It is difficult to find a facet of politics which does not relate, in some way, to energy issues. Conversely, most decisions relating to energy have a range of knock-on effects (many of them hard to predict and manage) on many aspects of social life. It is therefore understandable (without condoning such behaviour) that governments are reluctant to abandon control of this vital industry to regulators and competition authorities. It is also easy to understand the reticence of national governments to let Brussels build an Energy Union. Yet they would have much to gain from such an endeavour.

The 21st Conference of the Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2015, better known as COP 21, was held in Paris between 30 November and 12 December 2015. Forty thousand people participated in this diplomatic and media focused event, which culminated in a document being signed by 195 countries to remind us that the planet is getting warmer. So what?

Gillian Tett writes about the “silo effect” – what others have described as tunnel vision or a problem of fragmented worldviews – as though it were largely the product of an excess of specialization in advanced industrial societies.

The smoke rising from COP21 on 12 December 2015 was more grey than white. Habemus pactum! It's better than nothing, but the smoke above Paris still contains high particle counts and greenhouse gases.  

On Wednesday 4 November between 5 and 6 pm, our British neighbours had to solve a problem that risks being repeated in every country where the decarbonation of the economy is based on intermittent power generation sources: a poorly anticipated energy shortage, which was solved through a combination of firing up dormant thermal power plants and requesting certain customers reduce their electricity usage.  

The COP 21 summit needed to lead to an efficient, fair and credible agreement. Has it done so? As was aptly summarized by The Guardian, “by comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

The appointment of Luciana Berger as shadow minister for mental health in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, the first politician in the UK to hold such a portfolio, is a sign of how far mental health has come as a subject fit for public discussion and action rather than for purely private mis

Climate change kills. In 2005 the World Health Organisation estimated that climate change caused by human activity claims more than 150,000 lives annually. More recently, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor placed the death toll at around 400,000. Using the Value of Statistical Life proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, this represents a cost of more than $3 trillion. Independent of the source, inaction on climate change is expected to increase death and suffering.

On 26 November the French National Assembly has rejected proposed law 3146 "encouraging a reduction in CO2 production through the development of direct load control". This proposal is the latest instalment in a saga which began several years ago, intending to use public money (a tax on consumed electricity) to subsidise a non-profitable business activity carried out by private operators: residential demand response. Since this issue concerns other countries in Europe and North America, the discussion below is of interest to readers outside of the French borders.

Reducing carbon footprints will require fundamental changes in consumer, producer and government behaviour. Economists argue that consumers will adopt pro-environmental behaviour when doing so saves money, but they are less likely to undertake measures that are costly, do not satisfy their aims or require inconvenient lifestyle changes. But economic motives are only part of the story and psychological studies have shown there may be more complex mechanisms involved, sometimes with unexpected consequences.

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