COUNCIL NEEDS TO BE ’SERIOUS’ ON AIR QUALITY
Green Party are grubby and gimmicky, says Cllr Page Reading Midweek, April 15 2015 Carly Read
A COUNCILLOR has claimed that reading borough council is “burying its head in the sand” after Friday saw air pollution reach levels so high that the government issued a health warning to residents with heart and lung conditions.
High air pollution across the borough last week resulted in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs warning adults and children suffering from asthma and those receiving care for heart and lung problems not to take on strenuous activity.
And with more air pollution set to hit the Borough tomorrow (Tuesday), Green Party leader Rob Wite said the council should be doing more to tackle the problem.
He said: I think the council need to really try harder to tackle the problem.
He said: “I think the council need to really try a lot harder and do more to make people aware of the invisible killer that is air pollution.
“I think we’re in danger as this problem becomes more prominent in the borough, so the council need to stop burying their heads in the sand because it´s not something that is going away.”
But reading Borough Council´s lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, Councillor Tony Page claimed the idea of a text alert was nothing more than a “gimmick”
He said: “Rob Wite is talking absolute rubbish, it´s just nonsense. The green Party in Reading are a bunch of grubby little politicians and in fact are the ungreenest of green.
They´re hypocrites because the council is trying to push and promote a more environmentally friendly borough through things like Park and Ride and the greens are opposing these plans and criticizing them for being harmful to the environment.
He added: “The idea of text messaging residents to warn them of air pollution is just a gimmick – a gimmick from the gimmicky Greens – and I can tell you with all confidence that what people want to see is concrete measures put in to place and that´s exactly what we have.”
The council owns three road side units, in Caversham Road, King Road and Oxford road where air pollution data is collected and monitored.
The new warning for this week, issued on Monday morning encourages those at risk, including the elderly, to reduce outdoor activity until normal air levels return on Friday.
We’ve grown good at making many things in the modern world – but strangely the art of making attractive cities has been lost. Here are some key principles for how to make attractive cities once again
In “How to Make an Attractive City,” a new video from the School of Life, London-based Swiss writer Alain de Botton offers a cheeky, thought-provoking, six-point manifesto on the need for making beauty a priority in urban architecture and design.
The water was born, and water was, the great city of tenochtitlan.
Dykes, bridges, acequias, channels: Through the streets of water, two hundred thousand canoes were going and they came in between houses and squares, temples, palaces, the markets, the gardens, the floating plantíos.
The conquest of Mexico started out as a war of the water, and the defeat of the water announced the defeat of everything else.
In 1521, Hernán Cortés put site to tenochtitlan, and the first thing he did was break me with blows of axe the Aqueduct of wood I had, from the forest of chapultepec, water to drink. And when the city fell, at the end of a lot of killing, courteous sent demolish its temples and palaces, and threw the rubble to the streets of water.
Spain is wearing wrong with the water, it was a thing of the devil, heresy
Muslim, and water up was born the city of mexico, raised on the ruins of tenochtitlan. And continuing the work of the warriors, the engineers were blocking with stones and lands, in the course of time, all the circulatory system of Lakes and rivers of the region.
And the water took revenge, and several times flooded the colonial city, and that did not do more to confirm that she was an ally of the Indians pagans and enemy of the christians.
Century after century, the world dry continued the war against the world wet.
Now, the city of Mexico dying of thirst. In search of water excava. The more excava, more is sinking. Where he had air, there are dust. Where he had rivers, there are avenues. Where he ran the water, run cars.
Given the national climate change pact we would hope that our local leaders, irrespective of political party, will support the motion and a post-carbon agenda for Berkshire and ensure that dealing with climate change is a high priority now and beyond the election.
Please help support this motion by sharing widely and writing to your local political representatives to encourage their support. Open the Motion in .pdf-format here
After a record turn out during the international Climate Marches on 21st September, where 410,000 turned out in New York, 20.000 in London and 700,000 globally, an update on climate progress seems appropriate.
New IPCC Synthesis Report
This week the world received another vital report from a large number of the world’s leading scientific experts on climate change – a report accepted by the UK government.
The report is available for download here and the press conference can be viewed here
The scale of the expertise on this report alone extends to the involvement of scientific experts from 85 countries with 800 authors and thousands of reviewers completing comprehensive reviews on over 30,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on all aspects of climate change.
The 40th meeting on the issue by the IPCC assembled the Synthesis Report on the most recent findings, predictions and interpretations of data. This is no superficial institutional presentation but one which took six years of intense scientific study.
The report clearly tells us:
• Human influence on the climate system is clear and warming of the climate system is unequivocal – Recent man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history.
• The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, snow and ice reduced, sea level has risen, the oceans have become more acidic and extreme weather events have intensified.
• Without substantial and sustained reduction in carbon emissions global temperatures by the end of the 21st century could be more than 4 °C above pre-industrial levels.
• A change of that size would very likely lead to severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts on societies and the environment globally.
• Snow, ice, permafrost and glaciers are melting at the poles and globally.
• The oceans are becoming increasingly acidic.
• Extreme weather events are changing. Heat waves are lasting for longer and becoming more intense, and heavy rainfall events are becoming heavier.
• Trees and forests are dying back, corals declining, and animals have shifted from their natural habitats.
• Man-made emissions of greenhouse gases have risen enormously since the industrial revolution; CO2 levels are now at their highest in at least the last 800,000 years.
• Much of this rise in emissions has occurred in the last 40 years, with current emissions the highest in human history.
• Heat waves will occur more often and last longer, increasing the risk to health
• Heavy rainfall events will become heavier and more frequent in many places
• The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, negatively affecting marine wildlife and fisheries.
• Global average sea level will continue to rise, disrupting communities due to coastal flooding from storm surges.
• Food security will be undermined as changes in the oceans affect fisheries and drought and rising temperatures reduce global crops yields.
• To have a chance of keeping temperature change below 2 °C by the end of the century, global greenhouse emissions in 2050 need to be 40 to 70 % lower than in 2010, and emission levels near zero or below in 2100.
• Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Continued high emissions would lead to mostly negative impacts for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and economic development and amplify risks for livelihoods and for food and human security.
• This means we need total human emissions of CO2 to remain less than 2900 GtCO2. We have already emitted 1900 GtCO2, which is about two thirds of this limit.
• The longer we delay action, the harder and incredibly more expensive it will be.
• The Synthesis Report provides a strengthened case for international leaders to act now to reduce domestic carbon emissions and to secure an ambitious legally binding global agreement in 2015.
Settled Scientific Advice
We need to heed the scientific advice. It is the IPCC professionals – who have often dedicated their whole lives to understanding the complex science of our finely balanced ecosystems and atmosphere – whose advice we should act upon.
Fortunately many politicians are sensible enough to know when they too need to take advice on policy-making from the right experts and so most align with the IPCC recommendations to some extent. Yet some of our UK politicians claim to know more than all those IPCC experts put together! How absurd that we give them the time of day, when they put our world at risk by hindering and delaying action to reduce CO2(e).
As Prince Charles adequately put it: “we should compare the planet under threat of climate change to a sick patient. No doctor would wait for 100% certainty whilst a dying patient slipped away.” In this scenario the doctors are the IPCC, who have over 95% certainty, and just as a doctor would not ignore the symptoms before something irreversible happens neither should we – we must act now.
Crucial UN Climate Maeeting – COP21 Paris
We have the UNFCCC process, which is trying to stimulate this action, and next year in Paris the international community are supposed to stay true to their words and sign a legally binding deal – as was promised by all countries in 2011 at the UNFCCC Durban conference.
Yet, despite the report, alarmingly, there is now talk of a legally binding deal being unlikely and, instead, an “agreement” between nations and businesses to be the result of Paris (COP21 meeting)! This is disastrous because it is exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants. It is the same old game that large fossil fuel businesses play, where they will say the right things in an agreement and later, if a country has no legal deal (i.e. no repercussions if they don’t lower emissions), keep selling us fossil fuels instead of massively scaling up the alternatives needed to reduce CO2(e).
Time and time again people in political power tell us privately that large business has too much power and influence over politicians. Politicians need to have more courage and moral conviction – to stop being afraid of the consequences of upsetting large energy businesses and take the human power back into politicians’ hands – so that they can regulate our carbon. We need brave steps to be taken, steps which may cause disruption and pain but steps which will stop the patient from dying – in Prince Charles’s analogy.
Significant and Serious High Level Commentary on New Report
As the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said at the IPCC press conference, “We are at a very historic and crucially important time for humanity. Science has spoken, there is no ambiguity in the message, leaders must act, time is not on our side. There is no plan B because there is no planet B.” He went on to reiterate: “Massive, urgent and immediate action are needed, we have to mobilise all financial resources. We need everybody, even individual citizens to take action.”
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chair stated “ Climate change will leave no parts of the world untouched by the impacts…It’s very clear that to avoid the chaos of runaway climate change we need to dramatically reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases… The scientific community has now spoken and we are passing on the baton to politicians… The window of action is really closing very rapidly. We have a very short window of opportunity. Business as usual is certainly not an option. We need substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gases and adaptation. The costs will go up enormously if we delay action. The cost of inaction will be horrendously higher than the cost of action…We need to ensure that this message given by scientists is heard, not only by governments, but by business leaders and civil society, research and academia. The task we face must engage all stakeholders.
We cannot wait any further, we must act now, we have plenty of options available today that are economically viable. We need to start moving as quickly as possible. The costs of inaction are enormous and cannot even be quantified.
Finally, commenting on the report, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Office, Michel Jarraud stated “Now we are the point where excuses used for inaction are no longer valid. Ignorance can no longer be used as an excuse for inaction. The knowledge is there.”
We, all of us, from all walks of life must heed these clear words from our scientists and take action. Please write to your local MP and urge them to tell Ed Davey and David Cameron to squash any talk of opting out of a legally binding agreement at COP21. They can do this easily at the UNFCCC COP20 meeting in Peru in a few weeks. Tell MPs to pull together and make an international statement to honour their 2011 promise of a legally binding deal and in so doing “nip in the bud” any talk of “agreements” resulting instead of a deal. Non-binding agreements are what ill-intentioned business wants and are not in our national or international interest as they will fail to deliver the CO(e) reductions needed to cap global warming within a limit which will prevent catastrophic and irreversible consequences.
Do you not think you owe it to your children to understand and act on the danger we are collectively placing in their lives?
US President Barak Omaba’s speech to the UN Climate Conference , New York, September 2014
HRH Prince Charles urges urgent action against climate change ‘before it is too late’
Introduction to BerksCAN
We are at an important point in human history. We have made huge material progress in recent decades, and also huge scientific advances. The science of climate change is now unequivocal – we face a profound threat to life on Earth as we have known it hitherto: threats to our weather, to our food supplies on land, to the seas, to our landscape, and to other species. Changes to the climate are now being noticed by ordinary people every day. We have fifteen years left in which to radically cut our emissions of CO2.
In the past, commonly held traditional, philosophical or religious beliefs of all kinds helped to prevent people from doing things that would damage their surroundings: there were restraints on exploiting the Earth or Nature, there were obligations to earlier generations or to descendants. We need to regain that sense of duty and obligation. To be free of responsibility, if it means damaging the next generation, is no freedom at all.
Independent nation states hold the key to stopping climate change. But they usually act only for themselves, even though they have shared interests. But under pressure from their citizens they may be persuaded to find a way to work together. They have done little so far and now time has run out.
We citizens have been quiet. We have come to live cut off from our surroundings, and from the Earth itself and its atmosphere. The Earth has been treated as a tip.
We know deep down, though, that all of nature is interconnected and that the web of life can be fragile. We can, if we have the will, regain the sense that we are part of a greater whole, that we have to live in harmony with other life and that we depend on it. And we can act on that. We have the great human capacity to co-operate. There are great challenges ahead, but we have the ability to cope with them.
The actions required for cutting emissions and installing clean energy are well known. The technology is there. We need only stop dithering and set off down the path. Otherwise our children will have to do it, and in far worse circumstances.
Let us start near home, in our own county. BerksCAN’s purpose is to help the community understand the issues and to take steps along the path that inevitably must be taken.
Your elected representatives have a moral duty of care to protect the community and your children. Are your elected representatives fulfilling their duty of care? Do they understand the gravity of the scientific advice being given to them? Are they acting on your behalf? Are they voting for action? Are they putting pressure on national government to acknowledge the threat and strongly respond on your behalf?
Carbon emissions are rising not falling. Its clear that many of your representatives are not acting in the interest of current and future generations to protect from the damaging effects of climate change. BerksCAN!’s view is that this is immoral, unjust and reprehensible and must change as per the scientific advice given to them. We cannot condemn current and future generations to the clear growing danger that is becoming increasingly evident.
The community must respond and demand action commensurate with the scientific knowledge to face up to this issue Write to your representative. Let BerksCAN! know the response.
The first wave of submissions of Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC’s INDC portal due in March is likely to cover only less than a third of global emissions, but already in June they are likely to reach over half, as now revealed by research from NewClimate Institute. This allows for a constructive negotiation process on the contributions during 2015.
All countries have been asked to present an emissions reduction proposal, which would ultimately be included in a new international climate agreement in December 2015. Additional proposals have been announced, but not formally submitted, for example by China, Chile and the Dominican Republic. The Lima Call for Action encouraged countries “in a position to do so” to submit their INDCs by 31 March 2015. A second implicit submission deadline is 01 October 2015, after which submissions are still allowed but will not be included in the UNFCCC’s synthesis report, which will be made available to Parties in time for the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, December 2015. Countries able to do so are encouraged to submit their INDCs well in advance of this date.
Research from NewClimate Institute for UNFCCC and UNDP has tracked the progress of INDC preparations worldwide, and collected insights and lessons learned from the various preparation approaches. The second round of results were published on 30 March 2015 and include information on the progress that 97 countries have made in the preparation of their INDCs. These results are updated on a regular basis.
Figure 1 shows that very few countries have submitted or intend to submit before 31 March 2015. But as these countries include the EU and the USA, they together cover roughly 28% of global emissions. Coverage will reach over half of emissions around June and over three quarters in October.
How does this submission schedule impact the negotiations on a future international agreement on climate change? The views diverge between two broad perspectives:
Some argue for an early and precise submission; countries should put forward their offers as soon as possible so that during the course of 2015, offers can be analysed, aggregated and strengthened if needed.
Others argue, that countries should put forward their firm offers later, because they hardly change once made. For example, since 2009 we know that the Copenhagen pledges are in aggregate not sufficient, but no single large emitter has strengthened its target since. It is unlikely that a target that was either announced by a president or that was a result of a long stakeholder consultation would be changed significantly during an international negotiation process.
An ideal scenario, in-between these two views, would be a staged approach, where countries very early in the process announce relatively vague targets that leave room for changing ambition in a negotiation phase during 2015.
In fact, this is actually what is happening: The EU has put forward “at least” a 40% reduction, the USA will present a range of percentage reductions and China has announced, but not submitted, a loosely defined peak year. This will now enable a constructive negotiation process during 2015, and builds hope that the remaining time can be used towards constructing an agreeable 2015 international climate agreement.
Further results from the data collection
Progress has been made in the last month: Of the countries accounted for in the results (which altogether account for 85% of global GHG emissions), the number of those not having started decreased from over 36% to below 30%. Slightly less than one third of countries have initiated the national discussion, but not yet proceeded to the technical design. The share of countries in technical design has increased from 13 to 20%.
Still, 37% of responding countries, but covering only 7% of global emissions, indicated that they have not yet set an internal timeline for their submission.
This update confirms that timing is the most significant of the challenges that countries face in the preparation of their INDCs; approximately 88% of countries feel challenged by the short timeframe available for the process. Other major challenges reported were lack of certainty and guidance on what to include in INDCs (73%), limited expertise for the assessment of technical options (71%) and difficulty to secure high-level political support (66%).
Despite the challenges faced with limited expertise, less than a quarter of countries have already received international support specifically for the preparation of their INDCs. More than a quarter of countries indicate that they are still applying for international support.
The update also confirms, that countries have indicated on a large majority that the INDC process has afforded the country multiple opportunities, specifically, the enhanced engagement of stakeholders in planning and improved domestic and international communication on climate change issues. Importantly, 76% of countries report that their INDC preparations have helped to accelerate national climate change policy processes. These benefits are expected to become even more tangible in the coming months as countries continue to more advanced stages in their INDC preparations.
A wide range of INDC types can be expected from countries’ submissions. Approximately two thirds of countries report that their INDCs will include a long term goal for GHG emissions, whilst it is also clear that most countries intend to include a mixture of components including non-GHG related outcomes, specific policies and actions, and broader institutional development. Furthermore, over half of countries report that climate change adaptation plans will form a major component of their INDC.
Expecting the Paris talks to succeed is a pious hope: but the Oslo principles, launched today, argue that governments are already in flagrant breach of their legal obligations to the planet
‘The dismal pace of international negotiations is why the Guardian has thrown its weight behind a divestment campaign.’ The South Korea delegation are all smiles at the 2014 UN climate change conference in Peru, intended to produce a draft deal to be adopted in Paris in December. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP
Today a group of eminent jurists accuse governments and enterprises of being in clear and flagrant breach of their legal obligations on climate change – under human rights law, international law, environmental law, and tort law.
Human ravaging of our planet and climate through relentless fossil fuel extraction and greenhouse gas emissions is undoubtedly the defining existential challenge of our time. Our collective failure to commit to meaningful reductions in emissions is a political and moral travesty, with catastrophic implications, particularly for the poorest and most marginalised, domestically and globally.
But in the Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations – launching in London today – a working group of current and ex-judges, advocates and professors, drawn from each region of the world, argue that any new international agreement will just be a coda to obligations already present, pressing and unavoidable in existing law.
What the Oslo principles offer is a solution to our infuriating impasse in which governments – especially those from developed nations, responsible for 70% of the world’s emissions between 1890 and 2007 – are in effect saying: “We all agree that something needs to be done, but we cannot agree on who has to do what and how much. In the absence of any such agreement, we have no obligation to do anything.” The Oslo principles bring a battery of legal arguments to dispute and disarm that second claim. In essence, the working group asserts that governments are violating their legal duties if they each act in a way that, collectively, is known to lead to grave harms.
Governments will retort that they cannot know their obligations to reduce emissions in the absence of an international agreement. The working group’s response is that they can know this, already, and with sufficient precision.
There is a clear answer to the question of each country’s reasonable share, based on a permissible quantum of emissions per capita that never threatens the perilous 2C mean temperature increase that would profoundly and irreversibly affect all life on earth. This reasonable share is what nations owe on the basis of their common but differentiated responsibilities for contributing to climate change. The Oslo principles duly incorporate mechanisms to accommodate the differential impacts and demands on nations and enterprises, particularly in the least developed countries.
Backed by distinguished international lawyers, professors and judges, the principles are a template for courts, advocates and lawmakers to act swiftly, embodying the urgency, conviction and black-letter reasoning required if humanity is to turn the corner before it is too late.
The document is the product of an independent, rigorous, multi-year effort led by Yale University’s Professor Thomas Pogge, and Jaap Spier, the advocate-general of the Netherlands supreme court. It is championed by, among others, Antonio Benjamin, the Brazilian high court justice; Michael Kirby, a former Australian high court justice; Dinah Shelton, a former president of the inter-American commission on human rights; and Elisabeth Steiner, a judge at the European court of human rights.
These principles deserve detailed consideration by lawyers, scientists, advocates and – critically – the policymakers engaged in last-ditch negotiations in Paris in December to divert us from the path towards climate catastrophe. They provide some opinio juris that allows judges to prohibit conduct that, practised by many or all states, will cause enormous damage to people and the planet.
But the working group’s core message is that we simply cannot wait in the pious hope that short-term-minded governments and enterprises will save us; and that when we act it must be on the basis of equity and justice, according to law. Every year that we miss increases the challenge and risk. We’ve squandered decades already, and our window for action is closing. We must act now.