threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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New Extinction Rebellion actions largely ignored by the BBC News

This week has been a long-planned Autumn series of demonstrations by XR across the country. Yet the BBC news has chosen to largely ignore the protests, focusing instead on yet more coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The following link, I hope, will take you to photographic evidence of the demos:

https://show.pics.io/xr-uk-press-photo-selections/

Actions against HS2 have also been ignored. Yet many arrests of peaceful demonstrators have taken place.

At Lambeth Bridge we saw the most shocking scenes of this Rebellion so far. During a critical mass bike ride, a swarm of police vans rushed in and kettled over 200 peaceful protestors. The Met held rebels in the rain for hours, searched and arrested everyone (including bystanders, independent legal observers and welfare rebels) and confiscated hundreds of bikes.

The following photographs give an idea of the extent of the demonstrations.

Peaceful demonstration of cyclists
Demonstrators outside the House of Lords
Arrests in Cardiff
Lambeth Bridge, London

Since I first uploaded this post, there has been another BBC News broadcast. This featured Boris Johnson visiting one of the HS2 building sites and stating very strongly how good and important it is for our country to have the HS2 hi-speed rail link. Later in the broadcast there was a very short clip of some anti-HS2 campaigners demonstrating against HS2. This was hardly balanced recording. Nothing was shown of the destruction of ancient woodlands to make way for the rail line, nor the other devastation already occurring on the route, nor was there any mention of the 100s of protesters who were arrested for peacefully demonstrating against HS2. And the ultimate cost per taxpayer head for the hi-speed train was not mentioned. All this at a time when the economy needs to recover after the Covid-19 crisis.

One XR action which did receive a lot of coverage was their blockade of the printing companies who print most of the right wing press, including newspapers controlled by Rupert Murdoch. One of their posters read “5 Crooks Control our News”. This action meant that newspapers, like The Sun and the Daily Mail could not be issued on time.

This action incensed the current government, most of all the Home Secretary, who claimed angrily that XR were terrorists and that the action was preventing freedom of speech. Did she mean “freedom to tell lies”? The message about the media controlling our news (and printing lies, especially at election time) was ignored.


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Sustainable cement: the simple switch that could massively cut global carbon emissions

From:

https://theconversation.com/sustainable-cement-the-simple-switch-that-could-massively-cut-global-carbon-emissions-144837

cement

At the dawn of the industrial revolution approximately 200 years ago, the carbon footprint of humanity was close to zero. Today, humanity’s carbon footprint is more than half of our overall ecological footprint, resulting in humans using far more resources than could be renewed each year – equivalent to the renewable resources of 1.6 Earths.

Decarbonising industry and the economy is essential to improve the balance between our ecological footprint and the planet’s renewable resources. This would provide the best possible chance for humanity to mitigate the effects of climate change. Consequently, we need to rethink the way we build our cities. And to do this, we need to talk about cement.

Cement, the “glue” in concrete, is the durable, waterproof and ubiquitous material upon which modern civilisation is built. Concrete is second only to water in terms of commodity use, and the world produces more than 10 billion tonnes of it each year.

Recent reports have indicated that since the introduction of Portland cement around 200 years ago, our built environment is now outgrowing the natural environment that has existed for millions of years. This is driven primarily by rapid urbanisation. By 2050, 80% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities.

Cement production alone (excluding other aspects of construction) accounts for around 8% of global CO₂ emissions, about half of which results from chemical reactions inherent in the production process. As other industries such as energy and agriculture reduce their share of emissions, cement production may account for nearly a quarter of all human-driven CO₂ emissions by 2050.

Shifting completely to sustainable cement could, depending on technology used, save between 1.72 and 2.75 billion tonnes of CO₂ emissions annually, moving Earth Overshoot Day back by approximately ten days. These are savings that could be achieved today. By 2050, the savings could reach between 7.25 and 11.60 billion tonnes of CO₂ emissions annually, moving Earth Overshoot Day back by approximately 40 days.

This reduction in carbon footprint can be achieved solely by changing the type of cement we use to build cities and infrastructure. Further savings are achievable with more efficient design and the use of sustainable cements with enhanced performance, so that less cement (and hence less carbon) is required to achieve the same outcome.

Making cement more sustainable

Many low-CO₂ cements have emerged as attractive, more sustainable alternatives to traditional Portland cement. Portland cement is produced by heating a mixture of limestone and other minerals to around 1,450°C, a process that results in chemical reactions that release large amounts of CO₂.

But other materials are also widely used in concrete, including those largely generated from industrial waste or by-products such as coal fly ash, blast furnace slag, calcined clays, finely ground limestone or silica fume. They are used either by blending with traditional cement, or as a binder (or “glue”) themselves, without any Portland cement.

Importantly, the way these materials are produced results in far lower CO₂ emissions than Portland cement. This can reduce CO₂ emissions by between 50% and 80%, depending on the technology used.

Using these materials in cement provides enhanced strength and durability, and also improves sustainability by reducing associated CO₂ emissions and recycling industrial wastes. Many of these cements have been highlighted in the United Nations Environment Programme 2016 report as having greatest potential for cement-related CO₂ emissions reduction.

Despite the extensive environmental and technical benefits achievable, the construction industry has been slow to take up sustainable cement technologies, which have instead been focused primarily in smaller niche markets. This has limited the industry’s ability to decarbonise.

One thing has become increasingly clear in recent years. If we are to mitigate the existential crisis in which we find ourselves, action must be taken now. The Paris Agreement commits world leaders to respond to the threat of climate change by keeping the global average temperature rise to below 2°C, and aiming for 1.5°C.

To achieve this, it is essential that we revolutionise the way in which we build our cities, shifting to sustainable cement technologies that reuse industrial wastes and drive a circular economy. The solutions are within reach. And our future depends on it.


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WEF: The World’s Greatest Threat is not the Coronavirus

The World Economic Forum, on it’s web page has made the announcement in the title of this post.  They say that true sustainability will only be achieved through drastic lifestyle changes.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/affluence-bigger-threat-than-coronavirus-scientists-capitalism

The article is headed by a massive photograph of landfill rubbish and goes on to state the following:

  • Affluence is the biggest threat to our world, according to a new scientific report.
  • True sustainability will only be achieved through drastic lifestyle changes, it argues.
  • The World Economic Forum has called for a great reset of capitalism in the wake of the pandemic.

A detailed analysis of environmental research has revealed the greatest threat to the world: affluence.

 

That’s one of the main conclusions of a team of scientists from Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, who have warned that tackling overconsumption has to become a priority. Their report, titled Scientists’ Warning on Affluence, explains that true sustainability calls for significant lifestyle changes, rather than hoping that more efficient use of resources will be enough.

 

This assertion is taken from an article published in Nature Communications 11, Article 3107 (2020), the Abstract of which is as follows:

For over half a century, worldwide growth in affluence has continuously increased resource use and pollutant emissions far more rapidly than these have been reduced through better technology. The affluent citizens of the world are responsible for most environmental impacts and are central to any future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions. We summarise the evidence and present possible solution approaches. Any transition towards sustainability can only be effective if far-reaching lifestyle changes complement technological advancements. However, existing societies, economies and cultures incite consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change.

The reference for the article is:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-16941-y#Fig2

and it is published by Thomas Wiedmann, Thomas Lenzen, Lorenz T. Keysser and Julia Steinbergen,

The figure below is taken from the article and is entitled “The Safe and Just Space for Humanity” and is reproduced on the WEF website.

 

Fig. 2




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Net Zero: CCC recommendations on how to achieve it

The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the government’s statutory advisor, published its progress report at the end of June.

CCC

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/25/road-to-net-zero-what-the-committee-on-climate-change-recommends

According to the report, a number of areas need urgent attention, if the government is to reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  These are:

  • Energy Efficiency – insulating Britain’s homes;
  • Domestic Heating – looking at low carbon alternatives;
  • Electric Vehicles –  the CCC suggests that a complete switch to electric vehicles can be achieved by 2032, earlier than the government’s target of 2035, though car manufacturuers are opposing this;
  • Carbon Tax – this would not hit consumers but could raise £15 billion a year, according to the CCC;
  • Agriculture and Land Use – such as tree planting and nature-friendly farming, which could change agriculture from a major source of emissions to a net absorber;
  • Reskilling and Retraining Programmes – a new workforce will be required to install low-carbon boilers, home insulation and offshore wind farms;
  • Behavioural Changes in Lockdown – showed that many people can work from home, reducing emissions from transport emissions. A new infrastructure to encourage people to cycle or walk to work needs developing;
  • Targeted Science and Innovation Funding – for the development of low-carbon technologies;
  • Adaptations to the Effects of the Climate Crisis – flood defences, protecting homes from hotter summers etc.


 


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How the aviation sector should be reformed following the Covid-19 crisis

This article by Professor John Whitelegg is taken from the website of Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR).

aviation

The aviation sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. But its huge environmental impacts mean we should take the opportunity to carry out major reforms, argues Prof John Whitelegg, Liverpool John Moores University, in the second of two blogs on transport issues.

Responsible Science blog (fifth in the Covid-19 series), 29 June 2020

Fuelling climate change

There has been very little sign that the aviation sector will deliver a proportionate contribution to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that is required if the UK is to achieve its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government’s own advisors – the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – summarised the situation this way last year:

“Aviation emissions in the UK have more than doubled since 1990, while emissions for the economy as a whole have fallen by around 40%. Achieving aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels in 2050 will require contributions from all parts of the aviation sector, including from new technologies and aircraft design, improved air space management, airlines operation, and use of sustainable fuels. It will also require steps to limit growth in demand. In the absence of a zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term.” [1]

Aviation internationally has been on a strong growth trajectory supported by national governments and large subsidies. For example, a 2007 study estimated that total transport subsidies within EU countries amounted to 270-295 billion euros per year. Of this total, road transport accounted for 125 billion euros, but support for aviation totalled 27-35 billion euros. [2]

Emissions from international aviation (like shipping) are not included within UK carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act. Flying is exempt from fuel duty and VAT on tickets. The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) estimates that if the aviation sector paid the same level of duty and VAT on its fuel as motorists currently do on theirs, tax revenue would increase to over £11 billion a year compared to the £3.8 billion that Air Passenger Duty raises today. [3]

The special treatment of aviation has recently received another boost. In response to the huge decline in flying as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, government-backed loans in the UK have been extended with no environmental or climate change conditions to British Airways (£300 million), EasyJet (£600 million) and Ryanair (£630 million). [3]

The CCC confirms the failure of aviation to play a full part in delivering Britain’s climate targets: “we still expect the sector to emit more than any other in 2050.” [4]

Meanwhile, the European Union has published its findings on the implications for carbon emissions of the dominant growth ideology in the aviation sector. [5] Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, global annual international aviation emissions in 2020 were on course to be around 70% higher than in 2005. Especially disturbing were forecasts that, in the absence of additional measures, these emissions could grow by a further 300% by 2050.

Other environmental pollution

Aviation is also a significant contributor to air pollution and noise pollution.

Recent research suggests that, globally, aviation emissions could cause 16,000 premature deaths per year because of exposure to particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5). Of these, 3,700 premature deaths are estimated to occur in Europe. [6]

Noise exposure is associated with issues such as sleep disturbance, annoyance, nervousness and increased blood pressure, as well as with clinical symptoms such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cognitive impairment in children. A 10-20% higher risk of stroke, heart and circulatory disease in the areas most exposed to aircraft noise was identified through a survey of 3.6 million residents living near Heathrow Airport. [6]

Changing direction

The Covid-19 crisis – which, at its peak, led to a drop in international flights by 80% across the world [7] – is pushing many people to reconsider their flying habits. This is potentially very significant. Back in 1995, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution concluded:

“An unquestioning attitude towards future growth in air travel, and an acceptance that the projected demand for additional facilities and services must be met, are incompatible with the aim of sustainable development, just as acceptance that there will be a continuing growth in demand for energy would be incompatible….the demand for air transport might not be growing at the present rate if airlines and their customers had to face the costs of the damage they are causing to the environment.”  [8]

25 years later national governments and international aviation organisations have still not adopted this conclusion as a central principle of planning for the future of flying – but they could as part of ‘green recovery’ plans. If we are serious about tackling the climate emergency, this means reducing carbon emissions faster than current CCC recommendations. [9] It also means there are a number of aviation policy interventions that should be put in place now – including the following. [10]

  • The full internalisation of external costs.
  • A frequent flyer levy to deal specifically with implementing the ‘polluter pays’ principle in a fair and proportionate way. The 15% of the UK population who fly frequently are responsible for 70% of all of our flights, with the 1% most frequent flyers accounting for close to a fifth of all flights by English residents. [10]
  • The adoption of World Health Organisation guidelines on noise levels that should not be exceeded, and the enforcement of these limit values around airports. This would imply a ban on night-time flights in the period 2300-0700.
  • The requirement to reduce all air pollutant emissions from aircraft, airport activities and road traffic to and from the airport so that full conformity with European air quality guidelines and regulations is achieved.
  • Subjecting air tickets to VAT and its equivalent in all EU member states and in the UK after 31st December 2020.
  • The adoption of a clear strategy supported by appropriate fiscal instruments to shift all passenger journeys under 500kms in length from air to rail.
  • The full incorporation of all aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions into national and EU strategies to reduce these emissions by at least the amount of reduction recommended by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). The SEI report evaluated a package of measures to reduce GHG from aviation including behavioural, fiscal, technological and constrained capacity. [11]

John Whitelegg is visiting professor of sustainable transport at Liverpool John Moores University.

References

  1. CCC (2019). The future of UK aviation: Letter from Lord Deben to Chris Grayling. 12 February. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/the-future-of-uk-aviation-letter-from-lord-deben-to-chris-grayling/
  2. European Environment Agency (2007) Size, structure and distribution of transport subsidy in Europe, Technical Report No3/2007
  3. AEF et al (2020). Briefing: Building back better for aviation. https://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/2020/06/Building-back-better-aviation-.docx.pdf
  4. P.264 of: CCC (2019). Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Net-Zero-The-UKs-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming.pdf#page=264
  5. European Commission (2020). Reducing emissions from aviation. https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/aviation_en
  6. European Environment Agency (2017). Aviation and Shipping: Impacts on Europe’s environment. TERM, 207, Report No 22/2017.
  7. Aislelabs (2020). How Airports Globally are Responding to Coronavirus. 4 May. https://www.aislelabs.com/blog/2020/03/27/how-airports-globally-are-responding-to-coronavirus-updated-frequently/
  8. Para 5.39 of: Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1995). Transport and the Environment. 18th Report.
  9. Anderson K (2019). Hope from despair: transforming delusion into action on climate change. https://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/hope-despair-transforming-delusion-action-climate-change
  10. Chapter 12 (Aviation) of: Whitelegg, J (2016) Mobility: A new urban design and transport planning philosophy for a sustainable future. ISBN 13:978-1530227877.
  11. Whitelegg J, Haq G, Cambridge H, Vallack H (2010). Towards a Zero Carbon Vision for UK Transport. SEI project report. https://www.sei.org/publications/towards-zero-carbon-vision-uk-transport/

Also see other blogs in SGR’s Covid-19 series…

Envisioning a post-Covid-19 transport landscape: surface travel
https://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/envisioning-post-covid-19-transport-landscape-surface-travel



 


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Atmospheric CO2 levels rise despite Covid-19 lockdowns

This posting is taken from an article in The Guardian by Fiona Harvey on 4th June 2020.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/04/atmospheric-co2-levels-rise-sharply-despite-covid-19-lockdowns

Scientists find coronavirus crisis has had little impact on overall concentration trend.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen strongly to a new peak this year, despite the impact of the global effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 417.2 parts per million in May, 2.4ppm higher than the peak of 414.8ppm in 2019, according to readings from the Mauna Loa observatory in the US.

Without worldwide lockdowns intended to slow the spread of Covid-19, the rise might have reached 2.8ppm, according to Ralph Keeling, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He said it was likely they had played a small role, but that the difference was too small to show up against other factors causing year-to-year fluctuations.

 

Daily emissions of carbon dioxide fell by an average of about 17% around the world in early April, according to the a comprehensive study last month. As lockdowns are eased, however, the fall in emissions for the year as a whole is only likely to be only between 4% and 7% compared with 2019. That will make no appreciable difference to the world’s ability to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, and keep global heating below the threshold of 2C that scientists say is necessary to stave off catastrophic effects.

Environmental campaigners said the continued rise in emissions showed how urgently a green recovery from Covid-19 crisis was needed.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, called on the British government to do more as hosts of the next UN climate talks, Cop26, now postponed until 2021. “Just a few months of lower emissions were never likely to make a dent in the hundreds of billions tonnes of carbon that have built up over a century and a half of burning fossil fuels,” he said.

“That’s why the drop in emissions caused by the pandemic will remain just a blip unless governments get serious about building a cleaner, healthier and safer world.”

Muna Suleiman, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “ It’s clear that climate breakdown isn’t a distant idea, it’s here right now, and we have to treat it like the emergency it is.”

The complete article can be found by clicking the link at the beginning of this post.



 


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We need a Just Transition to reshape our economy for people and planet

This posting is from Scotland’s Friends of the Earth and is about a consultation just released by the Just Transition Commission, which was set up last year by the Scottish government.  The deadline for responding to the consultation is 30th June 2020.

We need a Just Transition to reshape our economy for people and planet – share your views with the Just Transition Commission

Without a radical transformation of our economy, we face climate breakdown. While the Scottish Government has set demanding climate and energy targets, plans to deliver them don’t do enough to ensure that no-one is left behind as we move to a fossil free economy.

In fact, much of our progress in reducing emissions has been as a result of de-industrialisation, and policies to deliver the zero-carbon economy have failed to realise the full potential of creating new, decent work in Scotland.

If the transition continues to be left to market forces, we risk a repeat of the devastating social dislocation and high unemployment experienced as a result of de-industrialisation and coal mine closures.

The importance of planning this transition

To get this crucial, economy-and-society-wide transition right, people all over Scotland need to be deeply involved in the planning for how their work, lives and communities are going to change. The impact of measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 on the economy, with a deep recession now looming, simply compounds this.

The economic recovery must be a Just and Green Recovery that promotes the growth of green industries, creating urgently-needed, quality opportunities for those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods during the pandemic as well as for those who will be impacted in the move to a fossil free economy.
Just Transition banner at May Day March 2-10

The Just Transition Commission – set up by the Scottish Government last year following calls from STUC and FoES – has been tasked with advising Ministers on how to achieve Scotland’s climate targets in a way that is fair to all. The Commission has recently launched an Interim Report and alongside this issued a call for evidence to inform their work, closing on 30th June.

Crucially, the Interim Report emphasised that a Just Transition will not happen by accident and it must mean more than rhetoric. The Commission has been clear in stating that a Just Transition requires a comprehensive approach from Government with consistency across all Departments in reducing our emissions in a way that protects workers and communities while reshaping our economy in the interests of people and planet.

The importance of urgent planning and intervention to put us on the path to a Just Transition is brought into even sharper focus as we look to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, with a deep global recession looming unless governments intervene effectively. The Scottish Government has written to the Commission for advice on how best to do this, so the present call for evidence is also a crucial chance to share with the Commission our vision and demands for a Just and Green Recovery from COVID-19.

Seize the moment to shape the transition

This call for evidence is a key opportunity for individuals, organisations and groups across the country to get their voices heard about what needs to happen for a truly just transition to a zero carbon economy that is fair for all.

This is particularly important for workers or communities where the local economy relies heavily on fossil fuel industries, but the scale of change necessary to tackle the climate crisis is such that it will have an impact on everyone.

In the process we can transform our economy in terms of who it serves and what we prioritise, putting people and the planet above corporate interests. This is a rare moment – we must seize it!

The Just Transition Commission wants to hear from people, organisations and businesses across Scotland on their views of what a successful Just Transition would look like and who is likely to be most impacted by the move to a zero carbon economy.  Below you can read our priorities as well as additional resources to help you in preparing to respond.

Our priorities for a Just Transition

We have been campaigning with our trade union allies in the Just Transition Partnership since 2017. Based on this work, our key priorities for a Just Transition that we want the Commission to take on board are:

  • New jobs for a high skill, high wage and zero carbon economy are needed for those leaving old, polluting jobs to move into but there is no sign yet of the strategic support, intervention and investment needed to realise this.
  • A Just Transition approach which is able to protect workers, while ensuring a fairer spread of the economic benefits, must anticipate changes in the labour market and put in place strategic skills development and retraining programmes.
  • Just Transition Plans must be put in place for all industrial sectors, deepening democratic participation in decision making through the participation of workers and trade unions. These should be a condition of all government support to private companies and delivered by the actions of all public agencies
  • The workers and communities likely to be most impacted must be engaged deeply in the decisions affecting their livelihoods. Planning must involve those people as well as trade unions and environmentalists to ensure the pace and focus needed.
  • There must be a far greater role for a Publicly Owned Energy Company (POEC) than that currently proposed by the Scottish Government. Rather than becoming just another retail supplier of energy, it should have a role across the energy network; creating new renewables projects, prioritising domestic supply chains and enabling local and regional energy ownership too.
  • Scotland’s National Investment Bank should be connected with the POEC to provide critically needed investment. More widely, the Bank’s patient, long-term lending should be concentrated on delivering the just transition to zero carbon, and creating decent work in the green economy across Scotland.

Take this opportunity to get your voice heard by following this link.

The deadline to respond is Tuesday 30th June!

There are six questions in the consultation but you do not need to answer every one. If you want to submit your thoughts then you could focus on Questions 3 & 4 to say what a Just Transition would look like in your opinion and what the Scottish Government should be doing to make it happen

Additional resources to help you respond to the call for evidence:

A pdf copy of the report can be downloaded from:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/transition-commission-interim-report/pages/10/

View this document



Scottish Quakers have submitted a response to the consultation:

Quakers in Scotland response to the Scottish Just Transition Commission interim report consultation

This submission is made on behalf of Quakers in Scotland. It is informed by the longstanding and deeply held Quaker concern for equality and care for the earth, and by our current work focusing on climate justice. Quakers seek to live in accordance with our core values of equality, peace, simplicity, truth and integrity. Led by our experience that there is something of God in all people, we are saddened by, and deplore the vast inequalities that currently exist in Scottish and UK society as well as globally. We believe government has a moral duty to address this crisis of inequality, including through a just transition approach to emission reductions. We believe it is also the duty of government to speak plainly and honestly about the scale of the economic transformation required, and about what this means for highcarbon industries such as oil and gas and aviation.

What do you see as the main economic opportunities and challenges associated with meeting Scotland’s climate change targets?
Scotland, like the rest of the global North, faces the immense challenge of managing a
transition to an economic system which prioritises equality, health and quality of life, not
growth. GDP was never intended as a measure of general prosperity, and its continuing use for this purpose, results in a distorted view of the economy which is still the basis of
policymaking. The success of the transition to a zero-carbon economy must be measured in different terms: emissions reductions, and a range of indicators for equality and wellbeing.

The unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19 have revealed the inequities within our
current system, as well as the public appetite for change: for example, a recent Britain-wide poll for Positive Money found that a majority of people think social and environmental outcomes should be prioritised over economic growth.i
Justice must be the basis for policies to address the climate crisis, or we are likely to see increased inequality, ill health and social exclusion. We are therefore pleased to see the Scottish government placing the just transition at the heart of its thinking on climate.
Fuel poverty provides a clear example of how a just transition can reduce inequality as well as emissions. Strong government action on energy efficiency of housing, through both retrofitting programmes and standards for new homes, could improve health through better housing conditions, as well as contributing to Scotland’s climate targets. Money spent wisely on the just transition is a good investment, not a burden, and the government should present it as such.

One particular challenge in the Scottish context is the need to wind down oil and gas
production. Scottish and UK energy policy still includes the ‘duty’ to “maximise economic
recovery from the UK continental shelf”, an aim that is directly at odds with the urgent need for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy. The two aims cannot coexist, and attempts to pretend otherwise are hampering the transition.

To assume continued dependence on oil and gas in 2045 presupposes an unrealistically
large ‘net’ in ‘net zero’, with no evidence this can be achieved. The reference in the
consultation document to a ‘transition’ for the oil and gas industry suggests that it can
‘green’ itself, when there is no evidence that this is so. We fear that the idea of a ‘net zero
carbon hydrocarbon basin’, based wholly on hoped-for ‘further innovation’ could be
industry ‘greenwash’ designed to allow little serious change. Government action is needed to ensure that sector-by-sector plans are realistic and in line with the Paris Agreement: voluntary action from industry will not be enough. The just transition must be about protecting workers and communities, not big business. A just transition for oil and gas workers cannot be predicated on fantasies about a continuing role for fossil fuels – it needs to plan for a much earlier phase-out date. The Covid-19 crisis has shown that it is possible for the manufacturing industries to diversify into, for example, the production of ventilators.

What do you think are the wider social (health, community etc.) opportunities and
challenges associated with meeting Scotland’s climate change targets?
A just transition to zero carbon presents an opportunity to build thriving, resilient
communities based around local jobs, environmental protection, community ownership and a circular economy. Our response focuses on two key challenges, but there are many others.

Land use
Scotland’s peatlands are a vital carbon sink and fundamental to meeting Scotland’s and the UK’s climate targets. The UK narrative and funding in support of tree planting does not take into account the Scottish context, where grant-backed conifer planting is destroying shallow peatland sites. Restoring all peatlands, including shallow peat, is the most effective action Scotland could take to sequester carbon. Much stronger regulation is needed to prevent damage to peatlands through extraction, burning, draining or tree planting. Expert advice should be available to all farmers and landowners on how to make best use of their land for carbon sequestration. Incentives to use land as a carbon sink should not undermine sustainable food production where that is the optimal use of the land. Grants and training should be provided for all farmers to cut their emissions and adopt agroecological farming methods, which promote soil health (including its ability to act as a carbon sink) and biodiversity and eliminate the need for highly polluting artificial fertilisers.

Ending car dependency
A transition to electric cars will not solve the problem of transport emissions. An entirely
green grid will take time to achieve; and the greater the demand for electricity, the harder it will be. Electric cars are part of the transition, but walking, cycling and public transport must come first, along with reducing the need to travel through provision of local jobs and services and good broadband.

Investment in cycle infrastructure is needed, and would have substantial public health
benefits: Western countries with the highest levels of active travel generally have the lowest obesity rates. Estimates vary, but one report found that increasing the cycling rate to 27% of all journeys could save the Scottish economy £4 billion/yearii. However, figures from the new National Transport Strategy show cycling on Scotland’s roads declined from 2012 to 2017.iii

The existing commitment to decarbonise rail routes by 2035 is welcome, but needs to be
brought forward to ensure zero-emission trains can replace old diesel trains as they are
retired. Bus routes need to be protected and improved, particularly in rural areas. We
welcome the steps being taken towards this, including the £500m fund announced last year. However, a more comprehensive approach is still needed, to include new research clarifying what it is that people actually need, better integration of different transport modes to enable multi-modal journeys, and a review of all planned transport infrastructure projects, with projects only going ahead if they are projected to reduce emissions.

We support Transform Scotland’s call for all organisations to rule out air travel for trips
within mainland Britain; the public sector could and should take the lead on this.

What would a successful transition to net-zero emissions look like for your
sector/community?
Many Quakers are involved in local projects based on mutual aid, democratic participation and more collaborative and communal ways of living. This is at the heart of our vision for a more equal and sustainable society. A zero-carbon society must embrace these principles and foster strong local networks of sharing and support. This includes support for community farms and gardens, community asset ownership, community energy, co-housing and co-operative housing models, reuse and repair initiatives, ‘libraries of things’ (as well as more traditional libraries), and training in the skills that make these projects thrive.

We must ensure that the transition to zero emissions does not leave behind the same
people who are already struggling and marginalised. All policies should be assessed for their impact on low-income households as well as for their carbon impact. Crucially, the value that is created through public investment – be it land value or wealth enabled by new technology – must be captured and retained for public benefit, through taxation, planning and land use policy, and support for community and employee ownership. Without measures to enable this, wealth will continue to flow upwards, and many people will continue to have no stake in Scotland’s prosperity. There is good evidence that emissions are lower in more equal societies, so policies that promote equality are key to reaching our climate targets as well as being a moral duty.
The major changes that are needed will only be just and sustainable if citizens are involved in decision-making. While there is much that can be done now – from mass retrofitting programmes to investment in public transport – genuine public participation and not “tick box consultation” is needed where decisions could have negative impacts or will involve significant inconvenience. There is widespread support for stronger climate action, and for us not to return, post-pandemic, to a ‘normal’ that was failing so many people.iv

The transition is an opportunity to rethink our relationship with production and
consumption and the way we treat our living planet. These are difficult issues, but if we fail to confront them now, a safe, post-fossil fuel era will remain out of reach.

What actions do you think the Scottish Government should take to manage the
opportunities and challenges referenced above?
Stop funding fossil fuels and high-carbon infrastructure: end fossil fuel and aviation
subsidies; require the carbon impact of all spending decisions to be assessed; publish a
carbon impact account alongside future Budgets to show the overall carbon impact of
government spending decisions.
Provide more support for a post-fossil fuel future: invest in walking and cycling and rural bus routes; support community renewable energy; invest in energy efficient homes; support sustainable food production; provide adequate funding for peatland restoration; provide funding and support for local authorities and communities to cut their emissions and build resilience. The Scottish National Investment Bank could be key to investment in a just transition. The welcome inclusion of a legislative requirement for the Bank to invest in projects that promote a just transition to zero carbon, needs strengthening to rule out lending to fossil fuel producers and other polluting industries. Oil and gas-based products (as opposed to fossil fuels) must be limited to those with a non-polluting footprint: 1 not fuel; 2 longterm recyclable.’

Design policies to benefit low-income households first: the transition to zero carbon must
address economic and social inequalities in the UK, and all policies should be assessed
against their impact on low-income households.

Support a global just transition: while this consultation relates to Scotland, it is important
not to lose sight of the global picture. Scotland and the UK have overwhelmingly benefited from cheap fossil fuel energy, while communities in the global South who have not enjoyed the same benefits are now suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Scotland and the UK have an opportunity to show leadership by both reducing emissions rapidly and ensuring that policy decisions do not reinforce existing global inequalities. Much of this is in the hands of the UK government, but we urge the Scottish government to align its own policy and investment decisions with the principles of climate justice. To give one key example: in embracing renewable energy and new technologies, the government should seek to ensure that it is not supporting exploitative and destructive mining in the global South.

We welcome the new Climate Change Act’s recognition of the need to address overall
consumption emissions, as well as the inclusion of just transition and climate justice
principles. We are disappointed that the government blocked amendments that would have required Ministers to set out steps taken to ensure that policies to cut emissions in Scotland do not reduce the ability of other countries to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals.

The climate crisis is a global challenge and must be addressed through international
collaboration. A zero-carbon transition which pits one country’s interests against another’s cannot be just, and we hope to see this omission rectified.

The Scottish government could also use its voice in support of debt relief and grants for poor countries hit by climate disasters, and push the UK government to acknowledge the
principle of ‘fair shares’ based on historic emissions, which demands a much greater
contribution than the UK is currently making.

Are there specific groups or communities that may be, or feel that they may be,
adversely affected by a transition to a net-zero carbon economy? What steps can be taken to address their concerns?
Unless policies are specifically designed to promote equality, the same people who have
been left behind under the current system will suffer again. Communities which have
suffered as a result of previous economic transitions (such as the decline of coal mining) are likely to be sceptical and should be brought into decision-making at the earliest possible stage. Full participation of unions and community groups will result in better policymaking and broader public support.

i https://positivemoney.org/2020/05/new-polling-only-12-want-uk-to-prioritise-economic-growth-overwellbeing/
ii http://transformscotland.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Towards-a-Healthier-
Economy.pdf
iii Transport and Travel in Scotland 2017, Table i: Traffic and passenger numbers in Scotland, 2012 to 2017



 


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Petition: Rebuild the economy out of lockdown with a Green New Deal

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government has intervened in the economy in an unprecedented way.

The recovery must not simply reinstate ‘business as usual’ – Parliament must introduce a radical 10-year strategy for public investment to decarbonise the economy and eradicate inequality.

The following petition has been lodged on the Government’s petition website.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/317343

It needs 10,000 signatures for the government to respond to the petition and 100,000 signatures before it will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Please share the petition.  It closes on 15th December 2020.



 


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Kyoto Protocol’s second phase emissions on target – but don’t celebrate just yet!

This post is copied from the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is encouraging news, though do note the sentences below in bold, which sound a note of caution.  Please note also that several significant countries did not sign up to the Kyoto Protocol and these are some of the worst polluters (eg USA; Canada; Russia; Japan).

windfarm

The report from the UNFCCC (released June 2020):

https://unfccc.int/news/kyoto-s-second-phase-emission-reductions-achievable-but-greater-ambition-needed

A new UN Climate Change assessment shows that greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions of 18% compared to 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol’s second phase seem fully achievable and likely to be exceeded.

The Protocol’s second phase, called the second commitment period, was established by means of the Doha Amendment in 2012 and runs from 2013 – 2020. The Amendment strengthened quantified emission limitation or reduction commitments for developed countries and set a goal of reducing GHG emissions by 18% compared to 1990 levels.

The assessment of the latest information received from Parties with commitments under the Doha Amendment (Annex B Parties), based on data for the period 1990-2018, shows that total aggregate GHG emissions in 2018 were 25.3% lower than in 1990.

Annex 1 emissions trends

Moreover, if current annual average emissions of Annex B Parties (amounting to 5,696 Mt CO2eqin the period 2013–2018) remain at this level for 2019 and 2020, the emission reduction target of 18% could be further exceeded.

Assigned amount vs cumulative emissions

“While the results of this assessment are very encouraging, they only apply to a group of some 37 countries that agreed to emission reduction targets under the Doha Amendment,” said Ms. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change. “Globally however, emissions have been rising, which clarifies the urgent need for greater ambition,” she added.

This year is critical with respect to climate change ambition as 2020 is the year in which Parties will submit their new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Each NDC reflects the country’s ambition, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities.

“The submission of new or updated NDCs represents an important opportunity for all countries to raise their ambition and to put the entire world onto a reduced emissions pathway,” said Ms. Espinosa.

“The current global emissions pathway would likely result in an increase of global average temperatures of 3C or more,” she explained. “This would be significantly higher than the temperature limits of less than 2C and as close to 1.5C as possible as contained in the Paris Agreement – hence the urgent need for greater ambition.” 

The assessment under the Doha Amendment revealed that the GHG reductions have generally been achieved through national mitigation actions.

“This shows the potential of consistently implementing climate change policies and actions at the national level. Through the NDC process, countries have the opportunity to further advance climate policies and actions, and to ratchet them up over time” Ms. Espinosa underlined.

The new figures present themselves without the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol having officially entered into force and the commitments thus having become legally binding. To date, 138 of the needed 144 instruments of acceptance to enter the amendment into force have been received.

Ms. Espinosa said: “The United Nations is actively engaging with countries to encourage governments to ratify the Doha Amendment as soon as possible. The amendment’s entry into force would be a valuable signal of a unified, multilateral commitment to the fight against climate change”.

The Kyoto Protocol, which took effect in 2005, sets binding emission reduction targets for developed countries. Its first commitment period ran from 2008-2012 and set an average reduction target of 5% compared to 1990 levels.

During this time, the emissions of the 37 developed countries that had reduction targets declined by more than 22% compared to 1990, far exceeding the initial target of 5% compared to 1990.

The Protocol thus clearly plays a key part in reaching the objective of the UN Climate Change Convention, namely to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations and reduce the consequences of climate change.



 


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Open letter from World Health leaders to G20 leaders states that addressing climate change is key to a global revival

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/26/world-health-leaders-urge-green-recovery-from-coronavirus-crisis

Doctors and medical professionals from around the globe have called on world leaders to ensure there is a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis which takes account of air pollution and climate breakdown.

More than 200 organisations representing at least 40 million health workers – making up about half of the global medical workforce – have signed an open letter to the G20 leaders and their chief medical advisers, pointing to the 7 million premature deaths to which air pollution contributes each year around the world.

Chief medical officers and chief scientific advisers must be directly involved in designing the stimulus packages now under way, the letter urges, in order to ensure they include considerations of public health and environmental concerns. They say public health systems should be strengthened, and they warn of how environmental degradation could help to unleash future diseases.

The signatories also want reforms to fossil fuel subsidies, with public support shifted towards renewable energy, which they say would make for cleaner air, cut greenhouse gas emissions and help to spur economic growth of nearly $100tn in the next three decades.

In the letter, the health professionals link air pollution and fragile public health systems with the impacts of the virus, saying air pollution “was already weakening our bodies”, exacerbating the impact of the disease.

Better preparation could have reduced the impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the letter. “We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient,” they write.

Better preparation could have reduced the impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the letter. “We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient,” they write.

Studies have suggested that air pollution may play a role in worsening Covid-19 symptoms or increasing mortality, though scientists also say it is too early to draw hard conclusions about the full impacts. The clearing skies that have accompanied lockdown in many countries are under threat, however, as industrial activity resumes without new safeguards.

Last week a comprehensive study found daily carbon dioxide emissions around the world had fallen by about 17% as a result of the lockdowns, and that if normal activity resumed there would be only about a 4% fall for the full year, compared with last year. Such a fall would make little difference in the climate crisis.

The signatories include the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations, as well as thousands of individual health professionals.

The letter has been sent to all G20 leaders, including Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping, who are under pressure to approve a green recovery, as well as those who have been criticised for a lax approach to the crisis or for using it to weaken environmental protections, including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro.