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Climate Crisis

Dealing with Climate Change, Local Species Extinctions and, Plastic Pollutions

“The UN Paris Agreement states that humanity must reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century…if we are to avoid really dangerous climate change.” *1

According to the UN report, Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ “1,000,000 species threatened with extinction” *2

In the UK alone, more than a quarter of mammals are facing extinction, according to a detailed and devastating report on the State of the Nature.

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 exposed the shocking truth about plastic pollution.*4

Viewers saw heartbreaking footage of albatross parents feeding their chicks plastic waste – and other creatures like turtles and dolphins being harmed by the plastic we throw away.*4

It’s not just marine life that suffers. Plastic waste ends up in our countryside and waterways, harming wildlife everywhere.*4

We need to act quickly to avoid this catastrophe.

We need to act globally and locally.

Act with a global view to cut green house gas emissions to net-Zero by 2030.

Act with a local and national view to stop loss of habitat and to create features (integrated Green Infrastructure [e.g. network of multi-functional green space and other green features] and Blue Infrastructure [e.g. waterways and water features]) that converse and strengthens biodiversity and habitat locally and, across regions and nationally. Spatial plans for nature that capture local concerns and aspirations (e.g. flooding, access to greenspace for mental health etc.) will be reconciled with national priorities to safeguard our country’s biodiversity – both genetic diversity and species richness- and to mitigate and adapt against climate impacts.

Act to put in place laws to ban certain polymers and other harmful chemicals, limit plastic pollution and champion clean ups.

Working with residents, local action groups, Councils, scientists, Natural England, Defra, Centre for Alternative Technology and others, we have started to create solutions locally.

If elected, I will continue to collaborate and bring experts, local residents and action networks, environmental groups and government departments together to put in place solutions that will help us save our planet and our existence.

Here are a few ideas; tell me what you think.

Let’s work together to help save our planet and rescue the areas we live in.

Government needs to change laws, create solutions, inter alia, to;

  1. Ensure government acts on its responsibility to switch to green electricity generation, reducing energy demand, balancing supply and demand, diversifying land use, planning regulations, national databases of biodiversity etc…
  2. Create initiatives, tools and resources to help our 60million population, businesses, and local government implement best practice & practical solutions quickly, cheaply and efficiently
  3. Facilitate residents, charities and volunteer groups to take effective, coordinated action together and separately, helping us reach every area of the country and, every square metre of land.

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Climate Change: Acting with a global view

Here are a few of the structural issues and solutions that we must push for, many of which are from the Centre for Alternative Technology’s 2010 reports; this is not a comprehensive list;

  • The more people and groups and businesses that act, the quicker will be the reduction in greenhouse gases but, there is much uncertainty at all levels as to what to do.
    • Act quickly to enable all layers of society to participate including local government, businesses, residents and other land owners
    • Develop evidence based solutions involving funding collaboration with scientists, technologists and best practitioners to gather and collate information and solutions and make the available to all
  • Local authorities and businesses and residents don’t know where to start and so either give up or have to duplicate effort to create strategies, methodologies, metrics and solutions. We are proceeding too slowly due to a lack of expertise, knowledge and solutions and, are stuck in carbon rich processes i.e. we need to reverse “carbon-lock in”
    • There are economic, cultural and psychological barriers to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions which severely hamper progress towards achieving negative carbon across the country
    • Government should create a well researched and practical series of tools and resources for local government, land owners, businesses and residents to include; strategies, methodologies, common metrics to prove success, plus free support
    • Consider disrupting and taxing carbon rich solutions and, promote and invest in carbon negative solutions e.g. internet packaging and delivery tax (this could also help revitalize our high streets)
    • Mandate that existing buildings are retrofitted to cut energy use by changing planning laws and, facilitating new solutions
    • Stipulate that new buildings must meet net-zero carbon standards by changing planning laws and, facilitating new solutions
    • Our electricity, heat and transport systems should be powered by renewable energy
    • We should drive or fly less and improve public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure and new incentives should be developed – Government should invest in and mandate regional Local Enterprise Partnerships to produce highly useful, low cost, zero carbon, public transportation systems.
    • Governememt must lead by example, for example, through procurement policies that avoid food waste and help us to reduce the amount of carbon-intensive meat in our diets.
    • Government should model low and minimal carbon diets and, conduct Dietary analysis based on nutritional profiling, food group balance and government dietary recommendations enables us to provide a healthy average diet for the UK while monitoring the implications of various dietary choices on greenhouse gas emissions and land use requirements.
    • Government should help people to achieve pro-environmental behaviours (e.g. Improved diet, transport options) through provision of knowledge and training
  • We need to gear up quickly to address the climate emergency. In the UK We have extremely talented entrepreneurs, innovators, students, e. We need an easy way to tap into their talents/ideas/ solutions. Identifying These ideas and resources will bring new, innovative solutions, quicker – to the benefit of everyone; it will Also help engage people and help them to build their business/ ideas and create employment
    • The government should create an accessible Centre of excellence, to hold all the solutions and ideas for businesses, local government and residents. To make available strategies, methodologies, metrics, free consultancy, practical training courses and facilitated learning.
    • To create funded regional multi-agency collaborative groups to include scientists, mathematicians, national government, regional government, local groups to accelerate the pace of achievement
  • Our energy is still too carbon based. We continue to create emissions even from electricity generation needed for electric cars and use by homes and industry
    • The government should make the grid and electricity carbon negative by investing in research and development to create and enhance renewables. Then switch as quickly as practicable possible. Remove carbon rich energy from grid. We also need to improve the efficiency of our energy production to match usage, the grid and, electric devices
  • There are economic, cultural and psychological barriers to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions which severely hamper progress towards achieving negative carbon across the country
    • Government should create an interdisciplinary framework bringing together researchers working in psychology, sociology, political science, economics and other social sciences, as well as faith and spiritual practice, arts and culture.
  • There is a lack of funding to develop the basis for fast and knowledgable progress to get to net zero greenhouse gases and ecostsystem and biodiversity strength.
    • Money from the Central Agriculture Policy (CAP) should be diverted from subsidising big landowners to developing the science, data base and solutions to our complex systems of biodiversity
    • Armed with data, knowledge and solutions, residents, manufacturers, developers and local authorities will be able to act smart and at low cost to achieve sustainable net zero greenhouse gases whilst seeing biodiversity and well being thrive
  • Progress by residents and businesses towards a personal net zero and cohabiting with ecosystems and biodiversity is hampered by a lack of information and programmes to train them.
    • Money from CAP should go towards developing facilitated public dialogue, education sessions and skills programmed to equip people to act effectively
    • Consumption and prosumer behaviours will improve quickly as will our carbon and biodiversity footprint and our statisfaction, well being and engagement with nature and each other

The Centre for Alternative Technology has just produced an update of its influen

Here’s what they say, in summary, which I support 100%*5, 6, 7, 8, 9;

  • We have the tools and technologies today to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 and can do this by;
    • Powering down our energy demand
      • Buildings: having high ‘Passivhaus’ standards for new buildings, retrofitting all existing buildings, and improving internal temperature control would reduce energy demand for heating by around 50%.
        • Planning regulations should stipulate that all new developments, including permitted developments, should meet the net-zero carbon standards and,
        • Government should facilitate and incentivise retrofitting of all buildings.
      • Transport: reducing how much we travel, and changing how we travel – with more use of public transport, walking, cycling, switching to efficient electric vehicles and two thirds less flying – would reduce energy demand for transport by 78%.
      • Facilitate the implementation of smart appliances both residentially, in businesses and in the energy network
        • Shifting energy demand using ‘smart’ appliances and using batteries, pumped storage, heat storage and hydrogen for short-term energy storage over hours or days. • Using carbon neutral synthetic gas (which can be dispatched quickly into the electricity grid when we need it) for long-term energy storage over weeks or months.
      • Powering up renewable energy
        • It is possible to supply 100% of the UK’s ‘powereddown’ energy demand with renewable and carbon neutral energy sources, without fossil fuels and without nuclear. In the Zero Carbon Britain energy scenario:
        • Many different renewable energy sources suited to the UK – solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal and others – are used to produce electricity and heat.
        • Wind energy – both offshore and onshore – plays a central role, providing around half of the energy supply.
        • Most of the energy in this scenario (around 66%) is produced in the form of electricity.
        • Carbon neutral synthetic fuels play an important role where it is not possible to use electricity – for example, in some areas of industry and transport, and as back up for our energy system.
      • Land use changes needed
        • Emissions associated with food production, land use changes and land management practices accounts for around10% of current UK emissions.
        • Changing how we use land will offer a healthier mix of food, plus backup energy supply, and will provide natural carbon capture, which allows the UK to be truly net zero carbon.
      • The benefit of a healthy low carbon diet
        • Through dietary change, food waste reduction and improved agricultural practices we could provide a healthy, sustainable diet for the whole UK population. These changes would mean that: • Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would be reduced by 57% from 2017 levels. This represents only emissions produced ‘on the farm’, as food processing and distribution are taken into account in ‘powering down’ and ‘powering up’.
        • The UK could become more self-reliant in food, reducing imports from 42% to 17%, and so reducing the impacts of food production for our consumption elsewhere in the world.
        • Our health would be improved by eating a better and more balanced diet.
        • 75% of the land currently used for grazing livestock could be repurposed, freeing up space for a range of other uses, which could also offer new income streams to farmers
        • As a consequence, “We can double UK forest area and restore 50% of UK peatlands.”
  • There is also the opportunity to create 1 million new jobs in the process

We have the tools to resolve the UK’s Climate Emergency commitments by 2030 but we need more political will and drive.

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Biodiverity & plastic free living: Acting with a local view

  • We do not know all the species that cohabit with us in the UK (whether flora, fauna, fungi or bacteria) There may be over 44,000 but rates of extinction are well above normal background rates. We are also just learning about how to manage this biodiversity concurrent with other demands on the land such as provision of food, energy and places for us to live, work and play. Without the best data and understanding we are unable to take strategic evidence-based decisions on key interventions needed
    • To collect this data, the Government should hugely expand sponsorship of Citizen programs including phone phone apps and other digital tools, created by scientists and technologists, to facilitate the rapid collection of data and help people to engage directly with nature.
    • The Government should invest in regional databases to hold this data on an open source platform to allow others to develop further understanding and solutions
    • The government should facilitate the creation of multidisciplinary groups including scientists, mathematicians, epidemiologists, the medical profession and ordinary folk to ensure the correct data is collected and is then effectively analysed to produce decision support tools to implement real action on the ground.
    • Findings and recommendations for different regions and local authorities should be mandated for immediate action
  • Pressure on UK species has become intolerable with more that 50% of known species at risk*9
    . Especially problematic is land use and the fragmentation of contiguous types of linked terrain which is hemming in species, causing sickness and death and reducing genetic diversity
    • The Government should develop a strategy of co-habiting with nature and re-wilding; continuum of habitat whether a National Park or through the creation of air, water and land based biodiversity corridors and stepping stones, the development of peri-urban commons and, the greening or re-wilding of industrial and urban areas
  • Research commissioned by the RSPB underlines the strong links between good physical health, good mental health and the environment we strive to protect. 
    • Nature reduces stress; Access to green space can also help alleviate a range of mental health problems; For example, contact with nature reduces stress within minutes; increases the elderly’s satisfaction with where they live and improves children’s concentration and self-discipline, including the symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD)*10
    • Outdoor activities, particularly walking, offer a cheap and accessible route to better health for all, and address many of today’s pressing public health issues. The continued use of green space for physical activity is strongly linked to the quality of the landscape – in terms of beauty, diversity, and contact with nature.*10
    • Green space has a key role to play in the drive to increase levels of physical activity across the nation. Detailed studies, using the natural environment to promote fitness (‘Health Walks’ and ‘The Green Gym’), show that being in contact with nature both encourages people to take exercise and sustains their participation in physical activity. ‘The countryside can be seen as a great outpatient department whose therapeutic value is yet to be fully realised.’ Dr William Bird, report author.*10
    • I would support the RSPB’S call to the government to:
      • Invest at least £75 million a year, rising to £140 million a year by to implement recovery plans for the UK’s most threatened habitats.*10
      • Invest at least an extra £50 million a year to protect and manage our finest wildlife sites to achieve their favourable condition.*10
      • Enhance the countryside through further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, so that all agricultural subsidies support environmentally friendly farming, resulting in an attractive countryside, rich in wildlife*10

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Reducing plastics and plastic pollution

  • Producers and supermarkets generate millions of tonnes of unrecyclable or notrecycled plastics. Pollutants enter our water courses and food chains resulting in poisoning and bioaccumulation in the higher species including man
    • Ban the production and use of unrecyclable or not-recycled plastics and create a list of permitted plastics where economically viable reuse or recycling solutions are available to waste disposal authorities.
    • In the short term, prevent supermarkets selling goods with unrecyclable or not-recycled plastics.
    • Force the product manufacturer to pay for non-landfill disposal or reuse
    • These solutions will instantly help millions of consumers reduce plastic waste.
  • A more dramatic course of action would be to ban production and importation of all plastics, possibly with a super carbon tax, and stimulate reprocessing existing plastics and mining of landfill sites for plastics

It’s time to take radical action together and now!

 

References

  1. https://www.cat.org.uk/
  2. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/
  3. Professor Tom Oliver, University of Reading
  4. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/plastics/plastic-problem
  5. Zero Carbon Britain Rising to the Climate Emergency
  6. Executive Summary – Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency
  7. Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency Methodology papers
  8. ZCB AND series of independent thought papers on rising to the climate emergency
  9. State of Nature Report 2016
  10. Human health and nature

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash


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