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‘Ripples in my teacup’: St Jude’s Day storm and Britain’s resilience

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The St Jude’s Day storm coverage seemed a little apocalyptic. One listener to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, frustrated at the time devoted to the storm, described it on Monday as “ripples in my teacup”. It may not have been on the scale of 1987 or 1953, but any loss of life or property is tragic. What is profoundly worrying is the UK’s lack of resilience when faced with abnormal weather events.

Whether you rubbish climate science or accept it, everyone pretty much agrees that our climate is changing. Weather is part of our climate. The vast majority of climate scientists agree we will experience more extreme weather events. Again, we can all agree our weather will be different. As much as we moan about it, we really don’t want our weather to become that different.

In the UK, we have become accustomed to a relatively benign climate, warmed as we are, by the Gulf Stream. Without this steady stream of warmth our winters could be more than 5C cooler, bringing the average December temperature in London to about 2C, and sending northerly parts of the British Isles deep into minus territory. The system is changing.

In global terms, a relatively minor storm shut down our national rail network, closed ports and airports and left hundreds of thousands without power. If there are to be more storms and more floods in the coming decades, we are ill-prepared as a nation.

Building on floodplains continues (some 10,000 houses per year), as does covering draining surfaces with tarmac, paving slabs and concrete, which means more households are at risk of flooding and there is more water flowing through narrower routes. We need gravel drives, gardens and fields to allow water to drain away naturally.

Water that runs down roads and drains into rivers and out to sea doesn’t replenish the water table and our reservoirs.

Deforestation of our hills and valleys may have left them as beautiful, desolate places, but the subsequent erosion of water-absorbent soil means catastrophes like Boscastle (2004), Cockermouth (2009) and Hebden Bridge (2012) are more likely.

We abandoned our flood defences for many years and the risks to life and property increased. In England alone, 5.2m houses are at risk of flooding and the annual costs of flood damage are estimated to the £1.1 billion. Parliament estimates this cost rising to £27 billion by 2080. The current spending of £370m per year will need to rise to £1 billion by 2035.

Following parliament’s damning cross-party assessment of the government’s “insufficient” and “shortsighted” flood defence spending, environment secretary Owen Paterson told this year’s Conservative party conference, “Over the course of this [five-year] parliament we will be spending £2.3 billion on protecting households and businesses against flooding. In practical terms, this will see 165,000 properties better protected in 2015 than they were in 2010.”

His comments were welcomed by the Association of British Insurers, which had worked with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the industry to create Flood Re, a not-for-profit fund that will ensure flood insurance remains affordable and available to homeowners at high flood risk.

The details are still being thrashed out so we shall see what the final funds looks like, but surely it makes sense not to build on floodplains in the first place, as this all sounds a little but like a dreaded ‘subsidy’.

But these are sticking plasters: 5.2m houses are at risk of flooding and more are being built each year.

Extreme weather events can easily overwhelm flood defences and storm drains. Flood defences do nothing against high winds, heavy snowfall and drought. If these events happen every hundred years or so we can probably cope, although those unlucky enough to live through such an event would rightly disagree.

We desperately need joined up government which connects the dots between all types of wet and dry weather, irresponsible property development, deforestation, dogmatic anti-renewable policies and our future resilience in the face of abnormal or extreme weather.

If, like us, you believe that burning fossil fuels is a key cause of climate change and the resultant extreme weather, then connecting the dots back to what you invest in and which energy supplier you use is also essential.

Laissez-faire may appeal to some politicians reliving the 1980s as economic policy, but it is wreaking havoc with our environment and society, and will inevitably harm our economy.

Further reading:

Met Office warns of storm risk in the South

Half of 2012 extreme weather events linked to climate change, says study

Climate change to ‘change the face’ of UK coastal wildlife

British heatwave responsible for up to 760 deaths, say researchers

Is our weather getting worse? In short, yes

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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