Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Game of two halves?

The green energy debate is really heating up (please excuse the pun), with both politicians and corporations backing away from earlier commitments to renewable energy schemes. On 26 November, the German energy giant, RWE, announced its plans to stall its 240-turbine Atlantic Array wind farm in the Bristol Channel in the UK. The scheme could have provided hundreds of jobs in the tourism-dependent area, but objectors were concerned about the appearance of the 750 foot high turbines, as well as their possible effects on the delicate marine ecosystems that surround Lundy Island.

This was announced as a commercial decision, and is likely a result of the growing difficulty in getting long-term financing for such large-scale green projects. RWE reportedly said that it was ‘no longer viable’ to continue with the scheme, which would have provided power to around 1 million homes. There is also a change in background political ideology and support, both in the UK and more widely. This follows reports that the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is now less keen on his previously much-vaunted green image, especially if it means increases to the cost of living.

Meanwhile, I have just come back from a series of meetings in Geneva. At the meetings, many countries were co-operating on schemes to help sustainable communities, with considerable enthusiasm among participants. For example, the Chinese delegation was talking about building eco-cities from scratch, and to the highest standards.

The meetings were held at the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Here I found a treasure trove of resources about green energy schemes ...and much more. I discovered, among other things, excellent resources from FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Engineers), Project Sustainability, the TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) Global Community, Green Cross International, a Geneva ‘Sustainable Living’ pack for families, and ‘Our Planet’, the UNEP magazine. All were useful for different parties in the sustainable future.

Whether you need to make an argument, build a business case, find case studies, or devise a tool kit, the materials are all here. There is no shortage of good information. Perhaps the inability to decide on how to proceed with the green energy debate is because there are two groups in the ‘room’, talking amongst themselves and not to each other. Surely, if we are to take such large decisions, we should do so on the basis of the best information available. In this, G24 can make a contribution.

David Jackman

What climate change actually means

Most of us have heard politicians, environmentalists and lobby groups drum on about how bad climate change is, sharing their doomsday prophecies with whoever will listen. But what does climate change mean to the person on the street and how will it affect our lives?

At the beginning of October this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 5th Assessment report was published, in which it stated that in all likelihood, the rate at which the atmosphere is warming up is due to human influence. So we are doing things that increase the rate of atmospheric warming – a global greenhouse effect.

Many of us will shrug our shoulders and say “so what, I could do with a bit of warmer weather anyway”. Experts have speculated that on average, the world’s temperature will increase by about 2ºC. Now this may not seem like much, but the impact this seemingly insignificant increase will have on global weather patterns and ecosystems will be potentially catastrophic.

With global weather patterns changing, we can expect a lot more severe weather. From hurricanes and cyclones through to forest and bush fires; this means a lot more damage to your homes and offices. Most of us will have insurance to pay for the cleaning and fixing up but the insurance companies won’t want to foot this bill for too long, so it will no doubt increase premiums quite substantially. They may even put levies up on storm damage, or add clauses which exclude severe weather from your policy. This is already happening in some parts of the world!

With bad weather comes terrible traffic. From short-term delays through to entire bridges and roads being washed away due to flooding or mudslides, our daily commute may take a lot longer than it does now. There are cases from around the world where people were stuck in days-long traffic jams due to extreme weather.

Our agriculture will also be affected beyond our current comprehension. Although there are some places benefitting from climate change, the majority of the planet is bracing itself for increased droughts and flooding, longer winters and drier summers. This means that we, as a species, are going to have to reconsider the way we farm and manage our land. In the not-too-distant future you may struggle to get the simplest of fruit and vegetables at your local greengrocer or supermarket due to poor growth in these varietals around the world. Can you imagine your salad without a couple of key ingredients?

The point here is not to make you have sleepless nights but merely to inform you that climate change will affect each and every one of us, even if we see a seemingly insignificant global increase of just 2ºC. It may result in an increased commute to work once or twice a year which some of us can handle, but for others, especially those living in poorer nations, the effects of climate change on their land, food and income streams will be devastating.

So play your part in reducing your impact on the planet. This may be a small change, such as taking public transport or cycling to and from the shops or work, or a larger one, such as limiting the number of flights you take annually. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and start paying more attention to how these actions negatively affect the planet.


Energy is back in the spotlight; it's right at the centre of political debate in the UK. Firstly, the Labour party announced that if it was elected in 2015, it would apply a price freeze to energy companies until a more effective regulatory and price- fixing system could be established. Unsurprisingly, energy companies pointed out that such a move would leave them vulnerable to raw material hikes with no prospect of recovering their margins; such risk would blight potential investment.

Now, following concern expressed about recent energy bill increases, former Prime Minister John Major has ‘bounced’ the Government to announce energy price reductions. Interestingly this has included cutting the so-called ‘green tariffs’ built into energy bills. This is an indication that green concerns are slipping down the order and is perhaps a clearer reflection of the political mood, namely one of scepticism over climate change and carbon taxes in a time of economic downturn. Obviously, it is neither comfortable nor desirable to find pensioners having to choose between heating and eating over the winter season; nonetheless, there is apparently a latent reluctance to invest in green energy or a low-carbon economy until it seems absolutely necessary. Nuclear power is back on the agenda as a way forward, even if some new power stations seem to be financed by China and France.

Part of the political reluctance must come from conflicting engineering ‘stories’. Most prominent is that early technologies such as on-shore wind farms are inefficient, even counter-productive, as they contain high amounts of embedded carbon. It is often the case that early –adopters are disadvantaged as technology advances, but that is the way.

There have been a lot of press stories recently; the Financial Times ran a full pull-out section with contributions arguing both ways. But public opinion still seems interested in sustainable options. As always, the devil is in the detail; some quick-fix solutions are dubious in the longer view. But the fundamental course we are on does need to be fairly settled. At the moment we are hesitating, with neither the alternative energy sector nor more traditional energy companies having a clear plan on what to do. This does cause difficulties for investment and planning. We have seen how the Australian government who was ‘brave’ and ‘out there’ in carbon reduction terms has now backtracked. The US is feeling energy secure, buoyed by new reserves and using fracking, OPEC has tightened its grip on prices and production and Russia is similarly increasing output and exploring (openly controversially) the deep arctic.

It seems apparent that energy needs and security are driving ever greater carbon production. What no government can afford is for the ‘lights to go out’. To see a shift in this route will require some real determination, international resolve and perhaps some new science.

David Jackman

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


I found the most inspiring statement from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s 5th Assessment report, published on 1 October 2013 following its recent meeting in Copenhagen. The document came to the conclusion that ‘it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century’.

There you have it, as good as you will ever get from scientists (who have to wrap findings up in the language of statistical significance); a conclusion from 209 lead authors and 50 review editors from 39 countries and more than 600 contributing authors from 32 countries: climate change is a result of human activity. That leaves climate change doubters little room to manoeuvre.

And if there was any doubt left, the report concludes that:
‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased’. It does not matter that in the last 10 years temperature increases have stabilised; this is probably due to the redistribution of energy within the oceans and biosystems. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years. The long-term trend is clear.

Almost the entire globe has experienced surface warming. Some of the evidence is startlingly clear. For example: ‘Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover has continued to decrease in extent.’ Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea levels rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m. Scientists allege that ‘CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times’.

What of the future? The headlines are not happy reading. Global surface temperatures are likely to rise by 1.5 – 2 °C by 2100. Heat will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation and many other aspects of the climate’s climatic patterns. Perhaps most significant is the prediction that temperatures will continue to rise for centuries to come, even if we stop carbon emissions right now.

One aspect also worth mentioning is that the effects of climate change will not affect everyone in the same way or to the same extent. For example, the contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase. This is likely to have a relatively harsher impact on fragile environments and render uninhabitable those areas where some of the least wealthy and least resilient communities live such as sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. How will the world's communities react? The IPCC’s report is not designed to answer these sorts of questions, but in light of the evidence, the answers seem pretty self-explanatory.

David Jackman 

Monday, 14 October 2013


The cycling ‘Tour of Britain’ hit town on the 186km Cumbria stage; it was the second day of the 8-day event that has been run since 2004. As the cyclists passed by our village, they grouped around a breakaway and large chasing pack. They were cheered on by a huge fanfare and hundreds of onlookers straining to catch a glimpse of Sir Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish. By the time they reached us they looked pretty bedraggled, having already taken on several steep climbs, including the 250 metres straight up at the challenging Honister Pass, in pouring rain no less.

The enthusiasm surrounding this year’s tour reflects how cycling has become very popular since the 2012 Olympics. I don’t recall such coverage on TV or locally before, but following Team GB’s success on the track and road, everyone is much more aware of the sport.

But it’s not just competitive cycling that has responded to the ‘Olympic effect’ as I like to term it. In a report commissioned by British Cycling and Team Sky, 28% of those surveyed had been inspired to acquire bikes or other equipment by the games; moreover, levels of participation have risen amongst both regular and occasional cyclists. Commuting by bike has also risen. As British Cycling states: "10 mph will get you to your workplace 2.5 miles away in 15 minutes. There are no traffic jams. No CO2 emissions”.

As well as the environmental benefits, there are also health benefits. “When you're cruising along steadily at 10mph you're burning fuel at an equivalent rate of 879 miles per gallon.Or to put it another way, for your five mile round trip, you’ll burn around 250 calories per day. That's 1250 calories per week, without going to the gym. Win, win.” The British Cycling website is full of top tips on how to start cycling.

In the London cycle hire scheme (often known as ‘Boris Bikes’), there were 998,755 cycle hires just in July 2013, with 22.6 million hires since the scheme got rolling in December 2010! Roughly half of these are casual users choosing a better way to get around, and the rest are probably commuters. Waterloo station has emerged as the busiest docking station.

This trend shows how attitudes have changed. Being more sustainable has many pay-offs. Widening participation is one thing, maintaining the Olympic legacy is another. As the cyclists found yesterday as they powered up the final stretch of the well-named ‘Beast Banks’ in Kendal, the last lap can be the hardest! The race statistics themselves seemed to confirm this, as leader Thomas Lovkvist was overtaken on the Bank by German rider Gerald Ciolek in the last 20 seconds.

David Jackman

Friday, 16 August 2013

Fracking and Politics – Like Moths to a Gas Flare

I’ve mentioned before how the idea of “green-ness” has fallen out of vogue, in part because as a buzzword it was never going to last, in part because of other distractions in political and media agendas. Global warming has been a footnote in the news, I feel, for at least the last four years, a period dominated by the financial crisis and punctuated in the popular imagination only with the obtuse and inconclusive Copenhagen and Johannesburg talks. The focus of reporting on such individual events cements the idea that environmental degradation is an issue for campaigns rather than system changes. For another example of short-termism in policy-making, consider the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. As shocking and tragic this disaster was, panic over the potential for nuclear power to go wrong prompted Germany (and more understandably, Japan) to mothball their nuclear energy programs. Sustainable energy is unlikely to quickly make up the shortfall, so to placate a worried public and keep their power on requires regression to gas, oil or coal – all ‘dirtier’ forms of energy than nuclear. In short, climate change isn’t sexy any more, and renewable energy isn’t a vote winner.

The reason, then, that the current government has fallen so keenly upon the prospect of fracking – the process of fracturing rocks with highly-pressurised water and chemicals to release the gas entombed within - is that it is a political panacea. Fracking produces natural gas, which is touted as the cleanest fossil fuel and so limits the damage to the UK’s green credentials. Anecdotes about flaming tap water and polluted groundwater in fracked areas have failed to fundamentally derail the idea.

 Fracking also reduces, to an extent, the UK’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Russian gas (a reduction which could be especially substantial if the tentative explorations in the Falklands bear oily fruit). Energy independence, abundant, cheap power and the prospect of eager private investment in developing the fracking industry (subsidies notwithstanding) seem healthy for the Treasury, and so the taxpayer. The idea of home-made British energy also has the happy side effect of feeding the current enthusiasm for ill-defined “Britishness”, which the state naturally encourages and co-opts as a tool for winning the votes of patriots.

Being less cynical, fracking does sound like a good deal for the UK. It may well offer cheaper power , ideally with well-regulated production, as well as many jobs in, for one, Lancashire, where according to the BGS and energy company Cuadrilla, “1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas lie, which would be enough to supply the country for at least 43 years, even if only 10% of reserves can be extracted” (via The Guardian).

But the problem that this article is trying to point out is that falling back on fossil fuels, while useful in the short-term, reinforces the idea that climate change is a problem to be dealt with in the future, or by someone else. Fracking is an enormously useful tool to side-line the environment in public discourse, and to set back the environmentalist agenda in the time lag in which new legislation and regulation is developed. The only other opponents are the nimbyists – and perhaps the fundamental question is that in a time when everything is infused with economics, can anything prevent a return to fossil fuels?

Alex Jackman

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Why bother with green? - A young person’s perspective

I confess: I’m at best cynical, at worst apathetic when it comes to green issues. This might not be the expected position of a geography student, less one who is supposed to be a green officer in the Geography Society. My teenage years came at the height of the green craze; the ink was still drying on the Kyoto agreements, “global warming” was always a valid answer, and the cool kids pored over atlases to work out which major cities would end up underwater. My teaching was saturated with green issues, especially global warming. I was disappointed to learn that drawing diagrams of the greenhouse effect is not a recognised skill on LinkedIn, as this renders useless ten years of sitting through geography and double science.

But after years of indoctrination, I still don’t feel particularly engaged and energised by these problems, important though they are. Why? To make this article work, we’ll have to both assume that I convey the true feelings of my age group, and ignore the point that my disengagement is merely the natural apathy of the privileged polluter – this is itself a symptom of other problems. With that out the way, I’ll get on with my excuses.

Firstly, the hype surrounding “greenness”, the shorthand for environmental responsibility and awareness, has died down. The media machine has ground onwards to other topics, and now we discuss the economy rather than the environment. Why, as a student, do I care about the long-term environment when they’re raising my tuition fees and I’ll need a job? This is in response to, and supports, a changed political agenda and public discourse. Both have lurched from environmental crisis to security crisis to financial crisis.  I’ll try to resist being a typical student and referring to “a book that I read at uni”, but in each case the discourse of crisis has enabled governments to pass drastic legislation, and has normalised a state of crisis in the public imagination.

Secondly, the flaws in the entire project of limiting environmental degradation have become increasingly apparent. Carbon trading lets major polluters continue polluting, while geopolitical manoeuvring (the US at Kyoto, China at Copenhagen) makes global agreement on global issues seem impossible. I feel unable to influence policy at any scale, yet my personal contributions seem so small as to be meaningless. Who cares if I recycle that pizza box? The Chinese just opened another coal-fired power station!

The total effect is that green issues become less relevant, fading into the hum of the newsroom or buried in the cabinets of Whitehall. Despite more and more evidence of climate change (not the only, but the most dramatic, green issue), fatalism, cynicism and short-term outlooks prevail. Immediately, financial viability (read: cost-cutting) and marketisation are more relevant than sustainability. There is no easy cure. There needs to be a mature restatement of the absolute and crucial relevance of our environment, and the fact of our relationship with it. But even if this is already on-going, mature statements do not get attention – increasingly, larger debates about the environment take place only after crises. Public and politicians addressed nuclear fuel after Fukushima, industrial pollution and regulation after the Deepwater Horizon, climate change after Hurricane Katrina.
Meanwhile I, young person, am disengaged from the political power needed to make substantial changes, see green issues become irrelevant and ignored, and I am distracted by problems which are closer to home and easier to grasp. And, (to predict another crisis) it is my cynicism that could be the killing blow for attempts to sustain environmental debate and protection in the years to come.

World Environment Day, and what followed!

World Environment Day (WED) passed a few days ago, on the 5th of June; did you notice? Not even the often-meaningful Google icon for that day recognised this global event; instead we were reminded of the 295th birthday of the (undoubtedly highly skillful) furniture maker, Thomas Chippendale.

Nevertheless, things did happen. A glance at the WED website shows that events took place as far afield as Mongolia (the ‘host’ country celebrating its first wind farm) and Somalia (one of the world’s poorest countries). The slogan for the awareness-raising campaign this year, organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was: THINK-EAT-SAVE; REDUCING YOUR FOOTPRINT; this made reference to the fact that a third of the world’s food production, 1.3 billion tons, is wasted and thrown away each year. This is a tragedy of monumental proportions when you consider that 1 in 7 of us go hungry.
The spotlight was on the unnecessary pressure this creates on the areas of land under cultivation and the demand on fresh water supplies. Did you know that it takes 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk? I didn't.

How effective campaigns like this are is hard to say. I suspect that it is their cumulative effect that has an impact, not just one event. This shows in so many different ways. In Singapore, where regular readers will know I spend part of my year, they have been celebrating 25 years of ‘going green’. In particular, the growing of trees and opening of public spaces is important in an island crammed with people and a growing industry. The aim is for 85% of the population to be less than 400 metres from a public park by 2030. Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding prime minister, has planted a tree symbolically every year since 1963 and did so again this year.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, has also launched an initiative this month to implement a seamless transition from the Millennium Development Goals that expire in 2015 to new Sustainable Development Goals for 2015 to 2030. These goals will be partly informed by a recently published Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) agenda which aims to tackle poverty alongside promoting environmental protection.

There is environmental action taking place everywhere, both co-ordinated toward a common global goal and informal or commercially driven. For example, I happened upon an interview yesterday featuring the Head of Sustainability of Procter and Gamble. Therein he explained how the improving technologies in cleaning products, allowing for 30 degrees Celsius washes and using less packaging, lessened resource usage for families and the environment. This is one of countless steps improving the situation; check company sustainability reports if you are interested.

But then the real world bites back. Despite all the good news, who would have thought that just a few days later in Singapore we would be heading for the greatest environmental crisis the city-state has faced so far? I usually submit this blog from under a palm tree in the sun. I am now sitting inside my hotel room with no sun visible because I am advised it is unsafe to go outdoors. The smog is so dense that I can barely see across the road. It is like a vision of the apocalypse. Unless you can remember the London smog of the 1930s and 1950s, you would have to see pictures on the news or web to believe it.

Most people in the street (and some inside) are now wearing masks if they can get one; I have failed so far, as the shops here are sold out! There is a possibility that all outside workers will be told to stay at home. The psi index of pollution is currently 400, near the highest point ever reached. To give you some perspective, anything above 300 is considered hazardous!

The choking haze comes from the very problem WED was trying to highlight. Clearing forest areas on the Indonesian island of Sumatra for agricultural plantations and grazing. Both large corporations and small holders start fires in the dry season and let them run riot across the indigenous forest only a few miles away across The Straits. There has been no rain for days. The authorities are considering cloud seeding but the problem could last for weeks.

This is having a real economic impact. Tourists are staying away, businesses cannot function properly, people are falling ill and hospitals are filling. It is expected to cost the economy millions, not to mention the cost in terms of health provision and the impact on individuals' health. Long-term, it will have an effect on business reputation, as well as place a strain on diplomatic relations between Indonesia and its neighbours.
This is a huge and harsh reminder of the reality of sustainability. It is far more pressing on the imagination and conscience than any number of special events and global agreements. One aspect of food pressure and deforestation is being brought sharply into focus in a developed economic hub: No one is immune; we are all on the same planet.

Is this a view of things to come? If so, I suggest we work together to do all we can.

David Jackman


Undeniably sustainability is a word used to mean long lasting. However, it dawns on me that at the age of 17, long lasting reaches as far as applying for a job. Sustainability is a choice more than a necessity; one doesn’t have to think long-term because, simply, there is no immediate benefit from doing something that doesn’t aid the present. Why is it that, currently, recycling seems like a superfluous undertaking when it should be recognised as a responsibility to society? Why is it that energy saving weeks (in school) act as novelty token gestures to satisfy our green awareness? Essentially there is no tangible perceptible reward for being sustainable. There is no instantaneous change because the effects are for the long-term. Yes, the occasional recycled pencil case or recycling bin might cross my path, yet it provides no real motivation to endlessly sort rubbish, prohibit 4x4’s and deter me from my nearest goal. Absolutely, sustainability doesn’t appeal.
I use sustainability as a word to assuage my guilt or promote an argument and I fail to put sustainability in the present. Sustainability is the capacity to endure, yet to endure we must begin (being sustainable). All too often the assumption is that all sustainability is positive, and to an extent there can be no flaw in thinking about future generations, but, when this detracts from the richness of life that each of us desires than surely this is cause to presuppose that sustainability is time wasting and thinning our limited time on earth. Obviously sustainability means different things in different mediums, but the question remains the same (whether it is business sustainability or ones carbon footprint): why is sustainability worth fighting for?

I too ‘endorse the idea of starting small’[1] but where is the impetus. Essentially, when thinking of sustainability in ‘green’ terms, it is fighting a losing battle. The polluting world we have constructed is far too developed to deconstruct and reverse its corrosive effects. We can slow effects admittedly, but inevitably one must accept that with growing population, whatever we do the quell pollution in, for instance, Britain or our own homes; energy consumption elsewhere is increasing quicker, so there is no improvement. Why should I recycle two cans of beans when GlaxoSmithKline is building a new factory in Ulverston? It seems to be like disarmament in the 1920’s; unless everyone universally disarms then no one will do it. Yes we agree it’s a fine idea, nonetheless we don’t want to move first, and thus we keep arming (or negating sustainability). If I don’t feel that everyone is making the same efforts as me and giving as much time as I am, why bother? To assuage guilt by means of ‘five minutes a day’ [2] doing ‘something green’? Well not if GlaxoSmithKline feels no culpability.  Yes, this case isn't immediately transferable to business, but arguably, why would a business reduce short-term profits to maintain smaller profits over 100 years, when bluntly the people working there won’t receive the award. This raises moral questions about how much we value the future over our own personal gain but essentially it brings me back to my first point: why doesn't sustainability appeal, and now ,more importantly, how can we make it appeal?

There is no easy way to make people aid something they will never experience and will never know about, but inherently there is a desire to leave a legacy. What should be promoted is the power of legacy and the prospect of people in 2120 admiring the ’17-year-old boy who recycled his whole life, so that we could live in a better world’. Thus, sustainability should be passed down, recycled through generations, so that despite it not being universal, it becomes tradition or your inheritance. Legacy appeals!

Matthew David Llewellyn Jackman

[2] Ibid

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


I am currently in the process of writing an introduction, or guide, to help everyone understand why sustainability is important and how to go about implementing more sustainability plans in their neighbourhood or community. It is a challenge, not only to avoid jargon and use language that makes the subject interesting, but also to explain in some detail how to go about starting your own sustainability scheme.

It is to be published by the British Standards Institution (BSI), the official body in the UK which sets standards for everything from plugs and kettles to quality management and professional services. The idea is to encourage grass-roots action across neighbourhoods in towns and cities as well as in more rural areas, with the action not being driven by ‘top-down’ government measures or initiatives; a refreshing change, I hope you agree!

The planned guide supports a more detailed standard called Guidance for community Sustainable development, first written in 2011. This latter document can be obtained by anyone for a small fee; however, the new guide I am working on will be free and available to all.

All standards have numbers for ease of reference, with this one being BS8904; it follows as part of a wider family of standards on sustainability in the BS8900 series. I have chaired, authored and championed these key standards over the last 8 or 9 years; as such, I hope that some, or even many, people will go on to use them!

We have already had some big successes with various versions of these standards. One was used for the Olympics in London in 2012 and another for boosting sustainable UK film production, while a further standard is relevant to companies in managing their supply chains, and so on.

While these are called ‘British Standards’, they are used all over the world; I have seen BS8900 used in Hong Kong and India! This trend is going to increase as we move to make the sustainability scheme a certifiable standard rather than just a guidance framework. Also, many such schemes go on to become international standards, like the much-used ISO9001 standard for quality management, which started as a British standard. I am travelling to Denmark soon, to draft an ISO for the sustainable community scheme i.e. an international version of BS8904.

I hope green24 readers and users will want to use the introductory guide; I am hoping we can upload a .pdf version later this year. Then, once the outline is up, you can also obtain the more detailed standards from the BSI online shop:

David Jackman

Monday, 13 May 2013

Making waves

Now for something completely different! Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, we learn that there are many ways that your lakeside trip can be greener, if that’s not a contradiction in terms!

As many of us start to plan our holidays or weekends away, we may spare a thought for our environmental impact. For one group of activities, namely motor water sports, we can be even more careful now, thanks to new guidance from the greener-boating project ( and the environment agency. It's just one more example of independent organisations trying to make the world a better place and look after our environment.

Did you know that you should not anchor in protected areas where there are special wildlife habitats? You should avoid causing pollution by checking your bilges and engines for leaks, putting down drip trays and especially being careful when refuelling. Five litres of oil will leave a skin of oil over a lake covering 2 football pitches!

Of course you can help by using biodegradable oils and recycling oil when you can. Oil is responsible for 16% of all lake pollution in the UK, with most spills happening near jetties, thanks to overfilling or carelessness. Always carry a spill kit; they can stop a lot of damage.

It's also important to not allow toilet products (some are extremely toxic to water life), waste or grey water to get into the lake water; fortunately, many marinas have facilities for pumping out waste. Put cooking waste in a bin, not over the side. Also be sure to use phosphate-free detergents; ever seen the unsightly foam at weirs and around lake edges? By the way, an EU ban on phosphates in detergents comes into force on 30 June 2013.

Small things always make a difference. Washing your gear and clothes before going away can avoid unnecessary contamination by diseases or unwanted pests, such as the killer freshwater shrimp which can survive in damp sheeting or clothing.

We all want to see clean lakes and waterways well stocked with fish such as perch, roach and trout, or our own local Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus); it's cold here! This goes double for especially rare species which are very sensitive to chemical levels.

As with many green initiatives, it’s about education, allowing one to both protect biodiversity and have an enjoyable time.

David Jackman

Monday, 11 March 2013

Plan C blog

We hear a lot about Plan ‘A’ and Plan ‘B’ at the moment, as the downturn drags on. Plan A describes continuing austerity and Plan B (not to be confused with the successful band!) trumpets stimulus with, of course, the attendant increases in debt. Just now, with the UK, following France and the US, in losing its AAA credit rating the debate is intensifying in the run up to the budget next month. The official line is ‘stick to Plan A at all costs’. In fact, the debate in the UK has shifted to a more pessimistic note of whether or not to deepen and hasten the cuts.

But you could argue that Plan A and Plan B are two sides of the same coin, offering the same kind of progress, or lack thereof, through different means – if based on divergent economic philosophies. What people may prefer is a Plan ‘C’, with more fundamental re-thinking of what progress really means and how we achieve it, some clever alternatives based on pressing economic, social and environmental issues? Sustainable development provides us with underpinnings for such questioning. It focuses on intergenerational and intragenerational equity. It sets the stewardship of limit resources at the heart of the debate and seeks ways of co-operation ahead of exploitation and disproportional consumption.

May be sustainability offers a value as a source of important questions as much as it provides technocratic answers? It is easy to get sucked into detailed issues of low-carbon energy production or recycling – albeit important subjects (see the advice on this website) – without considering the bigger picture. As well as mastering the mass of information available, it is simply being involved in this debate that this site also tries to foster. This helps you to feel, and genuinely be, part of something important that affects us all.

We encourage you to get in contact with and preferably join or support local sustainability groups. There are many green business networks, sustainable/transition town initiatives, recycling schemes and school or college based projects. Let us know what you are doing, and what interests you. Tell us what’s going on out there (regardless of where you are) and how we either have helped or can help. Send us stories we can pass on. It is so encouraging for everyone else and provides a richness of practical detail too!

David Jackman

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cities lead the way

I read recently of the notion of London becoming separate from the rest of the UK, which tends to be rather jealous of its wealth and supposed privilege anyway, and govern itself as a city state – the Singapore of the West. In many ways this makes sense as London surely could hold its own as a global city, perhaps The global city.
When it comes to support for sustainability and international treaties, the cities of the world seem more nimble footed and, I understand, were far more pro-Kyoto than nation states. Since 2002, London has had its own Sustainable Development Commission (the LSDC) and on 30 January it launched its forth report on Quality of Life. This includes indicators on every aspect of sustainability from ecological footprint, bird populations and water consumption to volunteering, fuel poverty and housing affordability.  In terms of key environmental measurable, like air quality and carbon emissions, London has improved since 2009. But some economic indicators are unsurprisingly slightly down.

Other cities, Birmingham and Edinburgh, spring to mind in the UK, but there are many European and global examples, which have been able to unilaterally set sustainability measures and start up supporting schemes.

Perhaps the most interesting measure in the London survey is the falling level of democratic engagement expressed in voting. This significant fall could have many reasons but it highlights one of the main concerns with the overall notion that cities might be the more useful unit of global government than states.

Cities may have more coherent interests than the regions and are more easily organised. This shows up in their ability to ‘get up and go’ to support sustainability. But the concept of sustainability is based on equity and engagement. Larger states have to engage many more groups and balance a wide range of competing interests. They have to face the difficulties of spatial inequities and find ways of binding people together. This may make them (states) a bit sluggish at times but surely in sustainability mass co-operation is the key, bringing along the slowest if we can, rather than a few racing ahead?

David Jackman

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Flood warnings

The stream running through our garden flooded for the first time in 10 years. With over 250 flood warnings out in the UK I suspect we’re not alone in worrying about the rising waters. Fortunately our house is situated, sensibly, as old houses tend to be, above the flood plain on the higher ground of the river terrace. Many modern developments are much nearer major rivers, with or without levees, on land that was once supposed to flood. This cheaper flat land seemed a good place to build until recently. The folly of this disregard for nature is clear to see all over the country in TV pictures of homes now under water.

This recent downpour comes after the wettest summer I can remember; following a pretty wet summer last year and the year before. The problem is that the atmosphere has so much more energy to hold moisture meaning that more rain is inevitable. Sometimes the sun breaks through – remember the fear of a drought earlier in the year and the hosepipe bans of spring 2012?

The climate system’s need to disperse more energy also changes wind and pressure patterns so that these can become exaggerated and create more violent events – high winds, blizzards and hurricanes. We have seen some of these in the US recently and forecasters promise cold weather in a few weeks over here. That will bring a new round of meteorological headlines.

I can understand why some have a vested interest in denying climate change or those who want to maintain an air of scientific impartiality until the cause and effect links are proven, or not, beyond doubt. But it does seem likely that something is going on in our skies. Whether man’s activities are the major drivers of instability or this is a cyclical set of events doesn’t matter in principle (although it does limit the actions we take), the facts suggest that we need to be prepared to deal with more extreme climatic conditions. The repeated surprise of the media and the unpreparedness of local authorities will not wash.

It would be ‘nice’ to get away from the ‘climate change doubt’ and get on with joined up, long term strategies rather than piecemeal responses and knee-jerk technologies as we may well have seen in the craze for unsightly onshore wind farms. When I sit and watch the rain stream down the windows, as now, I wonder, may be the climate will be our most eloquent advocate for wholesale change?

David Jackman

Friday, 1 March 2013

Kyoto – rides again!

We should be celebrating the (last minute) revival of the Kyoto Protocol, signed recently by nearly 200 nations in Doha. The UN Convention on Climate Change – the only international agreement that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – will now run till 2020 when the Durban Platform should take up the strain. This depends on agreements being in place in time to bind both rich and developing nations in a global effort.

It was close, and talks in Doha over-ran, and still the two main emitters, the US and China did not buy into the process. Now Canada has ducked out and the whole thing is looking more fragile. That’s not to say that the Obama administration has not done a lot of good things on car emissions and funded developing world schemes, but the world is not operating as one – yet.

The statements from the closing session declared it unlikely that, on the current path, the world would be able to keep global temperatures from rising less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from pre-industrial times, a central goal of the UN process.

Some walked away from the talks deeply disappointed, like the Foreign Minister of Nauru whose low-lying country may not get much passed 2020, and who was speaking for Pacific Island nations. Europe has gone further and faster but that is not enough on its own. I suspect that talks will continue behind the scenes in the margins of other debates perhaps. This is not on top of all politicians’ agendas right now – war and economics are in the forefront – but climate change awareness is growing as the issues remain.

It is likely by 2020 the rules of the game we now play by will have to change; meanwhile, we all need to keep the pressure up!

David Jackman

Being green pays!

Corporations often see being green as ‘soft and fluffy’; a cost not a benefit....
For four years now I have been analysing corporate governance with master’s students of Edinburgh University Business School and others universities around the world, including from the US and the Netherlands, for a US consultancy. The reports remain the property of the universities but a summary will be out soon and it makes interesting reading for us at green24.

It is only one element, and I’d be the first to be cautious about any set of data, but one side line of the survey – which looks at everything from compliance with governance codes to senior pay and board behaviour – is worth noting here if it is only in the small print elsewhere.

That is that by measuring data from the public reports and accounts from the FTSE 100 and Eurostoxx 50 Indices we have found a reasonable correlation or statistical relationship between the sustainability parts of the index – environmental responsibility, emissions data, community investment and such – and long term financial performance.

In brief, it appears that being green pays!

It should be noted that the financial return is seen in long-term return on assets, and not immediate profitability, but that is what you might intuitively expect and that is what shareholders often really want to see. We need to do more research in 2013 and extend our reach into Asia, as we are now doing, but it is a glimmer of an important argument that will help put to bed the old ‘business case’ requirement that is often used as a defence.

Correlation is not causation but it gives us a start!

David Jackman

Snowed in

Snow is gently fluttering down passed the window pane. The view is beautiful, the trees and hillsides shining in their white robes. Sheep sit and watch the icy skies, seemingly perplexed.

Somehow snowy weather seems all right in rural areas. Life goes on, pretty much unaffected. A tractor just passed by, as normal, and here 4x4’s are not the incongruous luxury they might be further south. The recycling van may not have made it up the valley, but the postman is made of tougher stuff. We cope.

In cities, however, it seems everything falls apart! The news is chock solid with stories of trains not running, planes not flying, schools closed and chaos on the roads. How can this be? We’ve had about two to three inches in most places. Accepted, South Wales has been badly hit, but for others the fall is not much more than usual at this time of year. I am sure we had more in my youth – and still went to school!

Part of the reason is that many of our support systems we rely on are so highly tuned – a bit like racehorses and not an old packhorse. Nowadays risk is measured to the endth degree so there is no slack, no waste, no unnecessary cost. And we can see why. But the schedule is so tight that if snow comes along at Heathrow beyond the expected norm and planes have to take more time to land, delays and cancellations lead to knock-on chaos.

I am currently working for the UK on new International Standards (ISOs) for ‘Smart City infrastructure’ to help manage all this stress and make cities more sustainable. We call this making cities ‘smarter’. These Smart City standards will aid planners and city mangers to cope with new crises, including climatic events, and reduce their emissions and energy needs. Standards involve countries coming together and this in itself is a good thing in tackling global problems. They are also designed to reduce risks and provide comparable, standardised indicators so we can measure what is going on.

There is a long way to go and the UK is playing its full part. Maybe we will not collapse under the weight of a few inches of snow forever.

This initiative is being led by France and Canada. Any input is always welcome.

David Jackman
Chair of BSI TC 268 mirror committee (sustainable communities)