Welcome to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)'s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP)'s blog. The DECC YAP is a group of young people aged between 15 and 25 from all over the UK, with a wide-range of backgrounds, from academia to activism.

Our aim is to inform everyone and anyone about DECC's activities and likewise to help DECC understand and take into account the concerns of young people. We are a medium of consultancy and conversation. Much of our work looks at finding a 'Pathway to 2050', reviewing how energy with be supplied and used in the next four decades, so follow us and join us on the journey!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Join us!

First post of the new year, 2012. The Youth Advisory Panel achieved a great deal in 2011. We responded to consultations on the Feed in Tariffs, Bioenergy and the Green Deal. We learnt about different technologies such as Smart Meters and CCS. Members accompanied Ministerial visits, and took part in debates.

It was a good year.

But now we are into a new year, and we want YOU to be part of our Panel. Joining the Panel gives you the opportunity to take part in a range of discussions with teams at the Department, as well as the odd opportunity that crops up through our networks. Plus, you will be working with some exceptionally passionate and talented young people, and connecting with them and their wider organisational links.

If you are interested, please complete and return the application form by 2nd February 2012 - link here. Otherwise, email elizabeth@think2050.org if you have any problems with the form, or any questions.

I look forward to hearing from you!
Chair of the YAP

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Youth Panel Makes Recommendations on Bioenergy for Upcoming DECC Strategy

At the end of October, members of the youth panel got together to respond to the latest government consultation on Bioenergy - renewable energy made from material of recent biological origin derived from plant or animal matter, known as Biomass. By the end of this year DECC aims to publish its framework for the use of Bioenergy, to meet the UK's EU-directed binding target to source 15% of our overall energy from renewable sources by 2020.

There were quite a few issues surrounding various forms of Bioenergy that we were concerned about. So, we put together some top tips to help DECC along in making a sustainable, yet ambitious plan for Bioenergy in the UK. Here is a basic overview of how and why we responded:

The DECC Youth Advisory Panel submission of recommendations for the forthcoming Bioenergy Strategy



The supply chain of bioenergy is extremely complex compared to other renewable energy technologies, so ensuring the sustainability of bioenergy is particularly complicated. Bioenergy does offer significant potential for emissions reductions, however, its inherent connection with the natural environment and livelihoods of vulnerable people means a multitude of potentially damaging, longer-term impacts of bioenergy use (both in the UK and abroad) must be considered.

Concerned primarily with the issues of inter-generational and international justice, the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) Youth Advisory Panel (‘the Panel’) has resolved to put forward its opinion on this subject in advance of the forthcoming Bioenergy Strategy. The Panel have come together to formulate this response: the collective opinions expressed are independent and should not be taken as the views of DECC.

We are concerned that there is currently no mandatory social impact criteria for bioenergy and call for this aspect to be immediately introduced into bioenergy sustainability assessments. Biofuel demand is contributing to increasing food prices globally, which has resulted in wider food insecurity among children and young people, an issue that has not been adequately addressed. Land-use change due to the farming of biofuels, particularly from palm oil, has also had a worrying impact on rainforests and other unique habitats. We are also concerned that, as it stands, bioenergy is often more carbon intensive than perceived by the public, and often not as low-carbon as it has the potential to be. Since the viability of many projects depends on financial support, the panel calls for stricter eligibility criteria for government funding.

The role and purpose of the panel
The Panel has a dual role; the Panel will advise DECC on the thoughts and proposals of young people in the UK whilst also relaying information from DECC out to the wider youth communities and organisations that support the Panel.

Inter-generational equity is a vital component of democratic and responsible governance. The Panel is a body that advises DECC on climate change matters relating to young and future generations, in particular on how the UK will reach its target of an 80% emissions reduction by 2050. The Panel will have the interests of safeguarding their future at the heart of their work, and will ensure that DECC and wider Government proposals made on behalf of young and future generations stand up to scrutiny.

This response builds on work from the Panel’s first report, Energy: How Fair Is It Anyway?, which included a consultation on bioenergy with opinions gauged from youth groups. The response is structured around key issues of concern to the Panel, that are all bound by the themes of inter-generational and international justice...

For the full recommendations, you can read the document here : http://bit.ly/uXPHW3

Countdown to COP17: UK Youth gather for ‘Climate Change Question Time’

Members of the DECC Youth Advisory Panel were invited to a Climate Change Question Time event hosted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on Tuesday.

The event also had an international focus, given that we’re less than a month away from this years UN climate change summit (COP17) and was also webcast live to the nation (now available to watch online) as well as international viewers. Audience members were all young people, representing organisations such as PlanUK, UNICEF, UK Youth Climate Coalition and Oxfam.

[Pictured above: DECC YAP panellists, Helena, Elizabeth, Ella, Reuben and Sasha with Chris Huhne (centre)]

We were joined by an interesting line-up of speakers: William Hague (Foreign Secretary),Chris Huhne (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change), Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko (South African Ambassador for COP17, Durban), and Martin Davidson (Chief Executive at the British Council).Rick Edwards (of Channel 4 fame) chaired the discussion and put questions from the international audience to the panel.

Audience members got to ask questions on a number of topics, including: the UK’s key role in the international climate negotiations, the need for engagement of the wider public (especially young people) on climate change, and most importantly the expected outcomes of this year’s UN climate summit.

Here are just a few of the things to emerge from this discussion.

Climate Change: Still an Inconvenient Truth?

Whilst the entire panel acknowledged the severity of the current economic downturn is extremely relevant in the approach to tackling climate change, it was also agreed that this could not be used an excuse not to act. The South African ambassador described our “opportunity as humanity to stop and think and reassess how we’ve been doing things.” .

“What I do know is that it changes everything we’ve ever known, about economic prosperity, the emancipation of women, and the freedoms that young people have enjoyed in Africa; and will undermine the basis for achieving the Millennium Development Goals” [Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko]

In South Africa they must know all too well of the importance of securing ecnomic growth without jeopardising vital efforts to end poverty. As the only female panellist and the only representative from a developing country, she stressed that although all countries will struggle with the effects of climate change in some way, these effects would be felt first and worst by vulnerable groups of people, particularly women and those in poverty.

Martin Evans, of the British Council, also agreed that the challenge in climate change actually gives us the opportunity to encourage innovation and supporting extraordinary young visionaries and social entrepreneurs who offer new ways of running businesses and operating in our world.

“Future economic growth will depend upon us tackling the issue of climate change successfully”. “The Economic costs of climate change globally [could be] between 5-25% of GDP... but it would only take 1% or 2% of GDP to tackle it.” [William Hague, in reference to shocking figures from the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.]

The Future of Renewable Energy

Other questions to the panel, raised an interesting debate about the future of renewable energy here in the UK. The UK is known in international circles as a leader on climate change- but there was definitely a sense that greater ambition and consistency is needed as far as our domestic energy policy is concerned. Chris Huhne responded by sharing his hope that new low-carbon goods and services industries would push forward a “New Industrial Revolution”, allowing our economy to thrive whilst moving away from fossil fuels for good.

Chris Huhne was proud to announce that DECC has a “4 pronged strategy” for tackling energy security. He explained that his department’s main policy priorities would involve: reducing energy consumption in homes , government support and targets for increasing UK renewable energy production and developing Nuclear power and Carbon Capture and Storage technologies too.

However, this proved to be a contentious topic, given the recent announcement of drastic reductions on Feed-in-tariffs for solar photovoltaic technology in the UK, a decision which many believe will cripple this important and rapidly growing industry. Investment in renewable energy is widely accepted as an essential step towards ending our unhealthy reliance on fossil fuels and grow the economy. It was unfortunate that the climate secretary’s comments did little to reassure the audience of the government’s commitment to support them with financial incentives.

Climate Change & Conflict : A threat to global peace & security?

Another interesting question was asked about the potential for conflicts over natural resources (water & fossil fuels) to intensify under runaway climate change, threatening international security now and in the future.

The foreign secretary agreed that the UK government would be actively “supporting countries working together to manage scarce resources in a co-operative way”. Young people should be engaged more than ever before in “the evolution of a new diplomacy”, given their unique positions as the future stewards of the world, according to Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko. She was hopeful that young people would be integral in solving global problems such as climate change and that conflict could be successfully avoided by planning ahead and “banking on the future”, harnessing the ideas and dynamism of youth.

Countdown to COP: Hope or despair??

Finally, the panel expressed mixed feelings on the outcomes of the upcoming UN climate summit. This year could be our last stop on the road to climate catastrophe, as far as civil society activists and the scientific consensus are concerned .The pressure must therefore be kept on negotiators to make something happen, and fast, if we are to avoid dangerous levels of warming. For the world’s poor and vulnerable people, the outcomes of COP17 simply must be fair, ambitious and binding, if they are to have any chance of survival.

Unfortunately, the panellists conceded that COP17 is unlikely to yield any unilateral agreement-somewhat understandable if we remember just how many BIG issues are on the table- but agreed it should be recognised as a ‘signpost’ towards the framework we need to achieve. With climate change threatening the quality of life that young people will experience in the near future, it was hardly surprising that this consensus left us in the audience less than satisfied. But, there were some promising elements of the discussion, for example; it was encouraging to hear Chris Huhne reaffirm the UK government’s commitment to a second term of the Kyoto Protocol, with plans to push for this amongst the EU member states, although this is by no means the only action required.

The clear message from this discussion, was that it is essential that we keep up the pressure on our policy-makers here in the UK, before and during the UN climate talks in Durban.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

What is the Green Deal? Have your say.

Put simply, the Government is creating a financial system to enable private firms to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements to their homes, community spaces and businesses at no upfront cost, and recoup the cost (with interest) through a charge in instalments on the energy bill.

The panel will be meeting with policy experts on the Green Deal on November 3rd. We will look at how we can formulate a response to the consultation and how this will benefit young people and future generations.

You can view the government's explanation of the Green Deal here. Some organisations, such as RenewableUK, have strongly welcomed the plans. Others such as WWF have been more critical.

The full government summary of the proposals embodied in the Green Deal is available here: decc.gov.uk/ ... /1010-green-deal-summary-proposals.pdf

Please leave a comment below to give us your thoughts! We will feed them into our response to the Green Deal's consultation. Alternatively email: youthpanel@think2050.org

Panellists speak in the House of Lords

Five members of the Youth Advisory Panel were delighted to attend the Commonwealth Youth Parliament 2011 as members of the Commonwealth Diaspora. Bringing together representatives from across the Commonwealth, the Youth Parliament invited Diaspora Parliamentarians to attend their closing debate on Friday 9th September, on achieving complete carbon neutrality by 2050 in the state of 'Commonwealthland' - described as a developing nation. The debate was hosted within the Chamber of the House of Lords, only the fifth time the Chamber has been used by external groups.

The debate covered a number of standpoints, with key points made by Panel members including that now was the time to act to generate green jobs and green entrepreneurship - leading to green growth - with climate change as the catalyst for action (Elizabeth Anderson, below), and the need to ensure a thriving environment for graduates within key disciplines (Stephen Marshall, left).

The debate was hosted by Baroness D'Souza, Lords Speaker, and was attended by MPs including Conor Burns and Stephen Pound.

The motion - to reduce carbon emissions by 100% in Commonwealthland by the year 2050 was successfully carried. In reality, in the UK, the road to reducing carbon emissions by 2050 by 80% is a major challenge, but one which many of the young people of the UK are committed to seeing put in place.

Only through the decisions taken now to promote renewable energy supplies and reduction in both consumer and industry energy supply can this be achieved. But the need is real. The dangers of not tackling this far outweigh the immediate preferences of an energy intensive growth plan. Instead, we must focus on developing a sustainable, secure and low cost energy supply for all, with a fair level of energy use by all.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Scottish National Discussion Days

In early July as part of the Scottish Government National discussion days 'Low Carbon Scotland' campaign- YoungScots hosted a collaborative event with different youth groups from around Scotland. I was honoured to be asked to co-host this event; as a Department of Energy and Climate Change Youth Advisory Panelist and as UKYCC Government Liaison for Scotland.
By morning the new Scottish Minister for Climate Change, Stuart Stevenson joined in on the discussion. He genuinely open armed the youth perspective reiterating a need for a long term strategy for tackling Climate Change that exceeds beyond a short term governmental lifespan. A strategy that can only logically be youth led.
The Local Investigation Teams represent urban, semi-urban and rural regions of Scotland and have been looking at different elements within Climate Change.
The teams came from Balfron High School, Rathbone Training and Lochgilphead Joint Campus and all used film to communicate the impact of Climate Change on their local communities. I was astounded by the end product from all those involved and the creativeness used to portray their individual messages.

The afternoon took on another flavour and while the expert panel; Minister Stewart Stevenson, Fiona Page, Catriona Chalmers, Angus Duncan and Ian Williams gave critique the highlight for me was the roundtable discussions. There was mixed opinion between the groups. The discussions, I believe, even started to make the pessimists consider their own energy use The day ended with ‘Top 3 Action Points’ in relation to what they the teams could do to tackle Climate Change, and what barriers they might face in doing this.
The teams cast votes throughout the day sharing their opinion on Climate Change and the results alongside the Scottish Government survey will be available in August this year.

Grabbing the Ministers attention is only half the battle. If we truly want to meet our Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 then we need to align and unite all young people.
This YoungScot event stood testament to this. The event kept young people at the heart of the debate with young representation on the expert panel, young presenters and creatively capturing the top actions of the day by cartoon.
The messages were relevant and this simplicity opened up Climate Change to a wider young audience.

If you would like to know more about YoungScot please follow link to their website http://www.youngscot.org/
If you would like to know more about Graeme's wonderful cartoons http://www.ogilviedesign.co.uk

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Keeping The Lights On: How will Britain transform its electricity market?

This week members of the youth panel attended the official launch of DECC’s White Paper on Electricity Market Reform (EMR) and the Renewables Roadmap- the government’s strategy to transform the UK’s electricity market by 2020. Here’s what we found out:

Over the next few decades, our country faces MASSIVE challenges in supplying us with electricity how and when we need it. [Lest we forget, that the UK must meet its EU targets of producing 15% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020 AND reducing our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050]. So, we were pretty hopeful that this eagerly awaited document would clearly map out the road to low-carbon energy heaven!

Overall, EMR aims to revitalise the UK electricity market, by encouraging a wider range of investors to provide up to £200 billion for improvements by 2020. We desperately need this investment to: revamp our old power stations, build shiny new renewable energy centres and make sure our electricity is distributed across the country efficiently over the foreseeable future.

Not to mention, that the more £££ invested in the UK market, the lower electricity prices could eventually be for consumers.. sounds good to us! This could also lead to more competition between energy providers to see who will be in the ‘energy mix’, with low-carbon technologies - like onshore wind and Carbon Capture & Storage(CCS)- given more financial support, and a chance to thrive.

The government believes that they have created the best possible plan to bring about real progress whilst addressing some of the concerns that many people have over how exactly the changes will happen. Any changes to our electricity market must consider DEMAND for electricity (which will continue to rise in future), AFFORDABILITY for consumers and ENERGY SECURITY (ensuring adequate supplies of energy now and in future) and DECARBONISATION (using way less fossil fuels and way more low-carbon sources of energy).

Key features of EMR strategy will be:

  • The Carbon Price Floor: Setting a (higher) price on carbon, that will make investment in low-carbon technologies more cost effective and therefore increasing the incentive to invest in renewable energy now.

  • Feed in Tariffs with Contracts for Difference: Additional long-term, fixed level payments would be made to energy providers for selling their electricity, as long as it is sold at a reasonable price to consumers. This guarantees the energy provider a profit, but also keeps prices from spiralling. Consumers could receive payments back from the provider IF prices rise above the agreed level.

Other interesting points from the White Paper launch:

The Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) limits the amount of carbon dioxide that any fossil fuel plant can emit for each unit of energy they produce. This will be set at 450g CO2 per kWhr- unless the new plant is fitted with CCS technology, and this level will not be allowed to change in the future.

DECC officials suggested, that no new unabated coal power stations should be part of this strategy. However, the plan clearly shows the UK government is prepared to go it alone and will commit strongly to developing CCS (for coal and possibly gas power stations) as a big part of the transformation. By 2020, they could invest up to £1 billion in this technology, through projects across the UK. So, this means we will be living with coal-fired power in at least some shape or form, as a ‘transitional energy source’, according to the Secretary of State.

We were also delighted to hear from DECC that as part of the transformation, they will aim to make it easier for communities to take control of their energy supply – producing their own electricity, in their own way. Otherwise known as Microgeneration, this would potentially mean much smaller scale, community-owned electricity production in some areas.

Both Chris Huhne and Charles Hendry (Minister for Energy) seemed hopeful that lesser known low-carbon technologies such as Anaerobic Digestion, Bio-energy and Onshore Wind will also be able to play a much greater role in the energy mix, in the near future.

The minister also reaffirmed his commitment to TRAINING AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT in addition to the above measures. The UK obviously needs a whole new workforce or enthusiastic, highly skilled people to make the energy revolution happen..

Bring on the Green Jobs!

The youth panel will be looking further into all of these plans over the coming months, through our work with the CCS and Land Based Renewables teams in DECC..watch this space!