Attis Insights
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Attis Insights

Our climate manifesto

When setting out on a new mission it’s critical to know what you are aiming for, and most importantly why. Having previously spoken about why we created Attis, in this post we wanted to set out our thinking how we think policy makers can support the transition to a fair, just and ecologically sound world. As investors, corporate citizens and individual citizens we believe we have our role to play, and one of those roles is making our voices heard by policy makers. We have developed our manifesto to confront the thinking that limits innovation, imposes inequality and puts profits before people. We want to fuel the debate about the changes we need to make so we can leave a just and sustainable society and planet for our children.

(Note: Amongst others, the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change (“the CCC”) has more detail on the science behind many of the policies presented here. Notable influences on this manifesto we would like to credit include, and who should be credited include, Project Drawdown, Chris Goodall, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.)

Edmund Burke famously said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” — we don’t contend the Climate Crisis is driven by maleficent evil but, as with so many other social struggles over the past centuries, apathy, failing to challenge accepted norms and social and political inertia means we are sleep walking into a tragedy that will have irreversible social, ecological and economical damages. Where climate change may differ to other social struggles is that regardless of how just any action that we take in this moment, and every moment since, the impact from locked-in emissions and planetary feedback loops means that damage will be felt for generations to come…and it will be the poor that feel the effects the hardest.

We believe the UK has a greater responsibility to show outsized global leadership on Climate Change because of its legacy in helping to create the Climate Crisis. The industrial revolution was initiated in the UK and, unbeknown to the industrialists at the time, the carbon fuelled growth it unleashed has led us to where we are today. That is not to apportion blame, but to take radical responsibility for the greater good.

We need to reduce our emissions in the UK by half by 2030 and to zero by 2050 — at the minimum, ideally sooner if we want to show real leadership and courage. The longer we wait to start cutting, the harder it will get every year to make those cuts and the more dramatic action will be required. It’s also worth remembering that for some industries, like cement, aviation and agriculture, there are no clear viable pathways to net-zero so other industries will have to be net negative emitters (drawdown).

We have grouped our ideas into 6 main groups; Capital, Energy, Housing and the Built Environment, Tax, Transport and Broader Policy.

  1. Capital

Government can cost-effectively and quickly finance a green transition by engaging both retail and institutional capital. The Climate Crisis will have a far greater human and environmental impact than Covid so a number of recent Government initiatives can be used as a blue print:

  • ‘Climate Intensive’: The Government should create a ‘Climate Intensive’ definition, similar HMRC’s concept of ‘Knowledge Intensive’ to encourage more investment into SMEs in the sustainability space. This definition should include ventures that demonstrate a positive impact on achieving environmental and social goals (such as the UK’s Climate Change objectives or the UN Sustainable Development Goals).
  • Future proofing the Future Fund: The Government should continue the Future Fund to mandate the British Business Bank to co-invest in technologies and ventures that qualify as Climate Intensive.
  • Increase ‘Climate Intensive’ EIS allowances: EIS tax allowances should be increased to 50% for Climate Intensive businesses and eligibility criteria relaxed.
  • Climate VCTs: Climate VCTs should be created to channel retail capital into Climate Intensive firms.
  • Low cost asset finance: The British Business Bank should provide low cost credit to funders that finance Climate Intensive firms or projects such as anaerobic digestion, energy storage and efficiency, EV charging, zero-emission industrial vehicles and plant.
  • Climate related disclosures: The Government should work with industry and investors to mandate that firms big enough to do so (e.g. the audit threshold?) should report on their sustainability (using previously established standards such as SASB).

Energy

The UK has been broadly successful at decarbonising its electricity supply, but there is still more work to do. However, electricity only provides a small amount of our energy needs and to decarbonise, electricity needs to provide an increasing amount of the energy for our transport and heating.

  • Immediately halting all subsidies of fossil fuels
  • A herculean increase investment in renewable, clean energy: we need to continue to decarbonise our electricity supply (15% of UK GHGs) but then go further. Electricity provides c.20% of our energy with the rest, for activities like transport and heating, coming from fossil fuels. We need to electrify our transport infrastructure, our homes and our factories so they run off clean electricity. We also need to have enough clean energy to create to provide green hydrogen to energy users who can’t use electricity. Chris Goodall estimates this will require a 20x increase in clean electricity generation.
  • Investing radically in Green Hydrogen: As discussed above, some industries will not be able to use electricity to decarbonise. Heat intensive industry and cement will require the high temperatures that electricity can’t provide. Hydrogen can replace hydrocarbons but only if the hydrogen itself is derived from clean, renewable energy. This will only becost effective at scale so Government should develop a radical strategy to switch the UK gas grid to hydrogen.
  • Radical investment in CCS: CCS is certainly not proven, nor is it a golden bullet, however we can’t afford to leave potentially good solutions sitting on the bench. Government objectives to have two sites operational by the 2030s do not rise to the challenge. The Government should do more to empower the mission by investing more and accelerating plans so the UK becomes a world leader in this technology (like Denmark is in turbines).
  • Investing in a new UK-wide smart grid: As sources of power generation become increasingly diversified and decentralised the National Grid needs to be re-modernised to cope. The grid needs to become more dynamic to cope with the proliferation of IoT devices and a highly distributed network of batteries (e.g. vehicle-to-grid storage to leverage car batteries when they are idle).

HOUSING AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

The UK is both geographically concentrated into urban areas and has a relatively old, and poor quality housing stock. It also has very high levels of home ownership so home owner engagement is critical to success.

  • Improving building standards for new homes: The CCC believes Government has repeatedly missed opportunities to tighten building efficiency regulations. All new homes should be built to EPC band ‘A’ and strictly enforced to ensure developers and landlords, not citizens pay the cost for poor efficiency.
  • Improving UK housing: Government should undertake an expansive regeneration of UK housing. Whilst social housing represents low hanging fruit and a substantial cohort to start with, private homes could be insulated and made more energy efficient through combination of taxes and incentives to encourage consumers to enact changes. Warmer homes, better energy efficiency, less fuel poverty, lower emissions.
  • Creating distributed, local, electricity grids: A National Grid will be required to manage power transmission between regions and to conduct power away from large generation sources like off-shore wind and nuclear plants. In addition to this, local grids should be created around major urban areas that use digital technology to balance the supply and demand of electricity from a highly diversified and distributed number of local power generating sources (rooftop solar, onshore wind) and storage units (household, vehicle and municipal batteries).
  • Electric or Hydrogen powered heating / heat pumps: Government should mandate for all new homes to be electrically energised. For existing homes, the Government should offer rebates to replace gas heating and cooking with electricity. Where some houses will continue to require ‘off-grid’ fuel, such as rural oil, and in these cases Government should offer rebates to adapt homes to hydrogen and residential solar / wind.
  • Public sector building retrofits: to lead by example and to embed key skills and technologies boosting skilled employment post-Covid (and using London’s RE:FIT program as a template), all publicly owned buildings in the UK should be retrofitted to reduce emissions and decrease energy costs.

TAX

  • Fuel duty: Since cars are only actually used about 5% it is likely that we will / should change our relationship with the car. In the short term though, we should change the type of cars we use and opt for zero emission vehicles. To encourage this, the Government should stop its long held policy of freezing rises in fuel duty. As painful and regressive as this tax is, the government should not freeze duty but should at the least slow its increase if it impacts on people’s livelihoods.
  • Air passenger duty: The government should increase air passenger duty to discourage flying, especially on shorter routes that could be replaced with rail. Whilst the Government may not wish to create the moral hazard associated with offsets, the funds raised could be invested in clean energy research and reforestation.
  • Working from home: To encourage people to work from home, thereby reducing transport load during peak hours and improving work life balance, the Government should offer a tax allowance, administered through PAYE, to people can work from home.
  • Agricultural policy: As we exit the EU, the Government should be more bold with the the new Agricultural Bill 2020 to reward sustainable farming practices such as regenerative agriculture, silvopasture, reforestation, so as to minimise the CO2 emissions of our food systems.
  • Taxing our carbon footprint and raising our consciousness: To improve our collective environmental consciousness the Government should roll out a Carbon Tax, even if it is small and deminimis, on all products in a similar manner to VAT. This would also change our behaviours to consume less carbon intensive items, and avoid items such as beef, overly-processed foods, air-freighted foods and sugars. Such practices are often regressive and so to mitigate this, monies raised should go to increasing the Personal Allowance / benefits.

Transport

  • Runways: the government should cease work on new runways until a pathway to low emission aviation becomes clear. We don’t believe human beings should be geographically constrained for the sake of it — the globalisation of commerce, cultures and creativity has huge benefits for society — but the current vehicle for this mobility is killing our planet and so it is a sacrifice we must make.
  • Ultra low emission towns (ULEZ): we believe urban areas should be places to live and enjoy with clean and safe air. The Government should mandate ULEZ in all towns. The cost for heavy goods should incentivise firms to switch to lower emission vehicles and the funds raised should be spent on improving cycling and in greening urban areas. To further improve air quality and safety, all residential roads should be limited to 20 mph.
  • Encourage public transport: Government should freeze all rail and bus fares to encourage people to travel by public transport where ever possible.
  • Electri/Hydrofication of public transport: The diesel engines on trains and buses are amongst the worst polluting engines in urban areas (albeit this mitigated by the high number of users). Government should pan the procurement of new diesel engines for buses and encourage R&D into the development of Hydrogen Fuel Cells for buses, trains and to an extent ferries.
  • Banning new Internal Combustion Engines: Whilst it is commendable that the Government has announced a ban on all internal combustion engines (ICE)by 2035 this is unambitious. The Apollo program took 8 years to land a man on the moon so we believe we can rise to the challenge of phasing out the sale of new ICE’s by 2030.

Broader policy areas

  • Leadership at Central Government: The Government created a Department for Exiting the EU to coordinate a political effort for Brexit. This was a purely political undertaking that rearranged governance with little impact on wellbeing or the environment. The Climate Crisis is more urgent and grave and so a new government department should be created to coordinate action in central and local government as well as the private sector and show real leadership.
  • Connectivity: The UK’s response to Covid-19 showed that there is huge potential to reduce the impact we have on our planet, and to live healthier, more productive lives, if we increase the amount we work from home. However, poor interest connection often limits the extent we can do this. The Government should therefore invest more into the UK’s broadband networks to improve connectivity and reduce our requirement to travel.
  • Economic measurement: A huge amount of our economic focus is on GDP growth…arguably growth for growth’s sake with little thought given to ecological impact, sustainability of growth or standards of living. The government should consult (nationally and internationally) on adopting a new measure to refocus our commerce towards a more sustainable footing. There are some promising examples, including New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget, Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, the UN’s Human Development Index and the OECD’s Better Life index.
  • Legislating for net-zero at a granular level: The Government has passed legislation to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at a national level. It should go further and mandate for all public sector entities to develop plans to achieve net-zero by 2050, or preferably sooner, including a consideration of Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. For example, London, has only set plans to achieve a 60% reduction in emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2050. These plans should be subject to regular scrutiny through existing governance structures.
  • Reforestation: The Government ought to embark on a massive reforestation effort to reforest 50,000 sq. km of the UK by 2050 (which the Forestry Commission says is available) to reduce our net emissions and improve the UK’s biodiversity. This would require the planting of about 150m trees a year (Kenya managed 350m in a day!). Although this sounds ambitious, this would merely bring us inline with average level of European forest cover of 30% (the UK is currently only 13% forest). This would be encouraged by rewarding farmers for the CO2 they capture by replanting hedgerows and trees. Forests, if properly managed, could then reduce the 7m cubic meters of wood we import from North America for manufacturing, housing and bio-energy.
  • Apprenticeships: We are coming out of a health, economic and social crisis that is unparalleled in peace time and that has decimated employment. We believe a subsequent economic recovery is an opportunity to re-skill our workforce for the future and the Government should offer enhanced apprenticeships in specific sectors such as digital, electric, renewable energy installation and home improvements.
  • Aid linked to UN Sustainable Development Goals: Government should actively consider how the UK’s International Development and aid budget supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This includes withholding aid or putting pressure (financial or diplomatic) on foreign governments who are slowing their societies progress, for example Brazil, which is implicitly encouraging the deforestation of the Amazon.
  • Waste: Government should legislate against single-use, non-compostable packaging and take decisive action to reduce both food waste in the supply chain and organic / recyclable waste going to landfill by increasing penalties to achieve the CCC’s advice of zero biodegradable waste to landfill by 2025.
  • F-Gases: The Government should ban, except where they are absolutely necessary, all Fluorinated Gases immediately.

At Attis, we will be campaigning for these policies and seeking to invest our time and money into ventures which will deliver the outcomes these policies seek to address.

To get in touch, please reach out at jake@attis.earth or visit us at Attis.Earth

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