Sunday, 22 February 2009

Is buying fair trade a waste of money?

With the recession threatening the UK's fair trade market, Lucy Siegle asks whether it is really doing anybody any good
Lucy Siegle
The Observer, Sunday 22 February 2009

I've come to respect cauliflowers. They are under threat - production has fallen by 35% - because we can't get the smell and taste of school-cooked caulis out of our minds, and buy imported veg instead. Shame, because they're full of nutrients, and since they can be grown all year round in the UK, extremely sustainable. Even so, I would not want to eat them all the time and exclusively. In common with almost all UK consumers, I want to have my cake - or rather my pineapple - and eat it.
This is where Fairtrade often kicks in, forming an ethical transaction whereby you unofficially offset food miles of said pineapple because you're adding the ingredient of social change to your shopping basket. Fairtrade (certified by the Fairtrade Foundation's standards) and fair trade (uncertified) relate mostly to small producers in the developing world, organised into co-operatives which receive a premium for crops and invest it back into that community.
As Fairtrade Fortnight begins tomorrow, it might feel that the whole world's embraced this feel-good arrangement. It hasn't. Though fair-trade sales have grown to £2.4bn over the five years to last year, growth of 47% per year, this is still less than 1% of global trade.
Why is conventional trade still so unfair? In truth, fair trade is also far from perfect. It was developed as an emergency response to poverty, coming into its own when world coffee prices crashed. Now, as critics point out, the fate of producers is inextricably linked to our consumption, which will fall during the recession.
But should we dump fair trade now? Absolutely not. Stalwart of the fair-trade movement Jeremy Piercy thinks the key to protecting fairer trade is to certify more products, other than food and craft-based items; the clue is in the title of his new book, Coffins, Cats and Fair Trade Sex Toys (£8.99, www.quickbrownfox Major tour operators have been urged by industry bodies to look at certification for mainstream Fairtrade holidays. Elsewhere, the Lorna Young Foundation ( is pioneering a coffee project between an Oromo Ethiopian community now settled in Manchester, and small coffee producers in Ethiopia, cutting out the middleman. Piercy also wants fair trade to become more environmentally focused, given the link between hazards such as drought and flooding and poverty: all signs that fair trade can grow.
As long as consumers engage more fully. For instance, if you know who produced your pineapple, you'll notice if the label of country of origin changes, suggesting the retailer has cut and run to a cheaper supplier. There is no avoiding the fact that a great fair-trade project is a long-term one between producer and supplier. See as evidence Co-op's sourcing of fair-trade bananas through Ghana, which has survived hurricanes and crop destruction. The community now has a union, clean water and free medical centre; the consumer gets bananas that ethically outshine a cauliflower.

Green pioneers: Barry Johnston

The Sunday Times
February 22, 2009
A firm in Orkney is testing a low-cost scheme to generate electricity from the sea -and make a profit

BARRY JOHNSTON, founder of a small Scottish start-up, thinks he has cracked a problem that has confounded some of the biggest energy companies in the world: how to harness the power of the sea to generate electricity without building huge, expensive structures.
His idea is deceptively simple and has already attracted some high-profile backers. Fred Olsen, the veteran Norwegian shipping and energy magnate, has, along with the Total oil company, sunk £6.2m into Johnston’s Orkney business, Scotrenewables, and in 2007 the firm won a £1.8m grant from the Scottish Executive.
At its heart is the idea that any energy producer must work with the sea rather than against it. “I’ve lived on Orkney all my life and I’ve spent my childhood on boats,” said Johnston, who formed the company in 2002. “I’ve always been very aware of the force of the sea and watching for the tide’s turn.”
Like other tidal projects, the technology Scotrenewables is testing is based on an underwater turbine - imagine a wind turbine placed under water like a propeller, which is turned by the tidal flow. But while companies such as SeaGen, which has tidal generators on trial in Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, secure these huge turbines to the sea bed with big concrete pillars, Johnston’s are fixed to a floating vessel anchored by cables to the sea bed.

Johnston said this technique promises lower construction and running costs. Scotrenewables’ turbines will not need sea-bed foundations that can only be built for an hour or two each day between tides. Nor does it need expensive floating cranes and barges to put the turbines in place. Its turbines will be built ashore and when afloat can be towed back for servicing, another potential money saver.
“There are huge capital investment and servicing costs involved in fixing turbines to the sea bed,” he said. “We know it’s possible to generate power from the tides but if it costs £5m to build a turbine that is expensive to maintain and generates revenues of only £200,000, it’s not viable.”
Tidal power could form a key plank of the government’s commitment to produce 20% of all its energy from renewables by 2020. According to Stephen Wyatt, head of marine energy at the Carbon Trust, which is helping to fast-track promising new green technologies, Britain is perfectly placed to take advantage of sea power.
Wyatt said: “We have amazing natural energy resources in our tides and seas. Renewable energy from the sea could generate 20% of the UK’s electricity and we have a tremendous skills base in this country to help harness it. Our great industrial and engineering resources in shipping and energy are complemented by a strong academic base and spirited entrepreneurs who can turn the ideas into commercial devices. All the links in the chain are there, which is why we are so excited by wave and tidal power.”
Despite the potential, Johnston warns against complacency: “A lot of people in this sector have overpromised. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes five to ten years before there is commercially produced energy.”
His own vision is still at prototype stage with scale models being proved in tanks in the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney, and has yet to be put to the test in the tempests of the Pentland Firth, the channel between the Orkneys and the Scottish mainland. When fully functional, Johnston claims his system will have an output of 1.2MW – sufficient electricity for 700 homes.
Before that can happen there are still some formidable challenges. One of them is making a floating turbine that can take a beating during storms.
“There are a lot of problems to overcome. Nobody has ever put structures in such a harsh tidal environment. People don’t even put oil rigs in these conditions and you can’t just go to a shop and ask for the computer software to model them for you. That’s what makes this so challenging,” said Johnston.
And then there is the question of funding. Tidal power is not a technology for impatient private investors. Wind power took 30 years to develop and settle on one technology before it became possible to generate commercially viable energy. And like offshore wind power, someone must build and pay for the cabling and infrastruc-ture needed to carry power generated at Britain’s geographic margins to its urban centres.
“Getting funding has been an extremely inefficient process. We’ve been operating on a shoestring to get from one stage to another. It takes a year to get funding from anywhere. Meanwhile, we’ve had to do anything and everything to keep the company alive. It has been hellish.”
Although the government’s renewable-energy targets and general concern about climate change should help maintain investor and government interest, much greater commitment to renewable energy is needed to speed up its development, said Johnston, who ruefully observes the expensive clean-up of the decommissioned Dounreay nuclear reactor going on a few miles across the water from Orkney.
“Imagine the impact if the £150m being spent cleaning up there each year was spent on developing renewables. I ask myself if the government is really serious about this and also when my grandchildren grow up what kind of world will they be living in?”
Tidal race GREEN IDEAS
NEARLY a quarter of the electricity used by businesses might be wasted, says Energy Management Systems of Rotherham ( It says most small firms’ equipment is designed for lower voltages than those supplied by the grid, meaning up to 25% remains unused. EMS’s Powerstar transformer optimises energy use for actual requirements, saving 10% in costs for every 5% drop in voltage.
Got a great green idea? E-mail it to us at share it with the world
The final article in our series on funding your eco start-up looks at government and EU opportunities
IF YOU want to grow your eco business but don’t want to dive into the shark-infested waters of venture capital and the stock market, there are plenty of funds available from the government, its agencies, nongovernmental organisations and the European Union.
Where you go first for funding depends on your “technology-readiness level”, a government phrase that describes how close your eco product or innovation is to commercial exploitation.
For example, if you are still at the research and development (R&D) stage, the best place to go is the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills ( ), which works with the Technology Strategy Board (, the seven Research Councils ( ), and the Energy Technologies Institute (www.energytechnologies.
These can provide funding for basic-level research and product development to help get your idea to the working prototype stage. However, there are lots of overlaps between these funding bodies and they often collaborate.
For example, this month the Technology Strategy Board announced a joint venture with the Department of Energy and Climate Change ( ), and The Northern Way ( uk), a coalition of northern regional development agencies, to invest £15m in technologies for reducing carbon emissions.
The funding competition starts in June and is open to start-ups, research teams and established businesses alike. The government also provides financial help in the form of R&D tax credits, which reduce your taxable profits according to how much you spend on qualifying research and development.
Since April, the rate of relief has been increased to 175% of qualifying expenditure. Go to the website of the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform ( ) for more details.
Once you can demonstrate the potential of your product and convince people that it is reliable, you can move on to higher stages of funding. Berr and the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs ( ) jointly run a £400m Environmental Transformation Fund to support the development of low-carbon and energy-efficient technologies in the UK.
Regional Development Agencies ( ), as mentioned above, will also fund commercial-stage eco projects, as will the Carbon Trust ( ) in conjunction with its four commercial business partners.
The European Union also offers many funding opportunities, including its €28m (£25m) Eco-Innovation fund ( )for proven technologies in materials recycling, sustainable building and waste reduction.
The key to all this is making sure that your business fulfils the funding criteria and that your application ticks all the boxes.
This takes time and effort but could pay dividends in the long run.
Tidal race
Matthew Wall
IT has been three decades since Whitehall first looked into harnessing energy from the Severn estuary’s tides. At every turn it has been rejected for financial and environmental reasons. The newfound need to “go green” could finally push it over the line.
Last month the government breathed fresh life into the idea of building a “barrage” of up to 10 miles stretching across the waterway that it says could provide up to 5% of the country’s energy needs.
The plan for a barrage from Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare was one of five short-listed for consultation. Other ideas include tidal reefs and lagoons that would produce a fraction of the energy but cost much less and do less environmental harm.
Campaigners like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have railed against the destruction of vital habitats.
It could create as many as 18,000 construction jobs but some government and industry bean-counters argue that the £22 billion it could cost would be better spent elsewhere. The environmentally friendly lagoon and reef ideas, which would produce as little as a fifth of the energy of the big barrage, seem to fall short of the government’s stated goal of producing a “strategically significant” amount of energy from the project.
At a conference that the Institution of Civil Engineers is holding next week on the issue, Rod Rainey, head engineer at Atkins, the consultancy, will call on the government to resurrect the most ambitious idea of all, a barrage from Minehead to Aberthaw that would cost up to £30 billion to build – £10 billion more than the short-listed Cardiff-Weston project.
“It costs 50% more, but produces 50% more power,” he said. If history is a guide, the most likely outcome is that in another three decades the Severn’s tides will still be flowing free and unencumbered.

Green wing launched by private equity

The Sunday Times
February 22, 2009
Business digest

THE BVCA, the private-equity industry group, has launched a “green-investment” team to lobby government for more subsidies and greater regulatory certainty. The energy, environment and technology group, which will be announced next week, will comprise 12 members, including investors from Blackstone Group and Riverstone. Tom Murley, head of renewable investing at HG Capital, will be chairman.

High hopes for carbon credit sales

The Sunday Times
February 22, 2009
Business digest

THE price of permits to produce carbon dioxide will soar to a new high of €64 (£57.3) a ton when economic activity stabilises, according to a study by the corporate-finance group Akur Partners.
Firms have raised billions of pounds in recent months selling carbon-emissions permits they don’t need due to factory slowdowns and stoppages. The sales rush has led to a collapse in the price to as low as €8 a ton.

Green watchdog red faced over emissions

SEPA's emissions rose by a total of almost 10%, or 200 tonnes, last year.

Published Date: 22 February 2009
By Jeremy Watson

SCOTLAND'S top environmental watchdog, which urges citizens to fight global warming by reducing the amount of climate-changing gases they produce, has blown an embarrassing hole in its own attempts to curb emissions.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) takes a leading role in trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from homes, businesses and transport, but it now admits that its own emissions rose by a total of almost 10%, or 200 tonnes, last year.Environmental groups said the agency was guilty of sending out the wrong messages to the rest of the country.Stirling-based Sepa has set its own target of slashing emissions from its buildings and transport to at least 25% below its 2006 total within the next three years. But a review has found that its own performance in reducing carbon emissions merits an amber warning, meaning it "remains a concern". "Overall there has been a 9.4% rise, or an additional 200 tonnes in CO2, for the first three-quarters of 2008-9 compared to the same period in the baseline year of 2006-7," a report says.Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: "It is critical that all public bodies play their part in meeting the Government's promise of reducing Scotland's emissions by 80% by 2050. As the Government agency charged with protecting the environment, Sepa needs to be top of the list in showing leadership." Corinne Evans, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Public sector bodies, such as Sepa, have a real responsibility to reduce their emissions in line with Scotland's targets."Paula Charleson, Sepa's sustainable development manager, said: "Our three year target states Sepa will reduce CO2 emissions by 25% below the 2006-7 baseline by March 31, 2012. "We are currently reporting this target as 'amber', but this is a long-term target and we have confidence that proposed plans over the next three years will enable Sepa to reach it."

Climate change rhetoric spirals out of control

Christopher Booker says that the Government must be absolutely sure that their data on climate change is accurate.

By Christopher Booker Last Updated: 4:58PM GMT 21 Feb 2009

It was another bad week for the "warmists", now more desperate than ever to whip up alarm over an overheating planet. It began last weekend with the BBC leading its bulletins on the news that a "leading climate scientist" in America, Professor Chris Field, had warned that "the severity of global warming over the next century will be much worse than previously believed". Future temperatures "will be beyond anything predicted", he told a Chicago conference. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had "seriously underestimated the size of the problem".
The puzzle as to why the BBC should make this the main news of the day only deepened when it emerged that Prof Field was not a climate scientist at all but an evolutionary biologist. To promote its cause the BBC website even posted a video explaining how warming would be made worse by "negative feedback". This scientific howler provoked much amusement and derision on expert US blogs, such as Anthony Watts's Watts Up With That – since "negative feedback" would lower temperatures rather than raise them. The BBC soon pulled its video.
This was followed on Sunday by yet another outburst from the most extreme of all the scientists crying wolf on global warming, Al Gore's ally Dr James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In The Observer he launched his most vitriolic call yet for the closing down of the coal-fired power stations which are the world's main source of electricity, repeating his claim to a British court last year that the new coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth will alone be responsible for "the extermination of 400 species".
"Coal-fired power plants are factories of death," wrote Hansen, "the trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains". This deliberate echo of the trains carrying Jews to Nazi death camps recalled how the more extreme warmists like to equate sceptics on climate change with "Holocaust deniers". But such overheated language seemed somehow at home in the newspaper which in 1996 solemnly predicted that by 2016 half a million Britons would be dying each year from having eaten BSE-infected beef.
Later in the week sceptics were struck by an admission from Professor William Schlesinger, a lead author for the IPCC. Since one of the enduring myths of our time is that the case for global warming is supported by "the world's top 2,500 climate scientists" on the IPCC, Schlesinger was asked in a public debate how many of its contributors are in fact climate experts. The best he could come up with was that "something on the order of 20 per cent have had some dealing with climate". (This will not of course stop the BBC calling any old evolutionary biologist or economist who supports its views a "leading climate scientist").
Finally there was the strange case of the vanishing Arctic ice. Just how far Arctic sea-ice is melting or growing is one of the issues which arouses most passionate interest in the global-warming debate. Observers were therefore startled last week to see the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) showing a very dramatic drop in sea-ice cover, 500,000 square kilometres of ice suddenly disappearing in the depths of the Arctic winter.
When this was queried by a puzzled Anthony Watts, the NSIDC somewhat shamefacedly admitted that a problem had developed with one of its satellites. The data for the previous 45 days was found to be so faulty that it had been withdrawn. But inevitably this provoked the question as to why quality control seemed to be so poor on one of the world's leading official sources of climate data that it had taken an outside observer to point out that something was wrong,
This is by no means the first time that data on which the official case for global warming rests have had to be corrected, some of the more notorious instances involving temperature data supplied by Dr Hansen's GISS. Yet this is one of the four official sources of temperature data on which the IPCC itself relies. When politicians plan measures to "combat climate change" costing tens of trillions of dollars, we can at least expect them to ensure that their figures are halfway believable.
Chinese pull a fast one in space race as EU’s 'pigs with gold trotters’ remain earthbound
There has been another wondrously bizarre twist to the unending farce of the EU’s favourite vanity project, Galileo. This is the multi-billion euro programme designed to give the EU its own rival to the US GPS satellite system, which provides a free positioning fix to ships, aircraft, Satnav owners and other users all over the world.
Although I have regularly reported on this joke project since 2001, almost the only time it has excited much media interest in Britain was when, in 2007, the late Gwyneth Dunwoody described it as “not one pig flying in orbit, this is a herd of pigs with gold trotters, platinum tails and diamond eyes”. The Commons Transport Committee, of which she was chairman, had produced a report suggesting that Galileo would cost British taxpayers at least £1.7 billion, and was so pointless that it might as well be scrapped.
No episode in the story was more curious, however, than the deal signed in October 2003, whereby the Chinese government agreed to pay 200 million euros for a 20 per cent share in Galileo, to be spent on developing infrastructure and ground stations based on European technological know-how. The EU was over the moon, thinking that this would cement in China as its partner in a project always partly intended for military use, allowing it both to operate independently of the US.
A first sign that all was not well came when the Chinese, having got on with their part of the deal, using EU know-how, were shut out from top-level management of Galileo on security grounds. But, having obtained the technical information they wanted, they have powered ahead with a satellite system of their own, Compass. They are now so far advanced, and Galileo has slipped so far behind schedule, it seems certain that the Chinese satellites will be in place long before the EU system.
Furthermore the Chinese now plan to operate on the same wavelengths that the EU had earmarked for Galileo. Since their satellites will get there first, they will be able to lay claim to ownership of them. The EU would thus only be able to use the wavelengths with Chinese permission.
Having robbed the Common Agricultural Fund of
€1 billion in a desperate effort to pay the soaring bill for Galileo, the Europeans are said to be “very angry”, since this removes just about the last conceivable excuse for proceeding with their absurd project. The Americans, having followed the whole saga with bemused irritation, are said to be laughing themselves silly.
MEPs prove not at all the president’s men
As an eloquent and drily humorous Euro-sceptic, the Czech President Vaclav Klaus is making the most of his country’s six-month presidency of the EU. In the European Parliament on Thursday he delivered what my Daily Telegraph colleague Bruno Waterfield called on his blog “a storming speech – the best I have ever heard in that place”. Having spent much of his life under Communism, Klaus courteously questioned the way in which the EU, like any other one-party state, has no place for opposition and is fiercely intolerant of dissenting views. The fact that his remarks were greeted with boos and jeers, followed by 200 MEPs walking out, neatly confirmed his point.
Marks & Spencer fail to go green
In a bid to earn “Greenie points”, Marks & Spencer last week announced a plan to source all its electricity from “renewables”. As a next step, nPower is to supply it with “2.6 terawatt hours” of electricity from windfarms and other renewable sources over six years. A quick sum shows that this equates to 40 per cent of the entire current annual output of Britain’s 2,000 wind turbines. Pretty impressive, until one realises that the electricity will in fact be supplied by the National Grid, most of it made from “dirty” coal, carbon-intensive gas and “nasty” nuclear. In other words, this not just a load of cobblers, this is M & S cobblers.

Jaguar drives to be green

The Sunday Times
February 22, 2009

Scientists at the carmaker are gearing up to give people a cleaner drive
Ray Hutton and Dominic O’Connell

PRIME MINISTER David Cameron steps out of No 10, waves at the photographers and slides into the back of his waiting Jaguar. He has taken some flak for abandoning his environmental credentials by choosing the limousine but points out that it is one of the most economical cars on the road.
That’s how the scriptwriters at Jaguar Land Rover would like things to pan out, though they are probably not bothered about the identity of the future prime minister as long as their products feature outside No 10.
The Midlands carmaker, bought by India’s Tata last year for $2.4 billion (£1.7 billion), is working hard to improve its green credentials - including an ambitious plan, dubbed “Limo Green”, that will produce a prototype luxury saloon capable of more than 57 miles per gallon - about the same as the best family cars today.
Tougher emissions regulations and wider concerns over climate change are pushing all carmakers to make their vehicles greener, but for Jaguar Land Rover there is an added spur.

In December The Sunday Times revealed that the company was in secret talks with the government about a £1 billion loan to tide it over the worst of the credit crunch, which has taken a heavy toll on its sales. Talks continue, with the company now thought to be seeking a £500m loan guarantee.
Meanwhile, Brussels and Whitehall have made some funds available to the whole industry, but with strings attached. Loans will be made only to “low-carbon” projects. If Jaguar Land Rover wants some of that to come its way, it needs to show it is serious about the environment.
The Sunday Times has gone behind the scenes at its engineering centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire, to look at four green projects. All are part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, a government agency, and involve other British car firms.
Tony Harper, the company’s head of research, said projects like these could lead to a “road map” that would identify which key technologies needed to be fostered for success with low-emission vehicles.
Limo Green
When the Limo Green prototype is unveiled later this year it will not look very different from the restyled XJ saloon that goes on sale in 2010. However, Limo Green is a “series hybrid”, which means it is an electric car with an on-board generator to keep the batteries charged.
That sets it apart from the hybrids now available, such as the Toyota Prius, which uses a combustion engine and an electric motor. It can also be plugged into the domestic mains to provide enough charge for 30 miles of zero-emis-sions electric motoring.
Jaguar is working on this project with the engineering division of Lotus, the Motor Industry Research Association, and Caparo, a specialist in aluminium construction.
A powerful (170 bhp) electric motor will give Limo Green comparable performance to a diesel-engined Jaguar XJ, but with the maximum speed restricted to 112mph. The headline figure is an average fuel consumption of 57mpg. Car-bon-dioxide output will be less than 120g/km, perhaps even dropping below the 100g/km limit that qualifies for zero road tax.
Putting Limo Green into production will take three years and cost £500m.
A separate project, Rehev (Range Extended Electric Vehicle), is developing an electric-diesel plug-in hybrid powertrain suitable for a large 4x4 like a Range Rover.
Several manufacturers are working on plug-in hybrids but the off-road capability of a Land Rover means it will need a rugged electric motor and a large, lithium-ion battery pack to work with a low-consumption diesel engine.
The Rehev will run as a pure electric car for up to 12 miles in town and the diesel engine and electric motor will combine to drive all four wheels at higher speeds when off-road. The target for its average carbon-dioxide figure is below 130g/km.
This is a further development of Land Rover’s hybrid plans, which are needed to reverse the image of its 4x4s as gas-guzzlers.
The partners in the Rehev project are engineering consultancy Ricardo, battery maker Amberjac and energy group Eon, which will use it to study the installation and operation of recharging facilities.
Flywheel hybrid
When the Formula One racing season starts next month, teams will be able to fit Kers (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) to provide drivers with short bursts of additional power for overtaking. The idea of racing’s rule-makers was to make a connection between F1 and hybrid road cars.
Jaguar has taken a mechanical flywheel Kers device and fitted it to an XF saloon. Its associates in this programme are suppliers to F1 teams - Flybrid, Xtrac, Prodrive and Ricardo.
For a road car, the flywheel system, which recovers and stores energy generated during braking, will be used to reduce fuel consumption (and therefore lower the carbon-dioxide output) rather than provide extra performance. Combined with the XF’s latest V6 diesel engine, it is expected to cut fuel consumption by 20%.
Jaguar is established as one of the leaders in lightweight aluminium car construction, having introduced the XJ model with aluminium body and chassis in 2003 and since applied the same principles to the XK.
Reducing weight is a key factor in the production of more economical, low-emission cars. Currently, Jaguar uses about 50% recycled material. The Real (REcycled ALuminium) project aims to demonstrate that this proportion can be raised to 75%.
Jaguar’s Mark White is confident the 75% target can be reached in two years, allowing the carmaker to use aluminium for other, cheaper models.
FIRMS can get advice on how to save money by going green. Stiebel Eltron ( ), a renewable-energy specialist based in the Wirral, will do a free “energy efficiency” survey of any British firm’s premises, and offer advice on tax breaks and grants.
Stiebel Eltron is a subsidiary of a German company that has been installing green equipment, such as heat pumps, on the Continent for 25 years. For details call its advice centre on 0151 346 2300.