December 4th, 2020
I’ve spent the morning confronting the threat of a Bristol Airport expansion.
The airport management is so shortsighted and greedy…..it’s appealing against the rejection of the original expansion plans. On the basis that the impact of the pandemic can be seen as ‘exceptional circumstances’. Yes, exceptional circumstances that require the world to change, not add to the devastation!
Anyway, if you live in and around Bristol (or even if you don’t maybe, just feeling strongly on principle..), we have until January 6th to submit objections/comments to North Somerset Council’s planning department.
The United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres has made a very powerful stark speech, saying “Humanity is waging war on nature… suicidal. Human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos. But that means human action can help to solve it.”
The UN was founded 75 years ago at the end of the second world war to try to promote world peace after two devastating global conflicts. In his address, The State of the Planet, Guterres said that now we need to make peace with nature – this “defining task of the 21st century… must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.” He also struck a note of hope, noting that many countries, including the biggest emitter, China, the EU and the US president-elect Joe Biden, have adopted targets of reaching net-zero emissions around the middle of the century. He said: “I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year – the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality.”
A major UK parliamentary enquiry has begun, a complete rethink of transport priorities. A fresh look at the need for the HS2 high speed rail line and the desirability of the £27bn road-building programme are included in a select committee’s investigations. Chairman Huw Merriman said: “Transport investment is at a pivotal moment. The pandemic has changed the way we travel. For meaningful numbers of us, it could change it for good. Our climate change commitments require us to shift away from diesel towards greener forms of energy.” This comment he made seems particularly important – “Changes to the way we appraise capital spending projects mean that the government no longer has to use value for money as the sole indicator.” Good, there are other things in life that are more valuable than money!
Highways England has promised more wildflower verges by the sides of roads – beautiful, of course, and important for restoring biodiversity (the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s); but, as Amelia Womack from the Green Party said, “This is no substitute for taking the more serious action needed to tackle the nature and climate crisis we currently face.”
Another substitute for addressing a serious issue (why are we simply not all vegetarians?!) is the invention of lab-grown meat. A regulatory authority in Singapore has approved for sale ‘chicken bites’ produced by the US company Eat Just. The company says this could open the door to a future when all meat is produced without the killing of livestock. The cells for Eat Just’s product are taken from biopsies of live animals and then grown in a bioreactor and combined with plant-based ingredients. Dozens of firms are apparently developing cultivated chicken, beef and pork, with a view to slashing the impact of industrial livestock production on the climate and nature crises, as well as providing cleaner, drug-free and cruelty-free meat. Currently about 130 million chickens are slaughtered every day for meat, and 4 million pigs. By weight, 60% of the mammals on earth are livestock, 36% are humans and only 4% are wild.
Now, important good news that puts pressure on the UK. Denmark has brought an immediate end to new oil and gas exploration in the Danish North Sea. Denmark’s climate minister, Dan Jorgensen, said: “We are now putting a final end to the fossil era” and Helene Hagel from Greenpeace Denmark described the parliamentary vote as a ‘watershed moment’ and “a huge victory for the climate movement.”
This news coincides with a report by the think tank IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) which says the UK’s North Sea oil and gas industry should agree to phase out production through a series of five-year targets to help its 260,000 strong workforce migrate to clean energy sectors. Luke Murphy, an associate director at IPPR, said: “It’s time for the UK to move on from oil and gas to a net zero North Sea and a greener and brighter future.
“As host of COP26, the UK has the opportunity to lead by the power of our example by committing to keep fossil fuels in the ground and offering a blueprint for affected workers and communities to make the most of the huge opportunities offered by the zero-carbon economy.”
Now, an amazing victory by six youth campaigners from Portugal. The European court of human rights has ordered 33 European governments to respond to their landmark climate lawsuit – they say governments are moving too slowly to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are destabilising the climate. If the defendant countries fail to convince the Strasbourg-based judges, lawyers say they will be legally bound to take more ambitious steps and to address the contribution they – and multinational companies headquartered in their jurisdictions – make to overseas emissions through trade, deforestation and extractive industries.
Marc Willers QC, who is representing the young plaintiffs, said: “It is no exaggeration to say that this could be the most important case ever tried by the European court of human rights.”
Such amazing tenacious young people, but as 12 year old Andre Oliveira said: “What I’d like the most would be for European governments to immediately do what the scientists say is necessary to protect our future.”
To finish, I’ll refer to the top picture – although this photograph is from a zoo, I just want to draw attention to the return of bushfires in Australia. After enduring the hottest spring ever this year, with temperatures more than 2C above average, fires are threatening people, homes and wildlife once again. When will Australia’s Scott Morrison and his administration face the fact of the climate emergency?