How to win the climate wars – talk about local ‘pollution’ not global warming

As the Caribbean islands and Florida were hit by enormous, powerful storms in the past week it’s not difficult to see the predicted effects of climate change so eloquently shared by Al Gore in his film Truth to Power played out across that part of the planet. Loss of lives, livelihoods, property, personal effects – lives changed forever by the relentless storms.

The focus of climate change often falls on mitigation – slowing down global warming by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases – but resilience is every bit as important.

Tae Hoon Kim, Researcher in Energy Politics, University of Cambridge writes:

Donald Trump has done many things to tarnish America’s reputation, but his decision to walk away from the Paris Agreement is probably the most internationally symbolic and damaging. That a US president can put climate change denial at the centre of his climate and energy policy is truly unprecedented, and it is difficult to remember an administration that has been so intent on undermining the intellectual and scientific findings on global warming.

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Growing Sustainably – The Elephant in the Room

The ‘Growing Sustainably‘ Cabinet report bound for the Sheffield City Council later this week (15th March) is now available online. It’s the Council’s response to the multi-agency, Council co-ordinated Green Commission which started in May 2014 under Councillor Jack Scott (the then Cabinet Lead) and taken on by Cllr Jayne Dunn subsequently. The Council’s response is prepared for a third Councillor, Cllr Mazher Iqbal.

The Council’s Cabinet report states that “We [Sheffield City Council] understand the vital contribution the Council can make in creating a sustainable future, and by identifying our five priority themes are providing a bold message of our commitment to take this forward.”

Since the Commission began the Council has seen a significant loss of staff with expertise in this area. Those responsible for previous (and similar) strategies have long since left the Council either because of ‘austerity’ or out of sheer frustration at the lack of commitment shown to this agenda since 2012. The Green Commission was, I believe, a sensible way of engaging a wider group of key stakeholders in the city. There are some talented and experienced individuals who contributed to the Commission. However, several have moved on and cut their ties with the city since the Commission reported. Two key partners, Veolia and Amey, appear to be at odds with either the public or the Council, or both at the time of writing.

I have written several Cabinet and Scrutiny reports, including in 2005 a 2 hour session at Full Council on climate change. Writing reports is the easy bit in many respects although the process is often tortuous and subject to the editing, cutting, pasting and redaction of anything that smacks of ambition. This report follows reports I have drafted and delivered on with limited resources, but the resources available to SCC now are less than they have ever been.

The report clearly states:

“There are no immediate direct financial or commercial implications arising out of this policy report as it does not propose to incur cost in respect of specific actions to realise the objectives of the Green Commission. In order to realise some of the city’s ambitions, specific actions will be required and the expenditure associated with these will be brought forward for approval under the Council’s existing Revenue and Capital Budget procedures. This may require the reprioritisation of expenditure as there is currently no budgetary provision for these activities.

So, in truth, this report sets out 5 key priorities (which align well with the previous Environment Excellence strategies), says they are important to a growing Sheffield faced with a changing climate, worsening air quality, reduced public transport patronage and increased carbon emissions. Except this time round there are no officers to deliver it and no budget. I applaud the Council for being prepared to re-state it’s commitment to this agenda but without staff to co-ordinate it or a budget to deliver it, I am afraid this is simply will not deliver the benefits to our city’s economy, health and wellbeing.

 

Striding In. Enactus.

In April 2015 I wrote about Enactus being the best kept secret in higher education. You can read that blog here. In that blog I has just returned from the Enactus National Finals in London and was totally struck by the sheer enthusiasm, innovation, sporting and supportive community that has been nurtured by the Enactus UK team and the participating universities.

I continue to be struck by the impact Enactus has locally and across the globe, so I was delighted that Andy Stride, Enactus Nottingham’s current President, was recognised for his enormous contribution at last night’s Green Gown Awards in Leicester.

Andy has developed over 14 different social enterprises tackling both local and global issues linking to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This includes social enterprises working in renewable energy, access to clean water and sanitation, developing sustainable eco-friendly housing, food waste reduction, access to better education, developing improved agricultural practices and promoting the circular economy.

Andy leads a team of 167 students who have the opportunity to learn about social enterprise and develop their skills in sustainable business. This year, Andy and his team won the Enactus UK National Competition and represented the UK in the Enactus World Cup 2016 in Toronto earlier this yer as well as showcasing the importance of sustainability in business to the House of Lords.

We’ve worked closely with Andy at The University of Nottingham to provide premises, some business ideas and the rest is very much down to him and his fantastically impressive team. For over a year now they’ve run our university-wide cycle hire scheme and set up  a fantastic furniture recycling project that’s having a really positive impact in the city of Nottingham.

‘Radical’ flood management model can deliver holistic strategy

The report illustrates the benefits of upland management, including the Moors for the Future and Slow the Flow projects. Both demonstrate the importance of using upland management to absorb, slow and release water at a rate that downstream capacity can cope with. It feels very much like a return to pre-agricultural revolution times.

In a sense, this feels like the reversal of the fragmentation created by the formation of the Environment Agency (and the NRA) and tackling the issue that has been so obvious to us all. A holistic view of flood risks, catchment management and protection can only happen if there is more joined-up thinking.

England has seen more frequent and more hard-hitting floods in recent years. They’ve been uncompromising in where they’ve hit and have impacted on the vulnerable, the wealthy and the marginalised. Many major rivers across England have experienced flooding that has resulted in homes being lost, badly damaged and destroyed and in some cases people have lost their lives. Now MPs are calling for an overhaul of flood management to tackle the rising risk to communities from climate change.

Publishing the Future flood prevention report, the environment, food and rural affairs committee identified the lack of a robust national strategy and a short-term a focus to be obstacles to improving flood prevention. It follows the environmental audit committee’s criticism of the government for responding to specific flood events reactively, rather than proactively developing plans adequate to respond to rising flood risk.

The report identifies governance problems where there is ‘poor clarity’ in roles and responsibilities for flood management and a ‘lack of transparency and accountability’ in national decision making not helped by ‘a proliferation’ of flood risk management bodies. The general lack of funding is acknowledged and, where it is available, is known to be complex and unwieldy.
The report illustrates the benefits of upland management, including the Moors for the Future and Slow the Flow projects. Both demonstrate the importance of using upland management to absorb, slow and release water at a rate that downstream capacity can cope with. It feels very much like a return to pre-agricultural revolution times.

You can read the full article published in the EJ here:

Read my earlier blog on Sheffield’s local flood protection consultation here.
To be frank – there are no blue polices for blue space can be read here.

 

 

Interview with Emma Bridge, Community Energy England

ebridge-150x1502xThe world of renewable energy continues to get caught in the tossing and turning of government policy and in order to create this rapid growth ‘the community energy sector will need to adapt to new forms of funding and engage proactively with the energy market and traditional energy sector partners, whilst still holding true to the core principles that define community action,’ says Emma Bridge, CEO of Community Energy England in my latest piece for the Environment Journal.

‘As rare as a Sheffield Flood’ – 9 Years on in Sheffield

The City Council in Sheffield, my home city, is consulting on its flood prevention strategy. In 2007 the city was hit by intense rainfall over a number of weeks and, eventually, with the soils saturated and the rivers full, the water spilled across and through the city. It was fatal, it was devastating for businesses and homes were very badly damaged in parts of the city.

floodingIn the aftermath there was significant scrutiny of the city’s flood protection in public. Experts gave evidence. Responsible persons gave evidence and, in time, it was clear that the city needed to invest more thought into how it should do this. Business has recognised it has a responsibility to work with the city council to achieve this. In all the papers I prepared for Councillors on climate change I made the point that there was ever greater variability, intensity and unpredictability in the future climate. Those messages are coming true now. Other cities have experienced the same issues – Newcastle, Leeds, Bristol, Hull, York.

It’s good to see that as part of the planning and development of the city, the city council is now consulting on the ‘Protecting Sheffield from Flooding Programme‘ and is consulting with stakeholders, partners, business owners and members of the public inside and outside of flood risk areas. It’s an £83m package of interventions and whilst the programme focuses on two major river catchments, The River Don and the Sheaf (from which Sheffield gets its name) it considers the effect and impact of the serving tributaries. Those smaller rivers include the Porter and Rivelin, which take their water from the uplands to the west of the city and which flow, generally, west-east towards the lower lying lands before heading to the coast.

The programme justifies itself on supporting economic growth but it recognises the important role rivers and water have played (and continue to play) in the City’s heritage. It’s pleasing that amenity and biodiversity are included and the short animation accompanying the consultation references this. But what a pity it’s only had 6 views. It’s clear to me that we’re in danger of being complacent. The memories of 2007 may be fading but the threat of flood is only getting stronger.

Pleasingly, the strategy acknowledges it needs to create water storage when rivers burst and is proposing open spaces are used to provide temporary storage in, for example, parks. This is a well tried method in other countries and all power to the city for looking at its green spaces as blue spaces too. Slowing down the flow of water through the city is essential if communities downstream are to be protected and specific flood defences on vulnerable areas of low lying land are still going to be necessary.

The consultation has been running since the summer and I hope the response rate is higher than the YouTube views. It’s also encouraging that the city’s highway contractor, Amey are trialling state-of-the-art sensors into gullies in a trial aimed at preventing the flooding of roads. I just hope they trial them in Sheffield too.

My personal view is that this is a step in the right direction, but also a missed opportunity. Water is central to our lives. Where it falls, how it’s stored, moved, used, disposed of and re-used is part of a cycle. I would liked to have a seen a more comprehensive water strategy developed not just with the Environment Agency, but also with Yorkshire Water, so that the future needs of the city are better understood, joined up and planned. We now talk about ‘water sensitive cities’, ‘sponge cities’, green and blue space that recognises the importance of water as part of the health, wellbeing, economic and environmental agendas. As the climates of the future become more energised, less predictable and more intense we need to understand how we will deal not just with flood, but with drought and not for now – but for the climate we know is just round the corner.

There is still time to respond: http://www.floodprotectionsheffield.com/pages/consultation

 

‘Significant opportunities’ for low-carbon cities

Switching to a low-carbon economy offers cities ‘significant economic opportunities’, an assessment says. Low-carbon markets was worth US $33bn (£26bn) to London’s economy, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) says in its latest report. The report, It takes a city: the case for collaborative climate action, added that the cities spread over 89 nations had identified more than 1,000 economic opportunities linked to climate change. Almost 300 cities featured in the report were also developing new business industries, such as clean technology.
Source: http://environmentjournal.online/articles/significant-opportunities-for-low-carbon-cities/