Climate Action: Stepping up to the next level

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This week I attended the Under Her Eye summit, a two-day festival of Women and Climate change at the British Library, curated by Invisible Dust.

Unusually, for a summit, all the speakers were women. The title Under Her Eye reverses the ‘under his eye’ big brother approach of The Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s Climate change dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale.

It was impossible not to be alarmed by the urgent message on climate breakdown and mass extinction of the natural world from the key speakers.

Christiana Figueres (who helped deliver the ground-breaking Paris climate change deal in 2015) said ‘We have exceeded planetary boundaries… ( on climate) … we must swallow an alarm clock…We all now either win or lose together’

Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green party said ‘we have a 2 second window to address climate change’

Meanwhile Margaret Atwood conjured a desperate image of a citizen burying tins of baked beans and sardines in their back garden and then trying to defend that position.

In the world of a rapidly warming climate, caused by human activity, this image conjures up the desperation that might come if we fail to step it up to the next level. Scarcity of food and water would lead inevitably to resource wars.

Darkest of all, was Lisa Autogena’s art work, Untitled (superorganism) which creates a planetary version of the phenomenon of ants commiting suicide by going into a slow ‘spiral of death’.

’There’s a price for blindly following those in front of you. Army ants have a dangerous tendency to commit mass suicide because they are following the leader’.

Christiana Figueres says giving up is ‘irresponsible’. And Caroline Lucas commented that ‘if things don’t change we will go down in history as the species working on its own extinction’.

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Lisa Autogena – Untitled (superorganism)

The speakers at the summit were from a broad range of backgrounds, including scientists, leaders, activists, artists, writers and economists, some offering incredibly inspiring and positive framing of a very dire situation,

However sometimes I felt frustrated with lazy thinking or an almost fairytale belief in technological redemption. Facing a cliff edge IS edgy but we must keep our feet on the ground.

As Margaret Atwood commented ‘Every techno solution has a good side, a bad side and a stupid side we haven’t tbought about yet’.

Declaring a state of emergency

There are rumours that the International Policy Programme on Climate Change (IPCC) will announce in October that we have a decade less to achieve net zero carbon. This means a sharp readjustment of the current trajectory from 2050 down to 2040.

Christiana Figueres’ Mission 2020 has already set a tight peak emission by 2020. However China has seen an unexpected sharp rise in its carbon emissions of 4% in the first 3 months of 2018, compared to 2017. Scaling up renewables is not a panacea if you don’t conserve energy use.

Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a historic high of 32.5 gigatons last year, after three years of being flat, due to higher energy demand and the slowing of energy efficiency improvements – International Energy Agency (IEA)

The evidence is clear, global warming is speeding up. And we are in overshoot. If this further announcement is made by the IPCC, the UK Climate Change Act will need to be reviewed and updated accordingly. We are already not on the right track to meet the 4th climate budget for 2023-27. So stepping up to the next level is inevitable.

I asked Jane Rumble, head of the Polar Regions Department, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, if there was a ready-to-go State of Emergency contingency for runaway Climate Change? We both agreed that there have already been serious climate related floods, droughts and hurricanes. so I wanted to know was what is the tipping point for emergency measures to come into play? She answered cautiously, that it is a political decision.

A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions that it would normally not be permitted. A government can declare such state during a disaster, civil unrest, or armed conflict.

States of emergency can also be used as a rationale or pretext for suspending rights and freedoms guaranteed under a country’s constitution or basic law. The procedure for and legality of doing so vary by country. So bearing that in mind we need to look carefully and cautiously at what a state of emergency might look like, for the common good?

In World war 2 The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 was emergency legislation passed just prior to the outbreak of World War II by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to enable the British Government to take up emergency powers to prosecute the war effectively

1. (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, His Majesty may by Order in Council make such Regulations (in this Act referred to as “Defence Regulations”) as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war His Majesty may be engaged, and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred by the preceding subsection, Defence Regulations may, so far as appears to His Majesty in Council to be necessary or expedient for any of the purposes mentioned in that subsection:-

(a) Make provision for the apprehension, trial, and punishment of persons offending against the Regulations and for the detention of persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the realm;

(b) authorize –

(i) the taking of possession or control, on behalf of His Majesty, of any property or undertaking;
(ii) the acquisition, on behalf of His Majesty, or any property other than land;

(c) authorize the entering and searching of any premises; and

(d) provide for amending any enactment, for suspending the operation of any enactment, and for apply any enactment with or without modification.

I want to make it clear at this point that I do not believe World War 2 is a template for the Environmental disaster we are facing today. This is an unprecedented global disaster and we cannot easily categorise it historically.

However securing public safety and maintaining supplies and services, essential to the life of the community, is an important starting point.

And especially since it was emphasised again and again at the summit that women, children, people on lower incomes and other vulnerable citizens would be most affected by Climate Change.

So I will dig a bit deeper into what a state of emergency might look like, for the common good?

Clean Energy for the common good

There are two sides of the equation when it comes to de-carbonising energy quickly. We need to scale up renewables whilst at the same time rapidly reducing energy use

We must address both sides of the equation, otherwise its just giving unscrupulous tech corporations like and a licence to burn ‘green’ energy which jeopardises progress on reducing overall greenhouse emissions. Blockchain alone is currently on track to use up all the energy supplied by global solar by 2019.

‘That’s a troubling trajectory, especially for a world that should be working overtime to root out energy waste and fight climate change. By late next year, bitcoin could be consuming more electricity than all the world’s solar panels currently produce—about 1.8 percent of global electricity, according to a simple extrapolation of the study’s predictions. That would effectively erase decades of progress on renewable energy.’

Automation is a high energy user too, when we need to rapidly cut energy use, This is undermining the ability to de-carbonise essentials like heating, lighting and cooking. This is why we would need a clear hierarchy of desirable uses for renewables, safeguarding clean energy for the common good.

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When we are prioritising energy usage for the common good, it is important to work from the base upwards. Here are my suggestions, (this is the beginning of a conversation rather than a definitive hierarchy) :

  • Pumping drinking water to citizens
  • Transportation of food
  • Cooking
  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • Emergency services

 

Investment priorities For the common good

Transport

So 2.5 metres is the standard width of a parking place. And a minimum cycle track of 2.3 metres will move 5.900 people per hour. Where drivers see public space as somewhere to dump their car, when not used for an average 95% of the time, i see a 24/7 cycle track people mover

  • Are roads conduits for safe travel for the many or storage of private property for the few?
  • A tight financial and carbon budget should focus on cycling and walking infrastructure ditching road building, HS2, ecpansion of airports and other high carbon high financial cost projects.
  • Using public space for the benefit of the whole community.
  • Ban petrol and diesel cars, starting with cities and only invest Electric Vehicles for essential vehicles and public transport.
  • Will we see the end of the private car in cities? Yes
  • Will high energy automated electric vehicles replace private cars. No
  • Bicycles, cycles,  cargo bikes for everyone
  • Safe and accessible walking and cycling infrastructure
  • Electric buses and essential vehicles (blue badge, delivery of heavy goods, emergency services)
  • We have a Limited carbon budget. Don’t lock us in to dead-end transport strategy
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Housing

  • Insulation of all homes and buildings
  • Scale up renewables and ensure public localised renewable security for the common good for lighting, heating and cooking
  • Solar lights for everyone
  • Solar cookers for everyone
  •  Requisition of empty homes
  • Addressing under-occupation of private dwellings (‘hobby rooms’) The current UK population could be entirely rehoused in empty bedrooms

Jobs transition for the common good

We see Poland struggling to ditch coal, Germany to address dieselgate car manufacturers And even more shockingly the supposedly ‘progressive’ Justin Trudeau has just become the leader of an oil company in Canada

‘Justin Trudeau’s government announced on Tuesday that it would nationalize the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands of Alberta to the tidewater of British Columbia. It will fork over at least $4.5bn in Canadian taxpayers’ money for the right to own a 60-year-old pipe that springs leaks regularly, and for the right to push through a second pipeline on the same route – a proposal that has provoked strong opposition’

Some of this may be pure greed but for some politicians the job losses that go with the de-carbonising of the economy need to be tied up with green job transition, retraining and/ or in some cases Basic Income or what I prefer to call Sustainable Income.

Clean water and air for the common good

  • Plastic ban.
  • 62% of our oxygen is from life in the sea. Kill sea life with and we will not be able to breathe

Food growing for the common good

Requisition of private land for food growing and food security.

Create parklet permits for urban food growing on public land in cities as well as some urban growing on public green spaces

Rationing of consumer goods, services, data, flights etc

Requisitioning private land and using public land for reforestation

 

 

 

 

Are Transport for London keeping a clear and accessible carbon budget alongside the financial budget?

D79E97AF-3D23-42F8-A495-6EB1352A80C2Through the Climate Change Act, the UK government has committed to reduce emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, thereby contributing to global emission reductions and helping limit global temperature rise to as little as possible above 2°C.

UK emissions were 42% below 1990 levels in 2016. The first carbon budget (2008 to 2012) was met and the UK is currently on track to outperform on the second (2013 to 2017) and third (2018 to 2022). However, it is not on track to meet the fourth (2023 to 2027).

To meet  future carbon budgets and the 80% target for 2050, the UK will need to reduce emissions by at least 3% a year, from now on. This will require the government to apply more challenging measures. The majority of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions now come from transport. So it is in this context that I want to investigate how London is reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions.

The annual road transport emissions for the Greater London Area (GLA) are projected to be 5,728,930t CO2 in 2030, (London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory 201330 data). According to Donnachadh McCarthy (Eco-auditor) that is about 1.4% of all UK current emissions . However in 2030 it would represent a far higher percentage of the total UK emissions, as other sectors are cut. Road transport in Greater London is seriously inhibiting our ability to reduce UK greenhouse emissions

When deciding whether an infrastructure project or transport policy contributes to or mitigates against global warming, we must compare the amount of energy consumed in producing it (embedded carbon), to the amount of energy used by the vehicles and infrastructure (carbon footprint) For instance, a carbon footprint can be used to express the carbon of running a car, embedded carbon would tell you the carbon footprint of producing a car

Whilst greenhouse emissions are not the whole story, nevertheless it is important to have calculations available to make informed decisions.

I am looking to see if Transport for London is keeping an appropriate carbon budget alongside the financial budget. This means they must hold calculations on projected embedded carbon and the potential carbon footprint of all of the transport projects and policies in The Mayors Transport Strategy.

In their response to my FOI ( TfL Ref: 0013-1819, 2 April 2018), Transport for London seems to have a muddled approach to carbon accounting. Their response is as follows ‘We do not have a carbon budget as such….however our Annual report and statement of accounts, as well as our budget and Business Plans provides some detail of our expenditure on environmentally based initiative’. Obfuscation is not the friend of transparency.

I have also been submitting Freedom of Information requests to Transport for London for the embedded (or embodied) carbon in a wide range of vehicles and infrastructure. Low emission buses, ZEC Taxis, the Elizabeth Line and the Silvertown Tunnel.

In TfL response to FOI Ref: FOI-4721-1718 1 March 2018 I was told no details were kept at TFL on the embedded carbon of ZEC Taxis and Low emission buses. I was very surprised. Surely TFL needs to know, for instance, what is the embedded carbon of 9,000 new ZEC Taxis by 2020, which the Mayor had committed to?

However I was successful in obtaining  projected embedded carbon calculations for the Silvertown Tunnel proposals,  held in the ‘Energy and Carbon Statement’  (FOI to TfL Ref: 0013-1819 on 2 April 2018 )

The document states that a total of 153,279 tonnes of CO2 would be generated by the construction of the Silvertown Scheme. To put that in perspective, Donnachadh McCarthy says that is the equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of about 50,000 homes.

It also reveals the baseline energy consumption of the Silvertown tunnel would be 1,827 annual carbon emissions (tonnes CO2), mostly consumed by lighting.

And that extra traffic emissions over a four year period, (generated by the Scheme based on the traffic using the tunnel) is a total of 92,000 additional tonnes of CO2 .No mention is made of induced demand.

For the individual, the most interesting number is the personal carbon budget (that is the combined emissions from personal spending on housing, travel, food, products and services).  The personal carbon budget needs to fall by almost a tonne each decade, beginning at 5 t in 2010 and dropping to 1.5 t by 2050.

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Given that average personal emissions in 2010 were around 5 tonnes per person reducing them to 1.5 tonnes by 2050 is very ambitious.  Yet this is exactly the sort of reduction the science dictates we must make in order to keep warming this century below 2°C (3.6°F)

The personal and the strategic are equally important. I noticed in the draft London Plan that transport infrastructure projects are graded as low, medium and high cost. Why do we not have a similar grading of projects as low, medium and high carbon cost? We urgently need a carbon budget alongside the financial budget.

Copenhagen: An Emancipation For women

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Cycling with Aliki of Bystrup

When I planned my trip to Copenhagen in late March, I was anticipating the first rays of spring sunshine. Unfortunately the beast from the east was still lingering over Europe and the wind chill was -10 and with snow.

What surprised me was the upbeat mood in the city. It was as cold as it ever gets in London, but the streets were buzzing with men and women cycling. At evening rush hour the main cycling lane on Norrebrogade was accompanied by chirpy chatter, a social life on wheels that drifted through the city. I could see that properly protected cycle lanes can be both social and transport infrastructure.

Cycling outfits, designed for both warmth and style, were very much part of the cultural engagement. Not a faceless sea of fluorescent high vis and helmets, but individuality, fun and creativity. The Danes have style and like the Japanese, it is something that imbues the everyday (even the most challenging everyday) with meaning, beauty, poetry and fun.

Building Bridges Copenhagen to London

I was primarily in Copenhagen to look at the Cycling bridges. The Danish architecture and engineering practice Bystrup, together with Robin Snell Architects, have been commissioned to build the walking and cycling Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge. We don’t currently have any cycling and walking bridges in London, so I was interested to see what a walking and cycling bridge looks and feels like.

The proposed Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge, included in the Mayor’s Transport strategy, is a vital piece of infrastructure, along this part of the river Thames. It is the longest stretch of riverside in central London without a crossing point. According to a Transport for London feasibility study, the project would pay for itself twice over in terms of reduced journey times and other benefits.

The winning bridge design features a slender structure with spiralling ramps at both ends, the aim is to create a ‘seamless crossing’ with single spire masts and an “elegant” winding deck. The design celebrates the river and aspires to create a thing of real beauty.

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Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge

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I had met Henrik Skuboe (of Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering) at a presentation of the bridge in London. Henrik and his colleagues Elisabeth and Aliki  kindly organised a cycle tour in Copenhagen, taking a very scenic route around the cycling bridges and other infrastructure.

We met at the new ‘Kissing Bridge’ (Kyssebroen) at Nyhavn, recently opened in 2017. The bridge is 180 meters long and eight meters wide and is one of three inner harbor bridges that allows pedestrians and cyclists a quick and direct route from Nyhavn to the canals of Christianshavn and beyond. The funky coloured glass adds a turquoise and yellow tint to the deep inky blue of the Baltic sea. There has been some criticism that the Bridge is too angular for the natural flow of cycling but it certainly does create the wow factor.

 

Another funky bridge on our tour was the bridge designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson The Cirkelbroen (Circle Bridge) spans a Copenhagen canal and features a series of wire masts, based on ships’ rigging. The 40-metre-long cycling and footbridge is made from five interconnected circular platforms, where visitors are invited to rest and take in the view.

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The Cirkelbroen (Circle Bridge)

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The Circle Bridge ship-like design

We also took in a walking and cycling bridge, designed by Bystrup, which crosses the railway. Thd Langeliniebroen (Langeliniebridge) is approximately 180 metre long and at 7,5 metre wide, is very similar to the proposed Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge. It has no dividing central reservation between walking and cycling but that seems to work well in this environment. And it makes it accessible for emergency services.

Cycling bridges are a central and cultural focus for the cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen. They provide practical connectivity across the watery natural infrastructure of the city, but again embrace beauty and fun design. And of course this is dedicated traffic-free infrastructure, tailored to active travel.  It made me feel like the red carpet had been rolled out for cycling.  And it was liberating!

Priority walking and cycling

Whilst we were on our cycle tour, Henrik told me that every major street in Copenhagen is priority pedestrian and cycling. This is a crucial policy that makes the streets feel far safer than London. Motor vehicles give way to pedestrians and cyclists, in a way we never see on the streets of London.

Contrast this is the current attitude of Transport for London to safety:

‘Katherine Abraham, a project manager at TfL, said that 14 people had been injured at a crossroads on Euston Road in the past three years. She said pedestrian safety was “very much up their within our priorities” but added that Euston Road “keeps the London economy going” and this has to be balanced against making it safe?’

‘Keeping the economy going’ at the expense of safety is completely unacceptable. TFL consistently discriminates against people who walk and cycle, who are very much part of London and its economy. This is a key reason why we have hostile streets. Until recently TFL did not even include pedestrians and cyclists in its traffic modelling software.

Meanwhile in Copenhagen, city surveys aim to qualify the experience of pedestrians and cyclists, not just raw data. The city really cares about its citizens health and well-being, as an integral part of a successful economy.

Another ground-breaking way that Copenhagen prioritises cycling is the ‘Green wave’. Rather than prioritising motor traffic flow, lights are phased to give the cyclists going to or coming home from work a wave of green lights. A secondary aim is to calm the cycling to a safe speed.  There is no advantage to cycling at high speed but an advantage to maintaining a consistant healthy speed of 20km/h. This could also be incorporated into the Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge with clever LED lights embedded into the surface of the bridge that are connected to green traffic light phasing.

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3 metre wide protected cycle lane on Princess Louise Bridge

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Cycling and walking side by side

In Copenhagen, walking hand in hand or cycling side by side or even walking side by cycling is enjoyable and part of the social life of the city. Well designed, consistent, generous, intuitive and traffic-free protected cycle lanes and connected bridges make this possible.

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Out and about with Pernille Bussone and Cycling without Age, making cycling available to all ages and abilities in Copenhagen

Centenary of female emancipation 1918-2018

In 2018 we are celebrating 100 years since women won the right to vote in UK and Ireland. In  Denmark they celebrated that centenary in 2015. Again they are ahead of us in recognising the rights of women.

We need a timely re-evaluation of how women take up space in London, Are Transport for London, The Mayor of London and local councils taking their Equality Act obligations seriously when making decisions on vital active travel transport ? Where is the gender parity in cycling? A good measure of a civilised society is how we treat women. What does that equality of public space look like?

What I saw in Copenhagen was an emancipation of women. When women are not cowed at the margins of public space but are given quality space to cycle and walk, without being intimidated by motor vehicles, they own that space and it is more vibrant and happy.

Contrast that with this tweet

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In London the stress and pressure to compete with motor vehicles, marginalises women. This is why we see such low female cycling participation. The stats speak volumes 29% of women cycle in London compared to 71% of men. In Copenhagen it is 55/45 in favour of women.

London was once a visionary place for female emancipation, but we have forgotten half of its population. In 2016, Sadiq Khan told The Evening Standard that ‘I don’t let my daughters cycle in London because of concerns over a lack of safety. He told of his fears of Anisah, 16, and Ammarah, 14, being injured as he pledged to make it “easier and safer” to cycle in the capital.’ I would like to ask him, will his daughters be safe to cycle in London by 2020?

 Show me where there are women and young female adults cycling and I will show you emancipation. Historically women cycling was thought to be a symbolic threat to the established order. Early female adopters in the 1880s were mocked in the press and even had stones thrown at them.
Today Women cycling on London’s roads are still on the receiving end of ‘punishment’ for daring to take up space on the public highway. From the ‘punishment pass’ to the show-off speeding, to the impatient ‘Old men in limos’.

And then we have all experienced reckless White Van man, beligerent Taxi drivers, selfish Uber drivers and the arrogant roar of speeding motorcyclists. These mostly male drivers elbow their way through London in a most ungentlemanly way. And according to research by Rachel Aldred, women cycling are far more sensitive to bad driving or dangerous routes than men.

The sad reality is that for many drivers women are at the bottom of the food chain. Slower average speeds of female cycling make them a target for drivers of motor vehicles who have a ‘need for speed’.

London cycle superhighways look like a peloton

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Hi-vis fluorescent peloton

Recently a male cycling campaigner in London celebrated on twitter that the Cycle Superhighways looked like a peloton. May I remind him and his fellow strava racers that this is not a sporting event. We don’t want to join a fluorescent high-vis peloton. We want to ride along side by side, not try and keep up with the pack.

As Copenhagenize advocates “dress for your destination, not your journey”.

So roll out the protected cycling carpet and make space for cycling for women as well as men….

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Barcelona the walking city

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Rambla del Poblenou

Barcelona is blessed with amazing natural infrastructure. Backed by mountains, flanked by two rivers and with a horizon stretching across the blue sea of the Mediterranean.

My wonderful guide Carlos Orti of Barcelona Camina , took me up to the mountains by funicular train for a strategic view across the city.

Here we found locals picking the tender stems of wild asparagus. Whilst the foragers were picking out the hard to spot delicate green shoots of spring, we were picking out the crucial points of infrastructure in the city

In the late 19th century, the ancient city walls, (which were creating a cauldron of disease), were demolished and Eixample or ‘Expansion’ was built between the old city and the surrounding small towns of Sants, Gràcia, Sant Andreu etc.

Ildefons Cerdà was the visionary, pioneering Catalan urban planner whose street layout is characterised by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and octagonal city blocks. Cerdà, considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation in coming up with his characteristic octagonal blocks. I was told that the street design was to have facilitated a tram network.

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The core idea was that the city should breathe and the growing population could be spread out equally, as well as providing green spaces within each block.

Unfortunately Cerdà had not anticipated that the streets would become polluted and congested with cars and motorcycles. The wide avenues became one way motor traffic dominated speed drags. Random parking of motorcycles and cars blocked the safe passage of pedestrians and cyclists.

Les Superilles or ‘Superblocks’

Barcelona has been working hard to reverse this trend for the last ten years, improving pedestrian spaces, making walking a desirable and healthy alternative to car use. The metro is well designed and intutive and is undergoing expansion. There is also a well connected train and bus network.

The next phase is the so called Superilles or ‘Superblocks’ which aims to make secondary streets into ‘citizen spaces’ for culture, leisure and the community’.  In such a densely populated City with a notable absence of green space, this will create vital greening as well as quality public space.

Ada Colau, the current Mayor of Barcelona, aims to reduce car use by 21% within her Mayoralty and increase mobility by foot, bike and public transport. The new Superilles or ‘Superblocks’ will be complemented by the introduction of 300km of new cycling lanes.

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“It’s no surprise that this concept was born here,” said  Mercedes Vidal, Councillor for Mobility,  “In a city as dense as ours, it’s all the more necessary to re-conquer spaces.” If all goes as planned, around seven of the 13.8 million sq metres now dedicated to motorised traffic will be freed up.

Everywhere I went I found creative innovation, experimentation and purposeful redesign to make the city better for street life. I have never seen so many street configurations. It really is an experimental laboratory for Urban Design. I personally walked and walked for kilometres, inspired by the imaginative approach to urban design.

Walking in the city is enabled by phased lights that automatically work for pedestrians. Not a pedestrian green wave but still a sense that there is no advantage for the motor vehicle. There are pedestrian crossings at every junction, no need to run for your life. The crossings are consistant and reliable.

I was staying in Poblenou where the new Superilla was making waves. Local resident and Urban Mobility expert Silvia Cassoran had received threats for her support of the superilla. One local car dealer seemed to be leading dissent. However, on the ground. I saw free range kids, families and locals enjoying the new car-free spaces.

In densely populated areas of inner city London, reclaiming public space would benefit local residents. The London Boroughs of Islington and Tower Hamlets are very densely populated, with scarce green spaces. Reclaiming streets as ‘citizen spaces’ for culture, leisure and the community’ would increase social cohesion, greening and quality of life.

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Superilla in Poblenou

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Imaginative street art

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Free range kids

Every Superilla will be designed to compliment the surrounding streets, Carlos told me. There is not a fixed ‘superilla’ blueprint. Every area is considered separately to reflect local needs.

The latest Superilla, currenly under construction, is around the historic food market of Sant Antoni. It made me think of how the streets around The Borough food market and Smithfield would benefit from similar redesign.

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Sant Antoni superilla

The Ramblas

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Rambla del Poblenou

The Ramblas were also something of a revelation for me. This is old infrastructure but they are very popular centres of street life in Barcelona. I walked the 1.3km of La Rambla from Plaça de Catalunya down to the sea. But what surprised me was how many streets in Barcelona had Ramblas. These are central kerb raised pedestrian areas flanked by two narrow service roads with pavements adjoined to the shops and restaurants that line the street.

The campaigners at Barcelona Camina told me that the course of Las Ramblas was originally a sewage-filled stream-bed, usually dry but an important drain for the heavy rainwater flowing from the Collserola hills.. Many of the other Ramblas in Barcelona fulfill the same purpose. This may  be the reason that Barcelona has managed to stop cars from encroaching on this quality public space. Pedestrians are centre stage in this street configuration.  I feel this design would benefit many high streets in London.

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La Rambla

The Diagonal

Running across the city in a diagonal is the aptly named Avinguda Diagonal. There were two diagonal streets proposed in Cerda’s original design but this is the only one that was completed. Like Paris’ Champs Elysees and Copenhagen’s Aboulevarden, this is an eight lane motor vehicle monstrosity that cuts right through the heart of the city.

There was much discussion and political debate about the two trams that currently stop abruptly at either side of the City Centre on the Diagonal. Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, naturally wants to connect the two sides, making the tram a viable and efficient service for those in the Municipalities as well as those living in the city.

Political point scoring was disrupting this obvious and vital transport project. It was sad to see how tribal politics can  block vital sustainable transport that would benefit all citizens. Air quality is not surprisingly very poor around eight lanes of motor traffic. The roar is deafening and parents try and send their children to schools uphill to avoid exposure.

Replacing motor traffic with an electrified tram would cut down on traffic congestion and air pollution and make the case for a much needed road diet. Reallocating space to protected cycle lanes is already happening, but the current lanes on the Diagonal are exposed to the worst of the pollution, by being positioned in the middle of the road.

Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes

With a new metro under construction, an opportunity has arisen to redesign a large swathe of previously car dominated space surrounding the Diagonal in Central Barcelona. I found these urban growing spaces right in  the heart of the city. Together with fun paint and experimental urban design, this is a place to watch as it  develops. It is a a creative opportunity to radically re-imagine the centre of a city.

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Placa de les Glories Catalanes

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Food growing in the heart of the city

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Cycling infrastructure and culture

Luis Invader of @CBinvaders is a local activist (with an important mission to keep motorcycles out of bike lanes). He kindly lent me his bike and took me on a tour of the ‘good’ and the ‘ugly’ cycling infrastructure.

The next day we joined a ‘cycling safari’ with Mercedes Vidal  Mobility Councillor, to see the latest cycling infrastructure. I certainly felt that there was more of a sense of a joined up network of protected lanes than London. The cycle lanes are not as consistant or intuitive as Copenhagen but building up a cycling network is helping to create a groundswell of new cyclists.

There are also many similarities with London.  The Mayor of Barcelona understands the need to to balance cycling infrastructure with a strong demand for walking.

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A protected cycle lane separates cyclists from a priority bus lane 

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Checking out the cycling infrastructure with cycling activist Luis Invader @CBinvaders

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A Taxi rank protects a cycling lane

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Cycling safari with Mercedes Vidal, Silvia Cassoran and Luis

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Some great cycling infrastructure but this was a bizarre bidirectional confection (Every permutation needing to be accounted for)

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With Biciclot Co op and Carlos Orti at Bici Hub

Bici Hub

Even Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagenize lusts after this  dedicated cycling hub in Barcelona. They currently don’t have a dedicated building for cycling in Copenhagen.

Teaching Cycle maintenance and repair, holding events and cultural activities as well as joining up with other sustainable transport campaigners is their mission. This is supported as an independent cycling facility by the Mayor Ada Colau..

Motorbikes

265,000 motorcycles blight the city. Whether blocking pavements, encroaching on cycle lanes where families with small children are cycling  or speeding with a roar of arrogance. Electric bicycles would make an ideal replacement, well suited to the hillside terrain whilst being more civilised, space effcient and not belching out toxic airpollution.

What can London learn from Barcelona?

  • How to create quality public space
  • Promoting street life
  • Prioritising  pedestrians and cyclists
  • Taking a creative, experimental. innovative approach to street design
  • Wide range of street configuations
  • Reclaiming public space street by street
  • We need a dedicated cycling hub for sustainable transport like this one in Barcelona
  • Joining up with European campaign groups like Barcelona Camina, Catalunya Camina, Bici Co op and Espana Andando to lobby the European Union for sustainable transport funding.
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With the 3 presidents of Barcelona Camina, Catalunya Camina and Espana Andando

 

 

 

 

What are embedded carbon emissions? And how can citizens ensure that politicians are investing our limited carbon budget wisely?

What are embedded or embodied emissions?

Embedded emissions is a broad term used to describe the range of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions associated with the production of a product (or an infrastructure project).

For instance, whilst a carbon footprint can be used to express the carbon of running a car, embodied carbon would tell you the carbon footprint of producing a  car

Embodied carbon calculations therefore require an understanding of all of the materials, or ingredients, within a product or project, and all activities related to those materials, such as processing and transport.

When deciding whether an infrastructure project or transport policy contributes to or mitigates against global warming, we must compare the amount of energy used by the vehicles and infrastructure to the amount of energy consumed in producing it.

Embodied energy is an accounting method which aims to find the sum total of the energy necessary for an entire product life-cycle. Determining what constitutes this life-cycle includes assessing the relevance and extent of energy into raw material extraction, transport, manufacture, assembly, installation, disassembly, deconstruction and/or decomposition as well as human and secondary resources.

This graphic by Dr Elliot Fishman represents the carbon footprint of various modes of transport. But it also illustrates how the top of the range electric vehicle, run on ‘green power’, has been given the same carbon ranking as walking and cycling . This is how we have been sold the ‘zero-emission’ myth of electric vehicles. No account has been taken of the embodied greenhouse emissions in the production of the vehicle. This is an anomaly that needs to be rectified..

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Why is this important?

In 2017 the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reported that we are not on the right trajectory to hit carbon targets. This means we will need to reach peak emissions by 2020 and close the emissions gap by 2030,

This graphic shows how the longer we continue to put off change, the more extreme policy will need to be in the future.

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The absolute imperative is to cut energy use at the same time as switching to renewables. At present we are significantly behind the curve and worryingly greenhouse gases actually increased in 2017.

As the squeeze on the carbon budget becomes tighter, we must scrutinise and prioritise policy and infrastructure that will help us reduce energy use quickly. We must align to the facts, not what is convenient.

Upfront investment in producing infrastructure and vehicles is the most immediate and often the largest part of the carbon expenditure. This is why I want to know how the Mayor of London and Transport for London are accounting for all greenhouse emissions in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

I will be submitting Freedom of information (FOI) requests for embedded carbon emissions in a wide range of infrastructure projects such as The Elizabeth Line and the Silvertown Tunnel. As well as vehicles such as ZEC Taxis and Low emission buses. I look forward to updating you on my progress.

 

My response to the draft London Plan

Dear Mayor of London,

 

I welcome the new London Plan emphasis on Good Growth; of a healthy, inclusive city and its determination to limit unsustainable modes of transport.  I support

GG3 1.3.4 The Healthy Streets Approach outlined in this plan. This puts improving health and reducing health inequalities at the heart of planning London’s public space. It will tackle London’s inactivity crisis, improve air quality and reduce the other health impacts of living in a car-dominated city by planning street networks that work well for people on foot and on bikes, and providing public transport networks that are attractive alternatives to car use. It will also ensure that streets become more social spaces.

 GG5 I support the aim of maximising London’s existing and future public transport; its walking and cycling network, as well as its network of town centres, to support agglomeration and economic activity.

 GG2 I welcome the policy of encouraging densification around major transport interchange points.
 

Where I feel the draft London Plan is not robust or ambitious in its objectives:

Road Pricing

T2 Road pricing: existing schemes reviewed – 2018-2020
 This must be more specific. Road pricing must include Taxis, PHVs and remove exemptions, all motor vehicles cause congestion. The hours of the Congestion Charge need to be extended to 24/7. And the price needs to be raised.
Road pricing: next generation charging (subject to further assessment) – 2022-2041
This need to be prioritised and ASAP.  The time frame is not ambitious enough.

 Parking

The car parking standards for outer London (policies T6.1, T6.2 and T6.3) seem unnecessarily generous and difficult to reconcile with the welcome objective of increasing to 80% the proportion of journeys to be made by sustainable modes of transport. We already have 6.8 million parking spaces taking up more than 78.5 km sq. We cannot afford to allocate any more precious floor space or land to this economically illiterate use of prime space. Carfree development must cover the whole of Greater London not just CAZ.
I support Policy T6.1  F. The provision of car parking should not be a reason for reducing the level of affordable housing in a proposed development. [But the definition of affordable housing must be clear. This is a loophole and needs to be more robust. Social housing must be clearly defined and not open to loopholes.]
Policy T6.1 makes the crucial point that car parking diminishes the ability to make full economic and socially inclusive use of prime space. Residential car lots and spaces make individual units less and less affordable for tenants. They also result in fewer units as a whole, meaning the supply of housing across the city is reduced. That too hikes up rents over time, as Boroughs run out of sites to develop
Table-10-3 in the draft London Plan sets out maximum parking provision for residential units, based on PTAL. Whilst I support CAZ being car-free, parts of inner London and Outer London PTAL have maximum car parking of between 0.25-1.5 per unit. If the Mayor achieves the increase from 29,000 homes a year to 66,000 per year, we can anticipate a significant rise in the number of car parking spaces in London.
This runs totally counter to the Mayors ambition to reduce car dependency. And how much potential housing and office floor space will be lost to more car storage? We must have NO more car parking in London. We need clear reductions in parking and car infrastructure to facilitate maximum usage of prime land for housing.
Conversely, the minimum cycle parking standards (Policy T5 and Table 10.2) are insufficient to drive “the ambitious aim to reduce Londoners’ dependency on cars”. Additionally we must supply  60,000 ambient cycle parking in the London Plan. This will facilitate a wide range of cycling trips.
Cycling CTAL replacing PTAL would increase access to public transport through cycling infrastructure. This is laid out on Page 40, 41, 42 of The Strategic Cycling Analysis Such an approach would unlock carfree development throughout Greater London. CTAL cycling infrastructure must compliment PTAL to open up areas throughout Greater London to car-free development.

 Cycling infrastructure

Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy must contribute funding to appropriate CTAL cycling infrastructure.
Licensing of pedicabs and emerging cycling taxi apps must be included as vital sustainable transport for ‘Good Growth’ Dedicated pedicab ranks at major interchanges must be provided in the London Plan.
I support all proposed walking and cycling bridges Rotherhithe, Nine Elms to Pimlico and would like these to be prioritised.
I do not support Silvertown Tunnel. We must not build new roads which induce more motor traffic use.
 The London Plan must include dedicated play streets across London.

Aviation

 I welcome the Mayor’s stance on Heathrow (policy T8D).  But am opposed to any expansion of airport capacity in the south-east including City Airport and Gatwick and believe that all journeys over land should be made by rail rather than air.

Housing

I believe using open green space for housing is unnecessary and counter to the ‘Good growth’ aim. Gardens are vital for biodiversity, Healthy soils store carbon and mitigate flash flooding. I support densification of the Outer boroughs but within their current footprint. We must not lose small green spaces and back gardens when car parking has such a high footprint.(6.8 million car parking spaces in London taking up a minimum of 78.5 km sq).
Under occupation of dwellings shows where densification is possible. Car Parks and car infrastructure like garages must be the first to be developed for housing.

Water and light

Water consumption must be addressed with more robust policies in the London Plan. Londoners are using 170 litres per day when the UK average is 140 litres. Cape Town is now down to 50 litres per person per day and still running dry. London is one of the 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water
Access to sunlight must be embedded in the London Plan. Food growing which needs sun must be available to all Londoners. The sun is also vital for vitamin D and mental and physical wellbeing.
Solar must be integral to all new development.

Food

POLICY 4.8.e I support the range of London’s markets, including street, farmers’ and, where relevant, strategic markets, complementing other measures to improve their management, enhance their offer and contribute to the vitality of town centres. This must be broadened to develop the relationship between Londoners and the local food growers outside London. Helping with picking and building cultural exchanges.This is important for food security, health and well being.

Automation and tech

 Automation is a high energy user. The rush to automation cannot reduce our energy consumption sufficiently to meet the climate targets set by the Paris agreement.We must prioritise low energy, carbon efficient strategy.

The London plan must be worded in such a way that ‘takeover from the inside’ by tech corporations is not possible. WAZE is owned by google. Transport for London and the London Assembly must be wary of ‘free’ services.

Algorithmic transparency must be embedded in the London plan so that citizens can democratically scrutinise decision making. A bill was recently passed in New York so that the city’s ‘automated decision systems’ are fairer and more open to scrutiny. The bill would require the city to make public the computer instructions that are used, invisibly, in all kinds of government decision-making.
I would would also like all Section 106 to be held separately and independently. The London Ramblers have noticed that Section 106 are going missing and public access originally granted can be denied without documented evidence. This is effectively ‘land grab’.

Will much needed housing replace car storage in London?

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Two major challenges for London are housing and transport

6.8 million car parking spaces in London take up at least 78.5 km sq, based on the minimum parking space. When land for housing is in short supply and cars are greedily sucking up space, we have an escalating crisis.

So it is encouraging to see the Mayor of London’s draft London plan  set the ambition to reduce car dependency and use space more efficiently. This is what the Mayor calls ‘Good growth’.
The Evening Standard  reported that Sadiq Khan had unveiled plans to Ban Parking Spaces from new London homes and office blocks in an attempt to cut car use in the capital:

“If you buy or rent a home in London and make regular journeys to the work or shops, I want to see safe and secure cycle parking available for every journey, across all parts of the city. For too long our housing and infrastructure has been built solely around the car”, the Mayor explained. Car parking spaces for disabled people are to be be prioritised and cycle parking will be increased.

This is exactly what we need.

The real story is hidden in the detail

Policy T5 Cycling is not as ambitious as we were lead to believe. This table,  kindly supplied by Ecocycles, compares the current London Plan with the new draft plan for Cycle Parking Standards for Office Buildings. In this context the numbers seem stagnant or lacking in ambition.

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Meanwhile Table 10.2  sets out minimum residential cycle parking. This is clearly not generous enough, especially for dwellings with 2 bedrooms or more. I couldn’t find any mention of parking provision for cargo bikes or customised trikes and recumbents? Short-stay visitor parking of 1 cycling space per 40 units seems derisory.

Ambient cycle parking is not mentioned in the draft London Plan. Stop Killing Cyclists have estimated that we need 60,000 across Greater London.

 The London plan states that ‘Development should facilitate and encourage cycling, and reduce car dependency and the health problems it creates’. These cycle parking standards must be redrawn to reflect that admirable vision.

Table 10.2 – Minimum cycle parking standards

Use Class Description of use Long-stay (e.g. for residents or employees) Short-stay (e.g. for visitors or customers)
C3-C4 Dwellings (all) 1 space per studio, 1.5 spaces per 1 bedroom unit, 2 spaces per all other dwellings 1 space per 40 units

The high cost of residential car parking

Policy T6.1  Residential parking states:

F. The provision of car parking should not be a reason for reducing the level of affordable housing in a proposed development.

This makes the crucial point that car parking diminishes the ability to make full economic and socially inclusive use of prime land. Residential car lots and spaces make individual units less and less affordable for tenants. They also result in fewer units as a whole, meaning the supply of housing across the city is reduced. That too hikes up rents over time, as Boroughs run out of sites to develop.

This table in the draft London Plan sets out maximum parking provision for residential units. Whilst CAZ is car-free, parts of inner London and Outer London have maximum car parking of between 0.25-1.5 per unit. If the Mayor achieves the increase from 29,000 homes a year to 66,000 per year, we can anticipate a significant rise in the number of car parking spaces in London. This runs totally counter to the Mayors ambition to reduce car dependency. And how much potential floor space will be lost to more car storage?Table 10.3

CTAL the new tool that could make car-free development possible across all parts of London

The public Transport Access Level (PTAL) is a measure of access to public transport across London. Each area in London is given a PTAL value between 0 and 6, based on the number and frequency of public transport services that can be accessed by a short walk. Areas with higher PTAL values have better access to the
public transport network.

CTALs are based on the current geography of London. They show the current potential for cycling accessibility in an area but this potential might be unrealised without complementary infrastructure. For example, someone may live 15 minutes walk from a London Underground station in an area of low PTAL. But if a cycle route was provided linking them to their nearest London Underground station in less than five minutes on a bike, and additional cycle parking was provided, the CTAL could be realised.

The Cycling CTAL tool  must compliment or replace PTAL by unlocking access to public transport through active travel infrastructure.  This is outlined in the Strategic Cycling Analysis by Transport for London Page 40, 41, 42

This will enable carfree development throughout Greater London.

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If you can’t ban cars, just take away the parking spaces

Transport in Oslo accounts for 61% of the city’s CO2 emissions – a full 39% of it coming from private cars. This despite Oslo having the world’s highest proportion of electric vehicles. In 2015, Oslo’s politicians decided the only way to meet its carbon targets was to ban cars from its centre.

Not surprisingly the car lobby resisted. So instead of an outright car ban, Oslo followed a tactical-urbanism approach to limiting vehicle movement through the city centre by simply removing all the parking spots from the area and building entire new residential towers that are expected to be car-free.

Car-free development is a vital policy and must cover all areas of London, We cannot cut emissions and achieve the Healthy Streets agenda by perpetuating damaging car culture. Car parking provision must no longer play a part in the London Plan.

Sadly green space, such as back gardens may be lost to new developments as suitable sites dry up. Once cemented over it is hard to reclaim this land. It is lost forever. Green cover is advocated as mitigation but this is not the earth. Does the Mayor really want to erase the earth for more car storage?

I believe we must have year on year targets to reduce parking spaces. Only by shrinking the car(bon) footprint that blights our cities, will we achieve a living environment we can be proud of.

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Ground floor of Dalston Square. How many units of housing used for car storage?

 

 

 

 

Our irrational addiction to cars is frying the planet. Time for some carbon literate strategy in 2018

Roads are the biggest threat to nature

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Economics is the study of how societies use scarce resources to produce valuable commodities and distribute them among different people. Behind this definition are two key ideas in economics: that goods are scarce and that society must use its resources efficiently.

The big challenge of our age is how to live within the scarcity of a 1.5C carbon budget, so we can mitigate further global warming and avoid the tipping point of runaway climate change.

Part of this challenge is to examine with candour and depth some of our endemic habits that are needlessly frying the planet.

One of these habits, which could  be aptly described as an addiction, is cars. And they are increasingly becoming our biggest Climate headache.

Passenger cars are responsible for around 12% of EU CO2 emissions. Despite some technological ‘solutions’ like ‘clean diesel’ , traffic numbers and vehicle size have rendered any ‘advancement’ redundant. For the last 20 years the carbon emitted by cars has continued to increase and there are no signs that this is slowing down. We are driving ourselves off a Climate Change cliff.

The rational response is to acknowledge that this model is not working. that the desire to have individualised motorised transport is fundamentally flawed and that Europe needs to wean itself off automobiles as a core industrial strategy and transport choice.

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In the United States private vehicles are an even bigger contributor to global warming. Vehicles are now America’s biggest CO2 source.  Collectively, 263.6 million US personal cars and trucks account for nearly 20% of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas. US also tops the list of vehicle miles travelled.

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But unbelievably the answer is staring us right in the face: 69.1% of car journeys in the US are under 2 miles. These are short journeys that could be potentially cycled or walked with safe and well designed infrastructure. It is these short journeys that are frying the planet. But equally these short journeys offer redemption.

The global strategy so far has relied on switching personal vehicles to ‘lower emission’ Electric or hydrogen.

In a recent Facebook post, Donnachadh McCarthy challenged the carbon literacy of this approach. He warned that ‘every new EV is a carbon bomb lasting 100 years…..’

‘Electric vehicles are 15% higher for embedded energy but lower depending on source of electricity for full lifetime analysis but still far far too high and unaffordable’

Here is his analysis of embedded energy:

  • The average electric version of a compact car (e.g. Nissan Leaf) emits about 8 tons of carbon to manufacture it.
  • The average electric version of a sedan (e.g. Ford Mondeo) emits about 19.5 tons of carbon in manufacture.
  • The average electric version of a SUV (e.g. Ford Land-Rover Discovery) would take a whopping 39 tons to manufacture.
  • There are currently about 37.5 million vehicles licenced in the UK.
  • Taking an average of 17 tons per new electric vehicle (EV), to replace the entire fleet could take up to 637 million tons of carbon to manufacture.
  • This massive potential EV carbon bomb is more than the entire domestic UK carbon footprint of 530 million tons for everything for an entire year!
  • And this is without them being driven a single mile using UK electricity, which is still predominantly sourced from fossil fuels.
  • At most we can afford a personal carbon budget of 1ton/person per year.
  • Thus, buying a new EV would blow your entire carbon budget from 8 to 39 years!!
  • Globally 1.2 billion vehicles
    Embedded carbon replacement = 20.4 billion tons
    That is 14% of remaining 1.5C carbon budget, which is
    TOTALLY UNAFFORDABLE
    Remember 1.5C = lots of coastal cities under water and lots of pacific nations gone

The absolute imperative is to rapidly de-carbonise Energy. This means Conservation of energy is the forgotten half of the conversation. Renewables must not be a licence to waste, something that technocrats constantly fail to acknowledge and accept.

Squandering gains in clean energy transition by investing in high energy technology is irrational. Rapid charging, ICT connectivity and autonomy add high energy use to an already greedy low occupancy energy user.

Energy hogs like Google are sucking up renewables to power their operations for the year, This does not mean Google is “powered” by renewables but is buying renewable energy certificates (RECs), which ensure a certain quantity of wind and solar electricity is allocated to a given use. In other words, Google bought renewable power in quantities that match its consumption, even though that renewable electricity isn’t necessarily powering its operations directly

The company has such a massive energy appetite, matching its size: In 2015, for instance, it devoured 5.7 terawatt-hours of electricity, about as much as the city of San Francisco uses in a year. But it wants to make claims it is ‘carbon neutral’.

Among Google’s most voracious power guzzlers are the 15 data centers across the world that make up the “physical internet” — the servers running 24/7 to power the search engine and the cloud.

Across the United States, data centers are increasingly supplanting smog-belching factories as the humming engines of the economy as industries expand their footprints online. They’re also soaking up 3 percent of the country’s electricity. This is set to rise exponentially with automation of motor vehicles.

Some ecologists like Oliver Tickell  believe ultimately our future is ‘one of abundant, zero carbon, very cheap energy in which we do not need to worry either about energy cost, nor its carbon emissions.’

This is making a lot of assumptions. Roads are the biggest threat to nature and motor vehicle infrastructure threatens our ability to restore that natural green cover that will help absorb carbon.

Meanwhile solar and wind farms have their own environmental footprint beyond electricity, facilities like data centers also require land and consume water.

Here are some global strategic solutions I believe we should adopt in 2018:

  1. Strategically, to stand the best chance of mitigating climate change, we need to invest our limited carbon budget wisely
  2. The World Bank has recently declared it will no longer fund fossil fuel extraction
  3. The World Bank, IMF and Governments must not fund more roads or motor vehicle infrastructure.
  4.  The World Bank, IMF and Governents must prioritise and fund a global protected cycling network, safer crossings, junctions and infrastructure for people to cycle and walk
  5. And a global rail network and bus and tram transit network.
  6. We need to culturally and economically adjust to minimising motor vehicles.
  7. We must ban diesel and petrol personal vehicles from densely populated areas.
  8. We must be careful to only switch essential motor vehicles to Electric or hydrogen.
  9. We must cap motorised taxis and cabs and car sharing/hire vehicles
  10. We must Rationalise freight and delivery, switching all that is feasible to rail and last mile cargo bike delivery.

My response to the Mayor’s draft Environmental Strategy

 

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Dear Mayor of London,

There is much to admire in the Mayor’s draft transport strategy and it is very comprehensive.

My over arching concern is that short-term carbon targets have been cut.

I believe we need to move more quickly to reduce London’s carbon emissions. As I understand it, the strategy deletes the target of 60% reduction in carbon by 2025. The explanation for this seems to be the wider context of national policy. Central Government is not acting quickly enough to de-carbonise energy, which makes it difficult to meet these targets?

But there is more than one way to skin a cat…

I am also concerned that the promise to divest the London Pension Fund from fossil fuels has not been kept?

The momentum for change is currently too slow

The UN Environment Programme has said in its annual emissions gap report, that government commitments are only a third of what is needed.  

Many cities have been slow to prepare “situations in which climate changes are considered within the scope of planning’.  This can lead to everyday climate change denial.

We need the strongest possible determination, leadership, responsibility and urgency to deal with the current unpredictable and escalating crisis. This must be Top down and Bottom up if we are to save millions of people from a miserable future. We need policies throughout planning and governance that reflect this urgency.

Yes we must build flood defences, and adapt to global warming but avoiding runaway climate change is vital. Mitigating against global warming has never been important.

The combination of a very real potential for runaway climate change with the shrinking and degradation of the last bastions of a bio-diverse natural world for profit, means we are facing a very serious situation.

Meanwhile there is an alarming reduction in flying insects and aquatic life; whole food webs could be under threat as our assault on nature continues unabated. Lastly, pollution, be it agricultural run-off, airborne or plastic waste in our drinking water, rivers and oceans is an imminent threat to life on this planet.

 

The head of the UN Environment Assembly for 2017, Edgar Gutierrez – Espleta warns ‘We face a stark choice; up our ambition or face the consequences’. Adding that there is a ‘catastrophic gap between what needs to be done, and what Governments are actually doing’. This is procrastination on a global level.

A new enlightenment

London Coffee houses of the 17th and 18th century were ‘engines of creation that helped drive the Enlightenment’ I believe the challenges of Climate Change and addressing the environmental externalities of our current London model need the most creative, deeply considered and enlightened debate and social interaction. A radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles.

Only by engaging residents, businesses, unions, activists, campaigners, educators and creatives to take steps individually and organisationally to improve the environment for the common good, will we turn this grave situation around. Again, I reiterate, this must be a top down and bottom up approach.

“Only when the last fish is gone, the last river poisoned, the last tree cut down…will mankind realize they cannot eat money.”

A deep love for our children. For our nieces and nephews. For our godchildren. For our grandchildren and children that we encounter whilst going about our daily life. And for the children we will never meet or who become climate refugees. They are our Future. And we owe it to them to bring all our collective resources to the fore.

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Fundamentals of life

I believe we need to move from the current nihilistic approach to reaffirming what we value. Investing in what we value. Acknowledging what is vital to life. What are our priorities? Humans and life on this planet, do not survive very long without air, water and food. What is common to us all for a good life, for the common good.

  1. Good air
  2. Good water
  3. Quality food
  • Food security
  • Access to sunlight
  • Freedom to roam by foot or cycling
  • Biodiversity
  • Trees
  • Soil quality
  • Children
  • Economics of the common good
  • Equality
  • Active health
  • Education
  • An active engaged democracy
  • Shorter working hours
  • Basic Income
  • Police that are responsive to the common good
  • Equality of Public space or the commons
  • Housing that is fit for purpose
  • Peace and quiet for down time and reflection
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Circle of Ducks – the commons on Hampstead Heath

 Public Health Crisis

Climate Change not only hurts the planet, but is a public health emergency. this is the clear message from doctors:

When the doctor tells you that your cholesterol is too high, you tend to listen and change your diet. When the world’s climate scientists tell us that temperatures are rising to dangerous levels, we should heed their advice. It’s time to give up climate change, it’s bad for our health.

Air pollution and carbon emissions are inexorably linked. Reducing air pollution will save lives and help slow the pace of climate change.

Meanwhile the UK is the most obese country in Western Europe. We have engineered an obesegenic environment, every time a car is used or parked, we have less safe space for walking and cycling. Obesity could bankrupt NHS if left unchecked

Stranded Assets and stranded jobs

In a remarkable speech at Lloyd’s of London on 29 September 2015 Mark Carney said that a carbon budget consistent with a 2°C target “would render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ — oil, gas and coal that will be literally unburnable without expensive carbon capture technology, which itself alters fossil fuel economics”. Echoing CTI’s warnings about the risks of a disorderly transition to a low-carbon economy, Governor Carney added that ‘a wholesale reassessment of prospects, especially if it were to occur suddenly, could potentially destabilise markets’.

Mark Carney believes London is a Carbon Bubble.

“The exposure of UK investors, including insurance companies, to these shifts is potentially huge.

In their comment on Nature, International weekly journal of science, Anthony J. Webster and Richard H. Clarke suggest that 

‘Insurance companies can and should do more. They are central to the global climate challenge, helping to redress its consequences. Now they need to lead.

Here we propose that insurers collect a levy from energy producers according to the carbon intensity of their products. The funds generated should be invested in climate adaptation and low-carbon energy. This would be fair — polluters should redress the problems they create. The biggest beneficiaries of fossil fuels would then pay for the benefits they have derived at the expense of others, including future generations.’

At the end of the day, it’s what works. And it may be multi-pronged strategy that works best.

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No jobs on a dead planet

I believe unions want to be involved in job transition, and be essential part of an open public discussion on sustainable jobs. The  Green Collar Nation  gives voice to the Unions who understand they have a pivotal role to play.

This is something that CLASS (Centre for Labour and Social Studies) are interested in debating in an open and inclusive way. As their president Samuel Terry, National Policy officer TSSA said at their 5th Birthday party, there are ‘No jobs on a dead planet’.

Dagenham, which was an industrial centre for car production, is an interesting point of reference. Cars defined the area, but now the Film industry and market gardening in Growing Communities are giving it a new identity with new more sustainable jobs.

Menders, gardeners, rail workers, carbon accountants, cycling engineers, food growers, sustainable builders, educators, carers are some of the job growth areas that may be needed. The idea that high carbon, high tech robots will replace these vital labour intensive areas is bewildering.

The German car manufacturers and their illegal cartel, locked into diesel and petrol cars are what stranded assets and jobs look like.

In 2014, before dieselgate broke, 184 were employed as car lobbyists in Brussells, at a cost of £18.5 million. Their aim, to keep the diesel car industry churning out its toxic merchandise. The dieselgate cheat was prepared to perpetuate that business model at the expense of human lives and the environment. These may well be crimes against humanity.

Carbon Omissions

‘Like a Swiss finishing school, corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams are very adept at delivering environmental messages in a manner acceptable at the Court of King Carbon – a media-centred circus where ‘green’ appearances are often more important than ‘green’ realities.’ – Richard H. Clarke Predicting the Price of Carbon

When Google makes claims that it is Carbon Neutral? or Renault claims in its adverts its Electric cars are ‘zero emission’ We need real and independent scrutiny and oversight. We don’t want another ‘clean diesel’. I was happy to see this more in depth carbon accounting of ‘zero emission’ vehicles in the Financial Times.

I would be even happier if there was more scrutiny of Automation which adds a hefty ICT carbon footprint to products and services. And is a high energy user. Autonomous vehicles are currently being described as ‘Green’ or ‘sustainable’. I believe this ‘greenwash’ is not being transparent on the additional ICT costs of data processing or the extra infrastructure needed to support this technology.

This is why we need independent carbon accounting that digs deep into the carbon embedded in a ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ product. A whole new generation of carbon accountants, trusted and verified, would be a wonderful new career choice for young people in London. We don’t want to invest a limited carbon budget  and become locked -in to a carbon infrastructure that is environmentally damaging. We want to invest wisely and with insight.

I am dismayed how much time is given to lobbyists for high carbon and polluting products at City Hall London Assembly committees. These so-called ‘experts’ giving ‘evidence’ are paid to sell stuff. Quality, independent evidence is needed for real democratic scrutiny.

We need mechanisms and political scrutiny that are sensitive to measuring the environmental and health externalities of products and services.

Economic vision

What does economic success look like? A secure and healthy environment must be at the core of an economic vision.

So how do we get there?

I would urge the Mayor to take leadership on Carbon pricing, rather than playing catch up with potential big losses in stranded assets and stranded jobs. We need a road map.

Carbon pricing is the method favoured by many economists for reducing global-warming emissions. It charges those who emit carbon dioxide for their emissions. That charge, called a carbon price, is the amount that must be paid for the right to emit one tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Carbon pricing solves the economic problem that CO2, a known greenhouse gas, is what economics calls a negative externality, a detrimental product that is not priced (charged for) by any market.

carbon price not only has the effect of encouraging lower-carbon behaviour (eg using a bike rather than driving a car). With a carbon price in place, the costs of stopping climate change are distributed across generations rather than being borne overwhelmingly by future generations

‘An effective carbon price is an essential, if insufficient, part of a policy package that can lower emissions and drive the economy towards  a low carbon, resilient future’ – says Rachel Kyte, Vice president World Bank group. ‘It makes pollution more expensive, incentivises efficiency, and helps business leaders and investors understand the long-term direction of travel’.

But as Olivier Coispeau of Maverlinn says, it must also be qualified by the common good. Polluting because you can pay to do so is not enough.

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The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

  • Imagine if everyone had a real Carbon credit card?
  • Is Doughnut economics the most suitable sustainable economic model to follow?
  • How do we decouple economic growth from carbon emissions?
  • What is the metric for investment?
  • What is the carbon price for adaptation and mitigation?
  • What is the real price of 1 ton of carbon?
  • Is Dieter Helm right to call for a Universal Carbon price?

Recycling?

I would like a more sophisticated conversation on recycling. When is it better to ban plastic packaging and engage with plastic free shopping as illustrated here?

Recycling is not always the best solution. It should not be automatically the default position. I understand that rubbish collection for a growing population would add many more motor vehicles to our roads. We need to stop consuming rubbish in the first place. I have cut my rubbish significantly by shopping plastic free.

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Bulk Market Dalston

 

Education

I believe the Mayor has a vital role as an educator. The Mayor is essentially lighting the road.

Children absorb and get it very quickly and pester power will indeed have some effect. But role models, be they parents, teachers, politicians or other adult citizens provide the authentic do as I do rather than do as I say.

To be frank, it is adults that need education on how to live sustainably and within their personal carbon budget.

Education could have been provided in a meaningful way by mainstream media but vested interests, as we now know, have provided disinformation and the vital message has not reached consumers. You could say that a whole generation has been brainwashed into consuming stuff, giving absolutely no thought to how its degrades our environment, and all that is vital for health and wellbeing.

Voting with our consumer feet is a major part of the move toward a more sustainable model. This is backed up by my conversations with eminent Economists who want to work for the common good or ‘Good growth’.

Educating citizens on personal lifestyles will help cut London’s carbon emissions:

  • Eat less meat
  • Walk and cycle and take Public Transport whenever feasible
  • Dry clothes naturally where possible
  • The high carbon cost of flying on holiday
  • Use water more economically
  • Buy locally grown food
  • Don’t buy new things you don’t really need
  • Buy vintage or 2nd hand goods
  • Switch to renewable energy provider like Good Energy
  • Use ICT more economically

ICT emissions and energy use are much overlooked. Prof Erol Gelenbe is an expert  in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department at Imperial College,  who thinks we need more education on ICT and Autonomy. Some seem to treat ICT and Data as an endless resource? There is the Silicon Valley version of the world versus what is actually healthy.

 

Investment priorities

  • Climate budget that operates alongside the traditional budget
  • We can not expect a low or zero carbon future, if we keep building infrastructure for high carbon transport…locked-in carbon.
  • Transport is central – Cycling walking public transport prioritised
  • Thames solar corridor – solar boats
  • Aviation a 10% increase in air fares generates a 5-15% reduction in demand. Potentially levying 9 billion in extra taxes.
  • Water fountains, economic water use and systems
  • SUDS
  • Urban Food growing could supply 20% of London’s needs
  • Resident allotment permits could replace resident  parking permits. Growing greens outside your home cuts high carbon imported perishable greens
  • Green biodiversity
  • Trees,  fruit trees
  • Plastic free shopping
  • Reclaiming public space from motor vehicles

Low Tech V High Tech

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Phil Hale

 

In Houston, the recent hurricane claimed half a million cars. Cycling proved far more adaptable. Less high carbon replacement value equals more resilient cities.

Strategic solutions don’t cost the earth, they require political interventions.

Car free Fly free days are one solution to escalating global warming. Down tools. And have a day of rest.

Leaves are gold

I’m writing this on a fine Autumn day as COP 23 kicks off in Bonn. Collecting leaves which make rich compost are vital to maintaining soil quality. By putting value on things that are worth collecting, sourcing, returning to the earth. We understand the cycle of life.