Author: Alex Kirby

About Alex Kirby

Alex Kirby is a former BBC journalist and environment correspondent. He now works with universities, charities and international agencies to improve their media skills, and with journalists in the developing world keen to specialise in environmental reporting.

‘People need facts on climate’ from Boris Johnson

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is urged by advisers to step up and tell people the facts on climate.

LONDON, 24 June, 2021 − In an uncompromising message directed at the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, an independent advisory group has told him he must rapidly “level with people” over the facts on climate.

The advisers say Johnson needs to do this within a matter of months, before the UK hosts the UN climate conference, COP-26, in Glasgow in November, because the road it faces will be “tricky”.

The advice comes from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Last week the CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said the level of risk posed by climate change had risen in the last five years, and the extent of planning to adapt to it was “really shocking”.

Onus on Johnson

He told the Climate News Network in an interview that the UK had set sound, science-based targets for reaching its goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century, but it needed to do far more on delivering them.

“We need the government to level with people, because some of the decisions ahead will be tricky,” Dr Stark said. “We need Boris Johnson to step up before November.

“Delivering what the UK has promised could be the basis of a better relationship between us and the US, Europe, and possibly even China. Johnson needs to recognise that, to see the political opportunities delivery  offers. The responsibility for what happens in Glasgow rests with him.”

The CCC is resolute in seeing opportunities as well as potential problems ahead if the UK delivers on the climate promises it’s made. It’s warned Britons, for instance, that a drastic change of diet is necessary to help to reduce carbon emissions a cut in meat consumption of 20%.

“Time is running out for realistic climate commitments”

But that will prove “neither difficult nor scary” for Dr Stark. “Diets are changing already”, he says. “We’re moving to healthier eating habits. Younger people are eating less meat than their elders, and there’s an argument for the health benefits that offers.

“Farmers who can’t raise so many animals for meat will have new sources of money, using their land for soil restoration and for absorbing carbon, treating it as a crop.”

That’s a hopeful prospect, but it may prove little more than a glimmer against the background of the progress the world has to make to tackle the climate crisis, and how little time it has to do it. Transparency about the facts on climate will be essential.

Six years ago, at the 2015 UN climate conference, 195 nations affirmed the Paris Agreement, accepting a commitment to prevent global temperatures rising more than 2°C beyond their historic level, and to try to keep the rise to a more modest 1.5°C.

UK leadership in question

Progress to make the Agreement work is slow – so slow that the CCC is among those predicting that by the end of this century the temperature rise may have reached 3.5-4°C, or more. Referring specifically to the UK, it has a stark verdict: “Time is running out for realistic climate commitments.”

Its chairman, Lord Deben, says the UK cannot afford to “continue to be slow and timid.” If November’s climate conference in Glasgow is judged to have failed because the UK, its host, has not delivered on its undertakings, he says, “the whole concept of the UK being a global leader will be undermined.

“If all we do is promise, other people won’t take us seriously. Every decision we take has to be seen through the lens of our net zero target for mid-century.

“Not all parts of the government realise the urgency we need to avoid disruption to people’s lives. This government earns nine out of ten for determination and policy. But on delivery, I don’t think it reaches four out of ten.” − Climate News Network

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is urged by advisers to step up and tell people the facts on climate.

LONDON, 24 June, 2021 − In an uncompromising message directed at the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, an independent advisory group has told him he must rapidly “level with people” over the facts on climate.

The advisers say Johnson needs to do this within a matter of months, before the UK hosts the UN climate conference, COP-26, in Glasgow in November, because the road it faces will be “tricky”.

The advice comes from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Last week the CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said the level of risk posed by climate change had risen in the last five years, and the extent of planning to adapt to it was “really shocking”.

Onus on Johnson

He told the Climate News Network in an interview that the UK had set sound, science-based targets for reaching its goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century, but it needed to do far more on delivering them.

“We need the government to level with people, because some of the decisions ahead will be tricky,” Dr Stark said. “We need Boris Johnson to step up before November.

“Delivering what the UK has promised could be the basis of a better relationship between us and the US, Europe, and possibly even China. Johnson needs to recognise that, to see the political opportunities delivery  offers. The responsibility for what happens in Glasgow rests with him.”

The CCC is resolute in seeing opportunities as well as potential problems ahead if the UK delivers on the climate promises it’s made. It’s warned Britons, for instance, that a drastic change of diet is necessary to help to reduce carbon emissions a cut in meat consumption of 20%.

“Time is running out for realistic climate commitments”

But that will prove “neither difficult nor scary” for Dr Stark. “Diets are changing already”, he says. “We’re moving to healthier eating habits. Younger people are eating less meat than their elders, and there’s an argument for the health benefits that offers.

“Farmers who can’t raise so many animals for meat will have new sources of money, using their land for soil restoration and for absorbing carbon, treating it as a crop.”

That’s a hopeful prospect, but it may prove little more than a glimmer against the background of the progress the world has to make to tackle the climate crisis, and how little time it has to do it. Transparency about the facts on climate will be essential.

Six years ago, at the 2015 UN climate conference, 195 nations affirmed the Paris Agreement, accepting a commitment to prevent global temperatures rising more than 2°C beyond their historic level, and to try to keep the rise to a more modest 1.5°C.

UK leadership in question

Progress to make the Agreement work is slow – so slow that the CCC is among those predicting that by the end of this century the temperature rise may have reached 3.5-4°C, or more. Referring specifically to the UK, it has a stark verdict: “Time is running out for realistic climate commitments.”

Its chairman, Lord Deben, says the UK cannot afford to “continue to be slow and timid.” If November’s climate conference in Glasgow is judged to have failed because the UK, its host, has not delivered on its undertakings, he says, “the whole concept of the UK being a global leader will be undermined.

“If all we do is promise, other people won’t take us seriously. Every decision we take has to be seen through the lens of our net zero target for mid-century.

“Not all parts of the government realise the urgency we need to avoid disruption to people’s lives. This government earns nine out of ten for determination and policy. But on delivery, I don’t think it reaches four out of ten.” − Climate News Network

UK’s ‘really shocking’ climate record is damned

Britain, host of November’s UN talks, COP-26, is pilloried by its own advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

LONDON, 17 June, 2021 − In a searing indictment of its failure to act fast enough to prepare for the onslaught of rising heat, there is condemnation of the British government by its independent advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

The latest science says the world could warm by an average of 4°C over historic levels by 2100, an increase which would prove devastating to human life and the natural world.

The advisers’ assessment says the UK’s plans are inadequate to cope even with a 2°C temperature rise, a risky limit which exceeds the 1.5°C maximum most of the world’s nations agreed to aim for as the maximum tolerable rise in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The report is the work of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored”

The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said CCC members were so frustrated with the lack of progress on climate-proofing the UK that they deliberately made this report “spiky”. He said: “It’s really troubling how little attention the government has paid to this.

“Overall, the level of risk that we are facing from climate change has increased since five years ago. Our preparations are not keeping pace with the risks that we face. That is a very concerning conclusion.”

Dr Stark told BBC News: “The extent of planning for many of the risks is really shocking. We are not thinking clearly about what lies ahead.”

The CCC’s assessment examines risks and opportunities affecting every aspect of life in the UK. It concludes that action to improve the nation’s resilience is failing to keep pace with the impacts of a hotter planet and the growing climate risks the UK faces.

Threat to net zero

The UK is already committed to a legally-binding goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century. This  CCC assessment focuses, not on mitigation emissions cuts but on adaptation preparing to live with the inevitable. The government’s failure to act on adaptation is putting its net zero goal in jeopardy, the New Scientist reports.

Since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built in the UK that are not resilient to future high temperatures; since 2018 over 4,000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England alone.

Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

UK-wide, nearly 60% of the risks and opportunities assessed in the 1500-page report have been given the highest urgency score. Among the priority risk areas identified by the CCC as needing immediate attention, within the next two years at the most, are:

  • Terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  • Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  • Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees
  • Risks to supplies of food, goods and vital services from climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  • Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  • Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  • Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

The changing climate will create some opportunities for the UK, the CCC acknowledges, but these are massively outweighed by the risks.

It says the government must deliver a much better action plan to support good adaptation planning across the UK and integrate this into all relevant government plans and policies. The government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately, and this needs to change, the Committee says.

In response, a government spokesman commented: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP-26 [the UN climate summit to be hosted by the UK] in November.” − Climate News Network

Britain, host of November’s UN talks, COP-26, is pilloried by its own advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

LONDON, 17 June, 2021 − In a searing indictment of its failure to act fast enough to prepare for the onslaught of rising heat, there is condemnation of the British government by its independent advisers for the UK’s “really shocking” climate record.

The latest science says the world could warm by an average of 4°C over historic levels by 2100, an increase which would prove devastating to human life and the natural world.

The advisers’ assessment says the UK’s plans are inadequate to cope even with a 2°C temperature rise, a risky limit which exceeds the 1.5°C maximum most of the world’s nations agreed to aim for as the maximum tolerable rise in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The report is the work of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored”

The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said CCC members were so frustrated with the lack of progress on climate-proofing the UK that they deliberately made this report “spiky”. He said: “It’s really troubling how little attention the government has paid to this.

“Overall, the level of risk that we are facing from climate change has increased since five years ago. Our preparations are not keeping pace with the risks that we face. That is a very concerning conclusion.”

Dr Stark told BBC News: “The extent of planning for many of the risks is really shocking. We are not thinking clearly about what lies ahead.”

The CCC’s assessment examines risks and opportunities affecting every aspect of life in the UK. It concludes that action to improve the nation’s resilience is failing to keep pace with the impacts of a hotter planet and the growing climate risks the UK faces.

Threat to net zero

The UK is already committed to a legally-binding goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century. This  CCC assessment focuses, not on mitigation emissions cuts but on adaptation preparing to live with the inevitable. The government’s failure to act on adaptation is putting its net zero goal in jeopardy, the New Scientist reports.

Since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built in the UK that are not resilient to future high temperatures; since 2018 over 4,000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England alone.

Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

UK-wide, nearly 60% of the risks and opportunities assessed in the 1500-page report have been given the highest urgency score. Among the priority risk areas identified by the CCC as needing immediate attention, within the next two years at the most, are:

  • Terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  • Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  • Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees
  • Risks to supplies of food, goods and vital services from climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  • Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  • Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  • Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas

The changing climate will create some opportunities for the UK, the CCC acknowledges, but these are massively outweighed by the risks.

It says the government must deliver a much better action plan to support good adaptation planning across the UK and integrate this into all relevant government plans and policies. The government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately, and this needs to change, the Committee says.

In response, a government spokesman commented: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP-26 [the UN climate summit to be hosted by the UK] in November.” − Climate News Network

Solve nature and climate together or not at all

Sink or swim as one, says science. Solve nature and climate together, or neither of the twin crises will be soluble.

LONDON, 11 June, 2021 − Two of the world’s leading scientific institutions have joined forces to arrive at a not very surprising conclusion: solve nature and climate together, or forget them both. If the world does not work to tackle the climate crisis and the extinction threat confronting millions of wild species together, it has little hope of solving either of them separately.

So says a report published by the snappily-titled Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), each respected for their commanding knowledge in their own fields.

The report, the IPBES/IPCC Workshop Report, which marks the first collaboration between the two bodies’ scientists, is not content simply to urge joint action on the intertwined problems threatening the world. It goes on to identify what it says are key options for solving them.

Both biodiversity loss and climate change are driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other, the report says.

While previous policies have largely tackled the twin crises independently of each other, addressing the synergies between the two simultaneously offers hope of maximising benefits and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives”

“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions”, said Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the report’s scientific steering committee.

“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” he said. “The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature − such as moving away from the concept of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits.”

The authors also warn that narrowly-focused action to combat climate change can directly and indirectly harm nature, and vice versa, but say there are many ways to benefit both areas.

Their suggestions include:

* Stopping the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean and restoring them. The authors say reducing deforestation and forest degradation can help to lower human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by between 0.4 and 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.

End damaging subsidies

* Increasing sustainable agriculture and forestry to improve the capacity to adapt to climate change, improve biodiversity, increase carbon storage and reduce emissions. The report estimates this improved management of cropland and grazing systems could offer annual climate change mitigation potential of 3 to 6 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

* Enhanced and better targeted conservation supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation. Protected areas currently represent about 15% of land and 7.5% of the ocean. Global estimates of what the world needs range from 30 to 50% of all ocean and land surface areas.

* Eliminating subsidies that support both local and national activities harmful to biodiversity, such as deforestation, excessive fertilisation and over-fishing, can also support climate change mitigation and adaptation. It can also help to change individual consumption patterns, reduce loss and waste and shift diets, especially in rich countries, towards more plant-based options.

The report also warns against climate mitigation and adaptation measures which it says can harm biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. These measures, it says, include increasing irrigation capacity, a common response to adapt agricultural systems to drought which it says often leads to water conflicts, dam building and long- term soil degradation from salinisation. − Climate News Network

Sink or swim as one, says science. Solve nature and climate together, or neither of the twin crises will be soluble.

LONDON, 11 June, 2021 − Two of the world’s leading scientific institutions have joined forces to arrive at a not very surprising conclusion: solve nature and climate together, or forget them both. If the world does not work to tackle the climate crisis and the extinction threat confronting millions of wild species together, it has little hope of solving either of them separately.

So says a report published by the snappily-titled Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), each respected for their commanding knowledge in their own fields.

The report, the IPBES/IPCC Workshop Report, which marks the first collaboration between the two bodies’ scientists, is not content simply to urge joint action on the intertwined problems threatening the world. It goes on to identify what it says are key options for solving them.

Both biodiversity loss and climate change are driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other, the report says.

While previous policies have largely tackled the twin crises independently of each other, addressing the synergies between the two simultaneously offers hope of maximising benefits and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives”

“Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions”, said Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the report’s scientific steering committee.

“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” he said. “The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature − such as moving away from the concept of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits.”

The authors also warn that narrowly-focused action to combat climate change can directly and indirectly harm nature, and vice versa, but say there are many ways to benefit both areas.

Their suggestions include:

* Stopping the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean and restoring them. The authors say reducing deforestation and forest degradation can help to lower human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by between 0.4 and 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.

End damaging subsidies

* Increasing sustainable agriculture and forestry to improve the capacity to adapt to climate change, improve biodiversity, increase carbon storage and reduce emissions. The report estimates this improved management of cropland and grazing systems could offer annual climate change mitigation potential of 3 to 6 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

* Enhanced and better targeted conservation supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation. Protected areas currently represent about 15% of land and 7.5% of the ocean. Global estimates of what the world needs range from 30 to 50% of all ocean and land surface areas.

* Eliminating subsidies that support both local and national activities harmful to biodiversity, such as deforestation, excessive fertilisation and over-fishing, can also support climate change mitigation and adaptation. It can also help to change individual consumption patterns, reduce loss and waste and shift diets, especially in rich countries, towards more plant-based options.

The report also warns against climate mitigation and adaptation measures which it says can harm biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. These measures, it says, include increasing irrigation capacity, a common response to adapt agricultural systems to drought which it says often leads to water conflicts, dam building and long- term soil degradation from salinisation. − Climate News Network

Advert ban tries to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

Building back better needs radical change − by us

We’ve got the money, we’ve got the knowhow, but averting the worst of the climate crisis needs radical change by us.

LONDON, 20 April, 2021 − With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the globe, plenty of thinkers are devoting their time to what comes next. The hopeful argue for an effort to Build Back Better. The less hopeful doubt that that will be easy, or perhaps even possible, and not necessarily because of the pandemic itself. The pragmatists say the future can be different, if humans can achieve radical change in themselves and their lives.

They start from where we are and try to plot a way through to where we want to be. One of these is a UK think tank, the  Cambridge Sustainability Commission on behaviour change and the climate crisis, whose report is published by the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA).

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Commission’s report notes that some of us need to change our behaviour more than others. “Globally, the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for roughly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the poorest half is responsible for less than 10%,” it says.

“The lifestyle emissions of the richest in society are actually increasing … Relying on conscientious individuals to ‘do their bit’ will never be enough to put society on a sustainable pathway without substantial shifts in the behaviour of the polluter elite.”

“I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity”

The report looks beyond the problem of taming the polluter elite, identifying several other “behaviour hotspots”. One, described as high-impact behaviours and ways of life, not very surprisingly lists these as “car and plane mobility, the consumption of meat and dairy, and the heating of residential homes”.

Some readers, though, may gulp to see a fourth candidate suggested for the list − the need for a 25% reduction in average personal living space in order to stay below the stricter emissions limit adopted by the Paris Agreement, 1.5°C.

How should we measure lifestyle sustainability? The Cambridge report says that as “global meat production (which roughly mirrors consumption) has fallen for the past two years (FAO, 2020), strategies to reduce meat consumption could accelerate the move away from meat-heavy diets and food production, acting as a social tipping point.”

Earlier it defines these as small quantitative changes which “lead to a qualitatively different state of the social system”, and are therefore to be welcomed.

Eager for change

There are certainly grounds in the report for thinking that more Britons are ready to change the way they behave than to stay the way they are.

The authors report a substantial appetite in the United Kingdom for post-pandemic behavioural change, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) RESET enquiry, led by Caroline Lucas MP. This found that, from a sample of more than 57,000 people:

  • 66% of UK adults want the government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP growth
  • 66% of the public think the Government should intervene to make society fairer
  • 60% support a shorter working week
  • 63% support a jobs guarantee
  • 57% support some form of universal basic income
  • 65% support rent caps

But these changes may be a long way from all that’s needed. Chapter 5 of the Cambridge report, Future intervention points, starts with a warning: “As things stand under a business-as-usual scenario, we are headed towards 3-4°C of warming by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and the ecosystems upon which we depend.”

Simple step

The end of the century may feel comfortably far distant for much of humanity, but not everybody is confident that we have even that much time to change. In March the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) published a report, Global Trends 2040. The website Axios offered a summary: “This is not your typical grim climate report projecting disaster in the year 2100, i.e. the distant future.

“Instead, the climate change we will see through midcentury is already baked into the climate system, thanks to how the oceans absorb and redistribute heat. Studies show that even if emissions are sharply reduced now we are still in for additional amounts of warming through mid-century, which will lead to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other effects … Buckle your seatbelt, we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Perhaps the NIC is right. But just possibly we’re overcomplicating one of our main problems in the UK − and even globally. How do you cut crime? It’s simple, says one of Britain’s most senior police officers, Andy Cooke, the retiring chief constable of Merseyside in north-west England, in an interview with the Guardian: you give people something to hope for by reducing poverty.

Asked what he would do if he had £5 billion (US$7bn) to cut crime, Cooke said reducing inequality and deprivation would be his priority: “I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.”

That would go a long way to stamping out the drugs war in Liverpool and the rest of Andy Cooke’s patch. Scaled up across the globe, it could stem the wretched flow of migrants struggling to survive. It would, in fact, give hope to people who have lost it. Is that really a radical change? − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

We’ve got the money, we’ve got the knowhow, but averting the worst of the climate crisis needs radical change by us.

LONDON, 20 April, 2021 − With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the globe, plenty of thinkers are devoting their time to what comes next. The hopeful argue for an effort to Build Back Better. The less hopeful doubt that that will be easy, or perhaps even possible, and not necessarily because of the pandemic itself. The pragmatists say the future can be different, if humans can achieve radical change in themselves and their lives.

They start from where we are and try to plot a way through to where we want to be. One of these is a UK think tank, the  Cambridge Sustainability Commission on behaviour change and the climate crisis, whose report is published by the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA).

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Commission’s report notes that some of us need to change our behaviour more than others. “Globally, the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for roughly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the poorest half is responsible for less than 10%,” it says.

“The lifestyle emissions of the richest in society are actually increasing … Relying on conscientious individuals to ‘do their bit’ will never be enough to put society on a sustainable pathway without substantial shifts in the behaviour of the polluter elite.”

“I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity”

The report looks beyond the problem of taming the polluter elite, identifying several other “behaviour hotspots”. One, described as high-impact behaviours and ways of life, not very surprisingly lists these as “car and plane mobility, the consumption of meat and dairy, and the heating of residential homes”.

Some readers, though, may gulp to see a fourth candidate suggested for the list − the need for a 25% reduction in average personal living space in order to stay below the stricter emissions limit adopted by the Paris Agreement, 1.5°C.

How should we measure lifestyle sustainability? The Cambridge report says that as “global meat production (which roughly mirrors consumption) has fallen for the past two years (FAO, 2020), strategies to reduce meat consumption could accelerate the move away from meat-heavy diets and food production, acting as a social tipping point.”

Earlier it defines these as small quantitative changes which “lead to a qualitatively different state of the social system”, and are therefore to be welcomed.

Eager for change

There are certainly grounds in the report for thinking that more Britons are ready to change the way they behave than to stay the way they are.

The authors report a substantial appetite in the United Kingdom for post-pandemic behavioural change, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) RESET enquiry, led by Caroline Lucas MP. This found that, from a sample of more than 57,000 people:

  • 66% of UK adults want the government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP growth
  • 66% of the public think the Government should intervene to make society fairer
  • 60% support a shorter working week
  • 63% support a jobs guarantee
  • 57% support some form of universal basic income
  • 65% support rent caps

But these changes may be a long way from all that’s needed. Chapter 5 of the Cambridge report, Future intervention points, starts with a warning: “As things stand under a business-as-usual scenario, we are headed towards 3-4°C of warming by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and the ecosystems upon which we depend.”

Simple step

The end of the century may feel comfortably far distant for much of humanity, but not everybody is confident that we have even that much time to change. In March the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) published a report, Global Trends 2040. The website Axios offered a summary: “This is not your typical grim climate report projecting disaster in the year 2100, i.e. the distant future.

“Instead, the climate change we will see through midcentury is already baked into the climate system, thanks to how the oceans absorb and redistribute heat. Studies show that even if emissions are sharply reduced now we are still in for additional amounts of warming through mid-century, which will lead to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other effects … Buckle your seatbelt, we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Perhaps the NIC is right. But just possibly we’re overcomplicating one of our main problems in the UK − and even globally. How do you cut crime? It’s simple, says one of Britain’s most senior police officers, Andy Cooke, the retiring chief constable of Merseyside in north-west England, in an interview with the Guardian: you give people something to hope for by reducing poverty.

Asked what he would do if he had £5 billion (US$7bn) to cut crime, Cooke said reducing inequality and deprivation would be his priority: “I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.”

That would go a long way to stamping out the drugs war in Liverpool and the rest of Andy Cooke’s patch. Scaled up across the globe, it could stem the wretched flow of migrants struggling to survive. It would, in fact, give hope to people who have lost it. Is that really a radical change? − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

City motorists in UK buy most off-road cars

Most UK buyers of off-road cars designed for rural use are urban motorists, worsening city congestion and air pollution.


LONDON, 7 April, 2021 − Three-quarters of all sports utility vehicles (SUVs) sold in the UK are bought by people living in towns and cities, new analysis shows. The largest SUVs, off-road vehicles designed to appeal to farmers and other country dwellers, are most popular in some of the wealthiest parts of London, where they aggravate existing problems of air pollution and heavy traffic.

Campaigners say this trend is the result of psychological techniques and dishonest messaging used by the vehicles’ advertisers.

Research commissioned by a think-tank, the New Weather Institute, and a climate charity, Possible, shows that 75% of all SUVs sold in the UK in 2019 and 2020 were registered to urban households. It found that the largest, most polluting SUVs followed a similar pattern, with two-thirds sold to people living in towns and cities.

These findings follow recent claims by carmakers and advertisers that SUVs are needed by people living in rural areas. One motoring guide describes the supposedly seductive vehicles in glowing terms: “The SUV is the fastest-growing car type in the UK, with more and more customers being seduced by their high driving position, practicality, and sense of security.”

Tempting urbanites

One motorist’s surrender to seduction, though, may come at a high price to others who are obliged to share the roads with them and their off-road cars, both those in smaller vehicles squeezed for space and cyclists and pedestrians forced to breathe more polluted air.

Or, as the research puts it, quoting Theodor Adorno, the post-war German philosopher and social critic, “Which auto-driver has not felt the temptation, in the power of the motor, to run over the vermin of the street – passers-by, children, bicyclists?”

The research is detailed in a report, Mindgames on wheels, published by the Badvertising campaign, which aims to stop adverts fuelling the climate crisis.

Rather than large SUVs being most popular in the areas for which they are most suited, Britain’s remote farming regions, the report says, six of the top ten areas in the UK for new sales are urban or suburban districts.

“One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck”

Although these vehicles have four-wheel-drive and off-road capability, the top districts for large SUV sales are three wealthy inner London boroughs: Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham. On average, one in three new private cars bought in these areas is a large SUV.

Areas where the largest new cars are most popular also correspond closely with places where road space is most scarce and where the highest proportion of cars are parked on the street. The report points out that many of these cars are too big to fit into a standard UK parking space.

It includes an analysis of what it says is the history of car makers’ marketing messages around SUVs, for instance “get back to nature” and “help the environment”. The team behind the report argues that car makers have spent decades working with advertisers to develop persuasive but dishonest messaging.

It says this has created consumer demand for far bigger cars than buyers need, and calls for an end to SUV advertising, renewed commitments to tackle climate change by the Advertising Standards Authority, and for advertising agencies to reject future work from polluting SUV companies.

Status symbols

The report’s authors have written to the UK advertising agency Spark44,  which runs multiple SUV campaigns, asking it to outline its plans for meeting the requirements of the UK government’s climate targets.

Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck. The human health and climate damage done by SUVs is huge and needs to be undone.

“Just as tobacco advertising was successfully ended, it’s time to stop promoting polluting SUVs. The climate emergency and a new awareness of air pollution’s lethal impact calls on regulators to update our advertising codes.”

Robbie Gillett, campaigner at the climate charity Possible and the report’s other co-author, said: “Car companies have promoted SUVs as a luxury status symbol for far too long. And now our city streets are full of them.

Global price

“Advertisers lured us into focusing on the safety and spaciousness of these vehicles. and to overlook that these benefits come at the cost of other road users who consequently are less safe and have less space.”

The researchers say SUVs are a global and not a uniquely British problem. As larger, heavier vehicles, they are significantly more lethal in road accidents. The World Health Organisation says about 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, with between 20 and 50 million more sustaining non-fatal injuries.

Especially in the global south, where car ownership is lower, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up almost half of those dying on the roads.

Research by the International Energy Agency has found that increasing demand for SUVs added significantly to global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018. Around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, more than double the figure a decade ago. The lure of the off-road car continues to spread. − Climate News Network

Most UK buyers of off-road cars designed for rural use are urban motorists, worsening city congestion and air pollution.


LONDON, 7 April, 2021 − Three-quarters of all sports utility vehicles (SUVs) sold in the UK are bought by people living in towns and cities, new analysis shows. The largest SUVs, off-road vehicles designed to appeal to farmers and other country dwellers, are most popular in some of the wealthiest parts of London, where they aggravate existing problems of air pollution and heavy traffic.

Campaigners say this trend is the result of psychological techniques and dishonest messaging used by the vehicles’ advertisers.

Research commissioned by a think-tank, the New Weather Institute, and a climate charity, Possible, shows that 75% of all SUVs sold in the UK in 2019 and 2020 were registered to urban households. It found that the largest, most polluting SUVs followed a similar pattern, with two-thirds sold to people living in towns and cities.

These findings follow recent claims by carmakers and advertisers that SUVs are needed by people living in rural areas. One motoring guide describes the supposedly seductive vehicles in glowing terms: “The SUV is the fastest-growing car type in the UK, with more and more customers being seduced by their high driving position, practicality, and sense of security.”

Tempting urbanites

One motorist’s surrender to seduction, though, may come at a high price to others who are obliged to share the roads with them and their off-road cars, both those in smaller vehicles squeezed for space and cyclists and pedestrians forced to breathe more polluted air.

Or, as the research puts it, quoting Theodor Adorno, the post-war German philosopher and social critic, “Which auto-driver has not felt the temptation, in the power of the motor, to run over the vermin of the street – passers-by, children, bicyclists?”

The research is detailed in a report, Mindgames on wheels, published by the Badvertising campaign, which aims to stop adverts fuelling the climate crisis.

Rather than large SUVs being most popular in the areas for which they are most suited, Britain’s remote farming regions, the report says, six of the top ten areas in the UK for new sales are urban or suburban districts.

“One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck”

Although these vehicles have four-wheel-drive and off-road capability, the top districts for large SUV sales are three wealthy inner London boroughs: Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham. On average, one in three new private cars bought in these areas is a large SUV.

Areas where the largest new cars are most popular also correspond closely with places where road space is most scarce and where the highest proportion of cars are parked on the street. The report points out that many of these cars are too big to fit into a standard UK parking space.

It includes an analysis of what it says is the history of car makers’ marketing messages around SUVs, for instance “get back to nature” and “help the environment”. The team behind the report argues that car makers have spent decades working with advertisers to develop persuasive but dishonest messaging.

It says this has created consumer demand for far bigger cars than buyers need, and calls for an end to SUV advertising, renewed commitments to tackle climate change by the Advertising Standards Authority, and for advertising agencies to reject future work from polluting SUV companies.

Status symbols

The report’s authors have written to the UK advertising agency Spark44,  which runs multiple SUV campaigns, asking it to outline its plans for meeting the requirements of the UK government’s climate targets.

Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “One of advertising’s biggest manipulations has persuaded urban families that it’s perfectly ‘normal’ to go shopping in a two-tonne truck. The human health and climate damage done by SUVs is huge and needs to be undone.

“Just as tobacco advertising was successfully ended, it’s time to stop promoting polluting SUVs. The climate emergency and a new awareness of air pollution’s lethal impact calls on regulators to update our advertising codes.”

Robbie Gillett, campaigner at the climate charity Possible and the report’s other co-author, said: “Car companies have promoted SUVs as a luxury status symbol for far too long. And now our city streets are full of them.

Global price

“Advertisers lured us into focusing on the safety and spaciousness of these vehicles. and to overlook that these benefits come at the cost of other road users who consequently are less safe and have less space.”

The researchers say SUVs are a global and not a uniquely British problem. As larger, heavier vehicles, they are significantly more lethal in road accidents. The World Health Organisation says about 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, with between 20 and 50 million more sustaining non-fatal injuries.

Especially in the global south, where car ownership is lower, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up almost half of those dying on the roads.

Research by the International Energy Agency has found that increasing demand for SUVs added significantly to global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018. Around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, more than double the figure a decade ago. The lure of the off-road car continues to spread. − Climate News Network

UK court urged to respect 1.5°C climate limit

The UK faces growing pressure not to expand Heathrow airport but to respect the 1.5°C limit agreed on global heating.

LONDON, 1 April, 2021 − In a significant challenge to the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, several leading climate scientists have said a recent ruling it made on the expansion of London’s main airport, Heathrow, will cause serious damage to the global environment, urging it to rule that the government must respect the 1.5°C limit internationally agreed to rein in  global heating.

Almost 150 lawyers, academics and policy-makers from around the world have written to the court, urging it “to mitigate the profound harm” which they say will be caused by its judgement allowing the government to go ahead with its plans to expand Heathrow.

They add: “Recklessly ignoring the spirit and letter of the law of the Paris Agreement sends a message to the world that the UK has joined the ranks of the climate wreckers, betraying the world’s vulnerable countries and communities.”

Signatories include the government’s own former chief scientist, Sir David King; Dr James Hansen, the former NASA scientist once hailed as one of the “true giants” of climate science; and Dr Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and former advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General.

“The Heathrow case was about much more than the third  runway. Fundamentally it was about the obligation of the government to tell the truth”

The Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in 2015, “aims to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2°C while pursuing means to limit the increase even further to 1.5°C.”

Although the UK is a signatory to the Agreement, and was a keen supporter of it six years ago, the present government appears unwilling to give it effect. At several points it has faced challenges from the charity Plan B, set up to support strategic legal action against climate change.

In February 2020 the Court of Appeal considered a case brought by Plan B, appealing against a previous High Court decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow, an argument advanced by the then Transport Minister, Chris Grayling. The Court of Appeal heard evidence from a range of witnesses and ended the hearing by finding unanimously in favour of Plan B’s challenge to the government’s plans, setting a precedent with global implications.

It has emerged subsequently that Mr Grayling’s argument to the High Court had hinged on reliance (which Plan B says was not disclosed to the court at the time) on the higher tolerable temperature increase agreed in Paris, 2°C, which the charity says would condemn many millions of people to an intolerable future,  rather than the less disastrous 1.5°C figure.

Prime ministerial assurance

There appeared at this point to be solid government backing for Plan B. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said he accepted the court’s ruling, telling Parliament on 4 March: “We will ensure that we abide by the judgment and take account of the Paris convention on climate change.”

But the government told Plan B in August 2020 that the Paris Agreement does not apply to the domestic law of the UK and is therefore irrelevant to government policy on how to rebuild the country’s economy after the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. So it argued that it was entitled to rely on the 2°C figure which Plan B insisted would mean global disaster.

The government’s critics argue that this argument is a strange one to use when the UK is poised to host the annual UN climate conference, COP-26, being held this year in Glasgow in November.

In December 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s plans to expand Heathrow were lawful, upholding the government’s assertion  that the Paris Agreement was irrelevant, and despite uncontested evidence that the expansion would result in emissions of 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by 2050 from UK aviation alone. This would be clearly inconsistent with the more stringent and safer 1.5°C Paris temperature limit.

Facing prison

The director of Plan B, Tim Crosland, a professional lawyer, already faces court action and a possible two-year prison sentence for revealing the decision of the Supreme Court while it was still under embargo in other words, not yet authorised for publication.

In a personal statement published on 15 December 2020 he said he had decided to break the embargo “as an act of civil disobedience. This will be treated as a ‘contempt of court’ and I am ready to face the consequences.

“I have no choice but to protest the deep immorality of the Court’s ruling … The Supreme Court’s judgment, which has legitimised Mr Grayling’s use of the deadly 2˚C threshold, has betrayed us all.”

Mr Crosland said: “The Heathrow case … was about much more than the third runway. Fundamentally it was about the obligation of the government to tell the truth. It can’t keep telling us it’s committed to the Paris Agreement temperature limit, if its actions say the opposite.” Climate News Network

The UK faces growing pressure not to expand Heathrow airport but to respect the 1.5°C limit agreed on global heating.

LONDON, 1 April, 2021 − In a significant challenge to the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, several leading climate scientists have said a recent ruling it made on the expansion of London’s main airport, Heathrow, will cause serious damage to the global environment, urging it to rule that the government must respect the 1.5°C limit internationally agreed to rein in  global heating.

Almost 150 lawyers, academics and policy-makers from around the world have written to the court, urging it “to mitigate the profound harm” which they say will be caused by its judgement allowing the government to go ahead with its plans to expand Heathrow.

They add: “Recklessly ignoring the spirit and letter of the law of the Paris Agreement sends a message to the world that the UK has joined the ranks of the climate wreckers, betraying the world’s vulnerable countries and communities.”

Signatories include the government’s own former chief scientist, Sir David King; Dr James Hansen, the former NASA scientist once hailed as one of the “true giants” of climate science; and Dr Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and former advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General.

“The Heathrow case was about much more than the third  runway. Fundamentally it was about the obligation of the government to tell the truth”

The Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in 2015, “aims to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2°C while pursuing means to limit the increase even further to 1.5°C.”

Although the UK is a signatory to the Agreement, and was a keen supporter of it six years ago, the present government appears unwilling to give it effect. At several points it has faced challenges from the charity Plan B, set up to support strategic legal action against climate change.

In February 2020 the Court of Appeal considered a case brought by Plan B, appealing against a previous High Court decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow, an argument advanced by the then Transport Minister, Chris Grayling. The Court of Appeal heard evidence from a range of witnesses and ended the hearing by finding unanimously in favour of Plan B’s challenge to the government’s plans, setting a precedent with global implications.

It has emerged subsequently that Mr Grayling’s argument to the High Court had hinged on reliance (which Plan B says was not disclosed to the court at the time) on the higher tolerable temperature increase agreed in Paris, 2°C, which the charity says would condemn many millions of people to an intolerable future,  rather than the less disastrous 1.5°C figure.

Prime ministerial assurance

There appeared at this point to be solid government backing for Plan B. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said he accepted the court’s ruling, telling Parliament on 4 March: “We will ensure that we abide by the judgment and take account of the Paris convention on climate change.”

But the government told Plan B in August 2020 that the Paris Agreement does not apply to the domestic law of the UK and is therefore irrelevant to government policy on how to rebuild the country’s economy after the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. So it argued that it was entitled to rely on the 2°C figure which Plan B insisted would mean global disaster.

The government’s critics argue that this argument is a strange one to use when the UK is poised to host the annual UN climate conference, COP-26, being held this year in Glasgow in November.

In December 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s plans to expand Heathrow were lawful, upholding the government’s assertion  that the Paris Agreement was irrelevant, and despite uncontested evidence that the expansion would result in emissions of 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by 2050 from UK aviation alone. This would be clearly inconsistent with the more stringent and safer 1.5°C Paris temperature limit.

Facing prison

The director of Plan B, Tim Crosland, a professional lawyer, already faces court action and a possible two-year prison sentence for revealing the decision of the Supreme Court while it was still under embargo in other words, not yet authorised for publication.

In a personal statement published on 15 December 2020 he said he had decided to break the embargo “as an act of civil disobedience. This will be treated as a ‘contempt of court’ and I am ready to face the consequences.

“I have no choice but to protest the deep immorality of the Court’s ruling … The Supreme Court’s judgment, which has legitimised Mr Grayling’s use of the deadly 2˚C threshold, has betrayed us all.”

Mr Crosland said: “The Heathrow case … was about much more than the third runway. Fundamentally it was about the obligation of the government to tell the truth. It can’t keep telling us it’s committed to the Paris Agreement temperature limit, if its actions say the opposite.” Climate News Network

Big carbon users top global sports sponsors’ league

Big Tobacco used to be one of the principal sports sponsors. Now some major climate polluters have replaced it: Big Carbon.

LONDON, 22 March, 2021 − Who backs the world of sport with hard cash? The prosperous tobacco industry was till 2005 among the main sports sponsors, but that year the European Union banned the backing by tobacco of sporting events, although in other parts of the world the cash continues to pour from hand to hand unchecked.

Now though there’s an even more formidable funder than smoking which is opening its wallet to the world’s athletes: Big Carbon.

Three UK-based groups say their research has found that over 250 sports advertising deals with the biggest contributors to climate change have been revealed by a new analysis. Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the research team, said: “Sport is in the front line of the climate emergency but floats on a sea of sponsorship deals with the major polluters.

“It makes the crisis worse by normalising high-carbon, polluting lifestyles, and reducing the pressure for climate action. Major polluters have replaced once common tobacco companies as big sports sponsors. They should be stopped for the same reason tobacco sponsorship ended − for the health of people, sports and the planet.”

A report published by the three groups as part of the Badvertising campaign says football was found to be the biggest beneficiary of the traffic, receiving 57 sponsorships from high-carbon industries, from oil and gas to airlines and cars.

“It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour”

The report, Sweat not oil: why sports should drop advertising and sponsorship from high-carbon polluters, is the work of the think tank New Weather Institute; a climate charity, Possible; and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

It identifies advertising and sponsorship deals with major polluters across 13 different sports, from football, cricket and tennis to major events such as the Olympics.

The deals have been concluded despite moves in the last year by the sports industry to cut its carbon emissions and to play a bigger role in tackling the climate crisis. The report comes days ahead of the Football World Cup Qualifiers on 24 March − sponsored by Qatar Airways.

Football is the most targeted sport. The automotive industry is the most active high-carbon industry courting sports sponsorship, with 199 deals across different sports. Airlines come second with 63, followed by oil and gas companies such as the Russian energy company Gazprom and the British chemicals multinational Ineos, whose deals have already been criticised by climate campaigns.

Health risks

The report reveals the Japanese carmaker Toyota as the largest sponsor by number after 31 sports deals were identified, closely followed by the airline Emirates with 29 partnerships. These findings follow warnings from experts about the risk that climate change poses to sporting events, from the flooding of football grounds to the melting of winter sports venues.

The researchers argue that the direct association with high-carbon products contradicts recent pledges made by clubs and sports bodies to take action on the climate crisis. With climate heating increasingly seen as a health crisis, and concerns over linked issues like air pollution on the rise, the report warns that sports bodies and also individuals risk their credibility as promoters of public health.

The authors say there are parallels between these deals with high-carbon companies and the now disgraced deals which sports bodies used to have with the tobacco industry.

The team behind the report is calling for sports bodies around the world to drop all advertising and sponsorship deals with companies which promote high-carbon lifestyles, products and services.

Power to inspire

The report includes more recommendations to sports bodies, for instance cutting their reliance on air travel and signing up to the UN Sports for Climate Action movement.

The British canoeist Etienne Stott, a gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, said: “It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour.

“Sport has a unique power to connect and inspire people. I would like to see it use its voice to promote the idea of care and stewardship of our planetary resources, not insane exploitation and destruction.”

Melissa Wilson, a leading British rower and a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics, says: “As athletes, we focus a lot on keeping sport ‘clean’ through prioritising anti-doping.

“Yet continuing to pollute in the face of the climate emergency is the Earth-equivalent of doping, or scoring own goals. By keeping polluting sponsors on board, sports detract from their opportunity to play a productive part in the race to zero carbon.” − Climate News Network

Big Tobacco used to be one of the principal sports sponsors. Now some major climate polluters have replaced it: Big Carbon.

LONDON, 22 March, 2021 − Who backs the world of sport with hard cash? The prosperous tobacco industry was till 2005 among the main sports sponsors, but that year the European Union banned the backing by tobacco of sporting events, although in other parts of the world the cash continues to pour from hand to hand unchecked.

Now though there’s an even more formidable funder than smoking which is opening its wallet to the world’s athletes: Big Carbon.

Three UK-based groups say their research has found that over 250 sports advertising deals with the biggest contributors to climate change have been revealed by a new analysis. Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the research team, said: “Sport is in the front line of the climate emergency but floats on a sea of sponsorship deals with the major polluters.

“It makes the crisis worse by normalising high-carbon, polluting lifestyles, and reducing the pressure for climate action. Major polluters have replaced once common tobacco companies as big sports sponsors. They should be stopped for the same reason tobacco sponsorship ended − for the health of people, sports and the planet.”

A report published by the three groups as part of the Badvertising campaign says football was found to be the biggest beneficiary of the traffic, receiving 57 sponsorships from high-carbon industries, from oil and gas to airlines and cars.

“It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour”

The report, Sweat not oil: why sports should drop advertising and sponsorship from high-carbon polluters, is the work of the think tank New Weather Institute; a climate charity, Possible; and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

It identifies advertising and sponsorship deals with major polluters across 13 different sports, from football, cricket and tennis to major events such as the Olympics.

The deals have been concluded despite moves in the last year by the sports industry to cut its carbon emissions and to play a bigger role in tackling the climate crisis. The report comes days ahead of the Football World Cup Qualifiers on 24 March − sponsored by Qatar Airways.

Football is the most targeted sport. The automotive industry is the most active high-carbon industry courting sports sponsorship, with 199 deals across different sports. Airlines come second with 63, followed by oil and gas companies such as the Russian energy company Gazprom and the British chemicals multinational Ineos, whose deals have already been criticised by climate campaigns.

Health risks

The report reveals the Japanese carmaker Toyota as the largest sponsor by number after 31 sports deals were identified, closely followed by the airline Emirates with 29 partnerships. These findings follow warnings from experts about the risk that climate change poses to sporting events, from the flooding of football grounds to the melting of winter sports venues.

The researchers argue that the direct association with high-carbon products contradicts recent pledges made by clubs and sports bodies to take action on the climate crisis. With climate heating increasingly seen as a health crisis, and concerns over linked issues like air pollution on the rise, the report warns that sports bodies and also individuals risk their credibility as promoters of public health.

The authors say there are parallels between these deals with high-carbon companies and the now disgraced deals which sports bodies used to have with the tobacco industry.

The team behind the report is calling for sports bodies around the world to drop all advertising and sponsorship deals with companies which promote high-carbon lifestyles, products and services.

Power to inspire

The report includes more recommendations to sports bodies, for instance cutting their reliance on air travel and signing up to the UN Sports for Climate Action movement.

The British canoeist Etienne Stott, a gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, said: “It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour.

“Sport has a unique power to connect and inspire people. I would like to see it use its voice to promote the idea of care and stewardship of our planetary resources, not insane exploitation and destruction.”

Melissa Wilson, a leading British rower and a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics, says: “As athletes, we focus a lot on keeping sport ‘clean’ through prioritising anti-doping.

“Yet continuing to pollute in the face of the climate emergency is the Earth-equivalent of doping, or scoring own goals. By keeping polluting sponsors on board, sports detract from their opportunity to play a productive part in the race to zero carbon.” − Climate News Network

Hope springs eternal for species facing extinction

Extinction is for ever, but not inevitable. Some threatened species are now surprising survivors. Can others follow suit?

LONDON, 22 February, 2021 − Scientists continue to issue strident warnings that the Earth faces a sixth mass extinction, and the evidence suggests they’re right.

There are some standout survivors, though − birds and mammals which not long ago appeared doomed but are now recovering. There is even a flickering hope that their resurgence could show the way to survival for some other species among the teeming millions at risk.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle, UK, and BirdLife International report in the journal Conservation Letters that different initiatives have prevented up to 32 bird and 16 mammal extinctions since 1993, the year the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force.

As 10 bird and five mammal species are known to have become extinct in that time, the researchers think extinction rates would have been up to four times higher if humans had not acted to help the survivors.

“I think that’s a positive message. It’s not all bad news, always,” said Rike Bolam of the University of Newcastle, the study’s lead author. “It is encouraging that some of the species we studied have recovered very well.”

Success achieved

Stuart Butchart, chief scientist at BirdLife and an honorary research fellow in the zoology department of the University of Cambridge, said: “These results show that despite the overall failure to meet the targets for conserving nature set through the UN a decade ago, significant success in preventing extinctions was achieved.

“It would be easy to feel conservation was a pointless exercise and there’s nothing we can do to slow the juggernaut down. Broadly speaking, we have the tools, we just need much greater resource and political will.”

Many of the most successful conservation efforts involve what science knows as the charismatic megafauna, crowdpuller species such as the tiger, which may attract attention and funding relatively easily in their struggle to escape extinction. Most species do not.

But Bolam and Butchart’s team identified a number of recurring and widely applicable themes in trying to stem the catastrophic race towards oblivion: the removal of invasive species, for example, the management of hunting and protection of important habitats.

“We have the tools, we just need much greater resource and political will”

Saving the web of life intact to hand on to future generations the richness of species on which humanity depends won’t be easy. Adam Vaughan, chief reporter at the magazine New Scientist, writes: “Targeted actions won’t turn the tide alone. Stemming biodiversity loss will also require more fundamental changes to how we value nature – and whether those will be forthcoming is the trillion-dollar question.”

To give some idea of what works − and why − the magazine lists 10 survival success stories from around the world. It includes some obvious candidates, creatures which would be at the top of any keen zoologist’s bucket list − and probably most other people’s too. There’s the blue whale, obviously, its Antarctic sub-species reduced by hunters from an estimated 239,000 before industrial whaling started early in the last century to 360 by the early 1970s..

Yet by 2016 there were thought to be 4,500 in the southern ocean − something Jennifer Jackson at the British Antarctic Survey says has a wider lesson for conservation: “The blue whale recovery is symbolic of what humans can do if they just leave things alone.” Now, though, climate change is affecting the krill which are the whales’ main source of food. The possibility of extinction is returning.

China’s giant pandas declined fast in the 20th century. Political will and protected areas improved their prospects from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” The government has created 67 giant panda reserves since the 1960s, and in 1988 banned logging entirely in their habitats. “The determination and investment of the Chinese government is the key,” says Qiang Xu of WWF-China. But the pandas still need much more time before they’re safe.

Mountain gorilla numbers have risen from about 250 in 1981 to 1,063 today. Things were looking hopeful until last month, when a gorilla in a US zoo was found to have contracted Covid-19. Poaching and forest clearance for agriculture remain potent threats.

People matter

Indus river dolphins were once found along the entire 3,000 kms (1,860 miles) of the Indus, but their range fell to 1,300 kms (800 m). By 2001, their numbers had dropped to 1,200, largely because they become stranded and die in irrigation canals.

Acoustic devices help to deter the dolphins from entering the canals, but educating fishing communities and recruiting local people for ecotourism and monitoring has been the key to saving about 1,800 animals, says Uzma Khan of WWF-Pakistan. “I learned you cannot do anything without communities.”

Not every species on the New Scientist’s list will avoid extinction, let alone the countless others which will live and die unremarked. Not all of those listed is even a poster girl (or boy) for conservation.

The world’s most endangered primate, the Hainan gibbon, is endemic to the Chinese island of the same name, and probably not very widely-known. By 1980 its population had fallen from 2,000 to a total barely able to ensure survival − just nine animals. There are now thought to be around a slightly more secure 33 altogether. Wish them luck. − Climate New Network

Extinction is for ever, but not inevitable. Some threatened species are now surprising survivors. Can others follow suit?

LONDON, 22 February, 2021 − Scientists continue to issue strident warnings that the Earth faces a sixth mass extinction, and the evidence suggests they’re right.

There are some standout survivors, though − birds and mammals which not long ago appeared doomed but are now recovering. There is even a flickering hope that their resurgence could show the way to survival for some other species among the teeming millions at risk.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle, UK, and BirdLife International report in the journal Conservation Letters that different initiatives have prevented up to 32 bird and 16 mammal extinctions since 1993, the year the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force.

As 10 bird and five mammal species are known to have become extinct in that time, the researchers think extinction rates would have been up to four times higher if humans had not acted to help the survivors.

“I think that’s a positive message. It’s not all bad news, always,” said Rike Bolam of the University of Newcastle, the study’s lead author. “It is encouraging that some of the species we studied have recovered very well.”

Success achieved

Stuart Butchart, chief scientist at BirdLife and an honorary research fellow in the zoology department of the University of Cambridge, said: “These results show that despite the overall failure to meet the targets for conserving nature set through the UN a decade ago, significant success in preventing extinctions was achieved.

“It would be easy to feel conservation was a pointless exercise and there’s nothing we can do to slow the juggernaut down. Broadly speaking, we have the tools, we just need much greater resource and political will.”

Many of the most successful conservation efforts involve what science knows as the charismatic megafauna, crowdpuller species such as the tiger, which may attract attention and funding relatively easily in their struggle to escape extinction. Most species do not.

But Bolam and Butchart’s team identified a number of recurring and widely applicable themes in trying to stem the catastrophic race towards oblivion: the removal of invasive species, for example, the management of hunting and protection of important habitats.

“We have the tools, we just need much greater resource and political will”

Saving the web of life intact to hand on to future generations the richness of species on which humanity depends won’t be easy. Adam Vaughan, chief reporter at the magazine New Scientist, writes: “Targeted actions won’t turn the tide alone. Stemming biodiversity loss will also require more fundamental changes to how we value nature – and whether those will be forthcoming is the trillion-dollar question.”

To give some idea of what works − and why − the magazine lists 10 survival success stories from around the world. It includes some obvious candidates, creatures which would be at the top of any keen zoologist’s bucket list − and probably most other people’s too. There’s the blue whale, obviously, its Antarctic sub-species reduced by hunters from an estimated 239,000 before industrial whaling started early in the last century to 360 by the early 1970s..

Yet by 2016 there were thought to be 4,500 in the southern ocean − something Jennifer Jackson at the British Antarctic Survey says has a wider lesson for conservation: “The blue whale recovery is symbolic of what humans can do if they just leave things alone.” Now, though, climate change is affecting the krill which are the whales’ main source of food. The possibility of extinction is returning.

China’s giant pandas declined fast in the 20th century. Political will and protected areas improved their prospects from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” The government has created 67 giant panda reserves since the 1960s, and in 1988 banned logging entirely in their habitats. “The determination and investment of the Chinese government is the key,” says Qiang Xu of WWF-China. But the pandas still need much more time before they’re safe.

Mountain gorilla numbers have risen from about 250 in 1981 to 1,063 today. Things were looking hopeful until last month, when a gorilla in a US zoo was found to have contracted Covid-19. Poaching and forest clearance for agriculture remain potent threats.

People matter

Indus river dolphins were once found along the entire 3,000 kms (1,860 miles) of the Indus, but their range fell to 1,300 kms (800 m). By 2001, their numbers had dropped to 1,200, largely because they become stranded and die in irrigation canals.

Acoustic devices help to deter the dolphins from entering the canals, but educating fishing communities and recruiting local people for ecotourism and monitoring has been the key to saving about 1,800 animals, says Uzma Khan of WWF-Pakistan. “I learned you cannot do anything without communities.”

Not every species on the New Scientist’s list will avoid extinction, let alone the countless others which will live and die unremarked. Not all of those listed is even a poster girl (or boy) for conservation.

The world’s most endangered primate, the Hainan gibbon, is endemic to the Chinese island of the same name, and probably not very widely-known. By 1980 its population had fallen from 2,000 to a total barely able to ensure survival − just nine animals. There are now thought to be around a slightly more secure 33 altogether. Wish them luck. − Climate New Network

How to rebuild a forest in a growing climate crisis

A global energy company’s mistake renewed debate on how to slow the climate crisis. Trees can help − but where, and how?

LONDON, 19 February, 2021 – The oil company Shell recently miscalculated the extent of its reserves on a pretty massive scale. The mistake meant its new scenario for meeting the internationally agreed 1.5°C climate target would need a new forest about the size of Brazil. And that renewed a debate about just what trees can do to ease the climate crisis.

Tree-planting to tackle possibly irreversible climate change is one hopeful route. Trees not only breathe carbon dioxide in; they also breathe out oxygen. But tree-planting is more complex than it may seem.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says in its 2018 Special Report, that if the world wants to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2050, an extra one billion hectares (2.4bn acres) of trees will be needed. But what types of trees, and where? Many different initiatives across the world have tried to restore woodland, but what works best for people and the biosphere?

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement). It has several suggestions for understanding how trees might best help to cool the climate crisis, not least relying on natural forest regeneration rather than commercial plantations.

Over the last decade, several reforestation and afforestation schemes have sprung up under the programme of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“In India, 66 million trees were planted in a 12-hour record-breaking campaign. Myanmar used drones to plant trees”

National and regional reforestation initiatives include China’s forest rehabilitation programme and Africa’s Great Green Wall scheme linking North Africa, the Sahel (the area south of the Sahara desert) and the Horn of Africa.

In 2019 the FAO launched a similar reforestation plan targeting cities – the Great Green Wall for Cities initiative. This is expected to remove from 0.5 to 5 Gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year.

In 2017, Pakistan met its target of planting a billion trees and  made a commitment to reach 10 billion trees within five years. In its neighbour India, 66 million trees were planted in a 12-hour record-breaking campaign involving 1.5 million volunteers. Some countries have relied on equally novel methods; Myanmar used drones to plant trees.

Ambitious projects like these can sound attractive. But their ability to achieve their goals sometimes proves controversial.

Several climate and forest scientists favour what they call “natural forest regeneration” – essentially letting the forest grow back naturally – which often proves to be the most efficient and cheapest approach in achieving natural carbon sequestration.

Regeneration neglected

However, only 34% of the total area dedicated to forest restoration plans covered by the Bonn Challenge is earmarked for this approach.

A further 21% of land is reserved for agroforestry, a method promoting the production of multiple plants and crops side by side. The remaining 45% of the land area is given up to the monoculture production of trees.

Better ways of doing things are exemplified by Ghana and Malaysia, for example, where people restored their local forests after being granted ownership of the land.

In Ghana, the forest restoration projects found to be most successful were those which included a “rights-based approach”. Strengthening community rights contributed to the protection of forests from appropriation and privatisation and ensured greater accountability, the right to speak out, and provided safeguards against illegal practices.

In Malaysia, an NGO supported Penan indigenous communities in fighting for their legitimate entitlement to land rights in court. The Penan have strong ties with the land and forests, which play a strong role in maintaining local biodiversity.

Four pathways

Tree planting programmes have had very mixed results. Many failures occurred because the trees planted were not suitable for local climate conditions, and others depleted groundwater reserves, leaving nearby soils dried out and damaging local agricultural production.

Natural forest restoration is the most effective way to store carbon from the atmosphere, the RTA argues. These forests are 40 times more effective than plantations and six times better than agroforestry at retaining carbon. Their complex ecological systems are also better for biodiversity.

The RTA says there are four main ways for countries to encourage the successful restoration of natural forests so as to temper the effects of the climate crisis:

  • They should increase the proportion of their land allocated for regeneration to natural forest
  • Priority should be given to humid tropical areas, such as Amazonia, Borneo and the Congo Basin, which support high biomass forest. International climate adaptation and conservation funds could be used to support such action
  • Countries should focus on naturally regenerating existing carbon stocks such as degraded forests and partly wooded areas, using treeless regions for plantations or agroforestry
  • Restored forest must be protected, perhaps by giving title rights to indigenous peoples who protect forested land, changing the legal definition of land-use so that it cannot be converted to agriculture, and ensuring that commodities companies cannot clear restored forests.

Restoring natural forests, the Alliance concludes, is the most efficient, fast, safe and under-valued carbon sequestration tool. Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

A global energy company’s mistake renewed debate on how to slow the climate crisis. Trees can help − but where, and how?

LONDON, 19 February, 2021 – The oil company Shell recently miscalculated the extent of its reserves on a pretty massive scale. The mistake meant its new scenario for meeting the internationally agreed 1.5°C climate target would need a new forest about the size of Brazil. And that renewed a debate about just what trees can do to ease the climate crisis.

Tree-planting to tackle possibly irreversible climate change is one hopeful route. Trees not only breathe carbon dioxide in; they also breathe out oxygen. But tree-planting is more complex than it may seem.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says in its 2018 Special Report, that if the world wants to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2050, an extra one billion hectares (2.4bn acres) of trees will be needed. But what types of trees, and where? Many different initiatives across the world have tried to restore woodland, but what works best for people and the biosphere?

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement). It has several suggestions for understanding how trees might best help to cool the climate crisis, not least relying on natural forest regeneration rather than commercial plantations.

Over the last decade, several reforestation and afforestation schemes have sprung up under the programme of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“In India, 66 million trees were planted in a 12-hour record-breaking campaign. Myanmar used drones to plant trees”

National and regional reforestation initiatives include China’s forest rehabilitation programme and Africa’s Great Green Wall scheme linking North Africa, the Sahel (the area south of the Sahara desert) and the Horn of Africa.

In 2019 the FAO launched a similar reforestation plan targeting cities – the Great Green Wall for Cities initiative. This is expected to remove from 0.5 to 5 Gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year.

In 2017, Pakistan met its target of planting a billion trees and  made a commitment to reach 10 billion trees within five years. In its neighbour India, 66 million trees were planted in a 12-hour record-breaking campaign involving 1.5 million volunteers. Some countries have relied on equally novel methods; Myanmar used drones to plant trees.

Ambitious projects like these can sound attractive. But their ability to achieve their goals sometimes proves controversial.

Several climate and forest scientists favour what they call “natural forest regeneration” – essentially letting the forest grow back naturally – which often proves to be the most efficient and cheapest approach in achieving natural carbon sequestration.

Regeneration neglected

However, only 34% of the total area dedicated to forest restoration plans covered by the Bonn Challenge is earmarked for this approach.

A further 21% of land is reserved for agroforestry, a method promoting the production of multiple plants and crops side by side. The remaining 45% of the land area is given up to the monoculture production of trees.

Better ways of doing things are exemplified by Ghana and Malaysia, for example, where people restored their local forests after being granted ownership of the land.

In Ghana, the forest restoration projects found to be most successful were those which included a “rights-based approach”. Strengthening community rights contributed to the protection of forests from appropriation and privatisation and ensured greater accountability, the right to speak out, and provided safeguards against illegal practices.

In Malaysia, an NGO supported Penan indigenous communities in fighting for their legitimate entitlement to land rights in court. The Penan have strong ties with the land and forests, which play a strong role in maintaining local biodiversity.

Four pathways

Tree planting programmes have had very mixed results. Many failures occurred because the trees planted were not suitable for local climate conditions, and others depleted groundwater reserves, leaving nearby soils dried out and damaging local agricultural production.

Natural forest restoration is the most effective way to store carbon from the atmosphere, the RTA argues. These forests are 40 times more effective than plantations and six times better than agroforestry at retaining carbon. Their complex ecological systems are also better for biodiversity.

The RTA says there are four main ways for countries to encourage the successful restoration of natural forests so as to temper the effects of the climate crisis:

  • They should increase the proportion of their land allocated for regeneration to natural forest
  • Priority should be given to humid tropical areas, such as Amazonia, Borneo and the Congo Basin, which support high biomass forest. International climate adaptation and conservation funds could be used to support such action
  • Countries should focus on naturally regenerating existing carbon stocks such as degraded forests and partly wooded areas, using treeless regions for plantations or agroforestry
  • Restored forest must be protected, perhaps by giving title rights to indigenous peoples who protect forested land, changing the legal definition of land-use so that it cannot be converted to agriculture, and ensuring that commodities companies cannot clear restored forests.

Restoring natural forests, the Alliance concludes, is the most efficient, fast, safe and under-valued carbon sequestration tool. Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.