After four rounds of thorough and impartial scrutiny, Blue & Green Tomorrow is ready to announce its final recommendation as to where we think the Green Investment Bank should be located. The golden envelope is on the table, so let’s find out whose name is on it.
And so there were two. In the beginning, we had 32 UK locations all vying for the Blue & Green Tomorrow winner’s crown, but now, just Brighton and Nottingham remain.
But which will we choose as our ultimate recommendation for the location of the Government’s £3 billion Green Investment Bank (GIB)? We’ll find out soon.
Both cities passed the previous four rounds with flying colours, and so possess what we deem to be the ideal qualities for the eventual host site.
In this final round we’ll be implementing the deciding factor. The criteria that, in a Blue & Green world, elects whether Vince Cable will be shaking hands with representatives from Brighton or Nottingham.
This means that, in theory, both cities are green (and/or getting greener), need a boost in their financial services industries, are home to a respectable, sustainable university, and have a currently low, or decreasing, average weekly wage.
Here’s a summary of the battle for the GIB so far, with indicators that show whether Brighton or Nottingham scored better in each section.
As you can see, it’s very tight going into the final stage.
In round two, in which we analysed the finance and insurance sectors of each city, several readers have pointed out the inverse logic of our choice. They have suggested that it would make more sense to locate a financial services brand where there is already a core of financial service people.
We don’t think so.
We take the view that to build a sustainable economy, we need to spread wealth and investment across a large proportion of the British Isles.
Whilst financial centres act as a boom to their local economy, too much concentration can have a negative effect on the surrounding towns.
Perhaps this was because Leeds was omitted from this round, but regardless, outside London, Leeds has one of the UK’s most thriving economies, with one in every 25 finance and insurance employees working in West Yorkshire.
Therefore, by our reasoning, it would be pointless to pick Leeds, and certainly not beneficial for the area to site the GIB there.
Hopefully that’s cleared a few things up.
Before we get onto the fifth and final round, Blue & Green Tomorrow asked two councillors – one from each remaining bidding city – to sum up their case for the GIB location.
Councillor Bill Randall, leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, is up first.
“I believe we have the talent pool, commercial infrastructure, credible international brand and sheer ambition to host the Green Investment Bank in our city”, he said.
“Brighton & Hove is concerned about climate change and, with two universities; the city is a centre of economic innovation.
“Financial services are at the heart of the city’s economy and therefore there is an existing workforce with the necessary skills to take up employment opportunities if a Green Investment Bank located in the city“.
Councillor Alan Clark, Nottingham City Council portfolio holder for energy and sustainability, fights his city’s corner.
“The location of the Green Investment Bank in Nottingham would be excellent news for the city”, he said.
“Nottingham is currently forging ahead with many energy and carbon related projects, building on the fact that we are already the most energy self-sufficient city in the UK.
“We want to be Britain’s Energy City and the Green Investment Bank would be a major boost to our reputation and could lead to a concerted growth of green business opportunities, jobs and training in the city”.
Both plant compelling points on the table, and it appears both believe the GIB would be hugely beneficial for their city. They talk the talk at least.
With the pre-match hype out the way, the selection process for the final needs explaining.
Whilst Blue & Green’s ideal GIB location would be a city that doesn’t already have a thriving financial hub, we realise that until a wholly sustainable economy is achieved, there will be a need to access the current financial centres in Britain.
Therefore, we’ve judged the two finalists on their access, by car and train, to the British capitals – London, Cardiff and Edinburgh – and here’s what we found.
Nottingham’s central location in England means it quite considerably trumps Brighton’s access to the three capitals by car and train, and subsequently pokes the East Midlands city ahead in the search for the overall crown.
Although Brighton is only 52 miles away from London, it’s also 462 miles from Edinburgh, bringing its journey time up significantly.
Next, we looked at airport access. In an ideal situation, the GIB would become an international phenomenon, meaning good air travel links are essential.
Looking at the closest five airports to each of the two cities, these are the results.
Nottingham comes out on top again, with a closer average distance to airports than Brighton.
This means that the East Midlands city of Nottingham is Blue & Green Tomorrow’s GIB metropolis, and the place that we deem the most appropriate out of the 32 to host such an innovative project.
Its low, decreasing levels of carbon, its under-strength financial sector, its admirably sustainable universities, its average weekly wage, and its transport links, mean it ticks all our boxes.
So that’s it. Will it be Nottingham in real life? Who knows.
We’d love to hear your feelings about what you thought about our GIB recommendation series.
Maybe you’re aggrieved with the fact your city missed out? Maybe you think a certain city progressed too far? Perhaps you think Nottingham doesn’t have what it takes?
We’ll keep you up-to-date with which of the 32 cities is actually chosen.
But, if Blue & Green Tomorrow hasn’t totally quenched your thirst for information about the GIB then you can always read up about the Bank on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) website.
And, if you’re interested in contributing to the prospect of a green economy, you can. Ask your financial adviser about the best ways to invest your money sustainably, or alternatively, fill in our online form and we’ll show you how.
Here’s a complete round-up of Blue & Green’s GIB location battle.
Infographics: Ben Willers. Picture source: Ryan Hyde.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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