Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
One important question to be asked about any new plan to tackle climate change is: does it include targets for cutting CO2 emissions? If the answer is no, then it is of limited value. A perfect example was July’s newly announced “Asia-Pacific climate plan” – a proposed alliance of Australia, the US, China, India and South Korea to address climate change that belongs in the dustbin of initiatives that distract from effective action.
But while such announcements typically dominate the industrialised world’s strategies on climate change, occasionally ideas come forward that belong in the bucket of beneficial action. A consultation on microgeneration launched by the UK government back in June still has the potential to be placed in the latter.
Microgeneration, or micropower, is the generation of low-carbon heat and power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet our own energy needs. It is a world away from the inefficient and polluting traditional energy systems that see large power stations located far from the point of use, and represents the kind of step-change in thinking that is badly needed to transform one of the root causes of climate change. Amory Lovins, of the environmental organisation, Rocky Mountain Institute, describes a shift from mega to micropower as a breakthrough comparable to “the leap from the steam engine to the diesel locomotive”.
Micropower is by no means new. It includes devices such as solar panels and small wind turbines that have been promoted for years now as alternative sources of energy, alongside more recent domestic innovations such as heat pumps that extract energy from the ground to run central heating, and combined heat and power (CHP) systems that convert heat given off by a gas boiler into electricity. What is new, however, is the potential for micropower to move out of the alternative scene and be taken up on a wider, societal level, thus making a noticeable impact on energy policy.
The environmental charity, the Green Alliance, has calculated that if, between now and 2020, just a quarter of the million-plus gas boilers removed in the UK annually were replaced with micro-CHP systems, this alone would deliver half of the domestic sector carbon reductions set out in the government’s energy white paper. The New Economics Foundation, meanwhile, has determined that if half of the replacement boilers were micro-CHP they would produce the equivalent electricity of a new power station each year, removing the need for additional large-scale power plants – as well as undermining any revival of the nuclear industry.
With limited resources available for energy developments, the supporters of micropower are pushing hard for it to be taken seriously. Alan Whitehead MP, sponsor of a Private Members Bill on microgeneration put before parliament in June, says: “We know that it will cost at least £10 billion just to replace nuclear power stations going out of commission over the next 15 years, that the money will need to be on the table for 10 years before any electricity is produced, and that most of it will have to come from the public purse. So a good question to ask is: what other power generation can be purchased for this sum, and how quickly would it work? The answer, a comprehensive microgeneration programme, is both quick to produce power and safe to install.”
Guy Thompson of the Green Alliance has pointed out that, despite microgeneration bringing energy issues closer to home practically and offering an excellent opportunity for the public engagement so desperately needed to tackle climate change, the consultation includes no specific measures to stimulate consumer demand. This is a pity: community-wide microgeneration could be a key local protection against the national energy crises that are inevitable in the coming decades.
The consultation also lacks any targets, which Ron Bailey of the Sustainable Energy Partnership argues are essential. “These are what will drive policies to stimulate demand and help us to measure reductions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas,” he says. Bailey believes that without targets the government’s draft microgeneration strategy “will not be a serious strategy to deal with current environmental problems”.
The consultation on microgeneration is open until 23 September. With a final strategy not due until April next year, it remains to be seen whether the government chooses to dig out the contents of the bucket of beneficence or to toss a great opportunity in the direction of the dustbin of distractions.
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite