Home | News | Officers | Issues | Election results | Meetings and Events | Photo Gallery
Media centre | What have Greens done? | Comment | Video/Audio | Newsletters | Join | Links


UNA Climate Change Conference Report 30/4/09

The London and South East Region of the United Nations Association (of which I am a member) held a one day conference entitled "Thinking Outside the Box: Borderless Strategies to Combat Climate Change" at the International Maritime Organisation's headquarters on the Albert Embankment - the IMO being the only UN organisation based in London.

The conference began with keynote speeches from Dr Robert Watson, the Chief Scientific Adviser to DEFRA, whose main claim to fame is to have been sacked by George W Bush for telling the truth about climate change, Lord Hannay, the Chair of UNA-UK, and journalist and author Oliver Tickell:

  • Dr Watson painted a fairly gloomy picture of a world in which the wet bits get wetter and the dry bits drier; he expects UK summers (in contrast!) to get 80% drier - which should at least please the cricket fans. He expects at least a four degree temperature rise, which is a fairly scary prospect - but if we get to 400ppm CO2 equivalent we have only  a 50-50 chance of avoiding a two degree rise, and we are already at 385-390 now. To achieve two degrees we need an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.
  • Lord Hannay addressed the prospects for the Copenhagen conference in December. He pointed out that it will be full of diplomats, who are always optimistic by nature and are conditioned to seek compromise - any compromise. Not good news if the compromise is between what is politically possible and what the science demands. Agreements will need to be reached in advance and the EU must lead.
  • Oliver Tickell called for borderless accounting (of carbon) as nation-based accounting has clearly not worked. He then went into explaining a long acronym he has come up with, but lost me in the process.

The first set of break-out sessions followed, and I went to one on 'Local Initiatives'. This had 3 speakers,

  • a local councillor from Eastleigh (Hampshire) described how it had become a 'beacon council' for its climate change strategy - a useful source of tips for Enfield! They have targets for every council department and are aiming to be carbon neutral by 2012. They have a 'carbon compensation' scheme to which the council, businesses (she mentioned M&S) and local people contribute, which provides insulation for those who can't afford it, grants for energy audits and small-scale energy equipment such as solar panels for a church and a wind turbine for the scout hut; they have a CHP plant providing hot water to a leisure centre and offices; they have examples of all kinds of sustainable energy, and all are used for awareness-raising as well; they have got their recycling rates up by door-knocking, displays, and a showing of 'An Inconvenient Truth' to which schools and opinion-formers were invited.
  • Steve Dawe (of the Green Party) spoke about Transition Towns - he is chair of a group in Kent. They too have shown 'An Inconvenient Truth'; they have studied the example of Cuba (which has reshaped its economy to survive with very little oil); they encourage organic gardening and grow-your-own schemes; they relate to all kinds of different external groups.
  • The Chief Exec of the Environmental Services Association - the trade body of the waste management industry - pointed ouit that 3% of the UK's CO2 emissions are from waste (mainly from landfill), but waste also generates one third of our renewable energy.. Recycling has quadrupled since 1997; DEFRA say that £11bn needs to be invested in recycling to meet EU regulations.

After lunch we had an address from Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC on "Why I believe Copenhagen can deliver". He started with 'why is Copenhagen important?' and gave 3 reasons: the need to put economic and political mechanisms in place; the USA - December 2009 is a political tipping point there, halfway between the Presidential election and the mid-terms; and the likely waning of interest if it fails to deliver. So what result are we looking for? There are only 7 negotiating weeks to go (!) and no negotiating position on the table yet; we have to get to a point where subsequent discussions will be about implementation, not principles - but we mustn't overreach. Clarity is needed on:

  1. Individual emissions targets for industrialised countries
  2. ditto for developing countries, particulalry the big ones: India, China, Brazil, Indonesia
  3. Mobilisation of funding for developing countries to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies
  4. Governance structures reflecting realities today to give developing countries more control (IMF, World Bank, WTO etc)

(1) & (2) are well on the way - the largest green packages are in developing countries; (3) is not going so well; (4) some movement

For the second break-out session I went to one on Aviation and Tourism. This was a rather disappointing session, chaired by someone from the International Civil Aviation Authority who seemed to see it as an opportunity to persuade us that aviation could keep on growing indefinitely helped by improvements in fuel efficiency and the invention of new fuels. The main highlight was the first contribution from the floor after the main speakers had finished: Mayer Hillman tore into the lot of them - and much of the audience - for continuing to fly as though nothing was happening. Depressingly, other floor contributions showed that even that clued-up audience still haven't got it about flying.

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ