Dear Mayor of London,
There is much to admire in the Mayor’s draft transport strategy and it is very comprehensive. Unfortunately I don’t have the resources to address the strategy in minutiae of detail, so I will be responding in a more open way.
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.
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.
- Good air
- Good water
- Quality food
- Food security
- Access to sunlight
- Freedom to roam by foot or cycling
- Soil quality
- Economics of the common good
- Active health
- 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
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.
‘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.
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 even food growing or 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.
‘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.
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.
A 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.
- 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?
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
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.