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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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The G20 summit, the European heatwave and the lack of international progress on climate change

A heatwave spread across Europe this last week; thermometers soared past 40C as temperatures broke new records. Schools close to Paris were forced to close; Germany introduced speed restrictions on its autobahns; and a Spanish meteorologist tweeted a map of the country’s weather forecast with the caption: “Hell is coming.”

_european heatwave2019

Temperatures are also running high in the climate change debate ahead of the G20 meeting in Osaka. Japan is set to omit references to “global warming” and “decarbonisation” from a G20 communiqué in a bid to please the US. This comes just days after four central European states — Estonia, Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria — stopped the EU from committing to a 2050 net zero carbon emissions target last week.

G20summit2019

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is trying to prevent the publication of  the IPCC Report. Last week Republican senators in Oregon fled the state to block the passage of a landmark bill that would commit the state, like neighbouring California, to ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. School strikes by teenagers and direct action, such as that by Extinction Rebellion, who demand governments “tell the truth”, have become a regular occurrence in recent months.  Yet, international progress on fighting climate change is in danger of stalling.  Bold and decisive leadership is needed if temperatures are to be prevented from rising to catastrophic levels. Countries that depend on fossil fuels will ultimately face a choice between foot-dragging or being left behind by technological progress. Renewables are often beating traditional sources on cost as well as on carbon emissions. Blocking international agreements will not keep coal viable.

highlights-of-the-ipcc-fifth-assessment-report-1-638

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, is rightly making a stand. He has pledged to refuse to sign any G20 communiqué that leaves out a reference to the 2015 Paris agreement on combating climate change.

Bottom-up pressure seems to be working where top-down international conferences stumble. Green parties were big gainers in last months’ European Parliament elections. France and Britain are pushing ahead on their own with net zero targets; Bavaria, a German state not usually known for its radicalism, is going further than the national government to end the use of coal. In the US, city mayors and state governments are stepping in to compensate for the lack of federal government action. Britain, France and California are all relatively large economies but ultimately tackling climate change will depend on action by the largest emitters — China, the US, India and the EU.

This makes global co-operation essential, despite some countries blocking progress since the Paris accord. Governments will need to step up just to meet the Paris targets in coming years. It means being honest with companies, workers and taxpayers about the costs. Spain’s programme to phase out coal, which involved early retirement for miners and payments to coal-dependent regions, provides one model for a so-called “just transition” which spreads costs fairly. Frustrating international agreements can do nothing but delay the inevitable.

The reality of climate change will catch up with politicians. That may be in the form of angry voters on the streets, or of extreme weather that makes cities uninhabitable and crops fail. As fugitive Oregon senators and G20 leaders in Osaka will eventually find, running away is not an option.

See also:  https://on.ft.com/2KJQuB4



 


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Woman climate protester assaulted by Government minister

Most people will have seen the footage of a Greenpeace protester being punched, grabbed by the shoulders and neck and then frog-marched out of the room by an MP, Mark Field, who was attending a dinner at the Mansion House. If you haven’t seen it, here is the link:

https://u1584542.ct.sendgrid.net/mpss/c/AwE/ni0YAA/t.2ss/jm31GoJiS6-QQgU3J2vzJA/h18/VE2atosPJwyp5yA4oN-2FSarjpZD1CtBvw8rBP8BWEgE9rbhhqx9nV4EdwjNd2D1IYjeTZuCNcLAog6dG3N-2Fc9b-2By2Yqbtd3mCkLqyjVU8hMMqoyKj2TqbZo9m5iSMV0SzyUNd25-2BmxpMXxky-2B7fHKaH67MmhBHZDDaQbTvJovQdE0trMct7mVAk0XvvXVUq-2BY7WsxuDEE-2BJ9cOzuw3Cefh4lDQ2Iv01XLCqcq8lM6D6h0llEmKQ24IbdUPMWorFmWK3Zi5dNHqwGOs6IRiSZ-2FgZJTNPbPhcrmEbdoznVh2t39M38ViXl7S-2BPdYXlKj4RDklK7a3h8JdsC8Qq1xRiBY3of3WoMOirLLSrqi2lKuoE-3D

This all happened as a result of a group of climate activists wanting to inform the Chancellor, Philip Hammond and bankers and MPs attending the dinner, about how the current economy is acting to make climate change worse.  The Greenpeace activists, mainly women, had dressed up in red evening dresses to look as if they were attendees, thus getting through security.  It was a non-violent protest, as the protesters were only carrying leaflets to hand out.  The violent action of the Tory minister was in stark contrast to this.  Other guests just sat there without intervening or trying to stop Mark Field violently assaulting her.

mansion house

Mark Field MP grabbing the non-violent protester at the Mansion House event

As a result of an outcry, Mark Field has been suspended from his post. A piece in The Guardian tells the story from the woman’s point of view:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/21/greenpeace-activist-mark-field-needs-anger-management?link_id=19&can_id=ae8fb89f0e3f1a9dcfdb9ae6492433d2&source=email-newsletter-24-they-fought-like-non-violent-scotsmen&email_referrer=email_570442&email_subject=newsletter-24-they-fought-like-non-violent-scotsmen

According to this article, Janet Barker, the protester, thinks that Mark Field needs a course in anger management.

The other interesting (or shocking) factor in all of this is the way in which it has polarised opinion, many thinking that Field was within his rights to treat her so violently. And others, like me, being appalled at the unnecessary level of violence he used. These comments can be seen below the original clip (link above).  Do we have half a generation of people who justify violence against women?  Who justify expressing contempt towards those who have a different opinion to themselves?  To me, it looked like he punched her in the breast before grabbing her shoulders but others have not commented on that.

Are we to see more of this kind of thing as protests against climate change escalate, as they must do? A polarisation of opinion on climate change and the future of the planet, just like we have become polarised over Brexit?



 


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MPs announce Citizen’s Assembly on climate change

From the BBC’s website:

Six parliamentary committees have announced plans for a citizens’ assembly to discuss how the UK should tackle climate change.

It comes after the government committed earlier this month to cut greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050.

The assembly is likely to be set up in the autumn and will meet over several weekends before producing a report.

Energy Secretary Greg Clark welcomed the move, saying public engagement was “vitally important”.

The UK is the first major nation to propose the 2050 emissions target – and it has been widely praised by green groups.

But some say the phase-out is too late to protect the climate, whilst others fear that the task is impossible.


Response from Extinction Rebellion:

Image result for extinction rebellion logo download

Today, six select committees of the House of Commons have today announced plans to hold a Citizens’ Assembly on combating the climate emergency and achieving the pathway to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This is an important first step towards giving ordinary people a voice on the future of our world. We welcome this step – and on top of Parliament declaring a Climate and Environmental Emergency – things are beginning to move in the right direction.

Isn’t it amazing the power of peaceful non-violent protest?

However, we cannot pretend that this is a legitimate assembly with real or legislative power. If the judicial system can depend on juries, why can people not be trusted with policy? It is encouraging news but – let us be clear – politicians have not met our third demand today. There is a very long way to go. A half arsed attempt at a Citizens’ Assembly will doom the process and the results. Please do not make this mistake. The urgency we face needs a commensurate response, let’s work together and sort this.

Linda Doyle, from Extinction Rebellion, says: “It is encouraging to see that our third demand is now being taken seriously by Parliament. It is important that we recognise the voice of ordinary people and work towards a just transition for all – nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, there are many problems with this proposal. The suggested assembly does not have any legislative power and we are concerned its advice and conclusions will not be fully implemented.

“We are also extremely concerned by the framing of these assemblies. It is a tragedy that these assemblies are being asked to look at how to decarbonise by 2050, as opposed to determining the target date themselves, based on the latest science and expert opinion. Our demands call for a Citizens’ Assembly organised independent of government and we want to see an oversight body established to ensure that the government does not have any undue influence over the agenda, evidence, or the eventual conclusions.

“It would be a shame if the voices of ordinary people were only ever used cynically to legitimise the Government’s unambitious targets. Now is the time to think big.”

Extinction Rebellion UK’s demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.



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Scotland plants 22 million trees

In an article in The Independent, Phoebe Weston states that Scotland has planted 22 million trees to tackle the climate crisis, whilst England has not met its target, falling short by 7 million, or 3,000 hectares.

A total of 11,200 hectares of Scottish countryside were covered, according to Government statistics.  But in England just 1,420 hectares of woodland was planted, despite a target of 5,000 hectares being set, figures from the Forestry Commission suggest. This means it missed its annual target by seven million trees.

While the overall figures for the UK in the year to 31 March are up, that success is down to large increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Woodland Trust said.

The percentage of woodland cover in the UK remains at 13 per cent, with 10 per cent in England, 15 per cent in Wales, 19 per cent in Scotland and 8 per cent in Northern Ireland.

trees

The number of trees planted in Scotland now represents 84 per cent of the UK total. Increasing the number of trees being planted is part of the country’s efforts to tackle climate change, with a target of 15,000 hectares a year set to be in place from 2024-25.

After the latest figures were released, Abi Bunker, from the Woodland Trust, said: “The UK needs renewed ambition when it comes to tree planting and woodland expansion. The scale of what needs to be achieved to reach net zero targets is obvious; it will necessitate a three-fold increase on current levels.”

In the meantime, it has been announced on the Government’s website that Sir William Worsley has been reappointed to continue his drive to accelerate tree planting rates. The chair of the National Forest Company was tasked last year with setting a bold direction for the country’s forests and woodlands over the next 25 years.

Now Sir William is marking his reappointment with a call to land owners, farmers and foresters across the country to take up the mantle of tree planting by accessing the Government’s Woodland Creation Grant Scheme.

Through this fund, which is now open for applications all year round, planting grants of up to £6,800 are available to help landowners realise the benefits of expanding woodland cover.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tree-champion-reappointed-to-continue-tree-planting-push

A picture of Sir William Worsley leaning on a fence in a field.

Sir William Worsley



 


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More than 50 leading Australian restaurants have pledged to no longer serve unsustainable seafood

In an Australian first, chefs from more than 50 leading restaurants across Australia have pledged to no longer serve unsustainable seafood as part of the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s (AMCS) new GoodFish Project. All the restaurants have agreed not to source or serve seafood that is red-listed as “Say No” in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide.

BenShewry

Ben Shewry, world renowned Australian chef and owner of the 20th best restaurant in the world, Attica, has come on board as GoodFish Ambassador. Ben has been a long time supporter of AMCS having first started using Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide some 10 years ago to guide his work.

“As chefs we have a moral responsibility, we need to understand the ingredients that we are cooking with, and no more so than what comes from the oceans.

In my position as a chef, I have a big influence on what people eat and what other people cook because our restaurant is well known. If I don’t have what I would call a clean menu – if I don’t have best practice, the most sustainable menu I can have in terms of shellfish and seafood – then I am contributing to the problem.” – Ben Shewry

Introducing Ben Shewry - Ambassador of Good Fish Project

As a chef myself, my aim through the GoodFish Project is to bring together the strong voices of the food industry to protect our oceans. Chefs and restaurants are highly influential in what people choose to eat these days. We care deeply about the sustainability of the ingredients we use. By changing the way we work with seafood, using Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide as a tool, we can speak directly to Australians about the health of the oceans.

This is just the beginning. Later this year we will be launching an all new GoodFish website, making it easy for you to find sustainable seafood restaurants in your area. You can help by encouraging your local restaurant to join the project, and by using Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide to make better choices every day. Together, our actions can take sustainable seafood into the mainstream, creating sustainable fisheries around Australia and protecting the oceans around us.

By working together, we can change the way that Australians think about seafood and improve the health of the oceans.

Image result for Australia fish



 


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The Carbon Footprint of war II: US military emissions of greenhouse gases

There is a chapter in my book entitled “Conflict, conquest, weaponry, wars and the power of propaganda”, in which I describe and discuss the carbon footprint of war, as well as the reasons why people, and especially men, like to go to war. You should be able to find this chapter elsewhere on this website and it provides some interesting data.

This blog adds to the chapter and is from a piece I was sent by a colleague about U.S. military emissions since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001. It is from the Watson Institute, Brown University:

https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/ClimateChangeandCostofWar?link_id=3&can_id=be452c12d95993ec42d8044fab646eab&source=email-pentagon-pollution-since-2001&email_referrer=email_566179&email_subject=pentagon-pollution-since-2001

pollution_infographics-WEBSITE-revised-LARGE

Scientists and security analysts have warned for more than a decade that global warming is a potential national security concern.

They project that the consequences of global warming – rising seas, powerful storms, famine and diminished access to fresh water – may make regions of the world politically unstable and prompt mass migration and refugee crises.

Some worry that wars may follow.

Yet with few exceptions, the U.S. military’s significant contribution to climate change has received little attention. Although the Defense Department has significantly reduced its fossil fuel consumption since the early 2000s, it remains the world’s single largest consumer of oil – and as a result, one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.

Read more here.



Another piece, published in The Conversation, claims that the US military is a bigger polluter than as many as 140 countries.

https://theconversation.com/us-military-is-a-bigger-polluter-than-as-many-as-140-countries-shrinking-this-war-machine-is-a-must-119269

The article starts:

“The US military’s carbon bootprint is enormous. Like corporate supply chains, it relies upon an extensive global network of container ships, trucks and cargo planes to supply its operations with everything from bombs to humanitarian aid and hydrocarbon fuels. Our new study calculated the contribution of this vast infrastructure to climate change.

Greenhouse gas emission accounting usually focuses on how much energy and fuel civilians use. But recent work, including our own, shows that the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal………

It’s no coincidence that US military emissions tend to be overlooked in climate change studies. It’s very difficult to get consistent data from the Pentagon and across US government departments. In fact, the United States insisted on an exemption for reporting military emissions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This loophole was closed by the Paris Accord, but with the Trump administration due to withdraw from the accord in 2020, this gap will will return.”

USmilitary planes

US military planes

The full article can be read in The Conversation link posted above. The article concludes as follows:

“Our study shows that action on climate change demands shuttering vast sections of the military machine. There are few activities on Earth as environmentally catastrophic as waging war. Significant reductions to the Pentagon’s budget and shrinking its capacity to wage war would cause a huge drop in demand from the biggest consumer of liquid fuels in the world.

It does no good tinkering around the edges of the war machine’s environmental impact. The money spent procuring and distributing fuel across the US empire could instead be spent as a peace dividend, helping to fund a Green New Deal in whatever form it might take. There are no shortage of policy priorities that could use a funding bump. Any of these options would be better than fuelling one of the largest military forces in history.



And a report from NATO Watch:

The US military emits more greenhouse gases than Sweden, study finds

Sat, 06/29/2019 – 11:54

The United States produces more greenhouse gas emissions through its military operations than several individual European countries, a new study found.

According to the study published by Brown University in the United States, since the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks, the US military has emitted 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses. This includes 400 million tons of directly war-related emissions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. In 2017, the last year for which data is available, the Pentagon emitted 58.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

“If it were a country, it would’ve been the world’s 55th largest CO2 emitter — with emissions larger than Portugal, Sweden, or Denmark”, said the study’s author Professor Neta Crawford. “This makes the Pentagon the US Government’s largest fossil fuel consumer as it accounts for between 77% and 80% of all federal government energy consumption since 2001,” she said in an article.

Transporting troops and using weapons accounted for about 70% of the energy consumption, mostly due to the burning of jet and diesel fuel. The remaining 30% of its energy use is for physical installations, mostly for the electricity needed to power more than 560,000 buildings at about 500 sites around the globe.

China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, followed by the United States. Global temperatures are set to rise between 3-5C this century, the UN World Meteorological Organization said in November 2018. This projected rise far exceeds the global target of limiting the increase to 2C or less.

The security risks posed by global warming are well known, and the Pentagon has been evaluating the dangers it poses for nearly 20 years. In January 2019, the US military branded climate change “a national security issue” in a report to Congress and has launched multiple initiatives to prepare for its impact.

Crawford noted the Pentagon has reduced its fuel consumption significantly since 2009 by making its vehicles more efficient and using cleaner sources of energy in its bases. However, she said they could reduce them further by cutting fuel-heavy missions to the Persian Gulf to protect access to oil.

One of the long-standing stated goals of the United States military has been to keep the world oil supply stable. Ironically, this means that the US military is using huge amounts of oil, in part to make sure that the supply of oil remains secure. Professor Crawford argues that the United States has an important public policy decision to make: “Do we continue to orient our foreign policy and military force posture toward ensuring access to fossil fuels? Or do we dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels, including the military’s own dependency, and thus reduce the perceived need to preserve access to oil resources?”.

Crawford suggests that a reduction of fossil fuel use by the military would have “enormous positive implications for the climate”, save huge amounts of money, help prevent climate change-related threats, and reduce the need for US military forces to be in the Middle East.

Scientists for Global Responsibility has looked at this issue over the last four years and further details of the effects of the military on climate change can be seen at the following links:

https://www.sgr.org.uk/projects/climate-change-military-main-outputs

https://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/carbon-boot-print-military

These sites cover the following:

The carbon boot-print of the military
Stuart Parkinson; Movement for the Abolition of War conference; June 2019

Could climate change lead to a nuclear war?
Stuart Parkinson; CND conference, London; October 2017

UK military-industrial interests and climate change
Stuart Parkinson; People’s Climate Summit, Paris, France; December 2015

Nuclear weapons and climate catastrophe
Philip Webber; SGR conference, London; November 2015

Demilitarization for deep decarbonization
Tamara Lorincz; SGR conference, London; November 2015

Climate change and military conflict
Stuart Parkinson; Movement for the Abolition of War AGM; November 2008

Guns and global warming: war, peace and the environment
Stuart Parkinson; Network for Peace AGM, London; February 2007

Military spending hits record levels, while climate finance falls short
Stuart Parkinson; Laboratory News; June 2018

A climate of insecurity
Stuart Parkinson; Responsible Science blog; November 2015

Wind turbines and solar panels into nuclear weapons: the UK’s new industrial strategy?
Stuart Parkinson; The Ecologist; October 2015

Climate or military?
Stuart Parkinson; Laboratory News; April 2014

Nuclear weapons over wind turbines? UK R&D policies are warped
Stuart Parkinson; New Scientist; February 2014

War in Libya – the role of the arms and oil industries
Stuart Parkinson; SGR Newsletter; October 2011

Military R&D 85 times larger than renewable energy R&D
Stuart Parkinson; SGR Newsletter; winter 2008



The International Peace Bureau has also published an information paper by Jessica Fort and Phillipp Straub, entitled “The United States and European military’s impact on climate change”

http://www.ipb.org/yesterdays-news/ipb-information-paper-the-carbon-boot-print/

and also sent put a press release for the COP25 meeting in Madrid:

http://www.ipb.org/ipb-statements/press-release-cop25/

which calls on:

  1. COP25 to include the military in its climate action work and to adopt provisions covering military compliance. The COP25 must include military emissions in their calculations and the CO2 emissions laundering has to stop. It should also include a blueprint to reduce military emissions.
  2.  the State Parties to the Paris Agreement to adjust its provision to military emissions, not leaving decisions up to nation states as to which national sectors should make emissions cuts.
  3.  an inclusion of military greenhouse gas emissions into climate change regulations. Moreover, countries need to be obliged, without exemption, to cut military emissions and transparently report them.
  4.  more academic studies (in line with the study from Brown University report) and an IPCC or equal special report. The report needs to be a common project of academics and the civil society.


 


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Birmingham City Council declares a Climate Emergency

After much campaigning from environmental groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, Climate Action West Midlands, a cross-party motion was debated by the Council on June 11th 2019 and passed unanimously.

Coinciding with the debate was a demonstration outside the Council House, by various groups, including young people, and the presentation of a petition from Extinction Rebellion, which was signed by over 3,000 people, calling for the Council to:

  1. Debate the climate emergency motion at full council;
  2. Pledge to make the city of Birmingham carbon neutral by 2025;
  3. Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make this target achievable;
  4. Work with other local authorities on methods to limit Global Warming to less than 1.5°C;
  5. Work with partners across the West Midlands to deliver this goal;
  6. Report to Full Council within six months with the actions the Council will take to address this emergency.

Birmingham

This is a brief interview conducted outside the Council House by the BBC’s Regional programme Midlands Today:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/urz1aypui8cvd5o/2019-06-11%20BCC%20Climate%20Emergency%20Petition%20BBC%20Midlands%20Today%2013-30.mp4?dl=0

The knowledge about the imminent presentation of this petition triggered councillors into presenting their own cross-party motion for debate on 11th June.

The motion debated was as follows:

To consider the following Motion of which notice has been given.
Councillors Robert Alden, Roger Harmer, Julien Pritchard and Lisa Trickett as proposers and Councillors Jon Hunt, Suzanne Webb and Waseem Zaffar as seconders have given notice of the following Notice of Motion:-

“This Council notes that
• The Climate Crisis is an existential threat that requires us to change the way we invest in, grow and sustain our cities and regions.
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published in October 2018 set out the devastating consequences for the planet if it warmed more than 1.5C – with increased extreme weather with heatwaves and floods driving mass migration and global insecurity; the catastrophic social and ecological impacts worsening for
every degree of warming.
• The impact of climate change will not just be felt in far-away lands or coastal areas, the impact on Birmingham residents of increased extreme weather events, including flooding, droughts and heatwave is likely to be profound, with increasing risks to both life and property. Given our global footprint and the diversity of the city the climate crisis will hit at the heart of families and communities within the city.
• Given the planet is currently heading for 3-4C warming, keeping to 1.5C requires a radical shift across energy, land, industrial, urban and other systems to reduce emissions, unprecedented in history for the breadth, depth and speed of change required.
• All governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown and in recognising this local government should not wait for national government to change their polices. It is important for the residents of Birmingham, the Region and the UK that cities commit to zero carbon as quickly as possible.
• Birmingham and the West Midlands, as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and a global player in the development of green technology, is ideally placed –- and has a moral responsibility to lead a new Green
Industrial Revolution that delivers clean and inclusive growth.
• Birmingham City Council has already made progress in addressing the issue of Climate Change, having adopted a target to cut Carbon Dioxide emissions by 60% by 2027 from a 1990 baseline and has already cut emissions by 33% (as of 2015).
• Unfortunately, current plans and actions are not enough. Transition in time requires a system change that drives decarbonisation whilst delivering justice and jobs.

A group of young people demonstrating outside the Council House

After debating the motion, the Council resolved:
• To declare a climate emergency.
• To aspire for the City to be net zero carbon by 2030 or as soon after as a just transition permits – making sure we take communities with us, protecting employment and without impoverishing deprived communities.
• To work with the WMCA and seek from the UK Government the powers and resources to help Birmingham deliver the 2030 net zero carbon ambition for a just transition.
• That the Council will lead by example and seek to be net zero carbon by 2030 – again ensuring that this is just – taking communities with us, protecting employment and without impoverishing deprived communities.
• To constitute a Climate Emergency Task Force to support the Council move from declaration to delivery drawing in cross sector, expertise, capacity and capability to capture the investment and economic opportunity arising from a low carbon future.
• To quickly set in place a process of engagement and collaborative action that enables the Task Force to bring forward to Full Council in January 2020 a plan that sets out how the aspiration for the City and the ambition of the Council to be net zero carbon by 2030 can be best achieved.
• As a matter of urgency to review planned Transport, Housing, Waste and Energy Investment plans and policies to ensure they are fit to support a transition to a zero-carbon future with Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny monitoring progress and to provide an update to Council in November 2019 and annually thereafter.”



The Council motion had watered down some of XR’s demands, such as the target date for becoming Carbon Neutral – 2030, as opposed to 2025 – but this is a closer target than that being promoted by Parliament.  Another request from XR was to debate the issues in a Citizens’ Assembly.  Details of this can be found in XR’s Briefing paper, which was sent to every member of the Council in advance of the Council meeting.  Copies of this paper, which outlines what other local authorities are doing, can be provided on request – or downloaded from the shared drive mentioned below.


The 38 degrees website was used to collate most of the signatures to the petition.  Their summary of the Council response is:

On Tuesday 11th June Birmingham City Council declared a climate emergency!
All 83 councillors who turned up to the meeting (out of possible 101) voted for the motion. Extinction Rebellion were named as part of the debate and the young people involved in the school climate strike were referenced multiple times. Many councillors spoke and covered a range of topics including energy, transport, education, housing, waste, divestment of pension funds and investment and system change. The petition was submitted with over 3000 signatures.
This decision has placed the UK’s second largest city on the climate crisis map of those willing to take action. Thank you so much for your support so far! Now we must ensure that action happens! If you want to stay involved, here are a few of the local groups that will continue to support, monitor and put pressure on the council:
https://www.facebook.com/birminghamfoe/
https://www.facebook.com/extinctionrebellionbirmingham/
https://www.facebook.com/CANWM/
https://www.facebook.com/bhamyouthstrike4climate/
https://www.facebook.com/ecobirmingham/
https://www.facebook.com/FootstepsBCF/

Please do reply to this email if you have any questions! And thank you once again for taking part in this campaign!

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/birmingham-city-council-declare-a-climate-emergency-and-take-action-1



Subsequent to this motion being passed by the Council, information has been received that it is setting up a Task Force, meeting for the first time on October 17th 2019. Various groups have been invited to send representatives onto the Task Force.  Unfortunately, Extinction Rebellion is not one of them, though some XR members will represented on other groups, such as Climate Action West Midlands, Footsteps, Green Coalition, Client Earth.  Friends of the Earth is another organisation not invited onto the Task Force.

See: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/news/article/472/birmingham_climate_taskforce_announced

A small group of Birmingham citizens from some of the above organisations has been meeting regularly in workshop format to prepare material to submit to the Task Force.  It includes information/recommendations collated from a whole range of documents, which can be found on a shared drive at:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1JN_bwrzV47StsjBtYYxg_B-oIKqvOUNJ

As this work progresses, further information will be shared on this site.


 


 


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NATO decides that biggest long-term future threat is climate change

This report has been copied from Czech Radio website:

“Diplomats, military officers and experts gathered at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May, to discuss energy security and future challenges facing the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. While discussing what the alliance may be up against 70 years from now, some argued that the impacts of climate change are likely to be the main threat.

Experts agreed that forecasting anything as far in the future as 70 years is prone to be inaccurate, with some panellists joking that whatever mistakes they may make, they will not be around to see.

But some of the threats looming ahead appear to be unavoidable and need to be addressed. Among those issues stressed were the inherent challenges resulting from increased global interconnectedness and the importance of strategic communications in securing domestic support for the alliance from audiences often bombarded by disinformation campaigns.

Others highlighted the impact that strategic decisions, such as how to deal with the rise of China, will have on the future of the alliance.

However, when it comes to long-term prognoses, one of the most interesting insights was brought up by Elisabeth Braw, the Director of the Modern Deterrence programme at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

braw_elisabeth

She said that, rather than conventionally understood threats to NATO coming from state actors or even shifts in domestic politics, the onset of climate change may become the alliance’s main security concern in the future.

China may be as challenging as it is now, but the climate will definitely change and lead to conflicts that we will have to address. Food production will go down, there will be conflicts over water and that is something that may seem very futuristic today, but we are already seeing the effects of climate change even if it is not very challenging yet.

“You can imagine for a defence alliance when those issues become overwhelming not just for our countries, but for other countries as well, it will lead to large migration streams and so forth. This is something that is unlikely to happen next year or in ten years’ time, but in 70 years it is very likely.”

But how do you address an enemy as unconventional as climate change?

Mrs. Braw says some answers can be found in using parallels to hybrid threats.

These are challenging today because of their multi-faceted and often indirect attacks, whether it is internet crashes, power outages or the destabilisation of civil society.

However, she believes they can be lessened partly through preparing civil society for such events arguing that it does not really matter what the security challenge is, because the effect is the same – disruption of daily life.

“So at the level of societal resilience it does not really matter what the challenge or threat is. What we need to do is the same, we need to work together so that our society keeps functioning even when there is a very severe stress on it.”

Improving civilian preparedness for hybrid threats may seem like a sensible strategy, but is there sufficient public consent for such initiatives?

Elisabeth Braw believes there could be. She pointed to a recent survey made in Sweden, which showed that while only 55 percent of those asked would fight for their country, 84 percent answered that they would be willing to participate in a non-combat role with no threat to their life.”



 


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Devinder Sharma writes about droughts in India

This is taken from a piece written by Devinder for Ground Reality on 13th June 2019:

Drought getting more pronounced in India, while cities in drought affected regions remain like an oasis.

The struggle for getting water
pic courtesy Livemint
As drought looms large in many parts of the country, more than 50,000 farmers from Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra have moved to nearly 500 makeshift cattle camps that the district administrated has built across eight talukas. “This has been our home since March this year. Problems galore at these cattle camps but we have little choice,” Dagru, a farmer told the media. They cook their meals at the camp and during the day go out looking for job.
At present, there are 1,501 cattle camps across Maharashtra.
As parts of Maharashtra faces its worst drought since 1972, another news report warns of fodder supplies running out for an estimated 10 lakh cattle housed in these camps. While the state government is thinking of setting up more cattle camps, this time for sheep and goats as well, I shudder to think how the farming families are surviving in these cattle camps. And yet I marvel the sensitivity and compassion some well know economic writers have demonstrated by saying there is no visible farm crisis !
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devender Fadnavis has allocated Rs 1,300-crore for these cattle camps. With the prices of cattle feed soaring, the government has raised the daily allowance for cattle contractors to Rs 100 per cattle per day and Rs 50 for each calf. The cattle are milked twice daily, but over the weeks the milk yield is coming down. Obviously, with the fodder supplies getting scarce in a worsening drought situation is beginning to take its toll. Water is supplied regularly by tankers.
Writing in The Wire, journalist Sukanya Shantha brings out the pain and agony that hapless families, including women who carry their children along, are undergoing: “What can we do, anyway? We would also like for our children to continue going to school but there is no one to feed them in the village right now,” Lalitabai Jhimmal was quoted. Her three children, in Classes VII, V and III, have been squatting at the camp along with her, intermittently attending their school. “There is no water in the village. Here, at least, we have water to drink,” says the eldest one.
With the houses locked, many nearby villages have become empty as the villagers have moved along with their cattle to the cattle camps. This is despite the fact Maharashtra had vowed to become drought free by 2019.  Instead, with 72 per cent Maharashtra hit by drought, and approximately 43.4 per cent of the country reeling under drought, an estimated 600 million people have been hit hard by an acute water crisis in the country. As crop land become parched, most of the land lying fallow, crops wither and fail, the soaring temperature has made life difficult in the drought-affected villages.
But the biggest tragedy is the appalling disconnect that such a devastating drought has with the city dwellers. People living in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, which has 500 cattle camps in the district, are by and large oblivious of the severity of the drought only a few kilometres outside the city premises. Life goes on as usual, as if everything is normal in the rest of the district. Not only in Ahmednagar, every time I go to Bangalore I have never even remotely felt that people in the city even realise that Karnataka too has been reeling under a severe drought. In 2017, a severe drought prevailed, and as many as 139 of the 176 taluks were declared drought hit. And this year too, nearly 82 per cent of Karnataka is reeling under a drought. But go to Bangalore, you will not even get a hint of a terrible human suffering that continues to be inflicted year after year. Karnataka has suffered drought for 12 out of the past 18 years. But life in Bangalore has never been affected.
Such is the disconnect that life in any mega city does not even give an inkling of a severe drought prevailing just 10 kms away. I find it too strange. After all, have you ever pondered why is it that while drought hits the region as a whole it is only people living in the villages who bear the brunt? Why is that drought rarely, if at all, strikes the cities and towns? For instance, I travel to Bangalore very often, at least four times a year, and never have I returned with a feel of an acute water-stress that the people are faced with.
But how long will the cities continue to be like an oasis in an otherwise dry and parched landscape? That’s a big question. But a recent report by Niti Aayog warns that 21 cities – including the four metropolis Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi — will run out of ground water by 2020, just a year away. Since ground water provides for 40 per cent of the water needs, about 100 million people are expected to be hit. I am not sure whether water availability will be down to a trickle in these cities, but for sure the emphasis will shift to farmers advising them not to waste water.
Farmers have always been a soft target. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire blame shifts to farmers. In Punjab, free power and water guzzling crop like paddy have always been the target. They are now being advised to go in for drip irrigation for which the government is being asked to provide 80 per cent subsidy. But a fact no one wants to acknowledge is that the consumption of water in the cities is no less a culprit. At a price of about 4 paise a kg, water supply is almost free for the urban consumers. While the farmers are being asked to go in for drip irrigation to reduce water wastage when was the last time you heard urban consumers being asked to do away with showers in their bathroom?

Every time someone uses the shower for about eight minutes roughly 65 litres of water goes down the drain. A typical bathtub, of the size 30 inches wide and 60 inches long, can contain 300 litres of water. If a luxury hotel has on an average 100 rooms, imagine 30,000 litres of water being drained simply for bathing every day. This is not fair. We can’t force the poor farmers alone to make sacrifices while we allow the rich to bathe in luxury.

 



And another piece in The Tribune by Devinder Sharma:

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/india-is-drying-up-fast/789376.html

India is drying up, fast

Devinder Sharma

Devinder Sharma, Food and Agriculture Specialist

Traditional water bodies and harvesting systems need urgent revival

“Congratulations to all… we have achieved 50 degree temperature this year. Let’s cut more trees to achieve 60 degrees the next year,’ a sarcastic tweet the other day came as a jolt. It was, however, hard to tell whether the quiet sarcasm was lost on a majority of the readers who are following Twitter or had made more and more people sit up and think.

Whatever had been the impact, the fact remains that while 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record in the past 140 years since the world began to keep a track on temperatures, NASA expects 2019 to be still hotter. The heat is therefore on. In India, a 22 per cent deficit has been recorded in pre-monsoon showers in the months of March, April and May — the second lowest in the past 65 years — and with monsoons delayed by a fortnight or so, daily temperatures have been sizzling. Churu in Rajasthan has already crossed 50°C thrice this season, and even Delhi burnt at an all-time high of 48°C.

With nearly 43 per cent of the country engulfed in a drought, an estimated 600 million people are reeling under its fury. With temperatures soaring, water sources going dry, parched lands staring as far as one can see, ‘hundreds of villages have been evacuated as historic drought forces families to abandon their homes in search of water’, reports The Guardian. In Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, such is the wrath of a continuing drought that over 50,000 farmers have shifted to 500 camps meant for cattle. There are 1,501 cattle camps in Maharashtra, where 72 per cent of the area is faced with a drought. Reports say village after village around the capital city of Mumbai has been deserted. More than 88 per cent of Karnataka is somehow surviving under a severe drought. With 156 of the 176 talukas declared drought hit, Karnataka has faced 12 years of drought in the past 18 years. 

Karnataka’s economic survey for 2018-19 projects a growth rate of minus 4.8 per cent in agriculture.  Therefore, while drought has taken a heavy toll on standing crops and also crippled the farming-led economic activity, not only in Karnataka, but also in nearly half the country, adequate attention is finally coming to the declining groundwater levels. With the conundrums of water conflicts between states, between communities within a state, and as well as individuals standing in queues increasing over the years, policy makers are now realising the importance of conservation. Already the alarm has been raised with a recent report by Niti Aayog warning that 21 cities — including the four metropolises — Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi — will run out of groundwater by 2020. Since groundwater provides for 40 per cent of the water needs, about 600 million people may be hit.
 

But the problem of groundwater depletion is not only confined to the cities. In fact, it is because of the unbridled exploitation of groundwater that even a short dry spell turns into a more destructive drought. At most places across the country the rate of depletion exceeds 0.5 metre a year and often touches 1 metre. Add to it the reduced availability of water from shrinking rivers; the resulting water crisis has reached worrying levels. Reports say the water availability from the mighty Narmada has declined, from 30.84 million-acre ft in 2007-18 to 14.80 million-acre ft in 2017-18. The Ministry of Water Resources estimates water levels in 91 reservoirs falling to 18 per cent of their capacity. Moreover, water from numerous dams is being diverted from agriculture to meet the needs of the urban areas, including drinking water. This has added to farmer protests, leading to rural-urban conflicts.  

Over the years, the emphasis shifted from water conservation, water harvesting and groundwater recharge. Revival of traditional water bodies, which could have played a major role in drought-proofing, received lip service. Restoration of ponds and measures for recharging groundwater remained incomplete, abandoned or preceded at a slow pace. There still exist close to 2 lakh traditional water bodies, ponds and tanks across the country which need to be revived. In Punjab, where 110 of the 138 blocks are in the ‘dark zone’ (over exploited), the revival of the 15,000 ponds and traditional water bodies could not only help in recharging groundwater, but also providing irrigation. So far, only 54 such ponds have been rejuvenated. Strangely, even in Rajasthan, instead of reviving the excellent water conservation structures perfected over the ages, the emphasis is on drip irrigation. Not even a drop of rainwater was allowed to go waste in these baoris. In Karnataka, an estimated 39,000 traditional ponds and tanks existed. While nearly three-quarters of them have dried up, encroached upon or turned into sewage dumps, there is still a sizeable number that can be revived. Meanwhile, Karnataka has launched a jalamrutha scheme under which the traditional water bodies would be rejuvenated. But the pace needs to be hastened.

Although Karnataka is trying to preserve the kalyanis, and Odisha has the kutta and munda water systems, the traditional wisdom association with water harvesting has been more or less lost. Several years back, travelling to Texas A&M University, I was surprised to see the traditional water harvesting structures of Tamil Nadu being followed. The Centre for Science and Environment had published a book, Dying Wisdom, listing all traditional harvesting systems.

In the age of borewells, the emphasis has to revert to traditional harvesting. Recharging the depleting groundwater in a sustainable manner is urgently required. But this cannot be in isolation. Destroying forests, water bodies, catchment areas in the name of development must cease. Otherwise, crossing the Rubicon may turn out to be catastrophic.”



 


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Is the CCC’s UK target of net zero emissions by 2050 not ambitious enough?

Six months on from the UN’s landmark 1.5°C report, which urged immediate global action to prevent global warming from rising beyond this dangerous level, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised the UK government to go zero-carbon by 2050. The committee’s report asserts that the target constitutes the country’s “highest possible ambition” and that it is not credible to aim for an earlier date.

net-zero-cover-advice

The report of the CCC came at a time when Parliament had voted for a climate emergency to be declared and when the streets were filled with protesters from Youth Strike 4 Climate and Extinction Rebellion.

It was, rightly, seen as a step forward, showing how much more ambitious the UK needed to be if it was to act in accordance with the 1.5 degree climate target (of warming above pre-industrial temperatures).

But, was it enough? Buried in the report were a number of assumptions which others have pointed out, which mean that the CCC report is not all it that it seems. It was, says the critique, far too optimistic on negative emissions technologies and in other ways, and still hiding the truth about necessary change, and the speed and scale of emissions reductions.  See:

https://theconversation.com/new-net-zero-emissions-target-wont-end-uks-contribution-to-global-warming-heres-why-116386

The view of the authors of the article in The Conversation (cited above) is that creative carbon accounting and an unwillingness to prioritise the planet’s health over economic growth leaves the committee’s target lacking the urgency truly required to combat the climate emergency recently declared by even the government itself.

The authors believe that it is important to be sure of how the CCC defines net zero.  If it is based on the UN IPCC’s guidance, the target will include only those carbon emissions which are emitted within the UK’s borders. Using this definition, it would appear that the UK’s carbon emissions have fallen by 30% since 2008. But, as Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg highlighted to parliament, using this figure as a mark of the country’s climate leadership amounts to nothing more than creative carbon accounting, glossing over the UK’s role in emissions that occur outside its borders.

The UK’s imports are three times greater than its exports. the high level of the UK’s imports is a direct consequence of the UK’s consumption habits.  But the production and transport of these goods and their related carbon emissions were not counted by the committee because they occur outside our shores.  If they were to be counted, the UK’s carbon footprint is 70% higher than the figure used by the CCC in its report.

Also, emissions from international aviation and shipping have long been excluded from the UK’s national targets in favour of international reduction efforts, though the committee is arguing that they cannot be ignored any longer. However, it only recommends their inclusion in the UK’s carbon budget from 2033. The authors of The Conversation article believe that UK aviation emissions must not grow in the next decade if it is to prevent the worst effects of global warming and they state:

“The time to act on aviation and shipping is now.”

heathrow

They believe that the 2050 target is unambitious and gives a false impression that there is plenty of time to play with. To say that anything earlier than a 2050 target isn’t credible is a grave and dangerous mistake. At current levels of emissions, the world will reach 1.5°C of warming in 12 years. Each year that the UK delays radical action, the necessary yearly emissions cuts to hit net zero become greater, making it ever harder to avoid catastrophic warming. Even with immediate action, the world is still pinning hopes on carbon capture and storage technologies that may never work at scale. Working towards an earlier target with steeper emissions cuts would require initial uncomfortable changes, but would massively lower our reliance on  uncertain technologies.



Another report, covered in the Financial Times, suggests that a government agency, UK Export Finance, has been undermining emissions targets by handing out billions in support of foreign fossil fuel projects.

https://www.ft.com/content/4550d04c-8951-11e9-a028-86cea8523dc2

The Public Finance Committee has been especially critical of a decision to support the UK subsidiary of Enka, a Turkish group that had no physical presence in the UK, but had promised to open a procurement office in Birmingham to ensure that its Iraqi projects would have enough UK content to meet UKEF’s criteria for support.

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/06/ministerial-agency-damaging-climate-change-efforts