climate change

Good COP, bad COP: COP15 process must produce a global deal

As activists from across Europe descend on Copenhagen, Plane Stupid takes a few minutes to consider some very different reactions to the COP15. Here, Howard discusses why he is relucantly putting his faith in the politicians and decision makers and joining the Climate Justice Fast throught the COP15 conference.

I've chosen to defend the COP15. It's not going to be easy. I decided to defend the official process because I believe that a globally binding treaty offers the best chance of avoiding catastrophic climate events.

The infrastructure and resources at the disposal of global leaders is enormous and our situation requires that they utilise these for the benefit of all and take action immediately. My scientist friends tell me that without such action there is no chance of stopping runaway chaos. Where does that leave our kids?

I do find it particularly difficult to trust our leaders; throughout my life they've repeatedly let me down. I am dismayed by their injustices, their lies, their propaganda and their greed, so why should this time be any different? It's simple: this is the first time since COP3 in 1997 that a global agreement on suitable action can be reached.

However greedy or just plain sick these politicians really are, they too have kids and they know what will happen to them if they fail. They would have to be really, really stupid to miss this opportunity for change. In prior negotiations the rich nations would just muscle their way through and continue to exploit the poor but this time that's a bit different. Climate change is a global issue and unilateral action isn't going to mean much if everyone else is burning coal. There has to be an immediate global accord for everyone's sake.

The developing nations that are already suffering climate genocide have had enough and this time around we need everyone to play ball or we're all screwed! Most importantly, we should never discount our own ability as activists and campaigners to force the issue and demand political change. We cannot allow this conference to be a continuation of business as usual, so we've got to put our skills to good use and use a variety of tactics to exert considerable pressure on the politicians and generate as much public support as we are able.

The passionate Tuvalu protests at Copenhagen yesterday where activists from all over the world joined together in solidarity with several tiny nations was surely a sign of things to come during the rest of the negotiations. We must keep the pressure up and force our representatives to adopt a new equitable and sustainable approach.

I'm not putting all my eggs in the COP15 basket. Over the past few years I have devoted more and more time to sustainable community work and carbon literacy in my community. I believe that a global political agreement is essential it is only half the picture; we also need a rapid cultural shift away from the crazy consumer lifestyle which doesn't bring lasting happiness.

I believe that we've got to demand change at every level. I've chosen to join the Climate Justice Fast during the COP to call upon both the world leaders and all people, everywhere, to make the changes we need.

Al Gore v Lord Monkton in COP15 rap-off... oh yes

It's Friday, you're stuck at work, and probably wishing you weren't. So sit back, put your feet up and watch Al Gore battle it out against his arch-Nemesis Lord Monkton of Scepticshire, the only way they know how: a rap-off.


European campaigners join forces against airport expansion

Over the past few years the airlines and airports across Europe have been putting aside corporate interests to work together on expansion. They've been pretending great rivalry between Frankfurt, Schipol, Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow, persuading each country that it's expansion or die for their beloved hub.

We decided to do the same, which is why Plane Stupid joined campaigners from almost a dozen countries at a European aviation campaigners' get-together. People came from all over: local airport groups, environmental NGOs, direct action networks, people campaigning on climate change, noise and those just trying to save their communty from destruction.

Two days worth of chatter and we were all agreed that not only was victory possible, it was looking ever more likely. It was clear that a bit of mutual aid was just what was needed to seal the deal. Expect to see joint and co-ordinated actions and demonstrations over the coming year - both fluffy and rather spikier.

Tory bloggers need crash course in basic science

Teaching standards must be slipping, because the collective hivemind of conservative bloggers seem unable to grasp basic scientific stuff. According to Next Left the top 10 Tory bloggers remain unconvinced that greenhouse gas emissions lead to climate change, even though David Cameron, saviour of the centre-right, claims to have bought the argument.

This is no surprise. The ecological arrogance of those who think the planet only exists to supply them won't be diminished by something as wishy-washy as scientific consensus. After all, the free-market nutkins (most of whom are unable to work out that when Adam Smith talks of a market, he might not be referring to 21st century international globalisation, Ponzi schemes and sub-prime derivatives) never cared how many people they exploited, so why should they suddenly start caring about polar bears?

It's the same in the US, where Republicans are as united in their ignorance as our next Government's supporters are. The only thing funnier than watching Douglas Carswell MP declared environmentalism (the belief that shitting in the bath while you are sitting in it is a bad idea) to be equivalent to eating babies is watching American survivalists arm themselves for when Obama comes for their SUV.

In a desperate attempt to make a name for myself on the blogosphere, I present Richard's Law of Ideological Myopia:

  1. people with a vested interest in the status quo will be resistant to change, and
  2. the internet will provide enough information for anyone with half a carrot for a brain to justify any statement, no matter how plucked-from-their-arse it might be.

P.s. the answer to the question posed by today's image can be found here.

Airlines launch media campaign to tackle climate change

It's official: climate change is over, and the aviation industry has come in out of the cold. Their latest campaign 'Save the Airlines from Copenhagen Cuts' will see a 200% increase in the number of press releases from starving airlines, all focused on one thing: making you think they're doing something about their emissions.

This campaign launches today, as BA Chairman Willie Walsh will make some announcement about a plan to reduce emissions from aviation by 50% below 2005 levels by 2050. It's a great announcement, which, as one of the commentators on the Guardian says, is, to its advantage, "unclutterd by any method of achieving the aim". Why bother with methodology or pathways when your target is so far off that you don't have to achieve it any time soon.

Indeed the new SaCC campaign has just one target: December's talks in Copenhagen. The industry really doesn't want to be lumbered into a Kyoto2 deal, so it figures that some good PR right about now will disuade cut-ready politicians from locking them into any legal framework. And what's better than offering to halve the Government's new target?

But there must be some hint at how the industry plans to achieve this preposterous new target. Let's look at it in a bit more detail. In 2005, according to the DfT, the industry emitted 37.5 million tonnes of CO2. In 2050, again according to the DfT, the industry was, as of January 2009, expected to emit around 59.9 million tonnes. But the airlines now think that they can reduce emission to 19 million tonnes.

But how do they plan to achieve this? Oh, right.

Carbon trading...

Heathrow expansion not great value after all

One of the best things about being a monetising economist is getting to pretend that ideology has nothing to do with anything. Monetisers, for those of us lucky enough not to have to deal with them, are tasked with asigning a value to something which has no obvious price. Cheese, for instance, has a value: a block of it might be worth one pound, or two pound, or eight pound if bought from a fromagerie in Knightsbridge. But community? Or a quiet park in the city? Or time? What are they worth?

To answer that, you turn to a monetiser, who will weigh everything up and then find a way of pricing it cheap enough that some developers will still get to pave all over it and erect a car park. That 10th C Norman church? £10,000 to you squire. The cost of climate change? Too cheap to prevent the sort of behaviour which might prevent it happening.

But a concerted effort by those greenies at DECC has revised the value of carbon, increasing it as time goes on. A tonne of CO2 now isn't worth much - about the price of a night out in Soho - but by 2050 it's risen to the cost of a Fiat Panda, because a tonne emitted in 2050 is more likely to put us over our carbon limit and require another cut somewhere else. DECC's revision has made the value of carbon equivalent to the cost of achieving that extra reduction. Emit CO2 now or in 2050 and you'd pay for someone else to reduce their footprint to make up for it.

So far, so gravy. But then those clever boffins at the Liberal Democrats ran the cost of carbon through the Heathrow calculations. They discovered that the marked increase in the cost of carbon basically wiped out any economic benefits accrued from the third runway. In earlier versions the cost of the 181m tonnes of carbon dioxide the runway would emit between now and 2080 was £4.8b. Now it had risen to £9.3bn to 2080, wiping out the £5b benefits.

What does the Government think? Not much sadly: according to a recent PQ they haven't had a chance to look at the new benefit-cost ratio, but are pretty convinced that it will still be robust. Nothing to see here then, time to move along.

A strangely significant Saturday afternoon in Sipson

At first sight it might have appeared a little strange. In one corner of Airplot, the Greenpeace field in Sipson now owned by over 50,000 people, stood three horses. In the other, elegant women dressed as climate suffragettes and a few smartly-dressed men with a camp fire in the background.

The Climate Rush had come to Sipson, the village which would be obliterated if a third runway goes ahead at Heathrow. The afternoon turned out to be far from strange; indeed, it became strangely significant. People fighting struggles against what out-of-control businesses are doing to their communities stood up, one by one, to tell their moving tales. And it felt great, and empowering, and like being part of something.

We heard how Shell is decimating communities and destroying precious habitats at on the West Coat of Ireland; of the way open-cast mining is shattering the peace and quiet of Merthyr Tydfil; of E-ON’s (failed) attempts to destroy valuable lakes in Berkshire. We heard from residents living in the sprawling council estate of Easterhouse in Glasgow and from the Vespa workers who occupied their wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight. And, of course, we heard about BAA’s plans to destroy Sipson, to tear the heart out of a community which is about 1,000 years older than the airport which is trying to cover it in several feet of tarmac.

Different struggles but with huge similarities. Ordinary people linking up with climate activists to fight their battles. The next day the Climate Rush took to the road heading north. More stories, more struggles, more hope will doubtless follow as they wind their way towards Totnes.

Spiked: free marketeers for labour rights!

"Dad, do I have to keep holding this sign? I'm cold, and Byker Grove is on soon." "Shut up and keep protesting or I'll confiscate your Beano and leave you only the Trotskyite classic Terrorism and the State to read!"

So we got an email from Spiked Online - formerly Living Marxism, formerly the Revolutionary Communist Party - this morning, which suggested that we might like to pop over to their website and have a read of the latest critique of a post-Marxist, post-structuralist, reimagining of dialectical materialism, entitled Defend green jobs! Smash ungreen jobs! Brendan O'Neill, revolutionary communist turned revolutionary capitalist, has taken issue with our support for Vestas and our lack of support for the occupation in Ireland.

What occupation, you may ask? Well, while the Vestas occupation was underway, a similar one was taking place against the sacking of 28 workers at travel agents Thomas Cook. And yesterday the notoriously violent La Guardia smashed their way in, dragged them all out and arrested them, causing one woman to go into premature labour.

It's great that O'Neill has stopped sucking up to big business just long enough to give a toss about the rights of labour, but he's seeing conspiracy where there is none (as usual). Funnily enough, we were talking about the Thomas Cook occupation last night - the first I'd heard of it - and thinking about what we could do, because it's always been clear that this sort of thing - layoffs of workers in the fossil fuels or high-carbon transport sectors - was going to be the inevitable result of decarbonisation.

Tackling greenhouse gas emissions isn't a middle class obsession, as much as O'Neill would like it to be. It's an issue of rights and justice for the poorest in society. The people causing it have names and addresses. Sadly they are also the most likely to profit from the disaster, just like those "cynical companies and corporations that frequently dress up downsizing and cost-cutting as an environmentalist measure". Those worst hit - the displaced in Bangladesh forced out by rising sea levels; the millions of Africans left starving by drought; people living in unisurable homes in the UK fighting back another round of floods - are also those least responsible.

The Thomas Cook layoffs are the first of many, and we have to be ready. People earning minimum wage working in a travel agents are not responsible for climate change; nor are the workers at Kingsnorth, Heathrow or anywhere else. But that doesn't mean we should all keep flying; instead, we need a just transition to help workers unfortunate enough to be working in high-carbon industries find new, better jobs in greener sectors. Because if we don't they, and their children, will be the ones paying for climate change, unlike O'Neill and his post-communist corporatist cronies at Spiked.