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Local elections preview: The Conservatives

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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 will be 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.

Kicking us off is the party in power – the Conservatives, whose leader is the prime minister, David Cameron.

Responsible investment

We will reform the regulation and structure of the banking system to ensure lower levels of leverage, less dependence on unstable wholesale funding, and greater availability of credit for SMEs [small and medium enterprises] […] We need to change the way we regulate our banks to stop a crisis on this scale ever happening again.

In their 2010 manifesto, the Conservatives drew attention to the fact that the UK’s dependency on foreign fossil fuels was at its highest since 1997, and how “this must change to safeguard Britain and the world’s future”:

We will encourage private sector investment to put Britain at the forefront of the green technology revolution, creating jobs and new businesses across the country.”

The Tories also sought to reform the banking system in terms of setting a precedent with a Green Investment Bank (GIB):

We will create Britain’s first Green Investment Bank – which will draw together money currently divided across existing government initiatives, leveraging private sector capital to finance new green technology start-ups. We will create green individual savings accounts to help provide the financial backing we need to create a low-carbon economy.”

The GIB is the first of its kind, although its status as a depository is questionable given the fact that it cannot borrow or lend. It is not authorised or regulated by the Financial Service Authority, either.

Changes from previous pledges

When compared to preceding manifestos, the Conservative Party’s 2010 proposals tie in significantly:

We will abolish Labour’s Climate Change Levy package. The necessary carbon dioxide reduction can be achieved far more efficiently by other means” [2005].

Compared to:

We will reform the Climate Change Levy to provide a floor price for carbon, delivering the right climate for investment in low-carbon energy production” [2010].

This demonstrates the Conservatives’ awareness of environmental concerns since the turn of the millennium, as well as the continued intention to alter Labour’s Climate Change Levy.

A cornerstone of Conservative policy in recent years is the responsibility and importance of the Bank of England. The 2001 manifesto states that the Conservatives wished to “enhance the independence of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee”, whilst the manifesto for 2005 spoke of maintaining the pound sterling as British currency in testing times against the Euro.

Energy and environment

It is also clear that the Conservatives have become increasingly more environmentally conscious. The 2001 and 2005 manifestos focused mainly on family issues and the NHS respectively, with environmental and energy concerns mentioned in one or two paragraphs in the later pages.

The most recent publication, however, focuses more on banking reform, no doubt due to the 2008 financial crisis. The most recent manifesto also features a comprehensive energy and environment strategy, regarding both previous frailties and intended outcomes.

We will increase the proportion of tax revenues accounted for by environmental taxes, ensuring that any additional revenues from new green taxes that are principally designed as an environmental measure to change behaviour are used to reduce the burden of taxation elsewhere.”

First coalition government in 36 years

When the Lib Dems and the Conservatives formed the coalition government in May 2010, a jointly published Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement marked the combination of two parties for the first time since the October 1974 election.

The agreement outlines plans to reform energy markets as well as invest in renewable energy.

Walking the walk?

The coalition government has brought the energy bill to the forefront of energy policy, with the first reading taking place on the November 29 last year. It succeeded the Energy Act 2010, and focuses on reforming the electricity market. It didn’t, however, include a decarbonisation target, which has been subject of much debate in the months since.

The 136-page publication is intended by Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey to “attract investment to bring about a once-in-a-generation transformation of our electricity market”.

Furthermore, the Coalition Agreement saw the introduction of the green deal, launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on January 28 to permit loans for energy saving measures for properties in the UK.

The deal came into action on the October 1 last year.

The renewable heat incentive (RHI) was set up in 2011 with a view to meeting long-term climate change objectives. The RHI pays participants of the scheme that generate and use renewable energy to heat their buildings.

By increasing the generation of heat from renewable energy sources (instead of fossil fuels), the RHI helps the UK reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet targets for reducing climate change. The RHI is considered the primary scheme of the government’s heat strategy.

However, some have been less than satisfied with the coalition’s progress on renewable energy. In March, the chancellor George Osborne revealed plans to invest in shale gas, which is seen to some as a short-term energy resource.

This has led to criticism of the chancellor for not addressing renewable energy and the green economy. Despite offshore wind being a major part of the Treasury’s infrastructure pipeline, nothing of the sort was mentioned in the budget.

This comes almost three years after prime minister David Cameron promised that the coalition government would be the “greenest government ever.

In 2012, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) boss John Cridland criticised the lack of government support for the growing green economy: “The UK has made a great start tapping into green economic opportunities but mixed signals from the government are setting the UK back.

If we can’t be sure that the policies of today will still be the policies of tomorrow, we simply won’t build business and consumer confidence or secure the investment we need.”

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

Further reading:

Coalition’s green fatigue is a ‘betrayal of conservatism itself’

Are capitalism and conservation incompatible?

David Cameron still needs to show real leadership in delivering a sustainable recovery

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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