This page describes radical plans put forward by individuals and NGOs for a transition to a low or zero-carbon economy. Groups of citizens and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are not waiting for governments to lead but are developing their own plans for a low or zero-carbon economy. Some of these plans are national and some regional or worldwide. [Cambia a la versión en ESPANOL]
An environmental centre 'CAT' in Wales has published a plan 'zerocarbonbritain' (ZCB) for how Britain could eliminate carbon emissions. Download a summary (in English) zerocarbonbritain. ZCB have also produced a document that summarises several transition plans: "RAISING AMBITION: Zero Carbon Scenarios From Across The Globe". Below is an extract from the zerocarbonbritain plan:
zerocarbonbritain details how Britain can eliminate emissions from fossil fuels in 20 years and break our dependence on imported energy. It demonstrates how we can achieve this by halving energy demand and installing massive renewable energy generation.
Halving Britain’s energy demand while still maintaining high levels of well-being requires significant lifestyle changes. Domestic flights would become almost non-existent and international flights would be severely reduced. Moreover meat eating would have to be reduced, as it requires a very large amount of land and energy to produce animal feed. Some of the biggest energy savings could come from a switch to electric transport. Electric motors are 4-5 times more efficient than the internal combustion engines And would compliment the electrical generating renewable technologies perfectly. Buildings represent 75% of Britain’s demand for heat; but with new builds insulated and designed effectively; this would reduce to almost zero. The strategy cuts total energy demand from buildings by 38%. It also recommends widespread retrofit of insulation, and a programme of demolition and replacement of the worst-performing buildings.
Wind provides the greatest proportion of electrical energy in the scenario, at around 45% of annual demand. The scenario recommends installing around 47% of the DTI’s estimated wind resource for Britain; a total of 474TWh of capacity, 90% offshore. Wave power, and tidal power captured with a series of tidal lagoons could also provide large amounts of our electricity. Other renewable technologies, such as solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and hydro all contribute to the electricity supply in our 2027 scenario. Once reduced through efficiency measures, the domestic heating demand could be met with heat pumps and combined heat and power (CHP) plants running on biofuels such as wood chip.
Extensive data about UK energy use with tables of data like this one of UK domestic energy consumption by end use:
|End Use||2002 (TWh)||2002 (%)|
|Lighting & appliances||73||13|
The contents of the report are:
Key Points of The Energy Report:
This proposal describes how to supply all of Europe's electricity by renewables and solar energy from the desert. Read: Summary of the Concept & the Studies (available in several languages). Below is an extract:
By far the largest, technically accessible source of energy on the planet is to be found in the deserts around the equatorial regions of the earth. The DESERTEC Concept is designed to bring deserts and existing technology into service to improve global security of energy, water and the climate. To this end we propose Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EU-MENA) begin to cooperate in the production of electricity and desalinated water using concentrating solar thermal power and wind turbines in the MENA deserts. These technologies can meet the growing demands for power production and seawater desalination in the MENA region, and produce clean electrical power that can be transmitted via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines with relatively little transmission loss to Europe (10-15%).
The technologies necessary to realize the DESERTEC Concept have already been developed and some of them have been in use for decades. Based on satellite data, several studies by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) confirm the availability of solar energy. The developments in energy provision and the climate situation gives added urgency to implementing this Concept. All that is needed now is the political will and the right framework of incentives.
The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) was founded in 2003 by The Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan (NERC). TREC has developed the DESERTEC Concept and completed the necessary research in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). TREC is now making this Concept a reality in cooperation with people in politics, industry and the world of finance. A DESERTEC Foundation to strengthen these activities is being formed.
The Club of Rome was the instigator of the DESERTEC project above. Many countries have their own local chapter of the Club of Rome. In Latin America these include: El Capítulo Español del Club de Roma and El Capítulo Argentino del Club de Roma.
The essential mission of the Club of Rome is to act as a global catalyst for change with the purpose of:
(1) Euro-Supergrid for supply of power to Europe the Middle East and North Africa, by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC), founded by The Club of Rome. (2) How Europe could shift to renewables (TREC).
One of the exciting things about the 'Transition Town' idea is that any group of concerned citizens can launch a Transition Initiative to prepare their town for the future ... although of course it helps to get local government on your side.
A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:
After going through a comprehensive and creative process of:
This results in a coordinated range of projects across all these areas of life that strives to rebuild the resilience we've lost as a result of cheap oil and reduce the community's carbon emissions drastically.
The community also recognises two crucial points:
(1) Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), UK. (2) Transition Town Totnes, UK. (3) Transition Town Handbook
In any international agreement on CO2 emissions, it would be unfair to expect all countries to make the same cuts in emissions as the richest most industrialised countries need to make.
C&C is mentioned here because it suggests how countries can decide what their targets for emissions should be (it does not provide details of how countries should make the reductions).
C&C is a global framework for an assured limit to future carbon emissions and their equitable allocation. Having agreed a global carbon budget to stabilise atmospheric CO2 concentrations, a process of contraction of emissions is initiated, with progressively-reducing annual allocations that cumulatively fall within that overall budget.
At the outset, countries start with widely differing per capita emissions entitlement. However, a convergence date is agreed, by which time all countries’ per capita emissions will have converged on equity. Thus, ‘high carbon’ nations (e.g. Britain, the USA) must reduce their emission more dramatically than those starting from a lower level (e.g. Bangladesh, Niger).
To aid the process, countries whose emissions in any given year fall below their allocation can sell entitlement to countries that cannot reduce their emissions quickly enough. In this way, poorer countries are able to fund their development onto a low-carbon pathway, while richer nations can buy themselves time to achieve the necessary reductions.
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is an independent, entrepreneurial, nonprofit organization. It fosters the efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world secure, just, prosperous, and life-sustaining."
RMI has promoted the term "Negawatts" to emphasise that is it far cheaper to reduce energey and save a megawatt of electricity (a negative megawatt or 'Negawatt') than to build a megawatt of generating capacity.
In 2004, Rocky Mountain Institute's Chief Scientist, Chairman and Co-founder Amory Lovins and a team of RMI collaborators accomplished a highly complex and innovative task -- the drafting of a roadmap for the United States to get completely off oil by 2050, led by business for profit. The result was a thoroughly researched, highly analytical, yet practical book called Winning the Oil Endgame (WTOE). The book is available for free PDF download from here on the RMI site, or read the Executive Summary, also quoted below in order to be able to give a Spanish translation on the Spanish version of this page:
Winning the Oil Endgame offers a coherent strategy for ending oil dependence, starting with the United States but applicable worldwide. There are many analyses of the oil problem. This synthesis is the first roadmap of the oil solution one led by business for profit, not dictated by government for reasons of ideology. This roadmap is independent, peer-reviewed, written for business and military leaders, and co-funded by the Pentagon. It combines innovative technologies and new business models with uncommon public policies: market-oriented without taxes, innovation-driven without mandates, not dependent on major (if any) national legislation, and designed to support, not distort, business logic.
Two centuries ago, the first industrial revolution made people a hundred times more productive, harnessed fossil energy for transport and production, and nurtured the young U.S. economy. Then, over the past 145 years, the Age of Oil brought unprecedented mobility, globe-spanning military power, and amazing synthetic products.
But at what cost? Oil, which created the sinews of our strength, is now becoming an even greater source of weakness: its volatile price erodes prosperity; its vulnerabilities undermine security; its emissions destabilize climate. Moreover the quest to attain oil creates dangerous new rivalries and tarnishes America's moral standing. All these costs are rising. And their root causesmost of all, inefficient light trucks and carsalso threaten the competitiveness of U.S. automaking and other key industrial sectors.
The cornerstone of the next industrial revolution is therefore winning the Oil Endgame. And surprisingly, it will cost less to displace all of the oil that the United States now uses than it will cost to buy that oil. Oil's current market price leaves out its true costs to the economy, national security, and the environment. But even without including these now "externalized" costs, it would still be profitable to displace oil completely over the next few decades. In fact, by 2025, the annual economic benefit of that displacement would be $130 billion gross (or $70 billion net of the displacement's costs). To achieve this does not require a revolution, but merely consolidating and accelerating trends already in place: the amount of oil the economy uses for each dollar of GDP produced, and the fuel efficiency of light vehicles, would need only to improve about three-fifths as quickly as they did in response to previous oil shocks.
Saving half the oil America uses, and substituting cheaper alternatives for the other half, requires four integrated steps:
These four shifts are fundamentally disruptive to current business models. They are what economist Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction," where innovations destroy obsolete technologies, only to be overthrown in turn by ever newer, more efficient rivals. In The Innovator's Dilemma, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen explained why industry leaders often get blindsided by disruptive innovationstechnological gamechangersbecause they focus too much on today's most profitable customers and businesses, ignoring the needs of the future. Firms that are quick to adopt innovative technologies and business models will be the winners of the 21st century; those that deny and resist change will join the dead from the last millennium. In the 108-year history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, only one of 12 original companies remains a corporate entity todayGeneral Electric. The others perished or became fodder for their competitors.
What policies are needed? American companies can be among the quick leaders in the 21st century, but it will take a cohesive strategy-based transformation, bold business and military leadership, and supportive government policies at a federal or at least a state level. Winning the Oil Endgame charts these practical steppingstones to an oil-free America:
What happens to the oil industry? The transition beyond oil is already starting to transform oil companies like Shell and BP into energy companies. Done right, this shift can profitably redeploy their skills and assets rather than lose market share. Biofuels are already becoming a new product line that leverages existing retail and distribution infrastructure and can attract another $90 billion in biofuels and biorefining investments. By following this roadmap, the U.S. would set the stage by 2025 for the checkmate move in the Oil Endgamethe optional but advantageous transition to a hydrogen economy and the complete and permanent displacement of oil as a direct fuel. Oil may, however, retain or even gain value as one of the competing sources of hydrogen.
How big is the prize? Investing $180 billion over the next decade to eliminate oil dependence and revitalize strategic industries can save $130 billion gross, or $70 billion net, every year by 2025. This saving, equivalent to a large tax cut, can replace today's $10-billion-a-month oil imports with reinvestments in ourselves: $40 billion would pay farmers for biofuels, while the rest could return to our communities, businesses, and children. Several million automotive and other transportation-equipment jobs now at risk can be saved, and one million net new jobs can be added across all sectors. U.S. automotive, trucking, and aircraft production can again lead the world, underpinned by 21st century advanced-materials and fuel-cell industries. A more efficient and deployable military could refocus on its core missionprotecting American citizens rather than foreign supply lineswhile supporting and deploying the innovations that eliminate oil as a cause of conflict. Carbon dioxide emissions will shrink by one-fourth with no additional cost or effort. The rich-poor divide can be drastically narrowed at home by increased access to affordable personal mobility, shrinking the welfare rolls, and abroad by leapfrogging over oil-dependent development patterns. The U.S. could treat oil-rich countries the same as countries with no oil. Being no longer suspected of seeking oil in all that it does in the world would help to restore U.S. moral leadership and clarity of purpose.
While the $180-billion investment needed is significant, the United States' economy already pays that much, with zero return, every time the oil price spikes up as it has done in 2004. (And that money goes into OPEC's coffers instead of building infrastructure at home.) Just by 2015, the early steps in this proposed transition will have saved as much oil as the U.S. gets from the Persian Gulf. By 2040, oil imports could be gone. By 2050, the U.S. economy should be flourishing with no oil at all.
How do we get started? Every sector of society can contribute to this national project. Astute business leaders will align their corporate strategies and reorganize their firms and processes to turn innovation from a threat to a friend. Military leaders will speed military transformation by promptly laying its foundation in superefficient platforms and lean logistics. Political leaders will craft policies that stimulate demand for efficient vehicles, reduce R&D and manufacturing investment risks, support the creation of secure domestic fuel supplies, and eliminate perverse subsidies and regulatory obstacles. Lastly, we, the people, must play a rolea big rolebecause our individual choices guide the markets, enforce accountability, and create social innovation.
Our energy future is choice, not fate. Oil dependence is a problem we need no longer haveand it's cheaper not to. U.S. oil dependence can be eliminated by proven and attractive technologies that create wealth, enhance choice, and strengthen common security. This could be achieved only about as far in the future as the 1973 Arab oil embargo is in the past. When the U.S. last paid attention to oil, in 197785, it cut its oil use 17% while GDP grew 27%. Oil imports fell 50%, and imports from the Persian Gulf by 87% in just eight years. That exercise of dominant market powerfrom the demand sidebroke OPEC's ability to set world oil prices for a decade. Today we can rerun that play, only better. The obstacles are less important than the opportunities if we replace ignorance with insight, inattention with foresight, and inaction with mobilization. American business can lead the nation and the world into the post-petroleum era, a vibrant economy, and lasting securityif we just realize that we are the people we have been waiting for.
Together we can end oil dependence forever.
(1) Contraction and Convergence concept from Global Commons Institute. (2) Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).