Emerging #2

July 7th, 2020

Good afternoon!

I’ve just spent a ridiculously long morning finding contact details for various financial institutions (who’d have thought…?!), writing to people only to discover the emails returned by the Mail Delivery System, so re-sending to different addresses…

Anyway, I seem at last to have successfully written to the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the CDC Group plc. 

Our government is a major funder of both the first two; and the third (formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, challenging in itself…) is the UK government’s own development bank, which finances projects such as a huge beef feedlot in Ethiopia and poultry companies in Niger and Uganda.

Basically, despite the clear link between industrial/factory farms and global heating world banks are financing them.

These institutions are finally realising ‘it pays not to pollute’ (quoting Philippe Le Houerou at the IFC) and are starting to divest from fossil fuel projects.

Now they need to do the same in the realms of agriculture, distancing themselves from industrial farms and meat companies.

Hopefully, things can really change.

The global gas market is collapsing, along with the oil one….

Multibillion-dollar liquified natural gas (LNG) projects are in danger of being abandoned.

Ted Nace, of Global Energy Monitor, said: “Modelling shows that renewable packages (don’t you just love finance-speak?! – my ‘aside’…) are already outcompeting imported gas in South Korea. And every year that goes by, renewables get more competitive.” Excellent!

A decade ago LNG was considered by many to be a ‘green’ investment (I vaguely remember that claim…), because burning gas for power emits roughly half the emissions as burning coal. However, many countries have since adopted renewable energy at a quicker than expected rate. So now the European Investment Bank’s vice-president has concluded that investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure including LNG is “increasingly an economically unsound decision”.

Here’s a bit of info that is interesting (well, I think so!) – the UK (Scotland and Ireland more than England, it seems..) is doing OK on the renewable energy front, with wind power (the go-ahead has just been given to a giant wind farm project off the Norfolk coast, good news!); 

but Iceland generates the most clean electricity per person on earth – it derives all of its energy for home heating from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants. Maybe some of you have even visited the geothermal plant at the Blue Lagoon (by train and ferry of course?!)….

And Costa Rica and Nicaragua use their volcanoes to produce geothermal energy.

I’ll stay with the travelling theme – coming out of lockdown, so many people are craving a change of scene…

Please consider not going away by plane.

Government advice is currently not to travel by public transport, but no such guidance is being applied to aircraft.

Once upon a time, the big public health crisis was smoking. The tobacco industry was powerful and effective in its lobbying of the government – much like the aviation industry is today. Airlines have received multi-million pound bailouts in recent months with no green strings attached, even though this is a golden opportunity for a green transition: many of the highly-skilled workers currently being made redundant at companies such as Airbus could be effectively re-deployed in the renewable energy sector (so many such projects are ‘shovel-ready’, I keep reading – they simply need investment…).

I’m quoting from ‘Flight Free UK’ with that paragraph. They go on to say: “In the same way as we once did not understand the health impacts of smoking, many of us are still unaware of the harmful impact of aviation.”

One day I hope, along with them, climate warnings will be added to boarding passes, with carbon information given at the time of booking. Or just turn your backs on aeroplanes altogether (unless you have family to see on the other side of the world, or a funeral to go to….)?

‘Possible’ has posted an amazing video interview/speech on its latest newsletter – an airline pilot, Todd Smith, talking passionately about why he’s stopped flying; and urging us to put pressure on government before it’s too late. I think you can find the clip by following ‘Possible’, ‘what’s it like being an airline pilot during the climate emergency?’ or ‘plant based pilot’…..

Now to our disappointing government again – tomorrow a full announcement is due for ‘greening the recovery’; but already it looks pitiful in its lack of ambition.

And lack of understanding about the scale of emergency we’re in… I keep hearing Boris Johnson’s voice in my head: he claimed back in February when he sacked the woman leader of COP26, so ignorantly/arrogantly (both…?), that he didn’t ‘get’ climate change….

£3bn is being promised, mainly to insulate buildings (the UK’s homes are the draughtiest in Europe). This is in contrast with the German government’s £36bn investment in measures to boost the economy while cutting emissions, with France spending £13.5bn to the same end. “Surely this  is just a downpayment?”, asked Rosie Rogers, head of green recovery at Greenpeace UK. Ed Matthew, of the E3G environmental thinktank, said £18bn was needed in the next 10 years to make all buildings energy efficient. That’s an under-estimate, considering the 2050 zero-emissions target is too late…

Anyway, hopefully some people will apply for Rishi Sunak’s ‘vouchers’, (I admire you if you do) but he seems to be relying too much on home-owners’ motivation ‘to do the right thing’; and what about tenants, the rented sector?….

More dragging of heels here – everything else hinges on a green, healthy planet: when will that be acknowledged?

Emerging #1

July 1st, 2020

So, how many of us were actually aware of Boris Johnson’s speech yesterday, promising to ‘build back greener’….? It was so hyped and when it actually happened was full of hot air, avoiding the crucial green issue, focussing more on build, build, build – in the old, destructive way….

How on earth (apt pun…) does our government think it’s/we’re going to meet zero-emissions targets?

I’ve written to Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, (even though he may not be in office for much longer…?), blind-copied in to my ‘friend’ at the Committee on Climate Change Chris Stark….

An extra blow is that the ‘New Deal’ speech came hard on the heels of a report by Green Alliance, saying that an extra £14bn a year is needed to help the UK meet its climate commitments. The cash is needed for clean transport, nature restoration, and low-carbon buildings.

On the subject of transport, I noticed charging points for electric cars in a Bristol park yesterday (on a socially distanced walk with family – that bit was lovely!) – a great initiative by Bristol City Council, but pointless if people aren’t helped to buy electric cars….

National government is letting us down…

A new poll has revealed that only 6% of the public want to return to the same type of economy as before the coronavirus pandemic. Trade unions, business groups and religious & civic leaders are uniting in calling for a fairer financial recovery, the ‘Build Back Better’ campaign. They include former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake (my daughter in law’s former boss!) and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. 

My husband cynically commented that the 6% who want to return to the ‘bad old days’ are unfortunately all in Government…

They’re all we’ve got at the moment, though – we have to keep trying to make them listen.

I really hope we’re not just knocking our heads against a brick wall…

Now I’m going to return to the subject of oil.

‘Europe could face a major shortage of oil within decade’ reads a Guardian headline recently. Mm, I remember hearing about ‘peak oil’ years ago; and in the early days of this blog (June 25th, 2019) I referred to Bob Dudley (then BP’s CEO) admitting the world is on an unsustainable path…Now,  ‘the move to increase the use of low carbon energy is even more urgent’…

The emphasis of the article, by Jillian Ambrose, is on production, supply and market prices, all business factors affected by coronavirus; but an environmental conclusion can be drawn – as Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis at Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy, said the forecasts offer “yet another reason” for economies to reduce their reliance on oil. 

There is no simple solution, of course. The transition to green economies is a challenge; but at least there now seems to be a consensus that this change is necessary – among so many, including the business and finance ‘worlds’. Our government still hasn’t got the message, though, it seems….

Aberdeen, the centre of the oil and gas industry in Europe, is an example of the challenges of the transition time. Jonathan Watts has written a very interesting article (in the Guardian, of course).

‘Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, thousands of oil workers have been laid off in the Scottish city. The pandemic looks likely to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy, raising hopes for a greener future but also throwing up huge concerns about intergenerational injustice. Without government intervention, the young look set to take a double hit from the post-lockdown economic downturn and the energy transition. No age group is immune to the shift, but those closer to retirement are more likely to have a nest egg saved up from the golden era of North Sea oil.’

The article goes on to quote several oil workers, both old and young, with an impressively positive attitude – “I would advise anyone entering the industry to focus on developing experience and expertise in areas that are CO2-neutral, because that is the future”, from one who sees the only growth areas in Aberdeen as decommissioning old rigs and offshore wind energy; and “if they could help me with training as a wind turbine technician, that would give me an extra chance.”

The Scottish government has gone further, apparently, than the rest of the UK in preparing its economy and workforce for a shift to renewables (why am I not surprised…?).

Rachel McEwen, part of the Just Transition commission and also chief sustainability officer at SSE, one of Scotland’s leading companies, said: “Companies like us have pinned our whole being on finding profitable solutions to climate change. If that transition is unfair, you delegitimise it. So we have an interest in ensuring it is done in a thoughtful and just way.”

I really hope these are not just words… And Colette Cohen goes even further… she is the CEO of the Oil and Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen – despite that off-putting title, she claims to believe in a green future. “From industry perspective and from government connections, I would say the only recovery is a green recovery. A lot of people have seen a better world and want a change. It’s very exciting. It’s an amazing time to be involved in energy and technology.”

I really want to believe her! 

I’ve written to her. 

Another piece of good news – the US shale gas giant Chesapeake Energy has collapsed.

And France has been swept by a green wave – ecology candidates won a number of major victories in the country’s local elections. Anne Hidalgo in Paris said voters had chosen to make Paris more “ecological, social and humanist”. Lyon, France’s third largest city (and home to some of my relatives – bonjour to you all!), also choosing a Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) candidate.

Back home, our only Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, bravely battles on. She is supporting a new National Nature Service – it will train and employ people to restore nature as we rebuild from the Covid-19 crisis. Please, all of you, help convince the Government to take this forward by pledging your support – just visit nationalnatureservice.org and submit your support. It’s a lovely green form!

Lockdown #15

June 22nd, 2020

I’m going to quote from an article written (by Damian Carrington in The Guardian) more than 2 years ago – we still haven’t got the message!

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.

The research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

While meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses 83% of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.

From a personal point of view, cheese is difficult to give up; but more vegan cheeses are being made. And oat milk, as I’ve said before, is a completely acceptable alternative to dairy milk, I find!

I’ve written to the CEO of Dairy Crest, the biggest dairy firm in the UK.

A disturbing statistic struck me this week – the 13 biggest dairy companies in the world have the same combined greenhouse gas emissions as the UK, the sixth biggest economy in the world.

This report’s author, Shefali Sharma, European director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said: “Unlike growing public scrutiny on fossil fuel companies, little public pressure exists to hold global meat and dairy corporations accountable for their emissions…. Few of these companies are even reporting their emissions.”

The UK’s meat industry is feeling the effects of coronavirus – a meat processing site owned by Asda in West Yorkshire became the third food plant in 48 hours to confirm an outbreak after about 150 workers fell ill with the virus. The Kober plant, which supplies bacon to Asda supermarkets and employs more than 500 people closed; the UK’s main supplier of supermarket chicken, 2 Sisters Food Group has closed its Anglesey plant after 58 people tested positive for coronavirus; and Rowan Foods, which makes food for supermarkets across the UK, had 38 staff test positive.

Conditions for the low-paid workers in these places is another good reason to think twice before buying meat….

Happily, as the latest Extinction Rebellion newsletter points out, ‘amid all the sadness and tumult, there are some bright things happening.’ Whoopi Goldberg voices a lovely little animation, The Gigantic Change, encouraging people to believe that we can change things – have a look, and check out the website. And The Condor & The Eagle is a new documentary bringing Indigenous voices to the forefront – it’s out on Friday (June 26th).

Another broadcast is by Greta Thunberg, entitled ‘Humanity has not yet failed’ – thank goodness!

It tells the tale of her journey ‘to the front lines of the climate crisis’. After her speech at the United National General Assembly in the USA last year, Greta and her father travel through 37 states. Apart from a few wind power plants and solar panels, there are no signs whatsoever of any sustainable transition, despite this being the richest country in the world.

She was discouraged from visiting the state of Alberta in Canada, but went there anyway. Alberta is one of the western world’s largest oil producers and has a very powerful and aggressive oil lobby. Greta Thunberg, a 17 year old girl, had to call for police protection on several occasions, ‘when the level of threats and the sheer harassments become too serious’. How many people realise what damage is being done in Canada?….

I’m going to turn to Australia now – the country’s fire-ravaged forests are recovering, with local residents feeling hugely relieved and cautiously optimistic. In the middle part of a charred tree, lime green leaves sprouting from blackened bark prompt Claire Polach, from the South Coast, to say that Australia’s nature “is doing its thing” and “we’ll follow the nature”.

But scientists are still warning that a warming climate could mean more severe fires, more often, bringing concerns that even the ‘fire continent’ will struggle to recover fully.

Will Scott Morrison listen to the scientists now?

As Greta Thunberg says: “Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible. And that is up to you and me. Because no one else will do it for us.”

Keep up the activism!

Lockdown #14

June 15th, 2020

Gateshead, England is showing us the way!

It has a scheme to use hot water from old mine workings – making something good with the remnants of an era that is gone.

The Gateshead Energy Company plans to install 5.5km of new heating pipes to the east of the town centre, potentially supplying heat to 1,250 new houses, as well as a care home, Gateshead International Stadium and other council-owned buildings in Felling.

Let’s hope that the plans come to fruition; and that more councils like Gateshead Council are successful in applying for the Heat Networks Investment Project grants, a Government initiative…

The funding will help install a water source heat pump, which will extract heat from the water in underground mine workings 150 metres beneath Gateshead town centre. The council is working with the Coal Authority, which manages all the disused mine workings under Gateshead.

Cllr John McElroy said: “The council has always seen the development of low-carbon energy as key to meeting our climate change goals, but also in generating lower-cost energy for residents and organisations in Gateshead.”

I heard about all this from an item on BBC radio news (coincidentally my sister works in Gateshead and may well know about the scheme). I really don’t understand why some news items ‘make it’ to the regular broadcasts – why are we not regularly reminded about the climate crisis, to wake us up about our responsibilities but also to hearten us with stories of positive change?

I’m waiting to hear from Laura Kuenssberg!

I’ll continue with a couple more positive stories (& then tackle the inevitable gloomy stuff…).

The UK government is considering steps to end its ongoing financial support for fossil fuels overseas. This follows a period of using £3.5bn of public funds to support polluting projects since signing the Paris climate agreement (SO cynical, immoral & disgraceful – how did we let them get away with it….?).

Senior civil servants are understood to be planning a new climate strategy that would phase out financial support  for oil and gas infrastructure in developing countries ahead of the UN’s Cop26 talks next year. 

Daniel Willis, with Global Justice, said: “For the government to show real climate leadership ahead of Cop26 and support a global green recovery from Covid-19, it needs to end these highly damaging investments.”

Earlier this year, Keir Starmer, before he was elected Labour Party leader, said: “Rather than funding fossil fuel projects abroad, we should use our development budget and technical expertise to help other countries skip our bad habits and grow their own low-carbon economies on renewables instead.”

Despite so much bad news coming out of America, this is good: New Jersey has become the first state to add climate change to its schools’ curriculum. New Jersey students will start learning about climate change in kindergarten and keep studying the crisis through graduation under the state’s new education standards.

This is good news, the crisis being acknowledged and made part of the education system; but I hope, of course, that children and young people are also given positive information about how to tackle the crisis, encouraged to be an active part of ‘greening the world’….

Closer to home, for me, and on a personal level too (Rebecca’s mother is my godmother!), I enjoyed reading writer Rebecca Frayn’s recommendations of what to watch, and encourage us, during lockdown – “hope-filled environmental documentaries that remind us that one silver lining in this global pandemic is the possibility of rebuilding green.”

She drew my attention to ‘Tomorrow’, by French film-makers Melanie Laurent and Cyril Dion – “it offers such a wonderfully positive, intelligent, hopeful and solution-based approach to living….an achievable utopian world”.

Interestingly, my penultimate reference was to be to Jane Goodall, whose documentary on National Geographic is titled ‘The Hope’. The quote I read from her, in the Guardian’s Green Light section, was anything but hopeful – “Humanity is finished if it fails to adapt after Covid-19”. 

She blames the emergence of Covid-19 on the over-exploitation of the natural world, which has seen forests cut down, species made extinct and natural habitats destroyed.

We need to drastically change our food systems, she warns. I know she’s talking about the world’s systems, horrendous intensive farming in particular, but we can all help by reducing the market for meat, can’t we?….

I’m going to end today with a tweet from Greta Thunberg – “If countries like Sweden are to fulfil their commitments in the Paris Agreement their national CO2 emissions must be reduced 12-15% every year, starting now. This is according to the first study based on the Paris Agreement and the latest IPCC research.”

Keep writing to your MPs! Drastic changes need to start now. We are a country like Sweden!

Lockdown #13

June 8th, 2020

Of course this week my thoughts are dominated by the movement for justice for Black people around the world. Could this, at long last, be a moment for real change? In everything – our relationship with the natural world; and our relationship with each other….It is all connected. There is no just recovery for people and the climate, without addressing the systemic harm and violence towards Black communities, as 350.org put it. So many indigenous peoples around the world are being victimised, even killed, by greedy polluting corporations; and I keep forgetting to mention the terrible storms that have been affecting India and Bangladesh recently. People are coping with dreadful circumstances; and we here are all too easily able to ignore them – why does the BBC, for instance, not at least announce such news as these storms together with a warning about climate change….? The importance of protecting the planet and protecting all humans equally is surely not a matter of opinion – it is a matter of fact and morality.

It would be great if you could contact the BBC about this – Extinction Rebellion suggests the following:

“We need an economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis that prioritises people and planet. The BBC says ‘Our Planet Matters’, but where is the discussion on the news?

Tell the BBC to cover a green economic recovery instead of a return to ‘business as usual’. Submit comments and complaints via the BBC. Share on social media with the hashtags #EmergencyOurPlanetMatters #NoGoingBack #BBC4CEE, or on our Facebook page.”

And/or write a personal letter, like I do. Sometimes they get answered!

Returning to the subject of racism, I have a personal memory – working at Lucas Vale Primary School in Deptford, London, I knew such a loving, inspirational nursery teacher there, Thelma Perkins. She wrote a children’s book, ‘Wishing on a Wooden Spoon’. It is so important that all children from an early age (my 18 month old grandson has loved books from when he was tiny) ‘read’ books where the protagonists are black, as well as actively anti-racist books. Aimee Felone in The Guardian has some suggestions. Check out the Letterbox Library too.

I read a horrible tweet telling Greta Thunberg to ‘go back to climate fake news’ with her righteous anger (such an important phrase) – 

about the EU and individual democratic nations’ lack of official condemnation of the police brutality and attacks on the press.

Children and young people are our hope for correcting our wrongs in both spheres – such a burden for them too, of course….

Friday (June 5th) was World Environment Day. A digital event was hosted in Stockholm by ‘We Don’t Have Time’ and in Colombia by the United Nations. This year’s theme was biodiversity. An impressive array of government representatives, businesses, celebrities and ‘ordinary citizens’ focused on this ‘urgent and existential’ theme….The Day was mentioned on the BBC Radio Three news, but with absolutely no urgent and existential comment – a day to think about animals, as far as most listeners could tell….

Now, pieces of serious information that need attention (by all of us, to some degree):

the International Monetary Fund has said equity markets have generally ignored the increasing number of natural disasters over the past 50 years and tougher rules are needed to make investors aware of the dangers posed by the climate crisis.

Companies should be forced to disclose their exposure to climate risk because a voluntary approach does not go far enough, the IMF said.

How many warnings do we need? We all have a duty to check how our money is being invested; and spread the word with everyone we know that companies need to be accountable. We can’t wait for laws to change, it seems – let’s use our people power and withdraw support from blinkered (a polite way of saying greedy…?!) companies….

Some UK companies are leading the way (hopefully…) – they have sent a letter to the prime minister urging ministers to use the Covid-19 lockdown as a springboard to propel a green economy. The signatories to the letter, including Asda, Sky and Yorkshire Water, urge ministers to publish detailed plans that will put the UK back on track to meet the medium-term climate goals, from which it’s slipping. Why is it slipping?…. And the goals are still too far in the future…

On June 25th, the Climate Change Committee is due to publish its annual report assessing the UK’s progress in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, OR LACK THEREOF.  Extinction Rebellion is planning action on that day – please do what you can to support XR. Chris Stark of the CCC has always re-assured me and sounded optimistic about the government’s progress. But can we really trust this government…?! I’d love to think so, but they’re failing us in so many ways, yet again..

I’ll end with some immediate action that is possible. ‘Possible’, the group ‘inspiring climate action’, is promoting a ‘Stride and Ride 5’ initiative. Keeping buses and trains safe as we begin to emerge from lockdown presents an unprecedented challenge for our cities and towns – and the serious risk that our streets become choked with cars.  This new initiative encourages people pledging to walk, run, cycle, skate or scoot at least 5 times in a fortnight. Each journey represents one of 5 reasons to stride and ride: to keep public transport safe; to keep our air clean; to keep our streets safe, quiet and peaceful; to improve our health; and to help tackle climate change.

As Max Wakefield of Possible said: “With everyone’s routine shaken up, what better time for us to all try something new together?” Visit their website.

And sorry but just before I go, I have a further reminder of Donald Trump’s cruelty: his administration is finalising rules that will allow hunters in Alaska’s national parks to shoot bears and wolves, and their cubs and pups, while they are in their dens. Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director for the Centre for Western Priorities, called the rule change “amazingly cruel” and said it was “just the latest in a string of efforts to reduce protections for America’s wildlife at the behest of oil companies and trophy hunters.” Keep writing and signing petitions! Even oil companies care about their reputations- let’s expose them!

Lockdown #12

June 1st, 2020

Well, it’s June 1st, the first day of the summer months.

‘Lockdown easing’ has started in England; and barbecues, those traditional English favourites, are allowed (with restrictions, of course…).

To herald this piece of news, the accompanying photo I saw was of rows of sausages – unlikely to be vegetarian sausages…?! I wonder if one day it will be ‘normal’ to enjoy a picnic/meal outdoors without sausage rolls…?!

Last year the National Food Strategy was launched – I think I might have mentioned this in an earlier ‘post’: I wrote to Henry Dimbleby, the ‘independent lead’ of the project, and he replied with a sweet pledge to do the best he could for my grandson….!

The NFS is the first independent review of England’s entire food system for 75 years. Included in its ambitious aims is ensuring our food system ‘restores and enhances the natural environment for the next generation in this country’.

The statement above this aim says the system needs to be ‘robust in the face of future shocks’.

I doubt anyone was prepared or could have imagined how soon the countryside and farming, and the whole world, would be tested by this year’s shock of coronavirus.

One of the review’s plans was to create Citizens’ Assemblies (so important, to consult people, everyone seems to agree…) – I was too late to contribute to that process (how many of us knew it was going on, I wonder..?). And now, I’m told, “The National Food Strategy team has temporarily paused our work, so that we can concentrate on helping the Government ensure that food gets to the most vulnerable people in society over the coming weeks…” Fair enough.

‘Henry and the National Food Strategy team’ went on to say, “This is a vital endeavour…more so than ever, in fact. We will be returning to the work with renewed vigour as soon as we are able to and we will stay in touch through a strong, national network of food system ambassadors.”

So, check out the National Food Strategy website if you’re involved in farming, food supplies and/or have opinions about the future of these – from a ‘tweet’ at the beginning of last month, it looks as if Henry Dimbleby is gearing up to get going again….(please also follow my tweets, if possible, by the way, at #grandmaglobal)

I hope he remembers his ‘story of hope’ back in 2019 , to ‘pivot this system ….delivering sustenance, pleasure, jobs and (for some!) profit, to one that does that while simultaneously restoring and enhancing our environment, sequestering carbon and that stops making us sick’. I think he was referring to obesity ‘sickness’ – now the virus must make us re-think too….

In his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference in January this year he said: “We need to start framing the carbon problem as one of both production and consumption. The current production-only climate change targets make no sense. What is the point of doing the enormous amount of work required to create a net-zero farming economy here, if we then just import that carbon from other countries?”

I’m sure all (6?..) my ‘readers’ buy local food as far as possible – influencing family and friends is the start of changing demand: we’re all customers/consumers.

So, connected with barbecue/picnic time, I’ll quote Professor Joe Smith, chief executive of the Royal Geographic Society, who told BBC News: “For many people, the recent long sunny spell is simply ‘nice weather’. In a wider context it’s a signal of the increasing unpredictability of the UK’s climate. Planning for the growing season is starting to resemble a night at the gambling tables. “The fact remains that bold early actions to slash emissions can still cut the larger risks associated with climate change in the UK and around the world.”

Eating no meat would contribute to ‘slashing emissions’….

And, finally on the outdoors summer theme, my attitude to wasps (unwelcome picnic ‘guests’) has changed – even since last summer….!

I’m still anxious to keep away from them, for my grandchild’s sake mainly, of course, but I can admire them from afar – that vibrating on wooden surfaces is them ‘eating’ paper to use for their nests (a skill my nephew told me about ); but, more important for the environment is that wasps as well as bees pollinate plants. So, don’t kill their busy, buzzing please!

Lockdown #11

May 26, 2020

  • At 8am on May 18th, more than 2000 pairs of children’s shoes were placed in London’s Trafalgar Square with people holding a banner saying ‘Covid today > Climate tomorrow > Act Now’
  • Extinction Rebellion are calling on the government to act on the climate crisis during the coronavirus recovery so children and young people aren’t left to suffer a deeper crisis
  • Shoes were donated by local neighbours, parents and teachers across London who are scared for their children’s future, with Extinction Rebellion pledging to give them to Shoe Aid following the action
  • The protest comes as UK lockdown begins to ease and the government begins bailing out carbon intensive industries, writing off chances of keeping within Paris Climate Agreement promises
  • A stark reminder to us all – this is about our children and grandchildren, and time is really running out….
  • Talking of stark, I’ve written to ‘my friend’ Chris Stark at the Committee on Climate Change, asking him – has the Climate Assembly UK I reported on last week had links with Extinction Rebellion? One of their/our demands is for a people’s assembly…..It’s so important we all work together – for the common good.

Climate change can still be tackled – but only if people are willing to embrace major shifts in the way we live, a report says, out soon in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

I think I’ve heard that before; but of course it’s worth repeating, and also hopeful. We do need to get on with it, though!

What is new about this report is its statement:

‘The response to the Covid-19 crisis has shown that the public is willing to accept radical change if they consider it necessary.’

And the report adds that government priorities must be re-ordered.

Protecting the planet must become the first duty of all decision-makers, the researchers argue.

The authors, led by Dr Diana Ivanova from Leeds University, urge the public to contribute by adopting the carbon-cutting measures in the report, which is based on an analysis of 7,000 other studies.

Top of their list is living car-free, or, next best, using a battery electric car. Taking one less long-haul flight a year is next – better to stop flying all together of course, but this option is good for families separated across the world (thinking of several friends of mine…).

Switching to renewable energy suppliers is fourth; and insulating your home is sixth, with installing air-source heat pumps eighth. Those last two are too expensive for many people of course, which is why continued pressure needs to be put on government to provide serious help. Fifth is using public transport – to be restored/given a new lease of life, after the fear of being close to people caused by this pandemic…?!….

Finally (well, in seventh place in this list, actually) is switching to a vegan diet. I have doubts that many ‘regular’ people are willing to  do this; but eating no/less meat would be a start, as well as cutting down on dairy produce. So much land in the world is wasted, feeding animals to feed us….

Now, a couple of pieces of good news: 

Beer and soft drinks could soon be sipped from “all-plant” bottles under new plans to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers. A biochemicals company in the Netherlands hopes to kickstart investment in a pioneering project to make plastics from plant sugars rather than fossil fuels.

Carlsberg and Coca Cola are backing the project.

Come to think of it, possibly this first piece of news is slightly less than completely good….do we want the land reclaimed from animal farming to be instead used for ‘growing’ plastic….?! Can’t we simply learn to do without plastic bottles?

The second piece of news is definitely good (& concerns Coca Cola’s rival/competitor) – after more than 5 years of campaigning, PepsiCo has changed its palm oil sourcing policy, and agreed to use its influence with other companies to end rainforest destruction and human rights abuses. PepsiCo is the world’s second-largest food and beverage company, producing so many snacks (including Doritos…label reading is so important!). So we/Sum of Us (with our petitioning & campaigning) has managed to persuade a huge company to ditch its destructive ways.

Deforestation is a huge problem, for the planet and for orang-utans….

(sorry, I couldn’t get rid of the bullet points from that first XR extract…etc..)

Lockdown #10, part 2

May 18th, 2020

In the first national elections in the time of Covid-19, South Korea’s Democratic Party won a landslide victory – after putting forward a bold Green New Deal plan in their manifesto. In this win for people and the planet, South Korea became the first country in East Asia to announce such a comprehensive climate policy. For one of the world’s largest coal investors and with a huge manufacturing industry, this is a major shift.

In this country, Britain’s biggest green energy companies are on track to deliver multibillion-pound wind farm investments across the north-east of England and Scotland to help power a cleaner economic recovery. The Port of Tyne will be hosting the operations base for the world’s largest offshore wind development, which will create 200 permanent jobs and support a local supply chain industry based on clean energy.

Alok Sharma said projects like the Dogger Bank offshore wind farm will be “a key part of ensuring a green and resilient economic recovery as well as reaching our target of net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Great words, but 2050 is still too late….

I had a reply from Grant Shapps – well, the Department for Transport, specifically the Office for Low Emission Vehicles. I was concerned that his plans to increase and improve public transport will now be ditched because of the pandemic – people feel safer in their cars (and of course government advice for the moment is to avoid public transport).

I was assured that ‘OLEV are still working to support the electric vehicle market’- supporting the transition, giving grants, funding charge points etc….Figures of billions of pounds are quoted, though only one and two billions….! Nothing, compared to bailouts for airlines, I suspect… It will be good when/if we actually see more electric vehicles on the roads (I’m still loving the idea that car transport is drastically reduced, at the moment!). And of course I hope that after the current consultation, our government will definitely bring forward the end of the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans from 2040 to 2035 (‘or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible’, to quote OLEV again). But then of course there are all the old vehicles we still drive and pollute with.. Coronavirus has been detected on particles of air pollution. Sorry, I don’t seem to be able to be positive for long…!

Finally, this week, the Climate Assembly UK has held its final meeting online.

The first meeting took place in January, and I was very sceptical about what difference it could make, imagining the usual conference tea, coffee and meal breaks…

The 110 people attending were selected by computer to be representative of society from a pool of 1,500, who asked to be considered after invitations were sent out to 30,000 households chosen at random.

A crucial question discussed at this final weekend was whether the UK deadline/target of 2050 for meeting net-zero should be brought forward. Yes, of course!

It’s great to know that trainee teachers have been mixing with legal employees and other ‘normal people’ (ie not just us environmental activists…?!), discussing a better, cleaner future.

One of the participants said: “I think the change will happen. It’s the speed at which it happens which is the key. But as I see those changes being made, I’ll be able to smile and look at them and say ‘Well, I did that.’”

So, the personal and the global there together – a good note to end on….for now!

Lockdown #10

May 18th, 2020

This is going to be a more personal ‘episode’ (I think?!)

Lockdown is definitely beginning to ‘get to me’….

Everything seems more heightened, the negative stuff particularly unfortunately.

My personal living circumstances couldn’t be more idyllic and just ‘up my street’ – a person who’s not exactly sociable – ‘locked in’ with my adorable, precious grandchild (plus his parents!) in beautiful Gloucestershire countryside.

I’m proud that I haven’t been in a car since March; but my husband is ‘out there’ once a week, shopping for us all – the plastic packaging makes me very depressed, even more so now somehow.

I don’t really understand how everyone doesn’t take that personally….?!

We’re trapped in ‘the system’ is the excuse for most of us….

Thank goodness Greenpeace and other campaigners are tackling what is such an enormous problem, part of the huge environmental mess we’ve made for ourselves.

There was a virtual screening of ‘The Story of Plastic’ at the end of April, broadcast by Greenwire (a Greenpeace platform) – I couldn’t bear to watch it (goodness knows how I watched that impressive but deeply depressing Meat documentary made by Liz Bonnin…).

If you’ve got the strength/stomach, the film was produced by Break Free from Plastic and first aired on Discovery Channel (US), continuing to be aired on Discovery Network affiliates around the world as late as June. A virtual community screening is open to grassroots groups, educators and individuals; and The Story of Plastic is also available to watch on the subscription DiscoveryGo streaming service, for rent on Amazon, on Apple TV, and on Xfinity video-on-demand.

So many compromises have to be made – only the most ‘squeaky clean’ can do without Amazon, these days (…?!).

I’m consoling myself with the thought that ‘something is better than nothing’ – I’m collecting plastic to be ‘upcycled’ (eventually) by Terracycle, while promoting watching a film about the evils of plastic through Amazon…..!

And some news that definitely chimes with the compromise theme this week that really, strangely, lifted my spirits – BP’s Bernard Looney (my ‘friend’ whom I’m yet to actually meet…) has said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has deepened his commitment to shrinking the oil giant’s carbon footprint to zero.

Finally, for today, I hope you all (maybe that’s only 6 of you…?!) might be interested in getting tickets for a virtual gig/performance this evening, please – Gecko, who happens to be my son, is on the bill with Isabel Losada ‘the joyful environmentalist’.

One positive consequence (there aren’t many for struggling artists) of the world of live music, arts and theatre disintegrating due to Covid-19 is that there’s a possibility of audiences in Australia, Africa, the US and the UK all being at the same event….

Check out http://www.sofastory.club

Lockdown #9

May 11th, 2020

I hope you’ve been happy to sign the ‘Save People not Planes’ petition I’ve sent round.

I was alerted to it by Stay Grounded, a global network of more than 150 member organisations, among them local airport opposition and climate justice groups. Individual activists (like me!), academics, trade unionists and interested people are also invited to contribute to the network.

As they say: “In order to build political pressure, we need to be many”. Please consider joining …

Stay Grounded’s first newsletter says:

‘While it has been clear to the climate movement and civil society that ‘green growth’ of aviation is and will be an illusion, clear steps leading to effectively reducing the negative environmental and social impacts of aviation have been missing so far.’

In July 2019 a conference, ‘Degrowth of Aviation’, was held in Barcelona – its report, also available to read in the newsletter, aims to spark more campaigns and policies to tackle aviation’s climate impact in a just way.

All these climate movements are so positive in their approach and outlook – despite depressing news: ‘some horrendous deals worth billions have already been decided’, as airlines around the world continue to negotiate with governments for state aid at the expense of taxpayers and the climate…

Possible’s lawyers have written to the UK government, warning that bailouts for airlines without climate conditions would be open to legal challenge. This is because our government’s legally-binding goal of reaching net-zero carbon by 2050 won’t be able to be reached if airlines return to business-as-usual (let alone follow their plans to expand).

The lawyers’ letter was covered by nearly 150 papers across the UK.

Never give up!

Just to remind everyone why we mustn’t get ‘back to normal’… ‘Normal’ is a crisis in itself – millions of acres are burning in Siberia, thousands have been displaced as floods hammer Kenya and Somalia. Canadian workers and their families are recovering from floods from fast winter thaw, in a key tar sands development area.

And deforestation in the Amazon is happening at a faster rate than ever before… More and more pressure needs to be put on isolating Brazil’s terrible President Bolsonaro.

A couple of good things, however – in Turkey, a coal plant was cancelled after two years of fighting by local people; and three major Japanese banks have announced changes in policies, withdrawing support from coal projects.

Still with the bank theme, former governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney (who would have thought I’d have a banker as a hero…?!) has added his voice to calls for industrialised nations to invest in a greener economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

He shared his comments in an online discussion about climate change with the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull (Scott Morrison, please note!).

Both called on nations to accelerate a transition to cleaner energy.

The event was organised by the Policy Exchange think tank.

Mr Carney said the pandemic was “a terrible situation, but there was also a big opportunity” at the end of it.

He added: “We have a situation with climate change which will involve every country in the world and from which we can’t self-isolate” – perfect choice of words!

Finally, a study by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, has concluded that environmental stimulus packages would help repair the post-Covid-19 world economy better than traditional government spending and confront climate breakdown at the same time.

The study is co-authored by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz – I quoted him a while ago, saying we need to have wartime measures like rationing to combat climate change… seems appropriate at this time of ‘buckling down’, as well as during VE anniversary week….

Green projects, many of which are ‘shovel ready’, will create more jobs, deliver higher short-term returns per pound and lead to long-term savings.

“Tackling climate change has the answer to our economic problems,” said the lead author of the study, Cameron Hepburn.

At the Petersberg Climate Dialogue last week, a warning was given that stimulating new jobs in heavily carbon emitting sectors was shortsighted – the jobs of the past are insecure jobs.

A bright note to end on ….?!