Developing sustainable energy strategies

By Clare Boston

Sustainable energy production is a central debate in climate change action plans.  In an article in Area Frances Drake discusses the development of a climate action plan called ‘Your Climate’ in Yorkshire and Humber, a region which has a long association with coal mining.  The ‘Your Climate’ strategy became dominated by the implementation of a clean coal system as a ‘sustainable’ energy source and the paper examines the reasons for this and it implications.  Clean coal can refer to improved energy production efficiency or to where impurities have been removed from the coal, but it has been increasing linked to carbon capture and storage (CCS).  The system captures carbon dioxide emitted through burning fossil fuels and stores it naturally, in depleted oil and gas fields for example.  Drake’s research concluded that whilst the action plan was posed as a regional strategy for sustainable energy, it was greatly influenced by multinational companies and national policies, such as those on economic development, rather than the views of local authorities, NGOs and the local population.

The Transition Town movement was established by Rob Hopkins in order for local communities to address the issues of depleting oil and gas supplies and climate change.  A Transition Town comes into being when members of the community come together to establish ways in which their town can reduce carbon emissions and its dependency on oil and gas.  This initiative is already established in a number of towns in the UK, where Totnes and Lewes are currently developing the first community-owned energy companies and the University of Edinburgh has recently set up the first university scheme.

Whilst both the Government-led ‘Your Climate’ action plan and the ‘bottom-up’ Transition Towns movement are aimed at finding sustainable solutions to reduced carbon emissions, their different approaches to the problem have resulted in very different outcomes in terms of both sustainable energy strategies and community participation.

Drake, F. (2009). Black gold to green gold: regional energy policy and the rehabilitation of coal in response to climate change. Area 41: 43-54.

Read the New Scientist interview with Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transistion Towns movement.

Visit the Transition Town Totnes website.

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