Saturday, 17 October 2009

Climate action shouldn't target poor famers

Rowan Williams's call to eat local ignores the plight of producers – and doesn't necessarily help the environmental cause
James MacGregor, Friday 16 October 2009 09.00 BST
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has urged UK consumers to reduce their carbon footprint by shunning fruit and vegetables that have been flown from Africa.
But while many of his comments on climate change are sensible, this one is not. If followed, it could condemn hundreds of thousands of Africans to poverty.
Williams is well-meaning but he has fallen into a classic trap in treating the environment as sacrosanct, and worse, seeing simple solutions to complex environmental problems.
Stopping this trade would make hardly any impact on climate change but would harm over one million people in sub-Saharan Africa who depend on it for their livelihoods, and to pay for healthcare and the education of their children, girls in particular.
Air-freighted fruit and vegetables contribute less than one-tenth of one percent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions.
Air freight is easy to demonise but even with transport included, African fruit and vegetables largely result in lower emissions than European ones that are grown in heated greenhouses. Far greater emissions result from the domestic transport of food goods within the United Kingdom than from flying them here in the first place, as the vast majority of African produce (over three-quarters) arrives in the UK in the belly of scheduled passenger planes.
Kenya's per capita emissions are just 0.2 tonnes per person per year. The average UK citizen emits 50 times more. Is it ethical to penalise Kenyan farmers for our excesses?
I worry that simplistic reactions to climate issues, such as counting "food miles", might change people's behaviour in ways that are actually bad for global sustainable development. We need to stop thinking about "food miles" and start thinking about "fair miles" (pdf), focusing less on how far food has travelled and more on how it has been produced and by whom.
On this occasion, I fear that Williams's comments might inspire a boycott of African products, with repercussions across the continent.
It is clear we are going to be living in a world increasingly dictated by climate. How we act now and in the near future will determine how quickly we hit climate change that is catastrophic.
Williams is missing a potential win-win which would have appeal across his global flock. Our consumption of African produce injects some £200m per year into rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty is most acute.
The purchase of African produce is the single most important way that UK consumers engage with sub-Saharan Africa. Solidarity between UK consumers and African farmers should be at the cornerstone of our consumption patterns, mixing local and global social justice across the seasons.
I suggest Williams adopts a more nuanced approach that encourages UK consumers to eat local in season, and eat development-friendly out of season. In this way, they'll be supporting some of the world's poorest farmers by continuing to buy the food they produce.

The environment in the decade of climate change

'The world is locked into insanely complex talks, and green groups and government shout as one that we have only a few years to avoid apocalypse'

John Vidal
The Guardian, Saturday 17 October 2009
My, how things have changed! In 2000, scientists from the Worldwatch thinktank in Washington teamed up with the UN to spot the greatest threats to the planet over the coming years. Top of the list was ecosystem collapse, such as deforestation and the demise of corals; second were health and diseases, such as Sars and Aids; and third was global poverty. The world's top environmental analysts gave climate change only four paragraphs in an eight-page essay – little more than malaria, trade, air pollution, population, fresh water or food supplies. Carbon emissions, they reported, were "continuing to decline" and global temperatures were "steady".
How quaint. Ten years later, climate change is equal top of the international agenda. The world is locked into insanely complex talks to reduce emissions, and green groups and government shout as one that we have only a few years to avoid apocalypse. The polar bear on the melting ice flow has become an iconic picture of the decade, business has painted itself green, we've changed our lightbulbs and wind power has taken off. As Al Gore – in 2000 the new presidential nominee of the Democratic party – said, "We are all environmentalists now."
All this in a decade? What on earth happened?
Climate change took off on the back of science and a storm of weather-related disasters. The huge floods in Mozambique that displaced millions of people in January 2000 laid down a marker of what was to come. Within months, India was struck by one of its worst droughts, and 4.5 million people were made homeless by floods in Cambodia and Thailand. By 2003, record numbers of cyclones, hurricanes, heatwaves, droughts, fires, whirlwinds and floods killed tens of thousands of people.
It took record temperatures in Britain and 30,000 people to die in the 2003 European heatwave to bring climate change closer to home, but what perhaps clinched the big idea that Earth was in trouble was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 300,000 people. It had nothing to do with global warming but it reinforced the idea of the power of nature. Eight months later, Hurricane Katrina swept away parts of Louisiana along with much of the US's scepticism for climate change.
Meanwhile, more studies linked weather extremes to man-made emissions. Isolated contrarians claimed warming was natural, linked to sunspots and would be good for growing grapes in Britain. But in 2007 the Met office announced that 11 of the last 13 years had been the warmest on record, while a consensus of 2,000 UN climate scientists said climate change was not just "unequivocal" but most of it was man-made.
Corporate greenwash reached new heights in 2000, with BP rebranding itself Beyond Petroleum and the global nuclear industry calling itself "environmentally indispensable". The action then moved to Wall Street and the City; by 2007, Lehman Brothers in New York had set up an internal global council on climate change, and the same companies that had grown fat financing opencast coal mines, oil rigs and SUV plants began advising clients to Get Into Green.
In 2006, Nicholas Stern, a former World Bank economist at the UK Treasury, reported that business as usual in a climate-changing world meant economic meltdown. Politicians, industry, bankers and the media jumped aboard the green express, seeing dollar signs in emerging carbon markets and new technologies.
In fact, several other important events defined the environmental decade. One was China, which in 2008 officially overtook the US as the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter. Its dash for development matched the west's consumption boom, and sucked in forests, minerals and fuel from all over the world. But by mid-decade its scientists and politicians had seen the plunging water tables, choked on the coal pollution and realised that it could not continue. China now leads the world in rolling out technological solutions.
Over the decade the world's population grew from just over 6.1 billion to about 6.9 billion. That increase is equivalent to nearly 12 new Britains, or three new Americas, or a new Africa; or almost exactly the number of people alive in 1750. The majority were born in the poorest countries, off the west's radar, but it's clear that population and climate will define the centuries ahead,
As 2009 ends, the climate situation appears to be worse than anyone had thought, with 4C temperature rises a certainty within 50 years if nothing changes. But like the calm before the storm in 2000, temperatures are steady and carbon emissions are falling because the recession has temporarily reduced industrial production and consumption.
So what about deforestation, the decline of coral reefs, the loss of fresh water, the rise of global diseases, pollution and all that poverty the UN feared?
Oh yes, they all got worse. But at least we can blame climate change now.

Miliband calls on rich countries to make firm offers on cutting CO2

Ed Miliband urges the US to clarify its position ahead of a major economies forum in London
John Vidal, environment editor, Friday 16 October 2009 13.51 BST
Britain has ramped up the pressure on the US and other countries to come up with firm targets and commitments to reduce carbon emissions to ensure a new international climate change treaty can be agreed in December in Copenhagen.
Speaking ahead of a two day meeting of the world's 17 largest economies in London, climate change and energy secretary Ed Miliband called on the US to clarify its position.
"We are narrowing the gap [between countries]. China needs to make a substantial contribution. It's important that the US makes as much progress as possible. They must come to Copenhagen with a clear sense of what they want to do.
"Different countries are at different stages. We do need developed countries' numbers but also developing country actions. There is no solution to climate change without developing country actions," he said.
Miliband said that global emissions were presently about 50 gigatonnes of C02 a year but these need to reduce to 20Gt by 2050 to hold temperature increases to 2C and avoid catastrophic climate change.
"We need to reduce emissions to about 44Gt by 2020 and 35Gt by 2030. We already have offers on the table to get to 48Gt by 2020," he said.
The major economies forum (Mef) which starts this weekend will cover most of the issues now deadlocked in the UN climate talks but it is not an official part of the negotiations. But with just five days of formal talks left before negotiators and politicians go to Copenhagen to thrash out a final deal, the Mef is seen as an essential forum for governments to prepare their positions.
Brazil this week became the latest major developing country to propose emission cuts, suggesting it could cap its greenhouse gas emissions at 2005 levels by 2020. "We can reach 2020 with levels similar to those of 2005, even with economic growth of 4% annually," said environment minister Carlos Minc.
It follows India, China, Indonesia and Mexico, which have all indicated they are prepared to pass national legislation to curb emissions.
Asked whether the developing countries have done enough to fulfil their sirde of the bargain, Miliband said: "Numbers are essential at Copenhagen. We are going all out to get them. The most important thing is the mid term actions, [ie 2020]. Targets for 2050 are important but it's more important to have near term targets," said Miliband.
However, there is little prospect that the US will go to Copenhagen with firm figures and proposals because the domestic legislation that it needs to pass is held up in Congress. President Obama has indicated that the US will need more time, potentially forcing the talks into 2010.
Also expected to be discussed in London will be the size and form of the financial package to be offered by industrialised countries to developing countries to help them to adapt to climate change. Britain has proposed $100bn a year from the international community, but developing countries expect far more.
The 17 major economies participating are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the UK, and United States.
The EU and the US have insisted that most countries agree to curb emissions, even though developing countries are not historically responsible for climate change. The poorest countries in the world would not be obliged to cut emissions.

President Obama must come to Copenhagen to save climate change talks says Ed Miliband

President Obama must personally intervene to ensure the world reaches an ambitous deal to stop catastrophic global warming, according to British energy minister Ed Miliband.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Published: 1:16PM BST 16 Oct 2009

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December is due to agree a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol.
However so far the 190 countries involved in the deal have failed to agree on how the world can keep temperature rise below two degrees C (3.6 degrees F).

Mr Miliband, the UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said it would help if world leaders attend the conference to ensure all countries take action on cutting carbon emissions.
Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, has already pledged to attend and President Obama is likely to be in the area having picked up his Nobel Peace Prize at around the same time.
Mr Miliband pointed out that the key decision to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), at the G8 Summit in July, only happened because it was pushed by world leaders rather than just negotiators.
"I think the involvement of leaders is absolutely essential," he said.
In a last-ditch attempt to ensure an ambitious deal is met, the UK is hosting the Major Economies Forum (MEF) next week that will bring together ministers and officials from around the world.
Mr Miliband said the Government was "determined to throw everything" at getting a successful deal.
"The day will concentrate minds, the MEF is bringing pieces together. We are throwing everything at it. We are determined to get a deal at Copenhagen," he said.
He said rich countries must agree to legally binding mid-term targets to cut carbon emissions. At the moment this will be in the range of 25 and 40 per cent by 2020. This will be particularly difficult for the US where the President Obama is struggling to get through the necessary legislation.
"We are going all out to get an agreement with numbers. You cannot have success at Copenhagen without numbers," he said. "Numbers are absolutely essential."
Mr Miliband also said poorer countries like China and India need to agree to take action by agreeing to cut emissions against "business as usual".
"We also need developing countries to take action because there is no solution to the problem of climate change – given that most of the emissions will come from developing countries in the future – unless they do something."

Britain's first carbon capture and storage plant to be built in Yorkshire

EU funds demonstration project with €180m award to be matched by UK government for 900MW coal-fired power station
Alok Jha and Tim Webb, Friday 16 October 2009 17.36 BST

Britain's first carbon capture and storage demonstration plant will be built at Hatfield in Yorkshire, thanks to a €180m award from the European Union. The funds, announced today, will be matched by the UK government.
The money has been awarded to Powerfuel Power for a 900MW coal-fired electricity plant that could start operating as soon as 2014. The company will use "pre-combustion" CCS technology, which removes carbon dioxide from the coal before it is burned, and then pipes it to be buried in an offshore gas field 100 miles away. Pre-combustion CCS should trap more CO2 than post-combustion techniques.
Other shortlisted CCS projects in the UK, from Scottish Power at Longannet and E.ON at the now-delayed power station at Kingsnorth, will not receive money from the EU fund. But eight other CCS demonstration plants will be subsidised across Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Italy.
"CCS is moving off the drawing board and into practical application. It's a technology that has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by a vast amount," said Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat Euro-MP responsible for moving CCS legislation through the European Parliament last year.
Powerfuel wants to build a integrated gas-combined cycle power station at Hatfield. Coal is first gasified to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The former is reacted with water to produce CO2, which is captured, and more hydrogen. The hydrogen can be diverted to a turbine where it can be burned to produce electricity. Alternatively, some of this gas can be bled off to feed hydrogen fuel cells for cars.
Richard Budge, owner of Powerfuel, said he was confident of securing the £2.4bn total funding he would need to build the power stationand expects the project to be completed by the end of 2014. He said that unless more power plants were built, the UK would face a shortfall in electricity capacity by 2016. "We have to do something, otherwise we better all start buying candles."
CCS is widely seen as a critical technology in delivering energy security at the same time as cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It would allow the world's abundant coal reserves to be used to generate electricity but sequester the emissions. However, it has yet to be demonstrated at commercial scale anywhere in the world, a task that will cost billions of pounds.
A spokesperson for the Department for Energy and Climate Change welcomed the Hatfield funding: "The UK is in a strong position on CCS and we expect to be one of the first countries in the world to demonstrate this technology."
Last week E.ON delayed plans to build its own CCS coal plant at Kingsnorth for up to three years, blaming reduced energy demand caused by the recession. The company denied the EU decision had been a factor. "Whether we did or didn't win the funding played no part in the decision to delay Kingsnorth ," said a spokesperson. "We remain a contender in the UK government's CCS competition to build up to four demonstration plants.
In its report the EU said that Hatfield's plan to use pre-combustion CCS was "a highly innovative concept". In addition, the EU was impressed with plans to create a cluster of CCS projects in the area , allowing several projects to share pipeline and storage infrastructure in the Yorkshire and Humberside area.
Yorkshire Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis said: "This announcement should be welcomed as being great news for the region's economy and for combating global climate change. Hopefully, it will the first of many such projects as the idea is to develop a 'Humber Cluster' of CCS projects that within 15 years could curb the emission of up to 70m tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere."
The EU wants up to 12 commercial CCS projects to be demonstrated around the continent by 2015. Funding will come from a €1bn economic recovery programme, with additional support of €6bn expected to be announced next year.

Green consumerism can avert climate disaster, say top firms

Tesco, Coca-Cola and Reckitt Benckiser bosses press politicians for action and argue against need to curb economic growth
Patrick Wintour, political editor, Friday 16 October 2009 18.07 BST
Climate change catastrophe can be averted by "greening" consumer behaviour rather than by curbing economic growth and mass consumerism, leaders of some of the world's biggest businesses including Tesco, Coca-Cola and Reckitt Benckiser argued today.
They urged politicians to be braver at the Copenhagen talks on climate change in December, saying voters could be persuaded of the need to act. They were speaking, along with David Cameron and Professor Robert Puttnam, the sociologist and advocate of the importance of social capital, at a conference in London on the role of the consumer and business in combating climate change.
The degree of focus on climate change by the businesspeople would have been impossible five years ago. But some in the audience angrily insisted that they underestimated the need to slow consumerism.
Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive of Tesco, told the conference that combating climate change was now the number one priority of his company, and announced that his multibillion-pound business would be zero-carbon by 2050. "Survival is the issue, not just for our business, but the entire planet," he said.
The president of Coca-Cola, Muhtar Kent, warned politicians: "Act now or you will fail, and so will the world. Politicians need to think like businesses and think about the long term." He claimed that consumers now put the environment at the top of their priorities in all of its customer surveys, including in developing countries such as Brazil and Mexico.
Bart Becht, the chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, expressed his fear that a deal would not be made in Copenhagen. "Are we there yet? We are nowhere near. Government is not set up to handle global issues effectively. They have short time horizons, and elections, but we are institutions built to last."
Paul Polman, of Unilever, said: "We need a whole new business model, but it takes time."
The businessmen repeatedly argued that neither regulation nor government would be sufficient to bring emissions down, pointing out that 70% of emissions came from consumers.
Kent said Coca-Cola's surveys suggested that as much as 70% of future advertising would have an environmental focus, and his aim was to reduce by 40% the energy footprint of its 10m refrigerators across 206 countries.
He said: "I think it is a fallacy to think growth and a sustainable world are mutually exclusive."
Kent pointed out in the next decade there would be many millions more middle class people living in cities. "How can businesses continue to serve the needs of these new middle classes and yet embed sustainability into business plans? That is the goal."
Leahy praised the carbon reduction targets being set by governments, but said: "It is only by realising our potential as people, citizens, consumers, as users that we can turn targets into reality. It will be a transition achieved not by some great invention or some great act of parliament, but through the billions of choices made by consumers every day all over the world."
He warned that too often climate change was seen as a threat that "is turned into a demand for retreat. Consumers are told they must accept ever greater limits on their ambitions and a reduction on what they can desire all so their emissions may be cut. This is not just unrealistic, but also fails to see the enormous positive potential of consumers."

Sceptics' figures on global warming simply don't add up

Almost all climatologists expect warming to continue in the long term, but – because of natural fluctuations – they disagree about the immediate future, writes Geoffrey Lean.

By Geoffrey LeanPublished: 6:08PM BST 16 Oct 2009
Recent media reports suggested that global temperatures have not increased since 1998. Some sceptics say this proves that global warming has stopped, or reversed. I wish it were so. Alas, no such hopeful conclusion can be drawn.
Temperatures don't go steadily up or down, they naturally fluctuate around a trend: a cold week in April does not mean that winter will come in June. In any general trend, there will periods when they seem to go the other way.

Besides, it all depends on the dates picked: 1998 was anomalously hot because of an exceptionally strong El Nino, which always warms up the weather. Using it as a starting point produces a very different result than choosing the much cooler 1996, 1997, 1999 or 2000. On any long-term basis, temperatures have risen fast. The hopeful theory relies on Met Office temperature measurements. Nasa, which also takes readings, has the thermometer going up since 1998, with 2005 even warmer. The difference? The Met Office excludes the Arctic Ocean – the fastest-warming area on Earth.
Almost all climatologists expect warming to continue in the long term, but – because of natural fluctuations – they disagree about the immediate future. Part of the conclusion of one paper – "global surface temperatures may not increase over the next decade…" – is often cited by the sceptics. They rarely quote the rest of sentence "…as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming".

Environmental activist arrested ahead of coal-fired power station protest

Campaigners claim police have stepped up intimidation in week in which four activists were detained on way to Copenhagen
Adam Vaughan, Friday 16 October 2009 13.04 BST
An environmental activist has been arrested in advance of a protest planned at a Nottinghamshire coal power station this weekend. As the unnamed campaigner was arrested yesterday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, it also emerged that a total of four climate activists have been detained this week attempting to travel to Copenhagen.
Climate activists including members of campaigning groups Climate Camp and Plane Stupid have pledged to shut down the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power station run by German energy giant E.ON. The arrests follow an injunction taken out by E.ON against protesters that will allow police to arrest anyone who enters the plant's grounds. A large police and private security presence is expected at the site, which has upped its security measures, including the erection of a new electric fence.
The campaigner charged yesterday has been released and bailed to return to a police station on Saturday, when the power station protests are due to take place. On Tuesday this week, 31-year-old office worker Chris Kitchen was prevented from travelling to Copenhagen to take part in events around the UN climate talks this December. Three other activists are now understood to have been detained and searched this week while attempting to travel to Copenhagen, though they have subsequently completed their journeys.
Activists for Plane Stupid also claimed they were phoned yesterday by Nottinghamshire police and told "they would be arrested" if they came to Ratcliffe-on-Soar. Tracy Singh from Plane Stupid said "the police are acting like hoodlums. We are absolutely disgusted." A press spokesperson for Nottinghamshire police said it would be facilitating lawful protest around the power station and denied activists would be arrested simply by coming to the site.
Richard Bernard, a spokesperson for Climate Camp, added: "They're threatening and arresting people for just thinking and talking about taking meaningful action. This is clear intimidation — they're just trying to scare us. But what's really scary is climate change, and that's why we're going to take control of Ratcliffe on Saturday."
E.ON has responded to the planned protest by placing a series of videos on its YouTube channel with comments from its press team, the power station manager and protestors.
A spokeswoman for E.ON, said: "We respect the right of people to have their say as long as it's peaceful and lawful. [The planned action] is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. What I would say is by all means come, but don't try to break into the power station."
Activists have been sharing satellite maps and photos of the power station online, which they plan to travel to by train and bus. The Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station emits 12.8m tonnes of CO2 a year and is Britain's third largest source of direct greenhouse gas emissions. E.ON says it is one of the UK's most efficient coal power stations.
In April this year, 114 people were arrested at a Nottingham school on suspicion of planning a direct action on the power station. At least 25 of the activsts have been subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass, a charge which places restrictions on communications with friends and family and potentially carries a sentence of six months.
E.ON has also been the subject of an ongoing campaign by climate activists for its plans to build a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. Last week the company said Kingsnorth had been postponed because of the global recession, an annoucement that campaigners viewed as a victory for the climate movement.

Sun sets on the solar-powered revolution

Geoffrey Lean is afraid to say that the solar-powered chickens may be fluttering home to roost.

By Geoffrey LeanPublished: 6:09PM BST 16 Oct 2009
Over long years I have developed a rule of thumb on the launching of government initiatives: the bigger the fanfare, the glitzier the setting, and the greater the array of ministers in attendance, the more insubstantial it will turn out to be. For British officialdom has mastered an art that eluded Mark Antony – burying something while praising it.
At first, this summer’s launch of the Government’s much-trumpeted plans for a green industrial revolution – 650 ponderous pages of documents, including a renewable energy White Paper – seemed to avoid these perils. The press conference was in a dingy basement in Lord Mandelson’s Business Department – and though a batch of ministers, headed by the power-soaked peer himself, were duly on display, they fell short of truly ominous numbers.

But then followed a self-congratulatory ministerial bash in the Science Museum – not quite in the same league as the City’s Guildhall and Whitehall’s Banqueting House, ornate portals to oblivion both – but worrying. I was not invited, but turned up anyway, to sense a whiff of doom. I wrote at the time of my doubts of whether the revolution was for real. And now it seems, in at least one important respect – enabling families to become more self-sufficient in energy – the solar-powered chickens may be fluttering home to roost.
It’s a shame. For if households can properly insulate their homes and install small-scale renewable technologies – such as solar panels – they become independent of energy companies, and turn a tidy profit by selling electricity back to the grid. This can reduce the need for large generating stations – whether powered by fossil fuels, the atom, or the wind – and simultaneously cut Britain’s carbon emissions. David Cameron’s Conservatives have grasped the concept’s importance. But it is hated by officials, who loathe the idea of millions of people making decisions instead of them. They have diligently reined it back, by slashing grants, whenever it looked like taking off. And despite last summer’s fanfare, this seems to be happening again.
There’s huge potential for generating energy at home. A report backed by Lord Mandelson’s department last year concluded that under a “plausible policy scenario” nine million dwellings – about one in three in Britain – could be exploiting such “micropower” by 2020, producing as much energy as five large nuclear power stations. A less expensive programme could equip three million homes.
Instead – under plans on which public consultation ended on Thursday – the Government is aiming at a modest 870,000, producing just two per cent of Britain’s power, one sixteenth of the technical potential. Solar electricity, the most promising of all the technologies, is planned to provide only half a percentage point – even, as David Cameron pointed out yesterday, though similarly cloudy Germany last year installed about 250 times as many panels.
Hopes were high of a rooftop renewable revolution this year after the Government finally agreed (or rather was forced to do so by a Tory resolution in the House of Lords) to introduce “feed-in tariffs”, the secret of Germany’s success. But the consultation documents show that rates for generating renewable power have been fixed at a level apparently designed to stop it succeeding. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association says that the tariffs should provide an 8-12 per cent annual return on investment for sustainable micropower growth. India has just launched a scheme with a 19 per cent return. But the Government’s plans provide for just 5-8 per cent.
Again, solar electricity seems to be being particularly discouraged, at 4 per cent. The official Energy Savings Trust estimates it will take some 15 years to recoup the capital cost – and families on average live in a home for just seven. Ministers say that micropower took off in Germany at similar tariffs: but there it was part of a package that offered householders low-interest loans for the whole capital cost. The Government has ruled out similar help here.
Loans have been promised for energy-saving measures – to be paid back out of savings on energy bills – but again ministers are dragging their feet. They accept that the loans must be attached to the home, so that succeeding owners continue repaying out of their savings. But this would require legislation, which they have no plans to introduce. Instead they are setting up four pilot projects, which will not report until 2011 and, without the law change, will not be true trials. Which all suggests that the Science Museum was the wrong place for the launch. Ministers should have gone next door, to the Natural History Museum, to celebrate under the long dead bones of the dinosaur.

Peugeot's electric dream

BB1 concept might make production, says the French manufacturer.

By Andrew EnglishPublished: 4:00PM BST 16 Oct 2009

A decision on production of the BB1 is expected within four months

Carbon-fibre construction makes the BB1 light but costly to produce
Peugeot may put its extraordinary little electric concept car, the BB1, into production.
The 8ft 2in four-seater has a lithium-ion battery-powered driveline with two 20bhp in-wheel electric motors. Instead of a steering wheel, it has handlebars and passengers sit on bicycle-style saddles.

"We will make a decision in three to four months," says Jean-Marc Gales, Peugeot's director general. "It depends on price. The BB1 weighs about 650kg (1,432lb), and we need to keep the mass under control. If we do that, we will keep costs under control."
With its carbon-fibre bodywork, the BB1 will not be cheap, but Gales says it should sell for less than 12,000 euros (£11,140). With such a lightweight construction, Peugeot claims its range will be about 75 miles.
It might also mean the vehicle could be homologated under the quadricycle rules, which will mean cheaper tax and insurance.

Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy’s recipe for greener Britain and better NHS

Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester: The Saturday Interview
Sir Terry Leahy became chief executive of Tesco in 1997, just as Tony Blair was walking through the door of No 10. Within ten years he had turned the “pile it high and sell it cheap” food chain into a global supermarket brand. Tesco became new Labour’s success story, a red, white and blue symbol of the classless society where everyone from the dustman to the duchess could pick up a pint of milk.
Even as the Government stumbled and the country went into recession, the company went from strength to strength. Now £1 in every £6 spent on the high street goes to Tesco and it employs 470,000 people worldwide and runs 4,308 stores.
Sir Terry, the Everton fan who grew up in a prefab, has always been one step ahead of the consumer. He knows when the West Country has been converted to couscous and how much Hackney is willing to pay for a pound of cheese. He can do fair trade, budget, gourmet and green.
Politicians love to court the supermarket king, who works out of an unprepossessing industrial estate in Hertfordshire. Labour has studied the Tesco Clubcard to learn how to reach niche groups in an election. Now the Tories are discussing everything from education to eco-homes with the man who has his finger on the pulse of Middle England.

Sir Terry’s next project is to save the planet. Yesterday he announced an agreement between 30 global corporations, including Coca-Cola, Unilever and News International, which owns The Times, before the Copenhagen summit on climate change. “It is going to take a long time for countries to reduce their carbon emissions but consumers can do it overnight just by changing their behaviour. We need a second consumer revolution,” he says.
He thinks that Tesco customers are ready. The supermarket will put carbon footprints on hundreds of products, making clear the environmental damage they cause. Sir Terry plans to replace “buy one, get one free” offers, which he thinks encourage waste, with “buy one, get one free later” deals. As part of an effort to become carbon neutral by 2050, he will install green refrigerators, windmills and generators in Tesco stores. “The rise of mass consumption was a miracle of the 20th century. Everyone wanted a better life, from Britain to Asia, but we can’t keep doing it in such a carbon-insensitive way.”
Companies must turn consumers into part of the solution. “You need to work with the grain of human nature. If you force people, they don’t take on board the reason for the change and alter their wider behaviour. Take cars and petrol: there is a huge tax on it but it didn’t change how much they drove. You have to get society to make lowcarbon living desirable and cool. People used to see success as living in a mansion in America. Now it has to be a zero-carbon house and an electric sports car.”
Sir Terry has turned his 1930s suburban family home into a green grotto. “I have solar panels, new boilers and a hybrid car. We do all our own recycling and compost and water recovery. I don’t want to portray myself as a green zealot — it would be better to say I was an ordinary agnostic — but the science is incontrovertible and the implications are terrible, so I do what an ordinary person does.”
Will he stop selling green beans from Zambia? “It may be bad to fly in goods but then growing food under glass in Europe may be as bad,” he replies. “If you start saying you can only eat in season or eat British, it doesn’t work. If you start deciding for people how they live their lives you make mistakes — they know their own lives best. On a grand scale that becomes state planning of the economy, and that makes for lousy decisions.”
He is reluctant to promise to cut packaging. “That’s more complicated because we don’t make anything but we have reduced the number of plastic bags by 50 per cent in two years. It’s been done voluntarily: if you re-use a bag you get a Clubcard point.”
One problem is that supermarkets, led by Tesco, have encouraged people to stop using local shops and to drive to out-of-town stores. Surely Sir Terry must see a contradiction between this and his new green message?
“The rise of the modern supermarket just reflects the changing needs of families — more women working, people having less time and more disposable income.” His wife, Alison, works as a doctor and they share the weekly Tesco trip.
As a child, he went to the shops with his mother every day. “We were about six miles from the city centre. There was a little sweetshop, a grocer’s, a greengrocer’s and a butcher’s. You queued in each of them for the little they had, then you went to town to the department store to buy a slice of ham and look at the other things that you couldn’t afford to buy.
“I passionately believe supermarkets have been part of democracy in Britain — they’ve given people huge power over their lives, they’ve been liberating for women.” Sir Terry admits that he feels some guilt about forcing small shopkeepers out of business. “But the truth is this is part of change, it’s the creative destruction of markets. With winners come losers.” Critics say that the “Tescofication” of Britain has created clone towns, mushroom-risotto identi-food and Identikit grey uniforms for children. But Sir Terry defends the dominance of his brand.
“Around the world people choose the same things. The iPhone is chosen in Brazil, Japan and North America because it is better. It’s a democratic choice, but the price of that is you don’t get cultural variety.”
How has he stopped people from tiring of Tesco? “We are very counter to management theory which says you have to have your niche market. Whether you’re on income support or you’re a millionaire, you get treated the same. You have to give a lot up because it’s not completely bespoke, but it fits reasonably well, so you think the compromises you make are worth it for what you get back.”
The public services need to perform the same trick. Sir Terry thinks that government has become too controlling and centralised. “All my business experience has taught me that people are pretty wise and know what is best for their lives. You’ve got to put responsibility locally and trust people. There’s no officer class at Tesco, it doesn’t matter what your background is, you can get to the top. We trust people to take decisions on the ground.”
Too many Whitehall targets, he says, have been counterproductive. “It’s better to have teams on the ground with more authority. Take the NHS, there are many incredible specialisms, from cleaning to anaesthetics, that have to come together. That’s hard to do from a long way away.”
As one of the biggest employers in Britain, he thinks that the education system is failing. “Too many schools aren’t good enough. I don’t think that’s a controversial statement.” The answer is better teachers. “Teaching has got to be a more important profession in society — better paid and with more talented people going into it.” Tesco already has 800 apprentices and a degree course. Would Sir Terry consider helping the Tories with their free schools? “Tesco would always work constructively with the government of the day on the programmes that they’re trying to achieve.”
He is an obvious candidate for a peerage and a ministerial post in a Cameron administration but he insists that he would never go into politics. “I wouldn’t be any good at it, for a start. I’m a private person, this is about as public a role as I would ever want to do.”
The man who started out stacking shelves and washing floors says that he has never wanted to be a banker either. For him, running a supermarket is a form of public service. “I’ve never done it for the money. Some people run away from their background, I never have. I’m very comfortable in Liverpool. Essentially I’m still working-class.”
CVBorn February 28, 1956 Education St Edward’s College, Liverpool. University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology Career 1978: management trainee at Co-op. 1979: Tesco marketing executive. 1992: Tesco marketing director. 1997: Chief executive. Salary £1.3 million Family Married to Alison, a doctor, with three children Interests Special adviser to Everton Football Club
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