Dec 23, 2008

Barriers to innovation and change: the London experience

The city of London is experiencing a remarkable transformation in its commitment to addressing climate change. In a recent presentation as part of the most recent Japan-UK low Carbon project, Charles Secrett, special advisor to the Mayor, outlined some of the programs in place to move the city to a sustainable, low GHG emissions future. In the process, they had to address the major barriers to change:

“[…]There are many opportunities to reduce household carbon dioxide emissions. For example, switching off lights/appliances at home and office by all Londoners could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 2.3 million tones. If all light bulbs were energy efficient, London would save 575,000 tonnes of CO2 and £139 million from energy bills (2006 prices) per year; if Londoners bought the most fuel-efficient/lowest CO2 car in their preferred class of vehicle CO2 emissions would fall by 30% in this sector.

“So why aren’t people doing them

Some highlights from Charles Secrett PowerPoint presentation:

The challenge –turning aspirations to be greener into actions that matter
• In UK, people now believe a sustainable home is: modern (90%); attractive (72%); hi-tech (79%); fashionable (78%); good value for money (72%)
• BUT while 90% of people broadly accept the science, and 70% say they are willing to change –ONLY 20% are changing carbon behaviour slightly (buying local food, recycling, driving car less) and only 5% changing significantly

Changing carbon-heavy behaviour ultimately means changing …
• Attitudes
• Values
• Beliefs

As long as it is cheap, convenient and legal to waste carbon and natural resources, then that is what the great majority of individuals, households and companies will do… at work, home and play.

Blocks to uptake of renewable energy in UK/London
• Lack of statutory targets –Planning Policy Statement 22 (PPS22) ‘Planning Guidance on Renewable Energy’in 2004 -The Merton Rule (10% of renewable energy in new developments); Mayor guidance 20%; Olympics 20%.
• Confused and frequently changing Government grant systems for local and micro-renewable energy schemes (Government funding scheme -‘The Renewables Obligation’-consistent support for large wind schemes)
• Local authority opposition and public opposition to wind in many rural areas
• Ignorance of planners and developers of policy, costs and technical options/quality

So, what works …
• Laws and Regulations to ban/restrict unsustainable behaviour
• Polluter Pays Levies and Charges–if revenues are recycled into building up low carbon solutions (infrastructure, technologies, products)
• Financial Incentives–grants, discounts, rewards for low carbon choices and behaviours
• Focused Advice and Assistance programmes that are convenient to access for user, and help navigate a muddled market-place
• Widely available information on problems, causes and solutions (especially when help individuals, families companies in short-term)
• Exemplar Best Practice–‘seeing is believing’
• Partnerships across public, private, domestic and voluntary sectors
• Respected Champions
• Coordinated and demonstrable international action

Thanks to Ralph Torrie for pointing the Japan-UK low carbon research to us, where this paper was presented.

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