Feedback on various issues from recent Sustainability meeting plus the "marmite" topic of carbon offsetting
Feedback from Sustainability meeting plus "marmite" topic carbon offsetting
Feedback on various aspects of our Sustainability discussion plus campaign re Local Electricity Bill, plus article on carbon offsetting
This issue of TinT Newsletter covers:
feedback on 15th May Open Meeting
Wildlife corridors Tring
How to get your street closed to have fun
Wildlife friendly areas Miswell Park
Local Electricity Bill campaign
tool repair and donation
Community Garden next session 9th June
carbon offsetting: the good and the "iffy"
Feedback from Tring Sustainability Open Meeting
Thank you to all 27 people who came along to this meeting! A very constructive session with some great ideas. We are in process of setting up a Google Drive so the output can be sent to all who left their e-mail addresses enabling interactive discussion/suggestions on “how” and any “who’s”.
In the meantime Tring Town Council has set up a Climate Change Working Party on which TinT has two representatives. TinT will give them, as aims, the ideas from our open meeting (combining some) and we are putting forward the topics of housing, work, and biodiversity niftily putting a total of 10 specific proposals within that umbrella.
Mapping Wildlife Corridors etc
Thank you to all those who took a section of map of Tring to mark on wildlife corridors/hedgerows/any gaps that need filling, and related information. You should since have received an e-mail from Barr on 22/5 with a key for completing your map.
Wildlife corridors are of fundamental importance to wildlife and biodiversity.
Can all of us who took maps please complete and return them to Barr by Friday June 28th at the latest, to 2, Little Hoo, Tring HP23 4HU (first house on right if coming from Christchurch Road end – pale blue garage door). Please add your name and e-mail address to the map.
Barr will then collate the maps and discuss with those who have done them how they feel the information could best be used. A couple of possibilities are a project to fill in gaps in wildlife corridors to enhance wildlife habitat; and/or as a resource when responding to planning applications.
Your Street -- Having Fun
Rob Schafer encouraged more people to consider closing their street once a year or once a month to let their kids have fun playing out safely – and have fun chatting to their neighbours without fear of being flattened by a speeding vehicle. This is a truly inspiring initiative and makes a lot of people very happy.
Clicking on http://ourstreetparty.org/how/ and clicking the “How?” on the toolbar gives a simple contact form to complete and submit – in return for which you receive a “how to” pack. Best of luck to anyone who decides to give this a go – and enjoy!
Wildlife Friendly Areas -- Miswell Park
Creating small wildlife areas/encouraging an untidy bit in gardens to make them wildlife friendly attracted much interest. It was suggested that the rough grass area at Miswell Park (between Miswell Lane and Christchurch Road) would be an ideal place to do this. Anyone interested in helping Friends of Miswell Park to kick start such a project is invited to contact Rob via email@example.com.
Local Electricity Bill Campaign
I am contacting you to ask you to join our campaign for the Local Electricity Bill.
The campaign is trying to solve the problem, that I am sure you are all too familiar with, that community energy groups are unable to sell their energy directly to local members and local residents because of the huge costs and bureaucracy involved in becoming a licensed supplier. The Local Electricity Bill aims to address this.
So how does it do that? The Bill creates a Right to Local Supply that would make the costs and bureaucracy of supplying energy locally proportionate to the scale of the community energy group’s supply operation. This would mean, for example, that a community energy group that chose to set itself up to supply directly to residents in its local village would face a smaller cost and admin burden than another community energy group wanting to supply directly to all the local residents and businesses in the three nearest towns.
Imagine the benefits this would bring – your organisation will be able to sell its energy to your local members and residents! Community energy would be transformed across the country! Local community energy groups would spring up everywhere. Think of all the new local jobs, clean energy and more resilient local economies.
This is already happening in places like Greece and Spain and we want to make it law here. By supporting the campaign you will be helping create this great change.
You can view the Bill here. We have also written a detailed guide on it here which explains how it works in depth and answers questions relating network costs, regulatory mechanisms etc.
I and my fellow campaigners here at Power for People drafted the Bill. Our campaign has made a great start – getting the Bill introduced in Parliament in September last year and 108 MPs on board (see a list of these MPs here) – but the campaign needs your help.
This very good level of Parliamentary support, built up in just eight months, shows that the campaign can succeed. But to do so requires the support of well over 325 MPs (i.e. more than half the House of Commons). We know this from experience – we ran the campaigns that got the Climate Change Act, the Warm Homes Act and the Doorstep Recycling Act into law.
The more groups and people that join the campaign and lobby their MP, the greater the chances of success. This is the number one reason why I am contacting you.
Also, we would like to hear your views on the Bill. Its wording is not fixed, there will be opportunities for redrafting and we are seeking input from community groups and experts. Some have suggested including a requirement that only not-for-profit companies, along with co-operatives, can become local energy suppliers. We are well aware that several smaller supply companies went under in last 12 months and so we want to involve you and others in getting the final version right.
Please do the following to help this campaign:
1. Sign up to support the campaign. You can do this by simply replying to this email with a ‘yes’ or by signing up on our website here. This is free and means that we will be able to contact you and ask you to write to your local MP – I will be in touch with a suggested letter.
2. Pass this email on to those involved in community energy or indeed anyone you know who may want to support the campaign.
3. Send me any feedback you have by replying to this email. I would be really interested to hear any comments or questions you have on the Bill, or your personal experiences and challenges relating to community energy.
Can anyone honestly say that they don’t have any tools that they no longer need? That tool bought for a one-off DIY job long since completed? Even broken tools. When was the last time you used that tool? When are you ever likely to need it again, if ever?
The meeting was reminded that a local charity can repair/send tools no longer needed tools to vocational training projects in Africa and UK where they can be put to good use.
Community Garden Club Next Session
... is on Sunday June 9th, 10am-12 noon, all welcome.
Nigel will be running this session
The garden is really growing well after the warmth and the rain. We'll certainly be needing to hoe some weeds!
If you're coming along to help, please bring gardening gloves, a hot /cold drink and a gardening implement of your choice (hoes especially welcome this session. Available to pick now:
Herbs and rhubarb
Some may find this piece a bit challenging. If any reader has comments about it, I’d be interested to hear (firstname.lastname@example.org), and also from anyone who has used a carbon offset programme they feel is better than any of the ones mentioned below.
Using several hours of research, this piece seeks to identify the features of the better carbon offset schemes; what type of projects are generally good, and which can be “iffy”; discusses one specific scheme which is used by a “love miles” TinT member; and a brief look at what airlines and the big holiday/tour companies are doing on carbon offsetting.
The aim of carbon offsetting is to match exactly the “carbon damage” done in one place with “carbon repair” elsewhere. This means trying to ensure you are getting a tonne of benefit for a tonne of harm.
Yes, the absolutely crucial priority is to reduce emissions (no question about that), not relying on offsetting, so why have a piece about carbon offsetting?
Well, three reasons.
After we’ve done what we can to reduce our carbon footprint, what about the balance (and there will be some)
The dilemmas presented by “love miles” – flying to see family who live abroad.
Business travel. Although a lot can be achieved by video links etc, some work cannot effectively be done other than by getting amongst “the muck and bullets” and clocking up a lot of air miles.
OK, carbon offsetting has had a pretty mixed press, and it’s tough to find a perfect scheme. Although if we waited for perfection in everything in life we’d be out-waiting Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo).....
Moreover, having now researched the better schemes, and having read what many commentators/journalists have written, my conclusion is that the many journalists “knocking” carbon offset programmes are tarring all the schemes with the same brush, and ignore where it does work. That is lazy journalism in my opinion.
If you decide to go along with those who focus just on the carbon offset schemes that go wrong and effectively say we shouldn’t touch carbon offsetting with a barge pole, what are you going to do about your own residual carbon footprint after you’ve done what you can, or are prepared to do, on carbon reduction????
Features of better carbon offset schemes
Sustainable i.e. “owned” by the local people who are the recipients of the scheme. The scheme may need to provide them with training and capacity building to continue the project long term.
Realistic in actually saving or reducing carbon dioxide emissions beyond what would have happened anyway and sustained over time
Accountable. Must be able to demonstrate real emissions savings/reductions, with baseline study and independent active monitoring, and without double counting
Verifiable. Methodology for calculating carbon savings/reductions checked by independent experts, and based on recognised authoritative sources. Calculations provided openly eg on website for others to check what is claimed is true.
Quoting from its website “Gold Standard for the Global Goals is a next-generation standard designed to accelerate progress toward the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, allowing a broad range of projects and programmes to quantify, certify, and maximise their impacts.”
Reviewers go on to note that Gold Standard does not require independent monitoring of carbon offset programmes, with examples given of projects that went awry as a result.
So is there a carbon offset system that looks better than “Gold Standard”?
Well, maybe there is. Doing the research for this piece I was told about Climate Stewards. Having had a close look at them, it is very impressive, and does require independent monitoring.
The Climate Stewards “Seal of Approval” can be used for small scale forestry projects, as well as renewable technologies such as clean cookstoves, water filters and small scale solar power. They currently have five projects, 4 in Africa and 1 in Central America. The website gives details and how they were chosen.
This brings us to types of offset projects generally considered to be good, and those considered to be “iffy”.
“We recommend offsetting at the level of individual projects (rather than just giving to an organisation’s whole portfolio) because this is the level at which there is most information available.” (Josie Wexler Ethical Consumer Dec 2017)
“Good offsets really can be win-win, provided that the projects they fund are genuinely beneficial, long-lasting projects that would not have happened anyway” (Chris Woodford Sept 2018)
Renewable energy projects are considered ideal by some commentators, although in some places other projects might give more immediate benefit e.g. safe drinking water.
Offset projects occur in most countries, including UK, not just developing countries. For example see ClimateCare (who operate carbon offset projects on behalf of Audley Travel) https://climatecare.org/project-map/
Those in developing countries often bring “co benefits”
“If your offsetting payment helps to plant trees in a strictly protected wildlife reserve in Africa, it will be creating new habitat for animals and helping to arrest declining biodiversity. It might provide employment to local people and it could bring in extra revenue from tourism that will help to lift people out of poverty.
Some offsetting projects help people in developing countries by supplying "intermediate technology"—things like low-tech solar-powered cookers. These reduce the need for women and children to spend hours collecting wood-fuel (which means children can spend more time in school) and bring health benefits too (indoor air pollution from solid fuel (and kerosene. Ed) is a major cause of respiratory illness and an estimated 4.3 million deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization, February 2016).”(Chris Woodford Sept 2018)
Well, some people have signed up to Flight-free 2019 (now Flight-Free 2020) committing to no flights for a year. The UK arm is at https://www.flightfree.co.uk/
Although the airline industry apparently accounts for “only” 2% of global carbon emissions, (yes, I find that figure hard to believe, as well) for someone who takes a long haul flight, that can be 50% of their annual carbon footprint.
Air industry emissions are increasing (possibly to 16% of global carbon footprint by 2050), although a lot of research ongoing to develop more efficient fuels, and lower carbon fuels, thus less CO2 emissions per mile flown.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) requires airlines to monitor and report their emissions from 2019, but it only covers emissions from international flights. 88% of Governments have signed up to it to date. Those airlines based in countries that have volunteered to comply fully with CORSIA will need to do so from January 2021 and global mandatory compliance begins six years later. CORSIA’s carbon offsetting provisions, are set to take effect in 2021. Until then carbon offsetting is a voluntary one by airlines who offer it.
For short haul flights, alternative transport, with lower carbon emission, is often feasible.
Looking at British Airways, Easyjet and Ryanair.
Easyjet appear to have no carbon offset scheme. And its latest annual report and accounts has just a single sentence about environmental and social factors – no mention of climate change/CO2 emissions; although CO2 emissions per km flown is one of its 6 KPI’s.
Ryanair. At the end of their booking process a passenger can make a voluntary donation to one of their four 2019 charity partners see links later, especially for FirstClimate. Whether the donation bears any relation to the CO2 emission from the flight being booked I don’t know. Nor do I know if all the money donated goes to carbon offset programmes. Nor do I know if you can pick a specific project, although that’s unlikely given the process, although donation direct to one of their partner charities could achieve this e.g. some of the projects and the info provided by FirstClimate are very good, although one is a forest protection scheme
See https://www.firstclimate.com/en/our-projects-climateprotection-and-waterproject/ ; https://corporate.ryanair.com/monchique/ https://www.iwdg.ie/
British Airways has a carbon offset programme (The Carbon Fund) managed on its behalf by a charity, Carbon Leapfrog, which leapt to prominence when community energy schemes were being established, providing financial and legal support to such schemes. https://www.pureleapfrog.org/british-airways-carbon-fund shows some projects, although it isn’t clear what the current projects are, nor what the split is between UK and Africa projects. Whilst this looks to be a market leader amongst the airlines reviewed here, it looks less transparent and less open to scrutiny than Climate Stewards.
The Carbon Fund is a voluntary scheme for British Airways’ customers who wish to travel responsibly and mitigate the impact of their journey. When booking a flight on ba.com, customers can choose whether to donate in support of low carbon, energy efficiency or renewable energy projects in the UK and Africa.
All projects have to have a community element to them and funding has to go towards the installation of renewable energy or energy efficiency measures and cannot go towards development costs. All projects also have to have a positive social impact in the local community, such as increasing education, health and well-being and reducing fuel poverty.
This sounds good, although it is not at all clear how all the “boxes” of features of the better offset schemes are ticked.
Finally, what about holiday companies?
The UK’s three biggest holiday companies are Tui UK, Jet2Holidays, and Thomas Cook, and let’s take a look at Audley Travel as well (they are a high end tour operator).
Tui states ““Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges facing the international community.” Their focus in this regard is on aircraft design, lower carbon fuels, and fuel efficiency to reduce carbon emission per km flown, with time-scaled targets for carbon reduction.
Although I can find no mention of carbon offset for customers, they do have sustainability indices https://www.tuigroup.com/en-en/responsibility/sustainable-investment In addition one of their reports states The Tui Care Foundation looks to be an interesting programme (although does not seem to cover climate change) https://www.tuigroup.com/en-en/responsibility/tui-care-foundation
Jet2 Holidays. Although this airline has a comprehensive community programme, there is no mention of climate change in its risk management report (nor anywhere else that I could find), and, unlike Easyjet they do not have a KPI of CO2 emissions per km flown. They have, though, won numerous awards ..... Their latest Corporate Social Responsibility Report referes to actions to reduce “harm to the environment” (sic) although no mention of climate change, and no targets.
The Thomas Cook link above also refers to the “opportunity to offset carbon emissions through various projects managed by The Travel Foundation and TICOS (The Tourism Industry Carbon Offset Service). You can check out your carbon footprint and then pay to offset it if you wish.”
Googling “The Tourism Industry Carbon Offset Service” gave nothing. The Travel Foundation website has no reference to carbon offsetting that I could find. It specialises in developing practical tourism sustainability projects https://www.thetravelfoundation.org.uk/what-we-do/project-design-and-delivery/
Second, an energy/petrochem business, BP, has a Target Neutral programme https://www.bptargetneutral.com/uk/.
This is governed by an Independent Advisory and Assurance Panel of prominent environmental and industry experts. The panel ensures that all policies and activities conform to best practice in carbon management, and where possible will set new standards for that best practice.