threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


Leave a comment

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.


 


Leave a comment

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



 


Leave a comment

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.



 


Leave a comment

European Environmental Agency’s report shows EU greenhouse gas emissions continue to fall

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/29/eus-greenhouse-gas-emissions-continue-to-fall-as-coal-ditched

drax power station hero pic

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe’s environment watchdog.

Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc’s emission cuts under the UN’s climate agreements. If the UK is excluded, the decline since 1990 was smaller, standing at 20.7%.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe’s environment watchdog.

Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc’s emission cuts under the UN’s climate agreements. If the UK is excluded, the decline since 1990 was smaller, standing at 20.7%.

However, emissions must be brought down much further and faster to satisfy the EU’s obligations under the Paris agreement, campaigners said. Annual falls of about 7% are estimated to be needed to keep global heating within the Paris upper limit of 2C above pre-industrial levels.

The economic turmoil and disruption caused by the coronavirus is likely to result in a short-term drop in emissions, as it has so far this year across the world, but the longer-term impact is unknown.

Green groups urged governments to link the recovery from the coronavirus with the need to reduce carbon, ahead of the Cop26 talks, and said the year’s delay must not be allowed to slow down action on the climate crisis.

“A 2.1% emissions drop isn’t nearly enough to avert massive climate breakdown, and we absolutely cannot lose sight of the urgency of this task,” said Aaron Kiely, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Postponement of the climate talks cannot come at the cost of international climate action – it doesn’t give governments a get-out clause from their international responsibilities. There is a way out of both [the climate and coronavirus] crises if we collaborate, listen to the science, and stop losing time.”



 


Leave a comment

COP26 (Glasgow November 2020) to be postponed due to Coronavirus pandemic

https://unfccc.int/news/cop26-postponed

This decision has been taken by the COP Bureau of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), with the UK and its Italian partners.

Dates for a rescheduled conference in 2021, hosted in Glasgow by the UK in partnership with Italy, will be set out in due course following further discussion with parties.

In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible.

Rescheduling will ensure all parties can focus on the issues to be discussed at this vital conference and allow more time for the necessary preparations to take place. We will continue to work with all involved to increase climate ambition, build resilience and lower emissions.

COP26 President-Designate and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said:

“The world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting COVID-19. That is why we have decided to reschedule COP26.

“We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and I look forward to agreeing a new date for the conference.”

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said:

“COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term.

“Soon, economies will restart. This is a chance for nations to recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.

“In the meantime, we continue to support and to urge nations to significantly boost climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement.”

Italian Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Protection, Sergio Costa, said:

“Whilst we have decided to postpone COP26, including the Pre-COP and ‘Youth for the Climate’ event, we remain fully committed to meeting the challenge of climate change.

“Tackling climate change requires strong, global and ambitious action. Participation from the younger generations is imperative, and we are determined to host the ‘Youth for the Climate’ event, together with the Pre-COP and outreach events.

“We will continue to work with our British partners to deliver a successful COP26.”

COP25 President, Minister Carolina Schmidt, said:

“The decision of the Bureau on the postponement of COP26 is unfortunately a needed measure to protect all delegates and observers.

“Our determination is to make sure that the momentum for climate ambition will continue, particularly for the preparation and submissions of new NDCs this year”.



An interfaith statement has been released about the postponement of COP26:

“An Interfaith Earth Day message in times of Covid 19 and Climate Emergency
Inter-faith group active at UNFCCC conferences response to the postponement of the COP26 – 22nd of April, Earth Day
As faith-based organisations and movements calling for fair and just policies able to tackle the climate emergency, we understand and support the UNFCCC decision to postpone COP26 in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting the whole of humanity. We nevertheless call on ourselves and on all stakeholders to not delay ambitious and urgent climate action.
We see the trauma, anxiety, vulnerability and loss of life around the world caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among already vulnerable communities. We are appalled by the increase in human rights violations, including racism, extreme surveillance, xenophobia, misuses of emergency powers and domestic violence.
We remain hopeful as we see people of all faiths and across all borders rising to a powerful call of solidarity, kindness, and support, adjusting our lives for the greater good, looking into creative and simple solutions to show care for one another. We also witness more time for reflection.
We proclaim loudly that we were already living in a state of emergency prior to COVID-19. We have a responsibility to ensure we do not return to behaviours which, as the current crisis has shown, leave the vast majority extremely vulnerable to hardship and suffering after only a few weeks of economic stagnation. Here we see the role of faith in learning from the COVID-19 crisis and to advocate for a just recovery to build a healthier future where the human family lives in a way that respects nature and Mother Earth on which we all depend.
The choices we now make will shape our society for years and it is crucial that efforts to rebuild economies put people’s health before profit. Governments have pledged extraordinary amounts of money to prevent economic disasters because of this pandemic, but that money must not be used to finance future environmental degradation. We must not return to relaunching fossil fuel subsidies and unhealthy consumption patterns. The plans for a just recovery from COVID-19 must take into account the necessary measures to tackle climate change with a managed, planned and fair approach. We call for a rebuilding which upholds the human rights, health and wellbeing of citizens as critical to the stability and security of all countries.
We are moved by our faiths to see beyond this moment of fear and call on solidarity, community action and moral courage. We call on the UNFCCC, all governments and all people, to build a sustainable, just and healthy society that is resilient in times of crises such as COVID-19 and climate change, and to act early enough to prevent greater hardship and suffering in the future. This is the time to create a healthier and more resilient society together.”

Interfaith Statement on Postponement of COP26



 


Leave a comment

UN experts warn that the world is way off track in reaching climate targets

Targets set through the Paris Agreement 2015 are not currently being met on a global basis, at a time when actions to limit global warming are off track, and climate change damage becomes more apparent.

Increasing heat, accelerated sea level rises and extreme weather in 2019 were all indications of failure to rein in carbon emissions, according to a report compiled by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Their report had input from national meteorological services, international experts, scientific institutions and other UN agencies and the trends have continued into 2020.

AustralianBushfire

Every year, WMO issues a Statement on the State of the Global Climate. It is based on data provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and other national and international organisations.  Further details of the report can be found at:

https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/climate/wmo-statement-state-of-global-climate

Last year was the second hottest year on record, with a global average temperature of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Each decade since the 1980s has been hotter than any preceding decade.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are expected to increase their action this year to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

In a foreword to the report, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said, “We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5° or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for. This report outlines the latest science and illustrates the urgency for far-reaching climate action.”

He thought it would only be a matter of time before a new world record hottest temperature was reached, perhaps within the next 5 years.

Alongside temperature increases, rainfall changes are having a major impact on several countries and sea levels are rising at an increasing pace, exposing coastal areas and islands to a greater risk of flooding and submersion.

Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise in 2019 and carbon emissions from fossil fuels grew by 0.6% last year.

There were two major heat waves in Europe in June and July, with new national temperature records set in UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

Climate change is facilitating the spread of dengue fever, with around half of the world’s population being at risk of infection.

World hunger also increased, with an estimated 22 million people forced to leave their homes by events, such as storms and floods.

Drought or low rainfall hit many parts of the world, including Australia, which also saw its hottest year, with an exceptionally long and severe season of wildfires.

Greenland ice melt

The Greenland ice sheet lost 329 billion tonnes of ice in 2019.

A map showing all the countries with weather extremes can be found at:

https://wmo.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=56fc71ac6dcf4bcf826dea2adf94c255

Another report from the WMO, entitled “The Global Climate in 2015-2019” can be found at:  https://library.wmo.int/index.php?lvl=notice_display&id=21522#.Xmj5J6j7TIV

as well as previous WMO Reports.

 



 


Leave a comment

Appeal Court rules that Heathrow airport expansion is now illegal

27th February 2020: an historic day!

This morning the Court of Appeal judged the government’s plans for Heathrow expansion to be illegal on climate change grounds. Heathrow is one of the biggest single sources of greenhouse gases in the UK. And airport expansion – at Heathrow or any other airport – simply cannot go ahead if we’re to prevent further climate breakdown.

The appeal court appreciated this and ruled that ignoring the Paris Agreement is illegal. Building a third runway does not comply with or support the UK’s targets to reduce emissions and move towards a sustainable future. The government will accept the court’s decision.

Today, this landmark victory confirms that ordinary people have the power to bring about change. The carbon economy’s days are numbered.

heathrowairport



7th May 2020:

A statement from Friends of the Earth states:

“Heathrow Airport Limited and developers Arora Holdings have just been given permission to appeal against the decision to stop them building a climate-wrecking third runway. Sadly this story isn’t over.

When we won our historic legal case in February we knew this might happen. Both companies quickly applied to appeal so we didn’t take anything for granted.

Our legal team has therefore been busy preparing for this moment. And the good news is that we’re confident that the Supreme Court will agree with us that it was illegal for the government to support a third runway without considering what this meant for meeting the Paris Agreement and the total climate impacts the development could have.”

So, it’s not over yet!



 


Leave a comment

The European Parliament declares climate emergency

See: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20191121IPR67110/the-european-parliament-declares-climate-emergency

Ahead of the UN COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid 2-13 December, the European Parliament approved a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally. They also want the Commission to ensure that all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5 °C.

In a separate resolution, Parliament urged the EU to submit its strategy to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible, and by 2050 at the latest, to the UN Convention on Climate Change. MEPs also called on the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to include a 55% reduction target of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in the European Green Deal.

Stepping up global emission reductions for aviation and shipping

MEPs said that current aviation and shipping ambitions fall short of the necessary emissions reductions. All countries should include emissions from international shipping and aviation in their national contributions plans (NDCs), and urged the Commission to propose that the maritime sector be included in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

More financial support needed to fight climate change

EU countries should at least double their contributions to the international Green Climate Fund, Parliament said. EU member states are the largest providers of public climate finance and the EU’s budget should fully comply with its international commitments. They also noted that pledges by developed countries do not meet the collective goal of 100 billion USD per year as of 2020.

Finally, they urgently called on all EU countries to phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 2020.

Quote

“The European Parliament has just adopted an ambitious position in view of the upcoming COP 25 in Madrid. Given the climate and environmental emergency, it is essential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 55% in 2030. It also sends a clear and timely message to the Commission a few weeks before the publication of the Communication on the Green Deal “”, said Pascal Canfin (RE, FR), Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, during the debate on Monday.

Background

The resolution on declaring a climate and environmental emergency was adopted with 429 votes for, 225 votes against and 19 abstentions. The European Parliament adopted the resolution on COP25 with 430 votes for, 190 votes against and 34 abstentions.

A number of countries, local administrations and scientists have declared that our planet is facing a climate emergency.

The European Commission has already proposed the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but the European Council has still not endorsed it as Poland, Hungary and Czechia are opposed.

Parliament at the COP25

COP25 takes place in Madrid 2-13 December 2019. The President of the European Parliament David Maria Sassoli, (S&D, IT) will attend the official opening. A delegation from the European Parliament, led by Bas Eickhout (Greens, NL), will be there 9-14 December.



 


Leave a comment

Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand by Stephen Pittam

Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand

An article by Stephen Pittam on the “Rethinking Poverty” website:

In April I attended Ariadne’s annual meeting in Belfast. Ariadne is a European peer-to-peer network of over 600 funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights. Participants enjoyed the special hospitality that Belfast always offers its visiting guests, including a tour of the peacelines and murals. And what could serve better to frame the final plenary for this event, which focused on Human Rights in a Changing Climate, than the climate change mural on the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast. It sums up perfectly the reason why the climate justice movement and the social justice movement are so intricately intertwined. The world’s poorest are the most vulnerable to extreme weather and other climate events and have the least resources to cope with the impact. The image of who will suffer most as a result of climate change could equally apply to the domestic agenda in the UK.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been in the forefront of work on climate change and social justice in the UK. Its 2014 overview of the field reviewed more than 70 studies and was a really useful document. It would be great if five years later it could be updated, but sadly the programme has ended.

Climate change affects the poorest in the UK most

Take transport for instance. The review highlighted the inequitable distribution of carbon emissions. The wealthiest 10 per cent of households in the UK were responsible for 10 times more carbon emissions from international aviation than the lowest, and 7-8 times more from personal transport. And yet little consideration has been given to how responsibility for emissions might inform responsibility for mitigation responses. The government’s overall domestic sustainable energy policies were forecast to produce a situation by 2020 where the richest 10 per cent of households might see an average reduction of 12 per cent in their energy bills while the poorest 10 per cent are expected to see a reduction of only 7 per cent.

The review describes multiple ways in which lower income and vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by climate change and associated policies to address the crisis. But it also goes on to indicate that it is possible to achieve carbon reduction targets in a socially just way and that concrete examples of adaptation and mitigation practice are beginning to emerge at the local level, which also address social justice questions. This mirrors the experience of the Global Greengrants Fund, one of the sponsors of the final plenary at the Ariadne event, whose work has shown that local communities whose lives are most affected often come up with the best solutions to environmental harm and social injustice. The two themes are closely interconnected.

How can the UK meet its emissions targets?

Spurred on by the amazing activists of Extinction Rebellion, the school students’ strikes, and the initiatives of dozens of towns and cities across the UK, the UK government has now declared a climate emergency. In an attempt to create a positive legacy, Theresa May has recently pledged to introduce a legally binding target forcing the UK to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many will argue that this is too little too late, but the gulf between the rhetoric and reality feels huge at the moment given that the government is not even on track to meet its current significantly more modest targets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It will take a radical change in policy and practice to get there, but it is possible to envision a different world. The last meeting of the UK-based Environmental Funders Network focused on the changes needed. Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and Laura Sandys introduced the new IPPR Environmental Justice Commission (of which they are the co-chairs) which aims to infuse the debate on climate change with hope and to confront the climate crisis with policies that promote social and economic justice.

Enter the Green New Deal

This initiative talks about the green transition, and has in many ways been inspired by the thinking which emerged in 2008 through the Green New Deal Group of which Caroline Lucas is a member. The Group’s 2008 report was, in my opinion, the best piece of analysis that came out of the financial crisis of that time. It proposed a labour-intensive green infrastructure programme which would tackle the crisis of climate change and help mitigate the effects of the huge economic downturn which the Group correctly predicted. It talked about rebuilding a sense of hope and creating economic security for all, while fully protecting the environment.

Sadly, once the immediate threat of economic collapse had receded, the country moved to the right and new Keynesian ideas were replaced with monetarist policies. We moved into the era of austerity – a policy of choice rather than necessity, which has led to further damage to the environment and fuelled the further rise of inequality and poverty.

Now, support for the Green New Deal is growing once more as the scale of the climate crisis has broken through into public consciousness. The idea, developed in the UK, has been exported to the USA where the name resonates so closely with Roosevelt’s original New Deal. There, it is championed by the charismatic, youngest-ever member of the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The increased profile has resulted in the idea being imported back to the UK, where it was formally launched at the House of Commons on 1 April, into an environment that is far more worrying than in 2008 but potentially more favourable to receiving it.

Colin Hines, the primary author of the 2008 Green New Deal pamphlet, has described what a Social and Green New Deal would involve. It would mean rejecting austerity and instead massively increasing employment in face-to-face caring and a countrywide green infrastructure programme. The latter would involve making the UK’s 30 million buildings super-energy-efficient, and tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, properly insulated new homes. Local public transport would be rebuilt, the road and rail systems properly maintained, and a major shift to electric vehicles instigated. A more sustainable localised food and agricultural system would be developed. This approach is labour-intensive, takes place in every locality, and consists of work that is difficult to automate.

How would it be paid for? By an increase in government spending, fairer taxes and encouraging saving in what Hines has described as ‘climate war bonds’. And in the event of a further looming economic crisis? A massive Green Quantitative Easing (GQE) programme. After the last crash US$10 trillion was injected into the global economy, but not into job-generating investments. The result was inflated stock and property values for the already well off. The Governor of the Bank of England has hinted that some kind of GQE programme might be possible as a way of addressing climate change.

Integrating social justice in climate change policy

The JRF report concluded that it is not just a moral imperative to integrate social justice in climate change policy. Without this, achieving resilience and mitigation targets will be much harder because the transformation of our society that is needed cannot be achieved without the political and social acceptance that results from fairer policies. Furthermore, developing socially just responses to climate change, in terms of both adaptation and mitigation, is an opportunity to put in place governance, systems and infrastructure that will create a more resilient and fairer society. As Caroline Lucas concludes in a Guardian opinion piece published on 27 March, we need:

‘an unprecedented mobilisation of resources invested to prevent climate breakdown, reverse inequality, and heal our communities. It demands major structural changes in our approach to the ecosystem, coupled with a radical transformation of the finance sector and the economy, to deliver both social justice and a liveable planet.’

Rethinking poverty cannot be separated from the biggest issue of our time – addressing climate change. Successfully addressing climate change, though, will inevitably lead to a fairer, more equal society.

Stephen Pittam is a board member of Global Greengrants Fund and chair of Global Greengrants UK.


Leave a comment

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