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Local elections preview: Labour

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Struggling to decide who to vote for in the local elections on Thursday May 2? Don’t worry, as all this week, Blue & Green Tomorrow is outlining the energy, environment and investment credentials of all five major parties.

For a full list of local authorities that are voting, and for more details on the elections more generally, see here.

After kicking this mini-series off with the Conservatives, next up is the opposition: Labour, whose leader is Ed Miliband.

Leading the way on climate change

The Labour party was the first government in the world to pass a climate bill into law, when it created the Climate Change Act. On March 13, 2007, a draft climate change bill was published following cross-party pressure over several years, led by environmental groups.

The act puts in place a framework to achieve a mandatory 80% cut in the UK’s carbon emissions by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), with an intermediate target of between 26% and 32% by 2020.The bill was passed in November 2008.

With its passing, the UK became the first country in the world to set such a long-range and significant carbon reduction target into law, or to create such a legally-binding framework.

The Committee on Climate Change was formally launched in December 2008, with Lord Adair Turner as its chair. The Committee gives advice to the government on setting carbon budgets and reports regularly to the parliaments and assemblies on the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It also advises the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and is supported by a small secretariat of economists, scientists and corporate staff. The Committee works closely with today’s coalition government, demonstrating its importance ever since its inception.

Labour also founded DECC. Since February 2012, the department has been run by secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey.

It is the responsibility of the DECC to reduce the UK’s carbon outgoings and greenhouse gases through encouraging more low-carbon technologies, as well as maintaining UK energy security – including helping households reduce their energy bills, as well as a larger plan to reform energy markets.

In April 2009, the government set a requirement for a 34% cut in emissions by 2020, in line with the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, and announced that details of how this would be achieved would be published in the summer

A ‘green recovery’

For Labour, not only is investment in renewable and low-cost energy important, but so too is the creation of jobs.

In its 2010 manifesto, the Labour party promised to create 400,000 jobs in the environment and energy sectors by 2015. With five dedicated pages on UK and global climate change and resource management, Labour certainly put environment and energy at the heart of government responsibility.

However, Louise Gray, environment correspondent at right-leaning Telegraph, wrote in 2010 that she felt any jobs that would have been created by Labour would have been dependent on UK energy projects securing foreign investment: “The new jobs [would] mostly be in manufacturing green technology, like wind turbines and installing insulation and micro-renewables on homes.

It is a good idea but depends on companies coming to the UK to build green technology and households taking up the incentives to have their households refurbished.

The 2010 manifesto added, “We are building a clean energy system which will reduce Britain’s dependence on imported oil and gas and increase our energy security.

We are planning for around 40% of our electricity to come from low-carbon sources by 2020 – renewables, nuclear and clean fossil fuels.

A major drive for energy efficiency will be enhanced by a ‘smart grid’ using new information technologies.”

Labour described a 60% emissions reduction by 2050 as “necessary and achievable” in its 2005 manifesto. Targets have been increased since then, however, with an 80% reduction promised by all three major political parties. Since 2001, there’s no doubt that Labour has increased its interest in energy and the environment.

Responsible investment

The engine of growth is private enterprise: we will give business our full support in creating wealth and jobs.”

Although not in power, the Labour party was also committed to reforming banking objectives in terms of also creating a Green Investment Bank – something the Lib Dems and Conservatives also pledged and have since brought into action.

The opposition

Although Labour has continued to pledge for progression on environmental issues and in energy sectors, there has been criticism that, since becoming the opposition, not enough has been done to oppose the coalition government’s action on such topics.

At the centre of the 2010 Labour Manifesto was of course then-Labour leader and prime minister Gordon Brown, who resigned after the Conservatives and Lib Dems formed a coalition. Ed Miliband took over as Labour leader.

Since the coalition promised to be the “greenest government ever”, Miliband has failed to hold the government to account over that pledge, according to some. Blue & Green Tomorrow has also commented on Miliband’s lack of environmental action in the past.

Craig Bennett, head of policy and campaigns for Friends of the Earth, wrote in The Guardian in September last year: “The coalition would find it harder to disregard the environment and the need to build a strong low-carbon economy if Labour put the issue high on the political agenda.

During the last parliament, Cameron’s support for the Climate Change Act was pivotal in persuading the then-Labour government to put their weight behind it. If we really are going to build the low-carbon future that we so urgently need, it’s time for Labour to step up to the plate.”

He added, “We will never capitalise on the promise of our burgeoning green economy or avert the worst excesses on climate change, unless politicians are prepared to stand up and be counted both in opposition and in government.”

Joseph Iddison is a student in his final year of an English degree at the University of Leicester.

Further reading:

Ed Miliband’s Bedford speech heavy on rhetoric, weak on action

Ed Miliband: “I believe we have duty to leave the world a better place than we found it”

Ed Miliband: green investors are ‘going elsewhere’ because of this government

Joseph Iddison is a master’s student at the University of Leicester. Having graduated from the same institution in July 2013 in English, Joseph will start the global environmental change course in September.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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