Calderdale Energy Future Panel’s 2013-14 Action Plan

The 2013-14 Calderdale Energy Future (CEF) Action Plan is tucked away on the CalderForward website. It lists 11 objectives that it wants to achieve in order to help reduce the area’s carbon emissions, in line with the CEF strategy.

The Action Plan doesn’t seem to include any plan for monitoring/reviewing the effectiveness of the CEF strategy and the success or otherwise of the 11 objectives. This seems a bit of a significant omission. Without a monitoring and feedback process, the CEF Panel runs the risk of  keeping on until 2020 with the same old same old – what  Joseph Zammit-Lucia calls an

“environmental narrative….in rapid decline in terms of cultural relevance”

A carbon reduction strategy that’s already failed

The Panel is charged with carrying out Calderdale Council’s carbon reduction strategy.

This strategy is based on policy prescriptions in the Friends of the Earth Get Serious About CO2 campaign. These seem to be lifted from New Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act  and applied to local authorities.

In my opinion, there are all kinds of reasons why this is a flawed policy prescription. First off, New Labour’s Climate Change Act requires the UK to carry out neo-liberal climate change policies that were formulated at the 1992 Earth Summit.

20 years of evidence, collected by the United Nations Environment Programme for the Rio + 20 Conference last summer, shows that these policies have failed to reduce climate change or biodiversity loss.

So why are they now likely to work in Calderdale? What do you think?

Action Plan Objectives

The core aim of Calderdale’s Energy Future strategy is that by 2020, the area’s carbon emissions will be 40% lower than they were in 2005. In pursuit of this goal, the CEF Draft Action plan 2013-14 outlines 11 objectives. They fall into four main categories:

  • informing the public  (although CEF Panel meetings are closed to press and public)
  • energy saving
  • community renewables
  • carbon reduction

Benefitting the better off – environmentally unjust

The Action Plan’s proposed energy and carbon saving measures seem designed to benefit the better off, at the expense of those in Calderdale who suffer most from the effects of climate change and the increasing cost of energy.

Environmental justice demands that:

  • those who contribute most to climate change should contribute most to measures to reduce it
  • those who suffer the worst impacts of climate change should benefit most from effects to reduce it

The people in Calderdale who have so far suffered the worst impacts of climate change are the ones whose homes and businesses were flooded as a result of the extreme rainfall  that seems to be on track to turn 100 year floods into 10 year floods.

Fuel poverty in Calderdale is high. By Calderdale Council’s own reckoning, the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation subsidies provide far less help with energy saving measures for fuel poor, vulnerable households than previous home energy efficiency funding schemes. The Coalition government cut these in their Comprehensive Spending Review.

The CEF 2013-14 Action Plan aims to direct ECO subsidies, renewable energy feed-in tariffs and renewable heat subsidies to rural areas off the gas main. This will channel significant subsidies to largely well-off homeowners in extremely energy-inefficient old houses, in remote areas associated with high transport carbon emissions. Do you think this is the best way to use of public money to help reduce carbon emissions? Click here to take survey

These subsidies are socially regressive – they are paid for by all energy users (ECO and FITs) and taxpayers (renewable heat incentive), but they disproportionately benefit the better off – who also create more carbon emissions in the first place.

Carbon emission savings incentivised by Feed in Tariffs are cancelled out under EU Emissions Trading Scheme

The carbon emissions savings that result from renewable energy generation that has been incentivised by Feed In Tariffs (FITs) are cancelled out under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The energy companies that pay the FITs can offset the carbon savings that the FITs have incentivised, against their own carbon emissions from fossil-fuel energy generation. So FITs-incentivised renewable energy generation simply makes it possible for energy suppliers to create additional carbon emissions. As a result, whatever carbon emissions reductions the CEF Panel might chalk up for Calderdale, they are cancelled out somewhere else.

Tell the public what Calderdale Energy Future Panel is up to 

One category of CEF Action Plan objectives is about informing the public about the CEF Panel’s activities.

By September 2013, CEF Panel will create a website, arrange for it to be regularly updated, and promote the website throughout the Borough. It will also launch  a programme of speaker events throughout the Borough.

Are you, as a member of the Calderdale public, interested in finding out what Calderdale Energy Future Panel’s doing? Click here to take survey

Identify potential sites and resources for community renewable energy generation

CEF Action Plan objectives also relate to community renewable energy generation.

By October 2013, the CEF Panel will have produced  online, updatable lists / maps of:

  • renewable energy projects in the Borough
  • sites suitable for community-owned renewable energy generation.

Some information already exists eg

  • Julie Martin Landscape Capacity Study for Wind Energy Developments in the South Pennines
  • AECOM Low Carbon Renewable Energy Capacity in Yorkshire and Humber Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Study

Make sure communities benefit from opportunities for local renewable energy generation

By March 2014, CEF Panel will set up a revolving fund for community energy investment, with initial capital investment funding of around £100,000.

By March 2014, CEF Panel will produce a report on how communities can benefit from local renewable energy generation. It looks as if the Report will include information about:

  • undeveloped Council-owned land that could be made available for community renewable energy development, if appropriate
  • commercial wind farm developers working in the Borough that will put funding back into the community and “help deliver CEF priorities” – whatever this means
  • good practice in providing community benefit from wind turbines
  • the impact of existing commercial wind farms on Calderdale’s physical landscape

Find  ways to fund insulation of Calderale’s solid wall and rubble-filled cavity wall houses

This is one  of the CEF Panel Action Plan’s energy saving objectives.

By October 2013, CEF Panel will have launched a competition that invites Calderdale businesses to come up with local funding solutions for insulating these hard-to-treat local houses.

This is because Calderdale Council recognises that the Green Deal and related Energy Company Obligation subsidies are unlikely to cover the high cost of insulating the old solid wall and rubble-filled cavity wall houses in Calderdale.

By March 2014, CEF Panel will have judged the competition, and publicised the winning proposal.

Get as many households as possible to take out Green Deal loans and access Energy Company Obligation subsidies for home energy efficiency retrofits

Despite Calderdale Council’s finding that the Green Deal and ECO are “cause for concern”, CEF Panel intends to access Green Deal demonstrator  funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Using this funding, by October 2013 Calderdale Council will have installed energy efficiency measures in 60 system-built and stone terraced properties, and produced a final project report.

By 2017, Calderdale Council, in partnership with Leeds City Region authorities, will have:

  • selected a Green Deal provider (to sell Green Deal loans to householders)
  • promoted the Green Deal across the Borough
  • got 1000 householders in Calderdale to install energy efficiency measures paid for by Green Deal loans and/or ECO subsidies

Figure out which areas of Calderdale are appropriate for Green Deal loans, Energy Company Obligation subsidies and renewable energy/renewable heat subsidies

By June 2013, CEF Panel will have identified areas to target with ECO subsidies and Green Deal loans.

By March 2014, CEF Panel will have identified rural areas off the gas main where households are eligible for the ECO subsidy for solid wall insulation, combined with Feed In Tariff subsidies for renewable energy generation or Renewable Heat Incentive subsidies for biomass heating technology.

By March 2014, subsidised solid wall insulation projects combined with renewable energy generation and/or biomass heating will be underway in these rural areas.

Increase householders’ awareness of energy use and management

By March 2014, the Green Doctor scheme will have delivered advice on home energy use and management to a number of Calderdale households. Energy advice for households will be regularly updated on the CEF Panel website and  Calderdale Calderdale Council website.

It looks as if a lot of this advice will be about how householders can choose the cheapest energy suppliers, and will be linked to Calderdale Council’s periodical collective switching projects.

Carbon reduction objectives  include a Calderdale Council policy of protecting trees and peat

By March 2014, as part of the Local Plan, Calderdale Council will clearly state its plans for renewable energy generation in Calderdale. This will include designating appropriate areas, in order to avoid siting renewables where this would damage peat moors and trees. Peat and trees are natural carbon sinks – they lock up carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere.

Get Calderdale businesses to sign up to a carbon reduction pledge

Despite the fact that membership of the CEF Panel was supposed to be conditional on members signing the CEF carbon reduction pledge, the Action Plan implies that this hasn’t happened.

The 2013-14 Action Plan aims to

“develop and implement a business pledge that supports and rewards business in reducing CO2”.

The newly-formed CEF Business Group drew up the new carbon reduction business pledge. So it’s likely to be toothless – in exactly the same way that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme was rendered toothless, because the carbon-polluting companies’ captured its design and implementation.

Joseph Zammit-Lucia warns that

“Most green branding efforts … fail because the branding efforts are superficial”

The Environmental Business Pledge webpage says that businesses’ carbon reduction pledges only have to include carbon emissions from the consumption of gas, electricity, heating and fuel oil. This is just the carbon emissions from running the business premises. It is far less rigorous than the emissions reporting that businesses carry out using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol – the most widely used international accounting tool for understanding, quantifying, and managing greenhouse gas emissions.

So is the Environmental Business Pledge mostly greenwash?

The Action Plan proposes, for example, that the Carbon reduction business pledge will allow businesses to offset their carbon emissions by “sponsoring urban tree planting”. The evidence is that offsets are just a way to allow polluting companies to carry on polluting – business as usual.

The Clean Development Mechanism, the world’s main offsetting mechanism, has completely failed. Not only has it failed, it has had disastrous effects on many communities where the offsets have been imposed. Why is CEF adopting a local version of this  policy?

In 12 month’s time, CEF aims to have signed up 50 businesses to the new carbon reduction business pledge.

The Action Plan envisages that “delivering Pledge support” – which presumably means telling businesses what they can do to reduce their carbon emissions  – may need one full-time “expert”, in addition to the Business Growth Calderdale European Regional Development Fund project.

CEF Panel doesn’t know where the funding will come from to pay this “expert”.

A Pledge seems to call for an organisation that will keep recovering carbon addicts on the strait and narrow. And indeed, the CEF Panel’s 2013-14 Action Plan has foreseen this need.

Set up  Calderdale Carbon Club for business-to-business carbon reduction mentoring

In 12 months time, there will be 10 active members of the Carbon Club.

The deadline for the first Carbon Club workshop – costing £1k but without any identified source of funding – was 31st May 2013.

The end of May 2013 was also the deadline for the Carbon Club website and social media to go live.

The end of June 2013 was the deadline for scheduling 4 annual Carbon Club events, at a cost of £600/event, but with no funding source identified.

Carbon management plans to show progress towards the goal of a 40% reduction of the area’s carbon emissions by 2020, compared to 2005 levels

By March 2014 all CEF Panel members, including Calderdale Council, will have written a Carbon Management Plan that spells out how their organisation will reduce their own carbon emissions by the targeted amount by 2020.

( If my arithmetic is right – quite a big if – a 40% reduction on the 2005 base over the 6 years that remain to achieve the target is nearly 7% each year. On historical evidence, that’s a pretty unprecedented rate of reduction and unlikely to be achievable without very radical action.)

By October 2013, Calderdale Council will produce an annual report on CEF panel member organisations’ progress towards the CEF carbon reduction target, and the Calderdale area’s overall progress towards the carbon emissions reduction target.

By March 2014 Calderdale Council will produce a standardised method for CEF Panel member organisations to calculate and report their carbon emissions. (Loads already exist – why invent a new one?)

By March 2014 Calderdale businesses and organisations will be using this method to calculate and report their carbon emissions reductions, in line with the Carbon Reduction Business Pledge.

In October 2014 Calderdale Sustainability Forum Ltd will fund and organise a £3K  “celebratory and challenge event”  for Calderdale organisations.  Calderdale Sustainability Forum Ltd is a company headed by Antony Rae, a member of the CEF Panel. Also the Chair of Calderdale FOE, Anthony Rae was responsible for driving the FOE Get Wise to CO2 campaign in Calderdale, that effectively shaped the CEF strategy.

If you’ve made it through to the end, here’s a thought from the guy who wrote On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored. He said that being bored is good for you, because it’s only when faced with boredom, in the total absence of distractions, that you really start to figure out what you really want to do. Boredom, in his view, is a stimulus to creativity.

So let’s get creative and figure out effective ways of reducing carbon emissions and climate change, that are socially and environmentally just, and do better than rely on 20 year old policies that have already failed. Is this fair comment? Click here to take survey

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