The BBC today said “Chris Huhne has committed the UK to halving carbon emissions by 2025, from 1990 levels, and changing the way that the country produces energy.” This appears to be very good news, even if it doesn’t go as far as some of us would like it still is the strongest legal limit set by any government in the world. However there are many potential pitfalls, such as the fact that in 2014 the commitment will be subject to review, the inclusion of carbon off-setting, and the political isolation of Chris Huhne in the light of his alleged passing responsibility for his speeding to his ex-wife.
David Cameron claims this to be the ‘greenest government ever’. It’s a funny coalition. Many senior figures in both parties, it seems to me, are not at all green at heart, such as Nick Clegg and George Osborne, whereas I think Chris Huhne and perhaps also David Cameron are, or at least want to appear so. So far any reduction in carbon emissions in the UK appears mainly to be due to the recession and outsourcing production to China.
Perhaps the best way to judge this government’s claim to be the greenest ever will be to see how far they help in the promotion of major changes in our energy use and infrastructure. Photovoltaic panel installations grew by an astonishing 1500% in the UK in 2010, admittedly from a miniscule base and due to feed-in tariffs brought in by Labour. The offshore wind industry seems to be gathering pace. But there is so much more that needs to done and which will create many jobs and future low carbon prosperity.
We do live in fast changing world. Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) is now coming out in favour of some pretty radical green stuff like promoting the combination of renewable energy with Combined Heat and Power and district heating, as I’ve written about in several blogs about best practice in Denmark and Austria.
IEA press release: http://www.newenergyworldnetwork.com/alternative-energy-analysis/iea-highlights-role-of-chp-in-delivering-new-energy-future.html
BBC announcement: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13417997
Geoffrey Lean on Huhne: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/geoffreylean/100088349/david-camerons-green-agenda-hangs-on-chris-huhnes-fate/
I’ve just listened to the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4, which was about a couple of the farmers at the cutting edge of English ecological farming, Mark Diacono and Martin Crawford. I’d been aware of Martin and the Agroforestry Research Trust for a while but Mark’s work at Otter Farm was new to me.
They both use Permaculture and forest gardening techniques and have developed really productive land use systems. By not digging the land they stop the release of soil based carbon into the atmosphere and help the mycorrhizal fungi sequester carbon and build soil fertility. As well as helping mitigate climate change, (by not using fossil fuel based fertilizers, pesticides and fuel and by sequestering carbon) they are showing us how to adapt to climate change by growing a much greater diversity of plants, many of which have not been grown before in Britain, and by growing them in an agroforestry system they are very much more resilient in the face of climatic extremes. One small example is the exceptionally dry spring we have just had which has reduced the productivity of many annual crops but which has very little detrimental effect on established forest gardens like Martins.
The question now is who will be the first to develop a farm that learns from the ecological sustainability of forest farming, permaculture and models like Otter Farm and the Agroforestry Research Trust, then combines this with the social inclusion evidenced by Will Allen and the Growing Power group in Milwaukee and perhaps adds other elements like academic research into soil carbon sequestration. Now that really would be cutting edge farming!
Listen to the programme here:Â http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010xy3g#synopsis
Sheila Dillon’s blog asks what we gardeners could learn from such systems
Martin Crawford and the Agroforestry Research Trust: Â http://www.agroforestry.co.uk
Mark Diacono and Otter Farm or ‘climate change farm’: Â http://www.otterfarm.co.uk