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Project names ‘breakthrough ideas’ for UK

gardenLocally grown food, growing algae for carbon capture and “pay-as-you-save” measures are among 19 “breakthrough ideas” that could transform the UK into a sustainable society, according to a new project launched today by the Sustainable Development Commission.

“Progress on sustainable development, at the national level, has been slow,” said Jonathon Porritt, chair of the SDC. “Yet all over the country, there are people taking action to make their own communities more sustainable, driving forward technological innovations, and pushing the policy agenda with really big ideas.”

The SDC’s “Breakthroughs for the 21st Century” project sets out to identify the ideas which could make the biggest impact on Britain’s efforts to tackle climate change, resource depletion and inequality. Almost 300 ideas were submitted by the public, businesses, academics, and sustainability professionals, of which 19 were selected by SDC Commissioners as potential breakthroughs.

Those ideas are being showcased at a conference today hosted by Anna Ford, Jonathan Dimbleby and Rosie Boycott, with a special visit by HRH the Prince of Wales.

Among the potential breakthroughs are:

  • Incredible Edible Communities — a project pioneered in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, to increase the amount of local food grown and eaten within the community;
  • The Royal Bank of Sustainability — Transforming the bank most closely associated with the oil and gas industry — now publicly owned — into one which invest in projects to halt the effects of climate change;
  • Algae and carbon capture — using fast-growing algae to absorb the CO2 given off by the industrial burning of fossil fuels;
  • Outdoor experiences for all children in the UK — reversing the trend of children growing up with no access to the natural environment, to increase their health, confidence and well-being, and their understanding of the relationship between their choices and the world around them;
  • Making cycling mainstream — Making the bike the normal choice for journeys of up to five miles;
  • Cap and Share — Suppliers of fossil fuels to buy permits for their greenhouse gas emissions before selling the fuel, with the proceeds shared between all citizens, who have the choice of whether or not to sell their permits;
  • Mobilising collective action — scaling up the active networks and organisations for change blossoming around the UK, including the Transition Towns network, Green Voice, and South London’s Project Dirt; and
  • From “Pre-Pay” to “Pay-As-You-Save” — Financing home energy efficiency measures through an innovative system where householders pay for improvements through consequent energy savings.

“Some of the Breakthrough ideas we’ve selected represent cutting-edge innovation and imagination; others are familiar but powerful ideas whose time has come,” Porritt said. “We wanted to celebrate the hard work behind these ideas, and start a bigger conversation about how the UK can best take these — and a host of other great ideas — forward. We’ve been talking about it for long enough. What we’ve got to do now is make it happen.”

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