Dave Brown, a founder member of DorsetCAN, has tips on planning a holiday in 2021 and inspiration for anyone who can no longer bear to stand idly by... He writes:
This is a crucial year for life on our planet. That’s no exaggeration; if anything it is a colossal understatement. The decisions we make as a species this decade will determine the scale of catastrophe faced by us, our youth and the next generation. We knew that before Covid-19. This year we need to resist the temptation of relapsing into the short-term thinking that the pandemic forced us from. Otherwise we are collectively doomed.
With this in mind, my wife and I wonder what on earth a holiday looks like against such a depressing backdrop. Flying for pleasure seems suicidal, ungrateful for this island’s natural beauty and as unlikely to bring pleasure as a glass of wine with an extinguished cigarette floating in it. I am 100% behind tests, quarantines and last-minute cancellations but that does not make them fun.
Two events loom large on our shared calendar: the G7 Summit and COP26. We're tired of hearing about critical events like these on the news and accepting the disappointment that nothing has changed afterwards. We want to show up, to make our interest and attention visible. To signal to friends and relatives that it has come to this, and that this is something they can do too. And that it’s fun!
The G7 summit is a no-brainer. It’s in Cornwall in the summer and neither of us has explored there much before. We both take time off work, pass a lateral flow test and set off for St Ives. We stop off on the way to break up the journey and to share our mission with the people we care about – for us this is parents, an uncle, and a school friend who I haven’t seen in 10 years. Excellent times all round. (continued below...)
After a lot of trial and error, my wife and I agree that for us to make an impact we need our efforts to be sustainable. We're not natural campers. We don't fit neatly into any image of eco-radicals. To succeed, we believe the climate movement must be a Mass Movement, which means that it’s members must be more dissimilar than alike. Believing that “The unfair systems we have now are killing our planet and we need to change that.” is all the unity we will need. We pocket our anxiety that we might not be ‘green’ enough for the other activists there, and take Extinction Rebellion at their word that they “avoid blaming and shaming individuals”. We decide to show up and join on our own terms.
We stay in an Airbnb which it turns out is run by a famous climate activist so that’s a reassuring coincidence. We walk to the XR muster point in St Ives, where we accept banners offered to us to carry as well as bust cards in case of arrest. After a brief intro we join the parade through St Ives, marching to the sounds of some joyous Samba drumming. I'm not trying to diminish the efforts of protest and action organisers here, far from it. But this weekend highlights how much room there is for people to just show up and join in. We're thrilled to see locals spontaneously joining the parade and many more cheering from homes and businesses we pass.
Did we actually have any impact on the G7 world leaders? I would love to think our peaceful protest could stop the juggernaut of capitalism in its tracks and redirect it. Clearly that did not happen, but we cannot know what the world would be like without our protest. Aside from the protest we had a great time shopping and eating locally. I am now convinced that an action-centred holiday can effectively combine the benefits of protest and recuperation, and we will be at COP26 if we are able to get there responsibly in terms of the pandemic. The message that sticks with me after the G7 summit weekend, was printed on a jacket worn by a rebel, and reads “Despair Ends / Tactics Begin”.
To support the Campaign by DorsetAction to get Dorset Council to divest from fossil fuels and specifically to instruct its Pension Fund Manager (Brunel) to do so, DorsetCAN organised a Flood of Questions to Dorset Council. Here's the report from the Questions Team:
‘Over three-quarters of local councils have declared a climate emergency. For the majority of councils, their largest carbon emissions will come from their pension fund investments.’ (UK Divest)
This statement made a deep impression on me when I read the report published by Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland, in February 2021.
In support of Dorset Action’s 21 month long Climate-Friendly Pensions Campaign, the DorsetCAN Questions Team coordinated a series of questions from concerned individuals, both pension fund members and concerned Dorset residents which were submitted to the Dorset Council Pension Fund Committee virtual meeting on June 15 at 10.00 am .
One question from a pension fund member was
‘Will you please poll Pension Fund members to see if there is a demand among us for an ethical investment option , rather than us having to continue to invest in fossil fuels when we don't want to ?’ which as far as we could see had not been asked before.
‘Brunel has made a 'net-zero by 2050' commitment.There is a clear contradiction here between Brunel’s date and Dorset Council’s own target of 2040. Surely this is a ‘direct action’ and Dorset Council should instruct Brunel to invest in order to meet their 2040 date?’ – this is also a new and fair question to ask the Pension Fund.
And there were several other pertinent questions around the committee’s accountability to their pension fund members as well as enquiries about relevant actions in progress, for example:
‘In Dorset Council’s ‘Making it happen action plan’, the Council’s Objective 1 includes the following action:
“Investigate decarbonising Dorset Council pension scheme” with the stated target:
“Investigations carried out and reported to EAP by March 2021”. #
Have those investigations been carried out and have they been reported to the EAP? If so, what did the report say?’
First of all, despite the following information to be found online: "All questions, statements and responses will be published in full within the minutes of the meeting" a couple of questions from the public which received acknowledgments were not to be found in the minutes at the time of the meeting.
Secondly, despite the following statement: "Questions will be read out by an officer of the council and a response given by the appropriate Portfolio Holder or officer at the meeting. "(my bold italics), Cllrs Andy Canning and Peter Wharf announced at the beginning of the meeting that they had decided between them (in consultation with “Member Services” (inaudible..?)) not to have any of the questions read out, but that the questions and responses would be published online and responded to individually.
The reason given was that ‘the topic’ of divestment was discussed in September 2020 and we were referred back to those minutes. This generalised reason ignores the pertinent specifics of many of the June questions and the fact that that discussion took place 9 months ago. The Chairman did then make a statement clarifying Dorset Council’s current position and affirming that they are responsible both for their pension fund members contributions and for investing that money as wisely as possible. Quote: ‘This duty overides any other considerations.’ He also mentioned that Brunel would not be reconsidering their strategies around de-carbonisation until 2022.
The lack of direct response to the questions at the committee meeting was disappointing and to date no responses have been published/given to any of the questions. I shall be following developments and shall complete this report in our next newsletter.
Thought for the Future
I read the transcript of COP26 President Alok Sharma’s speech at the first Net Zero Pensions summit, published June 1, 2021 . Here is what he said:
"Today, green investments are smart investments.
In the majority of the world, renewables are cheaper than new coal and gas.
Putting your money in fossil fuels creates the very real risk of stranded assets."
He then supports and urges financial institutions to take the following steps:
First, commit to exit coal finance.
So that, together, we make COP26 the moment we consign coal power to the past where it belongs.
Second, increase investments in climate action in developing and emerging markets.
Thirdly, protect nature.
By 2025 ensure none of your investments contribute to deforestation.
And by 2030 ensure your investments are contributing to the restoration of the natural world.
Finally, disclose your climate risk in line with the Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosures, or TCFD.
He also points out that this will become mandatory across most of the UK economy in 2023 and that the UK government will shortly introduce regulations on what this means for pensions, to ensure trustees take account of climate change risk in each and every decision.
There is a real advantage in getting your house in order.
And that in this vital year for climate action, the year of COP26, you are playing your part in keeping 1.5 degrees alive.
“Action has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk”
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. Its job is to advise the government on emissions targets and to report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
On 16 June, it published a report “Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk” prepared by the Adaptation Committee. This sets out the priority climate change risks and opportunities for the UK. More than 60 risks and opportunities have been identified, fundamental to every aspect of life in the UK covering our natural environment, our health, our homes, the infrastructure on which we rely, and the economy. The report offers the following key conclusions ;“Alarmingly, new evidence shows that the gap between the level of risk we face and the level of adaptation underway has widened. Adaptation action has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk.
“The UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively to these risks, but it has not yet done so. Acting now will be cheaper than waiting to deal with the consequences. Government must lead that action.
“The Committee reports on the full set of 61 risks and opportunities. These must be considered in the next set of National Adaptation Plans, due from 2023.
“The Committee identifies eight risk areas that require the most urgent attention in the next two years. They have been selected on the basis of the urgency of additional action, the gap in UK adaptation planning, the opportunity to integrate adaptation into forthcoming policy commitments and the need to avoid locking in poor planning, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Committee recommends ten principles for good adaptation planning that should form the basis for the next round of national adaptation plans. These are intended to bring adaptation into mainstream consideration by Government and business.”
Visit www.ukclimaterisk.org to find all of the outputs from the UK Climate Risk Independent Assessment.
Dorset Litter Free, and many local groups around the County, have - during the last three years - contributed data about the number of bottles and cans that they have collected during litter drives, to evidence gathered by CPRE at national level. This evidence is being used by CPRE to support a campaign to persuade the government to introduce a deposit and return scheme (DRS) for bottles and other containers.
On 19 June, Boris Johnson’s birthday CPRE delivered to 10 Downing Street a symbolic bottle containing the following message from 32,908 people calling for the introduction of a national DRS by 2023.
“The country is ready and waiting to see a bottle return scheme of the sort already common in many other countries running here to cut plastic waste. Many of us remember returning milk bottles when we were younger. We call for the same system, where customers pay a small deposit which is refunded when the bottle is given back for reuse.
“The government originally committed to making a DRS happen in England back in 2018 – and we’re still waiting. We’re tired of waiting for the government to make good on this announcement and fear that the recent consultation was a way for them to kick the can down the road and appease industry lobbyists.
“We want action on an all-in DRS, meaning that containers of all sizes and materials would be included. Other countries that have this see sky-high recycling rates : in Germany, for example, people waste (discard or litter) an average of just over 21 containers a year, whereas in the UK we each waste 126 !
“We won’t stand by and let the government keep delaying this crucial litter-busting scheme. We’ll be keeping up the pressure on them to dramatically cut plastic waste by making an all-in scheme happen by 2023.”
The draft Local Plan for the whole of Dorset, published in January, has attracted wide concern across the county because of the sheer scale of proposed development – over 39,000 new houses between now and 2038, new industrial estates, roads and other infrastructure. In Dorset CAN’s formal response, submitted in March, we pointed to the impact which this would have on the landscape and natural resources of the County, encroaching on the Green Belt and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and making heavy use of greenfield land, including a proposed estate of 3,500 homes on the north side of Dorchester. It would add greatly to the challenge of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero, which is the central aim of Dorset Council’s Climate Strategy, published only 3 months before the Local Plan.
So, we called on Dorset Council to ‘Re-think the Plan’, cut the number of new houses to 20,000, avoid encroachment on the Green Belt, avoid heavy use of greenfield land, and use more ‘brownfield’ land in the towns. We followed this with public questions to Dorset Council meetings, receiving only ‘stonewall’ replies from Councillor David Walsh, Cabinet member responsible for the Plan. So, we decided to launch a campaign to pressurise the Council towards re-thinking. We wished this campaign to be realistic; and therefore asked the leading Council officials for a meeting so that we can understand what is driving the proposals in the Plan.
On 14 June, a team of four from Dorset CAN – Rob Waitt, Michael Dower, Giles Watts and Rosemary Lunt – had a Zoom meeting with Hilary Jordan, Service Manager for Spatial Planning and Terry Sneller, Strategic Planning Manager. This meeting was candid and friendly. The officers made plain that local planning authorities are required by the Government to support the drive towards building houses, and must use the Government’s formula for calculating the number of new houses unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ apply. We had argued that Dorset’s unique combination of scenic, natural, geological and historic heritage amounted to exceptional circumstances which would justify an alternative calculation of housing need. The officers advised, from experience of decisions by planning Inspectors and Ministers, that this would not suffice. They recognised that development on the scale proposed would have the impact and implications that we described. They stated that there may be room for reduction in the number of houses, in the face of public reaction and of continuing studies by the Environment Agency and others. The Plan will be reviewed in the light of the very wide response to the public consultation : but they could not promise any substantial reduction.
This discussion, plus the answers to our detailed questions which the planners have readily answered, will help us in mounting a vigorous campaign. We expect to launch this campaign in late July, following a meeting on the evening of Tuesday 13 July of county-level and local organisations whom we are inviting to contribute to it. We will be appealing, through e-mail and social media, to Dorset CAN members and all Dorset citizens to support this campaign of pressure upon Dorset Council. If your organisation wishes to take part in the 13 July meeting or in the campaign, please contact Giles Watts at email@example.com.
The Liberal Democrats' spectacular by-election win in a previously safe Tory seat in Buckinghamshire is likely to see the government face increased opposition to its proposed changes to the planning system and potentially water down the more radical measures, commentators expect.
See the comment from Planning Resource website
Comment from Prof. Michael Dower:
"In the recent Queen’s speech, the government stated its intention to bring forward in the autumn legislation to change the current basis of Planning. Its aim is to speed up the process of giving planning permission for new development, particularly housing. The central idea is that the zoning of land for development by local planning authorities would be replaced by a simplistic top-down zoning directly by the government. This would focus on three types of zone – those for growth, with automatic permission for development; those for protection; and those for regeneration, where special government resources would be available to assist development.
This proposal has attracted widespread opposition from professional planning organisations, from local authorities whose powers would be reduced, and from the public. This opposition is seen as a major factor in the 25% swing in voting in the Chesham and Amersham by-election, through which the seat fell to a liberal Democrat with the appropriate name of Sarah Green. There is growing revolt among Conservative MPs in southern England, and the government may well be forced to think again. If the legislation did go through, it would ‘change the game’ for planning in Dorset. "
West Dorset MP Chris Loder has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill which would require food miles be listed on products so that customers can make environmentally conscious decisions about food purchases. The amendment would ensure that food packaging states the food miles travelled, defined as the distance travelled from the country. or (for UK products) from the region of origin. It would provide for colour coding – green for low food miles, amber medium, and red long distance.
Chris Loder MP - webpage
On 22 May, in the run-up to the G7 summit, the Environment and Energy Ministers of the G7 countries agreed to end their financial support for coal development overseas. This is seen as a major step toward phasing out the dirtiest fossil fuel. At the same time, they reaffirmed the commitment of their countries to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. In the same week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that all new developments of fossil fuels must end this year to give the world a good chance of keeping within the 1.5C limit. Prospects for achieving that do not look good, and much will depend upon decisions made by China, which has been helping developing countries with offers of finance for coal-fired power plants. Recent increase in the use of coal, after the pandemic lockdown, is largely responsible for what is forecast by IEA to be the second biggest rise in emissions on record.
Reuters 21 May 2021
A portion of the Greenland ice sheet appears to be reaching a tipping point where it would fall into an irreversible period of melting, according to research by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The ice covers about 660,000 square miles and is up to 3,000 m thick. It will retain its size only if the mass lost to meltwater and calving icebergs each year is replenished by new snowfall. The research suggests that warming of the Arctic has disturbed this balance. The ice sheet is shrinking. As its height reduces, it is exposed to higher average temperatures. This leads to more melting, further height reductions, warmer temperatures still and an accelerating loss of ice. The collapse of the sheet, which contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 7 metres, would affect coastal regions and cities around the world.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA
Guardian, 17 May 2021
Wildfires have become more frequent in Britain because of climate change, according to the London School of Economics. 2020r saw 75 large fires, each covering at least 6 hectares. This continues a trend in place since 2016. In 2014 one large fire was recorded. This increased to four in 2016, then 17 in 2017 and 74 in 2018. In 2020, 13,793 hectares of vegetation were burnt, compared with 85 hectares in 2014. There has been a corresponding increase in CO2 emissions from wildfires, from 4,000 tonnes in 2015 to 294,000 tonnes in 2090. Dr Tom Smith of the LSE said, “We need to be prepared for more flammable landscapes. This preparation has already started with specialist wildfires teams and tactical advisors being appointed in fire and rescue services up and down the country.”