#Budget2017: From green to grey in 6 weeks

In British politics, governing is as much performance art as it is accounting. Even ‘Fiscal Phil’, that most studious scrutiniser of the spreadsheet knows this. Perhaps this is why his green headlines ahead of the budget were about a single use plastics tax, a clampdown on dirty diesels and a push on EVs. These followed a green October, with Michael

Does the Clean Growth Strategy live up to the hype?

The journey of the government’s decarbonisation strategy, announced today, is a key to how it should be read: it started as the carbon plan, was downgraded to a compliance-focused emissions reduction plan, then transformed into a clean growth plan to match a shift in how government now sees green growth and, at the last moment, it has metamorphosed into the

Should we trust Michael Gove?

Should we trust Michael Gove? That’s the question lurking underneath all of the commentary about the environment secretary’s protestations of love for the planet. He gave a barnstormer of a speech at WWF’s Living Planet centre last week, declaring that marine plastics would be tackled, the ivory trade would be halted and eleven million trees would be planted.This expanded on

How smart is the government’s smart power strategy?

The government’s smart power strategy, Upgrading our energy system, unveiled yesterday, is the ultimate under the radar approach. It contains 29 deeply technocratic changes (such as “developing a Balancing and Settlement Code (BSC) modification, P344”), which are combined seamlessly with the neutered language of “removing barriers” and “making markets work”. It looks boring. But don’t be fooled: if it works,

Cleaning up the oceans is not a solution to the plastic problem

This blog was first posted on EurActiv. Plastics have brought huge benefits to our society. But with those benefits come environmental problems. Too often, plastic ends up as waste, as marine litter polluting the oceans, or as litter on our beaches. Lightweight, durable, and low cost plastics have transformed the products we make and consume, becoming ubiquitous through their convenience

Why this week’s budget shouldn’t ignore the UK’s yawning low carbon power gap

This year the spring budget comes at an odd time for all things low carbon in the UK. In February, the government published its industrial strategy, setting out its clean growth aims as part of Theresa May’s flagship domestic economic policy. By the beginning of the summer, the government will produce a ‘clean growth’ plan, outlining how the UK will

Investors are getting out of high carbon, but will government help them get into low carbon?

Reading the news, it’s hard to know what to make of the UK’s low carbon progress. On Christmas Day we were running on 40 per cent renewable power, and earlier last year we switched all our coal fired power stations off for the first time in 130 years. But the decision to go ahead with Heathrow means flights could take up

Why the Treasury should go for low carbon infrastructure, regardless of climate change

This post first appeared as a Huffington Post Blog. It was George Osborne who, festooned with hard hat and high vis, proclaimed that ‘we are the builders.’ He looked a bit silly, but his message was serious. Building things is what real people do; it’s where real economic growth happens; and it’s a real investment in our shared future. Osborne

California dreaming? Environmental lessons for Brexit Britain from the ‘left coast’

John Steinbeck described the California I grew up in as ‘a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.’ The golden state has always loomed large in the imagination but, in my early years, much of the stink and quality of light was literal: my dad

How can Britain keep the lights on without subsidising fossil fuels?

Britain has an extraordinarily reliable power system. The lights flicker so rarely that it is easy to forget that the power system is actually a finely tuned and, in some ways, fragile machine, which breaks if electricity demand and supply are not in balance. Perturbations, such as the up-tick in demand after the FA Cup final, or the sudden outage

The nuclear option: what Hinkley Point says about UK energy policy

EDF’s battle for Hinkley C, a project first put forward a decade ago, has been won. It is a triumph for the political equivalent of siege warfare.

Yesterday’s EU ruling on products is a triumph for British consumer rights

Have you ever shattered your mobile phone screen? Or maybe your washing machine has packed up, and the repair costs so much you might as well buy a new one? Yesterday, national governments of the EU’s 28 member states, including … Continue reading →

What does the budget mean for UK renewables?

The chancellor described his budget as taking bold decisions to “act now so we don’t pay later.” Osborne announced £730 million of funding for “less established” renewables and endorsed storage, demand response and interconnection. Half an hour before the Budget, … Continue reading →

The EU’s circular economy package is about a lot more than just recycling

A version of this post first appeared on BusinessGreen. The European Commission this week fired the starting gun on its circular economy programme, and the panoply of documents released shows that it will be a marathon, not a sprint. As … Continue reading →

The surprise death of UK CCS is the real energy reset

Forget the cuts to the RHI. Ignore halving ECO. The biggest change to the UK’s energy strategy didn’t appear in yesterday’s autumn statement. Instead, a two line note snuck out an hour or so after George Osborne finished his speech confirmed that … Continue reading →

5 things you should know about government and your energy bill

Energy bills are back in the news, with the Office of Budget Responsibility calculating new figures for the cost of low carbon power, the Competition and Markets Authority investigating energy companies, and both IPPR and Policy Exchange releasing reports in the … Continue reading →

Ring-fences and roller coasters: why the Budget looks bad for DECC

Last week, Green Alliance outlined how pre-election Conservative Party spending promises might affect DECC’s budget. The headline was that 90 per cent of DECC’s staff budget could vanish by 2018-19 due to four factors: Ring-fencing health, international development and education … Continue reading →

Building a circular economy, one smartphone at a time

Smartphones, tablets and laptops are ubiquitous in the wealthy world, and the makers of these devices have their eyes set on selling to the next five billion consumers in emerging markets. And why not? Access to the internet is a … Continue reading →

Why using CCS for industry as well as power makes sense

The case for carbon capture and storage (CCS) is increasingly confused. The IPCC suggests CCS makes quick, low cost decarbonisation much more feasible, and the prime minister recently declared the technology “absolutely crucial.” But a recent UCL study found that … Continue reading →

Why greens should embrace digital technology, but not abandon politics

This post first appeared on the Huffington Post. Technological innovation is intoxicating. Digital technologies have evolved so quickly that technology prophets are predicting a ‘digital disruption’, in which vast material bounty is created at such low marginal costs that big … Continue reading →

The cost of a food waste landfill ban? What the Treasury’s sums missed

Earlier this month, the Treasury released its analysis of the costs of opposition policy, including the effect of a landfill ban for food waste on government expenditure. It’s important to understand the costs of green policy, but these Treasury calculations … Continue reading →