Work for SERA?

Work for environment campaigning organisation, SERA

We are looking for an organizer to work from our London office, to provide administrative, organizational, fundraising and campaign support to the SERA Co-chairs and Executive, to implement SERA’s strategy and to make sure we run as an effective membership organization.

If you are passionate about the environment, have good administrative and IT skills and experience of events and fundraising, find out more by downloading the job description (sera organiser jd jan 16)

The role is initially offered full time for one year, renewable subject to outcomes being met.  Salary £26,000.


Technological changes are key to reaching new climate pledges

By Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central

This month’s Climate Change Agreement has been hailed as a historic step forward on the road to saving our planet.  Two weeks ago, leaders from 190 nations gathered in Paris to try and reach a new global agreement on tackling climate change.

According to media reports, negotiations were tough, with organisers having to extend the conference by a day to allow more time for consultation.

But while the new agreement is certainly encouraging, commitments will only be as good as the technology that is deployed to help achieve them.

In a recent paper for Smart Energy GB, leading climate change expert Professor Dieter Helm argued that “without massive technological change, global warming cannot be cracked”.

According to Helm, the world is in the middle of a transformation in the way electricity is generated, supplied and consumed, while the success of developing and rolling out new technology will largely determine the ability of countries to meet their commitments. And as well as saving the planet – and improving the lives of future generations – this technological revolution is a tremendous opportunity for the UK.

David Cameron may have decided to abandon all that ‘green crap’ once he achieved power but in so doing the Government also undermined significant potential opportunity for the UK. As Mariana Mazzucato the renowned innovation economist put it, “Green development can be about much more than renewable energy; it can become a new direction for the entire economy”.

Since the election the Government have been dismantling incentives for solar and becoming increasingly hostile to wind. They are virtually outlawing onshore wind turbines. The UK will be the only country in Europe to do so.

The UK government is now actively hindering investments in wind and solar power. And just last week the Chancellor withdrew the £1 Billion committed to carbon capture and storage.

Meanwhile, across the world other countries are doing the opposite.

Investing and supporting clean energy, which in turn will form the basis of new green industries, create skilled jobs and secure our energy supply. China is investing trillions in green technology as it recognises both the environmental and the economic imperative.

But there is some good news in what is generally a retreat from technology investment – we are finally beginning to see the delayed but hugely important national smart meters rollout.

Historically, much of the focus of climate change initiatives has focused on supply side reform – the way in which our energy is generated and whether it comes from renewable sources as opposed to oil or coal.

But just as important is the transformation of demand side through smarter and more sophisticated energy systems

Smart meters help achieve this. They will be offered to every home and microbusiness in Britain by 2020. In all around 53 million new gas and electricity meters will be installed.

Smart meters provide fast and accurate data on energy use of households. For the first time, bill-payers are able to see exactly how much their electricity and gas use is costing in pounds and pence. This will enable householders to become efficient in their energy usage.

But more than this, smart meters will enable a system-wide transformation of energy transmission – a smart grid. Capturing live data around supply and demand is absolutely vital is we are to transfer onto more renewable sources of energy.
Solar and wind energy are intermittent and unreliable, with abundant supply rarely produced exactly where and when needed most. So we need new technology and new mechanisms to store and distribute.

Smart technology has a vital role to play here by supporting the decentralisation of electricity generation – allowing households to know exactly how much energy their solar panels or turbines are producing.

With greater electrification (of heating, appliances and transport), these challenges become even more relevant. If millions of people come home and plug in their electric cars at 6pm, the energy systems of the future must be able to cope.

The programme is still at an early stage but it has enormous potential to deliver the energy infrastructure we need for the future – an infrastructure capable of enabling low carbon supply and demand.

With the right regulatory framework it can also provide a platform for innovation by tech start ups helping put the UK back at the forefront of the digital green economy.

We need to make sure that we have the right public debate and engagement – technology is only as effective as the people who use it. I want my constituents to feel that they are in charge of this change to their lives, owning the data generated and benefiting from the savings made. I’ll be holding the Government, and the energy companies to account on that.

paris eiffel

Paris deal owes much to EU

The world’s first, truly historic global agreement to decrease greenhouse emissions owes much to the EU argues London MEP and SERA member Seb Dance:

It is difficult to get agreement among the twenty-eight Member-States of the European Union, let only the 200 states that constitute the United Nations on an issue as complex as climate change.

The 2009 talks in Copenhagen, which ended in stalemate and recriminations, cast a long shadow, as did the cumbersome 50 pages of draft text produced in Lima the previous year.

Yet the deal struck in Paris confounded these doubts. On Saturday we secured an historic deal that exceeded all expectations. It’s scope wider than many thought possible, and consensus amongst participating countries unanimous. This represents the beginning of the crucial process of de-carbonising the world economy.

Shipping and aviation were exempt from the deal, while greater commitment is needed for a just transition and reliable assistance to energy-intensive industry. But we should recognise this deal for what it is: the world’s first truly historic global agreement to decrease greenhouse emissions.

It sends an important signal that our future lies not in continuing to burn fossil fuels. And it provides the framework to commit to a wave of new jobs in the renewable sector, as long as our own government follows through.

The EU was a major player. Membership effectively gave every EU state two seats at the table. In the talks, the European Commission showed strength and stamina, not backing down on crucial issues such as the review mechanism and leading by example on questions over technology transfer and finance.

Crucially it was the EU’s role in constructing what became known as the ‘coalition of ambition’ that became instrumental. The coalition consisted of a bloc of countries asking for the warming limit to be set at 1.5°C instead of the widely anticipated 2°C. It eventually grew to include the United States, Canada and Australia.  This half-degree separation not only means the difference between remaining or disappearing for some Pacific Island states but demonstrates that the agreement is dynamic; if emissions of Greenhouse gasses fail to peak and fall in the coming years, there is now a guarantee of a review where further legally-binding enforcement becomes an option.

For Britain, our membership of the EU has been shown to be essential. The political support that the EU garnered across both developed and developing countries came about because of a united determination and respected record.

Goodness knows where we would have got had the UK relied solely on the environmental record of its Conservative government as an indicator of the path to be followed by the rest of the world!


paris sunset

C’est la Ville!

Cllr Alex Sobel, Support Executive Member for Climate Change, Leeds City Council, reports on his recent trip to COP21 and the importance of cities in tackling climate change.

I have just returned from COP21 representing Leeds City Council as our Climate Change Lead. The discussions I had with those who were participating in the talks were encouraging. It was clear that the EU and US were working with a whole host of developing countries to try and get a deal at 1.5C, through the “high ambition coalition’. There has been resistance from BRIC countries and Gulf States for different reasons, but there are very few voices arguing against a binding deal and even fewer saying anything beyond a 2C rise will mean a liveable planet.

It will however be the local and regional authorities in these countries that will have to deliver the agreement signed at COP21. In particular the cities as the urban population is 54% of the world’s total and growing by about 1.5% a year; the UK is already 80% urban. The urban areas produce CO2 well in excess of its population share. Large cities are growing, with the UN estimating that 393 more cities will have passed the 500,000 population mark between 2011 and 2025. These councils, including those in the UK, will have to bear the burden for delivering our reduction in emissions and avoiding catastrophic climate change. The cities I met from across the world where all totally committed to deliver, but most didn’t feel that national Governments were giving them the support they needed.

I spoke to a State Premier in Australia who was struggling with large scale solar as the Government refuse to introduce Feed in Tariffs and the States can only afford domestic Feed in Tariffs for residential properties. I commiserated with him, as we have just placed Solar Roofs on 35 Council Buildings and 1000 council homes in Leeds, but can’t extend the scheme to complete the rest of our council housing stock due to the Feed in Tariff cuts. If we could, it would drastically reduce our emissions and take many people out of fuel poverty. I met a Mayor of a City on an Indian Ocean Island who had big issues around flooding and couldn’t afford flood defences. A one metre rise in sea levels would be the end of their city; again I commiserated with him as the UK Government put Leeds flood defence scheme on hold in 2011 and we are only now getting a smaller scheme, with the council putting forward £10 million of the £45 million required. It remains to be seen if the scheme will be sufficient.

I met politicians and officers from cities in the UK who are doing great things for themselves. Bristol is this year’s European Green Capital and they have launched ‘One Tree Per Child’, which is a scheme to plant a tree for every Primary School Child in the city. They have planted over 30,000 trees already. In Manchester they have started a groundbreaking Carbon Literacy Project to empower people and businesses to understand how their activities affect the environment and foster a hegemonic shift from carbon illiteracy to carbon literacy in the UK. In Nottingham they have started their own energy services company called Robin Hood Energy. In Leeds we are converting our entire vehicle fleet to be electric, biomethane or hydrogen by 2025 and will be building our own fuelling station – not just for our fleet, but to encourage the private sector to convert as well.

The British Government at a strategic level are in the ‘High Ambition Coalition’ and should be congratulated for it. But their actions to support delivery on the ground have been lacking. The recent Autumn Statement provided support for shale gas extraction, research funds for small modular nuclear reactors whilst scrapping carbon capture and storage schemes and scrapping ECO funding and replacing it with a much smaller scheme.

If the Government wants to see the climate not exceed a 1.5C rise it needs to live up to its obligations and invest in our towns, cities and renewables industry to deliver it.

sadiq agm

Sadiq Khan pledges to make London the city of inspiration on the environment

Speaking at SERA’s AGM on Saturday 28th November 2015, Labour’s London Mayoral Candidate Sadiq Khan laid out his ambitions for London’s Environment:

“If I become Mayor, I want to make London a city that the world looks to for the ideas and inspiration on how to address, mitigate and minimise the environmental impacts of a big city economy.

“And I want our green economy to be one that the world looks to as a model for growth, innovation and job creation.

“A real low carbon vision isn’t a nice little add on to our economic plan. It must permeate through everything we do – transport, skills, housing, planning, education.

“That’s not only the right thing to do if we want a healthy and green city, but it’s also the right thing to do for the future prosperity of the city.”

Download the full speech here; SK SERA speech 28-11-15

climate march

SERA on the March: 29 November

SERA will be out in force at the Climate Change March in London on 29 November. It’ll be a huge event on the eve of the crucial Paris climate talks. We’ll be joining thousands calling for action and showing international solidarity for climate justice.

Labour MPs, including Lisa Nandy, the Shadow DECC Secretary, Alan Whitehead, Shadow DECC Minister and Kerry McCarthy, Shadow DEFRA, will be joining us on the march. Please encourage local Labour and trade union branches to join us too and bring banners etc. After the march we’ll head somewhere where we can warm up, get a drink and carry on the conversation.

We will be meeting outside the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, from 11.30am (slightly later than previous communication). There will be some speeches at 12.15 and the march will commence when these finish. The march begins from Park Lane and ends at Millbank with further speeches. For more details and route see here.