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A climate of change...

Most people agree that climate change is an urgent problem that needs tackling immediately. But we need to embark on a financially sustainable low energy path. The question is, how?
The cost of cleaning up the planet to avoid catastrophic climate change is clearly worth paying at any price, given the potentially devastating consequences of doing nothing. However, in a financially-battered world that has got used to talking about debt in terms of hundreds of billions of pounds, it is shocking to hear how much we will need to invest in clean technology between now and 2030 in order to spare the Earth from an unsustainable increase in global temperature.

The figure, according to the World Economic Forum is a staggering $10 trillion, or maybe even more.

That sounds like a big ask even when times are good; at a time when the global economy is struggling with soaring levels of arrears, it sounds virtually impossible.
But the fact is that it isn't. The world can certainly afford this mega-investment; if you have any doubts, consider the cost of doing nothing.

Since it was first developed around 20 years ago, the concept of sustainable development has suffered from a flood of definitions which has led to a great deal of confusion about what it actually means as well as damaging its credibility and diluting its impact.

The most commonly accepted definition of sustainability is the one conceived in 1987 by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. The Brundtland Commission report, which resulted from a decisive meeting of this organisation, came up with this:

'Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.'
It is possible to draw two conclusions from this statement - a sustainable process must:

  • Be based on resources that will remain unexhausted over a sensible term.

  • Not generate unacceptable pollution.

  • In other words, if the solution to the problem of climate change is sustainability, then the solution itself must also be sustainable. That is why some advocate the specification of condensing boilers in heating systems.

    They maintain that condensing technology is inherently more sustainable than other forms of heating because it has low NOx and carbon emissions, which helps to combat global warming, and it also improves a building's energy efficiency, thus reducing fuel bills.

    Certainly, condensing boilers relatively cheap to buy; can be sited virtually anywhere; comprise familiar, well-tested technology; generally have good fault diagnosis facilities, and are easy to install (making them more likely to be fitted than many of the renewable technologies that are appearing on the market, so the argument goes).

    The result - according to condensing technology's advocates - is a helpful double whammy: Not only are more jobs completed because condensing technology is cheaper and easier to install and is familiar, but the energy efficiency of the technology will also release money for even more energy saving and greenhouse gas reducing measures to be taken.

    After all, projects that don't go ahead because of excessive cost save no greenhouse gases and strategies that are too costly per project are not sustainable strategies.

    So, are those advocating condensing technology forward-thinkers or Luddites? You decide.
    7 October 2012


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