Monday, June 13, 2016

Blowing in the Wind

Published as a podcast at on Friday 10th June

Hello this is Anthony Day with the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 10th June, and I’m delighted to say that it could almost be summer. Gone is last week’s cold spell, plants are bursting out all over, especially weeds in our allotment garden, and my bees gave me 20kg of honey last week. Amazing when you think that I got less than that for the whole of last season and didn’t get any at all until September.

In the news this week - words about wind power, news from Norway and a White Elephant galloping north.

This week we heard from RenewableUK Chief Executive Hugh McNeal about limits to onshore wind.  RenewableUK is the trade body for the UK wind industry. In an interview with the Telegraph he said, “We are almost certainly not talking about the possibility of new plants in England. The project economics wouldn’t work; the wind speeds don’t allow for it.” However, although the Government has implemented its manifesto pledge to end subsidies for new onshore wind farms, the industry believes it should be able to deploy more turbines onshore if it can show that this is the cheapest form of new power generation capacity. In some cases that may mean replacing existing turbines with larger units. The sums may not add up in England, but there’s a lot of wind in Scotland and maybe in Wales and Northern Ireland as well. Current wholesale electricity prices are too low to spur investment in any new form of power generation, so the Government has already had to make subsidies available to new gas plants. If financial support required by onshore wind is less than that required by gas, the industry argues it should receive such support which should no longer be regarded as “subsidy”. This is of course a political hot potato as the government had a manifesto commitment to cut back onshore wind power and set about achieving this as one of its first actions in this parliament.

John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), said claims that wind power was the cheapest failed to take into account the wider cost impacts on the system.
“There has to be grid expansion to remove bottlenecks and short term response plant to cope with errors in the wind forecast, and the cost of operating a conventional fleet of [power stations] of almost unchanged size to guarantee security of supply,” he said.

Wikipedia reveals that The Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) was founded in 2004 by UK TV personality Noel Edmonds. It’s a United Kingdom-based registered charity with a stated aim of promoting the development of sustainable energy technologies. Its funders include Barclays Capital and Calor Gas. In 2011 it was revealed in a Guardian article that it had been in discussion with the Charities Commission about its possibly overly political nature. In the UK political organisations are not allowed charitable status.

Despite its name the Renewable Energy Foundation seems to be diametrically opposed to the objectives of RenewableUK. Indeed, a previous CEO of RenewableUK is on record as saying “They don't foster or promote or develop, they just try to undermine the case for wind energy all the time.”

But the REF’s point about backup has always been an issue with renewables. There are times, sometimes days or even weeks, when there’s no sunshine and no wind. Electricity demand remains the same, so logically we need a fleet of conventional power stations capable of meeting maximum demand always on standby. For nuclear power stations standby is not really an option. They are either running or not and cannot be easily or quickly switched on and off. For this reason they are used to meet base load. Coal stations are more flexible. Standby still means that they are running, although at a low level which can be fairly rapidly increased. Gas stations are the most flexible, but if you have a conventional generating fleet which can meet total demand, why invest in renewables which can only satisfy part of demand part of the time? Leaving aside the low carbon aspects, that logic is based on the assumption that electricity cannot easily be stored. Elon Musk of Tesla with his Powerwall domestic battery is starting to challenge that belief. Now news from Norway takes it to another level.
According to Spectrum, the magazine of i-triple-e the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Norway is setting itself up to be Europe’s energy warehouse. Norway’s hydropower reservoirs make up nearly half of Europe’s energy storage capacity. And European grid operators need energy storage to cope with constant variations in the output of wind power. In December, engineers will energize a new subsea power cable. The 240-kilometer cable across the Skagerrak Strait separating southern Norway and northern Denmark is Norway’s first new power link to Denmark since 1993. Called Skagerrak 4, its high-voltage direct current (HVDC) converters—the electronic units at either end of the line that transform AC into high-voltage DC and vice versa—are also the building blocks for more ambitious cables from Norway to wind-power heavyweights Germany and the United Kingdom. Construction on those is expected to commence during the coming year.

The existing Skagerrak interconnection, three HVDC cables with a combined 1,000 megawatts of capacity, is already showing the world just how well wind and hydropower complement each other. According to the Danish Energy Agency, such interconnectors are why Denmark can accommodate the world’s highest levels of wind power, which met 41.2 percent of Danish demand in the first half of this year. At times wind power production even exceeds the country’s domestic power demand.
“We store their surplus in the hydro reservoirs and then feed it back on a seasonal basis or a daily basis. This is a very strong business case,” says HÃ¥kon Borgen, executive vice president at Statnett, Norway’s state grid operator.
Norwegian hydropower turbines throttle down as Norway consumes Danish wind energy instead, leaving an equivalent amount of energy parked behind dams. And when the weather shifts and becalms the North Sea winds, the reservoirs and Skagerrak’s cables feed that stored energy back to Denmark. 
A pair of Norway–U.K. cables, a joint effort of Statnett and London-based National Grid, is slated to start by 2020.
There should be many more cables to come if European countries make good on official goals to eliminate carbon emissions from power generation by 2050. The German government’s Advisory Council on the Environment, for example, concluded in its influential 2011 report that an optimal zero-carbon power system for Germany would need more than 40 gigawatts of interconnection to Norway. That system, the council projected, would deliver power at a very affordable 6 to 7 euro cents per kilowatt-hour. Without Norwegian storage, power costs would rise to 9 to 12 euro cents per kilowatt-hour.

You can find more, and a lot of technical details, at

Norway made the headlines again this week with press reports that it would ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025. Already nearly one in four cars on Norwegian roads is electric, partly because they are heavily subsidised. Norway has vast electricity supplies, 99% of which come from hydropower. And it also has a small population of only 5.2 million citizens, which is a lot less than London. An article in Huffington Post expresses sour grapes. This is only possible, it tells us, because Norway is a significant producer of oil and gas. It’s using oil revenues to finance its escape from oil. True, Norway has used oil revenues to build a substantial sovereign wealth fund. I think that’s called “saving up for a rainy day”, or “fixing the roof while the sun shines.” Sounds like a good plan to me, although I think it’s a bit late for some other North Sea oil producers.

An extensive post on Facebook from Robert Goldman includes this prediction: “In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don't want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver's license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.”

Somebody once said, and research indicates he may have been Danish although that’s probably not important, “Prediction is hazardous, especially about the future.” Self-driving cars do look to be an ideal solution, especially as we’ll be able to get rid of all those parked vehicles that are idle 95% of the time. But cars are much more than a means of transport for many people. They are an expression of individuality and independence. Even if the cost and safety arguments are compelling I’m sure there will be a backlash. After all, my car is nearly 11 years old and I don’t want to get rid of it. It runs as well as it ever did and was paid for long ago. It’s a hybrid so it’s relatively clean and the manufacture of any replacement, even an electric car, will have a substantial carbon footprint. 

But perhaps we’ll all be travelling by train. Will we? I wanted to share an article about HS2 that I read in Tuesday’s Guardian. HS2 is the high speed train planned to run from London to Birmingham, and to be extended in Phase Two with separate lines to Manchester and Leeds. I’ve been mildly in favour of it, to release capacity on existing lines so that more freight can be sent by train rather than by road. If we build a completely new line to achieve this, the argument goes, we might as well make it high speed because the incremental cost will be very small.

However, in his article dated 7th June Simon Jenkins demolishes every argument in favour of the line. Read the whole thing at, but here are some highlights. While Jenkins doesn’t mention freight capacity, he does point out that London to Birmingham trains have typical occupancy levels of around 60%, while commuter lines around major UK cities are straining at 100%. Is a high speed line only marginally more expensive than a normal line? The project has been estimated to cost £42billion, but others suggest £70billion and the Institute of Economic Affairs predicts £80billion. All that has to come back over time from train fares, because there’s no suggestion that this will be funded with public money. Travellers who are not in a tearing hurry will doubtless find highly competitive rates on existing routes. Regardless of who pays for the project - expected to be the biggest civil engineering project in Europe by far - it will account for a significant proportion of GDP. It will create jobs, but it’s not clear whether the UK has sufficient skilled people to fill those jobs or what they will do once the construction is finished. The skilled people absorbed by HS2 will not be available to work on other parts of the UK infrastructure, so we need to be absolutely sure that HS2 is more important than new hospitals, new roads, a new power generation and distribution system or even a new airport runway in the southeast.

Going back to the question of high speed. The latest plan is to future-proof the line by building it to carry trains at up to 400kph. That’s 250mph and no trains capable of that speed currently exist, not even Flying Scotsman. High speed has two consequences. At least. First, air resistance is proportional to the square of the speed of the airflow, or of the vehicle through the air. This means that there is four times as much drag acting on a vehicle travelling at 150mph as when it travels at 75mph. At 200mph it’s seven times as much and at 250mph 11 times as much. It will take 11 times as much energy to drive the vehicle at that speed, with energy costs increased in direct proportion. And carbon footprint as well, unless we have eliminated fossil fuels from electricity production by the time the train sets off. The second consequence of ultra high speed trains is that the lines have to be as straight as possible. It’s difficult to choose a route and it’s much easier to build out-of-town parkway stations than to actually serve stations in city centres. As a result, door-to-door journey times can be as long or even longer than before. It reminds me of a quip by the comedy duo The Two Ronnies. “The Department of Transport has just announced,” they said, “that the Littleplace bypass was completed today. This was the final stage in a project bringing bypasses to every community in Britain. This means that you can now drive all day without going anywhere at all.”

I was at a presentation to a group of businessmen in Leeds, West Yorkshire, this week and they made it clear that improved transport links were urgently needed. George Northern Powerhouse Osborne has muttered something about HS3, a high speed line from Liverpool in the west via Manchester and Leeds to Hull in the east. It’s probably as likely as any other part of the Northern Powerhouse show. We don’t need a high speed train from east to west in the north, we just need an upgrade to the standard of the existing north-south main lines. The route needs to be put back to four tracks so that fast trains are not stuck behind locals. Most of the route originally had four tracks, and when it comes to getting through the Pennines there are still two unused tunnels alongside the existing line.

Mind you, the future may yet be the car. Not a diesel car. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, (Finance Minister) Gordon Brown lowered the tax rates on diesel cars because of their lower carbon emissions. The proportion of diesel cars on British roads rose from 13% then to 28% now. But it’s now been shown that their emissions of particulates and nitrous oxides are many times higher than suspected (although I thought we always knew about particulates.) Current Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said this week that consideration would have to be given to taxing diesel cars off the roads, which has caused a storm. Drivers have pointed out that they were guided by the government in choosing diesel, and rather than being penalised they should be subsidised with a scrappage allowance or some other sort of compensation. They also say that when it was proved that VW had fiddled their emissions figures that company was instructed by the US government to compensate owners for the fall in the value of their cars. No such compensation is available in Europe. Is this because the Europeans want to protect their car industry? George Osborne has frozen fuel duty and reduced the tax on running high carbon, high consumption vehicles so on past performance he may be unlikely to take action. Of course the difference is that CO2 is about climate change and the Chancellor is a known sceptic. Particulates and nitrous oxides are about air pollution and respiratory health, so with 50,000 UK deaths from poor air quality each year, this one could be more difficult to dodge.

When I say that cars could be the future, I mean of course electric self-driving cars. The capacity of roads is much greater than the capacity of railways, mainly because of braking distances. According to the driving test a car takes 96m to stop from 70mph in ideal conditions. That includes 21m while the driver is thinking about it. Because of the much lower adhesion between wheel and track, a train will need nearly two kilometres. This means that trains must be spaced for safety. Trials of self-driving cars are planned for British motorways next year, and in time they could travel at 150kph only two metres apart. If they are all controlled by the same system they will all slow down together, with negligible thinking time. Given the right control systems and the right vehicles, a  three-lane motorway will have a vastly greater capacity than a railway. Maybe that’s where we should be investing £80bn. In fact we could probably achieve a lot more for a lot less.

I still like trains, though. You can have a coffee, walk around and use wifi. I don’t mind travelling backwards in a train. You can sit round a table and talk to your friends. I don’t fancy travelling backwards in the front seat of a car. 

And that’s the Sustainable Futures Report for this week. I’m Anthony Day and in just a few weeks I’ll be hosting the first meeting of the Sustainable Best Practice Mastermind group. Details here: . I’m always grateful for feedback and I’d particularly like to thank Eric in Canada for an extensive range of links which look like a good source for future episodes. He’s particularly interested in rare earth metals and critical resources, so if you have any information or ideas, particularly if you're doing research in this area, please get in touch. Thanks for letting me know that I got the chemistry wrong in a previous episode, Tom. I hope I got the physics right this time. Manda, you suggested we should look at ethical and green investing. I’ve sent my financial advisor off to look into this for us - and if there’s anyone out there who has a view or specialist knowledge in the field please get in touch. 

The Sustainable Futures Report normally goes out as a podcast at 1am on a Friday morning, UK time. Last week I finished at five minutes to one. This week I’m pleased to say I had five hours in hand!

That’s all folks. 

This is Anthony Day

Bye for now!

Are there too many Mastermind groups?

Well are there? Probably not, because Vistage, ACE, My True North, Critical Eye, The Alternative Board and all the rest seem to be both professional and successful. In fact I think there are probably not enough. The groups I’ve mentioned are for general managers: for improving the performance of business as a whole. But if you’re a skilled professional or department head is there a group for you? To help you reinforce and share your skills and experience with colleagues in similar roles in other organisations? Of course there are endless groups in LinkedIn and very valuable they are too. But occasional face-to-face meetings and robust discussions provide another dimension. That’s why I’m setting up the Sustainable Best Practice Mastermind group - details here: Time for you to set up a group for your own speciality? 

Flaming June

Published as a podcast at on Friday 3rd June

Yes, it’s June, but in the UK you might not think so as it’s been bitterly cold in the last few days, at least in the eastern half of the country. There’s no word yet, but I do expect to hear shortly that globally, May 2016 will have been the warmest May on record. Following the warmest January, February, March and April. Excuse me while I throw another log on the fire.

There’s a new report out this week from the IEA, the international Energy Agency on the role of cities in cutting GHG emissions. There’s a report from REN21 about how renewable energy is thriving, even in the UK, while Christian Aid tells us more about the threats from climate change. Is your city in the top 20 at risk from flooding? You may be at risk even if it’s not. The US Geological Survey reports on how wildfires in Alaska are affecting global CO2 levels and The Royal Society B has been looking at cow dung.

On another note - there must be a link there somewhere - if you’re a UK voter don’t forget to vote in the EU referendum. This is a life-changing decision and you only have until next Tuesday, 7th June, to make sure you are on the electoral register.

First, “Cities are in the frontline for cutting carbon emissions,” says the IEA 

Cities must take the lead in the transition to a low-carbon energy sector, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week, highlighting that urban areas account for up to two-thirds of the potential to cost-effectively reduce global carbon emissions.
In its annual report, Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 (ETP 2016), the IEA offers long-term technology pathways that could limit the global temperature increase to no more than 2°C, in line with the goals set at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015. The most cost-effective approach involves deploying low-carbon options in cities, especially in emerging and developing economies.

"Cities today are home to about half the global population but represent almost two-thirds of global  energy demand and 70% of carbon emissions from the energy sector, so they must play a leading role if COP21 commitments are to be achieved," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said at the launch of the report during the Clean Energy Ministerial in San Francisco. "Because cities are centres of economic growth and innovation, they are ideal test-beds for new technologies – from more sustainable transport systems to smart grids – that will help lead the transition to a low-carbon energy sector.”

For instance, urban buildings provide useful space to self-generate the electricity they consume: by 2050, rooftop solar could technically meet one-third of cities’ electricity demand. And those buildings offer significant demand potential for the roll-out of the most efficient technologies, like energy-efficient windows and appliances. ETP 2016 also details how best electric vehicles and public transport can lead to a low-carbon mobility system while reducing investment needs by USD 20 trillion compared with current development trends in cities.

But while ETP 2016 shows that the COP21 goals are achievable, its Tracking Clean Energy Progress analysis reveals that progress deploying clean energy technologies worldwide is still falling worryingly short of what is needed. The IEA analysis reveals that there have been positive developments on some technologies: the total renewable energy capacity installed currently provides around 23% of global electricity generation, sustained by progress in solar PV and on-shore wind that pushed the growth of renewable energy capacity to a record high, exceeding 150 gigawatts in 2015. This is an encouraging trend in line with the 2°C goal of having in excess of two-thirds of electricity generated by renewables in 2050. China is the largest renewable energy market, accounting in 2015 for more than half of the world’s new global onshore wind capacity and one-third of the solar PV capacity installed.  The United States maintained its position as the second largest market in the world for renewable energy, sustaining a 40% growth rate in capacity additions over the past year. In ETP 2016, China and the United States collectively account for one third of the renewable energy capacity additions to 2050 that are required to be on track to meet the 2°C goal.

In parallel, the global stock of electric vehicles on the road surpassed one million in 2015, a significant milestone, albeit the current stock is still small compared to the ambitious aim of deploying over one billion electric vehicles by 2050 to achieve the 2°C goal. China and the United States were market leaders in total sales, and Norway kept its global lead in terms of market share, with almost one in four cars sold being electric, but the global share is still low, with only seven countries having more than 1% of electric vehicles in their market share.

Summarising the report’s findings, Dr. Birol concluded “COP21 could prove to be a historic turning point for radical action against climate change, and recent developments on some clean energy technologies are encouraging. However, overall progress is still too slow, and must be accelerated to avoid low fossil fuel prices becoming an obstacle to the low-carbon transition. Today’s energy market conditions will be a litmus test for governments to show how dedicated they are to turning their Paris commitments into concrete actions for a low-carbon future.” 

Business Green reports similar comments from Christiana Figueres the UN's outgoing climate chief. “A fundamental change is needed in the dynamic between business and governments in a post-Paris Agreement world”, she said
The "well-intended" conversation between governments and private sector that took place in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference in December now needs to deepen into collaboration.  reminds us that the Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer described COP21 as a turning point. Now several months on, what has happened to the promises that were made? The most forward-looking organisations have started to decarbonise their complete economic model with the establishment of ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-100% or to rely totally on renewable energy. The picture is fragmented, and there are still allegations of green wash and examples of organisations who find it all too difficult and lower their targets.

The IEA commented on renewable energy and REN21 is another organisation with a report out.

REN21 is the global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network that connects a wide range of key actors. REN21’s goal is to facilitate knowledge exchange, policy development and joint action towards a rapid global transition to renewable energy. REN21 is an international non-profit association and is based at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Paris,

According to the report, 2015 was an extraordinary year for renewable energy. Renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels in many markets and are established around the world as mainstream sources of energy. Cities, communities and companies are leading the rapidly expanding “100% renewable” movement, playing a vital role in advancing the global energy transition. Distributed renewable energy is advancing rapidly to close the gap between the energy haves- and have-nots.

A point that hit the UK headlines is that REN21 revealed that  the top five countries for investment in renewable power and fuels in 2015 include the UK at number 4. Impressive when you consider that this is absolute investment, not investment per head. Impressive when you recognise that 1,2 and 3 are China, the US and Japan. Impressive when you consider how much damage the British government has done to the renewables industry with short-notice policy changes.

Scientists at the US Geological Survey have been looking at
Baseline and Projected Future Carbon Storage and Greenhouse-Gas Fluxes in Ecosystems of Alaska. No, hang on, this is important. Alaska is big. Its area is equivalent to one fifth of the whole of the rest of the United States. And it is a very important carbon sink, which means the wetlands, the forests and the tundra which cover vast areas of the state all absorb CO2, removing it from the atmosphere and locking it away for tens or even hundreds of years. It’s called carbon sequestration. I picked this story up from the Guardian, but I don’t agree with the way they reported it. “Spike in Alaska wildfires is worsening global warming, US says” was their headline. The researchers looked at the period from 1950 to 2009 and yes, they found that “Although there is a high variability in fire regime across interior Alaska, fire frequency, severity, and area burned have increased in recent years, and the trend was projected to continue for the rest of the century across most of the regions and most of the climate scenarios, with the boreal region projected to see the highest increase in fire activities.”
They stated that “the boreal region of the State - meaning the heavily forested northern region -  has been a carbon source, losing 5.1 TgC/yr as the result of increased fire activity in recent decades.”
However they also looked at the period from 2010 to 2099 and found that “Carbon sequestration of upland and wetland ecosystems of Alaska would increase substantially to 18.2 to 34.4 TgC/yr, primarily because of an increase in Net Primary Productivity (I think that means growth) of 12 to 30 percent associated with responses to rising atmospheric CO2, increased nitrogen cycling, and longer growing seasons. Although carbon emissions to the atmosphere from wildfire were projected to increase substantially for all of the projected climates, the increases in Net Primary Productivity would more than compensate for those losses. Our analysis, they say,  indicates that upland and wetland ecosystems would be sinks for GHGs for all simulations during the rest of the century”.

I suppose to be fair to the Guardian it could be argued that without wildfires Alaska would be an even better carbon sink.

There’s a lot of concern that over-use of antibiotics is rapidly leading to resistant superbugs that cannot be treated. For years farmers have routinely added antibiotics to cattle feed because they significantly increase growth. The Royal Society B has carried out investigations which indicate that this practice may have other unintended consequences.
For example, antibiotics may alter microbial emissions of greenhouse gases by affecting livestock gut microbiota. Furthermore, antibiotics may affect the microbiota of non-target animals that rely on dung, such as dung beetles, and the ecosystem services they provide. 
Researchers found that dung beetles were unaffected by antibiotics, but that dung from treated animals would release up to 1.8 times more methane than normal. They also suspected that the amount of methane released from cows’ burps would also increase, although they did not carry out specific tests to verify this.

Agriculture is responsible for about 18% of global GHG emissions and most of this is due to livestock. This is estimated to exceed total emissions from transportation. I’m no vegetarian, but we can’t deny that livestock farming is damaging the planet.

Christian Aid’s new report is called Act now or Pay Later

“More than a billion people across the world are living in cities seriously threatened by climate change,” it tells us. “These are coastal cities, and most are already experiencing increased flooding, extreme weather and storm surges.” 
In the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has given a timely reminder that every $1 spent on reducing the risks from disasters now will save around $7 of damages later. It’s essential that we act urgently to prevent the suffering of millions of poor and vulnerable people. 
The good news is that improvements in science make the impacts of climate change increasingly predictable. It is possible to put measures in place now to identify the most vulnerable people and places and minimise the impacts. 
The first action, they say, has to be to reduce carbon emissions rapidly and limit temperature increase by encouraging a shift in investment from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources. Maybe we should be looking at agriculture as well. Next is to help vulnerable communities survive and thrive, by better protecting their homes and livelihoods. Finally, is to put in place agreed, international systems that support communities to recover from ultimate loss and damage caused by devastating storms and floods. 

The report includes a list of the top 20 major cities most at risk of flooding. The top two are both in India - Calcutta and Bombay. Dhaka in Bangladesh comes in at No 3 and two other cities in Bangladesh are also in the top 20. Four cities in China are in the list, as well as two in the US - Miami at no. 9 and New York City at no. 17. 

Maybe all this seems too remote, but maybe it’s far closer to home than you think.

No, London, although sited on a tidal estuary, is not in the top 20. Nevertheless, the report takes time to explain in detail why London is a vulnerable city. An independent assessment of the climate change risks to London identified the following concerns:

London is currently well protected by the Thames Barrier but climate change could put this protection at risk. Already the barrier is closed far more frequently than was thought would be necessary when it was first designed. It is estimated that 1.25 million people and half a million properties are on floodplains in London, while an estimated 800,000 properties in London are vulnerable to surface-water flooding. 

Leaving aside flooding, as summers get hotter, there is increased health risk, especially for already vulnerable groups. By 2050 it is expected that one in three summers will exceed current Met Office heatwave temperatures. (That is really tempting in icy June 2016, but let’s be realistic.) Remember, in 2003 a heatwave across Europe caused 20,000 premature deaths, of which 15,000 were in France. As we experience increasingly hot and dry summers there’s an increased risk of water shortages. London is already an area of serious water stress, and a combined increase in population, water demand, and reduced water resources due to drought, could pose a serious threat. 
The international consequences of climate change could have a disproportionate effect on London because of its position as a major financial centre. Extreme weather will pose a significant risk to investments and businesses around the world, and will also have implications for the London insurance market.
Many of these are predictable impacts. With the right measures in place, adaptation can be implemented ahead of the climate extremes predicted for coming decades. 

You may not have an international business, but you will almost certainly have an international supply chain. No? Your phone was made in Britain, was it? And your laptop? And your car? Contingency planning. Have I mentioned it before? That’s one of the issues that we’ll be addressing at the Sustainable Best Practice Mastermind group. I still have a couple of places on the initial meeting on 7th July. It’s a select group of only 8 or 10 people but it will include executives from industries like the train operating companies, power generation, the NHS, insurance, civil engineering and local government. If you think your skills and experience would complement the group I’d like to hear from you. 

Finally, the EU obliges us to put VAT on fuel. So, says the Leave campaign, if we left the EU we could remove the VAT and cut the cost of living for poorer families. Let’s assume that we talking just about gas and electricity. The problem is that if we did make energy cheaper it would indeed help poorer people save money but it would help richer people to waste more. Consumption would go up, and since we import a significant proportion of our energy it would have a negative effect on the balance of payments. The other question is if we cut tax revenue on fuel what would we tax instead in order to make up the shortfall? The situation with road fuel is different. There’s VAT on petrol and diesel but there’s also excise duty, which is the largest component of the price. UK petrol prices are higher than elsewhere in Europe because we have a higher level of excise duty, and the government can vary that at will whether or not we are in the EU. Again, if we reduced tax on road fuel it would increase consumption and put pressure on the balance of payments, because the the North Sea no longer meets all our needs. And if taxes are cut they either have to be imposed elsewhere or public spending has to be cut.

I’m not suggesting how you should vote in the referendum, although I do urge you very strongly to vote. All I’m saying is check the facts. And check the facts behind the facts as well. 

You need to be on the electoral register to be able to vote, but if you’re not the deadline for registration is next Tuesday 7th June. You can register on line or by contacting your local town hall.

As our theme tune draws this episode to a close let me remind you that there will be another episode next week. I’ve a number of interviews lined up for future episodes and it's been suggested that I should look at green investments. Other suggestions are always welcome.

This is Anthony Day. 

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.