Herefordshire Council remains in Conservative control, but the elections of 5th May 2011 have brought in a lot of new blood. ‘It’s Our County’ is an unusual political party in that it has no national affiliations, but it managed to win nine council seats and early signs are that they, along with newly elected Felicity Norman of the Green party, are having a positive influence.
Here’s my personal Wish List for Herefordshire Council:
Energy: The Council should sign-up with a 100% renewables company for all its energy needs. It should also work with all local communities to help facilitate community owned renewables projects, ideally for the combined production of electricity, heat and transport fuels, as for example the town of Gussing in Austria has done via its wood chip gasification process. Community owned Anaerobic Digestion, wind farms, solar pv, projects should be supported. Funds raised though the generation of renewable electricity could be used to set-up a fund to renovate existing buildings, as at Fintry in Scotland.
New Housing: If we are to build thousands of new houses this is an opportunity to build cutting-edge, passive house, One Planet Living style developments. We should consider building district heating systems, in part utilizing solar thermal with interseasonal heat storage, and incorporating a wide range of renewable energy sources, as is increasingly common practice in Denmark.
Existing Buildings: The Council could invite the Association of Environmentally Conscious Builders AECB and others to see if a County wide eco-renovation scheme is possible, and attempt to source funding for this, and possibly like Fintry use renewable electricity sales as a means to do this.
Farming: The council should work with existing local organic farmers to see if it were possible to achieve the kind of good food revolution that Will Allen and the Growing Power team have achieved in Milwaukee. To this end land close to the City of Hereford and the Market Towns should be set aside for Community Supported Agriculture projects. This could be tied to research into soil carbon sequestration.
Atmospheric CO2‚ is now at 393.18ppm and rising fast. Newspaper headlines this week highlight the danger. Turning the global economy around and getting CO2‚ concentrations back to the safe upper limit of 350ppm will be an epic struggle. Meanwhile the other big story this week has been Angela Merkel’s decision, influenced by the German Green Party’s strong showing at recent local elections, to phase-out nuclear power by 2022. Many critics of this say this will inevitably mean rising use of coal and gas, with consequent emissions, or the hypocritical importation of French nuclear generated electricity
The central message behind this blog is that it is imperative that we reduce emissions rapidly, and that a vast level of investment in energy efficiency and renewables is the best way to do this. What Germany does over the coming years will be a test case, but if a renewables based economy can work in a densely populated and heavily industrialised economy like Germany it can work anywhere.
The policy change is already having ramifications on the German power industry as the big four companies who have huge vested interests in large centralised nuclear and coal plants are becoming displaced by 900 or so smaller municipal power companies keen to generate decentralised renewable energy. Some of this renewable energy will be locally generated; some will come from more distant sources. For example Stadtwerke Munchen is investing heavily in a broad mix of local renewables, plus concentrating solar in Spain and North Sea wind.
The scale of the challenge facing humanity is immense. Vast sums will need to be raised. Carbon taxes, energy taxes, higher income and wealth taxes will need to be implemented globally to make the multitrillion investments needed to lower carbon emissions sufficiently quickly to avert climate catastrophe.
World Climate ‘on the brink’
German nuclear phase-out
More on the changing nature of German electricity companies