The Renewable Energy Centre

Mar 22 2013

Children miss out on Climate Change Education

Climate ChangeThis week it was reported by those who like to over bake the cake, that climate change is no longer part of the curriculum for children under 15 years of age.

The outrage comes as the words ‘climate change’ are no longer specifically written as part of the curriculum for children under the age of 15. Many groups have reacted to this by stating that it is important for young children to be aware of the environmental impact of climate change before choosing their exam subjects. Also that they are aware of what climate change means and how it could affect our lives and what we can do to take action.

Although it is very important that we all understand climate change from a global perspective but also an individual one, the headlines about it being dropped from the curriculum could be seen as an over reaction. Saying that, the children themselves have started a petition to reinstate the words to the syllabus and many teachers are at a deadlock both for and against.

Having read, what I considered to be a very balanced article in the Guardian on this matter, I have to say that I felt the backlash to be somewhat excessive. Looking at the specific wording in the proposed Keystage curriculum, there seemed to be plenty of scope for the teaching of climate change both from an environmental and social perspective. Although the words themselves were omitted, there were many references to environment, recycling, sustainability etc… All of the guidelines are there to direct teachers towards particular subject matters and there is certainly room for interpretation for classes which focus on climate change within the syllabus remit.

On the flip side, reading through more recent articles, children are very much in support of including the words ‘Climate Change’, to the tune of 12,000 who have signed a petition so far. The concerns mainly focus on the Keystage 3 syllabus for geography which have dramatically reduced the emphasis on climate change.

Tim Oates who is in charge of assessing the current curriculum has defended his position by stating it is up to individual schools to decide on the level of detail they teach pupils when it comes to climate change. He stressed the importance of returning back to the knowledge of science rather than the issues of science. In addition he has also called for an earlier introduction of algebra to children under the age of 11.

My humble opinion on this matter is one of caution. For me, climate change is one of the biggest challenges both scientifically and politically to affect the world, as a whole, over the last 50 years and it can not be ignored. Looking at some of the language in the curriculum, it does leave plenty of scope for the subject to be fully addressed at every level. The difficulty comes with individual schools and teachers and their view of how important the teaching of this subject should be. This is perhaps where there will be a discrepancy in the level of knowledge and education that children will receive across the UK.

So on balance, should the words be included – yes they should. Let’s be clear, climate change will be an ongoing problem for many years to come. It is both essential for everyone, no matter what age, to understand the science behind it and the social issues too.


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Mar 12 2013

Should the UK commit to a decarbonisation target?

Green Question MarkThere has been much debate over the last few years regarding the UK’s decarbonisation programme. For those who are unsure as to what this involves, below are a few points of explanation:

  • Although the UK already has renewable energy production targets and CO2 emissions targets it is widely thought that an additional target which starts at the source of power production would help further promote the commitment to climate change
  • Every power station which produces electricity also produces CO2 emissions
  • The idea is to implement technology which reduces CO2 at source, therefore producing electricity which is decarbonised at the point of distribution
  • The ideal decarbonisation figure is an 80% reduction than that of today
  • Decarbonisation would help to stabilise electricity prices to the consumer

The political debate which has been ongoing is with regard to the current coalition government’s reluctance to include a decarbonisation target for 2030 in the Energy Bill.

Many lobbyists think the target is essential to ensure continued investment in renewable energy projects in the UK as it makes a clear statement that the country is committed to low carbon power generation. Without the target many fear that the UK will be seen as a country happy to continue polluting the atmosphere if the focus remains upon gas as the primary power source.

The target would also help encourage investment in Carbon Capture and Storage solutions for the power industry to ensure ongoing low carbon power production from fossil fuels.

It is unclear whether the real reasons for the current reluctance is down to the opinions of one man or whether there are other underlying factors. Many believe that George Osborne is the bottleneck to moving forward on the establishment of a target.

Only this week six major energy companies jointly wrote a strongly worded letter in full support of setting a decarbonisation target as soon as possible.

So what is the upshot of all this? Why is it so important to add another target to those already in place. In my view it’s clear that time is moving forward and the options for changes within certain timeframes are reducing. These changes are not being made in time to support investment or to continue meeting the demand for electricity in the UK using renewable or low carbon solutions.

From what I have seen, the UK has always been able to meet a deadline. We have made some drastic changes country-wide over the years such as the move from town gas to North Sea gas and the implementation of new money. So where there is certainly a will do get things done, there is a way to meet the deadline.

My view is to get on with it and set the deadline and start the process of making the production of electricity a low carbon power across the board.

Feb 07 2013

Carbon Permits – what are they really worth?

Power Station Carbon EmissionsDespite all the fresh annoucements about the Green Deal and the new Energy Bill, the UK is still struggling to meet its EU targets both for CO2 emissions and renewable energy generation.

This week there has been a lot of bad press over the carbon price – which has fallen to record lows, possibly highlighting that the trading of carbon permits is failing. Companies across Europe which emit CO2 can purchase permits if they exceed their required output levels but can also sell them if they have surplus. The buying and selling rate moves with demand but this week bidders didn’t even meet the reserve price of 5Euros per tonne.

This in itself is a worrying trend however my view of this paper trading of carbon is simply a money making exercise rather than one of controlling or reducing carbon emissions. In my humble view there should simply be a reduction cap which increases year on year (much the same as the renewable energy roadmap) so that companies invest in reducing their carbon emissions, rather than simply paying to increase them! Surely the money is better spent changing the wheels of industry which have lead us here but also to physically change the carbon dioxide levels.

Any kind of dramatic change takes time but the world has shifted in one century through an industrial revolution to create a world which relies heavily on the burning of fossil fuel. Much of the world’s economy is based around fuel and to initiate change in such a profitable sector will take time. However at the manufacturing or industrial end of the scale, ie where the output occurs, step changes could be made in relatively short periods of time to dramatically reduce CO2 output.

It may be a simplistic and shortsighted viewpoint  but is it possible that a paper trail which never ends and simply trades one way and the other in order to compensate for excessive emissions is the really the right way forward?

Industry is not just at fault, aviation, transportation and each individual homeowner holds much of the remaining responsibility. Although taxes are increasing in the aviation and transport sectors, there is currently no legislation or incentive for the majority of people to change the way they live, work and heat their homes. How would the carbon permit system work for the homeowner I wonder, would it even work at all?

Answers on 100% recycled postcard please!

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