Friday, November 30, 2007

HOME TRUTHS: A LOW CARBON STRATEGY TO REDUCE UK HOUSING EMISSIONS BY 80%

The Environmental Change Institute does it again. Another killer report, if the govornment want to reduce emissions 80% by 2050 then this is a guide to how that can be done in the housing sector. The bastards left out transport!

"The Low-carbon Strategy from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University identifi es the policies needed to deliver an 80 per cent cut in carbon emissions from UK homes by 2050. These cuts are achievable but will require a quantum leap in commitment from Government and a radical new approach.

The policies have been designed not only to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, but also to be delivered equitably. The poorest households will be prioritised for assistance and fuel poverty will be wiped out. The scientifi c consensus is that for the UK to play its part in helping the world avoid a rise of more than 2°C, we must reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The household sector represents 27 per cent of our total emissions and achieving deep cuts here is an imperative.

The low-carbon revolution starts at home."

Full report Brief summary



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UNFCCC Bali Climate Conference: Audio and Video Coverage

Audio and video will soon be flooding out of the Bali climate talks. I will post links to the various events and briefings here.

So far:
New Internationalist explores the global climate change situation (MP3).
  1. Chandra Bhushan - Associate director and head of the Industry Unit at Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi, India - advocates how India can accelerate development in ways that minimize its emissions.
  2. EcoEquity's Tom Athanasiou - argues that it's the countries of the Rich World, not the Poor World, which are responsible for climate change, and now it's their responsibility to pay. Tom outlines his plan, and presents the politics that await it at the UN Climate Change Conference.
  3. Daphne Wysham - co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network - reveals why international institutions such as the World Bank are cashing in on the growing climate change market, and how this is hindering sustainable energy options.
Pick of the side event webcasts:

  1. Al Gore urges progress without the US untill after Bush. Video.
  2. UN Regional perspectives on climate change: Video + Notes
  3. WHO Health and Climate Change: Video + Notes
  4. UNEP Adapting to Climate Change and Political Commitment: Video + Notes
  5. UNDP Climate Change and Human Development: Video + Notes.

Related: All Bali coverage on this blog can be found here.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Live Earth DVDs Now Available



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Clean Development and Coal : Boosting Health by Fighting Coal

The Worldwatch Institute have just released 'Powering China's Development', a report on Chinas renewable energy status and policy environment.

Here are two issues from the books introduction:
1. Coal and Health as a national emergency
2. Coal as a global emergency.

1. Earlier in the year a world bank report was not released because the Chinese govornment felt it would build social unrest. What did it say? More that 400'000 people a year are dying prematurely due to air pollution. As >70% of Chinas primary energy (c.f. 20% in the US) comes from coal most of these deaths are due to old fossil fool (sic) technology. Clean development is therefore attractive from both local and global perspectives. In cold economic terms, ill health and environmental degredation are placing strain on the economy. It is estimated that just one percent of all Chinese urban dwellers breathe air within EU permissible standards!


2. The Chinese government have many problems in the area of sustainability. In the area of Energy however, things are rather one dimensional. The question is one of coal. How can the exponential growth in coal powered fire plants be limited or the effects ameliorated? First the good news. The Chinese government released a report in June 2007 stating categorically that climate change was a great threat to the nation, and the worlds, development. Perhaps a couple of years ago this wouldn't have happend in the US and China are at the car ownership levels of the US when the Model T Ford was on forecourts! The debate is advanced for the nations state of development. This is reflected by the fact that central government has ordered vast closures of small inefficient coal fired power plants which are being replace with larger more efficient ones: would the US government, or European governments do this?

The bad news is that during 2006 China built 101GW or 101,000MW of power plants (mainly coal). That is more grid capacity than the whole of France! Equivalent to more than two 600MW coal fired power plants per week.

Which leads to my conclusion: we don't have enough wind, solar, biomass capacity in the world to replace this much incremental installed capacity if we wanted to. It cannot go on: we need carbon capture and storage to be rolled out. A global top priority for governments and NGO's must be to make sure that all new coal is CCS enabled and as efficient as possible.

We have a global carbon budget, if China continues building Coal power plants then to meet that budget it will have to decommission them again. This would be an economic nonsense. I can't stress strongly enough how badly the developed nations are failing in allowing this to happen. Funding, technology transfer and a real commitment to anything but coal without CCS must be international priorities and must receive funding commensurate with the global scale of the challenge.

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Climate change - everyone's business (CBI)

A traditional enemy of environmental protection and sustainability the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is showing signs of change. There are still tensions, most notably aviation, but the battle has moved on.

They are moving away from there stereotypical stance, perhaps it is no longer viable, whatever the case, British industry are starting to look seriously at there role in reducing emissions.

Climate change - everyone's business (Report of the CBI Climate Change Task Force)

The new task for those who see the threat is to increase the pace of action, for business groups will never move with urgency without a push. We have to move business beyond its comfort zone.

The business community may at best be part of the solution, government and society have to set the framework which enables green decisions to be economically rational across the economy.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bali Climate Talks: Campaigns & Lobbying; Leed Up; Blogs and Live Coverage

I have created a 'Backgrounder' for those interested in the UNFCCC Bali Climate Talks (COP/MOP).

Firstly i list some of the resources for information during the talks. Mainstream media are useless, usually absent or scant on details. I rundown a list of bloggers from the talks, along with the official coverage provided by International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Climate Action Network.

Secondly i run down the political developments and reports published in the run up to the conference.

Finally i highlight some of the campaigning and lobbying currently being organised by NGO's, businesses and wider civil society.

All posts on the bali climate conference can be found here.

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Presidential Forum on Energy and Climate

Grist sponsored the first ever presidential forum on climate change and energy. Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards where there to make there visions of a low carbon future clear.

On Nov. 17, 2007, Grist cosponsored the first-ever presidential candidate forum focusing on climate change and energy policy. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Dennis Kucinich attended and spoke in-depth about their green platforms.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Australia, frontline of the climate-change crisis

An Australian viewpoint on climate change. A very eloquent and empassioned exploration of the topic.

As Australia goes to the polls, Phillip Adams says solutions to the climate crisis require global unity

Saturday November 24th, 2007

Phillip Adams is the presenter of Late Night Live on Australia's ABC Radio National. He has been a contributor to The Times and The Financial Times in London, and to the New York Times. Honors include two Orders of Australia, and the Australian Humanist of the Year (1987) and the Republican of the Year (2005) awards.


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

UNFCCC Bali climate talks: Protests, Lobbying, Meetings Planned

The Bali Climate talks may be a historic event...many people are trying to make this so:
  1. The World Business Council on Sustainable Development and International Chamber of Commerce are holding a 'Business Day' to lobby for a new climate deal.
  2. The Global Climate Campaign are coordinating demonstrtions around the world to push the politicians into action.
  3. Greenpeace use the Bali climate talks to highlight the global disaster that is palm oil production.
  4. Groups working together on development and adaptation are getting together to educate the conference attendees on these joint challenges.
  5. SustainUS send a youth delegation to Bali to make the views of the American people clear.
  6. 100 Cyclists cycle from Jakartat to Nusa Dua (Bali) to highlight the ways that people can fight climate change video coverage Oxfam International.



[UPDATES HERE AS THEY COME]

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Leed up to Bali climate change negotiations.

The Bali climate talks are just around the corner and meetings between nations, between environmental and wider civil society groups, and between people who care, are underway around the world.

This post is going to be the place for updates related to the talks as and when it comes to my attention.

News so far:



  1. Kevin Rudd is the new PM of Australia. He has stated that he will attend Bali and that siging Kyoto is his 'number 1 priority'. This is a boost to talks which clerly need all the energy we can give them!
  2. Canada has managed to destroy a Commonwealth consensus on tough and binding targets on emissions cuts therby becoming my own personal least favourite national govornment.
  3. The IPCC summary for policymakers is out in time for the conference, and sobering reading it makes...but will its warning be heeded?
  4. The International Crop Research Agency predict an agarian crisis as a result of climate change in a recent report.
  5. Israel has decided not to send a delegate to the talks!
  6. Nancy Pelosi, majority speaker of the house, will be leading a Democrat delegation to Bali (it is rumoured).
  7. The WWF has published a report outlinging the potential financial saving that china could make by increasing energy efficiency and embracing clean energy.
  8. France and China have signed an agreement to improve cooperation on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
  9. 2007 UN development report states that the poor will pay the price of a weak climate deal.
  10. Brazil joins Indonesia in agreeing to limit deforestation if the wealthy nations of the world will fund the project.
  11. US announces it's negotiation team and it's full of Neo-Conservatives including Paula Dobriansky and James L. Connaughton. Great.
  12. EU warns member states, aviation must be included in climate policy.
  13. New Zealand prime minister Hellan Clarke has given a determined speech in Germany about the importance of climate change and sustainablity as global issues this century.
  14. In the run up to the UNFCCC climate talks Indonesia has started the planting of 79 million trees, which it aims to complete over the next few years. The general view of conservation groups is that a halt to active deforestation of biodiverse rainforest areas should be the priority.
  15. Brazil has made clear its aversion to taking on binding targets. This can hardly be suprising as the wealthiest nation on earth still havent agreed to this! However, we will fail without this bitter pill being consumed. Funding for this clean develoment strategy will be required from the 'North'.
  16. The Woods Hole Research Center is announcing technology that enables rapid analysis of estensive areas of vegetation. This makes a deal on deforestation avoidance more practical therefore acceptable to the international community.
  17. It's time to save peatbogs and rainforests, in 1997 these two made up 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions! Surely these are the cheapest savings on the planet behind energy efficiency?
  18. Climate change and trade dominate EU-India summit.
  19. More than 150 major global companies have signed the 'Bali Communique' as created by the UK Prince of Wales' Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change.
  20. German Chancellor Merkel has stated that Germany must take a lead on climate change according to the International Herald Tribune."Merkel said Germany is prepared to announce a raft of measures it will undertake itself, and has set an ambitious goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2020."
  21. Dealing with illegal logging is key to fighting climate change according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
  22. The Red Cross and Red Crecent have released there position, and also a very substantial report on the threat that climate change presents there mission with.
  23. Greenpeace have release a briefing on Bali and the broader climate negotiations.
  24. "Climate change is posing imminent threat to Viet Nam’s progress in human development, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)"
  25. International Institute for Environment and Dvelopment (IIED) publish a report on asian development and climate change 'Up in smoke? Asia and the Pacific'. Asia, due to its large population of small scale farmers is perticularly at risk from climate change.
(Photo:Up in smoke? Asia and the Pacific' ) Deforestation is a major contribution to climate change, to increased flooding risk, and in fact to a whole range of environmental and social problems.


Related: Bali climate talks covoured in depth daily by the professionals and by bloggers.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Climate Change Key Issue in Australian Election

The Age...
The head of next month's crucial climate change conference and Indonesia's Environment Minister has supported the election of a Labor government, saying its plan to ratify the Kyoto Protocol would be a "heaven-sent" boost to the talks.

In extraordinary statements for an Indonesian minister, Rachmat Witoelar said he hoped "good environmental moves" prevailed out of Australia's election tomorrow.

"I have become good friends with Mr Howard so I wish him all the luck, but I understand that if Kevin Rudd gets elected it will be faster moving; I hope that it will be done."

As Bali is hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference to outline a successor to Kyoto, Mr Witoelar will be the president of the meeting and preside over all the conference's negotiations for the next year.

It will be a boost to have Australias ratification, it will help the world move on to make some really tough decisions, although the US stance is unlikley to change. I`m sure others from the US will be representing the position of a future Democratic administration.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Labours green tint washes off after only a day!

After Gordon Brown's 'green' speech given on Monday the announcement today that heathrows 3rd runway will go ahead is a bit of a punch in the guts.

The greenwash was thin to start with and now it has washed away completely.

Plane Stupid have a lot more to say on this!

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UNFCC Bali Climate Conference: Blog and Expert Daily Coverage

Blogs to be reporting from Bali


It's Gettig Hot In Here
Celsias
De Smog Blog
Bali Climate Change Conference Blog
Oxfam International in Bali
Climate Feedback
Climate Shifts
CarbonFund
Greenpeace International. (Policy Work)

[New blogs will be added here as they come to my attention, feel free to let me know about any others that should be included]


A new climate blog brought to you by US Youth Actavists: Bali Buzz
UNFCC Bali Climate Conference Official Blog
Global Voices special coverage of Bali
Alexia Parks of VoteLink has made the news for her blogging efforts.
Open Democracy coverage.
Greenpeace have a bali feed from several of the best blog.
UK Department of the Environment bali blog.
Enviromedia blog.
Tearfund blog from Bali.

News Wires:

UN Bali Climate Conference: Environmental News Network 'Climate Change'
UN Bali Climate Conference: Reuters Bali Coverage
UN Bali Climate Conference: ENDS coverage.

Coverage by the experts:


UN Bali Climate Conference: IISD Daily Conference Summary--Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB)

UN Bali Climate Conference: NGO Coverage with daily 'Eco' newsletter.

UN Bali Climate Conference: Offical Website.



All Bali Posts (Run Up, Protests, Side Events, Video, Audio, etc., et.,)

Climate Change Action on Bali


.

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Coal: what do we do about it?


Coal, we love to hate it. It's dangerous to mine workers, it's twice as bad for the climate as natural gas, it's not much safer for local residents than for miners.

But, it just so happens to power the world: it is by far the largest source of energy in the US and 80-90% in China!

In the Europe and the US we have two options: try to stop coal power plants being built or try to stop any coal power plants without carbon capture and storage being built. We have moderatly growing needs for energy along with the need to replace old plant. Things are rather different in China and southeast Asia.

Jeremy Carl makes a compelling case that green groups need a better stance than coal is evil. Think of it this way, China has the vast majorit of its power from coal. If these plants could be upgraded affordably then far more carbon would be saved that by building gigawatts of wind power. Shouldn't there be campaigns to research more efficient coal power and to roll out this technology...discuss.

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Energy Efficiency is Not Enough


When i attended the Corporate Climate Response Conference in London i asked someone from the energy saving trust about 'Macro-economic rebound' it was shrugged off as unimportant-- that was accompanied by a glare.

According to SusHI new research shows that there are real issues with what people do with all that money saved on fuel in there new efficient car...

We get a higher mileage car and use the savings to fly away on vacation. Who are we fooling? Experts and policymakers, that’s who, says Steve Sorrel in a new report on the ‘rebound’ effect in energy efficiency and carbon reduction.
Apparently the IPCC and Nicholas Stern are amongst report authors who have underestimated the importance of these effects.

According to the report's chief author, Steve Sorrell, Senior Fellow at UKERC, "Rebound effects have been neglected by both experts and policymakers - for example, they do not feature in the recent Stern and IPCC reports or in the Government's Energy White Paper. This is a mistake. If we do not make sufficient allowance for rebound effects, we will overestimate the contribution that energy efficiency can make to reducing carbon emissions. This is especially important given that the Climate Change Bill proposes legally binding commitments to meet carbon emissions reduction targets. We need to get the sums right."

Related:
  1. Press Release from UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) "Rebound Effect Threatens Success of UK Climate Policy"
  2. UKERC report: The Rebound Effect: an assessment of the evidence for economy-wideenergy savings from improved energy efficiency.
  3. UKERC report launch presentation.

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Greenpeace Video For Bali Climate Talks

Greenpeace have launched a video collaboration designed to creatively send a message to the crucial UN climate change conference coming up in December. The 'message in a bottle' video will consist of short clips submited to the greenpeace introduction video, the idea is to make a sort clip where you creatively pass on the message in a bottle in a climate change themed way.


This idea was inspired by the recent google video about sending an email so look here for an idea of what is expected; just add the climate change theme.

The aim of the video is to send a clear message with a demand for "Real Action" to tackle climate change, at the UN meeting taking place in Bali, Indonesia, where governments will agree their next round of emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol.

We are asking people all over the world to submit video responses to "Message in Bottle" to show delegates that the world is watching them, and expects nothing less than a clear mandate to tackle climate change.


Greenpeace posted a short promo on youtube and all you have to do to enter is post a video response...short and creative videos stand the best chance of making the final edit.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

National Mining Association vs James Hansen

If you thought that the fossil fuel industry where giving up there lobbying effects against climate science then you join me in being disappointed.

James Hansen recently exchanged letters (PDF) with the National Mining Association.

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Voluntary Carbon Standard

How do we know that when purchasing carbon offsets we are getting what we paid for?

One attempt to answer this question is the Voluntary Carbon Standard (PDF) which has just been released. Website with related documents here. I haven't read this yet, but if you do, let me know what you think...is this a reasonable system?

[UPDATE] The WWF don't approve (PDF, Article)
[UPDATE] The WWF/FOE/Greenpeace Gold Standard would be my recommendation for personal offsets.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Climate Change 2007: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)


'IPCC 4AR Summary for Policy Makers' (PDF) finally released.

Sorry for being a few days late with this one. If, however, you haven't read the entire IPCC report in three volumes then this is where the delay stops. Your excuses are at an end, this summary document is what government ministers and heads of state are expected to read. So if you want to know the basis on which decisions are made at the forthcomming Bali climate talks then this is the place to start. It's only 23 pages so get to it!

The document is introduced and discussed in this webcast (via IPCC.ch)

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Inter Academy Council Report on Energy: Lighting the Way


Many counteries have there own academy of science such as 'The Royal Academy of Science' in the UK and the 'National Academy of Science' in the US. These national groups are also grouped together in a an international council. This so called 'InterAcademy Council' recently produced a report on the policies required for moving towards a more sustainable energy future. Interestingly the report was requested by the Brazillian and Chineese govornments. Good to see they are taking an interest, and engaging internationally with research institutions, Ban Ki Moon and his Office where apparently also very supportive.

Lighting the Way can be downloaded from here.

As usuall energy efficiency is highlighted as the key cheap gain:
"A combination of local, national and international fiscal and regulatory pollicies can greatly accelerate the spread of existing energy efficiencies, which remain the most readily implementable part of the solution"
The case for clean development as the best economic option for developing nations is also made:

"It is in the best economic and societal interests of developing countries to 'leapfrog' pas the waseful energy trajectory followed by today's industrialised countries"

This is futher clarified when looking at Macro scale economics of a society, even excluding climate change there are significant indirect and sizable benefits to clean rather than fossil energy. Sewage is used as an analogy:
"The discharge of raw sewage into a river will always be the leass expensive option on a Micro-economic level than the treatment of waste, especially for up stream polluters. At a macro scale however, where the long term costs to himan health, qaulity of life, and the envitonment are folded into the calculation, treatment of sewage clearly becomes the low-cost option for society."
In the world at present we are treating the atmosphere as a huge open sewer for our carbon dioxide waste.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

CNU: 2007 London Transport Summit (Day 2--Late Afternoon)

The late afternoon on Tuesday finished strong with presentations by Shelley Poticha (President & CEO, Reconnecting America) and Jacky Grimshaw (Vice President for Policy, Centre for Neighbourhood Technology).

Shelley spoke about Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and the current challenges facing this industry and the successes to date. This was viewed perticularly through the lens of reducing carbon emmissions, something that we have to get really serious about. Mode shift, from car to active transport and mass transit.

Shelly recently contributed to New Transit Town which can be bought here.




Jacky Grimshaw then spoke about some work that CNT have been doing in relation to new urbanism and climate change. In particular the link between new urbanism 'Transects' and carbon emissions was very interesting to me, tremendous work, really forward looking. I was not supprised to hear that CNT have been working with US Mayors through ICLEI and also with the clinton global intative on fighting climate change.

Related: More on the conference here, related audio and video, including the talks by Jacky and Shelly will be coming soon.

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How can we win the race against climate catastrophe?

Video from the campaign against climate change conference of Nov 8th.

Including talks by George Monbiot, Phil Thornhill and Mayer Hillman.




From the Campaign website:

Thursday November 8th, saw the Friends Meeting House packed out for a tremendous Public meeting Speakers were George Monbiot, author and journalist, John Sauven, Director of Greenpeace UK, Sophie from the Camp for Climate Action and Phil Thornhill, National Coordinator, Campaign against Climate Change.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Environment Tops International Agenda for 2008


A series of interesting articles today from The Economist suggest that environmental challenges remain at the top of the agenda on the international stage. As i have said many times before these challenges are not going away, they are getting bigger, scarier and more urgent by the day. I couldn't agree more with Emma Duncan that it is time to end the Rhetoric and begin the action... i only wish that Nancy Pelosi would take this advice and do something serious about renewable energy!
Today sees the publication of the 22nd edition of The Economist’s annual compilation of predictions for the year to come, The World in 2008. The environment remains at the top of the international agenda and this is reflected in a number of articles in The World in 2008.

America will rise to the challenge of global warming, believes Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives
The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, focuses on the role America will play in the fight against climate change. Arguing that global warming is a fact, not a theory, she calls for action in the coming year.

Time to move beyond rhetoric and get down to the details (Emma Duncan)
American (and Chinese) engagement is crucial for serious action on climate change, argues The Economist’s deputy editor, Emma Duncan, who says that it is time to move beyond rhetoric and get down to the details if any real progress is to be made in 2008.

The urge to get off oil—and to find more of the stuff (Gideon Rachman)
Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times argues that panic over global warming means that the world now faces two different sorts of energy anxiety. The first revolves around the familiar struggle for affordable fuel. The second concerns the battle to combat climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

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Guardian Urges Readers to Tread Lightly


The Guardian has long bean a prominent source of news for the 'Green' blogosphere and environmentally conscious citizens internationally. Recently it has just been getting better and better, or in other words, more and more activist-like. They have just started a website community called Tread Lightly in order to persue this more active take on climate change: a problem solver not just a problem reporter.


"Guardian Tread lightly is a new community site, which aims to encourage online communities into reducing their CO2 emissions through making weekly pledges and recording their actions against their pledges.

The idea is that every pledge is simple, straightforward, and something that everyone can do, so that people who are normally put off doing environmental things because it sounds like a lot of effort will find Tread Lightly a good solution to easing their carbon conscience."

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Gore, Schwarzenegger to plan presidential climate forum

A very interesting idea, i hope it works, will the GOP turn up?

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former vice president Al Gore are planning a bipartisan presidential forum on energy and climate change in New Hampshire in December, the governor's office confirmed Thursday.

The forum, which is still in the planning stages, is being designed so presidential candidates from both parties will attend. Adam Mendelsohn, a spokesman for the governor, said the format was not completely developed, but the former vice president was handling the Democratic candidates, while Schwarzenegger would handle the Republicans.

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CNU: Transportation Summit 2007 Presentations

The presentations from the CNU transportation summit will be available from here as soon as they have been uploaded. Last years presentations are currently available here.

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CNU: 2007 London Transport Summit (Day 2--Afternoon)

During the afternoon of the second day we listened to several excellent presentations.

Lucinda Gibson (VP, Smart Mobility) gave a fascinating and insightful look into the world of traffic modelling. This realm is often looked on with some scepticism by new urbanists and smart growth advocates because model results rarely back up there experience of mixed use and compact development advantages. Lucinda described the reasons for model failure; these can be placed in two categories, both of which are common place. Firstly the purposeful distortion of models where they are deliberately skewed to meet political agendas, this can be readily done by giving model variables unrealistic values in a subtle but systematic way. Secondly, the real errors of models that do not capture the traffic system accurately. In terms of demand there are a whole range of factors which would likely reduce the outcome, from increasing oil prices, climate change legislation and increasing environmental awareness, whilst these cannot reasonably be included in a model they should be factored in to analysis of the model and appreciated as downward factors that increase the likelihood of lower ranges of traffic. This talk was fascinating to me and i`m sure that anyone working against highway extension would do well to heed Lucinda's advice and look carefully at the traffic model both in terms of its values and how they where derived and any significant exclusions.

Yodan Rofe (Professor, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) then gave a talk on the use of urban Boulevards as an alternative to urban motorways (highways). Yodan made a powerful case for the use of pedestrian realm as the new urban paradigm. In the case of an urban Boulevard street life is encouraged by having wide pavements and then some parking and a slow moving access street, after this is a broad tree planted area bordering the central through traffic lanes which contain high speed vehicles. Studies have found that this combination of barriers between pedestrians and the fast moving traffic is sufficient to make development along boulevards possible. This is in stark contrast to current motorways (highways) running through cities which are often at different levels and protected by barriers and fencing. Motorways currently offer no accommodation between place and transport function, they are human repelling and street life destroying. The quantity of recoverable urban highways is vast.


Jacky Grimshaw (VP, CNT), Norman Garrick (Associate Prof. UCONN)and Hank Dittmar (CE, Prince's Foundation) then spoke about the reasoning behind LEED-ND. The case was made, and quite convincingly, that buildings rated in isolation of there context risk failing the sustainability challenge. For example a company moving out of a high density mixed use urban setting into a low density single use suburban setting is almost certainly going to force part of its workforce off mass transit and into there cars. Journeys and emissions will increase, and the true advantage of a LEED-Platinum building may be in doubt; greater emissions in the transport/building total are likely even if the old building was relatively inefficient. There where a variety of data used in these presentations but with some overlap, Kenworthy's data which is well known was used, but other data which addressed some critiques of the aforementioned data set where also presented. Among the more striking correlations found was presented by Norman Garrick who showed a phenomenally tight match between year of incorporation of US cities and road fatalaties!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CNU: 2007 London Transport Summit (Day 2--Morning)

The first day had a range of tours through various parts of London where design improvements had been implemented. Without this on the second day we covered less ground physically but more figuratively.

Day 2: Tuesday 13th November 2007

First off there where two related talks on pedestrian friendly urban design, accommodating traffic but equalizing the currently dysfunctional relationship of priorities between human and vehicular traffic. The first talk was given by Ben Hamillton-Baillie who has worked on the UK Guide for Streets and done research into the legal situation with regards signage and barrier requirements. It is important that councils can feel confident that they are legally secure if they decide to avoid using excessive signage and barriers. It turns out that in the UK at least the fears of litigation by drivers are unfounded. There are many guidance notes, green paper and other reports on signs and street design but virtually all of it is advisory.

Given this context, the second talk, by Hans Moderman covers a change in paradigm that is legally practical. Interestingly Hans has a very libertarian perspective on the relation between people in cars and on there feet. The key idea is of changing the behaviour of drivers not by using laws but by changing context: don't set 30 mph speed limits that people don't follow, slow traffic even further by simply designing streets that are amenable to lower speeds. Introducing uncertainty for the driver and re-enfranchising the pedestrian are methods. The ideas that Hans puts forward (Telegraph Article) are based on careful and long term measurement of test schemes and on universals of human behaviour. It seems--and this is gaining acceptance--that people behave rationally if you don't dictate rules to them! Removing confusing signage and road marking are part of this as is a general reduction of street clutter; another part is making it appear thorugh choice of materials and careful design that cars, bikes, people, all have a right to the street. The feeling that is created for drivers is one 'like driving on a cycle lane that you are allowed to use' there is a sense that people and bike have the right to walk wherever they like and that you just have to deal with it: bye and large people do deal with it very efficiently! In fact watching a video clip of a Hans Moderman roundabout at a busy junction is hypnotic in its fluidity. One junction with >20'000 cars a day was seen to function without a single cyclist stopping in 24hr!

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Congress The New Urbanism: 2007 London Transport Summit (Day 1)

I`ve just arrive back home from the CNU transportation summit in London. I'd write something here about my train journey if this blog was for rants...but as it isn't, i`ll just give a quick overview of the event. There is video and audio from the conference on the way so stay tuned!

Day 1: Monday November 14th

There where three presentations that we where still talking about the next day. The first was on the CNU-ITE manual 'Major Urban Thoroughfares' (Large PDF). This manual in its current form is by no means supported by everyone from CNU--the same is probably true for ITE--but it is still seen as progress on the issue of major roads in cities. Some felt that motorways have no place in an urban context and that boulevards are the way so solve this conflict, a significant divergence still exists between ITE and CNU on when this idea and many others should be applied. it would appear that there is significant conflict mainly on the applicability of certain measures to a given place. Perhaps a history of projects and careful cross comparison can help settle these debates. Reducing uncertainty is part of the issue but the other significant part is politics, society needs to ask itself what it wants its streets for...are they only a means or are they also of value in there own right? This idea of place vs function was a reoccurring theme.

The second presentation of note was on the new uk planning guidence for streets 'Manual for Streets' is compromised in several ways but significantly it is now the only relavent DfT/DCLG document on road design: it superceedes that last document which has been officially binned giving this new advice added strength. For the first time the govornments official guidance is specifically geared towards enhancing the urban environment in order to make it more walkable.

The final presentation that caught my attention was by Transport for London (TfL) on the congestion charge (currently a flat £8 fee for driving in central London) and alternatives to travel by car on London. Despite what you might have heard the congestion charge does actually bring in significant amounts of revenue for TfL the administrative costs are significant but around 2/3rds of the revenue is plowed back into transport investment. Of this the vast majority goes on the bus service and particularly bus station upgrades and security. However the total TfL revenue is several billion pounds annually so the congestion charge is only a small part of the overall total. The key success of TfL has been its ability to get people out of cars and onto buses. I think that this is an important example for other cities. Congestion charging is best used as a compliment to improved and extended bus services. In this way people from every part of society can effectively be moved out of cars and on to mass transit.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Al Gore on American Sitcom '30 Rock'

Al gore recently appeared on American sitcom '30 Rock' in a very well thought out sketch. Funny,actually hillarious, but also having a serious message. Part of NBC's Green Week. Not often people mention a green tax switch (tax co2 not payroll) on National TV!



Youtube video description:

Al Gore cameo's on 30 Rock's green themed episode, and nods to his portrayal on South Park

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Celsias Highlights

Celsias is perhaps the best climate change blog not specifically science focused, instead looking at policy and general climate news. A few recent highlights:






1. Link highlights.
  • US Cap and Trade Scheme passes Senate Sub-Committee.
  • Yet another group looking to set standards on carbon offsets has been formed.
  • Palm oil demand booming...very bad news for Indonesia's rainforests and stores of carbon in (currently) waterloged peat.
  • Action for Dec 8th national climate march encouraged by Guardian.
2. Bali Climate Conference.
  • Will we get a breakthrough in time to avoid the gap at the end of the Kyoto protocol period?
  • Will a simple principal emerge for climate justice? Contraction and Convergence would be nice.
  • Will the US play ball and give us a chance with India and China?
3. Oregon Getting it's Planning Bite Back.
  • Oregon is well known for its progressive planning policies such as growth boundaries around Portland. But these laws are no longer in comission..perhaps they will be won back and smart growth can begin again in ernest.
4. Biofuels are a crime against humanity.
  • Biofuels: an example of cure being worse than the disease? From huge deforestation, impacts on food prices and impacts of chemical treatments corn ethanol, biodesil and many first generation biofuels are hardly looking like an advance...or a green option.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

China and Climate Change: Policies and Measures

Clearly with a booming economy and a population of 1200 million people much depends on China's approach to the challenge of climate change.

The Climate Group have started a bi-monthly publication looking at Chinese policy. The first report is here the second here and they are updated to this website.

All Climate Change Action posts on China can be found here.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Eco Islam: Latest Update

Via IFEES:

Please find the link to the latest edition of Eco Islam.

Exclusively for IFEES, Hamid K Ahmed Professor at Basrah University gives us the latest update on one of the world's largest and most valuable wetland ecosystem - the Iraqi Marshes.

Also in this edition:
- An Interview with SM Mohammed Idris - A pioneering Muslim Environmentalist.
- Book Review: Animal Welfare in Islam.
- Fighting poverty via conservation in worn torn Lebanon and more...

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Is it feasible to cut emissions drastically?

Drastically cutting emissions looks more and more necessary with time and yet less and less realistic given current trends.

What are the policies and measures required? In fact people have looked at this rather extensively...

The Centre for Alternative Technology mapped out a radical plan (website) earlier in the year for creating a zero carbon Britain within 30 years.

Now the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) the have got together with mainstream NGO'sRSPB and WWF to path out a rather less ambitious but still tough path of emissions cuts, this time 80% by 2050.
In this work, ippr, WWF and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) set out to investigate whether a target of 80% can be achieved in the UK by domestic efforts alone and what the costs of doing so would be. We employed two approaches – the MARKAL-MACRO model, used by the government for the 2007 Energy White Paper, and a model developed by Professor Dennis Anderson at Imperial College, employed for the Stern Review on the economics of climate change.
80% Challenge: Delivering a Low Carbon UK (PDF)

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Powershifters shut down Citi Bank!


Great news from the Powershift2007 meeting:

After an intense weekend of talking, discussing, and strategizing about the overwhelming importance of stopping coal - hundreds of youth and community members converged on a Citi bank branch in downtown DC. Taking non-violent direct action, we dumped a half-ton of coal on the doorsteps of Citi, while a delegation of coal-field residents and students went inside the offices to state our concerns over Citi’s investments to their customers and employee’s. Simultaneously, hundreds of youth began coughing violently, with a massive “die-in” surrounding the bank that shut down them down for the rest of the day.

Via itsgettinghotinhere

More on the Rainforest Action Network website


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Sunday, November 04, 2007

November 3rd: US National Day of Climate Action

Step it up 2007's national day of Climate Action took place this November 3rd across the US. This day of action looks like it was a huge success, with photos comming in from across the nation. But a long term campaign is anticipated, new alliances are being formed and new organisations founded.

Just starting off is 1 Sky a 3 pronged campaign to create green jobs, cut carbon emissins 80% by 2050 and stop all new coal fired power plants without carbon capture and storage. This campaign reminds me of the appolo alliance and the writings of Nordhaus and Shellenburger whose book 'Breakthrough' on environmental campaign strategy is just out. Note: tip one is dont be an environmenalist be a progressive.

Another effort that is new to me is the Powershift07 , which i believe is the latest Energy Action even; according to the website the Nov 2-5th conference has attracted 5500+ people!

From the Step it Up Blog:
"While hundreds of actions are taking place all across the country, over 5,500+ young people are rocking out at Power Shift 07, the first national youth summit on global warming. Our crew will be there with them tonight to culminate this incredible day of action all across the country with a concert and giant Step It Up rally. "

Of course all of this is cronicled on the youth climate change blog itsgettinghotinhere.

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A Program to Accelerate the Deployment of CO2 Capture and Storage

A Program to Accelerate the Deployment of CO2 Capture and Storage: Rationale, Objectives, and Cost (PDF).

This is the lastest publication by the Pew Centre for Global Climate Change and also part of a whole new series on capturing carbon from coal.

Related:
More on CCS.
More on Coal.

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Smart Growth Forum

Six of California's most respected experts in land use planning and smart growth came to Grass Valley, California to share their land use planning experience with our community. Carville Sierra, Inc. hosts Smart Growth Forum  June 16, 2006.

Experts include:


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CNU Transportation Summit 2007 (London)

I`m off down to London shortly to attend (and blog about) urban transport and planning. I have been doing quite a bit of reading recently about sustainable urban transport and design so i`m really looking forward to speaking to some of the people who are at the heart of this effort to plan more sustianable communities.

Looking at the agenda i`m particularly keen to see the Hans Monderman's presentation on shared spaces. This guy is a genius, there are many articles on his work but one in the Telegraph of London recently caught my eye.

Talking about removing traffic lights from...well, just about everywhere:

"It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.

"We only want traffic lights where they are useful and I haven't found anywhere where they are useful yet."

This sounds boardering on the insane but it really works:

Thus far, Drachten's drivers and pedestrians have voted the experiment a success.

"I am used to it now," said Helena Spaanstra, 24. "You drive more slowly and carefully, but somehow you seem to get around town quicker."

Tony Ooostward, 70, was equally enthusiastic. "Everybody is learning. I am a walker and now you are the boss at the crossroads, everyone waits for you. But at the same time pedestrians wait until there are a number wanting to cross at the same time."

Kanaan Jamal, 39, like many people in Drachten, uses a bike to get around. "It is very smooth — a lot better than other towns," he said. The consensus is that the creation of uncertainty by taking away the lights and even in some places the road markings has worked

"Anybody who is new here doesn't know what to do. They don't know who has priority, the car, bike or pedestrian. It's all confusing, but because of that everybody takes care," Mr Jamal said.


The flyer for the event describes it's purposes as follows:

At the invitation of The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, the annual CNU Transportation Summit 2007 will be hosted in London on November 12th - 14th. By bringing together key opinion formers from both sides of the Atlantic as well as the Middle East and Australia, we hope to promote a cross fertilization of the best advances in global transportation reform for cities. The summit will be an opportunity to learn how reforms can be delivered in the current economic and planning climate. We will explore questions such as: Against the background of a booming economy and increasing population pressures, London’s Mayor Livingstone has initiated a series of transportation reforms in the UK capital, including public realm improvements and Congestion Charging, that have brought about genuine modal shift, improving quality of life and promoting a vital urban environment. What are transport planners responsibilities to the carbon challenge, and how can emissions reduction be achieved? How can we use transportation as an opportunity to create and design urban places we want? Speakers: Hank Dittmar, John Norquist, Jacky Grimshaw, Norman Garrick, Marcy McInelly, Andy Cameron, Michelle Dix, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, Daniel Moylan, Hans Monderman and Lucy Gibson. We would be delighted to see you for this special CNU/ Prince’s Foundation event, an opportunity to share transportation reforms with a global network.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Greenwash: they actually just painted the container green!

There has been a lot of noise about greenwash during the last year or two as the concept of 'green' has taken off.

Here is my own worst personal example:

The other day i was in a supermarket, i walked over to the print paper to see if they had a recycled option. I hoped they would, as supermarkets are somewhat copy cat like and another supermarket has just started offering suprisingly cheap recycled paper.

It looked good, a green box of five five hundered sheet reems. It was called eco-smart or something similar. Great. But, just to be on the safe side i looked for the recycled symbol. I looked on the base, on the lid, on the side...then on the base again, on the lid again and on the side: nothing to be seen!

This green box of eco-smart paper had precisly one environmentally positive atribute, it was 75 grams per sqaure meter not 80! You may contend that this is just them being cheap and calling themselves green. I would tend to agree.

So watch out for green coloured eco paper that isnt recycled.

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Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite

A very interesting article was published in the Guardian today. This took my a while to find online as it is a climate change story that has moved out of the Environment section and into the World News section. That, i am sure, is going to be the way that things go.

The key claim of the article is that food prices are spiraling due to biofuels and climate change and that these effects are already politically significant in a large number of countries.
"India, Yemen, Mexico, Burkina Faso and several other countries have had, or been close to, food riots in the last year, something not seen in decades of low global food commodity prices. Meanwhile, there are shortages of beef, chicken and milk in Venezuela and other countries as governments try to keep a lid on food price inflation."
The situation was summed up best by Lester Brown:
"Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute thinktank, said: "The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its 2 billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue."
According to a Worldwatch Institute article entitled "Climate Change: The Unseen Force Behind Rising Food Prices?":
"Climate change has been attributed to greater inconsistencies in agricultural conditions, ranging from more-erratic flood and drought cycles to longer growing seasons in typically colder climates. While the increase in Earth’s temperature is making some places wetter, it is also drying out already arid farming regions close to the Equator. This year’s Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report states that “increases in the frequency of droughts and floods are projected to affect local production negatively, especially in subsistence sectors at low latitudes.” The decline in production in the face of growing demand can drive up prices in markets that may lack the technology to fight environmental hazards to overall production."

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Neo-liberalism and consumerism: common enemies of community and citizens.



The title of this article is somewhat grand, but i don't have any grand insights, only a few thoughts that have recently came together in my mind. A bit of background should help to explain where i am coming from: I have been brought up in the Cairngorms of Scotland. If any one characteristic where to be said to define my personality it would be curiosity, i have always asked why. This has never been a methodical or organised enquiry, i went on to study science at university but this could hardly be said to be a natural aptitude of mine. Recently i have become interested in climate change, a tremendously broad subject. This has brought me in to contact with a wide range of political writings along with the more obvious climate science, policy and mitigation options.

As a chemistry graduate climate change was not a difficult subject to come to grasps with in terms of its basics. However, the politics is not simple. Climate change, much to my disdain, cannot be dealt with as a technocratic issue. The problem is not one of turning a valve to reduce carbon emissions.

Clearly a line has to be drawn somewhere for people worried about the impacts of climate change, we don't want a vast ideology that seems to suggest an impossible utopia, but neither does it make sense for people concerned about biodiversity loss, desertification, health impacts etc., caused by climate change to be unconcerned when they are caused by other means.

I currently think that this larger agenda is sustainability, or the idea of leaving the next generation with the same or greater level of natural wealth that we enjoy.

Sustainability is a specific example of a public commons issue. Neoliberals have carried out an attack on the commons due to the free market position that sees government and collective ownership as inherently bad and that proclaims private ownership as the only way to ensure competent protection of the environment. There are also many who have neoliberal sympathies due to the prescriptions and how they re-inforce power structures. The global economy has globalised but government has not. This is partly due to speed but also due to power which internationally lays in the hands of the corporations these corporations have worked to restrict the globalisation of government in the form of regulation.

This is what the anti-globalisation movement is a reaction against. It is also a situation that is strengthened by unquestioning an politically inactive consumers. The key to this whole problem seems to be lack of relevant information. Consumers by products which companies—primarily large multinationals—have produced in an economically efficient manner i.e. by externalising every possible environmental and social cost. All of this is invisible, primarily through distance, it is also common place, and it is subtle.

There is a complex interplay between media, which distract us, advertisers who earn a living providing goods as an alternative to fulfilment and governments who are reliant on both media and corporate cash.

Many of these ideas are exposed when looking at urban planning, suburbia represents an consumer ideal of sorts, an atomised anti-social market based ideal, and a real world crisis of farm land destruction, wasted resources, a variety of social ills, dependence on oil etc. The contrast between suburbia as conceived in the US and inner city urbanism as exemplified by Copenhagen could not be greater. My recent interest in planning consolidated my various political views, and currently forms an important part of the frame through which i perceive climate change.

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