Day 2 COP23 from Bonn. Bula

It was my day on transport. The COP organizers have supplied us with thousands of bikes to get between sites

Day 2 and things are starting to settle into the COP routine. The word ‘Bula’ is welcome in Fijian (the presidency of COP23 is under Fiji) but also the name of the second COP site located about 1km from where I’m based which is the Bonn zone. I forgot to say yesterday why I’m here which is a basic mistake. INTO (International National Trusts Organisation) which I’m a delegate of is here to represent and raise a voice about something called loss and damage in IPCC speak (international panel on climate change) from climate change of heritage and culture. Too easy to gloss over the loss from climate impacts to tangible and intangible heritage and culture but once its gone its gone for ever. In UN speak I’m an Observer but also taking part in the hundreds of what are called side events to the main negotiations here in Bonn

The US Peoples delegation. Telling it as it is. Even Syria has signed the Paris agreement today making Mr Trumps US the only country in the world now not to agree with the agreement

I was fascinated by one title of an event which was called ‘the U.S. Peoples delegation Takes on the Trump administration’ the anger from the speakers of what the administration in the US is doing or not doing was visceral and to quote Dallas Goldtooth from the Dakota tribe ‘that idiot in the Whitehouse does not represent the people of the US’ he then went on to list the many climate change refugees already in the US especially around Louisiana. But in going here I missed a session on the disappearing small island states in the Pacific which was a shame.

Wow the level of abbreviations here is astonishing. I thought I knew jargon but we are in a new language area here in Bonn. SDG, LDC’s, SDC and the list goes on and on. Google translate should have climate change language translation on it. I’m keeping up but just about!

hydrogen car with an EV bus in the background… the near future is here in Bonn

My big thing from today was on sustainable travel. Bonn has gone for EV, Hybrid and Hydrogen buses in a big way but then put in the fact that every manufacturer has supplied hydrogen and EV cars for delegates and it looks like the very near future in terms of low-carbon… can’t wait

I also started to get my head around (finally) blockchain from another side event which has been touted for a few years now as a way of ultimate peer-to-peer supply (of almost anything from energy to carbon to services)  and got me thinking on some projects but more on this later


the award for interpretation and stopping me in my tracks goes to this 6m copper polar bear impaled on a steel oil pipe line sculpture. The pipe is curved into the shape of the CO2 graph curve from 1950 to 2017. The sculpture is called Unbearable by Jens Galschiot. Stunning art!

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Day 1 COP23 Bonn. ‘Talanoa’

First day and first hour of COP23 in Bonn. Nice and slow start before the 20,000 people storm to come

Here again at a COP. By the way Talanoa is a site within COP but also a Fijian word for a safe place to sit down and have a chat to ‘have it out’ which I really  like. I’m here as an environmental advisor and also father looking to see how we can save the future generations from picking up our bill for miss managing the planet and also sharing with and gaining from others . Bonn in Germany is the venue for Fiji’s presidency of the COP and its my day 1. I’m here both representing the International National Trust organisation and the National Trust Wales.

The prime minister of Fiji opening the Fiji stand at COP.

From the bomb scare yesterday meaning a minor inconvenience in registration to the lack of re usable coffee cups the perspective is set in terms of priorities from various people I have spoken to. Speaking with Prime Ministers and Arch bishops I have gained a good insight into the  main themes. One of my first side events as they call them here was in the meaning of COP23 and expectation from developing countries. From my first presentation, its about responsibility and money. Excellent presentation by Andres Mogro from Ecuador about the funding issue. Interesting use of a word mobilizing and then the dropping of a single comma before the drafting of the Paris agreement has meant the devil and his detail.

The winner of today’s engagement award from me has been the chocolate handing out work of Plant for the Planet and their trillion trees campaign. compelling and delicious

In Paris a $100bn was promised for mitigation and adaptation but interestingly this money was termed as $100bn mobilized with the change of a single coma. Mobilized has turned out to be for every $1 given by a developed country that a developing has to find $6 dollars to match hence the word mobilized means that those with least with give the most (paying for our bill in the developing countries). Another pet grumble from me  has been the focus on mitigating rather than adaptation because mitigating can make money and adaptation costs. (90% funding for mitigation since it  makes income vs. 10% for adaptation or dealing with the consequences)

strong pitch from young people presentation on climate change and the impact of a category 5 typhoon last year in Fiji

few lines from todays side events.

if we lose our peat soils then we have no chance of keeping global warming below 2C

Ocean acidification is here and now. It is negatively impacting most of the species in the sea (the sea absorbs most of the CO2 currently)

the German Fiji youth exchange especially following the Category 5 typhoon Winston was one of the most powerful presentations today

problems and solutions abound here!


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Where there’s muck there’s…. problems oh and opportunities. Diffuse pollution and a future energy source but how?

Farm Yard muck store just above the lake and the main water courses.

A few organisations have just started working on a joint project to deal with diffuse pollution from farm-yard manure through the use of Anaerobic Digesters (AD) but using something called a Dry AD approach, which is not as it sounds it should be called ‘dryer’ AD. The challenge we are dealing is that with a lot of farm muck stores being outdoors and within water catchments a lot of the nutrients are washed out and down into water courses and case a lot of problems for us, wildlife and general ecology (eg the toxic blue-green algae we have been suffering from in some lakes, low water quality, low in fish and wildlife) Conversely the farm and food in general needs these nutrients to grow.

why AD? generally covering most of the rural areas would a) be prohibitively expensive with most small farms not able to afford and b) generally change the look of the things we hold most dear our countryside. but could also have an income stream but at worst be cost neutral going down the small AD route But the main challenge for a Farm Yard Manure (FYM) AD system is that a cow has already taken out most of the energy from the grass and so what will the bacteria within FYM live on? For this feasibility we are looking at adding crops such as soft rush, bracken and generally anything which is a non food crop and its management can enhance biodiversity and or food production. The other advantage is that we also get to manage the nutrients in the system and apply them at the right time of year in the right way to the crops which needs them.

From my side, I am interested in diffuse pollution element but methanee management as a climate changing gas and also the energy elements through the production of biogas.  Especially with the move from fossil fuel in the next 20 or so years and to see if the farm could supply itself and the next range of tractors, use in a generator for heat and electricity generation in the farms and so on

For this work we are working with Seven Wye Energy Agency (Biomethane Regions), University of Wales (Wales centre of excellence for Anaerobic Digestion) Snowdonia National Park Authority. Thanks to Arloisi Gwynedd (EU Leader) for part funding this feasibility study with additional resources from the EU Biomethane Regions in three of our farms. As ever more to come!

Arwyn the NT Farm manager thinking muckie thoughts. “I wonder about the nutrient flow, storage and practicality within our farm”?

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Proud, proud, proud. Community Energy Wales wind turbine project…

We can do wonderful things when we work together. The 900kw EWT turbine now up in Carmarthenshire. Over 2GWh pa annum here we come

Nothing beats doing things. Talking is ok and can change things but achievement in my mind is leaving a legacy (a good one). We are a few days from completion (G59 grid switch on 3rd of August) of this 900kw Community Energy Wales wind turbine in Carmarthenshire. As a director of Community energy Wales this is one of the best renewable energy projects i have been involved because of the very short time frame, the £1.8m raised to build and most of us are volunteers. But this is a full on team effort lead by Jeremy Thorp as the coordinator of this multi headed hydra. The representative body of the Community Energy sector in Wales took on a commercial wind turbine prospective project which had stalled and developed, funded, built and commissioned quite a big project. Good idea discussed earlier in the year, construction started in May and completion will be in the first few days in August. The breadth of quality oozes from every aspect of this project from the manufacturer EWT co financing part of the construction phase,  environmentally conscious people underwriting part of the construction phase and through to Welsh Government stepping in to part finance the project phase. The project is stunning in every aspect from financial management, the project construction contract suite and warranties and so on through to the company engineer we took on to represent CEW during the build so that we could react quickly was again top drawer stuff.

Now what next? Once up and running we will then start on the community share offer so that as many people as possible can own a share of this large project and move the benefit as far and as wide as possible. We will start on a community benefit fund and anything remaining will be used to keep Community Energy Wales going delivering support and outcomes. As part of CEW I am doing quite a bit of ministerial and assembly members work in dealing with this terrible business rates legacy. I addressed a cross party group last week, we have many encounters with minister’s, questions now going to parliament, first minister, heads of stuff, senior civil servants and the list goes one and one. (ps we are stronger together…did you know that?)

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We know more about what will happen to the Antarctic than our homes and special places through the impacts Climate change #adaptation

The Fit for the future network is starting on a climate change focus in its new strategy. Specifically what can member orgs ‘do’. Climate change adaptation or in my words doing something about the impacts. Can I get one thing clear. Climate change is here and now. Its effects in terms of changing seasons, species changes, frequency of bad weather, overall increase in average temperature is ‘ now’. Think of the atmosphere as minestrone soup on a cooker. The more heat you put into the pan the more the soup will warm up but also the bits will swirl round in the pan (weather)

My house is environmentally friendly but the environment is not friendly to it. I must adapt

Mitigation plans are now starting to translate into action plans slower than needed but at least there are plans to basically slow down the rate, which the heat is going into the imaginary soup pan or Earth, as we like to call it. But there will be at least a 25-year delay between stopping (we are a long way off the stopping) and the heating slowing down. This will have an impact on us all… and so what do we do about this change how do we adapt or adaptation planning and adaptation action planning (the doing bit) seas are rising, diseases will spread quicker, heat with dry stuff out, water will be scarce or too much will fall in one go. People also talk of the upside and we in the UK are in the Goldilocks zone. Not too hot and not too cold . People talk of vineyards, extended growing seasons and such like but they will have storms and erratic rainfall  and all manner of impacts to deal with

The Fit for the future networks members have decided that the next strategic plan for the network will be looking at climate change and more specifically the ‘doing’ end of climate change. The adaptation side to the oncoming impacts. What do we do? The evaluation, sharing, action and business end of planning. To that ends a couple of days ago we sent out a questionnaire to members to see where they are on the ‘doing’ journey. Simple questions range from ‘where is your organisation on the climate change journey’ answers will range from ‘we are aware’ through to we have it built into our business plan with resources and people doing the adaptation work ’What does adaptation look like? This is a huge list and ranges from what type of trees to plant in ancient park lands as we are already losing our oaks in some sites as they can’t cope with sodden ground and high winds, rain water goods on buildings to deal with bigger lumps of rain,  through to sewage systems and where to put them on coastal areas if they will get more regular flooding, how do we deal with increased and or decreased rainfall by building resilience into landscape scale work eg reed beds, riverine planting, large attenuation ponds and so on

Lovely but threatened. National Trust are working on the adaptation planning for this area in N Wales

Before planning the journey we are asking our members where they are starting from?

Where are you starting from? Change is here and now it will only accelerate as these things do!

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Business rates killing community hydro and some!

We don’t do community hydro for personal gain. But it’s taxed as through it is.

Its been a while coming this blog but i have been living the dream of the impact of the business rates revaluation on community hydro. A community hydro we have been working with is in danger of being taxed to death. More on that later

What are business rates? They are a sort of tax (currently 49%) on the notional rent value of a thing such as land, chattels, plant and machinery, which is set by the Valuation office (Business rates valuation) They are covered in something called the Plant and Machinery order  which in essence started life in 1925 as an order but can trace its lineage back to the doomsday book as this defined ‘things which could be taxed’ (the ‘hereditament’ as its called. Jargon is us in this area)

A hydro because a lot of the stuff is built into the ground has been un-fairly impacted way over what other renewables have been impacted. For example I know of a wind turbine of 4700kwp in power which is paying the same business rates as a 270kw hydro (around £25k pa). the wind turbine makes 13 million kwh per year and the hydro makes 950 thousand KWh pa. It’s because of the way the plant and machinery order looks at the ‘thing’ and the assumption of landlord vs tenant investment. Quite often a tenant funds the whole thing but the order assumes that a lot of the underground stuff is the Landlord and so can raise rates on it

Doing good for future generations and for our communities

What does this mean in terms of impact? The Bethesda community hydro (Ynni Ogwen) in N. Wales switched on a few weeks ago after 3 years plus of hard graft. Halving of its FIT just before registration and thousands of hours of volunteer time, complete local buy-in with the shares and all to provide local benefit through the surplus. The Business Rates valuation last week from the valuation office all of this benefit (surplus), yes all of it will now go to the Government. The initial business model had been based on the previous business rates regime and we had assumed a 10% increase as happened last valuation but it came in at a tad over 300% thus wiping out the reason why the community fully backed, funded and supported the hydro. In Scotland the Government gives 100% rates relief for community energy and England have capped the increase for community energy to no more than an extra £50 per month. The valuation in Bethesda is too high for small business rates relief and it can’t apply for transitional relief because it is  a new hydro and it’s not transitioning from anything as it did not pay before, as it was being built. Perfect storm as you might say. This is affecting many hydros private and community

Governments both UK and Wales are being lobbied. We are also applying to the local authority to use its discretionary powers as this is a social enterprise with no one profiting and all of the surplus going to community sustainable development (called philanthropic rates relief). We will have sufficient turnover to look after the local share-holders but with nothing left over. This is a social business which can not grow its way out of this increase as the FIT and water abstraction regime are fixed (unlike many other businesses) . This to all of us involved feels like a tax on volunteering and community development with a bit of climate change tax thrown in (but on the low-carbon side) where as if we had a Fracking gas drill rig then… I best stop there!

Fixing it will take an amendment to the plant machinery order which may not be simple given that everything is Brexit in Government and so we are hoping Welsh Gov will come in to help to lobby UK Gov but also to come up with a Wales solution. But at the moment finger nails are down to the bone and we have a lot more lobbying and asking to do


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Help!…which log stove to choose and what do you have to consider… lots!

My fire-place. old fire in. Not efficient and wants to fall apart

I am on full log burning research at the moment. I’m halfway through building a Clay Oven in the garden, other log burning stuff being fixed (more later) but I have been doing quite a bit of research on which log stove to replace the current not really satisfactory Franco Belge which was an eBay special (if its too cheap it’s too cheap!). Not sized correctly and very used which means bits tend to fall off with the odd crack for good measure in the hearth!

So I have been going after this new stove thing like a work project. First question ‘How much heat do I need’? Online heat loss tools vary greatly as does my house. Open staircase in the heated room to the open landing. Windows, connecting doors, external door, large porch, difference in insulation and ventilation rates along with a nice 100mm room vent through my 900mm thick stone walls with another 100mm of external insulation. Most online tools seem to err on about 3.5kw but some has high as 5.75kw. Advice from my colleague Rob was that stoves seldom operate on ‘flat out mode’ which means slight oversize. My gut feeling and some of the online tools seem to suggest around the 5kw mark.

I have a lined chimney, good fuel, nice new log store with 20m3 of fuel in it (it’s now had three summers to dry… a bit extreme i know). I have good ventilation. I would have liked a direct feed from the outside air to the fire but chimney is in the middle of the house with no outside wall. I have a good room vent which is ok. Right, which one? I have now spent a few weeks on this and come up with something unexpected which is a locally made fire which all the online feedback seems to rate as do a few HETAS stove installers in their own houses. I have looked at the Clearview, Charnwood, Stovax, Burley and more and there is about a £1000 variation at the size I want. I am now looking at a Chilli Penguin Woody stove thanks to a recommendation from Vickie in the office. Price is good but the main aspect is the quality which is superb and very high efficiency and that it’s made on the Llyn Peninsula! Oh and it looks cool!

Before you say anything I will also get a competent HETAS person to install so that I get the whole thing from heat loss to commissioning covered

Any further advice, suggestions? I am now crowd sourcing advice!

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