Foreign Secretary William Hague has recently delivered a speech titled 'The Diplomacy of Climate Change' to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. There has been a lot of problems with addressing climate change, because a good many people simply refuse to look at any evidence, or find various alternative explanations.
The debate is often, as in Jersey, conducted between environmentalists such as Mark Forskitt and Nick Palmer, and deniers such as Senator Sarah Ferguson, in such a way that it seems removed from the public arena. Indeed, a few politicians whom I spoke to recently thought that part of the debate on the Island Plan had been subjected to an attempted hijack by environmentalists, who were taking up valuable time, and distracting from the main issues. Of course, they are sure, we don't really need to do anything with redundant greenhouses, but knock them down for housing. And no one can really believe Jersey should look at become that bit more more sustainable in producing its own food, because that's not commercially viable.
But when a politician of William Hague's stature throws down the gauntlet, perhaps it is time to listen. Hague began by setting out the importance of climate change; it is not a trivial issue, because as resources become scarcer, if the issue is not addressed, competition and conflict over who gets those resources will become increasingly important:
Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met. It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration.(1)
The keynote phrase in his speech is "climate security". As the climate changes, and as non-renewable energy resources become scarcer (so that biofuels, rather than food) becomes more viable, the connectedness of the modern world means that any problems ripple through the system, impacting on a global scale. No one can bury their heads in the sand. It is irresponsible to do so:
You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security. They are interconnected and inseparable. They form four resource pillars on which global security, prosperity and equity stand. Each depends on the others. Plentiful, affordable food requires reliable and affordable access to water and energy. Increasing dependence on coal, oil, and gas threatens climate security, increasing the severity of floods and droughts, damaging food production, exacerbating the loss of biodiversity and, in countries that rely on hydropower, undermining energy security through the impact on water availability. As the world becomes more networked, the impacts of climate change in one country or region will affect the prosperity and security of others around the world.
He notes that the time to start thinking about low carbon business is necessary now, not "business as usual", because otherwise it is future generations that will pay the price for our delay, our willful refusal to take any form of action. Locally, this means looking at food production, about the standards of houses being built to be energy efficient, about transport, power etc. Part of that can be done by private citizens taking action - as is the case locally with the move to buying organic products (not dependent on oil-based fertilizers), increased recycling by dropping off newspapers, plastic bottles at recycling banks, less use of plastic bags. Small things can bring about surprisingly significant changes. But part has also to be the responsibility of governments in empowering the citizen towards a lower carbon, less wasteful, lifestyle.
We need to shift investment urgently from high carbon business as usual to the low carbon economy - this means building an essentially decarbonised global economy by mid century. At the same time we must ensure development is climate resilient: otherwise the changes in climate that are already unavoidable will block the path for hundreds of millions of people from poverty to prosperity
Rather than decrying wind power and other renewable sources of energy, the UK, under what Hague describes as probably the greenest coalition government in its history, is committed to improving production from those sources. A new wind farm has just opened offshore in Kent. Instead of blocking such strategies, and talking them down, Jersey should show how innovative it can be. Guernsey recently financed a seabed survey, to give public data as a springboard and incentive to commercial wave power companies. We too can do more, and we need to start thinking about targets. Denmark generates more than 15% of its electricity from the wind, which is not insignificant.
The UK is already the world leader in offshore wind with more projects installed, in planning and in construction than any other country in the world. We are undertaking the most radical transformation of our electricity sector ever. We aim to provide over 30% of our domestic electricity from renewables by 2020. We have committed to build no new coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage technology - CCS - and we have announced our intention to continue with four CCS demonstration projects.
The other matter of importance highlighted by William Hague is to not just let matters rest with environmentalists but also to look at business engagement. Is anyone in the States of Jersey talking with any commercial groups who provide renewable energy? And are builders sufficient aware of environmental specifications? What of older "Masterplans"? Did they factor in environmental and climate issues?
And we must also reach out beyond, to NGOs, faith groups and business. Of all these, perhaps business engagement is key to making a difference. It is business that will lead the low-carbon transition. It is business which best understands the incentives needed to help us all prosper.
The Parish of St Helier has been very pro-active in looking at recycling. In August they published a report which noted that:
In April this year the Parish sought expressions of interest for a Recycling Partner capable of finding environmentally sound and cost effective end uses on or off Island for the recycled materials the Parish is producing; the recycling partner would also be responsible for the transport of the recyclables from the depot to the end-users. This generated considerable interest with 11 initial applications from French and Jersey companies, some of which put forward very detailed proposals.
And they are looking in particular at ROMI Recyclage, which has been established since 1866 and has a number of sites across France.
The business operates over a broad range of recyclables to ensure stability for the company during fluctuations in the waste commodities market, which will in turn provide stability for the Parish's income streams from the sale of recyclables
With regard to building, it is worth noting that one office has been built recently to BREEAM specifications. What is BEEAM?
BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) is the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. It sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design and has become the de facto measure used to describe a building's environmental performance.(2)
And Ogiers new premises, recently mentioned in the Green Building Press, has recently been completed; it is the first office building on Jersey to be built to BREEAM specifications
Ogier, providers of offshore legal and fiduciary services, have moved into their new premises, Jersey's largest and greenest single occupancy office. The the partnership between the company, developer JCN and local building firm Camerons as the main contractor has resulted in a new landmark for St Helier. Ogier House has achieved a "very good" BREEAM....Additional to the atria, solar shading has been used to reduce the need for air-conditioning and movement sensors avoid electricity being wasted by lighting rooms with no-one in them. Seasonal Commissioning ensures the building is operating at optimum efficiency all year round, with thermal zoning of different rooms. Space has been allocated for storage of recyclable waste, promoting green management strategies within the building.(3)
Hague makes the point that it is not "an idealists pipe dream" to look at strategies for moving to a low carbon economy, and the sooner we do so, the better we will be prepared for the future:
A global low-carbon economy is not an idealist's pipe-dream but a 21st century realist's imperative. Countries that adapt quickly to a carbon constrained world will be better able to deliver lasting prosperity for their citizens.
Describing the weather catastrophes of the past year - in Russia, Pakistan, China - Hague comments that:
While no one weather event can ever be linked with certainty to climate change, the broad patterns of abnormality seen this year are consistent with climate change models. They provide a vivid illustration of the events we will be encountering increasingly in the future. The clock is ticking. The time to act is now.
And he concludes with a message to take action now:
This is not a hard choice. We have to get this right. If we do, we can still shape our world. If we do not, our world will determine our destiny.
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