Achieving culture change

An excellent new publication from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, Achieving culture change: a policy framework. It’s open for discussion until 31 August and will be finalised once they have had views in. It’s an important area because many policy objectives depend on influencing, or are thwarted by, deep-seated attitudes and entrenched behaviours… environment, skills and employability, anti-social behaviour, and public health to name a few.

This develops work on ‘behaviour change’ (see my posting on soft paternalism for a discussion) to reflect the idea that behaviour is embedded in culture: a stock of attitudes and beliefs – and that behaviour is conditioned by culture, but that changed behavioural norms are eventually consolidated into culture (see graphic from report). If that sounds either obscure or so obvious it isn’t worth stating, I think it is worth having a read of the report – it’s an excellent synthesis of the knowledge and experience in this area with some good analytical tools…

I attended the launch of this report and was asked to give some remarks in response. My six main points were as follows: Continue reading “Achieving culture change”

Emissions trading – notes on a scandal

Another day, another broadside against carbon emissions trading. The FT’s Martin Wolf offers advice to the new Chancellor, including:

While simplifying tax, he should also take a close look at green taxation. Simple taxes that apply across-the-board are what is needed. The grant of valuable rights to big polluters through systems known as “cap-and-trade” is a scandal. [here]

This is an increasing theme, with even American giants like Alan Greenspan and Paul Volker coming out against cap ‘n’ trade and in favour of a carbon tax [see article]. I have to say I’m ever more swayed by this view, see my posting To Cap or to Tax.

But is the EU system ‘a scandal’, as Martin Wolf says? Continue reading “Emissions trading – notes on a scandal”

The irreducible Stern – limerick contest

Are you tired of trying to understand the 600-page Stern Review (eg. this perplexing graph showing a 13.8% loss of GDP in 193 years from now!)? Luckily, the government’s finest minds are rumoured to be preparing a simplified version in limerick form. Here’s my effort: Continue reading “The irreducible Stern – limerick contest”

To cap or to tax?

I ended my last post noting some recent critical commentary from the FT and Economist about emissions trading being an inferior approach to a carbon tax. Here they are again….

+ FT – Undercover Economist: Emission impossible 13 April
+ Economist – Cleaning Up – 31 May
+ Economist – Business and climate change – 31 May
+ Economist – Doffing the Cap – 14 June
+ Prospect – The Cost of Carbon – July 2007
+ Martin Wolf – advice to the new Chancellor – July 2007

Are they right? Continue reading “To cap or to tax?”

Energy white paper – nuclear muddle continues

On May 23rd we had a new Energy White Paper and a new Planning White Paper. Both part of the government’s efforts to bring forward new nuclear power stations. The new energy policy makes a case for nuclear on energy security and climate change grounds. In fact nuclear dominates the energy white paper and is the unannounced presence in the planning white paper. But this obsession is out of proportion to the importance of nuclear power in the energy mix – see chart [data]. The government’s economic appraisal released with the white paper suggests that not much will happen for the next 20 years anyway:

It is likely that the first new nuclear plant could be added by around 2021 […] A programme to add 6 GW of nuclear new build by 2025 would not increase the total stock of nuclear capacity relative to the current level.

At the heart of UK energy policy there lies confusion and contradiction… let me make some observations: Continue reading “Energy white paper – nuclear muddle continues”

What was the question again? …Green polling examined

There is emerging conventional wisdom that people are concerned about the environment as never before, but are unwilling or unable to do much about it – for example, from last week’s Independent… Britons unwilling to change despite climate change. And that’s not unusual… but how realistic is it? Continue reading “What was the question again? …Green polling examined”

No 10 road pricing petition – beware what you wish for…

A new system for citizens’ petitions on the Prime Minister’s web site has attracted well over 1 million signatures for a motion to: “Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy“. Extensive news coverage [BBC] and ministerial response [BBC] have followed. Despite a recent speech on Winning the debate on road pricing, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander looks as though he may in danger of losing it.

The idea of the petition is great in some ways, but flawed in others: Continue reading “No 10 road pricing petition – beware what you wish for…”

Blowing your money on a wind turbine

I’ve already blogged on the completely dreadful economics of solar power… now it’s time to have a look at micro wind power, of the type favoured by David Cameron (see Guardian article)

First the basics… underpinning the physics of wind power is a ‘cubic law’ – the power output of a wind turbine is approximately proportional to the cube of wind speed. So double the wind speed and the power goes up by eight times (2x2x2) – halve it, and it falls to one eighth, roughly.

So the value for money of a domestic wind turbine and its cost of reducing carbon depends very sensitively on the average wind speed at the site. And this, it turns out is why domestic wind turbines a sucha rotten green-buy… Continue reading “Blowing your money on a wind turbine”

Vote for Scottish independence and accountability

Scottish independence is in the air. It’s the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union and people both sides of the border are restless with the settlement. In Scotland, partial devolution has intensified the hunger rather than quench the thirst for complete autonomy and the governing Liberal-Labour coalition is losing out to the opposition separatist Scottish National Party. Proud Scotland with its traditions and distinct identity would be more than at home as a distinct state in the European Union. Eight members of the current EU have smaller populations than Scotland’s 5.1 million, which lies between Finland and Ireland – two of the EU’s success stories.

So what are the costs and consequences of independence…? Continue reading “Vote for Scottish independence and accountability”

Cut greenhouse gases and see results in 50 years

Here are candidates for the most troubling graphs I came across in 2006. These are from the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre publication Climate Change and the Greenhouse Effect [PDF] with my titles. The top chart shows very different possible paths for emissions of greenhouse gases for the rest of the century – depending on what we do to tackle greenhouse gases. The lower chart shows modelling of what effect these will have on warming.

Now the depressing part: not much we do today to reduce emissions, even if everyone else in the world does a lot too, will make much difference to the level of warming we experience until the second half of this century (warming diverges after the line drawn at 2050).  Why is this and what does it mean? Continue reading “Cut greenhouse gases and see results in 50 years”