New perspectives on adaptation and resilience

Donald Trump’s election as US president has opened pressing new conversations around the resilience of the climate movement and its need to adapt to this new circumstance – but the core response is to remain united on the Paris Agreement, reports Paul Allen.

Even though Hillary Clinton received the most votes nationally, Trump tapped into the anxiety of many US citizens around shrinking economic opportunities, immigration, falling incomes and globalisation. So over the past couple of days, delegates and observers at COP22 have been exploring the implications of a Trump administration on the Paris Agreement.

Many from the US remain confident that the rapidly expanding deployment of clean energy solutions by businesses, cities and states across the US has created enough new employment and gained sufficient momentum to continue the drive to decarbonise the US energy economy, and will therefore influence the policies of the new President. The Trump campaign has promised to create millions of new jobs for American workers – and it may well turn out that the renewable energy revolution is actually one of the most effective ways to deliver this in the realities of the 21st Century. After all, there has been clear cross-party support for investments in clean energy as well as in climate resilience. Trump’s commitment to infrastructure investment initiatives could actually provide a vehicle to deliver both of these.

It is important not to underestimate the impact of interfaith groups in the US. Over recent years, a coalition of development, faith, environmental and business groups have been actively engaging both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, educating them on how investment in renewable energy is not charity or a hand-out, but rather a smart investment with economic, environmental and security benefits for all Americans.

US interfaith press briefing at COP22
US interfaith press briefing at COP22

With this in mind, I attended a US interfaith press briefing to see what perspectives they offer. Jenny Phillips, pastor of the United Methodist Church USA and member of the Green Faith group was quietly confident. She said “We are still absorbing the implications of the election, and we can’t know everything yet, but we do know some things won’t change – faith groups know climate change is real. Our churches’ strong clear voice will keep on rising, affirming a strong new politics and delivering action on the ground. Global momentum is still building and is unstoppable.”

I asked the panel if President Trump had ever expressed any faith or belief, or is he the first non-Christian President? They suggested Trump had expressed a relationship with the Presbyterian Church, and the US interfaith community were currently in the process of preparing to reach out to him.

Increasing numbers of governments across the globe understand that rapid climate action can reduce the dangerous impacts on their people whilst offering public health and economic co-benefits. Undoubtedly these governments will continue to move ahead on their Paris Agreement commitments and if President Trump decides not to honour America’s commitments, he will quickly learn that this will impact on his ability to gain support from global leaders on other issues important to him.

Climate is now a high-level geopolitical issue, and any country perceived as not doing its fair share will quickly lose standing in the world.  The US elections do nothing to change this fundamental truth.

Cross-pollination day at COP22

Paul Allen reports from day four at the Marrakech climate change talks.

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One of the amazing interactives from the India@COP22 Pavillion, with falling micro-droplets of water spelling out key messages as a backdrop.

Today I don’t have any formal commitments to give presentations or to meet people, which means it is the ideal day for cross-pollinating our Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) work around the various national pavilions and stalls. My aim is to offer the ZCB scenario to as many countries as possible, as a model that might allow their team to make comparisons with their own scenarios or, if they don’t yet have a zero carbon national scenario, to inspire them to consider developing one. Here are some of the responses so far…

Japan were very enthusiastic, immediately introducing me to Dr Shuzo Nishioka, who keenly swapped my ZCB flyer for their report on ‘How to achieve long-term transitions to full decarbonisation’. You can read more about this here.

Malaysia, for example, did not yet have a whole country scenario, but offered visions for an individual green, smart, low carbon forest city.

The USA seemed intrigued by my request and gave me contact details to officially request information on Zero Carbon Scenarios – I will keep you posted.

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Experts from the Low-Carbon Asia Research Centre were keen to make comparisons between ZCB and their work.

The team in the highly impressive Indian Pavilion were also very helpful, taking me into a tranquil meeting space to talk to their technical experts. Basically they see the need for it, and are working on something along those lines, but don’t have it quite yet. The most recent relevant work they could offer was Planning Commission Government of India’s ‘Final Report of the Expert Group on Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth‘.

The Turkish Pavilion was very positive, explaining this was an issue they felt to be very important. As we talked over a cup of Turkish tea, they explained that to help kick-start their research they were holding an event titled ‘Solutions in Energy: Energy End Use Efficiency and Transition to 100 % Renewable Energy’ at their Pavilion tomorrow at 1pm. They politely asked if I could present the ZCB scenario for them in a 15 min slot, alongside visions from other nations. I keenly accepted and look forward to sharing with their wider group. Another positive response came from the Low-Carbon Asia Research Centre – they were very keen to make comparisons between ZCB and their work, and became most excited at my suggestion of taking their scenarios to writers who could then tell stories of the daily lives of people who inhabit the future world they describe.

The COP process is ideally set up for such cross-fertilisations. There are literally thousands of experts from almost every country across the globe, and much information is exchanged. Oceans, biodiversity, buildings, transport, adaptation, mitigation, resilience or finance – this amazing pool of knowledge and passion forms a sphere of ambition, which encourages and supports the negotiators. But more than that, as each and every participant returns home they take a little of the COP process back with them to share with their communities, helping build ambition and social licence for the Paris Agreement across the globe.

Now off to do some more….

It’s Trump – what now for climate action?

What are the implications for international action on climate change of the election of Donald Trump?

There’s shock all round in the environmental movement as the news sinks in that the next President of the United States is a climate sceptic who has threatened to derail the Paris Climate Agreement and has suggested that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy.

CAT Chief Executive Adrian Ramsay says:

The election of a climate change sceptic as leader of one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases is very bad news for the environment – there’s no sugar coating that.

“Coming just days after the Paris Agreement came into force, and at a time when negotiators at the UN climate talks in Marrakech are being urged to be more ambitious, Trump’s election risks slowing global momentum on climate change. However, the Paris Agreement is bound in law and – despite the rhetoric that we’ve seen over the past months and years – Trump cannot simply repeal it over night.

“Time will tell what the true impacts of this election will be, but we cannot afford to wait and see which way Trump will jump. At Marrakech we can push for greater ambition, and as citizens of the Earth we can continue to campaign for the changes we know need to happen if we are to keep global temperature rise to within ‘safe’ limits.”

Later today our man in Marrakech, Paul Allen, will give us a view from inside the COP22 UN climate change talks, where he says the American Pavilion has gone eerily quiet…

“Facilitative dialogues” – Paul Allen at the UN climate talks

Marrakech is turning out to be a different kind of meeting from Paris, but that does not make it less important, in fact quite the opposite.  If Paris was about creating the framework, Marrakech is about deciding the rules so that goals are achieved.

paulearthThe most common phrase of the day in almost every session I have attended is “increasing ambition”. This can be done by turning up the guilt or it can be done by increasing inspiration – showing both that zero is achievable and that there are additional benefits in doing it. Of course, the key advantage of the latter approach is that it is less divisive and works better to unite communities across the globe.

So many people want to accelerate the transition to the zero carbon economy. People around the world are taking action to install solar and wind solutions, block coal and oil infrastructure and protect forests. People want a different future and are creating it. This determination has grown stronger and louder since Paris.

Marrakech must ensure that this increase in ambition results in plans that match the global goals. So this is why so many need to talk about increasing ambition, as the 1.5C goal really can’t wait. However, just like Paris, Marrakech is driven by incredibly complex negotiating processes. And, thankfully, just like Paris, it has attracted an amazingly bright and highly motivated collaborative global tribe inside and outside of the official process. Working amongst them constantly inspires me, as they get to grips with it all and work out how best to influence the process, flagging up the key issues and phrases.

Perhaps the most important phrase to get to grips with at this point is “Facilitative dialogue”. Due to begin in 2018, this cop22-monday-7thdescribes the official COP process of ratcheting up ambition. It is a chance for countries to take stock of how close they are to achieving the key long-term goals of peaking emissions and achieving net zero emissions early in the second half of the century.

“Facilitative dialogues” are designed to inform the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – the pledges that each country makes to show their contribution to tackling climate change. Once countries have a clearer idea of the direction of travel, they will have the motivation to either update or communicate their new NDC by 2020.

It is an incredible feeling to join these astounding people in this process, everyone I have spoken to about our Zero Carbon Britain work sees a clear role for more positive scenarios in increasing ambition for NDCs. This will be the core topic of the first session run by the American Pavilion facilitated by the World Resources Institute – I will be there to see how it goes, and to offer America a hug!

Quarry Trail Launch Party!

quarrytrail-copyJoin us on Monday 24th October as we celebrate the opening of CAT’s new Quarry Trail with a day out in nature for all the family.

Built with support from Natural Resources Wales, the trail explores the wildlife and biodiversity of the old slate quarry on which CAT is built, and looks at the history of changing land-use and industry in the area. Winding up through broadleaf woodland, three different trails of varying lengths allow access to never-before-seen areas of the CAT woodlands and gardens whilst offering spectacular views into the Snowdonia National Park.

The launch event will see the trail brought to life by musicians, singers and storytellers, whilst experts in the wildlife and history of the quarry will help visitors to get a better understanding of their surroundings.

Micro-landscape tours provide a glimpse into the tiny world of mosses anqtl-progd lichens, a local ornithologist will be on hand with tips and tricks for recognising bird song, and an expert from Corris Mine Explorers will talk through the geology and history of the old quarry. There’s also the chance to get involved in surveying a new wildflower meadow and to get to grips with green woodworking skills.

The Quarry Trail opens on Monday 24th October, with activities from 10am and an opening ceremony at 11.30am. CAT’s family activities continue throughout half-term week.

Download the programme and map of the day.

 

New biomass teaching facility unveiled

Last week saw the launch of CAT’s new renewable heating teaching facility. The system will provide heat and hot water for several of our buildings, including the WISE education  and conference centre, whilst also being used as an example system for training heating engineers and plumbers in biomass installation. Display signs will help visitors and school groups to understand the benefits, and potential drawbacks, of using biomass as a fuel.

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Image: Launch of biomass boiler. Credit: Ian Care

Speaking at the launch event on Friday 7th October, CAT CEO Adrian Ramsay said: “The installation uses established and proven technology and fits well with CAT’s mission of helping people deliver practical solutions that can address the challenge of climate change.”

The system works on both wood chip and wood pellet – the first time the manufacturers have created this kind of combined fuel system outside of a laboratory. We plan to source fuel from local suppliers wherever possible, with much of the wood chip coming from a supplier based less than 1 mile from the CAT site in Pantperthog.

Speak Up Week of Action

Join us from 8th-16th October in a Climate Coalition Week of Action to celebrate the people, places and things we want to protect from climate change – and make sure our political representatives feel that love.

facebook insta speak up beautiful things buntingAll over the country, we’ll be seeing nature walks, tea parties, classic lobbies, community energy visits and all sorts of other events to start those key conversations about climate change. All this will either involve politicians or be showcased to them, so that they see, feel and hear how much their constituents care about what we could lose to climate change.

People all over the UK are organising events in their local areas, and we’d love you to be involved. Join or organise an event in your area at weekofaction.org.uk

At CAT we’re hosting a coffee morning with Simon Thomas AM on Friday 14th October. Come along and discuss why you care about the environment and what you think politicians should be doing.

What’s on at CAT this summer?

Every day during the school holidays…

Enjoy special activities every day during the school holidays (18th July to 29th August). Get the kids out exploring nature and let them get creative with eco-crafts and solar boat-building. Take a guided tour or explore our brand new Quarry Trail. Just relax in our organic gardens or stop for lunch in the CAT cafe. See you soon!

Fun for kids!

 

EcoCrafts-Blog

 

 

Get crafty with natural jewellery making

 

 

 

 

 

SolarBoat

 

 

Put your inventing cap on and build a solar-powered boat

 

 

 

 

 

SlugsAndBugs

 

 

Get up close to some amazing beasties on a slug & bug hunt

 

 

 

And adults too!

 

GuidedTour

 

 

Take a guided tour to learn more about renewable energy and greener buildings

 

 

 

 

NewQuarryTrail

 

 

 

 

Explore our brand new Quarry Trail for amazing views across the old quarry on which CAT is built

 

 

 

 

 

Woodwork

 

 

Release your inner bodger with green woodcraft demonstrations every Wednesday

 

 

 

 

*School holiday activites run from 18th July to 29th August, with kids’ activities and guided tours on every day

To find out what’s on when, take a look at our events calendar at http://visit.cat.org.uk/whats-on

 

Emergency Buildings for Gaza and Nepal

Climate Change and Sustainability are very complex issues. The range of themes CAT students cover is incredibly varied – ranging from how to measure the heat loss from a building to heterodox economic theory. This week, humanitarian architecture takes centre stage. Students on the MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation (Built Environment/Planning) are joined by Jamie Richardson of Shelter and Construction to look at emergency buildings.

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UNHCR tarpaulin on emergency shelter

Learning about construction in these extreme environments is as connected to sustainability as everything else CAT does. The project is designed to give students the opportunity to engage with the task of building suitable shelters for refugees in times of conflict or disaster.

The module looks at the broad range of considerations needed for this kind of work: anthropology, logistics, materials, community consultation, the role of the NGO, thermal comfort and wellbeing, diplomacy and, of course, the sustainability of solutions among many other connected issues. It aims to equip students to be able to go into the field and make a difference to people’s lives. While the types of buildings that we might see on the news that are used to house refugees may seem like simple structures, the thought and logistical complexity that goes into their construction is considerable. There are three overarching considerations that shelters need to provide: durability, dignity and safety.

For the purpose of this module, students are given two contrasting scenarios in which they will be expected to engage with the theoretical and practical issues for each specific situation. The first situation the students faced was the aftermath of an earthquake in Nepal, with large numbers of people affected. This scenario was designed to demonstrate how a crisis might play out in a rural setting. Students looked at the location, available materials and logistics and then went out and built what they considered a viable shelter for people involved in the disaster. The second scenario, Gaza, offered students the opportunity to think theoretically and practically about shelter provision in a war affected, urban setting where practical considerations about the availability of materials, as well as safety, are paramount. The value of the module is that students not only get the theoretical background on emergency shelter provision, but then can put that theory into practice by actually constructing shelters and getting feedback on their efficacy.

bamboo earthquake shelter
A bamboo structre for use in Nepal

Over the next few days, students will be working on a practical research and development project for a modular, scalable design for a two story building that can be rapidly constructed using the small timbers available in Gaza. The basic design is already in use in Gaza. The designs make use of only 2” by 1” timbers and 1/2” inch plywood to construct various designs of I-beams suitable for floors, roofs and walls. The work student are carrying out this week will build on this existing design, testing new detailing in the construction of the floors and building some I-beams and other elements that will be load tested by Oxford Brookes University.

students emergency shelter
Constructing I-beams to test for use in two-story emergency buildings in Gasa

It is a compelling example of how the principles of sustainable architecture can be brought into this immediate and complex problem. Given that the world is seeing an unprecedented amount of forcibly displaced people globally, the skills taught on this module are able to positively contribute to a serious and growing problem.

More about the course

The EU and the environment

What would UK environmental policy and practice look like if we voted to leave the EU? With the referendum fast approaching, we explore the possibilities.

Once known as ‘the Dirty Man of Europe’, the UK has cleaned up its act in recent years thanks, in large part, to the influence of the European Union. If the UK votes to leave the EU, how might this impact environmental policy and legislation in the UK? And how would the UK’s exit affect environmental protection in the remaining EU countries?

leavesEU countries have worked together over decades to build one of the most comprehensive packages of environmental legislation in the world, including habitat protection, pollution control and climate change mitigation. Much of the UK’s environmental law has been developed through its membership of the EU, so it’s important to explore the potential impacts of a Brexit scenario.

A large number of EU directives have helped to enforce standards in areas as diverse as water quality, air quality, fish stocks, waste disposal, hazardous substances, radioactive waste, recycling, construction, habitat and wildlife protection, GMOs, animal welfare and climate change.

Whilst some aspects of EU policy (such as the Common Agricultural Policy), have been damaging to the environment, most EU environmental policies have resulted in a raising of standards across EU member states. The EU-wide nature of these policies makes them more effective as many of the issues are trans-boundary (water, air and wildlife all move across boundaries). Single nations are also less likely to raise standards unilaterally due to fear of competitive disadvantage. EU-wide legislation creates a level playing field that countries are more willing to sign up to.

In the event of a ‘leave’ vote, there’s no clear consensus over which exit scenario the UK would follow but, irrespective of what the final arrangement might be, Brexit would result in some important changes:

  • Loss of the UK’s voice in EU decisions affecting the environment.
  • In international negotiations, such as the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change, the UK would contribute independently. This would allow us to steer our own path, but we would lose influence over the EU position, which holds more sway at a global level owing to its size and economic importance.
  • The Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy would cease to apply and we would need to find alternatives. The consequences of this change for land and marine management could be significant.

 

Options for the UK and Europe

Other impacts would be dependent on the type of relationship negotiated between the UK and the remaining EU Member States. There are a number of options, but it’s uncertain which option would be pursued by the UK government.

One option in the event of an ‘out’ vote is that the UK joins countries such as Norway and Iceland as part of the European Economic Area (EEA). In this scenario, most EU environmental legislation would continue to apply, with notable exceptions being the Bathing Water Directive and the Birds and Habitats Directives (see box). If the UK stayed within the EEA, we would retain some routes into EU policy debates, but could no longer vote on decisions affecting EU legislation.

In relation to industry, EU environmental law covers two broad areas: ensuring industrial processes don’t cause undue environmental damage and ensuring products entering the EEA meet agreed standards. Examples of the former include limiting emissions and setting broad standards for air and water quality; the latter includes restriction of hazardous substances in products and ensuring suitability for recycling. Most of this legislation would continue to apply if the UK left the EU but remained in the EEA.

 


Bathing water and habitats

The Bathing Water Directive was the main reason that the UK introduced improved water treatment from the 1970s onwards. Prior to this, the seas around the UK were some of the dirtiest in Europe, thanks to the government policy of ‘dilute and disperse’. In the event of the UK leaving the EU, this directive would cease to apply. Although it is unlikely that the UK government would take the unpopular step of weakening standards in this area, there would no longer be pressure from Europe to keep our seas clean.

Similarly, the Habitats Directive would no longer be in force under any of the likely Brexit scenarios. Enacted in 1992, this protects habitats and important species of animals and plants. The UK government has made clear its frustration with some aspects of the Habitats Directive, particularly where infrastructure developments have been affected. There is therefore real concern that UK habitats and wildlife could receive less protection outside of the EU.


 

Other options include a negotiated bilateral agreement with the EU, with some access to the Single Market, or the UK could withdraw completely from the Single Market.  In both of these scenarios, different types of legislation would be affected in different ways.

treeEU regulations are applied directly in member countries so would no longer be applicable in the UK if we chose to leave the EU and not join the EEA. It would then be up to the UK government to decide on UK legislation in these areas.

EU directives are not directly applicable in UK law. Many of them have been transposed into UK law so would continue to apply until changed by the UK parliament even if we left the EEA. Other directives have been implemented under the 1972 European Communities Act, so new legislation would have to be enacted if this act was repealed.

New UK legislation could of course increase, maintain or reduce the level of environmental protection. However, the current government’s actions and promises to ‘cut the green crap’ do not bode well. It’s worth noting that EU states are currently allowed to adopt ‘more stringent protection measures’ than EU legislation requires (albeit with some limitations), yet the UK government has chosen to adopt a ‘no gold plating’ approach – sticking with the minimum standards – while complaining that many of those standards are unnecessary ‘red tape’ for industry.

Even where the UK is no longer bound by EU environmental legislation, companies exporting to the EU would have to comply with EU industry standards. The EU is unlikely to allow equal access to the market for products developed under lower environmental standards where this might have implications for competitiveness.

In or out?

Overall, there’s still much uncertainty over what impact an ‘out’ vote might have. Before its involvement in Europe, the UK did not have a strong record on environmental protections, but in some areas it’s unlikely that we would move backwards. If we remain in the EEA then many protections remain.

However, evidence of the government’s dislike of ‘red tape’ and ‘green crap’, particularly when it comes to protecting the environment against the interests of big business, does give cause for concern. Environmental protection is a long-term investment, often overshadowed by headline-grabbing short-term issues, and in the age of austerity it’s easy to see how certain environmental considerations could become neglected without the safeguards offered by the EU.

In the next few weeks, the voices for ‘in’ and ‘out’ will clamour ever more loudly for your vote – you can use this chance to ask questions about their vision for the environment, putting the issues you care about at the heart of the debate.

 


Climate change

Both the EU collectively and individual members states sign up to new treaties on climate change.
Climate targets are implemented through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), covering emissions from power plants and aviation, and the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), covering emissions from elsewhere. Together, these policies govern overall totals for emissions, and EU legislation determines how allowances are allocated.

Other policies that help reduce emissions within the EU include legislation on transport and energy, including rules on energy efficiency and renewables, and emissions targets for car manufacturers. Energy efficiency rules include the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive. Targets are set for the percentage of energy that should come from renewable sources, plus targets and regulations on biomass.

EU commitments agreed at the Paris climate change talks are currently being developed into a package of new measures, including revisions to ETS, new renewables targets, changes to energy efficiency legislation, and the possibility of the inclusion of legislation on carbon stored in land and forestry.

So what would be the impact of Brexit on EU climate policy? The UK, along with other North-West Member States, has pushed for an ambitious approach to targets, whilst states in the South and East of the EU have been more reluctant. The UK has been particularly influential in determining targets for 2020 and 2030. UK support has been for market-based mechanisms such as ETS over targets for particular technologies. Under a Brexit scenario, EU policy may therefore become less ambitious and more technology-focused in its targets.


 

Read more

There are a few useful reports that cover these issues in more depth:

The EU Referendum and the UK Environment

The potential policy and environmental consequences for the UK of a departure from the European Union

Brexit – the Implications for UK Environmental Policy and Regulation

 

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This is an extract from Clean Slate Summer 2016. To receive Clean Slate once a quarter and stay up to date with news and veiws from CAT, sign up for membership today.