutral by 2050.

"Leading the way on climate is an affordable, prudent and achievable investment," Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said on Monday.

Australia's move means that the U.S. is the only industrialised country yet to endorse the global climate change agreement.

It would be interesting to see how this new commitment affects the existing carbon offsetting scheme set up under the previous government.

(Back to Carbon Clear)

Friday, 30 November 2007

Aligning Incentives for a Carbon Clear World

A new report by McKinsey & Co, a consulting firm, confirms what Carbon Clear has been saying all along: businesses and individuals can significantly lower their carbon footprint and save money at the same time.

The report says that the United States could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 28% at zero or even negative cost using readily available technology. Carbon Clear's own carbon management work with companies often uncovers even more low-cost carbon reduction options, from changing heating, cooling and lighting systems, to improving vehicle fleet efficiency or revisiting logistics plans. And, as one of the report's authors notes, "These changes have been around for 20 years."

Unfortunately, it isn't always so easy to put these low-carbon money-saving measures into practice.

Landlords and property developers often choose appliances, lighting systems and even building designs based on initial cost - regardless of efficiency. The tenant, with little influence over this initial decision, pays for the energy, either as part of their rent or via the utility bill.

In a nutshell, their incentives are not aligned for a low-carbon future. The landlord does not want to pay more for equipment that won't save her money, and the tenant doesn't get a say, even though he stands to benefit.

A thoughtful carbon management strategy can help better align low-carbon incentives. For example, the landlord and tenant could agree to share the monetary savings from carbon saving measures. In this case, the tenant should be willing to offset the cost of making energy efficiency investments, up to the value of the tenant's monthly utility bill savings. The extra money provides an incentive for the landlord to enact measures she would otherwise not consider. Everyone is better off and we've reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Clear can help design other, more sophisticated approaches but the basic principle is the same. Working together, we can create win-win situations that cut carbon.

This isn't just tinkering at the margins. The Swedish utility Vattenfall estimated that there are seven billion tonnes per year of money-saving CO2 reduction options out there. It's possible for us to align the incentives to make them happen.

And that's good news for the climate.

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Eurostar offsets traveller emissions with Carbon Clear

As part of its new Tread Lightly campaign, Eurostar is now providing high-speed carbon-neutral journeys for all its passengers, at no extra cost to the traveller. In addition to its overall plans to reduce its emissions by 25% per passenger journey by 2012, where it is unable to eliminate emissions from a train journey, Eurostar is now offsetting them at its own expense.

Eurostar is working with leading carbon management company Carbon Clear to provide the carbon credits. Following a very stringent selection process, Eurostar and Carbon Clear have worked together to identify suitable projects and are currently investing in an Indian windfarm in Tamil Nadu and a Chinese small hydropower plant. These projects provide both environmental and social benefits by displacing fossil fuels in two of the developing world’s most polluting nations, while helping provide much-needed electricity and employment in poor communities.

Carbon Clear and Eurostar are jointly developing other sustainable energy projects that provide alternatives to traditionally polluting technologies. These include upgrading engines in Philippine mini-taxis and improving the performance of brick-kilns in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Without Carbon Clear’s investment these projects would not happen.

Louisa Bell, Head of Environment for Eurostar, said: “We wanted to ensure that we sourced carbon credits from a reputable supplier, and that all our offsetting is done to the highest scientific and ethical standards. We wanted a company that is very close to its projects and could give us the opportunity to be involved in the choice of projects. Following an exacting selection process, we chose Carbon Clear to offset the emissions from Eurostar journeys.”

Mark Chadwick, CEO and founder of Carbon Clear, added: “Eurostar has a made a serious commitment to reduce its carbon footprint, and recognises that offsetting can reduce global emissions now whilst work continues on longer term measures. With Tread Lightly, Eurostar is one the greener options for short haul travel to Europe”.

Government unveils Carbon Offsetting Fund to combat emissions created by civil servants' flights

Sarah Griffiths, BusinessGreen, 12 Nov 2007

The government last week unveiled a new carbon offsetting fund, designed to offset the transport-related carbon emissions generated by a wide range of different public sector departments and organisations, including central government departments, Transport for London and the Royal Household.

DEFRA said government-funded projects will be undertaken in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, India, China and Brazil that "would ensure that the carbon footprint of Government air travel was neutralised by ensuring emissions were avoided elsewhere".

It added that the government fund, which will be managed by EEA Fund Management Ltd, is the first of its kind in the world and will offset all official air travel from central government since 2006 and all future air travel emissions from up to 40 public sector organisations.

"This kind of offsetting is a good way to deal with unavoidable emissions," said Jamal Gore, managing director of offsetting company Carbon Clear. "Without funding from carbon credits, many worthwhile clean energy projects in the developing world would simply not prove cost-effective."

However, Greenpeace spokesman Charlie Kronick argued the new fund would have minimal impact. "This is just plain hypocritical of the government," he said. " Off-setting is a book-keeping trick that can't stop climate change, because once you've burned jet fuel at altitude there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop your emissions changing the climate."

Environment Minister Phil Woolas admitted that offsetting was not a panacea, but argued it still had a valid role to play in tackling climate change. " Offsetting emissions from transport isn't the answer to climate change," he accepted. "However, it's right that we are leading by example and offsetting every ton of CO2 emitted through projects that avoid emissions in developing countries, create jobs and improve the local standard of living."

Original article courtesy of Business Green

Friday, 9 November 2007

The Price of Change

A few weeks ago, the European Environment Agency announced tighter carbon dioxide emissions quotas for the 2008-2012 time period.

This means the price of carbon will rise, and we will see faster action to address the threat of climate change.

Most EU nations have signed the Kyoto Protocol and agreed to legally binding greenhouse gas reductions. Each country, in turn, has set annual emissions targets for power plants, factories, and other large sources of greenhouse gas pollution. Their maximum pollution allowance is gradually reduced each year, and companies have to pay a hefty fine if they exceed their cap.

Policymakers recognise that some emissions reductions will be easier than others, so to help organisations meet their targets cost-effectively, the European Environment Agency has set up the Emissions Trading System (ETS). This is basically a carbon offsetting programme. Under the ETS, a power plant that reduces emissions more than is required can claim credits for the extra savings, and sell those carbon credits onto the market. A factory that exceeds its targets must pay for credits to balance out its extra greenhouse gas pollution or pay the fine.

Of course, if everyone exceeds their target you get lots of carbon credit sellers and no buyers. This is exactly what happened in 2007. The national targets were so generous that firms had to enact few new measures to reduce emissions. The market was floodded with carbon credits, and the price deopped from around Euro 20 in 2006 to just 30 cents a few weeks ago. It's hard to know whether the reductions that produced those credits would have happened anyway, and therefore how much the ETS actually helped the environment beyond business as usual.

The new emissions targets are good news because the European Environment Agency has gone out of its way to make the quotas as tight as possible. Overall, European nations had requested much higher limits for their power plants and factories. Bulgaria, for example, wanted permission to release 67 million tonnes of CO2, but received a target of only 42.3 million tonnes. Overall, the EU Environment Agency cut those requests by an average of 10%, setting an emissions cap of 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2.

As a result, the anticipated price of carbon credits in 2008 immediately started climbing. That means that a lot of more expensive and tougher greenhouse gas reduction measures are cost effective. And that's good news because it means faster action towards a low-carbon future.

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Carbon Clear Wins International Environmental Certification

Carbon Clear announced today that it is the first full-service carbon management firm to achieve ISO 14001:2004 compliance*. The internationally recognised Environmental Management System Standard was awarded to Carbon Clear by Certification International, a UK–based assessment body.

Carbon Clear helps other companies operate in a more responsible way, so it was essential that its own processes and environmental standards met the strict criteria of ISO 14001:2004. In improving its already effective environmental management systems, Carbon Clear has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to environmental progress, and increased its scope of potential customers to include the growing number of businesses requesting ISO certification.

As part of its environmental management system, Carbon Clear works to ensure that its staff, contractors and suppliers meet or exceed legal environmental requirements, whilst minimising the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to overall environmental improvement.

Carbon Clear’s major environmental initiatives include:

- Going beyond greenhouse gas emissions to document the broader environmental impact of both its UK operations and emissions reduction projects in developing countries

- Instituting a carbon-minimising travel policy for staff and consultants

- Developing a "green referral system" for clients seeking lower-carbon suppliers of business products and services

Commenting on the certification, Mark Chadwick, CEO, Carbon Clear, said: “Our customers expect environmental protection to be an integral part of how we do business. ISO 14001 certification shows that Carbon Clear ‘walks the talk’. As a company, we choose to lead by example as we help customers make the transition to a low-carbon economy.”


Notes to the Editors:

* Carbon Clear is the first full-service carbon management firm with ISO 14001 certification to be listed in the United Kingdom Register of Quality Assessed Companies, which includes entries for over 100,000 organisations. The Register includes companies both within and outside the UK.

For more information on Carbon Clear please contact Zoe Porteous at Boutique Communications on +44 (0)1273 620194 or email at zoe(_at_)boutiquecommunications.com.

About the ISO

ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardisation, located in Geneva, Switzerland. ISO promotes the development and implementation of voluntary international standards, both for particular products and for environmental management issues.

ISO 14001 is the global environmental management standard. It has been endorsed by the British Standards Institute as the national benchmark for certifying company environmental management systems. ISO 14001 treats environmental improvement as a continual process, not an endpoint. Companies that wish to gain ISO 14001 certification must: (1) develop an environmental policy, (2) review their business activities to determine their impact on the environment, (3) review relevant legislation, (4) develop objectives and targets for environmental improvement, (5) implement these measures and (6) assess progress on an ongoing basis.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Friday, 28 September 2007

Travel Green With Multimap and Carbon Clear

Multimap, Europe’s leading online mapping service provider, has enhanced its travel directions service to offer users information about the carbon footprint of journeys, as well as the ability to offset those journeys.

The service is provided through a partnership with Carbon Clear, a leading carbon management company that helps businesses and consumers manage their greenhouse gas emissions.

To use the carbon calculator, Multimap users click the “get directions” link on www.multimap.com, enter their journeys’ start and end points, click “find”, and are presented with step-by-step directions and route maps. The directions results now include information on the carbon footprint of the journey. A pull-down menu allows users to choose the correct engine size of their cars, and to compare the carbon footprint of the journey if they were to go by bus or train instead of driving. Users clicking on the “more info” link will find details of how the carbon footprint is calculated, and can visit the Carbon Clear website to take action to offset their journeys.

Multimap’s founder Sean Phelan, said, “We all know that driving has a negative effect on the environment. We’ve partnered with Carbon Clear to help raise users’ awareness of the impact of driving, and also to make it easier to offset the carbon emissions of those journeys. Carbon Clear invests in carbon-reducing projects that balance the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and we’re very pleased to support this work.”

Mark Chadwick, CEO and founder of Carbon Clear, added: “We’re really excited to be working together on this initiative. There is a real opportunity here to encourage behaviour change as so many people use Multimap to plan their journeys. It’s really important that we all understand the environmental impact of our travel. By using this innovative new tool everyone can get a much clearer picture of vehicle emissions and choose the lower-carbon option”.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

More Buy One Get One Tree Goodness from innocent and Carbon Clear

We all know we need to do our bit for the environment. Small things can make a big difference, so innocent has teamed up with Carbon Clear for its Buy one Get one Tree promotion in October. For every innocent smoothie carton sold in leading supermarkets, innocent will get a tree planted in one of Carbon Clear’s dedicated reforestation projects. All you have to do is log on and register your unique code, and the rest will be taken care of for you.

The aim of the Buy one Get one Tree initiative is to get over 100,000 trees planted in rural communities in Africa and India. The groups choose the varieties of trees that best suit their needs themselves, and our donation will ensure they are looked after for 30 years. A quick recap of why trees are so great:

• The trees we plant will provide income - the communities planting the trees receive regular payments for maintaining the trees. These payments help to protect the community against economic downturn or crop failure.

• Trees protect food crops - the planted trees reduce soil erosion and provide shade.

• Trees help provide a livelihood - the species planted offer a variety of agricultural crops plus nutritional and medicinal uses.

• Trees help combat climate change - they absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.

Jessica Sansom, sustainability manager, innocent drinks says “Buy one get one tree is all about making it simple for innocent smoothie drinkers to do their little bit. Trees have so many positive benefits to offer local communities from providing a source of income, to enriching the soil and providing shade. We’re really excited about the scheme”

Look out for innocent drinks in the chilled juice aisle of your store.

For more information on Carbon Clear please contact Zoe on 01273 620194 or email her at zoe@boutiquecommunications.com.

For more information on innocent, please contact Ailana on 020 8600 3958, or email her at ailana@innocentdrinks.co.uk.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Climate Change and the Ozone Layer

Reuters reports that delegates at the United Nations Environment Program conference in Montreal reached agreement last Friday to speed up the elimination of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), a powerful greenhouse gas. A tonne of HCFCs has 5,000 to 8,000 times as much global warming impact as a tonne of carbon dioxide, so phasing out these chemicals can make a big impact.

HCFCs are used as a refrigerant in air conditioners, refrigerators and other cooling equipment. They became popular after the 1987 Montreal Protocol, as a substitute for chemicals that had a more damaging effect on the ozone layer. As I mentioned in a blog post last year, one of the unintended consequences of the Montreal Protocol was the more widespread use of chemicals that contribute to global climate change.

Last Friday's agreement gives developed countries until 2010 to reduce HCFC emissions by 75% and phase them out completely by 2020. Developing countries, meanwhile, have agreed to a 10% cut by 2015, with a gradual phase-out by 2030. The phase-out would likely reduce global greehouse gas emissions by several billion tonnes.

This is great news. Eliminating HCFCs is by itself not enough to tackle climate change - after all there's no signle solution. But this is a useful addition to our collective toolkit. The Carbon Clear team is committed to finding the best set of tools to help clients control their carbon impact.

(Back to Carbon Clear homepage)

Friday, 21 September 2007

"This Really Matters"

American pollster Frank Luntz recently held a focus group to determine British attitudes towards climate change. During the session, broadcast on BBC's "Newsnight" programme, something interesting happened.

Luntz noted that when he asks about politics, he normally needs to do a few warm-up exercises to get the group talking. But from the very first question to this group of climate change "sceptics and believers", "he couldn't get them to shut up." Everyone wanted to have their say, and Luntz could barely get a word in edge-wise.

I've seen the same thing. When the Carbon Clear team goes in to help a company with its carbon management strategy, everyone wants to get involved. Decisions that, for a similar montary value would be decided in one hour by a single purchasing manager, become discussions that last for weeks or months and involve every major department and the board of directors.


Frank Luntz asked his focus group the same question, and I'll paraphrase the answer from one respondent:

"It's because this really matters. When you ask who's going to win the next election, it doesn't really matter. This - it matters."

I think that's the right answer. Climate change isn't someone else's problem - it's everyone's problem. People feel they have a stake in the outcome, and want to get involved.

The popular view is that companies make a statement on climate change to add a bit of "green" to their corporate credentials. The reality is that it's a major strategic decision, and corporate decision-makers increasingly realise that if they don't propose solutions, someone else will propose something instead. It's better to get involved in the process and try to find an approach that works.

The steps a company takes to respond to climate change can have a major effect on its future competitiveness. When we work with businesses to develop their carbon management strategy, we look at the entire value chain - the source of their raw materials, their suppliers, what type of energy source they use, how their goods are delivered, even how their staff get to and from work. No wonder there are so many meetings.

Taking serious measures to help tackle climate change can change how a company does business, influence how their customers perceive them, and ultimately affect how profitable they will be in the future. At Carbon Clear, we work with companies to make the right decisions, and help them take action as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible.

As Frank Luntz observed, things can get a bit noisy, but we're quietly pleased when everyone wants to get involved. It shows that our clients are giving this issue the attention it deserves.

(Back to the Carbon Clear homepage)

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Bellies vs. Fuel Tanks, Part 2

Has it been a year already?

In August 2006, I wrote a short post on the coming conflict between using corn, soya, and other crops to produce biofuels, and using them as food.

A few months later, environmental groups began campaigning actively around this issue. Now, in the face of rising grain prices in the U.S. and other countries, Governments have gotten in on the act.

Earlier this week, the Financial Times reported on the front page that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is criticising subsidies for biofuels made from food crops. The OECD is concerned that these measures are distorting the market and leading to food price inflation, without achieving significant greenhouse gas emissions savings. One credible study that I've seen estimates that we would need to use 60% of the planet's cultivable land to completely replace the petrol used in today's vehicles. This would, of course, never happen, so they're right in that regard.

What's more, food commodity prices are set at the margin, meaning that very small changes in supply and demand affect prices throughout the market. So even a small shift to biofuels is likely to cause price swings. So these changes are not unexpected. In fact, they generate healthy discussion by forcing us to confront how much we value these competing uses for food crops.

It's not too surprising that political leaders would sit up and pay attention to this issue now. Voters tend to complain a bit when the price of fuel rises, but things can get really ugly when the price of bread skyrockets.

Current-generation biofuels were never going to solve the problem of climate change by themselves. What is more likely is a portfolio of partial solutions. These include current-generation biofuels where they are economically feasible, vehicle fuel-efficiency improvements, so-called "second generation" biofuels made from agricultural waste products, public transport and town planning measures to encourage people to use their cars less, and perhaps increased use of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

(Carbon Clear home)

The Arctic Gold Rush

Apologies for the light posting. Here's one I wrote a few weeks ago but didn't get around to posting:

For years climate scientists and environmental campaigners have worried about the impact that climate change is having on the Arctic. These impacts range from native villages sinking as the permafrost thaws, to more polar bears giving birth on land as the sea ice melts. And because the dark ocean water absorbs more heat than the reflective ice, a thawing Arctic could lead to faster and faster melting.

Now the world has recognised another unintended consequence of climate change in the Arctic.All that melting ice has uncovered a vast untapped frontier within easy reach of the industrialised economies. Geologists estimate that the ocean floor beneath the Arctic ice holds valuable deposits of iron, gold and other minerals - along with as much oil as Saudi Arabia.

And the rush is on. A month ago Russia launched a surprise expedition to plant a flag on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole and lay claim to a vast swathe of the Arctic sea floor. Then the Financial Times reported that Canada is also prepared to make a claim:

"The Russians sent a submarine to drop a small flag at the bottom of the ocean. We're sending ouor prime minister to reassert Canadian sovereignty," said a senior government official according to Canadian press."

Canada is focused on maintaining ownership of the Northwest Passage, an ice-free transit route that promises to slash shipping times between Asia and the Atlantic. With so much manufacturing taking place in China, that could help to reduce overall shipping-related carbon emissions.

But those savings would be dwarfed by the emissions from using all that oil, regardless of who owns it. It's ironic that climate change has exposed a vast new reserve of fossil fuels which, if used, will accelerate the warming.

Friday, 24 August 2007

UK Likely to Miss CO2 Targets

The Independent reports that the UK Government will probably miss its greenhouse gas emissions target "by a wide margin".

Britain has pledged to not only meet its Kyoto climate treaty target of reducing emissions 12.5 percent by 2010, but to cut emissions at least 20 percent by 2020. More recently, the draft Climate Change Bill proposed a 60 percent reduction by 2050, with an interim target of 26-32% by 2020.

However, according to the latest semi-annual analysis by the think tank Cambridge Econometrics, few of these targets are likely to be met. The reports findings include the following points:

  • "...the government will miss its renewables electricity target for 2010 and 2015 by wide margins, but will nearly meet its target for 2020"
  • "The projected fall in carbon emissions over 2005-10 will not be enough to achieve the government’s 20% domestic carbon-reduction goal"
  • "Carbon emissions are expected to stabilise over 2010-15, but will resume their decline thereafter to 2020"
  • "The UK is expected to meet the Kyoto target for greenhouse gases, despite the rise in CO2 emissions in 2004-06"
  • "The government’s updated GHG projections for 2020, accompanying the 2007 Energy White Paper, may be optimistic."

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Good Intentions

The old nursery rhyme begins, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride."

And if good intentions were enough, climate change wouldn't be a problem. The fact is, though, that caring about the environment isn't enough - we have to back up these fine sentiments with action.

A recent survey showed that ninety percent of Americans say they are concerned about saving energy in their homes. However, few people are willing to spend more on energy efficiency improvements. To quote the article:

In fact, the survey found that if homeowners had the money to spend on their backyard, almost one in five would get a new deck, spa or hot tub - items that don't promote energy efficiency or sustainability.

A big part of our job here at Carbon Clear is helping people and companies bridge the gap between their good intentions and tangible actions that will help tackle climate change. Customers come to us for practical advice for cost effective reductions through both in-house reductions and high quality carbon offsets.

Let us know how we can help you.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Buy One Get One Tree with Innocent and Carbon Clear

innocent and Starbucks have got together with Carbon Clear to grow lots of trees in India to help fight climate change and provide income to local communities. The trees also provide food and medicine as well as supporting other crops by reducing soil erosion and providing shade.

From 16 July until 15 August, every innocent smoothie sold in Starbucks will have a unique code. Once this code is entered on the dedicated innocent site, it will be converted to investment in a tree in one of Carbon Clear’s dedicated reforestation projects.

For more information visit the innocent website and for your own tree get yourself down to Starbucks! You can find more information on all our carbon reducing projects here.

Friday, 3 August 2007

The Grid Is the Battery

Wind turbines are a great low-carbon power source because once you build the turbine, the "fuel" - the wind - is free. But the wind doesn't always blow when demand for power is high. For wind power to catch on, you need a way to store that power.

Last year I was contacted by a pair of MBA students at London Business School seeking technical help for a project. They were evaluating the prospects for an American company that's developed an innovative power storage system for large-scale wind turbines. That system, which uses compressed air to store energy, may offer some cost and environmental advantages over traditional banks of batteries.

"But there's another option," I told the students. If you occasionally have more power than you need, why not just sell it to someone else over the electricity grid? And when you have a shortfall because the wind isn't blowing, you can buy some back."

In other words, use the electricity grid as your battery. Even if you have to pay a premium for the electricity you buy back, this is often more cost-effective than investing in an expensive onsite power storage system.

On a household level this is called "reverse metering" (I blogged about this a few months ago), and it has helped solar power take off in California and elsewhere.

Now The Economist magazine has caught on. Last week they published a great article calling for an interconnected electricity grid covering all of Europe. A project like this could lead to a huge surge in windpower, big enough to provide 30% of Europe's electricity and displace some of the continent's coal and nuclear power stations. As the authors rightly point out, the wind is usually blowing somewhere, so if your local wind turbines aren't spinning, someone else's will be. And with a big enough pool of electricity users, your excess wind power can be used by someone else, without the need for batteries.

Decentralised windpower with batteries or compressed air storage is a great idea for remote installations that can't be reached by power lines.

But if you want to see wind power really take off, remember: the grid is the battery.

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Climate Change: The Debate Is Over

I wrote a few months ago about the manufactured controversy over the science of global warming. To the extent that there's scientific uncertainty these days, it's about things like, as one writer put it:

"why model predictions of outgoing longwave radiation at the top of the atmosphere in tropical latitudes differ from satellite readings, or how the size of ice crystals in cirrus clouds affect the amount of incoming shortwave reflected back into space, or precisely how much stratospheric cooling can be attributed to ozone depletion rather than an enhanced greenhouse effect."

The debate isn't about whether increased CO2 from human activity is causing climate change. That debate was over long ago.

Or at least it should have been. Unfortunately, climate-deniers have gotten a lot of media attention for hypotheses that claim solar activity is actually to blame. Until now.

Yet another nail in the coffin of climate-denial came yesterday, with a report by Mike Lockwood and a team at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.

While the climate sceptics have argued that increasing solar activity is causing the warming, Lockwood and his team found that solar activity has actually decreased over the past 25 years. And temperatures keep rising.


Commenting on the report, a spokesman for the UK's respected Royal Society said:

"This is an important contribution to the scientific debate on climate change. At present there is a small minority which is seeking to deliberately confuse the public on the causes of climate change. They are often misrepresenting the science, when the reality is that the evidence is getting stronger every day. We have reached a point where a failure to take action to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions would be irresponsible and dangerous."

(Back to the Carbon Clear homepage)

Friday, 15 June 2007

Controlling Carbon - How Much Does It Cost?

Many people are surprised at just how inexpensive it is to offset the carbon from flights, driving and other activities. Some people feel that, if the price of carbon is too low, we won't need to change our behaviour.

Actually, it would make sense to take action even if the price of carbon were zero. Carbon management doesn't have to hurt your pocketbook; it can even help.

Vattenfall, a Swedish electric utility looked at the global cost and effectiveness of all the major greenhouse gas reduction options.

They found that the world could cost-effectively reduce CO2 emissions by 27 billion tonnes per year - a 46% reduction, at a carbon price of EUR40 (about £27) per tonne. Some measures, like shutting down coal-fired power stations in favour of gas, only made sense when the price of carbon is around EUR30 (about £20) per tonne. Others, like large scale solar and wind energy, were sensible investments at around EUR20 (£14) per tonne.

But Vattenfall found over 7 billion tonnes of annual worldwide carbon reductions that had zero or negative cost. In other words, companies, communities, and households could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and actually come out ahead. There are a range of other measures that, while not free, are extremely low-cost.

That's where we come in. Carbon Clear helps companies find those very cost effective in-house reductions that will allow them to make a real difference in the fight against climate change. Then we go out and find other low-cost emissions reductions around the world to balance out those emissions that are too costly to eliminate at home. At least in the short term. What's more, these projects help to reduce energy poverty and improve livelihoods in some of the countries on the front lines of climate change.

At some point we'll have pursued all the very low-cost emissions reduction options and the price of carbon will rise. That's as it should be. But in the meantime, we'll continue working to make it as easy and cost-effective as possible to control your carbon impact.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Climate Change Sinks a Village

The New York Times reports that the permafrost on which an Alaskan village was built is melting due to climate change.

Newtok, a native Alaskan village, is collapsing into the mud as rising temperatures melt the frozen soil. The village, home to a Government-recognised Indian tribe, could completely wash away within a decade.

"The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. Sea ice that would normally protect coastal villages is forming later in the year, allowing fall storms to pound away at the shoreline."

Friday, 11 May 2007

Practical Solutions to Climate Change

Hardly a day goes by without more dire warnings about the impacts of climate change.

Last week, however, there was some good news. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report stating that we could take action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change at negligible cost. They pointed out that there are a host of practical carbon-reducing solutions that will actually save people money and make their lives easier. There are other measures we can take that cost a little more than current practice - but result in much less climate pollution.

So good news, at last. But "negligible" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. A family in Ethiopia might need only $50-$100 (£27-£55) to buy an improved stove that will save ten tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime. To save the same amount with a solar water heater would cost a UK household at least £1,700 - and the Government is cutting its subsidies for renewable energy.

Businesses face the same challenge. While companies need to take responsiblity for their emissions, it can be difficult to convince the finance department to invest in a new heating and cooling system when other initiatives are competing for scarce funds. We may have to save up for a couple of years to enact some measures - it's hard to reduce your impact to zero overnight.

And while the cost might be "negligible" to us, that $100 clean cook stove might seem impossibly expensive to someone who earns just a few dollars per day.

Carbon offsets help bridge the gap. As far as global warming is concerned, it doesn't matter whether the CO2 comes from a car in America, a power plant in Britain, or a cookstove in Ethiopia. But each dollar or pound we spend in, for example, Ethiopia will achieve a greater carbon reduction than in the other two cases. cleaning up that cookstove provides the added benefit of reducing energy poverty and improving health in a poor community. Carbon offset payments provide funding for these kinds of practical, highly effective carbon reduction solutions. So you can balance out your unavoidable emissions now, while gearing up to make bigger changes at home.

If we work together, we may prove the IPCC right and make a real difference in reducing our global carbon impact.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Kingsferry Coaches Goes Carbon Clear!

Kingsferry Coaches has announced their new zero-carbon initiative.

The Carbon Clear team is thrilled with Kingsferry's achievement. They have followed all the steps we recommend when we help a company dedicated to controlling its carbon impact:
  1. Know your carbon footprint. We worked with Kingsferry to calculate emissions from the offices and from their coaches.
  2. Reduce what you can. Kingsferry has trained its coach drivers in fuel-efficient driving and is replacing its entire fleet with the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road.
  3. Offset your unavoidable emissions. Driving a 40-seat coach cannot help but release carbon into the atmosphere. Kingsferry is investing to help Nicaraguan artisan brick producers build new, energy efficient kilns to offset the emissions from their coach fleet.

We congratulate Kingsferry on going zero-carbon.

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

China to Become World's Biggest Climate Polluter

In 2004, the International Energy Agency predicted that China would overtake the U.S. in 2025 as the largest source of CO2 emissions. Last year they predicted this would happen in 2010.

According to the Independent, China's CO2 emisssions will surpass the United States sometime this year.

Said the UK's special representative on climate change, John Ashton:

"I think what this does is increase even more than we understood hitherto the urgency of the process and the scale of the response needed. It is about a structural transformation of the global economy, from high-carbon to low-carbon, that we need to make together. It is even more urgent than we thought it was."

Monday, 23 April 2007

Sending the Right Signals

It's official. Any home sold in Britain from June 1st must include an official Energy Performance

Certificate. The ratings will assess whether the house has double-glazed windows, loft insulation, and other measures, with the very greenest homes receiving an "A" grade and the very worst getting a "G". Unfortunately, about 70% of Britain's homes would only get a "D" grade without extensive (and expensive) retrofitting. With so little to choose from, experts believe that the energy efficiency rating will not have much effect on home prices in the near term.

So why bother?

Firstly, these information packs are useful because they send a message that energy efficiency matters.

Energy efficiency will become part of the regular vocabulary of builders, estate agents, home buyers and sellers. And that increased awareness will hopefully start to affect how houses are built in future.

The main reason I like these ratings, though, is because they help make the things that drive our energy consumption more visible. If your house is like mine, the gas and electricity meters are hidden in a cupboard or under the stairs. The quarterly utility bill only gives one number and doesn't tell you whether it's poor insulation, an inefficient furnace, or something else that's the culprit for high fuelcosts.

This is important because, while some of the energy we consume is truly useful, some of it is a waste.

Leaving the television on standby doubles its total electricity consumption, without providing any additional benefit. That's money down the drain - and carbon into the atmosphere.

The government-mandated energy ratings are good because they tell us where that energy is going. And that lets us figure out what to do about it.

At Carbon Clear we make a point of helping our customers get the right signals. Our carbon calculators help people see the impact of their everyday decisions, and our corporate carbon audits help businesses identify what's driving their greenhouse gas emissions. Then we provide practical advice and carbon credits from fantastic projects to help you control your carbon impact.

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Monday, 16 April 2007

Report: Climate Change a Security Threat

A U.S. think tank has just published an analysis by 11 retired admirals and generals, arguing that climate change is a "threat multiplier" leading to increased global instability.

The report, entitled "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" argues that extreme weather conditions could heighten disputes over resources and lead to more conflicts and failed states in weaker countries.

The report's authors call on the United States to commit to measures that help stabilise climate change, and that help vulnerable nations cope with climate change impacts.

Commenting on the report, Marc Levy of Columbia University's Earth Institute said:

"It seems irresponsible not to take into account the possibility that a world with climate change will be a more violent world when making judgments about how tolerable such a world might be.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Why We Do What We Do

The New York Times paints a vivid picture of the human impacts of climate change in the Sundarban Islands of India. I encourage you to read it all, but here's a sample:

"Mr. Mandal stood in his yard and pointed to the water. In his mind’s eye, he could still see the two islands that have already sunk into the sea. And there, he said, on what was then the outer edge of Ghoramara, was his old house, and the paddies and the vegetable patch he had cultivated with his own hands. Now there is only water."

Similar stories can be found around the world. Carbon Clear is committed to helping companies and individuals tackle climate change. We will help you calculate your carbon footprint, find ways to reduce your emissions, and source carbon credits to balance out the rest.

At Carbon Clear, our aim is to protect more than the climate. We make it a point to invest in carbon-reducing projects that improve the quality of life in developing countries - helping many of the people most at risk from climate change.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Your Carbon Fitness Check

It's April, so those in the know will be getting a financial health check, reviewing their tax and pensions status and hopefully making some needed adjustments.

Why not take the time to get a carbon health check as well? Later posts will go into increasing detail on things you can do to live a control your carbon impact. This post has what I consider the most important advice:

Make changes that will make a difference, and with which you can live.

The fact is that not every change will make a big difference to your overall carbon footprint - installing five compact fluorescent bulbs will reduce the average household's 10-tonne carbon footprint by only one or two percent. On the other hand, some measures that would make a big difference might be hard to live with - giving up meat, for example. What will do both?

Consider relatively easy changes to big items. Take driving for instance. Stopped for more than a minute? Switch off the motor, and save 10% or more on your vehicle emissions. Then go online to www.good-energy.co.uk or www.ecotricity.co.uk and sign up with a green electricity provider. That's another 1.4 tonnes taken care of. Not a bad start.

If you can't reduce your carbon impact to zero, Carbon Clear is here. We will help you control your carbon impact with an offset package that invests in fantastic carbon reducing projects from around the world.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Report: EU Should Auction CO2 Permits

A study produced at Oxford University recommends that companies should have to bid for their CO2 pollution permits under the European emissions trading schem

According to the Financial Times, Robert Ritz's study shows that governments could raise significant revenue and establish a clearer price for carbon by auctioning most pollution permits in the 2008-2012 period, instead of giving 90% of them away for free, as was done for the current emissions trading period.

Light Posting

It's been a busy past few weeks - sorry about the light posting.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Climate Deniers vs the Reality-Based Majority

A friend asked for my opinion on a climate change documentary that aired on (UK) Channel 4 last night, entitled "The Great Global Warming Swindle".

For those of you who missed it, the central premise of the show is that we should stop worrying about climate change. The argument used to be that global warming isn't happening. Scientists have now tracked the earth's temperature over the past 800,000 years and proven that argument wrong.

Then the climate deniers argued that if global warming was happening, people weren't to blame. The latest report from the world's leading climate scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pours cold water on this theory:

...it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past fifty years can be explained
without external forcing, and very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone.

That's pretty strong language for a worldwide assembly of experts working by consensus and prone to quibbling over details.

The next argument was that we may be at fault, but it's too difficult to do anything about it. But the Stern Review commissioned by the UK Government found that it's far more cost effective to reduce CO2 emissions than to do nothing and deal with all the resulting damage.

So did the documentary manage, as the Channel 4 website puts it, "to slay the whole premise of global warming"?

Here's what realclimate.org ("Climate science from climate scientists") has to say about the first claim - that cosmic ray activity is the real cause of global warming:

"...we pointed out that while the experiments were potentially of interest, they are a long way from actually demonstrating an influence of cosmic rays on the real world climate, and in no way justify the hyperbole that Svensmark and colleagues put into their press releases and more 'popular' pieces. Even if the evidence for solar forcing were legitimate, any bizarre calculus that takes evidence for solar forcing of climate as evidence against greenhouse gases for current climate change is simply wrong. Whether cosmic rays are correlated with climate or not, they have been regularly measured by the neutron monitor at Climax Station (Colorado) since 1953 and show no long term trend. No trend = no explanation for current changes."

As for the rest, noted climate expert George Monbiot says it well:

The programme’s thesis revolves around the deniers’ favourite canard: that the “hockey-stick graph” showing rising global temperatures is based on a statistical mistake made in a paper by the scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes(11). What it will not be showing is that their results have now been repeated several times by other scientists using different statistical methods(12); that the paper claiming to have exposed the mistake has been comprehensively debunked(13) and that the lines of evidence used by Mann, Bradley and Hughes are just a few among hundreds demonstrating that 20th century temperatures were anomalous.

The decision to commission this programme seems even odder when you discover who is making it. In 1997, the director, Martin Durkin, produced a very similar series for Channel 4 called “Against Nature”, which also maintained that global warming was a scam dreamt up by environmentalists. It was riddled with hilarious scientific howlers. More damagingly, the only way in which Durkin could sustain his thesis was to deceive the people he interviewed and to edit their answers to change their meaning. Following complaints by his interviewees, the Independent Television Commission found that “the views of the four complainants, as made clear to the interviewer, had been distorted by selective editing” and that they had been “misled as to the content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part.”(14) Channel 4 was obliged to broadcast one of the most humiliating primetime apologies it has ever made. Are institutional memories really so short?

The basic message from what I call the "Reality-Based Majority" is this:

  • Climate change is real;
  • Our actions are the cause;
  • We need to work together to tackle this problem.
  • The Carbon Clear team is proud to be part of the Reality-Based Majority, and we're glad more of you are joining us.

    (Carbon Clear Homepage)

    Wednesday, 28 February 2007

    EU Manufacturers Planning to Phase Out Incandescent Lightbulbs

    Europe's largest lighting manufacturers are working on an agreement to phase out the production of energy-hungry incandescent light bulbs. The European Union is encouraging the increased use of compact fluorescent bulbs, which consume 1/3 to 1/5 as much electricity.

    The announcement by the chief executive of Royal Philips Electronics NV's lighting division follows moves last week by the Australian government to ban incandescent bulbs within three years.

    Monday, 26 February 2007

    Part of the Solution

    When EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas announced bold new CO2 reduction targets for the European Union, he stated that only 2/3 of those reductions would come from in-house measures. Fully 1/3 would come from carbon offsets. This should not be a surprise.

    At Carbon Clear we know that people want to take responsibility for their actions. When it comes to climate change, this means reducing your own CO2 emissions as much as possible. That's why we provide advice to help people reduce energy use at home, promote alternatives to solo driving, and encourage them to think twice before flying. We also help companies understand their climate change impact and find ways to change their carbon-intensive operations.

    But climate change is too important to fight with one hand tied behind our collective backs. It will be a few years before drastically improved public transport schemes, zero-carbon homes, and low-carbon vehicles are in widespread use. And the UN says we simply don't have time to wait.

    Short of living in a tent and growing all your own food, it may be very difficult or expensive for you to cut the last four or five tonnes of CO2 out of your life. In another part of the world, the cost to achieve that same reduction might be much lower, but poverty and lack of awareness keep people from taking action.

    Offsets provide the money and technical assistance to make those reductions happen. You may not be able to take the last five tonnes of CO2 out of your life, but you can help take them out of someone else's life. In either case, that's five fewer tonnes of CO2 released. The benefit to the environment is the same as if you'd done it yourself. Next year, as the cost of energy efficiency at home goes down, you can reduce more and offset less.

    Offsetting is a practice endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the world's governments, climate scientists and policy experts. It's not the entire answer to climate change - we all need to reduce our own emissions as well. But it's an important part of the puzzle.

    Tuesday, 20 February 2007

    A Company's True Carbon Footprint

    Christian Aid, a UK development charity, has just released a report that claims British companies are under-reporting their carbon emissions. They say that companies are failing to include the emissions from their outsourced manufacturing operations around the world.

    This should not be a big surprise.

    The standard that Carbon Clear uses to measure a company's emissions footprint, ISO 14064, breaks it down into three categories:
    1. Direct Emissions - resulting from activities under management control. This includes fuels burned in company owned factories, vehicles and offices.
    2. Energy Indirect Emissions - resulting from energy purchased by the company from third parties.  This includes electricity, district heating and cooling water.
    3. Other Indirect Emissions - resulting from activities by the company's customers and suppliers. This includes business flights, outsourced manufacturing, shipping and freight, service contractors, and customers who drive to a company's store across town, or who use a company's products in polluting ways.
    Most companies focus first on their "direct emissions" and "energy indirect emissions". After all, this is the pollution that they can do the most to control. So Christian Aid is correct that company reporting usually only tells part of the story.

    The British Government defends this reporting approach, saying that the country where the pollution occurs should be responsible for reporting it. Britain, they argue, should not be responsible for emissions from a factory in China when that factory isn't bound by British environmental rules.

    At Carbon Clear, we feel that companies can do better. Knowledge is power, so we work to give our business customers a complete picture of their carbon exposure. We will always recommend ways to reduce the climate pollution - whether from their operations, from their suppliers, or from their customers.

    Armed with this information, more and more of them are taking steps to reduce their entire carbon footprint.
    Offsets are a useful tool in carbon management, in part because companies now see the cost of carbon on their balance sheet. This provides a strong incentive to lower their offset bill by reducing their own emissions, their suppliers' emissions, and their customers' emissions. As always, reduce what you can, and offset the rest.

    How Much Is a Billion Tonnes?

    (First published on the Carbon Clear website 12 February 2007)

    Richard Branson is in the news - again.

    Last week he announced a $25 million (£13 million) prize to the person or organisation who could come up with a commercially viable way to remove a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere each year and keep it locked away for at least ten years.

    So is that a lot or a little? How much polluting activity does a billion tonnes of CO2 represent?

    More importantly, can it be done, and will Richard's $25 million make a difference?

    Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions totaled just over 25 billion tonnnes in 2003, and are projected to grow to 30 billion by 2010. The UK's share of this was just over half a billion tonnes.

    So Richard's billion tonnes of greenhouse gases is twice the UK's annual emissions. That's a lot, but at 4% of total emissons, not enough to solve the problem completely.

    Can it be done? Yes, at a cost. Replacing half the cars in the United States with electric vehicles charged by renewables would save a billion tonnes of CO2. So would planting a few billion trees in the world's rapidly shrinking rainforests. In fact, there's no shortage of practical, real-world solutions that we already know about.

    Will $25 million (£13 million) make a difference? I'm not so certain about that. That's enough money to buy a handful of large wind turbines, not the thousands that would be needed. A billion tonnes of carbon reductions on the European carbon exchange is worth more than UK £3 billion. That's already a strong incentive for people to find effective approaches.

    On the other hand, Branson has a reputation for out-of-the-box thinking. If his announcement spurs people to come up with new and cost-effective solutions, then that's a good thing. The danger with such a grand gesture is if it lulls people into thinking the problem will be solved by a handful of billionaires.

    The truth is that it is all of our individual daily decisions that have caused the global warming problem. And the only way we will solve it is if all of us, rich and not-so-rich, work together to reduce our emissions.

    Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Part 3

    (First published on the Carbon Clear website 06 Ferbuary 2007)

    We'll finish off our travel emissions mini-series by discussing what you can do about the carbon footprint (or is it the tyre-print?) of driving.

    Automobiles are popular for a reason - they provide fast, door-to-door transport, at a cost per mile that is usually comparable to taking the train or flying. What's more, you don't have to share your car with strangers.

    Looked at a different way, though, driving alone in an automobile means setting fire to one and a half tonnes of polluting fuels each year, in order to hurl over a tonne of steel and plastic down the road at high speed -- just to move a single person. Driving 12,000 miles a year releases more CO2 than a return flight from London to Sydney, as much carbon as two years of household electricity use. And that's saying nothing about the costs of local air pollution, noise, and traffic accidents. Future generations may shake their heads in wonder at our car-centred lifestyle.

    We've talked before about ways to reduce your driving-related climate pollution. Some measures are easier than others; try a few and see which you like best:

    • Leave the car at home twice a month. You'll reduce your driving related CO2 emissions by about 10%. If you work from home once every other week you could save £85 per year in fuel costs. That's enough to offsest the rest of your driving emissions with money to spare.
    • Drive a more efficient car. Hybrids produce less CO2 than a small diesel car with exactly the same fuel economy, and produce a lot less soot and other pollutants. You could easily reduce your emissions by around 20% - or even more depending on your driving habits.
    • Stick to the speed limit. A car driving at 70 mph produces 15% more pollution than one driving at 60 mph.
      Share a ride - carpooling with friends or using a rideshare scheme like Freewheelers means one less car on the road, and halves your per-person driving emissions.
      Stopped for more than two minutes? Switch off the motor. You could reduce your driving emissions by 10% or more.

    With the state of Britain's transport system, few of us are ready to give up driving completely - at least not yet. But there's a lot we can do to use our cars less and reduce the impact of driving. The hints I've shared above are just the start. For those CO2 emissions that remain, there's a Carbon Clear offset package to cancel out your driving pollution. At least until we can all drive electric cars powered by wind energy.

    Time to Take Action

    (First posted on the Carbon Clear website 2nd February 2007)

    The debate is over - again. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that humanity's impact on the climate is "unequivocal". The world is warming faster than scientists expected - and the decisions we take in our daily lives are the cause.

    The IPPC report comes just a week after some of America's largest corporations sent an open letter to President Bush, urging the US Government to demonstrate leadership on climate change.

    And these moves follow November release of the Stern Review, which found that the costs of dealing with global warming are much lower than the cost of doing nothing.

    A major global push to tackle climate change is inevitable. The good news is that we know what needs to be done. Businesses and households can take straightforward measures to reduce their carbon footprint by 20% or more. We'll show you how.The way our economy is structured means it's hard to become "carbon neutral" on your own. We will help with that, too, with a Carbon Clear offset package.When you offset with us, we'll invest in fantastic low-carbon projects that balance out the unavoidable pollution from your business or household, and help improve lives in some of the countries on the front lines of climate change.

    Thursday, 25 January 2007

    Better Late Than Never

    Which U.S. political leader made this statement:

    "This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels."

    Was it Al Gore? George Bush? Wrong on both counts.

    It was President Lyndon Johnson, in an address to Congress.

    In 1965.

    And so, it was a relief to hear President George W. Bush, in his address to Congress 42 years later, call climate change a "serious challenge".

    Better late than never.

    (Carbon Clear Homepage)

    More Polar Bears Giving Birth on Land

    As the Arctic sea ice continues to shrink, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey report that more and more polar bears are giving birth on land.

    Between 1985 and 1994, 62 percent of female bears dug their snow dens in the sea ice. That number fell to just 37% between 1998 and 2004.

    According to the lead author of the study, "the sea ice changes may have reduced the availability or degraded the quality of offshore denning habits.

    Saturday, 20 January 2007

    Response to UK Government Announcement on Offsets

    We’re writing today in response to the Government’s announcement regarding voluntary standards for the carbon offset market. We support the aims of the code to increase customer confidence and ensure that those operating within the industry show integrity and transparency in how their projects are measured.

    Today’s announcement signals the beginning of the consultation process and we are pleased to be part of that process.

    Currently the proposed standard doesn’t support the needs of voluntary offset customers or the industry, but we will continue to work together to find a solution. We support industry standards that allow room for smaller-scale projects that meet our criteria of providing societal benefits to local communities as well as true environmental benefits.

    We always encourage people to reduce their emissions wherever possible. When each of us takes steps to reduce our carbon footprint, we can speed the transition to a low-carbon economy.

    Wednesday, 17 January 2007

    Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Part 2

    Last time we discussed the climate change impact of airplane travel. Bottom line: a couple of flights can easily wipe out all your other efforts to live a low-carbon lifestyle, so fly only when you absolutely need to and be sure to offset your flight's climate impact.

    Now for trains.

    Ground-based public transport is low-carbon because the emissions from the train or bus can be spread over a large number of passengers. A packed train does not consume much more energy than an empty one, so the more people you can cram into each train, the lower the emissions per passenger mile. Similarly, high-speed rail is not significantly more polluting than slower trains, so Government support for faster trains to replace short-haul flights can make a big difference. And with any luck you can walk or bike to the station - which is after all the cleanest and healthiest way to travel.

    A moderately full train emits only 6.5 kg 65 grams of CO2 per passenger mile - about the same as three people in a hybrid car. But this is only a average figure. Actual emissions will also vary depending on the type of train and the operating company. For an electric train, the emissions depend on where the operator sources electricity. A train powered by electricity from renewable energy sources is essentially zero-carbon; while emissions from coal-fired electricity will be quite a bit higher. The same applies to diesel trains. Diesel trains can consume a huge amount of fuel, with higher than average per-passenger CO2 emissions. In fact, a half-empty diesel train may emit more CO2 per passenger mile than a small hybrid car. Richard Branson wants to tackle this problem by running the Virgin Trains fleet with a mix of biodiesel and regular diesel fuel. While biodiesel produced in the UK isn't carbon-free, it's still an improvement over business as usual.

    As you pay your fare and squeeze into your train carriage on the way to work tomorrow morning, take a moment to smile at all the other passengers joining you on the way to a low-carbon economy. You might even enjoy the trip.

    (Carbon Clear Homepage)

    Saturday, 13 January 2007

    Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Part 1

    It's getting tough to get around.

    In December a study concluded that a national version of London's road pricing programme would be required to deal with the impacts of automobile use.

    Then came the above-inflation increase in rail fares.

    This was followed shortly by UK Environment Minister Ian Pearson's attack on airlines' foot-dragging over emissions caps.

    What's a person to do? Let's start with flights.

    Air travel is popular because, at 500 miles per hour, you can get from point A to point B quite quickly. And the economics of low-cost airlines can make short-haul travel less expensive than the train.

    But it takes a lot of fuel to get an airplane into the air, and back down safely. According to DEFRA, a short-haul flight spends relatively more of its time on takeoff and landing, resulting in emissions of 24 kilograms of CO2 per 100 passenger-miles. At 17.4 kilograms, CO2 emissions per 100 passenger mile are a bit lower on a long-haul flight, because it spends relatively more time at cruising altitude.

    How bad is that? Well, it's about the same as the per-mile pollution from driving alone in a passenger car. But it would take a car most of a year to equal the distance covered in just a few hours by jet.

    Put another way, you would have to give up driving for six months to make up for the emissions of just one return flight between London and New York. A few flights can easily wipe out all your other efforts to reduce your climate pollution.

    The best thing you can do, then, is to think twice before booking your next flight. If you have to fly, you can compensate for it by:

    -giving up driving for half a year,
    -switching to a green electricity supplier (though you can only use this approach once), or
    -investing in carbon saving projects with a Carbon Clear package.

    (Carbon Clear Homepage)

    EU & Japan Urge Big Polluters to Cut Emissions

    The European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have called on the world's largest greenhouse gas polluters to reduce their emissions.

    Japan and the EU say they are showing global leadership on climate change, with the EU on Wednesday proposing a unilateral 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020. In a recent speech in London, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the EU would consider making even deeper reductions if other industrialised nations join in.

    "The United States, China, Russia and India are the top national emitters of greenhouse gases. Of the top four, only Russia is part of the Kyoto Protocol which mandates cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the 2008-2012 period.

    International talks to extend the pact further have stalled."

    Thursday, 4 January 2007

    Reduce Your Footprint in 2007

    If 2006 was the year the world woke up to climate change, 2007 may be the year we start to tackle it.

    There are lots of opportunities to reduce your personal carbon footprint - at home, at work, and while traveling. But there are only so many hours in the day. So what changes will truly make a difference without throwing your life into disarray? I recommend starting with the big things.

    Switching to efficient lightbulbs in your home can reduce CO2 emissions from lighting by 75%. But lighting accounts for only 2% of your household's carbon footprint in the first place.

    So switching every single lightbulb in your home to an efficient model helps, but it's a big part of a small thing.

    You could get nearly five times the savings by avoiding excessive idling while driving your car. Stopped for more than a minute? Switch off the ignition. It doesn't sound like a dramatic change, but your car is responsible for 40% of your household's carbon footprint.

    So switching off the motor when you're stopped is a small part of a big thing.

    A great New Year's resolution might be to make small changes to the biggest components of your carbon footprint. You'll be making a real difference. And what you can't reduce you can neutralise with a Carbon Clear offset package.

    Have a great 2007.

    (Carbon Clear Homepage)