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tiny image"You say you love your children above everything else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes."

A wake-up call to world leaders at the climate change conference in Poland last week.  15-year old Greta Thunberg tells them that they are not mature enough to be brave and do the only sensible thing - pull the emergency brake.

zero carbon londonGreta is absolutely right, the leaders of almost all the world's countries - if not in Trump-style denial - are simply shying away from taking the necessary steps to cut back greenhouse gas emissions.  They are, understandably, afraid of the reaction of their countries' people when they are told that they need to make drastic lifestyle changes to avoid catastrophe.

There are, however, hopeful signs that some leaders are facing up to the challenge.  Last week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, unveiled a "1.5C Compatible Climate Action Plan" in response to a call from the London Assembly.  The Assembly had passed a motion tabled by Green Party member Caroline Russell calling on the Mayor to declare a climate emergency and produce a plan to tackle it.

The Mayor duly complied, at a speed that suggests that he was already on the case.  The very specificity of the plan's title suggests that it is a serious attempt to map out what needs to be done, which is not just to reduce carbon emissions, but to cut them down to zero and do so quickly enough - he has set the deadline as 2050.  Between now and then, there would be "carbon budgets", shrinking over time.  As completely preventing carbon emissions is simply impossible, residual emissions would continue (10 per cent), but be offset through negative emissions technologies such as carbon capture and storage or tree planting.

How would it be done?  By a switch from fossil fuels to carbon-free electricity, requiring a major upgrade of the electric grid.  Cars, trucks, buses would either be electric (battery or fuel cells) or hydrogen-powered.  More active travel - walking and cycling.  Compulsory insulation of homes to higher standards.  The gas distribution network to be switched to hydrogen or gas heating to be completely replaced by electric heating or heat pumps.  And more measures besides.  Working out exactly what mix of these options is the right one is one of the shorter-term priorities.

It's not something that the Mayor could achieve alone - government regulation and funding will be essential.  Ordinary people will have to make lifestyle changes - less driving, far fewer flights, changes to their homes.

But what is the point of a single city - even one the size of London - going zero carbon?  The world has a single atmosphere, the air above London is a tiny portion of the whole. We consume goods that are produced by carbon-emitting technologies in other countires.  The whole world has to go zero carbon to stay below 1.5C.

Of course, but every country, every city, every person has to do their bit, has to act -  and the sooner they start, the sooner progress will be made and others will see the example being set.  So the Mayor is setting out to ensure that London "does its bit".

More words of wisdom from Greta:  "We can't save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.  Everything needs to change.  And it has to start today."

With new year's resolutions a few days away, it's the perfect time to start taking action.  Turn the heating down a degree, drive less, consume less, waste less - get started with saving our grandchildren's world.

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David Flint's Avatar
David Flint posted a reply #4329 31 Dec 2018 16:19
It was the veteran Labour politician Denis Healey who said "if you're in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging!"
We are still digging the hole that is climate change by emitting ever more greenhouse gases - up 2% last year alone. And are making commitments to keep doing so. These commitments are our investments in high carbon infrastructure such as gas-fired powers stations, HS2 and, of course, airports.
In London the most absurd of these is the Silvertown road tunnel. Everyone who cares about protecting the climate must oppose the Silvertown tunnel as much as they support cycling and public transport.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #4347 15 Jan 2019 15:40


Eighteen of the authors representing all five chapters of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5) have produced a Summary for Urban Policymakers to translate the report’s key scientific findings and policy observations for officials and policymakers of the world’s cities and urban areas.

Download the summary here

The summary concludes as follows:


AN OPPORTUNITY THAT MUST BE SEIZED OVER THE NEXT TWO DECADES.

The impacts of climate change will be experienced in the next decades by the world’s 8 billion people, most of them in cities. Urban policymakers play a key role in adapting to and driving solutions to climate change, but they must act fast and cannot do it alone.


The impacts of and solutions to climate change will be experienced by the entire world in the next decades, with upwards of 70% of the global population living in cities and urban areas. Unchecked, climate change will subject global and local ecosystems to increasing levels of risk, threatening to undo much of the economic and social progress, albeit uneven, since the end of World War II and the formation of the United Nations. Many of these risks will coalesce in cities and urban areas. Cities are key implementers of policy steps to meet this challenge and exhibit the necessary political leadership to do so. Urban systems have the power to amplify or reduce the impacts associated with 1.5°C of warming or any breaching of that threshold. Successful city-level climate action strategies are at work today, and they are being advanced regionally and internationally through city networks. Some cities are within regions that have already exceeded 1.5°C and have been forced to adapt, affording them experiences that can be shared with, adapted for, or replicated in other cities. But city action alone will not be sufficient. Limiting warming to 1.5°C will require immediate action within and across sectors, as well as multilevel governance. It will require rapid and far-reaching systems transitions in energy and industry, land use and ecosystems, urban and infrastructure, linked to the implementation of the SDGs. Cities offer many of the most readily-available, feasible, and cost-effective options for these transitions.

The tools are at hand. We possess the material basis and policy solutions for transformations and system changes in the direction of greater sustainability, inclusion, and resilience. Urban policymakers must seize the opportunity to meet the defining challenge of the planet, not in the distant future but, as the SR1.5 makes clear, within the next two decades.

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