human activity and the destruction of the planet

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West Midlands Combined Authority set climate change target and seek public engagement on it

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) set new climate change targets in July 2019, to reduce carbon emissions across the region.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, welcomed the targets as the “next important step” to a having credible plan to deal with the climate emergency declared by the WMCA Board in June.

The proposed target of reaching net-zero emissions no later than 2041 has been set independently, based on scientific evidence from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change.

Climate change target set for the region

Shorter term targets of a 36% reduction in carbon emissions by 2022 and a 69% reduction by 2027 have also been set to ensure steady progress.

The targets are intended to drive rapid action from businesses, local government and citizens in the region to reduce their emissions.

The financial cost of a transition to a zero carbon economy is estimated to be 1-2% of GDP, equivalent to £40 billion for the West Midlands over the period to 2041.

Meeting a net-zero target any sooner would require much more investment on top of that.

The WMCA Board is being asked to “commit to an inclusive transition which protects marginalised communities, maximises support for West Midlands businesses, and helps individuals to change their own behaviours.”

At present, carbon emissions in the West Midlands are split between transport (roughly a third), industry (a third) and domestic heating and electricity (a third).

All these areas will be addressed in the WMCA’s carbon reduction plan, which is being developed in consultation with groups such as Birmingham Youth Strike for Climate, and due for approval in autumn 2019.

The Mayor said: “It’s going to be tough, but we have to act fast. Setting these carbon targets is the next important step in our plan to deal with the climate emergency.

“We have a bigger challenge than Liverpool or Manchester because of our industrial heritage, but we also have a bigger opportunity to develop our low carbon businesses and create new jobs.

“Jaguar Land Rover’s investment in the Castle Bromwich factory to build the new all-electric Jaguar XJ is a brilliant example of what can be done to tackle climate change while creating well-paid jobs here in the region.

“Climate change is an issue which will affect future generations, and we must get on with delivering a serious plan to tackle it.”

Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA portfolio holder for the environment, energy and HS2 and leader of Solihull Council said: “Last month we declared a climate emergency in the West Midlands and now we have started to set out what that means in practice and the action we need to take.

“This is an important step towards regional collaboration which is going to be vital if we are to tackle climate change head on.”

Aaron Smith, from Birmingham Youth Strike for Climate, said: “This is the start of a long road and we hope this target will be reduced to nearer 2030, our recommendation.

“All latest reports, both political and scientific, confirm that we must act now instead of delaying our responsibility and commitment to climate action.”

January 2020:

The West Midlands Combined Authority published a consultation paper, in an attempt to engage with the public over its climate targets.  It can be found at:

Here is a passage from the document:

“The paper sets out five principles for the West Midlands that underpin our efforts to limit this impact. They are:

  1. We will make the journey to 2041 without leaving anyone behind
  2. We will boost our resilience to climate change
  3. Our future will respect our heritage
  4. We will build more places and more connectivity between places
  5. We will save energy and resources without reducing prosperity

The paper also contains 74 suggested actions that businesses, public bodies, individuals and the WMCA can take to limit the disastrous impacts of climate change and to make the region resilient to the effects we are already seeing.

The report is open for engagement for over six weeks (closing midnight Thursday 12 March 2020). Everyone is encouraged to read the document and feedback on the proposals to ensure any measures are truly reflective of the region we all live in.

To read the whole report, download the WMCA climate plan.

To read an overview of the report, download the one page briefing document.

To take part in the engagement exercise, visit our online survey, before midnight on Thursday 12 March 2020.”


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Cars and climate change: the need for more ambition

Advanced online publication by Prof John Whitelegg, Liverpool John Moore’s University – article from the Responsible Science Journal: 27 November 2018.  Also made available on the website of Scientists for Global Responsibility:

In the recent Budget, the UK government announced huge spending of £29 billion for roads. [1] This comes on the back of a recent rise in the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of UK cars – in contrast to falling emissions in most other sectors of the economy. [2] It is clear that the government does not take the issue of pollution from cars seriously enough.

Decarbonising passenger road transport has been heavily researched especially in Sweden under the ‘Fossil Fuel Free’ policy discussion and in Germany in many publications by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Energy and the Environment. The conclusion from such work is that there is no significant technical or financial problem in totally decarbonising land transport. While the focus of UK government policies tends to be on improving vehicle efficiency – at which it is not doing well – there are actually larger gains to be made from ‘modal shift’ – a wholesale move away from car transport. The problem is a lack of will on the part of politicians to try to implement ‘joined-up’ policies that have a proven impact on reducing GHGs from the transport sector. The measures and interventions that will reduce GHG emissions from cars by 100% were set out in a report which I co-wrote for the Stockholm Environment Institute back in 2010. [3]

Despite this evidence, the UK’s central and local government continue to push forward with extensive road-building projects. Most local authorities are implementing or have recently implemented road schemes, including the Hereford Western Bypass, the Heysham M6 Link Road, the Shrewsbury North West Relief Road and the Port of Liverpool Access Road. These will increase traffic volumes and GHG emissions – as demonstrated by the robust scientific evidence presented in the 1994 SACTRA report which concluded that new roads generate new traffic. [4]

The UK is remarkable in its dismissal of best practice in decarbonising land transport, including cars. The performance of the city of Freiburg in southern Germany is a compelling example of what can be achieved. Through a consistent, funded, co-ordinated transport strategy over at least three decades, Freiburg has reduced car use to 21% of all trips every day and increased bike use to 34% (see figure 1). [5] In a typical UK city – e.g. Liverpool – approximately 2% of all trips every day are by bike and approximately 55% by car. Fundamental GHG reduction in the transport sector can only be achieved by modal shift away from the car on the scale already achieved in Freiburg and many other German, Dutch, Swedish and Danish cities.

Figure 1 – Breakdown of journeys in Freiburg by transport mode, 2016

It is also important to question some of the perspectives commonly presented in this area [6] – especially related to the costs of driving, driverless cars and electric vehicles:

  • Cars “are often cheaper than public transport”. This is not the case although it is a generally held perception. The total cost of travel by car includes obvious things like fuel but also includes less obvious things that need to be replaced at intervals depending on use, e.g. tyres, brakes, exhaust systems. When all costs that vary by distance travelled are included, a car trip is more expensive than a bus trip. [7] In addition, there is a large literature on externalities. Who is paying for the costs generated by the driver but not paid for by the driver, e.g. damage from GHG emissions, deaths and injuries in road crashes, health impacts from local air pollution?
  • “Car travel is just too attractive”. This may be the case in the UK where we have created a poor quality public transport system and do not fund safe cycling infrastructure at the same level as is normal in Denmark or the Netherlands. The alternatives to car travel are far more attractive than the car in places such as Copenhagen, Berlin, Lund, Oslo, Zurich or rural Switzerland.
  • Driverless cars (autonomous vehicles) strengthen and deepen the car-centric ideology that currently dominates all UK discussions. The driverless car still needs road space and converts our streets into vehicle-dominated unpleasant spaces when they should be people-friendly and child-friendly spaces. They also are intended to replace public transport and will need physical changes to streets to stop pedestrians and cyclists “getting in the way”. [8]
  • Electric vehicles (EVs) may well reduce GHGs but only if a secure electricity supply is based on very high levels of renewable energy. EVs still produce particulate (PM) emissions from non-exhaust sources (brake wear, tyre wear and road surface abrasion). The European Environment Agency has stated that “90% of total PM emissions from road traffic by end of decade will come from non-exhaust sources”. [9]

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Norway aims for its fjords to become zero emission zones

This story has been taken from another wordpress website, with acknowledgements:


Norway, a well-known leader in electric car adoption, is now leading the charge when it comes to electric ferries. Its fjords have become popular tourist attractions over the years.

More than 300.000 cruise passenger visited Geiranger last year and as a result, local air pollution has become a periodical health hazard.

The Norwegian Parliament has acted to halt emissions from cruise ships and ferries in the Norwegian world heritage fjords – making them zero-emission zones by 2026.

Norway’s world heritage fjords, like the Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord, are fjords that UNESCO has included on its World Heritage List and in an effort to protect them, environmental organizations campaigned for the resolution adopted by the Norwegian Parliament.

Marius Holm, head of the environmental foundation ZERO says: “For the first time in the world there is a requirement for emission-free sailing in the fjords and their harbours. Norway has long been a world leader in emission-free ferries based on sound political decisions on zero-emission requirements. Now the country is taking a step further in the maritime green shift, that has global repercussions.  At the national level, this will mean a welcome development towards emission-free solutions on many tourist ships, a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and a halt to harmful local air pollution.”

The operators of the first all-electric ferry in Norway, the ‘Ampere’, reported some impressive statistics after operating the ship for over 2 years. They claim that the all-electric ferry cuts emissions by 95% and costs by 80%.Unsurprisingly, the potential cost savings are attracting a lot of orders for new electric ferries and for the conversion of existing diesel-powered ferries.

Fjord1, a major Norwegian transport conglomerate which operates 75 ships, placed an important order with the Havyard Group to build a fleet of battery-electric ferries shortly after. Havila Holding AS, which operates some of the routes in the fjords, welcomed the decision. Per Sævik, CEO of Havila, commented: “Havila welcomes this decision, and not a moment too soon. We’ll be ready to sail emissions-free with our cruise ships in the fjords as early as 2021.”

The Norwegian authorities have also recently demanded zero-emission technology solutions as part of the effort to reduce emissions from the country’s ferry fleet outside the fjords, which is one of the most important in the world.