CRed – the low-carbon revolution

by Dr Simon Gerrard, Project Manager, The Community Carbon Reduction Project

Nearly all of the articles published on climate change paint a picture of impending doom: floods, droughts, severe storms, hurricane force winds, heat waves and so on. Although such extreme events are possible outcomes of climate change, they are by no means inevitable. For this generation, the opportunity still exists to stabilise the climate and thus reduce the impacts of severe weather events. Climate scientists acknowledge that to stabilise climate change requires a significant reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. The Government’s recent Energy White Paper sets out a target for a 60% reduction by 2050 – the ‘60% Challenge’.

To achieve this level of reduction somebody has to take the lead. The Community Carbon Reduction project (CRed), based in Norwich and Norfolk, is doing just this. As a leader and trendsetter, CRed’s aim is to meet the 60% challenge by 2025.

However, even with the welcome quantum-leap in offshore wind developments proposed by the Government, it is unlikely that low-carbon technologies alone will be sufficient to realise the deep emission cuts we are seeking. Changing the way that we work and live is the other crucial element required to meet the challenge.

This could prove to be much more demanding. Convincing people to use biofuels in their cars is easier than persuading people to switch from cars to public transport. For the human-centred changes it will be important to introduce market-oriented approaches, such as carbon taxes and carbon credits which incentivise clean and lean behaviour. History may show that the introduction of the congestion charge in London paved the way for similar approaches to reduce the environmental impacts of traffic.

The development of low carbon technologies and their eventual widespread adoption by society is a complex process. Technology development from original concept design to mass production and marketing requires a host of skills, ranging from innovative thinking and the organisation of intellectual property to engineering design and production, commercial management, advertising and marketing. The role of universities as a means of generating and capturing knowledge has to be combined with the power of businesses to commercialise the products and services, to ensure their path to market.

Local authorities also have an important role in leading the way by demonstrating that public services do not contribute unnecessarily to climate change. Moreover local government planning and economic development responsibilities put our councils in a powerful position to enable and instigate community carbon reduction measures. Woking Council, for example, have set up a public/private funding partnership to drive forward the development of low-carbon technologies, and the District is already well down the path of energy self-sufficiency. On the other hand some authorities are blocking low-carbon developments, such as wind turbines, very often through fear of upsetting small elements of their electorate.

The challenge for CRed is to identify and breakdown these barriers to low-carbon technology development, whilst simultaneously developing a momentum toward an energy aware society. Moreover to do so against a background of “cheap” energy and a public wedded to an ever-increasing array of gadgetry eager to speed up the dials on our electricity meters. CRed is undertaking this challenge in a number of ways.

Raising awareness through extensive coverage in the local media, together with a concerted effort to win over key opinion-formers and decision-makers from the worlds of politics, business and education, has given the project the profile and the executive level support required to reach and engage with its target community. This has given CRed the platform to highlight the link between climate change and our everyday actions, behaviour and decisions in respect to energy use. The project has also sought to use the elements of competition and local pride, in order to set the community the goal of being a leader out to show the rest of the country what can be achieved.

Encouragingly the CRed approach has already won over many hearts and minds, and has done so by addressing the complexity of real-world situations through the development of a community of partners, with each collaborator involved in different low-carbon activities. The nature and range of activities is not prescribed but is evolving naturally. Each partner begins by pledging a course of actions that will evolve through time. The CRed team at the heart of the project monitor progress, offer advice and support, and look to develop additional activities in areas where little is being done. Together the CRed community is developing a comprehensive mosaic of small-scale activities that when combined are representative of wider society, warts and all. It is intended that the lessons from the CRed community can be scaled up to regional, national and even international levels.



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