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Climate Alliance – Strength in Numbers

‘Think Global – Act Local’  E.F Schumacher

logo_Climate_AllianceLocal and regional Governments find themselves increasingly at the forefront in the battle against the impacts of climate change.  While national governments continue to prevaricate and placate the big money interests, City and Regional Authorities are left to clean up the mess of storms, floods and fires and manage the impacts of drought and heat waves.  No amount of denial can enable a City Mayor or Council to avoid the reality of flooded streets, damaged property and rising mortality rates. After a disaster, people want action to rebuild their lives quickly, and assurance that the authorities are ready in the event of further disruptive events.

Faced with the reality of the impacts of climate change, local authorities have formed a range of mutual support  alliances often as a response to the lack of support from their national governments.   It is they who have to find the finance needed to repair damage and to make the necessary adaptations to infrastructure.  In addition to the impacts of climate change, Cities and Regions face a range of related issues that include the impacts of growing urbanisation, increasing social provision and manage growing populations and pollution.

To get recognition of the role that Local and Regional governments are playing in delivering the Paris and Sustainable Development goals, a coalition of organisations representing the sub-national level of government met at COP23 to show national governments and the world that local and regional governments, together with their partners in the business sector, academia and civil society, are #united4climate with a strong message to share for joint climate action. In essence this message is that by acting cooperatively at the local level it will be possible to deliver the ambition goals set in Paris and keep the rise in global temperatures below 2C.

EuropeOne organisation within this coalition is European Climate Alliance, that includes 1,715 cities, municipalities and districts together with NGO’s and  local community Groups.  It is unfortunate that Oxford is the only UK representative in t his Alliance, a situation that Greens should work to rectify by pressurising local authorities in their areas to join.  Membership is not restricted to urban areas, and it is important that the rural areas are properly represented on this and other global forums.  The impacts of climate change will be no less in the countryside that will feel the impacts of floods, fires, drought and changes to the local ecology.

The aims of the Climate Alliance is to enable action at the local level that is fair, based on sound ecological principles, resource lean, locally focused inclusive and diverse. Ambitious goals, but it is recognised that for climate action to be effective it needs to be locally relevant and organised in such a way that the members of the local communities are engaged.  Projects also need to be practical and sustainable, focused on real needs on the ground and not meekly delivering remote targets or business plans.

Climate Alliance members are committed to the continuous reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions, pledging to cut emissions by 10 percent every 5 years, equivalent
to a halving of per capita emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels. Each member has also signed
up to the long term goal of levelling off at 2.5 tonnes CO2 per person and year, down from the current level of 9 tonnes. [European Average]

Climate Alliance cities undertake a wide array of measures to close this emissions gap, mostly focusing on a mix of energy conservation, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies. Actions undertaken across Europe include:

  1. implement urban planning and transport policy that promote climate-friendly mobility.
  2. give incentives and shape building codes to encourage energy efficiency in the building sector
  3. serve as role models with their own public buildings stock.
  4. shape their emissions through targeted, climate-conscious public procurement, water use and waste disposal strategies
  5. influence agriculture, forestry and tourism strategies
  6. engage with residents, enabling them to contribute to the fight against climate change in their own everyday lives, be it in terms of consumption patterns, lifestyle choices or ways of doing business.

By taking such actions locally with the clear objective of contributing to the internationally set ambition to keep global temperatures below 2C, local communities give a lead to central government and international forums to pressure them to create a supportive framework to enable this local delivery.  Over the last 25 years since the Rio Declaration, central governments have been weak in the face of the vested interest lobbying from fossil and financial sectors.  They have not shown the leadership required to steer us away from the dangers we now face with changing weather patterns on top of a range of other environmental and social problems.

In the UK local government has been deliberately weakened by a succession of central governments intent on gathering all power to itself, then failing to use that power in the interests of the general public.  Globally, local government is taking action and therefore effective power in response to the neglect of the central authorities.  UK local authorities need to follow this example.  By engagement with their local communities, action groups, academics and their local business community, they can form partnerships within the mold of the Climate Alliance to find ways of taking needed action.  By engaging with members of the community, they will gain their support and increase their reputation, giving strength to local governments in their negotiations with central government for adequate funding and support.

Mike Shipley

Written by Mike Shipley on behalf of East Midlands Green Party

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COP21 – Bonn 2017

UN Conference on Climate Change 23rd Session

Cop21 Bonn

25 years ago, a UN conference in Rio de Janeiro agreed the Framework Convention on Climate Change  “ as a framework for international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and coping with impacts that were, by then, inevitable.”  The ambition was to achieve, through a negotiated process, the stabilisation of greenhouse gases at a level that would prevent a dangerous anthropogenic rise in global temperature. [1]

Since 1995 those countries that have ratified the Convention – 197 to date, have met annually to monitor progress and to map a course of action to achieve the stated ambition.  The 23rd session of these ‘Conference of the Parties’ [COP 23] is now in session in Bonn; those delegates who are able to look beyond the comfortable confines of the conference venue and consider both the last 25 years and the future prospects, might have cause to ask what really has been achieved.

Since the mid 1990’s global concentrations of Carbon Dioxide – the main but certainly not the only greenhouse gas, have steadily risen and are now more than 60% higher at 403 parts per million compared with a reference figure of 285ppm for the pre-industrial world. [2] Global temperatures have continued to climb and are now 1C above the pre-industrial average.  Sea levels are 83mm higher than in 1993 and 200mm higher since 1870. [3]

In Paris 2015, the COP 21 unanimously adopted the ambition to limit average total global warming to ‘well under 2C, aiming for a limit of 1.5C’ [4].  2C has been accepted by all governments as the level beyond which any changes to the global climate will have ‘dangerous consequences’. These include: prolonged drought, more violent storms, longer heat waves, accelerated ocean acidification and ice-melt, leading to food and water shortages, fire risk, property damage, rising sea levels and greater tidal surges, and increased threats to human health and welfare. As an understanding of the consequences of current climate trends has deepened, so it has become apparent that even a 2C average rise will have severe consequences in many parts of the world, hence the ambition for 1.5C maximum.

The Paris Conference was supposed to signal a new determination to get to grips with carbon emissions and to take the risks of climate change seriously.  Yet CO2 levels continue to rise and rates of emissions hit a record high in 2016.  What chance therefore of keeping below the agreed ‘dangerous’ threshold of 2C?

A UN report in 2014 [5] calculated that to keep within the 2C limit, total human generated emission of CO2 would need to be limited to 29,000 Gigatonnes.  This is the carbon budget that the human population of the planet has to ‘spend’ before entering the territory of ‘dangerous climate change’.  We have to date spent about 74% of this budget and still emissions are rising.  If we are to keep below 2C we have about 19 years of emissions left – at current average rates, before we enter the relm of dangerous climate change.  That is the amount of time we have to stabilise emissions to be balanced by the rate of absorption of CO2 by seas and forests. We are a long way from achieving that balance

In 2012 Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, concludes ominously that current emission trends are “perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, which would have devastating consequences for the planet”.  Devastating puts it mildly.  Such a rise would make most land areas uninhabitable, not only for humans but also for most other species including those we rely on  to feed us.  Commenting on the record temperatures of 2012, Christine Lagarde head of the IMF said: “Make no mistake: without concerted action, the very future of our planet is in peril.” Since 2012 matters have not improved.

All this begs the question whether the UN COP process is a complete waste of time.  In terms of what is happening in to global climate, weather systems, the oceans and ecosystems, its achievements seem limited.  High on rhetoric, low on delivery. But is is the only global forum that is addressing this as a global problem, a problem that can not be solved at any local or national level.  Only through cooperative international effort will adequate measures be put in place.

COP is a ‘Conference of the Parties’ that is a government level forum for negotiation.  We have now come to a position where it is clear that Governments on their own can not and will not deliver the action needed to avoid an existential threat to civilisation.  As the COP  has matured, more non-governmental organisations and ad-hoc groups have become associated with it.  Their original purpose was to apply pressure to the assembled governments through lobbying and sheer presence, witnessing and reporting on a sorry catalogue of compromise and failure.  The so called ‘civil society’ presence at the COP has now grown to significant proportions, bringing opportunities for networking and initiating actions at ground level to combat the realities of a changing climate that some are experiencing now and in time we will all have to face.  It is this global forum of people that is perhaps the real success of the COP and  the real hope for the future of our planet.

Written by Mike Shipley on behalf of the East Midlands Green Party

                                                                        ***

  1. http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/items/6036.php
  2. http://www.climatechangenews.com/2013/12/31/carbon-dioxide-levels-now-61-higher-than-1990/
  3. https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/
  4. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php
  5. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf

 

 

References used:-

 

http://kevinanderson.info/blog/category/chapters-books/#_edn2

https://www.cigionline.org/articles/bonn-climate-conference-what-issues-are-key-cop23-1

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2013/12/31/carbon-dioxide-levels-now-61-higher-than-1990/

https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/

https://www.co2.earth/global-warming-update

http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2017/jan/19/carbon-countdown-clock-how-much-of-the-worlds-carbon-budget-have-we-spent