Nuclear power, off-setting, road pricing and sustainability costs were all high on speakers' agenda at Think 07

Plenty to ponder on at this week’s Think 07 event, held at London’ ExCeL exhibition centre. One felt a degree of consensus emerging among many of the speakers during the three days. Here’s a few themes on the issue of sustainability, which emerged as the central theme of the event, which I picked up:

There’s no silver bullet

This was said by former vice president Al Gore at his keynote address to delegates on Tuesday afternoon. Instead of one magic solution to reducing our collective carbon footprint there is “buckshot” ie many different solutions. Hence Gore’s wariness about nuclear power. The former US vice-president first raised safety and nuclear waste as issues and then added that even if we cracked those there were two further major stumbling blocks - security and the scale and cost of them. The first centres on countries that are bundling nuclear reactor plans with nuclear weapons, such as Iran. "If we made this an option of choice to put up thousands of them around the world, it would make the world much more dangerous."

Gore added that they were massively expensive and "only come in one size - extra large". They will have a limited role to play, Gore concluded. He was backed in this approach by architect Bill Dunster who forcefully called for the industry to build in the future based on a radically reduced need for energy from the national grid. Hence the need to go down the microgeneration route for housing rather than relying on central sources of energy.

No-no for offsetting

Influential developer Tom Bloxham was blunt in his assessment of carbon offsetting. "Carbon [offsetting] is absolute nonsense. It has nothing to do with sustainability," he said, and many speakers were in strong agreement. Labour MP Alan Simpson said offsetting was "the biggest scandal of our time" and Dunster called it “ridiculous”.

Desperate times

More radical measures to deal with climate change were put forward at the event. A call for road pricing came from an unexpected source, the chief executive of one of the UK’s biggest developer Land Securities.

Francis Salway said: “It will encourage people to use public transport to get to urban conurbations. It will probably push people towards centres where we already have an enormous investment [in property].” He added that “people currently enjoy the freedom of car ownership without paying the full price of the social consequences’.

And academic Dr Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, called for even more urgent action at a speech on Thursday. He backed the idea of carbon rationing and likened the situation now to that of 1939. When ration books were introduced, he said, there were no massive protests: people realised the situation demanded it and acted accordingly. Likewise, now, we should face up to the urgency of the situation and monitor our carbon use in detail.


More on the price of going green. A new study by CBRE Hamptons International on Wednesday claimed building environmentally friendly will cost an extra £20 per square foot, or a 12.5% premium.

The extra cost would go on CHP, a sky garden, natural ventilation and lighting and energy efficient appliances. Bill Dunster, in his masterclass on eco-design, stressed that while his measures to create Zed buildings were relatively expensive the long term gain would far outweigh the initial capital cost. A message that has been voiced consistently from many quarters but appears yet to have fully sunk in for the industry.For more in depth coverage on Think go to