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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

 


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Urgent appeal for funds to fight Newark by-election

PLEASE SHARE WIDELY

On the 5th June there will be a by-election in Newark. If you are one of the national Green Party members or supporters who thinks it is vital that we stand and contest Parliamentary by-elections then we need you to show your support in the next 72 hours.

East Midlands Green Party has expressed support for the idea of standing, but a final democratic decision and selection of candidate have still to be concluded. They have authorised me to make this appeal on their behalf. An absolute minimum requirement is that the campaign raises £1,500 to enable them to pay for a freepost leaflet and to cover the deposit.This will not be a paper candidate: if we stand, we stand to fight the seat. The seat will be a focus of national interest following the resignation of the previous MP, and coming just 2 weeks after the European results.

It is essential that Newark voters have the option to choose a Westminster party that opposes austerity and, since the selection of Roger Helmer UKIP’s energy spokesman, this will be an opportunity for the Green Party to challenge the UKIP position on renewable energy as well as the extreme views Mr. Helmer holds on a variety of issues including rape and homosexuality.

We are currently seeking nominations for potential candidates. I myself have already agreed to stand for nomination to be the candidate as I was born in the town and still live and work locally and feel that Newark has to be able to choose an alternative to austerity and, as a gay man and trade unionist, want to ensure people in Newark know there’s more to UKIP than the Farage grin.

Please pledge your support with whatever amount you can and send that pledge to david.kirwan@greenparty.org.uk in the next 72 hours. If enough pledges are received we will then contact you with details of how to make your donation.

As you know the Green Party do not have big business or other organisations to bankroll us so we rely on your support, please consider supporting our campaign. If you are not in a position to pledge financial support perhaps you would consider joining the campaign team to give practical support on the ground? Thank you in advance for your support and please pass this message to any individuals or groups you know that may be willing to help.

Thanks

David Kirwan
East Midlands Green Party
david.kirwan@greenparty.org.uk


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Greens share common grounds with farmers.

The Green Party recognises the fundamental importance of those who work on the land and the contribution that farming makes to the rural economy and to wider society. However, many farmers do not currently receive fair reward for the food that they produce or for the many other ‘public services’ that they provide. We believe that letting conventional market forces dictate agriculture policy, as successive governments have done, can’t lead to the sustainable supply of food that should be the principle aim of farming. The aim of Green food and farming policy is to achieve food security over the long term.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as follows: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The FAO says further that: “The right to food is a human right. It protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.” The current policies of the British Government have failed to do this, hence the rise of hunger in the UK and of food banks. It is frankly shocking that in the worlds seventh richest economy, there are people who can’t get enough to eat on a regular basis, it is a scandal that the response by our rulers to this is to blame the hungry and poor for their plight.

The Government approach to food security is to build a competitive economy to enable the UK to buy its food requirements on the world market. The role of agriculture is to contribute to the national balance of payments to finance this policy – so farming is encouraged to intensify and to maximise output like any other industry. Further, the Government looks to developing countries to supply more of the world’s food. This policy, supported by Labour, Tory and LibDems, expects the poorer countries of the world to feed the rich. This a high risk unsustainable policy that is morally indefensible, like much of the rest of free market ideology.

It is unfortunate that the current leaders of the farming community in Britain buy into this ideology, supporting further intensification of agriculture to maximise output and return on investment. At the same time they do recognise the need to preserve soil fertility, and that farming needs a healthy and properly functioning natural environment. They recognise the dangers of climate change, after this winters floods how could they ignore it? They understand the importance of sustainability. They want to see farmers able to make a decent living in return for their hard work. Yet they fail to see that the free-market economics, focusing on competition and ever growing returns is leading to irreversible environmental damage that makes farming practice unsustainable and is forcing thousands of farmers out of business.

There is an unfortunate tension between the farming community and Greens. This is over issues like animal welfare, access to land, industrial scale farming and hunting. We both need to get beyond these differences and look at what we have in common. This is what the Wildlife Trusts are successfully doing in their negotiations with local farmers over conservation. They accept that at present they can’t agree on badgers or foxes or hedgerows. But they recognise a common interest in maintaining a healthy and properly functioning environment, and that they can and need to work together. Greens and the farming community need now to adopt the same approach.

Our areas of agreement are far more significant that areas of disagreement. We both agree on the need for a healthy and viable agriculture sector to produce our food, and that that farmers need to be able to earn a decent living. We accept the idea of agricultural subsidies from the taxpayer in recognition of the importance of maintaining food supply, and because agriculture can’t operate like a traditional business due to the variable nature of the environment. We both know that farming needs a healthy and properly functioning natural environment and that farmers are well placed to implement long term conservation policies that are in the national interest, and that farming practice needs to be sustainable over the long term. We both want to see farming enterprises being an integral part of a robust rural economy supporting good and sustainable jobs.

And we both agree that farming faces critical challenges from Climate Change and that it must adapt to survive.

This is a lot of common ground and Green Food and Agriculture policy, together with other policy areas, fully addresses these issues. We firmly believe that our policies, based on sound science, need to be implemented if we are to maintain a sustainable food production capacity in Great Britain. Yes, we have our differences with some farmers, on GMO, on cloning, on intensive farming, on the appropriate business model for a healthy farming sector. But rather than trade insults over disagreements, we need to understand each other’s position and find agreement. These are vitally important issues to get right. They are not a matter of opinion, they can be answered through the proper understanding of science, which includes ecology, the science in which this Party is grounded.


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Breathless – our right to breathe

Taken by Antonia Zenkevitch at The Blue Wave March against Climate Change.

Taken by Antonia Zenkevitch at The Blue Wave March against Climate Change.

Successive government policies are failing in safeguarding the rights of many to breathe. Fracking plans are part of a long line of health threats being created. The Green Party is different.

3 people a day die of asthma in the UK, 200 a day are rushed to emergency care. Although triggers are diverse, some of these deaths are warning signals that the air we breathe is not safe.  Exhaust fumes, for example, can trigger an attack that leaves the airways inflamed, constricted, obstructed, twisted.  Air pollutants, harsh chemicals in the home or work place and stress are some of the triggers, as are extremes of temperature.  Areas of the world where fracking is underway show rising  asthma and other health crisis. Texas, where drilling is heavy has a 25% asthma rate in young children compared to national average of 7%.  The government fracking plans could raise mortality rates in the UK. Asthma rates already rising with connections to climate change, air quality and poverty arguably triggers. Resistant virus strains and threats to basic well-being and immunity also factors.

You may ask how is this related to the Green Party? I would answer it is related in every way.  The Green Party policies are generally cleverly designed and focus on protecting the things that provide well-being.  A good public transport system, green industry and a safe and funded NHS for example are fundamental to general well-being. These are also things that could save lives and dignity.  The Green Party shows the way in these areas within the political arena. No other party does. Asthma rates are political because they spur us on to re-examine political priorities. The government on the other hand seems to be gaslighting – playing a game of smoke and mirrors. Under the new De-Regulation Bill the Con-Dem Government would remove any requirement for councils to produce assessments after designating air quality zones. As there are unsafe air zones it strikes me as vital that assessments should be made and protection put in place. The De-Regulation Bill is also designed to ‘remove burdens on business’ (to be ethical?) and ‘repeal legislation no longer of use’ (according to whose priorities?). This bill paves the way for fracking for example in a similar way to fracking being made exempt from The Clean Water Act in USA. It is one of the ways the Com-Dem government risks lives and Labour gives no opposition.

I am a wheezy Green. Ours is one of the one in five homes in the UK affected by asthma. A quarter of a million people have asthma so severe that medicine available does not work for them and even mild asthma can be fatal.  In 2011 alone asthma rates rose 12 %. Child asthma rates are rising most steeply (as is child poverty) with more young systems unable to deal with hazards in the air.  I have had a couple of nasty attacks recently, have pneumonia  and am trying to get my airways working properly. Many of us also contend with airborne, food and other allergies.   The body under duress sometimes mistakes friend for foe. As I work in the underfunded voluntary sector it cost me a large proportion of wages in prescriptions after my becoming ill just to make sure I can keep breathing. How many cannot afford to breathe?

The privatisation of our NHS by Labour, Conservatives and LibDems in successive governments also endangers lives. (It also takes jobs and so destablises society and the economy). It takes longer to be treated. We are inundated with consumer choice and lacking in patient care. A friend of mine from University days has worked some years in a hospital blood testing lab.  Her hours are long, her weekends rare, the staff were just 4 to one large hospital. She tells me a ‘Super Lab’ with the same number of people serving 4 hospitals is the new way of apparently ‘putting patients first’.  This for me illustrates the vampiric nature of commerce coming before care.  Even the term ‘superlab’ seems crass.

Social injustice costs lives. Of the deaths caused by asthma and many other diseases, rising healthcare costs and decreasing benefits to those who need them play their part. There is systematic dehumanisation of so many in and out of paid work who cannot afford to eat well or heat their homes. So many literally cannot afford the cost of living.  If you can’t afford to heat your home the cold air can be rejected by asthmatic lungs.  Fear or emotional trauma can also trigger an attack. With so many struggling to make ends meet in a prevailing political culture of divide and rule, this increases the health threats to many. Under extreme pressure many people are more likely to smoke more, less likely to look after themselves and more likely to put their own and other’s health at risk.  A struggling single parent said in Life’s A Drag: Women, Smoking and Disadvantage, Hilary Graham, 1993 “I smoke more if I’ve got bills coming in, I tend to get worried. Like Christmas is coming and I’m not able to afford the things I want.” Then there is the hunger for so many, with Foodbanks needed ever more.  Poverty and austerity – that poison masked as medicine – are killers.

Climate Chaos and poverty are closely related threats. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, includes in its research the effects of Climate Change on health threats rising and continuing to rise. Asthma is one disease on the rise, together with respiratory allergies, airborne diseases, heart-disease and stroke, cancer, foodborne and waterborne diseases, human development defects, neurological disorders, mental health and stress related ill-health, heat related morbidity and mortality … The list goes on. Our Governments answer is willful ignorance unchallenged by Labour. Plans for fracking, licences for dangerous pesticides, erosion of safety measures to protect clean air ‘zones’, new airport runways all carry threats. You do not have to look for the tsunamis, droughts and ash clouds to see climate change take life. It is there in the silence after a fatal asthma attack takes a child on a day you can taste pollution in the air. Behind closed doors, in homes, climate chaos costs lives. Those it often takes are those with problems accessing or affording care.

Our health security relies on a great number of things; saving the NHS, tackling true causes of poverty, protecting land and water, investing renewable energy and clean air targets. These are all things central to Green Party policy and for the most part fundamentally lacking in the other parties. I choose to focus this post on asthma because, if you pardon the pun, I had something to get off my chest and the issue is literally close to my own heart. It is one issue that shows how politics based on the common good can change lives.  The idiocy and arrogance of successive governments literally leaves millions breathless.   The Green Party is challenging itself and the UK to be the very best it can be. Now, that to me is a breath of fresh air! For me personally being ill was a reminder that fighting for The Green Party and its policies is in so many uncountable ways a fight for life.

Antonia Zenkevitch 2014

References and Further Reading include:

http://greenparty.org.uk/policies.html

http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/our-programs/fracking/whats-wrong-with-fracking-2/air-pollution

http://www.asthma.org.uk/knowledge-bank-smog

http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/about.htm 


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Derbyshire Greens Solidarity with Barton Moss anti-fracking Campaign

Derbyshire Green Party

Members of Derbyshire Green Party visited the anti fracking protest camp at Barton Moss near Irlam, Salford, on Saturday January 4th. They were welcomed by a diverse bunch of campers, male and female, old and young, who remained in high spirits despite the atrocious weather and the heavy handed policing, which has seen as many as 30 arrests for peaceful protests in the last few weeks.

Green Party members from Manchester and from the South of England were also visiting and the Green Party was given credit for being the only parliamentary party in England which has stated its unqualified opposition to fracking.

” MPs from other parties, including MPs from round here, have been given permission by party leaders to oppose fracking in their own area whilst being required to support it in principle.  It is the worst form of cynicism, designed to get them through the next election”…

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Now it’s Fracking Bribery

The cynicism of the Con Dem government is staggering. It has deliberately driven Councils and Communities to desperation by cutting their budgets, and now it is bribing those same struggling Authorities to give permission for fracking that local communities have clearly rejected. If they do as the Government demands, turn a blind eye to the hazards, and the opinion of the electorate, they will be rewarded with extra cash from the fracking companies. Like some medieval torturer who, having starved his victim allows the smell of a succulent meal to drift into the torture chamber, so the Government waves the promise of cash at these desperate Councils. Inevitably this action will weaken further the trust between Councils and their electorate, as the Tories intend – residents will never be sure if a permission was given in the best interest of the community and country, or for the cash.

Cameron is now just acting as the industries mouthpiece. On the very day Total, the French energy company who are unable to frack in their own country because the French Government has banned it, announced a £30 million stake in UK fracking, he turns up at a drilling depot in Gainsborough. It just happens that Total have taken a stake in the companies that have exploration licences in Gainsborough. Doing the job of a company PR spokesman, he dutifully reiterated the claim that fracking will produce much needed investment, create jobs and lead to energy security, and that our robust regulations make it completely safe. There is no justification for any of these claims. They come from, a report commissioned by the frack company Caudrilla, headed by his friend Lord John Browne, ex of BP, that suggests that Britain can benefit by £3.7 billion a year extra revenue and 74,000 new jobs. These figures are just guesses. The 74,000 job claim included the extra staff needed in local shops to serve the security guards buying sweets! One wonders just how many of these 74,000 people will be security guards, such has been his governments and the industries failure to convince the British public that we need fracking.

To talk up the robust environmental regulations in the UK is to ignore the fact that the Conservative Party is doing all it can to abolish these regulations as ‘red tape’. It also conveniently ignores the fact that if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the USA that they are so keen on, does get the go ahead from Europe, then all such regulations will prove to be useless. Governments will do all they can to minimise green regulations for fear of being sued by corporations for loss of profit.

The dash for gas is a high risk strategy, not one that can lead to energy security. It is not known how much gas can be won or at what price. The demand for water will be colossal and will lead to escalating domestic water bills and water shortages. The cost of the disposal of trillions of gallons of polluted waste water is unknown and we can’t be sure that we, the tax payer won’t be left with the disposal bill. The same applies to the costs of the pollution incidents that will inevitably occur. And the gas will run out but we will be tied to a gas energy infrastructure, then what?

The one claim, that Cameron didn’t make and that has been quietly dropped by the industry is that fracking will lead to cheap energy. It will do nothing for energy costs since the gas, if it is ever produced will be sold on the open market just as the North Sea oil was, and we British consumers will have to pay a premium price, as we did for North Sea oil, so that the big energy companies can maintain their bloated profits.

In all, this is a thoroughly bad deal for the British energy consumer and tax payer. The only beneficiaries are the big energy companies and their shareholders who will send their profits off shore. It is an even worse deal because there is a real deal available that would give us affordable and secure energy. This is to use the free energy that blows over our heads, laps on our shores and shines in our faces. Yes, the wind, the sun and the tides are free energy, all we needed to do was invest in the infrastructure to capture them, store the energy as necessary and distribute it. No big deal any of that, just use the technology that’s already there. But, no one can take a monopoly on the wind, the waves or the sun, no one can threaten to divert it or switch it off if they don’t get their own way. No one can put it in a barrel or down a pipeline and sell it back to us at a profit. So this Government of millionaires, for millionaires isn’t interested.

There is only one Party seriously opposing fracking and that is the Green Party. We also have a clear and workable alternative energy strategy that would end fuel poverty and our reliance on fossil fuels. The only thing that will make the main parties rethink their fossil/nuclear energy [policies is a big green vote. Work with us to make this happen.


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Peace and Goodwill to all Life?

candles in the dark

The East Midland’s Green Party Blog has been going for a year. This year, as last year, we take a seasonal look at how we can each make a difference. This month’s theme is ‘life-style’ and I wanted to include a look at a seasonal theme of peace and good will to all people (and all life).

There is the song called ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, in which some pretty odd gifts are presented. The image of 12 marauding lords a-leaping uninvited around a home bought to my mind some of the inappropriate gifts this government has offered to us in the last 12 months. Each one has drastic effects on lives. Simply to name 12 ills the government has been party to or failed in its duty to protect us from, I would include homelessness increasing, child poverty increasing, increased domestic violence with decreased prosecution, increasing debt to pay national (bank) debts, the promise of more water and land pollution with fracking, climate chaos remaining unchallenged despite renewed warnings from government’s chief scientist, the escalation of school privatisation, the escalation of NHS privatisation, increasing fuel poverty and shortages, alienation and dehumanization of emerging communities, disabled people’s rights and ability to thrive taken away. You could add much more. So where is the hope? Look in the mirror, it is you!

Many of these ‘gifts’ were also given by the Labour government, such as privitisation of public services like schools and the NHS.  Edd Milliband forgot to mention the environment at all in his spring conference speech this year. So it is left to us to protect community values in the face of threats posed by reckless and ruthless policies. For many it is a season of festivity,  giving and tradition. When we consider what we wish to share with loved ones this season and beyond let’s look at alternative gifts and ways of giving.

As the first day of Advent arrived and as many prepare for Christmas I am in the midst of Channukah celebrations. I’m an Interfaith Women’s Worker and on Sunday members of the women’s group were at my home sharing cake and hope. Zahra, a Muslim from Gaza and I speak of being cousins, while our friend from Malawi sits by our side. This friend who has been active in our local community for 14 years, trained as a nurse, has done much church, interfaith and women’s empowerment voluntary work, while staying within the law and not doing paid work until she has permission to stay. She  recently spent two and a half months incarcerated in a detention centre without adequate medicine for her high blood pressure and under constant threat of deportation.  When she was let out on bail she was rushed into hospital to deal with the damage her detention and inadequate medicine caused. That was in this country, this year. Another woman around my kitchen table, originally from Ireland,  has told her stories of a persecuted childhood on these shores where shops and homes were closed to her. The original, now retired, matriarch of the group who gathered these women, sits on my right. Across cultures, faiths, generations and politics we speak of our hopes for peace between peoples and peaceful and equal relationships between men and women. The Green Party is the only party that does not use newcomers to our nation as scapegoats for economic uncertainty and almost every other social ill, though our membership diversity in terms of faith or ethnicity is limited so far.  Many call this the season of goodwill but I would ask if goodwill should need a season? It is a good place to start and stretch ourselves from.

Here is a puzzle. Peace and social justice are cornerstones of The Green Party. Peace is a universal concept talked of much, acted on less. While there are many things we would like to see reformed in the EU, one reason to stay is Peace. In the last few decades since the second War to End All Wars there have been armed conflicts all across the globe. We take it for granted that we would not go to war with Germany, with France and with other EU countries. We may like to believe history has taught us lessons, but the trade and political relationships built up by the EU are a great safeguard. It would be politically and economically self-defeating for an EU nation to declare war on another.

Here is a question and each one of us will have a different answer. What are the gifts we are going to offer the world in the upcoming year?  In the year to come I would like to see The Green Party stretch further to welcome a more diverse membership. There will be those who will be offended at the suggestion we have further to go to be inclusive.  I will risk that in the pursuit of a greater gift we could all share; that of a broader more effective party, building on the generations of sterling work given so far. Within the limits of finance and facilities we should open the party to a membership that reflects the inclusiveness of its policies. Religiously neutral and non-pub venues mean more Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and others  feel welcomed. Venues with good access for people with mobility problems would increase membership, active engagement and comfort. Social media, Skype and phone trees could help where this is not possible. Ensuring conferences do not fall on the major festivals of any one faith too many times, if ever, would ensure against bad feeling. Ensuring that any and all allegations of prejudice are dealt with speedily and justly, not with punishment but as a chance to build greater understanding, awareness and tolerance would build us up, together. We cannot afford complacency with regard to diversifying our membership and ensuring welcome is an absolute, not an adjustment of structure. Our practices must live up to the promise of our policies.  We cannot be naive and fail to see where there are barriers to inclusion or that, however unlikely or uncomfortable it seems, even Green Party members may occasionally need to build tolerance and understanding of different cultures and beliefs.  We are in this Earth Ship together and most, if not all, cultures, faiths and creeds have notions of social justice and the importance / sacredness of the earth at their core.  The time has passed when we can afford to accidentally (or purposefully) leave any one out. So, if this is a season of goodwill to all humanity and all life let us expand our borders of what is possible if we dared to think, to dream, we could all work together. Once we were called ‘People Party’. It is a massive ask but it may be only we could do it, let us try to live up to that.

Wishing you peace, joy and sustenance now and in the future. It is a gift that rests in all our hands, unwrapped when we give to one another.

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch


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What a Gas – Digging for Truth

In this final piece for November’s Focus on Energy, Mike Shipley from Derbyshire Speaks:

UCG, the Underground Coal Gamble

I heard something very interesting from a man who came to check my gas meter.  He told me that the Government was not allowing new housing development to be connected up to the gas mains, because gas was in short supply.  Yet Gideon Osbourn has said that 30 new gas fired power stations are to be built in the UK.

So what does Gideon know that he’s not yet telling the house builders?  We suspect that fracking is not going to be the gas bonanza that the industry is hyping it up to be.  With it unproven in the UK, building our energy future on  frack-gas would be reckless even by the standards of the ConDem Coalition. But, gambler Osbourn holds two cards in his hand, and at least one of them he believes is trumps.

This second card is Underground Coal Gasification, UCG.  An unproven technology designed to use proven reserves.  Britain’s wealth was built on coal and some believe that King Coal is about to come back from the dead and endow great riches for a select few.  All private wealth, most of which will head off shore so as not to bother the tax man too much.

The Government is currently issuing licences for UCG to private companies. That is, they are handing over a national resource to private developers with no discussion as to whether this is in our collective interest. These  are described as ‘Conditional Licences’, and are available on application for a very modest fee.  The companies that are taking the licences are mostly overseas registered and have no prior experience in UCG.  Indeed experience with this technology is scant, most pilots to date have ended in either financial or technical failure.

UCG involves the partial combustion of coal where it lies, using high pressure steam and oxygen.  A combustible mixture of methane and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide known as syngas is then forced back to the surface for further processing.  A joint EU project in Spain that the UK [under Labour] helped to finance exploded and was abandoned.  An Australian venture suffered a similar fate and the Queensland Government put a moratorium on further developments.  But, desperate to find the fuel for their gas powered energy future, the ConDems have flung the UK’s doors open to this unproven technology to be handled by inexperienced companies.  Recipe for Disaster?

In terms of energy policy this is a disaster that we will have to pay for with rising bills and footing any insurance claims made against the bankrupted companies who will walk away from their failure.  But in terms of wealth creation, it is set to be bonanza time.  Development costs will be largely paid for by the tax payer. The new energy companies will be floated with glossy prospectuses and, having Government backing they will draw in high levels of venture capital, their executives and share holders – often the same people, getting huge bonuses and dividends.  If the technology works and the UK’s coal reserves can be gasified, the potential revenue is huge, but this will not be used to build a sovereign fund, as Norway did with its North Sea oil, but will be used to enrich the already wealthy.

Is opposition to UCG just sour grapes because some people will get very rich?  No, our opposition to it is because it is a fossil fuel that will accelerate Climate Change and leave a clean up legacy that we will all have to pay for.  Paying lip service to the UK’s climate change commitments to reduce Carbon emissions, the Government is telling the companies involved, that they must capture the carbon dioxide produced. Carbon Capture and Storage [CCS] is another unproven technology and the UK’s only pilot project at Longannet in Scotland closed because no one was prepared to pay for it.  So the industry won’t be expected to use what isn’t available, and anyway CCS is only expected if the gas is used to generate electricity.  If the gas is used for other purposes, to make liquid fuels for examples, then CCS will not be required.  Therefore UCG  releasing carbon dioxide in the syngas  and also when the syngas is burned. Its warming potential will end up being the same as burning the coal in power stations.  It is not a clean technology, once again the Government is being deliberately misleading about the full impact of its energy strategy.  It is failing to address Climate Change and failing to secure affordable energy for all. It’s real focus is on economic growth, at any cost, and  private wealth creation.

Because of the high global value of liquid fuels and the growing uncertainty about oil reserves, the real plan for UCG gas is for liquid fuel. That is the big prize.  Moreover, in the interests of profit, it will be sold on the open market to the highest bidder – and that will not be the average British subject. And if this is the outcome, where, we might ask, is Gideon going to get his gas from for his 30 power stations?  Where we get it from now, on the open market, where prices will be for ever rising.  This Government’s energy policy and its dash for gas builds in continual price rises for the domestic customer and does nothing to address fuel poverty.

Mr Osbourn is indeed a gambler.  He is staking everything on getting the economy growing again. Growth is the only policy he has, and growth needs energy.  He totally fails to realise that in a world of declining resources and changing climate, conventional growth fuelled by conventional fuels can no longer be sustained.  We now live at a time of transition, forced upon us by our over exploitation of global resources in the name of growth and wealth creation.  This Government is failing to acknowledge this fact and is recklessly gambling with our future by desperately throwing the last fossil fuel card onto the table.  It may pay out for a minority, who will take the money and run, leaving the mess that they have created for us to clean up.

This blog was inspired by Mel Kelly’s article ‘Theft of Austerity Britain’s Coal’ published by frackingfreeireland.org.  My thanks to Danni Saxton-Turtle for additional research

[Mike Shipley November 2013]


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Another Voice on Energy

In the finale of our month’s focus on energy a post written by John Youatt

Energy, the people and the planet

We depend on energy, In our daily lives, in business in our leisure time, we use energy and all too often we take it for granted.  Understandably people get cross if the power fails, or if the fuel they want gets too expensive.  Governments know this and energy policy focuses on security of supply and affordability.  The ConDem Government will claim that this is exactly what it is doing.  It is backing nuclear and a big push for gas to ‘keep the lights on’ as they keep saying, and the Tories want to scrap the green levies to keep prices down.  But this is all short term thinking, it is not costing in the full impacts of a nuclear-fossil fuel energy strategy, it is more about winning the next election than securing safe and affordable energy for the next generation.

UK is rightly and legally committed to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere and into the sea, by  15% by 2020 and by 50% by 2050. These are the minimum to avoid massive harm by erratic warming, melting, and climate chaos. Science says that, to achieve these targets, most ancient carbon (oil, coal and gas) must be left in the ground, and/or the carbon must be captured and returned to the ground.

It is tehnically possible to achieve these targets in the UK and internationally by carbon capture, and by harvesting wind, wave, sea current, solar and biomass energy. It’s unnecessary to look for more.

We now know beyond any remaining doubt (Cameron in the lower house October 2013), that the Tory-driven coalition government is determined to stay in power in 2015, by appealing to voters by short-term cost cutting: and by satisfying the right wing and global capital by massive investment in the unsafe carbon based technologies. This is a disastrous policy framework both for the majority of people and for the planet since it builds in rising prices and carbon emissions. It fails to establish a clear framework to support the development of sustainable renewable energy.

In the light of the science and even of the full economics of energy and climate change, (Stern), it beggar belief that any sane or logical government would be so stupid as to turn their back on renewable energy and back unsustainable fossil and nuclear. But we need to remember that, the carbon pirates are highly  persuasive, because of the massive power of the global capital invested in carbon by organisations and powerful individuals.

The UK is very well endowed with  renewable sources of energy, even solar, and we might think that the Government would grab the enormous opportunity presented to it, but it doesn’t.  Instead it does all it can to load the dice against renewables in favour of fossil and nuclear.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change, set up by Ed Milliband, raised the profile of climate change to primary cabinet level for the first time. Ed noted Germany’s Greens’-inspired successes, including the winding down of nuclear power and the use of tariffs and taxes to encourage renewables. Germany now has 300,000  jobs in renewable energy and already exceeds it’s 20% renewable target for 2020. The coalition government and Cameron, its PR spinner, works relentlessly to blame energy prices on green taxes through a compliant media, and is threatening to scrap them.  The Government and its media poodles regularly attack investments in energy saving that really help households and ignore the reality of global price rises for fossil fuels.  They also ignore the profits and dividends of the big energy companies that are effectively a cartel. Price rises by one are followed within a few days by similar rises by the others. Yet smaller energy companies  eg Good Energy (100% green) don’t get the support they need.

Despite the fact that the science clearly states that to avoid dangerous climate change – a global temperature rise of 2ºC, the Government annually pours over £2 billion in subsidies and tax breaks into the fossil fuel sector.  In addition it is backing extreme energies like fracking and Underground Coal Gasification with big tax breaks paid for by all of us.  And if all this wasn’t enough to rub fossilised salt in to our green wounds, the Government is now backing a new generation of nuclear power stations, built by French and Chinese state owned companies who will earn guaranteed profits paid for by us who will also have to clean up the mess of the abandoned reactors in 30 years time.

Government energy policy is leaving a dangerous legacy of rising bills, reliance on dwindling fossil and uranium supplies and a nuclear clean up bill that will dwarf the profits made. Green policy would end this nonsense.  Because we all depend on energy, its supply should not be used as a means to make massive private profits. Green policy to promote renewables and scale down fossil and nuclear, would secure a sustainable supply for now and for the future that will enable all to afford energy that does not represent a long term threat to the well being for either the people or the planet.

© John Youatt for DGP October 2103

Here is a brief account of the good energies – good for people and for our planet:

Solar energy 1            (Solar electric or PV panels; solar thermal panels; air, ground or water source heat pumps; thermodynamic panels; electric-to-heat-store transfer).

All arms of this industry have grown exponentially since Ed Milliband set up DECC. All take energy direct from the sun. They are supported by tariffs which have survived Government cuts, but have been atrociously managed by the coalition, jealous of the diversion of funds from the fossil fuel economy. Solar panels, despite the lack of Government support remain good value, whether funded from personal savings, from business plans or as rental installations.

Solar energy 2 : Biomass

Virtually all biomass can return photosynthetic energy from the sun as heat and/or electrical energy.  The main technologies are anaerobic digestion (AD); incineration of mixed wastes; and growing crops for oil, usually in place of food.  Huhne was this time not lying when he placed AD as the best of this bunch in the coalition agreement. AD is a managed natural process like brewing that produces heat, electricity and nutrients from material that would have gone to ground. The AD nutrients replace expensive high energy artificial fertilisers and reduce poisoning of ground waters. Wood burning as log or chip works locally, however the jury is out on large scale wood burning because of processing and haulage costs. Sadly, big business conned local authorities into signing 25 year contracts for incineration, which requires huge waste miles, and is far less beneficial than AD, and reduces recycling.  Greens do not support incineration.

Solar energy 3  Solar power stations .

Technically these have to be big, requiring low value land space and strong sunlight. They are not for low-sun, high-density states such as most of the EU, but could be good news for the Sahel region, provided a mutually benefit deal can be developed between the EU and the host nation.

Wind

There are broadly two categories of wind power generation

  • individual machines, usually of small to medium size, designed to meet the energy use where they stand (eg c.100kW capacity/25m height for a large dairy farm or 250kw/35m for a village). check These micro generators also save transmission costs (up to 20% in centralised generation) check by using networks ‘in the opposite direction’.
  • large machines, now typically 2mW/ 50m check often in groups or ‘arrays’ of up a hundred on land or out to sea.

They are both highly desirable components of the UK and world wide energy mix.

The Tories are obsessed by hatred of wind turbines in the landscape and of state support being given to them. It is true that there are extremes of views from moving sculptures, even ‘objects of grace and desire’; to a blot on a beloved landscape. Unfortunately the ‘antis’ use lies and spin to make their case, ignoring the absolute need for wind power in the UK energy mix, and their hatred, bred largely by big poorly designed and over greedy windfarms, leaks into the mindset and infects reactions to well designed schemes.  As a result, investors are discouraged and go abroad, and the UK has missed out on being a world leader in wind technology.

 

Waves and sea currents         It was of course Maggie that took against research into sea power why?  Ever so slowly, too slowly, investment is now going ahead, from private and public sources, into sea-current and wave power.

 

Carbon capture and storage (CCS)   Not a renewable energy technology, but a means of cutting carbon emissions enabling us to use fossil reserves as  bridging fuels to secure energy supply while the renewable system is developed. If carbon capture works (it’s technically and geographically possible, the doubt is cost) CCS should be promoted. A failure to do the research in the 1980’s was another of Maggie’s bad mistakes, this time perhaps allied to her war with the miners. Sadly, ‘clean coal’ is still part of the Tories hang ups. Carbon generators are still being promoted in the UK and world wide, without a precondition to install and retro fit CCS, and research into the technology has again stalled.


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Extreme Energy – Extreme Risk

water on fire - chemicals in fracking

water on fire – chemicals in fracking

 

Continuing as part of this month’s focus on energy policy, Derbyshire’s indomitable Mike Shipley has written this post:

 

Extreme Energy – Extreme Risk.

 

Even though Governments and the oil industry will not admit it, the world has passed peak oil production.  This is important information that we should be informed about in order for us to be involved in the decisions necessary about our energy supply in the years to come.  But with so much investment and share value tied to oil and fossil reserves, the industry, financial sector and the governments they control are keeping quiet, behaving as if it’s all ‘business as usual.’  The markets do not like change, confirmation of peak oil from ‘reliable sources’ would send jitters through the market and weaken investor confidence in the dominant fossil sector.  Very rich people would find their investments and therefore their wealth, devalued.

 

So we don’t hear about ‘Peak Oil’ except from scientists and Greens, and they aren’t seen as ‘reliable sources’ by the market.  But it’s what the industry is doing that gives the game away.  The easy so called conventional oil and gas on land or in shallow water,  is running out.  Why else is this conservative ultra cost conscious industry investing so heavily in hard to win reserves known as ‘extreme energy’?  They are investing in high cost, high risk exploration, trying to find fossil reserves that will reassure the markets that fossil carbon remains a good investment.  These explorations include the very deep water drilling, up to 3 kilometres down,  off the coast of Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico, the mining  of Canadian tar sands, mountain top removal for coal in the Appalachians, fracking and underground coal gasification [UCG] that is about to be launched in the UK.

 

These sources of energy, to which we can add nuclear, because of the uninsurable risk associated with nuclear accidents – come with a high price tag.  The technology needed is either in an early stage of development or it is being stretched well beyond its design capacity, as happened with the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the gulf of Mexico. Because of this the risk associated with extreme energy is much greater than with either conventional energy sources or with renewables.  However the industry will do everything it can to transfer this risk from its balance sheet to the customer and then the taxpayer as the insurer of last resort.  One way or another we will pay a high pricer for extreme energy.

 

Even if risk costs are externalised, that is: passed on to the community and tax payer, the cost of  bringing extreme energy to market remains high and will increase as reserves become more difficult to find.  For this reason the price of energy from fossil fuels will continue to rise in to the future.  The big six energy companies will use their dominant market position to protect their profits and therefore share and dividend value.  The age of cheap fossil energy is over and the only way prices of fossil energy can be brought down is through Government subsidy.  This is what the ConDem Government is doing when it gives tax breaks and cuts regulatory costs.  But even with this support the costs of extraction and processing is high and will be reflected in market price.

 

Without doubt, we need a secure and sustainable source of energy that we can rely on well into the future.  Fossil fuel is not this energy.  By its very nature is is limited in supply and is getting more expensive to find and is damaging to the global environment.  The energy future that can deliver reliability is renewables, it has to be, by their very nature, renewables are limitless.  The wind will always blow, the sun will shine the tides rise and fall somewhere all the time.  The technical challenge is to connect up these various technologies in to energy grids that cover large areas so that energy can flow from high generating areas to the becalmed areas.  Developing this super-grid and building the appropriate generating plant will initially be expensive, but developing this system is an investment in the future and once mature, it will deliver reliable and affordable energy.  This has happened in Germany where because of its investment in renewable energy generation, the wholesale cost of electricity is falling.  True that the retail price remains high because of green tariffs that are designed to pay for the switch from fossil-nuclear to renewable.  But as the technology matures and the grid is developed, tariffs will fall and so will prices to the consumer.

 

This will not happen in the UK thanks to the policies of successive governments.  In the future we will be paying a premium global market price for gas, having been made reliant on gas power generation by Gideon Osbourn.  The fracking venture will prove to be an expensive flop and underground coal gasification will rack up a huge price tag in environmental damage that we will all have to pay for. Nuclear will deliver profits to French and Chinese state owned companies at our expense, but again it will fail to live up to the hype leaving us instead with a very costly clean up bill that will be greater than the value of the energy generated, plus the ever present risk of a major nuclear accident.

 

Green Party Energy policy aims to move energy generation from this high risk strategy that is based on extreme energy to a secure and sustainable energy supply system based on renewable sources of energy.  It can be done, Europe’s most successful economy is dong just this.  Japan in taking a close interest in German energy policy and for obvious reasons is interested in following this lead.  However, this strategy does not suit the big energy companies, and for that reason, the ConDem government is promoting a fossil-nuclear policy based on extreme energy and extreme risk.