We are now all set to survey the other orchards in Colwall and then take the project on for another year.
While researching the church’s electricity requirements, I have been delving into green electricity supplies and finding it far more complicated than I thought. The problem is the renewables obligation (RO) which requires all suppliers to provide a certain percentage (currently about 6% and rising by 1% a year) of their electricity from renewable sources. The mechanism uses certificates which are produced by the renewable generators and bought by the suppliers. The effect is that the cost of the renewables option is spread over the consumers – it’s like a carbon tax. Green electricity tariffs are larger than non-green tariffs, so the question is, what are you getting for your money. If the supplier only provides electricity out of what it would need to do anyway, the premium on the green tariff is only going towards the company’s profits.
So, if you want a green supplier, you need to find someone who gets their electricity from a generator who does not sell all of their RO certificates for the electricity they sell. This does not apply to most green tariffs, although some of them support green funds and some plant trees. On the whole, I would have thought you either go for a standard tariff or one which is really green which could be 20-30% dearer than the cheapest standard tariff. I am not sure that I could recommend that to the church (the difference is £2-300 a year).
The chancellor of the Exchequer recently commissioned a review by Sir Nicholas Stern, head of the government economics service, on the economics of climate change. The review was surprisingly positive: avoiding the worst consequences of climate change would not be costly, provided action was taken now. The report makes interesting reading and has very good graphics, including a display of temperature rises and possible consequences which indicates the degree of uncertainty in the predictions.
Generally, people have welcomed this report and the discussion has centred on what the politicians should do about it. But, as ever, there are contrarians in climate change who say either that it is not happening, or if it is happening mankind is not blame, or if it is we can’t possibly do anything about it. The report shows this last position is incorrect, a view supported against the sceptics by Adair Turner in the November issue of Prospect.
George Monbiot has pointed out that climate change is a moral problem, not an economic one. It just does not make sense to talk about making people pay the full economic costs of their actions when the consequences may involve people dying. If air transport cause climate change and climate change cause flooding in Bangladesh, what are we supposed to do, sacrifice an air hostess for every Bangladeshi drowned?
The Stern Review is a very useful document, but any economic analysis is subject to uncertainty, an uncertainty which to my mind is considerably greater than that of the scientific predictions. What if there is a war in the Middle East, cutting of oil supplies and leading to a collapse of the world economy? What is the probability of that and has it been factored in? And the answer is, of course not. The aim of politics is to avoid such terrible consequences – they simply cannot be taken into account.