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Please e-mail suggestions for other stories we should link to, to info@warwickshireclimatealliance.org. At some point we may need someone with superior sorting abilities to categorise and organise the stories; if you could be that person, please contact us.

Climate Home News offers excellent coverage. You can subscribe on their website to receive their regular mailings. Particularly recommended: Ten myths about net zero and carbon offsetting. The Guardian newspaper has generally very good coverage. You can sign up to receive their Green Light weekly environmental newsletter by e-mail.

Unsustainable Inequality

Economic inequalities have been behind the failure of many efforts to develop international cooperation to reduce carbon emissions and save the climate. At COP 26 in Glasgow, just as at COP 21 in Paris and COP 3 in Kyoto, poor countries insisted that they had the right to burn fossil fuels in order to end poverty, just as the rich countries had done. After Kyoto, rich countries complained at the exemptions granted to poor countries, and the US never ratified the Kyoto treaty, thus condemning it to failure. The Paris agreement is still in the balance because of the same problem. The article by Lucas Chancel The richest 10% produce about half of greenhouse gas emissions. They should pay to fix the climate (Guardian, December 7th) shows convincingly how inequality is an obstacle to the reduction of carbon emissions not only between nations but also within them. More important, he helps to unlock the impasse with examples of intelligent policies in places like Canada and Indonesia which overcome this obstacle. His recent book Unsustainable Inequality goes into more depth. If you’re looking for a Christmas present for a climate activist …

Big Christmas Climate Quiz

From 7pm to 9pm on Thursday December 16th, join our Big Christmas Climate Quiz. In the first hour, there will be four rounds of questions, not all totally serious, presented by four quizmasters, and in the second hour the tables are turned and you, the public, get to ask questions of the quizmasters about their policies, views and concerns. The quizmasters are

Ed Green, CEO of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Steve Smith, Warwickshire County Council’s Director for Climate Action, Heather Timms, County Councillor responsible for Climate, Environment and Culture, and Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington.

Entry is free, and there are climate-friendly prizes. To enter, please register at Eventbrite.

Assessments of COP26

Assessments of COP26 are now coming thick and fast. Here’s one from Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs); there are others from Climate Home, Greenpeace and Climate Action Tracker. Rather than posting them one after another, we are creating a page on our website with links to all of the ones we can find. If you know of a good account which is missing, let us know at info@warwickshireclimatealliance.org.

Rich vs Poor – while the world burns?

Disagreements between the rich and poor worlds have long got in the way of climate agreements and climate action, from Kyoto in 1997 all the way to COP26 this month. From Fixing Climate Finance, a recent article by Jeffrey Sachs in the online magazine Social Europe:

Finance was at the heart of the COP26 rupture between developed and developing countries—it’s time for a new approach. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) fell far short of what is needed for a safe planet, owing mainly to the lack of trust which has burdened global climate negotiations for almost three decades. Developing countries regard climate change as a crisis caused largely by the rich countries, which they also view as shirking their historical and ongoing responsibility for the crisis. Worried that they will be left paying the bills, many key developing countries, such as India, don’t much care to negotiate or strategise.

Sachs goes on to point out that the $356 million pledged by the developed nations at COP26 for the Climate Adaptation Fund amounts to 5 cents per person in the developed world. Against this background of suicidal stinginess, he offers what he describes (and we agree) as a simple and workable approach:

To help fund the clean-energy transition (mitigation) and climate resilience (adaptation) in developing countries, each high-income country would be levied $5 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Upper-middle-income countries would be levied $2.50 per ton. These CO2 levies would start as soon as possible and rise gradually, doubling in five years.

For the arguments in favour and a glimpse of the difficulties, read the article!

Climate Change Committee Approves Government’s Planning for Net Zero

The Climate Change Committee has issued its assessment of the UK government’s plan to reach net zero carbon emissions. The assessment itself is a downloadable 1 MB document, available here; the CCC’s summary of its assessment is generally very positive. For example

“Our overall assessment is that it is an ambitious and comprehensive strategy that marks a significant step forward for UK climate policy, setting a globally leading benchmark to take to COP26. Further steps will need to follow quickly to implement the policies and proposals mapped out in the Net Zero Strategy if it is to be a success.”

It highlights three areas in which greater detail is required: decarbonisation of agriculture, a Net Zero Test to apply to every policy decision to ensure its compatibility with the net zero target, and demand measures :

“There is less emphasis on reducing demand for high carbon activities than in the CCC’s scenarios. The Government does not include an explicit ambition on diet change, or reductions in the growth of aviation” 

The first of these three areas evidently has particular relevance to Warwickshire. The second is relevant too: the lack of a clear criterion for compatibility with net zero was one of the criticisms in WCA’s report on Warwickshire County Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan. The third is in some respects the most difficult and testing for everyone: reducing our carbon footprint by consuming less. It remains to be seen whether and how the government will find ways of encouraging us to do this.

Divestment is working!

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, writes in the New York Times about the success of the movement to divest from fossil fuels, and points to some impressive figures and heartening trends. Endowments, portfolios and pension funds worth just short of $40 trillion have now committed to full or partial abstinence from coal, gas and oil shares. Pension funds, watch out — your investments in black gold could turn into dust in your hands.

Finally — a net zero strategy

The UK government has released its strategy for reaching net zero carbon emissions, Build Back Greener. We will be commenting on it, and posting links to others’ comments, over the next weeks, as COP26 approaches and the world waits with bated breath to see if our leaders are able to agree a route out of the climate crisis.

If you have views on this that you would like to share, e-mail us at info@warwickshireclimatealliance.org.

For now, we suggest keeping an eye on the website of the UK government’s Climate Change Committee, and of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group set up by Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, whose response is likely to be more critical.

Warwickshire Climate Alliance releases report on the County Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan

The report was sent to councillors and to the council officers responsible for the environment on October 12th. Read it here. Very quick summary: the County’s Emergency Action Plan leaves a lot to be desired. Among its weaknesses:

  1. It sets no interim targets for carbon reductions.

2. It does not allow public scrutiny of its Climate Emergency Working Group.

3. It separates its climate concerns from its other plans, whereas a proper response would require consideration of the climate emergency to be embedded in every one of the County Council’s activities.

4. It makes over-optimistic assumptions about the severity of the likely effects of climate change. Where the UK Met Office predicts a range of possible scenarios for the effects of climate change, e.g. flooding, heatwaves, droughts affecting agriculture, etc., the County Council’s plan only allows for the best case scenarios. We have seen, over the last few decades that the reality is usually closer to the worst case.

WCA’s report highlights these and other weaknesses, and constructively suggests remedies.

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