Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

Greens demonstrate support for fairer trade rules

March 5, 2014

Banana

As Green Party members agree a motion at their Spring conference to oppose a new Transatlantic Trade agreement, green campaigners have been out across the South West supporting fairer trade rules through their involvement in Fairtrade Fortnight.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is an agreement between the EU and the US, currently under negotiation in the European Parliament. Greens say, if passed, this agreement will weaken environmental protection, workers’ rights, health and animal-welfare rules. The Green Party passed a motion at their Spring conference in Liverpool to campaign against TTIP and Greens in the European Parliament are also actively opposing the agreement.

Meanwhile, across the South West Green, campaigners have been reiterating their support for Fairtrade above Free Trade. In Devon, Stephen Best, a Fairtrade banana producer from St Lucia, has been working with Exeter based Green Party member Andrew Bell to deliver conferences in schools highlighting the benefits of Fairtrade. Mr Bell said:

“Stephen’s passion for Fairtrade and what it has achieved for his community in St Lucia is highly evident to anyone who meets him. Fairtrade has literally been the saviour of banana production in the country. After the World Trade Organisation, backed by the US, changed trading rules giving American banana corporations’ greater power, small scale banana producers in the Winward Islands faced obliteration. However, Fairtrade came to the rescue offering a guaranteed minimum price for bananas and a ‘Fairtrade Premium’ – an extra sum of money which the wider community can choose how to spend. But corporate power never gives up, and now we see a new threat in the form of TTIP.”

Speaking at the Green Party conference in Liverpool, leader Natalie Bennet made clear to delegates the distinctive, principled stand Greens are making against TTIP:

“TTIP would blow apart the power of our democratic decision making. The deal provides corporations with new rights to sue the Government for legislating in the public interest – that’s definitely not acting for the common good. It’s not surprising, really, when we hear Lib Dems trumpeting the proposed US-EU free trade deal as some kind of economic saviour. The Lib Dems are the lapdogs of corporate Europe, while the Tories are its war horses.”

What’s wrong with Capitalism?

January 16, 2014

East Midlands Green Party Blog

Vote Green if you feel you are not benefiting from capitalism.

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Now it’s Fracking Bribery

January 14, 2014

The cynicism of the Con Dem government is staggering. It has deliberately driven Councils and Communities to desperation by cutting their budgets, and now it is bribing those same struggling Authorities to give permission for fracking that local communities have clearly rejected. If they do as the Government demands, turn a blind eye to the hazards, and the opinion of the electorate, they will be rewarded with extra cash from the fracking companies. Like some medieval torturer who, having starved his victim allows the smell of a succulent meal to drift into the torture chamber, so the Government waves the promise of cash at these desperate Councils. Inevitably this action will weaken further the trust between Councils and their electorate, as the Tories intend – residents will never be sure if a permission was given in the best interest of the community and country, or for the cash.

Cameron is now just acting as the industries mouthpiece. On the very day Total, the French energy company who are unable to frack in their own country because the French Government has banned it, announced a £30 million stake in UK fracking, he turns up at a drilling depot in Gainsborough. It just happens that Total have taken a stake in the companies that have exploration licences in Gainsborough. Doing the job of a company PR spokesman, he dutifully reiterated the claim that fracking will produce much needed investment, create jobs and lead to energy security, and that our robust regulations make it completely safe. There is no justification for any of these claims. They come from, a report commissioned by the frack company Caudrilla, headed by his friend Lord John Browne, ex of BP, that suggests that Britain can benefit by £3.7 billion a year extra revenue and 74,000 new jobs. These figures are just guesses. The 74,000 job claim included the extra staff needed in local shops to serve the security guards buying sweets! One wonders just how many of these 74,000 people will be security guards, such has been his governments and the industries failure to convince the British public that we need fracking.

To talk up the robust environmental regulations in the UK is to ignore the fact that the Conservative Party is doing all it can to abolish these regulations as ‘red tape’. It also conveniently ignores the fact that if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the USA that they are so keen on, does get the go ahead from Europe, then all such regulations will prove to be useless. Governments will do all they can to minimise green regulations for fear of being sued by corporations for loss of profit.

The dash for gas is a high risk strategy, not one that can lead to energy security. It is not known how much gas can be won or at what price. The demand for water will be colossal and will lead to escalating domestic water bills and water shortages. The cost of the disposal of trillions of gallons of polluted waste water is unknown and we can’t be sure that we, the tax payer won’t be left with the disposal bill. The same applies to the costs of the pollution incidents that will inevitably occur. And the gas will run out but we will be tied to a gas energy infrastructure, then what?

The one claim, that Cameron didn’t make and that has been quietly dropped by the industry is that fracking will lead to cheap energy. It will do nothing for energy costs since the gas, if it is ever produced will be sold on the open market just as the North Sea oil was, and we British consumers will have to pay a premium price, as we did for North Sea oil, so that the big energy companies can maintain their bloated profits.

In all, this is a thoroughly bad deal for the British energy consumer and tax payer. The only beneficiaries are the big energy companies and their shareholders who will send their profits off shore. It is an even worse deal because there is a real deal available that would give us affordable and secure energy. This is to use the free energy that blows over our heads, laps on our shores and shines in our faces. Yes, the wind, the sun and the tides are free energy, all we needed to do was invest in the infrastructure to capture them, store the energy as necessary and distribute it. No big deal any of that, just use the technology that’s already there. But, no one can take a monopoly on the wind, the waves or the sun, no one can threaten to divert it or switch it off if they don’t get their own way. No one can put it in a barrel or down a pipeline and sell it back to us at a profit. So this Government of millionaires, for millionaires isn’t interested.

There is only one Party seriously opposing fracking and that is the Green Party. We also have a clear and workable alternative energy strategy that would end fuel poverty and our reliance on fossil fuels. The only thing that will make the main parties rethink their fossil/nuclear energy [policies is a big green vote. Work with us to make this happen.

January 14, 2014 by 

Serious Questions About UK Energy and Climate Change Policy

February 9, 2012

With the global climate crisis growing ever more urgent, the sharp rise in the UK’s carbon emissions in 2010 is deeply worrying – and raises serious questions about the progress being made in our energy and climate change policy (‘Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions in shock 3.1% rise’, 8 February).

The increase in emissions from home heating is especially alarming when you consider that, by the Government’s own admission, loft lagging will fall by 93% when the Green Deal comes into force. If we are to stand any chance of improving the efficiency of our homes and tackling fuel poverty, the new energy and climate secretary Ed Davey must make it a personal priority to strengthen this weak and underfunded programme so that it actually delivers a good deal for households.

Furthermore, the fact that a six-month shutdown of the Sizewell nuclear reactor was partly to blame for the recorded rise in emissions is yet another reason for the Government to ditch its belief that nuclear can deliver the secure, reliable and low carbon energy we need for the future.

This week, the Bank of England is expected to announce a new batch of quantitative easing to the tune of £50bn or more. A new report from the Green New Deal Group and the Southampton University economics professor who coined the term ‘quantitative easing’, Richard Werner, is calling for such cash to be injected into a programme of green investment to support badly needed renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Rather than handing the money over to the banks, who then sit on it and refuse to lend, green QE would put money into the wider economy – creating thousands of new jobs, improving energy security and tackling climate change at the same time.

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion.  Green Party

Time to End Debate Over Global Warming

November 10, 2011

A climate sceptic has said that it is now time to end the debate over whether  global warming is real after the most definitive study into temperature data  gathered by weather stations over the past half-century.

Professor Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California,  Berkeley, who has been an outspoken critic of the science underpinning global  warming, said that there is little doubt in his mind the phenomenon of rising  land temperatures is real. Over the past two years, he has chaired a group of  scientists who have carried out an exhaustive analysis of more than 1.6 billion  temperature recordings collected from more than 39,000 weather stations at land  sites around the world.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) study was set up to test the  findings of other studies and was part-funded by US billionaire brothers Charles  and David Koch.

“When we began our study, we felt that sceptics had raised legitimate issues,  and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those  published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been  very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some sceptics of  that,” Professor Muller said.

The Best study has yet to be peer-reviewed but has been submitted to the  journal Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists homed in on weaknesses they saw  in studies by the Climatic Research Unit and Hadley Centre in the UK, and the  National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Oceanic and  Atmospheric Administration in the US.

Professor Muller and his colleagues, including this year’s physics Nobel  winner, Saul Perlmutter, had suspected the previous work had been tainted by the  “urban heat island effect”, where increasing urbanisation around weather  stations was causing the temperature increases recorded over the past  half-century.

But a fine statistical analysis showed the urban heat effect could not  explain a global temperature increase of about 1C since 1950. Professor Muller  said the warming was not the result of data bias caused by selective elimination  of some weather stations from the analysis, or the practice of “homogenisation”  to take into account changes in weather station positions or  instrumentation.

– From an article in today’s Independent re Berkley report

Trident will cause defence job losses

September 14, 2010

A new report shows the net impact of going ahead with the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system will be to cause an overall reduction in defence employment, due to the need to scrap more labour-intensive conventional defence activities to pay for the system designed for the Cold War.

The report, ‘Trident, jobs and the UK economy’ is to be launched at the TUC Congress tomorrow [see note 2]. It includes a comprehensive analysis of jobs dependent on Trident, and of the other defence programmes that are put at risk to pay for its £76bn cost. Using official figures, the authors show the cancellation of surface ships, aircraft, armoured vehicles and RAF bases will endanger far more jobs than the relatively small numbers that would go were Trident replacement to be cancelled.

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “The Chancellor is demanding up to 20% cuts from the MoD and has stated that the cost of Trident replacement will come from the main defence budget. So going ahead with Trident will have a devastating impact on non-nuclear defence manufacturing.

“Trident is cash-hungry whilst providing relatively few jobs. Hundreds of millions are to be spent with US-based contractors, providing nothing for the UK economy. Other areas of defence spending at risk from Trident generate far more employment per pound spent. Closing RAF bases and scrapping surface-ship programmes will cause significant job losses in the coming years, whereas cutting Trident would have little impact until at least 2016.

“The report makes clear that with relatively small investment the key facility dependent on Trident work – BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow – could be re-aligned towards the rapidly growing needs of the low-carbon economy. Precision marine engineering skills are perfect for developing wave and tidal energy systems, where Britain could be a world leader. Diversifying into a market with strong domestic demand as well as huge export potential would provide much greater job security for shipyard workers. Relying almost entirely on a few MoD orders will always be a precarious formula.”

The report, including an executive summary, is available at www.cnduk.org/tridentjobs

Green conference passes Emergency Motion on Roma

September 11, 2010

On the heels of French deportations of Roma that have hit international headlines in recent weeks, Green Party autumn conference has passed an emergency motion on the issue.

The emergency motion urged “all Green Party elected representatives in local, national and international governments apply maximum pressure toward improving equality and access to services for Roma people and asserting their human rights.”

Keith Taylor, the proposer of the emergency conference motion, and the Green Party’s MEP for South East England, said: “The Roma are European citizens, yet some of their most fundamental rights – including freedom of movement within the EU and access to services – have been abused. It’s clear that the actions against them are driven by xenophobia, and represent a flouting of national obligations under international law.”

The motion expresses “profound concerns over the recent treatment of Roma people in France and Italy. In particular, the mass deportations of Roma people which appear to have been made purely on the grounds of ethnicity.” It also points out that similar actions by the governments of Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

There are an estimated 10-12 million Roma people in the EU, making them the EU’s largest ethnic minority.

Desertech sun rises

September 9, 2010

A £240bn plan for Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) projects in North Africa has moved a step closer to reality with the formation of a German led consortium of 12 companies, the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), which aims to provide 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050 or earlier, via HVDC power lines across the desert and under the Mediterranean. Led by re-insurer Munich Re, it includes Siemens, E.ON, ABB and Deutsche Bank. Munich Re says that extreme weather events related to climate change have the potential to be uninsurable against within a few decades: ‘To keep our business model alive in 30 or 40 years we have to ensure things are still insurable’. It now believes the DII can start to deliver solar power to Europe as early as 2015.

According to the Guardian (1/11/09) ‘Desertec has gained broad support across Europe, with the newly elected German coalition government of Angela Merkel hoping the project could offset its dependence on Russian gas supplies. North African governments are said to be keen, too, to further exploit their natural resources.

Algeria and Libya are already big oil and gas suppliers to Europe.’ It noted that only some of the output would be exported, the rest would be used locally, but ‘North Africa has a small population relative to the size of its deserts. For similar reasons Australia is putting together its own Desertec initiative.’ And it quoted Dan Lewis, head of a new thinktank, the Economic Policy Centre: ‘This is just the sort of long-term, big-difference, energy security gain project that our UK short-term targets and policy framework can’t deliver.

Instead, we’re spending ridiculous sums on no-hoper, marginal stuff like fusion energy and a massive smart meter rollout, that at best will only shave a fraction off peak demand.’

However, as we discussed in Renew 182, not everyone is keen on mega projects like this, particular since they look like being dominated by large consortium whose aim may be to keep electricity generation large scale and centralised, so they can retain market control. Fair trading will be vital to avoid exploitation and neo-colonial land grabs.

Summit Failure Would Herald Catastrophe

September 2, 2010

The world is heading for the next major climate change conference in Cancun later this year on course for global warming of up to 3.5C in the coming century, a series of scientific analyses suggest. The failure of last December’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen means that cuts in carbon emissions pledged by the international community will not be enough to keep the anticipated warming within safe limits.

Two analyses of the Copenhagen Accord and its pledges, by Dr Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute, and by the Climate Action Tracker website, suggest that, with the cuts that are currently promised under Copenhagen, the world will still warm by 3.5C by 2100. Such a rise would be likely to have disastrous effects on agricultural production, water availability, natural ecosystems and sea-level rise across the world, producing tens of millions of refugees.

A month ago, in its annual State of the Climate report, published in conjunction with the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre, America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed 10 separate indicators of a warming planet, seven of them rising – ranging from air temperature over land and humidity to sea level – and three of them declining: Arctic sea-ice, glaciers, and spring snow cover. “The scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable,” NOAA said.

Cancun, or “COP 16” as it is officially known, will again see ministers and officials from nearly 200 nations grapple with the politics of global warming, but no one thinks they will be able to close a widening breach in the world’s defences against dangerously rising temperatures – the “gigatonne gap”.

A gigatonne is a billion tonnes of carbon, and the emissions cuts currently promised by the nations of the world in the Copenhagen Accord – the last-minute agreement patched together by leaders after the conference in the Danish capital all but collapsed – will mean that, by 2020, when global emissions should be on a firmly downward trend, they will be several gigatonnes too high to limit the warming to C above the pre-industrial level. This is widely considered the most that human society can stand without serious consequences.

Yet the international community does not seem any closer to consensus on the need to make further reductions in carbon and at Cancun, which takes place from 29 November to 10 December, it is at best side issues on which any progress will be made.

Today, the Coalition’s Climate Change Secretary, the Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, will travel to Berlin to discuss strengthening the EU climate target in advance of the Cancun meeting from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, with his German and French counterparts, Norbert Röttgen and Jean-Louis Borloo.

Mr Huhne told The Independent: “There’s hard work ahead to maintain and build on the level of commitment embodied in the Copenhagen Accord and to rebuild the credibility of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process.

“We in the EU still need to finalise our positions in advance of COP 16, but I think there’s a real chance the negotiations could take important steps forward in Cancun, in particular to implement parts of what was agreed in Copenhagen and to work towards the global deal the world needs.”

He added: “It’s the UK’s view – and one shared by my French and German counterparts – that the EU should raise its ambition and that the economic case for doing so stacks up.

“Cutting emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 would be a game-changer in shifting investment into new clean technologies, generating jobs and growth in supply chains across our economies. The great risk for Europe is in waking up late to these opportunities and losing out to other major blocs who are already eyeing up market share.”

It is hard to exaggerate the dire effect which the failure at Copenhagen has had both on the climate change negotiating process itself, and on the belief of those involved that an effective climate deal might be possible.

A year ago, many environmentalists, scientists and politicians genuinely thought that the meeting in Denmark might produce a binding agreement to cut global CO2 by the 25-40 per cent, by 2020, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has calculated is necessary to keep the warming to below C.

Today that optimism has vanished. The Danish meeting foundered on the disagreement between the developed countries and the developing nations over who should do how much, and when, in cutting emissions; the major point of disagreement was the Kyoto Protocol, the current treaty, which makes developed countries do a lot, and developing nations not very much.

The Kyoto treaty runs out at the end of 2012 and the developing nations, led by China and India, wanted it renewed, while developed countries, including Britain and the rest of the EU, want a completely new treaty to share out the carbon-cutting burden.

At Copenhagen last December, world leaders cobbled together an agreement which ended up devoid of any binding carbon emissions targets (but did recognise the need to stay under C for the first time). Instead of the legally-binding treaty which had been hoped for, nations were invited to “register” voluntary targets, saying by how much they thought they could cut their CO2 by 2020.

Britain is part of the EU target of a 20 per cent cut, on a 1990 baseline, which may be raised before Cancun to 30 per cent. (Britain’s own domestic target is one of the highest, to cut CO2 by 34 per cent by 2020.) Other targets include 25 per cent for Japan, Australia by 5 to 25 per cent and the US by 17 per cent on a 2005 baseline – although the legislation to achieve it is firmly stalled in the Senate. Among the developing nations, China has promised to reduce the energy intensity of its economy by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020.

Various analyses of all these pledges suggest they amount to cuts of the global CO2 total of between 11 and 19 per cent by 2020, instead of the 25 to 40 per cent which the IPCC says is needed. This can also be expressed in real amounts of CO2, of which the world is currently emitting annually about 45 gigatonnes – 45 billion tonnes of carbon.

If the world continues with these levels of emissions it is thought this will increase to between 51 and 55 gigatonnes by 2020. Lord Stern of Brentford, author of a landmark report on the economics of climate change, has calculated that if, instead, global CO2 could be cut back to 44 gigatonnes by 2020, the world would be on a credible path to stay below a rise of C. Yet analysis suggests the Copenhagen Accord pledges will leave the figure at 48-49 billion tonnes – the gigatonne gap which Cancun is not going to close.

What the conference may do is agree the architecture for the new major climate funds to help developing countries which were agreed in Denmark – a “fast-start” fund of $30bn (£19.4bn) per year in new money for the years 2010-12, and a fund of $100bn annually to be set up by 2020.

If there are no further breakdowns, it is possible that the meeting may at least restore faith in the UN climate process. “Nobody thinks Cancun will be a big-bang moment,” said Keith Allott, head of climate change for the World Wide Fund for Nature. “What the world needs to do is put some wheels back on the climate truck.”

$100bn a year needed to fight climate change

September 2, 2010

The world’s most high-profile climate change sceptic is to declare that global warming is “undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and “a challenge humanity must confront”, in an apparent U-turn that will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby.

Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled “sceptical environmentalist” once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN’s climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the costly waste of policies to stop the problem.

But in a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. “Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century,” the book concludes.

Examining eight methods to reduce or stop global warming, Lomborg and his fellow economists recommend pouring money into researching and developing clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and nuclear power, and more work on climate engineering ideas such as “cloud whitening” to reflect the sun’s heat back into the outer atmosphere.

In a Guardian interview, he said he would finance investment through a tax on carbon emissions that would also raise $50bn to mitigate the effect of climate change, for example by building better sea defences, and $100bn for global healthcare.

His declaration about the importance of action on climate change comes at a crucial point in the debate, with international efforts to agree a global deal on emissions stalled amid a resurgence in scepticism caused by rows over the reliability of the scientific evidence for global warming.

The fallout from those rows continued yesterday when Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, came under new pressure to step down after an independent review of the panel’s work called for tighter term limits for its senior executives and greater transparency in its workings. The IPCC has come under fire in recent months following revelations of inaccuracies in the last assessment of global warming, provided to governments in 2007 – for which it won the Nobel peace prize with former the US vice-president Al Gore. The mistakes, including a claim that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035, prompted a review of the IPCC’s processes and procedures by the InterAcademy Council (IAC), an organisation of world science bodies.

The IAC said the IPCC needed to be as transparent as possible in how it worked, how it selected people to participate in assessments and its choice of scientific information to assess.

Although Pachauri once compared Lomborg to Hitler, he has now given an unlikely endorsement to the new book, Smart Solutions to Climate Change. In a quote for the launch, Pachauri said: “This book provides not only a reservoir of information on the reality of human-induced climate change, but raises vital questions and examines viable options on what can be done.”

Lomborg denies he has performed a volte face, pointing out that even in his first book he accepted the existence of man-made global warming. “The point I’ve always been making is it’s not the end of the world,” he told the Guardian. “That’s why we should be measuring up to what everybody else says, which is we should be spending our money well.”

But he said the crucial turning point in his argument was the Copenhagen Consensus project, in which a group of economists were asked to consider how best to spend $50bn. The first results, in 2004, put global warming near the bottom of the list, arguing instead for policies such as fighting malaria and HIV/Aids. But a repeat analysis in 2008 included new ideas for reducing the temperature rise, some of which emerged about halfway up the ranking. Lomborg said he then decided to consider a much wider variety of policies to reduce global warming, “so it wouldn’t end up at the bottom”.

The difference was made by examining not just the dominant international policy to cut carbon emissions, but also seven other “solutions” including more investment in technology, climate engineering, and planting more trees and reducing soot and methane, also significant contributors to climate change, said Lomborg.

“If the world is going to spend hundreds of millions to treat climate, where could you get the most bang for your buck?” was the question posed, he added.After the analyses, five economists were asked to rank the 15 possible policies which emerged. Current policies to cut carbon emissions through taxes – of which Lomborg has long been critical – were ranked largely at the bottom of four of the lists. At the top were more direct public investment in research and development rather than spending money on low carbon energy now, and climate engineering.

Lomborg acknowledged trust was a problem when committing to long term R&D, but said politicians were already reneging on promises to cut emissions, and spending on R&D would be easier to monitor. Although many believe private companies are better at R&D than governments, Lomborg said low carbon energy was a special case comparable to massive public investment in computers from the 1950s, which later precpitated the commercial IT revolution.

Lomborg also admitted climate engineering could cause “really bad stuff” to happen, but argued if it could be a cheap and quick way to reduce the worst impacts of climate change and thus there was an “obligation to at least look at it”.

He added: “This is not about ‘we have all got to live with less, wear hair-shirts and cut our carbon emissions’. It’s about technologies, about realising there’s a vast array of solutions.”

In a quote for the book launch, Pachauri – who once likened the author to Adolf Hitler – said: “This book provides not only a reservoir of information on the reality of human induced climate change, but raises vital questions and examines viable options on what can be done.”Despite his change of tack, however, Lomborg is likely to continue to have trenchant critics. Writing for today’s Guardian, Howard Friel, author of the book The Lomborg Deception, said: “If Lomborg were really looking for smart solutions, he would push for an end to perpetual and brutal war, which diverts scarce resources from nearly everything that Lomborg legitimately says needs more money.”