Is there any good news after BREXIT and Trump?

I am not sure of my economics but I suspect there might just be a glow of light at the end of the tunnel. Taken together BREXIT and Trump’s election seem likely to put a damper on the world’s economic growth prospects. On the one hand my status as a pensioner leaves me thinking that might not be good news for my pension fund. On the other hand my position as a concerned citizen, worried about the rate at which we are using up the world’s limited resources gives me some cause for optimism.
Its all really complicated though. Just look at petrol prices. Since BREXIT the price of petrol at the pump has gone up because the international price is set in dollars and the pound has fallen by about 15%. Economists generally forecast that the impact of Trump’s isolationist policies and what looks like our exit from any form of trade agreement with Europe will result in an economic slowdown in many parts of the world. Lower growth means we will not be using as much of the world’s primary resources i.e. less fossil fuels, less primary forest destroyed, less mineral extraction etc etc. Higher fuel prices also mean more incentives to develop renewable energy sources. However it also makes fracking more cost effective (if you ignore the environmental costs as oil companies do).
Another upside to Trump’s isolationism is the probable abandonment of agreements like TTIP, the controversial trans-Atlantic treaty. If signed it would enable trans-national companies to sue governments if they feel government policies on things like environmental protection have infringed their ability to trade profitably. It could also force more privatisation of public services like health and justice.
I was amazed and devastated by the BREXIT vote and Trump’s election, so I am not pretending either of them are good for the environment. I am just looking for some signs of hope. Two more reasons for hope are that we have still not negotiated the deal that will replace our EU membership and the president of the US cannot do whatever he wants. He still has to work with Congress. Look how difficult Obama found that. Those signs of hope give us a reason to continue campaigning and trying to make a practical difference at a local level.

Peak Park – Reducing carbon emissions

At our latest public talk, Emily Fox, of  the Peak Park Authority, spoke to us about reducing carbon emissions in the peak park.  This is one of their strategic aims, and they have  achieved a 25% reduction in relation to their own operations since 2009, and they are aiming for  30% by 2017.  Contributions to this have come from :

  • Insulating, and installing a biomass (wood pellet) central heating boiler at Aldern House in Bakewell – their headquarters.
  • Insulating and installing sustainable energy generation at other properties – for example they are in the process of installing a ground-source heat pump at their Edale Visitor Centre.
  • Encouraging staff to car-share, and travel by public transport where possible.
  • Reducing travel to meetings by using online communications technology.

More details are in  her slides – climate-change-in-the-peak-district-national-park

She also  talked  about encouraging others in the Park  to develop sustainability, particularly through their planning function  – more info here.

Finally, an important aspect is land use,  including farming practice.  The restoration of moorlands  and  peat bogs, through the  Moors for the future project, is important for keeping carbon locked up.

Yes we can! – Renewable energy and sustainability in the  Peak Park

At our latest public talk,  Emily Fox , the Peak Park’s head of strategy, described how they want to support developments which reduce carbon emissions – albeit within the National Park planning guidelines,  which do  impose some restrictions.  Their policy says: “Proposals for low carbon and renewable energy development will be encouraged, provided they can be accommodated without adversely affecting landscape character, cultural heritage assets, other valued characteristics, or other established uses of the area”   They encourage people exploring improvements to the homes to contact their planning officials for pre-application advice, and they have produced  general indicators of what may and may not be OK .   (For example solar thermal panels, photovoltaic panels, ground or water source heat pumps and biomass boilers may not need planning permission,  but permission may also  be  granted for other technologies.)

To encourage people within the national park to adopt sustainable energy, they have produced five case studies of what can be done .  (Along with videos of two of the case studies.)

Technologies used in the case studies include ground-source heat pump, air-source heat pump,  wind turbine , hydroelectric mill wheel and photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity,  high levels of insulation (including sheep’s wool), wood-pellet boiler, wood-burning stoves, and sunpipes.    They cover both new-build, and upgrading of existing properties.

The same page also links to the Peak Park’s “Climate Change and Sustainable Building: Supplementary Planning Document”.  This contains detailed practical guidance and advice on sustainable building, energy efficiency, low carbon and renewable energy, and water management, and relates it to the planning considerations.

Incidentally, the Friend of the Peak also have useful material on reducing carbon emissions, including a detailed study of the potential for  small-scale hydro power in the  Peak District.

The “Supplementary Planning Document” also contains a nice picture illustrating a vision for a sustainable National Park.

peak-sustainable-energy-vision

  1. Energy efficiency improvements to the farmhouse; biomass boiler or ground (or air) source heat pump.
  2. Converted traditional building taking an energy efficiency approach; also considering ground or air source heat pumps. Photovoltaic solar slates on south facing roof that have the appearance of traditional slates.
  3. Solar panels on south facing roofs of portal framed farm buildings. These should be dark in colour, with a dark frame.
  4. Solar panels (photovoltaic or water
  5. Small-scale hydro power scheme in a converted mill building.
  6. Small-scale anaerobic digester dealing with ‘on farm’ generated slurry. Can be sited in an existing yard area, with the apparatus being generally undergrounded so that the exposed parts are no higher than the existing walls. Screen with a drystone wall to match the existing.
  7. Wind turbine in a Landscape Type that has capacity for wind turbine development and in scale with the group of buildings, located as near to them as turbine performance allows and taking account of topple distance. Protected species issues will need to be taken into consideration.

Emily also  talked  what the  Park has done, and is doing,  to make  their own operations more sustainable  – more info here.