Ukraine, Globalisation, Net Zero and consumers

I was going to write about the conflict in the Ukraine and the implications, a couple of weeks ago, but as the situation has developed more themes have developed.

The situation in Ukraine is a terrible indictment of our international structures and I’m afraid to say the UN, which has again proved itself incapable of action, given the veto powers of major states. But, aside from its veto, Russia’s power in Ukraine is a combination of the implications of challenging Russia and the dependence of Europe on Russian oil and gas. In my talks on net zero I discuss how many of the recent wars and conflicts have been about carbon (just think back over the last 50 years), Ukraine is not a war about carbon but is one which is being paid for by Russia from carbon income, income which European consumers and businesses have paid, and continues to pay, to Russia.

The shock of what has happened has started to show how much which we have assumed in our world order to be reliable is actually either fragile or needs reconsideration. The impact on German policy has been dramatic in the field of defence, but in achieving net zero, Germany is still hamstrung by its no nuclear power policy. Back in 2000, 29.7% of German power generation came from nuclear, in 2022 it will be nil. Germany is not alone, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Austria source no power from nuclear (they are fine buying nuclear power generated by their neighbours). So, the road to net zero will be paved by buying gas, and some of that gas will be bought from Russia. A non-nuclear policy for some of these countries funds Russia because they rely on gas. And now we see what that funding leads to. Those who continue to oppose nuclear and lament the fate of Ukraine, need to look at the consequences of their decisions to oppose nuclear power.

Blackrock, has identified that the ramifications of Russia’s war and the positions taken by other countries may presage the end of globalisation. It is perhaps early to call this, but certainly we may have seen the high water mark of globalisation. As I wrote in Net Zero Our Choice, net zero and a dependence on electricity generated by non carbon sources leads to a regional not global market for power. Transmission losses limit the distance over which electricity can effectively be transported.

It may also lead to a more local approach to supply chains (and Blackrock identifies this) from a security perspective but also because transporting goods across the world rather than locally has a power cost and will for some time have a carbon cost (think shipping). But such a change will increase costs as goods are produced in higher cost countries and regions to supply markets in those countries. Will our consumerist binge be constrained by price?

The other theme about consumers relates to power and oil costs. The constriction of supply has led to price increases, dramatic increases. The response has been twofold, what do we do about the cost of living and what do we do about energy security? This is understandable as a reaction, and while politics is about short term and long term issues, politicians tend to prioritise short term issues. But what is happening is politicians calling for measures which are addressing these price and security issues by relegating the importance of the net zero trajectory.

The UK is considering encouraging more gas production from the North Sea for energy security reasons. Given my writing above, this makes sense if the perspective is strategic in regard to Russia (better produce it ourselves, than pay Russia for it), but it doesn’t if that action slows down action leading to reducing carbon emissions – burning UK gas instead of Russian gas doesn’t reduce emissions. Is there a danger that as these security issues are addressed, we become comfortable with using gas – that won’t help achieve net zero.

It is also understandable for governments to subsidise power costs to consumers from a political perspective, but if that subsidy is for carbon sources it won’t help achieve net zero. What  that requires is investment quickly in nuclear and renewables by all European countries.

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Government Greenwash: Coal : Australia and Japan


In my previous blog I discussed the effect of government greenwash in relation to  their carbon position and budget. Comments to the IPCC to tone down parts of its 2021 report are understandably mainly reported in the countries themselves and it is often difficult to see the bigger picture, so in my next three blogs I’m going to focus on coal, meat and oil and what governments around the world have said to water down the report.

The primary comments on coal which have been leaked relate to Australia and Japan.


To quote ABC News Australia

“Documents suggest Australia also asked to be removed from a list of big coal-consuming countries. The draft report said “major coal-consuming countries are still far from phasing out coal”. “China, the US, Australia and South Africa continue to extract and use substantial amounts of coal,” it said. The official in Canberra noted Australia’s consumption was “an order of magnitude lower” than the other countries listed.

Analysis from analytics firm Ember ranks Australia as the world’s 10th biggest coal-fired power generator. Australia remains one of the world’s  biggest biggest coal producers and exporters.”

To state the obvious, Australia has a population of 25.7m people (2020), South Africa 59.3m, USA 333.5m and China 1,446.6m. Given the relative population size it would be surprising if Australia had the same level of consumption as larger countries. But as the chart above showing consumption per head 2019 shows Australia is top dog in terms of coal consumed per head.

I would suggest it is difficult to argue that Australia’s consumption is “an order of magnitude lower” than other countries. Instead, I think most people would say Australia is the largest per capita coal consumer and a major producer and needs to address these issues, not prevaricate and obfuscate.


To quote Unearthed

“Japan, which is hugely reliant on fossil fuels in its energy and transport systems, rejects a key finding in the report’s summary for policymakers detailing how coal and gas fired power stations will, on average, need to be shut down within 9 and 12 years respectively to keep warming below 1.5°C and 16 and 17 years to keep warming below 2°C. A director in Japan’s ministry of foreign affairs claims this paragraph is misleading and suggests deleting it “because the required retirements of fossil fuel power plants due to carbon budget depend on the emissions from other sectors as well as their capacity factor and the opportunities of CCS.””

“Japan also rejects analysis that “the overall potential for CCS and CCU to contribute to mitigation in the electricity sector is now considered lower than was previously thought due to the increased uptake of renewables in preference to fossil fuel”. The official argues that “it would be better to remove this sentence to be more policy neutral.””

I have written in “Zero Carbon our Choice” that fully scaled CCS (needed for power generation by fossil fuel to be net zero) has not been achieved to date. This doesn’t mean, of course, that it won’t be achieved. However, significant work on this has been in progress for 15 years and the usual time lag for scaled up, commercial new technology is 40 to 50 years according to an Imperial College London study (quoted in Zero Carbon Our Choice). To use the “opportunities of CCS” to keep coal power generation operational is bizarre – a Mr Micawber approach of “something may turn up”. At the very least how long does Japan propose we go on hoping for full scale CCS to allow fossil fuels to be used for power generation and still achieve net zero by 2050.

So consider, if I buy a green piece of Japanese technology – made in Japan with fossil fuel power – how green is that technology I’m buying in lifecycle terms?

Of course, this lobbying by countries is to protect economies which are carbon dependent from the effects of decarbonisation. To solve a global issue, carbon dependent economies are going to have to make serious adjustments and start reducing their use of carbon to power and fuel their economies and exports, and they will need to be honest with their populations what these changes entail.

This sort of economic protectionism, the denial of the contribution to global emissions by these countries while other countries decarbonise is exactly what will lead to the call for  border tax adjustments, otherwise carbon dependent economies will gain an economic and trade advantage in not decarbonising. Countries cannot expect to have a free ride in not reducing emissions without consequences (and GAAP permits tariffs for environmental protection).

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Government Greenwashing

First, an apology, I haven’t posted recently as I’ve been immersed in my divorce which appears to be resolved after a long period of negotiation. So I’m back.

COP 26 is shining a fascinating light on how serious players (be they governments, corporates or individuals) are about achieving net zero by 2050. This should not surprise anyone. The scale of change for many players to move to a net zero economic model is significant, well actually enormous, so attempting to slow the process, soften the impact and confuse the issue is to be expected.

The number of attempts by governments to influence the latest report by the IPCC, is a perfect example. These attempts are about national self interest of those economies where carbon plays a significant part in their economic success. So Coal, Gas and Oil  producer nations will experience a drop in economic activity, a change in their balance of payments, a resulting weakening of their currencies and a fall in taxation receipts when net zero starts to really bite, unless they change.

In my book, Zero Carbon our Choice, I devoted a chapter to the losers from net zero and the impact on geo politics including increasing instability in some regions as carbon becomes less of a source of wealth, unless these countries are able to reinvent their economies for a post carbon world. Africa is an interesting example, while affected by the changes of climate, many African nations are also significant carbon producers of coal, oil and gas, so their response to net zero will be equivocal.

The level of greenwash has scaled new heights. Perhaps best illustrated by Saudi Arabia promising net zero by 2060 but continuing to produce and sell petroleum products. But this greenwash isn’t just about producer nations, but about consumer nations as well. So in the run up to COP26, the EU has prepared its position to encourage other recalcitrant states to promise more, while at the same time moving forward on Nordstream 2 which will transport large quantities of gas to land in Germany and thence be distributed around Europe. This pipeline is a long term project, pipelines have expected lives ranging from 50 to 70 years, so this new pipeline will be functional in 2090.

The Nordstream2 website sets out the rationale:

“By 2035, the EU will need to import about 120 bcm more gas per year

The production outlooks of major gas producers such as Netherlands and UK, as well as Norway, are falling. At the same time, demand for gas is expected to continue, owing to its lower carbon qualities. This means that the EU will need to import more gas. Nord Stream 2 will have the capacity to meet about one third of the EU’s import requirement.”


“The new pipeline could play an important role in the EU’s climate strategy by making competitive supplies of natural gas available to replace high-carbon coal in the energy mix, in addition to providing back-up for intermittent wind and solar power. If the EU is serious about reaching climate goals, then the share of gas in the energy mix needs to increase to eliminate coal burning.”

Japan is investing in new coal powered power stations.

There are many more examples of government greenwash , but the question this poses is that if governments are economical with the truth about their net zero commitments, if they seek to move the debate and the carbon commitments to help their national economic interest, why should they expect either corporates or individuals to act in a different way?

My real concern is that we will see many promises coming from COP 26 which on proper examination will not achieve net zero by 2050. Beware greenwash, there is a lot of it about, whether by governments, corporates or individuals.

Zero carbon – a warning from Switzerland

Despite Orson Welles diatribe about Switzerland in the Third Man, the country is an important and successful economy. So, the recent June 2021 referendum result from Switzerland should be a wake-up call for the Green lobby around the world about zero carbon.

Voters voted against measures to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 51% to 49%. The measures include a tax of airline tickets and a car fuel levy. Opposition was strongest in poorer, rural areas.

My concern is that the referendum result is an example of the failure of the Green lobby to convince citizens of the measures needed to achieve carbon targets, of a complacency and laziness that people will accept measures whatever the cost. Unless this issue is addressed, then we will see further resistance to measures to reduce carbon which affect ordinary people and voters.

It is not as though recent events do not provide examples where citizens have not accepted policies imposed on them. The gilet jaune protests, Brexit and Trump all illustrate that elites should not ignore the ordinary citizen. This appears to have been significant in Switzerland. Being told something is good for you or is necessary is not enough. No matter how many times Sir David Attenborough tells us what we need to do, when the actions start to affect our lifestyles and standard of living, then people will question the remedies proposed, particularly the poorer members of society.

Instead, politicians and green experts need to be honest about the scope of change needed to achieve net zero. They need to be honest about what it will cost an ordinary family and the changes in their lifestyle and standard of living it will engender. They have to get out of the green bubble where the change to net zero is achieved effortlessly. It won’t be. Changing domestic heating, only allowing electric cars and pricing airline flights will all affect the poorest 50% the most. Reconciling reducing carbon and the cost on the poorer is a crucial challenge.

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Offsetting – buy while stocks last

Offsetting is promoted for those hard to decarbonise activities as a green solution to meet net zero carbon. Apple has  announced a $200 billion forest fund and other corporates are using the same method.

This seems a great idea and as net zero needs finance, using corporate funds makes sense – or does it?

The issue that isn’t talked about is that offsetting isn’t a limitless way to escape from decarbonising. Offsetting requires land and as Mark Twain said, they’ve stopped making it. So offsetting will compete with other land use, agriculture, housing, etc and there isn’t an infinite amount of land for offsetting given these competing demands.

First mover advantage is therefore sensible as Apple is demonstrating. But which emission sources should be prioritised for offsetting? Should offsetting, in land use terms, in effect, be licensed by governments? If it isn’t regulated, will some activities that we really need lose out?

Should the disposable business model be prioritised  ( for example, upgrade your mobile phone every two years, don’t maintain the software for old models to nudge consumers to buy new phones or with new model i phones introduce a new charger and ensure the old charger won’t work) or should other sectors be prioritised?

On the basis that net zero goes hand in hand with the circular economy, shouldn’t governments be thinking about which sectors should have priority over others for access to offsetting in strategic terms (cement, steel etc).

This is not to criticise those businesses which are investing in offsetting, but to question whether we should allow the market to decide which businesses have access to offsetting, which is what is happening de facto at present.

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Zero Carbon A Challenging Goal


I gave the attached presentation to students and staff at the University of Gloucestershire in March. I have given other presentations to amenity societies tailored to their interests.

What has been interesting is that people are unaware of how much their personal lifestyles will need to change to achieve zero carbon. As my subsequent post will show this is an indictment of politicians and advocates of carbon reduction who have failed to explain the consequences for ordinary people.

There is a real danger of a backlash against proposals a la yellow vests in France.

COP 26 needs to be honest with citizens about the changes as they affect them.








Business is responsible for less than 50% of UK emissions

Source : The Guardian

In “Zero Carbon Our Choice”, I argued that while many people think that achieving zero carbon is the responsibility of government and business, in fact it is impossible without a change to the choices which we as consumers make.

Using the 2018 final statistics as summarised in “2018 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final figures 4 February 2020 National Statistics” as the basis for this. “In 2018, 28% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK were estimated to be from the transport sector, 23% from energy supply, 18% from business, 15% from the residential sector and 10% from agriculture. The rest was attributable to the remaining sectors: waste management, industrial processes, and the public sector. The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector acted as a net sink in 2018 so emissions were effectively negative.”

My argument is that we need to analyse these figures to look at who is responsible for the emissions by the choices they make?

On this basis, the emissions of energy supply (23%)  – mainly electricity generation – are decided by government decisions and regulations. It was government dictat which stopped coal use in power generation by imposing a cost penalty on coal burnt in power stations. These emissions are not business emissions as although business is an end user, like we the consumer, they do not determine the power mix of power generation, it is government regulation and pricing mechanisms which do.

18% from business is business’s responsibility.

28 % from transport. “Road transport is the most significant source of emissions in this sector, in particular passenger cars; and the changes which have been seen over the period were heavily influenced by this category. Figure 5 shows how the volume of traffic on the roads has changed over time in Great Britain, which reflects the trend seen for the UK. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have generally increased throughout this period, other than a fall seen between 2007 and 2012 following the recession.”

56% of transport emissions relate to passenger cars, so even if one assumes that all the other transport emissions are business then 12% of total UK emissions are business transport emissions but 16% are public emissions, from our choice to drive ICE vehicles.

15% from the residential sector “The residential sector consists of emissions from fuel combustion for heating and cooking, garden machinery, and fluorinated gases released from aerosols and metered dose inhalers. It is estimated to have been responsible for around 15% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, with carbon dioxide being the most prominent gas for this sector (96%). The main source of emissions from this sector is the use of natural gas for heating and cooking.”

These are not business emissions. Again, these are emissions from our choice to use carbon fuels in our homes. There are roughly 27 million homes in the UK, the government has a target to install 600,000 heat pump systems per annum. At this rate, we will still have carbon heating in 2066 and nearly 10 million UK homes will still have carbon heating by 2050. To put this in perspective in 2017, 20,000 heat pump systems were installed.

10% Agriculture. If one considers agriculture to be a business, then these emissions are business emissions. But half these emissions arise from the production of meat products. One can argue that again these emissions arise as a result of the choice which we the consumer makes to eat meat and therefore that “business emissions” in agriculture are 5% of the total.

2% from industrial processes is a business responsibility.

2% Public sector is not a business responsibility.

5% Waste management (mainly landfill). At least half of this is from food waste in landfill. So, I would suggest business is responsible for 2% of these emissions at most.

Land use is negative 2-3% mainly from forestry.

Using this basis, business is responsible for the emissions from total UK emissions of business 18%, business transport 12%, Industrial processes 2%, waste management 2% , a total of 34%. If agriculture is included this increase to either 39% or 44% (depending on how meat production emissions are treated).

Consumers are responsible for emissions from private transport 16%, residential 15%, waste 3%, a total of 34%.

Government is responsible for Energy supply 23% and public sector 2%, a total of 25%

This doesn’t allocate the negative land use of 2-3%.

Using these UK numbers, business is responsible for (and can control and reduce) under half of the UK emissions. It does not control the emissions of Energy Supply, (even if it is a part end user like consumers) nor of the public sector nor of consumers themselves.

A recent poll showed that 67% of UK respondents thought the government should do more about zero carbon. What these figures show is that those respondents need to do more about their own emissions if net zero carbon, is to be achieved. Buying electric cars, using non carbon heating for their homes, minimising food waste in land fill and probably eating a lot less meat are all decisions we need to make. And I haven’t included emissions from flying.

Net zero carbon is about our choices as well as government action.

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The impact of Covid on government spending on zero carbon

Covid 19 and Zero Carbon both stretch government borrowing

“Why house prices may dip but will not crash” – Merryn Somerset Webb (FT January 15, 2021), contains the following sentence:

“In 2008, the UK spent 1.5% of gross domestic product to alleviate the global financial crisis; this time we have spent 26% of GDP.”

Just take a moment, 26% of GDP! This is breathtaking and the important point is that most of this money has been borrowed. The UK’s 2020 GDP is estimated by the World Bank at roughly $3 trillion (World Bank figures are US$ for comparative purposes). So, we have spent roughly $750 bn (£550bn) on Covid.

When it comes for additional government expenditure on achieving zero carbon this will inevitably have to be funded by additional borrowing in addition to this existing debt.

These numbers are enormous, my book came up with a figure of £1tn for the expenditure to achieve zero carbon in the UK and that is probably conservative. Financing this for government would have been a challenge, given the fiscal impact of Covid that challenge just got significantly greater.

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New green deal and job losses (1)

Advocates of the new green deal claim large numbers of new jobs created by the new green economy, this is correct, there will be new jobs but most of them (outside of construction) will be more highly skilled due to the technology involved. What is not quantified, is the number of jobs which will be lost as carbon is removed from the economy and that a high proportion of those jobs are lower skilled jobs. A search on papers produced emphasis the new green jobs but do not quantify the distributive effects skilled vs lesser skilled.

What follows is the start of a discussion of the list of sectors and occupations that will be affected. A serious study of the numbers is needed.

Moving Carbon

Carbon goods (oil, coal and lpg) comprise 40% of total sea freight by volume. There are 7,400 carbon tanker ships compared to 5,150 container ships. The consequences of not shipping carbon on shipbuilding, port services and maritime employment will be significant on a global basis.

In addition, in country transport of carbon is a significant employer. Tanker lorries for oil, petrol and lpg and lorry and train transport of coal. Port facilities to handle carbon imports and exports. In a zero-carbon economy, all this investment will be redundant and its difficult to see alternative use. All these jobs will disappear.

13% of rail freight in the UK is oil or coal. 1500 road tankers in the UK distribute petrol and diesel. There are 8,385 petrol stations in the UK. All these jobs will disappear.


Much is being written about the need to tax airlines given the tax subsidy currently provided by zero fuel duty and zero vat. If airline fuel includes a carbon price as well, if the real carbon cost of flying is taxed, the cost of flying will increase and the numbers flying decrease.

To give some numbers, Heathrow is claimed to generate 76,000 to 190,000 jobs.

“Heathrow is already one of the UK’s largest single-site employers with more than 76,000 people directly employed on the site. In the surrounding area, Heathrow supports a total of 114,000 jobs and accounts for one in five (22%) of local jobs.” Source “The Promise of Heathrow”.

“Heathrow expansion will create more than 120,000 new jobs and has the potential to end youth unemployment in the five local Heathrow boroughs.”

“Based on figures from 2011, in Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports directly employ a combined total of around 7,500 people, whilst Birmingham employs 7,500 and Bristol 2,700. Manchester airport directly employs around 20,000 people across the north west. House of Commons answer.

The Air Transport Action Group claims “There are over 10 million women and men working within the industry to make sure 120,000 flights and 12 million passengers a day are guided safely through their journeys. The wider supply chain, flow-on impacts and jobs in tourism made possible by air transport show that at least 65.5 million jobs and 3.6% of global economic activity are supported by our industry.”

1,200,000 work in airports in the US.

 Let us assume that flying reduces by 25% (which is conservative) as ticket prices rise to reflect the carbon cost of flying. The impact on Heathrow could be roughly 50,000 jobs. Manchester 5,000, Scotland 1,875, Birmingham 1,875 and Bristol 675.  If we extrapolate globally and use the ATAG figures, then globally this is a loss of 2,500,000 jobs. In the US, it is 300,000 jobs.


We need to transition to zero carbon given the environmental consequences of the alternative. But advocates need to be transparent about the costs of this transition, and in particular about the employment impacts. If the population is going to accept the transition, they need to understand the consequences.

I will write shortly about other sectors.

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Can the poor afford zero carbon?

A number of reports have come out claiming that zero carbon can be achieved at little cost, recently for the EU. Many of the advocates of the Green New Deal are on the left. I’m not sure that these advocates have resolved the dilemma of how the poor afford zero carbon technology. There is no magic money tree for new zero carbon technology, either the government funds it through taxation or borrowing, consumers pay or investors in the new technology receive lower returns to reduce the cost to the consumer.

A number of stories about the cost of green technology for the poor, question this. The Independent has reported that 1/3rd of UK adults have no savings, other reports show over 40% of UK adults have less than £1000 savings. So how are these people going to make the investment in an electric car or an air source heat pump? And if not they, who?

Although the price of green technology is falling, it is still a large capital outlay. So, financing this investment for the poorer half of the population is a big issue. A report by the RAC in November 2020, claimed that 30% of the UK population could not afford even the cheapest electric cars. This is regardless of the fact the running costs are lower, the barrier is buying the electric car.

When I posted on the zero carbon Britain Facebook group about air source heat pumps, more than half the comments were about them being too expensive, from a group which supports zero carbon! All this suggests that financing zero carbon technology is a major issue. This may be why the Finance Industry is such a strong advocate – they will make significant returns on the investment cost of zero carbon technology.

For domestic heating and hot water, this problem is aggravated for poorer 50% of the population, by their probable lack of control over their housing. They are more likely to be renting from social housing or private landlords. So, it is those landlords who will need to make the investment in zero carbon domestic heating. But will they without regulation?

The question is who will fund the investment in zero carbon technology for the poorer 50%? How will the landlords. letting to this group be persuaded to invest in zero carbon heating? What will be the effect on their returns? How will the acquisition of electric cars be affordable for the poorer 50%?

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.