First things first


Monday, 11 January 2010


Are you an optimist or a pessimist after the Copenhagen Summit?
Described by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as “an important beginning”, the 3-page non-binding Copenhagen Accord has now been signed up to by 80% of the world’s carbon producers.
• Industrial countries must list their individual emissions reductions targets, and less-industrialized countries must list the actions they will take to cut emissions by specific amounts.
• All countries must accept a transparent system for monitoring their emissions.
• Poor countries will be paid to prevent deforestation.
• Wealthy nations will establish a fund (growing from 30 billion dollars per year to $100 billion per year by 2020) to help poor and vulnerable nations adapt to climate change.
• Signatory nations accept a goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C by 2050.
• The Accord creates a Technology Mechanism to accelerate development of low-carbon technology, but supplies no details.

Besides being non-binding, these are the main weaknesses of the Accord:
• 2 degrees C is too high and there is no cap for CO2 concentrations, even at 350 parts per million which scientists say is a safer level to take account of positive feedbacks. By setting a limit of 2 degrees temperature increase without specifying a CO2 cap, the Accord may implicitly be adhering to the older scientific consensus, which would mean a 450 ppm cap and 3 degrees or more of real temperature increase. Any scientific assessment of temperature and CO2 targets is delayed until 2015.
• No target date for peaking of emissions, and no global emissions targets for 2020 or 2050.
• No concrete deal on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation
• The promised finances for poor nations are too small.

The next opportunity to forge a binding global climate treaty will be the August 2010 U.N. conference in Mexico City. The delay to any global agreement on climate change means in my view that we must redouble our individual and community efforts to change our life-styles through 10:10. Our 10:10 actions will help us prepare for the inevitable carbon rationing that will be imposed either for the individual citizen, or else at the power stations and oil refineries. The reason why the Copenhagen Summit has failed to produce any binding global agreement on climate change is that the politicians are unable to agree voluntarily to measures such as carbon rationing which would see a stand-still or reduction in their own people’s material consumption. And the economic crisis makes climate change harder to solve in the way everyone wants to see—i.e., with lots of green-tech growth.

Ron Prinn, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and a co-author of a new study in 2009, says that "our results show we still have around a 50-50 chance of stabilizing the climate at a level of no more than a few tenths above the 2 degree target. However, that will require global emissions, which are now growing, to start downward almost immediately.”

"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Institute for Space Studies.

Although the effects of climate change may develop gradually, it is more likely that we will experience abrupt and dramatic shifts in weather patterns. Over the last decade we have seen both the highest temperature ever recorded in the U.K. and the (by far) warmest decade, as well as close to the greatest rainfall in 24 hours ever in the U.K. The picture of extremes is mirrored across the world. The 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change remarks that under presently envisaged global climate change, 200 million people may be directly affected by sea level rise, including several major coastal cities such as London.

The bigger world picture is well put by Richard Heinberg (Jan 2010):
“Climate change is just one of several enormous interrelated dilemmas that will sink civilization unless all are somehow addressed at both global and local levels. These include at least five long-range problems:
• topsoil loss (25 billion tons per year)
• worsening fresh water scarcity
• the death of the oceans (due to acidification from more carbon dioxide)
• overpopulation and continued population growth
• the accelerating, catastrophic loss of biodiversity
• peak oil
As events are unfolding now, these problems, together with climate change, will combine over the next few years or decades to trigger a food crisis of a scale and intensity that will dwarf to insignificance any famine in human history. It's not just that national governments can't get together to solve climate change. They can't solve economic meltdown, peak oil, water scarcity, soil erosion, or overpopulation either. This is not to say there is nothing that can be done about these problems. In fact, there are organizations and communities in many nations doing path-breaking work to address each and every one of them. Without global agreements, local efforts are what we've got, and we will simply have to make the most of them that we can, by working locally and on a small scale, while sharing information about successes and failures as widely as possible.”

We need to create a strong environmental movement at grass-roots level to give the politicians the backing to go further than they are. What can you do?

Transition Westcombe has various subgroups and projects which you can join by emailing

• Food Sub-group: Community orchard planting, the urban foraging map, patch match

• Inner Transition: Form a 10:10 group with your neighbours to start reducing your carbon footprint by 10% in 2010. Email for info and advice on the first Transition Westcombe 10:10 groups.

• Energy Subgroup: Changing the planning criteria to allow more solar panels. Creating a Council-led system for the reporting of wasteful office lights left on at night.

• Various: International Plastic Bag Free Day for Greenwich. Getting community notice boards on stations.

Or propose your own project and get the backing of Transition Westcombe. We are currently looking at how to support the proposal of Westcombe resident Barbara Morris for “greening” the streetscape by redesigning the streets with less tarmac, more plants and more porous surfaces.

Latest News:
• 10:10 groups in Foyle Road and Humber Road have begun meetings aiming for a 10% reduction in their carbon footprint during 2010.
• Low Carbon Communities Challenge bid. Unfortunately our bid did not win this very competitive challenge, but we can still be pleased to have been chosen to bid.
• URGENT: The Mayor is revising the London Plan and also the Mayor's Transport Strategy, and the consultations close officially on Tuesday 12th January at 5pm. Key proposals you may want to question….1. Another road crossing at Blackwall tunnel. 2. A Thames Gateway road bridge plus car ferry. 3. A weakening of the criteria that would allow road building to take place. As was shown at the recent public inquiry, these new bridges would have little effect on traffic congestion, while increasing air pollution and contributing to climate change.
Specifically you may want to object 1. To any new vehicle or road river crossings (as referred to in paragraph 6.37 of the London Plan, and proposal 39 of the MTS) as these would be expected to generate more traffic and add to air pollution and climate change emissions and 2. to new policy 6.12 of the London Plan which weakens the criteria for building new road capacity / makes it unacceptably easy for new roads to be built.
Responses by email to "" with "Replacememt London Plan" as the title


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