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Q and A with Euan Murray from the Carbon Trust

(20 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Jun-10 10:56:46

Ever wondered how the products you put in your shopping trolley affect your carbon footprint? Want to make shopping choices that you can feel good about but don?t cost the earth (literally!)?

The Carbon Trust have asked mumsnet to help raise awareness about the Carbon Reduction Label - a simple label that helps you see at a glance that the products you're buying have made a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint. Five Mumsnetters are taking part in the Carbon Footprint Challenge and will be chatting about having their family?s footprints measured on Active Threads over the next few weeks.

But we want every Mumsnetter the chance to get involved and that's why we've lined up Euan Murray from the Carbon Trust to answer all your questions about the Carbon Reduction Label (what it means and where to find it) and how to make shopping decisions you can feel good about, for your family, for your wallets and for the environment too.

Post your comments and questions here by Wednesday 23rd June and Euan will do his best to answer as many as possible. We will be linking to his answers from this thread.

megonthemoon Thu 17-Jun-10 12:26:13

Shame I can't be here on Weds - I was at university with Euan! He is a very nice man so please all be lovely when he's here

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Jun-10 13:43:35

No worries megonthemoon - this is a Q and A rather than a live webchat, so post your questions here and they'll be sent over to him. Wedneday is the final day for sending questions in.

mustrunmore Thu 17-Jun-10 19:44:14

How can you make a carbon footprint measurement seem 'real'? I know ours is 182-192, which I was told is equivalent to the carbon for 9 bags of sugar or something? But is that good or bad? Its just a hard concept to grasp the reality of.

Why are the emissions from the london underground slightly different to Newcastle metro? Arent all electric trains the same, diesel trains the same, buses the same etc?

Half our carbon emissions come from our food and drink in this house blush But doesnt that mean our travel etc is superb?! I dont think we overeat, rarely eat out etc.

On a more general level, dont you think that the term 'carbon footprint' is now so familiar thats its in the realms of being bandied about without people knowing the meaning anymore? I know things like this help raise awareness and explain.But its getting to the point where the basic knowledge is just assumed now. Or is it just me again? blush

mustrunmore Thu 17-Jun-10 19:46:31

oh yes, and why have I hardly noticed the carbon REduction Label? i checked here; not on anything I've bought. And i cant say as it stands out to me in shops.
Also, if I do TEscos online, will it tell me if a product has one or not?

frakkit Thu 17-Jun-10 20:01:23

Is there an equivalent of a carbon reduction label in other countries please?!

hobnob57 Thu 17-Jun-10 21:31:54

I'd be much more impressed if products had a Low Carbon label rather than a 'committment to reduce carbon' which could, in effect, mean that their footprint is huge but getting smaller. However, I realise that the footprint varies depending on how far away from source you are so it's not very simple logistically.

Now, if supermarkets could have low carbon shelves stocking locally sourced goods, that would be ace. They could even label them with the stickers in store? Or would that be too much like hard work these days and increase the footprint due to the huffing of the storeperson charged with the sticky label machine?

ThingOne Thu 17-Jun-10 22:19:28

I live in a Victorian house, Euan, and I'm very concerned about our carbon footprint. We don't fly but I'm sure all our good work is undone just by heating this house in winter.

Can you get a good carbon label for builders, please? So we can find someone reliable to make our house as good as it can be.

bruxeur Fri 18-Jun-10 22:12:33

Dear Euan

As a professional rugby player for Northampton Saints, Scotland and the British Lions you have contractual obligations to go on foreign tours, always by air and with a great number of team-mates and support staff - not to mention the high-protein (and thus high-carbon) diet that a modern tight-five forward requires.

How do you reconcile this with your role with the Carbon Trust?

BessieBoots Mon 21-Jun-10 09:14:40

Hi Euan!
I live in a freezing old house and need to install some kind of heating. Is there such a thing as cheap, carbon efficient heating?

urbanproserpine Mon 21-Jun-10 12:53:39

Two questions:
Many food retailers price in such a way as to make it difficult to buy 'just' one of anything. By this I mean, for example, that Marks and Spencers food is often drastically cheaper per unit if you buy three packs, particularly with fresh fruit and veg packs. Sometimes this makes it economically stupid to buy one, but negates any packaging saving buying in bulk might provide. Sometimes I find the mountain of plastic trays left is enormous. This could not be addressed by assessing the carbon cost of an individual packet; so how will you encourage retailers to asses the impact of their sales strategies?

Water and heating waste:
I recently had a new bathroom fitted, and the saleswoman expressed surprise (incredulity) that I would want a sink with a plug in it, and thus with a drainage vent. Surprisingly many new basins don't have this vent hole (especially countertop bowl style ones), and so they cannot have a plug in them: and must have water continually flowing through them for use. This strikes me as incredibly wasteful of both water and heating of water: as you have to run the water for long enough for it to reach your required temperature rather than adjusting the taps as the bowl fills.

I also find that shops are still selling lamps and shades that are not designed for energy efficient bulbs to look good in them. This means lovely lamps with terrible light. Why aren't shops designing for the future, and making well designed lamps that make the best of the bulbs ( reflecting light and filtering through shades rather than bare visible bulbs) Do you address the integral design of products as parts of their carbon impact?

SpeedyGonzalez Mon 21-Jun-10 15:37:43

Hi Euan!

While climate change is a huge problem I think it also presents a great challenge and opportunity for innovators to come up with radical new ways of doing modern life. What new, earth-friendly inventions, technologies or advances do you think have the potential to change the way we live in the next 20 years or so?

cloudlessclimes Mon 21-Jun-10 23:42:44

Welcome to the Repeal Climate Change Act 2008 Campaign Summary. We hope the points set out below may give you some food for thought concerning the climate change. Climate Change Summary 1. Introduction For hundreds of years, scientific advancement has proceeded on the following basis: first, a theory is proposed to explain a particular natural phenomenon; secondly, that theory is used to make predictions about what may happen in the future; thirdly, the empirical observations are compared with those predictions; finally, if the observations match the predictions, it can be concluded that the theory accurately models the natural phenomenon. However, if they do not, or if a result is obtained at some point in the future that does not fit the theory, then the theory must be modified, new predictions made and new comparisons made with observations. This process will often go through many iterations. However, when we come to the debate on climate change, the media and the government (and indeed many scientists) will say "the debate is over" or "the science is settled" and "we need to move on from the science and tackle with the problem." But is this really the case? Is the science really settled? If that were in fact the case and the evidence was so compelling, why is it that climate scientists need to "massage" data? Why is it that scientists who promote the alarmist agenda refuse to debate the issues? Why won't Al Gore, responsible for the most popular climate change filmAn Inconvenient Truth, debate the claims raised in the film?[We know why, of course: many of them were just plain wrong.] Why are those who question the "consensus" often ostracised by their peers in the scientific community, silenced or even threatened? These are important questions to which answers should be sought. Presently in the United Kingdom, the mainstream media and especially the BBC and new Conservative-LIBDEM government have closed their minds to any dissent from the "consensus" on climate change, namely that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are causing dangerous global warming. The British government will not entertain any debate on the science, preferring to simply rely on the pronouncements of the politically driven Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC - part of the UN), and insisting on enacting the Climate Change Act 2008. Similarly, the majority of the mainstream media has already made up its mind and only publishes articles which advance the agenda of dangerous global warming. 2. Key points on the science: • The earth's climate isalways changing - it has for 4.5 billion years and will continue to do so - to speak of climate change as if it is something "new" is misleading.• There is nothing particularly special about the climate we live in at the moment - it is very benign compared to some of the alternatives - but to attempt to stop the clock and "freeze" the present state is misguided.• That the earth is currently in a long-term warming phase is not in dispute. It has been since the end of the last Ice Age, and in particular since the end of the Little Ice Age a couple of hundred years ago. It is therefore not surprising, nor alarming, that temperatures today are higher than they were a century ago.• However, the cause of that warming is where the dispute arises.• There is no historical link (on geological time scales) between the harmless gas carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperature. Levels of CO2 have been far higher (thousands of parts per million compared to a few hundred at present) in the past without the planet entering "runaway global warming" or passing "tipping points" from which it could not recover - the fact that we are here today is evidence enough of that.• Al Gore'sAn Inconvenient Truth showed a large graph of temperature and CO2 fitting together very closely, except that it was at such a small scale that it was not possible to determine that rises in CO2 actually lag behind rises in temperature (and vice versa) by about 800-1000 years. The long term warming and cooling of oceans releases and absorbs huge quantities of CO2.• On shorter time-scales, temperatures rose in the early part of the 20th century with little or no man-made emissions of CO2.• They also fell in the period 1950-1970 when CO2 emissions were rising rapidly in the post-war economic boom.• The link between future global warming and CO2 is based predominantly on computer climate models.• None of the computer models predicted the cooling we have seen for the last 15 years, despite rising emissions, so we must assume these computer models are flawed.• There must be other factors at work, such as solar variations, cosmic ray variations, cloud cover, ocean currents etc, which have a far more significant effect on the climate than anthropogenic CO2 (which in any event is only a tiny part of the global CO2 budget)• Every day, new peer-reviewed scientific studies change our understanding of the climate - to say the "science is settled" is pure hubris.• The livelihood of many (most?) climate scientists depends on perpetuating the existence of the climate crisis, and there is presently a worrying lack of impartiality in this discipline.• Studies are written with a pre-conceived agenda in mind, and the peer-review has, to an extent, been corrupted - in other words, alarmist papers are being reviewed by similarly alarmist reviewers.• The story of the Michael Mann hockey stick is a prime example of how scientists with an agenda can manipulate data in order to produce the desired (alarmist) result. • The media and the government have already closed their minds to the subject - you will rarely read anything that contradicts the so-called consensus on the BBC or in the mainstream media.• Hence the importance of the blogosphere and independent sources of information on climate. 3. Key points on the economics • The IPCC attributes the current warming almost entirely to man-made CO2.• This is obviously in the UN's interest, since CO2 emissions can be regulated, unlike any other causes of climate change.• This allows the UN to "blame" developed economies for the current warming, and force them to accept reductions in emissions in order to tackle climate change.• Western government policy is based on the results of computer models which we have already seen are flawed.• Schemes such as the European EST (Emissions Trading Scheme) will achieve nothing in terms of altering the climate - the United Kingdom currently produces less than 2% of global CO2 emissions. Even if we reduced those to zero overnight (a 100% reduction), it would make no difference to the climate (even if we assume that CO2 is the primary driver of temperature). So will achieve less than nothing.• The ETS will do enormous damage to our economy and the standards of living of everyone in society, but especially poorer families who will be burdened with higher electricity, gas and food prices - whilst doing nothing for the climate. 4. Key points on the politics • There seems to be, amongst Western societies generally, a desire to "do something" in order to assuage our collective guilt for 200 years of economic progress (although why we should feel guilty about this is a mystery, since that economic progress has lifted billions of people out of a miserable life of poverty).• For some reason some people are embarrassed about our standards of living, and believe that we must engage in a quasi-religious penitence for the sins we have committed against the planet. • History shows us that environmental causes have often been used to advance political agenda.• The present climate "crisis" unfortunately provides such an opportunity for:◦ more global governance and regulation by the UN;◦ a redistribution of wealth on a global scale from richer to poorer nations;◦ widespread increases in taxation at the expense of economic growth and prosperity;◦ a scaling back of Western economic progress; and ultimately,◦ a dismantling of capitalist systems (anti-globalisation)• This is evidenced by the allegiances of environmental ("green") and/or climate change activists, many of whom align themselves with socialist ideals (witness the composition of demonstrators at climate change protests - primarily from the political left). In this sense “green” is the new “red”.• Back in November 2008 the UK Climate Change Act was passed with all-party support, it has put on to the statute book a legally binding commitment to a reduction of at least 80% in UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 - thus seeking a virtually complete de-carbonisation of the British economy - with proposed interim commitment to an unconditional 34% cut by 2020. The UK you may remember only accounts for less than 2% of global CO2 emissions and non of the other major countries such as China or India will commit to a Copenhagen style agreement. This leaves Britain in the position of having binding emissions reduction targets when much of the rest of the world has none. The inevitable result of this will be the export of local jobs and industry overseas and thus damage Britain's economic recovery and cause increasing fuel poverty for millions of families. • Repeal Climate Change Act 2008 Campaign believes that the carbon taxes, cutting carbon emissions and the ETS is a pointless and extremely expensive political gesture - costing the British tax payer £18 billion per year - for a country that produces less than 1.5% of global emissions, since it will haveno effect on the climate whatsoever! 5. Conclusion Repeal Climate Change Act 2008 Campaign is fully supportive of reducing pollution - and by that we mean proper pollution, particulates and toxins, and not CO2, which is a harmless gas and essential for all plant life on earth - in our environment. Repeal Climate Change Act 2008 Campaign is also fully supportive of conserving limited natural resources. We also cherish our British landscape and are outraged by the building of wind farms in our countryside, because they are a blot on the landscape, uneconomic and an inefficient method of generating electricity costing £1 billion per year in public subsidies and will have no effect on the planets climate. If you consider all the above points and dismiss them, then that is your prerogative. However, Repeal Climate Change Act 2008 Campaign view is that unless or until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that the present warming is solely or primarily caused by man-made CO2 emissions, policies to reduce those emissions are pointless, and should be strongly resisted. Such policies will send millions of people back into poverty. Repeal Climate Change Act 2008 Campaign exists to communicate an alternative viewpoint to the one-sided presentation of climate change debate prevented by the British government, the BBC and mainstream media and to lobby politicians for the repeal of the Climate Change Act 2008. Please support us - thank you.

Rob1n Tue 22-Jun-10 12:16:11

The focus of this as being to reduce carbon is misguided.

I am concerned about packaging and air miles etc... but my primary motivation for this is not global warming or climate change. It's just because it makes sense to conserve energy and resources, and to use them as wisely and efficiently as possible. This includes other things too such as not wasting water, but would that be covered by the carbon label?

PS - Mumsnet - would it be better to move this thread to a more prominent topic?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Wed 23-Jun-10 13:23:45

Hi Euan,

In theory I think Carbon reduction labelling is a great idea. In the past I always made an effort to buy e.g. locally produced fruit and veg.

However, now that I am skint I need to buy the cheapest possible and that e.g. means buying apples from south africa.

While I applaud your efforts, do you not think that, like buying organic food, it is something that only the well off can afford?

littleredsquirrel Wed 23-Jun-10 17:10:09

Cloudlessclimes thank goodness your message is so long (and clearly a cut and paste job) as to put people off reading it. Its this sort of ridiculous thinking and false propaganda that gives people an excuse not to do anything and let our children bear the consequences. What exactly do you stand to gain by persuading people to ignore the facts?

urbanproserpine Wed 23-Jun-10 17:42:34

Well said littleredsquirrel!

SpeedyGonzalez Wed 23-Jun-10 23:09:43

OMG just tried to read cloudless' dreadful post. My eyes hurt.

What I don't understand about global warming doubters is this: Whether or not we accept that humans have caused global warming, what is undisputable is that much of our way of life is damaging to the environment. Only an idiot would carry on wilfully polluting. What exactly is your problem with improving the way we do things?

pebblejones Thu 24-Jun-10 09:27:06

Whether you are a believer or a non-believer in global warming, surely it is in everyone interests to protect and preserve the environment. I have never heard of carbon reduction labelling and I have no idea what my carbon footprint is but try wherever to do my bit. In terms of recycling, what I have noticed is that although my recycling bin is the fullest out of all of my bins mainly because of all the packaging supermarkets use to sell their products it is emptied by my council the least often. It really bothers me that I need to recycle most of it at all, the packaging is simply not necessary half of the time. How are companys able to get this carbon reduction labelling for their produce, if it is simply they have made some tiny bit of effort to reduce their carbon footprint during manufacture then I am not interested and won't bother seeking it out, if however it is to identify products that genuinely have low carbon footprints and are local then maybe I would pay more attention.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 02-Jul-10 13:09:53

Many thanks for all your questions which Euan has now answered. You can see the full Q and A archive here.

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