Sunday, 15 January 2017

Locally Determined Contributions - filling the emissions reduction gap & going global

Regular readers of this blog will remember that back in December I introduced the concept of Locally Determined Contributions (and Regionally Determined Contributions) as a way of filling the emissions reduction gap that needs to be bridged if we are to achieve the targets set in Paris at COP21. These LDCs and RDCs would form the basis of targets and delivery plans for Local and Regional Governments to lead on the reduction of emissions in their own areas. The good news is that the EU Committee of the Regions voted to include the development of this proposal in the work plan they are putting to the European Commission. Hopefully the EU Commission will adopt the idea. Local, Regional and devolved governments have many opportunities to reduce emissions through transport and planning policies and even by specifying higher energy efficiency standard on buildings that they procure and land that they own. The scope for action at the local level is immense. Never have the words 'Think Global Act Local' been more relevant.

The local level in the UK was simply not involved or consulted in any way on the Nationally Determined Contributions that were presented by the UK as part of our COP21 emissions reduction figure. Anecdotally this is the case right the way across the EU and is an issue I've raised many times in Brussels in my role on the ENVE Commission of EU Committee of the Regions. I have also raised the matter directly with the EU Commissioner responsible for EU Climate Change policy Miguel Canete.

I await to see whether the EU Commission decide to adopt the development of Locally Determined Contributions in their work plan but in the meantime a number of issues are making me wonder how the concept could be adopted beyond the EU. If it is regarded as a good thing then it makes sense to empower the local level to take positive action from everywhere from Kathmandu to Kirklees. It could form the structure for a positive community based movement across the globe making tackling climate change more relevant to peoples everyday lives. Another issue that has made me want to see the idea adopted beyond Europe is of course Brexit. It would be ironic indeed if I developed an idea that was adopted by the EU and then we ended up leaving, and the policy was not adopted in the UK. The third reason is of course Trump. Among many other things he is a Climate Change Denier and policies that he may adopt in his Presidency to promote fossil fuels are a threat to us all. When Bush refused to ratify the Kyoto Treaty back in 2001 politicians at the State level defied him and took action to limit emissions at their level of Government. Locally Determined Contributions to reduce emissions below that of National Governments would give structure to that defiance and pull the USA back into action at the International level, Trump or no Trump.

I've made ICLEI the organisation also known as Local Governments for Sustainability aware of the proposal. They promote local action on climate change and other environmental initiatives. They also coordinate the Global Covenant of Mayors a network of Local Governments championing action on Climate Change. They could be the initial adopters of Locally Determined Contributions testing out the concept and developing the organisational architecture needed to deliver the cumulative emissions savings we need to achieve. The EU's key partner in promoting the Global Covenant of Mayors is the EU Committee of the Regions. Serendipitous indeed!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Photo Review of 2016

Its been a tumultuous rollercoaster of a year full of drama and real highs and some very real lows. Here are some pictures of my year which may give some idea how eventful it has been.
At Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Stirley Farm where we'd managed to get solar panels on the building before the Govt cut funding support through the Feed In Tariff.

Out delivering information to residents affected by the development allocations in the Kirklees Local Plan

With Green Party Health Campaigner Jenny Shepherd at a chaotic meeting of the Clinical Commissioning Group proposing to close Huddersfield A&E among a range of proposals

At Suma Wholefoods in Elland with Karen Allison. A Workers Cooperative selling organic produce. Does it get any better?

Speaking at the first Hands off HRI Rally in St Georges Square

Cllr Karen Allison helping get out info about Growing Newsome's Potato Day in the snow. Yes we work all the year round!

A Spring Clean of Newsome Skateboard Park with Debby Plummer and Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner

 A spring clean of some particularly dirty village signs in Newsome and Berry Brow

Election campaigning was a bit tough this time!

The Local Election went well. I had an overall majority with 51% of the vote.

During the EU Referendum I delivered both Green Party and Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) Leaflets

I stood for Green Party Deputy Leader this year and was the runner up behind Amelia Womack. I was heaertened by the support I got from across the Green Party.

I attended the protests in Northallerton when the Fracking Planning Applications were being decided for Kirby Misperton. I tried to get the Police to grapple with me for the photo but they were having none of it.
The abandoned Hunters Waste site catches fire. The smoke and stench were awful

I proposed a successful Green Party motion opposing Fracking at our Conference in Birmingham

Our consultation drop in about traffic calming proposals on Jackroyd Lane and High Lane got a good response. It was held at Newsome Village Hall.

I came across Sam Hunter of Hunters Waste Group when I spoke to him about a fence damaged by his company. He wasn't very pleasant then and not during hs court appearance either!

The Kirklees Local Plan was a big focus for us this year with some tough lobbying to get the best deal for the Newsome Ward. We had some success.

The fun stuff! Great to be able to help out and support Monrealm Tenants on their 5th Annual Halloween Childrens Party. Complete mayhem at times but great fun.

Getting the good news out to the people of Taylor Hill Road. Their back gardens will not be allocated for development in the Kirklees Local Plan.

With Karen Allison at the Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival

I attended the COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakech, Morocco. Possibly my one and only trip to Africa. I loved the fact that I was registered for the wrong country. I'm Irish! No Brexit for me!

November brought the tragic news that Newsome Mill had been subject to a suspected arson attack. A busy morning liaising between the emergency services and displaced local residents. How the community came together in that crisis was truly uplifting.

The clean up of Hunters Waste Site begins as the mountain of waste left by the Rogue Company starts to get shifted.

Speaking to Look North about Newsome Mills. It was Diane Sims words "We are heartbroken but not broken" that I will remember.

The vandalism of Newsome Community Bowling Club by the new 'owner' is yet another example of a community that seems to have been under attack by malign individuals this year.

Collecting our latest batch of 7000 Green Party newspapers from Oldham. The same place where the Huddersfield Examiner is printed.

Meeting Barry Sheerman MP with Diane Sims to push action on Newsome Mills

In years to come I hope this turns out to be the beginning of one of the most successful things. I got the EU Committee of the Regions to propose developing the concept of Locally Determined Contributions and Regionally Determined Contributions to address Climate Change. Let's see where this takes us! 

In the Committee of the Regions in Brussels looking at the art and thoughts of children from Mount Pleasant School in Lockwood, Huddersfield with a focus on language and culture.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

EU Committee of the Regions - EU Commission Work Programme - Locally Determined Contributions to deliver COP21 targets

At COP21 in Paris the nations of the world came together to commit to keeping global temperatures below a 2 degree increase and work towards achieving a 1.5 degree increase. At the same time they agreed targets for carbon emissions reduction at the national level these were called the  Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The problem is that the NDCs agreed fall short of what is required  to deliver the carbon savings we need to deliver a 2 degree of less rise in temperature. So we need more action to ensure we achieve the reductions in emissions necessary.

Establishing Locally Determined Contributions (LDCs) and/or Regionally Determined Contributions (RDCs) could be an important step in bridging the emissions gap. Actions at the local and regional level can make an important contribution towards reducing emissions through policies to promote public transport and electric vehicles. Planning policies to ensure higher energy performance standards in buildings or even reforestation projects. All these areas and more fall under the competencies of many Local and Regional Authorities in the EU. Working with the EU Commission through their work programme to develop the concept of LDCs and RDCs could provide the stimulus and structure needed across the EU for emission reduction plans that start from the bottom up. This would give substance to the 'Think Global and Act Local' approach needed to deliver COP21's higher aspirations.

The EU Committee of the Regions could play a key role in developing and promoting LDCs and RDCs further raising their relevance and profile among Local and Regional Decision makers. Once LDCs and RDCs are established as a reality we can use our global links through the Covenant of Mayors to spread the concept and the action needed to deliver these targets. We have the exciting prospect here of enabling the mobilisation of climate reduction action on the ground. Ambitious targets on their own are not enough LDCs and RDCs will give tangible goals for us all to work together to achieve. Please support this proposal.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

EU Committee of the Regions ENVE Commission - When the word 'Ambitious' means less than the word 'Higher'

Words are important. They convey meaning, intent and in these strange days, even occasional understanding. So when one of the right wing groups on the ENVE Commission of the EU Committee of the Regions sought to change the word 'higher' to 'ambitious'  with regard to the emissions targets in the work plan for the Commission that dealt with Energy, Environment and Climate Change the alarm bells started ringing.

The word they wanted rid of was 'higher' the one they wanted to replace it with was 'ambitious' with reference to the targets agreed to address climate change at COP 21 in Paris. Currently as signatories to the Paris Climate agreement the EU (and the UK) are signed up to a 30% reduction in carbon emissions but democratically elected MEPs in the European Parliament have been calling for a 40% reduction. So another 10% at least is higher. Of course if you want to replace the word 'higher' with the word 'ambitious it rather implies that you don't want it to be higher. Ambitions vary from individual to individual and from nation state to nation state. One state may have limited ambition another much greater BUT you can't dodge the reality of the science and that says we need to be striving for much higher reductions in emissions than is indicated in the Paris Climate Agreement. Those calling for 'ambitious' targets were really seeking to protect the status quo of the existing economy. The problem is that current levels of emissions supporting our polluting economy are ecologically unteneable. We need to develop a new clean economy based on renewable energy , demand reduction and energy efficiency. That is where the real ambition lies.

I and others made the case to retain the word 'higher'. We had a vote. We were successful.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Appoint Nigel Farage as UK Ambassador to Tuvalu

When US President Elect and Climate Change denier Donald Trump suggested UKIP Leader and Climate Change denier NigelFarage as being an ideal UK ambassador to the States it got me thinking about which country I would like him to be UK Ambassador for. Tuvalu seemed the obvious choice. It is a low lying island and the words 'low' and 'lying' often come to mind when thinking of Farage and also Trump come to that. It may well be one of the first places to disappear due to climate change induced sea level rise. As the sea level rises above his green wellies Mr Farage may begin to appreciate the reality of climate change more.

I'm waiting to see if the petition passes through Parliamentary Standards.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Clean Up at Hunters Waste Site begins

The festering heap of rubbish left by Hunters Waste Management at their former Queens Mill Rd site has started to be removed by a partnership comprising Kirklees Council, Suez Waste Services, West Yorkshire Fire Service and the Environment Agency. Legal avenues are being pursued to ensure those who were responsible for this stinking refuse mountain are held to account and made to pay for their crimes. It is a relief to finally see this issue being addressed after a difficult summer for neighbouring residents and businesses.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Gutted! - Newsome Mill Fire


On Thursday  morning my mobile phone started receiving messages before 6.00a.m. telling me the news that Newsome Mills was ablaze and that nearby residents had been evacuated from their homes. I saw the community rally round really quickly as St Johns Church and Newsome Scout Hut opened their doors to residents. They got the tea and coffee going and breakfast for those people who were temporarily moved from their homes. Newsome Village Store donated food for evacuated residents and the Fire Service and Police were caring and professional helping some particularly vulnerable residents who lived nearby. Kirklees Emergency Planning and Building Control were on the scene early on dealing with their responsibilities for the community and the building itself. The local response to the immediate crisis has shown the community and local services at their very best.
The question is what happens next. The structure of the Mills itself is severely compromised and as I write this it is expected that the Mill Building may have to be demolished. Hopefully  the iconic clock tower will remain. There have been 2 controversial Planning matters associated with the site. The private owners of Newsome Mills itself have been reluctant to develop on the site due to the costs of converting the mill which is/was a listed building. The private owners of the land at Hart Street near the Mills have sought to develop the site on a number of occasions. The fact that the land is part of the historic setting of Newsome Mills has been one of a number of reasons that  local people have opposed development there. With the suspected arson of the Newsome Mills site we will have to see what happens next.

For now we need to take stock and let the investigation into the blaze be carried out by the appropriate services. This has been a truly awful year for the people of Newsome with the Hunters Waste site going up in flames, the vandalism and burning of Newsome Community Bowling Club's buildings and now Newsome Mills itself going up in flames. If, as I expect, Newsome Mills turns out to be arson then all these fires will be the result of the actions of people who have no regard for the local community or the people who live there. Let’s hope for a better 2017.