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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Yes we can … but we shouldn’t

Posted by steve on January 31, 2011

White paper shows how market forces can tackle carbon dioxide and phosphorus challenges

Posted by steve on January 20, 2011

coverwhitepaper-feThis updated White Paper

How Flexible Emissions Fees Can Drive Transition to Fossil-free and Sustainable Living

explains why we need to discourage supply chains from emitting waste into the natural environment. It also explains that what we call waste could be a resource in another supply chain if the economic context were to encourage recycling. The mechanism present, the Höglunds Mechanism, is one tool to do just that: to focus market forces to create an economic system that delivers real value: essential services in a sustainable way.

The paper describes the planetary boundaries approach put forward by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and gives several worked examples as to how the mechanism could be applied to two of the four top priorities: carbon dioxide and phosphorus.

Read the paper here. whitepaperfe_v2tb

Can we have economic growth AND eliminate all pollution? TSSEF thinks so.

Posted by steve on January 10, 2011

It may sound impossible to you as you have probably heard that environmental destruction is the price we pay for economic growth. However, it is just as clear that environmental destruction is the price future generations pay for environmental destruction. If you get what I mean.

Many economists I have met have looked at me with a look of “why don’t you get it? If you put a price on the environment then market forces will take care of the rest”.

And putting a price on the environment is just what has NOT happened.  I am always fascinated to think of the sound inside a car: the wind noise, the ticking of the clock, the purr of the engine. Contrast that to the noise you hear standing by the roadside. Traffic noise is ugly. I have to hear it – even if I am not the one making it. Why is it so that the driver does not hear it but the pedestrian does?

Well it’s because somewhere deep in our modern value system we think it’s OK that I get the quiet and you get the noise even though I am making the noise. That is externalisation. You pay for my emissions. I carry on for free. You get the pollution and no compensation.

Now suppose we decided to phase out traffic noise. We could put a heavy fee on noise and every month raise the fee to drive noise abatement technology until users complied. As the fee was increased, people would follow their wallets and invest in quiet cars or decide to put up with the fee. Either way you have suddenly demonstrated the first Axiom of TSSEF”s (The Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation) flexible fee mechanism: the price of pollution is the price you pay to not do it.

All this money going into government coffers demonstrates the second Axiom: flexible fees do not affect economic growth (they are merely a cost on the balance sheet). Nor do they drive inflation. This might sound strange at first, but consider that all the money flowing into the coffers is actually an income. So the cost of living is the same, rather the emissions part is made more expensive, making the other parts relatively cheaper.

And that is the key to making flexible emission fees work: increasing fees and redistributing them via for example a tax break. People spend the tax break and this drives up employment.

All of this in turn drives the demand for sustainable, non-polluting service up and the demand for polluting services down. In short, carefully applied, felxible fees can help transition a whole country,

Read more in our white paper whitepaperFE_V2.

My country’s carbon emissions

Posted by steve on January 8, 2011

The diagram above shows the emissions resulting from how Swedes live. (Click on the picture to access the calculator for YOUR country.)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words … and this one has certainly made me think.

Firstly, here in Sweden we hear how proud we are of our climate strategy. That we are so sparing with our emissions, normally quoted as less than 6 tonnes per capita. This is truth modified when you realise that indirect emissions from imports are not included, and bring us well over 10 tonnes per capita.

Most of Sweden’s electricity production comes from non-fossil sources. About half is from hydro power and wind, the rest nuclear power. We do import some coal-fired electricity at peak.

A lot of Sweden’s district heating comes from renewable resources such as biofuel and rubbish incineration. Because of this, you regularly hear that Sweden will create whole  fossil-free city districts within the next ten years. Looking at this diagram you have to wonder. Again, ignoring the emissions from construction, transport, manufacturing, food and services SOME districts MAY be fossil free.

Looking at this diagram, if you were to fashion a fossil-fuel independence strategy, some points emerge according to my first reading:

  • Only 26% is actually emitted on food and shelter, so the priority must be to ensure food and shelter security on one hand
  • At the same time we need to reduce the two largest emitters – mobility 26% and service 21%.
  • This requires something new: designing our settlements so they do not need transport, and  reducing the fossil fuel needs of the service sector. It is very much much a design issue, and could be done using available techniques.
  • The next thing to do is to redesign manufacturing and its concomitant supply chains to need radically less fossil fuel. I have made a start on that one read my STORY FROM THE FUTURE.
  • Looking at the diagram, the longer business as usual is left to continue, the less profitable current investments will become. This is because we must expect either a rapid rise in fuel prices or a radical investment in renewables and nature-does-the-work solutions by competitors. Read my ideas on this in another STORY FROM THE FUTURE, this time on truly low-energy cities.

Moving to your eco-village is like coming home?

Posted by steve on January 7, 2011

Reading a recent post on Rob Hopkin’s blog-Transition Culture - I was struck by how readers commented on the feeling – and importance of – finding your home. One person had heard stories of the Isle of Skye in Scotland from his mother but never visited. When he went there with her he had that overwhelming sense of home.

Maybe that is one of the appealing things about the Transition Culture – that it is about creating a wonderful, human, sustainable, safe and resilient home for ourselves.

I was reminded of a story about the guy who went and asked a schoolteacher how they teach the concept of living sustainability. The teacher replied” we don’t have to: it is already part of being human – if children live in a sustainable community they learn from being part of it.” “But surely,” the visitor said, “they must learn about how to garden and stuff”. The school teacher replied, “In this modern world the children can’t learn it because it does not offer the opportunities for them to get involved.”

The school teacher then took the visitor into a room and showed him a wall. “Look at this.” He pointed, “this shows you that children innately understand how to live in harmony with the earth”.

The visitor looked puzzled; ”but all I see is kids’ drawings”. “Look – what do you see in the drawings?” The visitor studied the drawings…” Well, I see houses, water, sun, rain, animals, people together, pets, things growing….” The teacher smiled and nodded, “that’s it… what you see is what THEY see. They see it all working together they have that to start with, they just need to be part of realising it in practice. They are drawing their HOME.”

What I do

Posted by steve on January 3, 2011

This blog presents my work envisioning sustainable living arrangements for cities and rural areas. I also work with alternative financing strategies that support sustainable development.

As we are reaching the end of the industrial age, I believe we need  a positive vision of the future without abundant fossil fuel.  WAIT! There is more to read… read on »