Comment: More substance and less style, please

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The 10:10 campaign has very little idea of how well it is succeeding in its goal of getting organisations and individuals to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in a year.

The best guess is that it will have reduced all UK emissions by much less than 1% during 2010.

The campaign has no systems in place to gather useful, credible data on what its signatories are collectively achieving. It prefers to emphasise its success in raising awareness about reducing CO2.

Strategy director Duncan Clark says 10:10 has made “carbon cutting cool and inclusive for the first time”.

He says it is unfair to judge 10:10’s success by how much it reduces UK emissions, or to expect the campaign to audit its pledgers’ CO2 cuts.

“It’s about establishing a coalition big enough to redefine the narrative and create political space for serious change.”

But what about what it says on the tin: 10% by 2010? Surely it is reasonable to expect the campaign to assess what difference it is making to CO2 emissions?

10:10’s response is that if it had demanded that all pledging organisations underwent a carbon audit,  then far, far fewer would have signed up to its campaign in the first place. It wanted low barriers to entry.

That is understandable. But it could at least have committed to some kind of sampling prodedure to come up with a credible estimate of what its signatory organisations were achieving.

10:10 estimates that the pledges it had received from organisations and businesses by mid-2010 would deliver an emissions reduction of 500,000 tonnes of CO2.

That ‘back of the envelope’, unaudited figure  is equivalent to a little under one tenth of 1% of current UK emissions.

As for the 74,000 plus individuals in the UK who have signed up to the campaign, 10:10 is not asking them to report their emissions. It has, however, surveyed a sample of them.

Mr Clark says the findings suggest “most 10:10ers are cutting their carbon and believe they are on track to fulfil or exceed their 10% pledge”. But this survey did not include any quantitative research on their emissions.

While continuing to emphasise personal carbon cutting action, the campaign now wants to focus more on changing government policy. The ‘Lighter, Later’ campaign to change UK time is its first shot.

Here, too,  it has succeeded in winning lots of media coverage and grabbing the public’s attention. But there is no guarantee that bringing the clocks forward one hour from the current regime will reduce UK CO2 emissions.

The latest estimate for the electricity savings the change would deliver, from Cambridge University’s engineering department, suggests a cut of 450,000 tonnes a year. Again, that is less than 0.1% of total UK emissions.

If emissions are to be reduced as quickly and as deeply as climate science suggests is needed, then people and organisations will have to take responsibility for cutting their carbon. Government policy alone is probably not enough. Besides, individual, voluntary action strengthens the mandate for strong policy.

So Britain really needs something like 10:10. The failure of the UK’s big green NGOs to create an effective mass voluntary movement has been disappointing.

Today we hear little about the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, their attempt to create such a body which launched in 2005 (ENDS Report 368, pp 43-45).

When the brave new 10:10 campaign sprung up out of nowhere last September, it raised high hopes.

Fourteen months on, it would be good to see more hard evidence of some carbon cutting walk and a little less talk.

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