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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Birmingham City Council declares a Climate Emergency

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

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

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

Birmingham

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

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

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

The motion debated was as follows:

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

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

A group of young people demonstrating outside the Council House

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



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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


 


 


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UK Government’s plan to ban new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040

Whilst this sounds like an overdue move forward in meeting the Paris agreement emissions targets and dealing with severe air pollution, it is actually very disappointing. 2040 is actually 23 years away and we need action now.

Friends of the Earth have responded to the news by focusing on air pollution issues, as follows:  https://www.foe.co.uk/clean-air/latest-air-quality-plan?utm_source=Friends+of+the+Earth+Communications&utm_campaign=c2384c14be-LM1707024&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_383af65c6b-c2384c14be-22499637

“The government’s plans to clean up our dirty air are simply not good enough.

Its much anticipated Air Quality Plan has now been published. But it doesn’t do enough to tackle toxic air pollution and save lives now.

What’s wrong with the plan?

There’s a big announcement – banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 – but this isn’t a plan to end illegal air pollution now, or even anytime soon.

It’s a cynical move designed to grab headlines. Everyone knows what’s needed to give us breathable air:

  • Clean Air Zones areas in which the most polluting vehicles are charged to enter.
  • A diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers switch away from the most polluting vehicles.
  • A levy on the manufacturers who cheated emissions tests to pay for it.

Instead of this the government is passing the buck to local authorities. And as a result people will continue to have their lives cut short because of air pollution.

All in all it’s a cynical move by the government to grab the headlines by announcing changes for 23 years’ time and failing to take serious action now.”

My own perspective on this is to ask the question, “Why has it taken so long for the UK car industry to produce affordable electric and hybrid vehicles?”  We have known about this issue for years now and yet the car manufacturers have continued producing petrol and diesel vehicles, some of them high performance, as if they were safe for the environment.  And my other question is about the infrastructure needed to support the use of electric vehicles. Many British citizens would happily move to electric vehicles if they knew how to easily charge them up – and plan for long journeys.

Ride_and_Drive_EVs_Plug'n_Drive_Ontario

More access to charging facilities is needed plus quicker charging processes

Yet, car sales continue to rise and, whilst there are more hybrid and electric vehicles being sold in the UK, this is peanuts compared with the greater increases in the sales of petrol and diesel vehicles.  The figures below from 2014, published in chapter 2 (p.46) of my book confirm this.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

The actual numbers for the UK in 2014 were:

Petrol fuelled vehicles new registrations             1,184,409               47.8%

Diesel fuelled vehicles new registrations             1,240,287                50.1%

Alternative fuel vehicles new registrations               51,739                  2.1%

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Other European countries, such as Norway, are doing far better than this and others are imposing bans on the sale of new petrol vehicles far sooner than the UK is (eg Netherlands by 2025).  Why are we being so slow about it?  Is it that business interests take priority over the environment?

Top_PEV_global_markets_stock_Dec_2016

Source: Wikipedia

My other questions is: what about used vehicles?  Are they to be banned from UK roads after 2040 or is it just new vehicles which will be affected?

The measures clearly don’t go far enough.