Video round up: the videos that got us talking this week

If you want suggest more videos for next week’s round up post a comment on the blog or the Facebook page

Our Zero Carbon Britain research team pointed out this video. Useful for anyone who needs some info on counteract the current climate skeptic stuff that’s going on in the media.

The Robin Hood Tax is a project launched on the 10th of February 2010 calling for a tiny tax on bankers that would raise billions to tackle poverty and climate change, at home and abroad. By taking an average of 0.05% from speculative banking transactions, hundreds of billions of pounds would be raised every year. That’s easily enough to stop cuts in crucial public services in the UK, and to help fight global poverty and climate change. Over 50 organisations have signed up in support of the project, including CAT- find out more here Robinhood Tax

The Story of Cap and Trade Cap and trade is made simple in this film from US sustainability activist Annie Leonard. Find out why the ‘carbon market’ solution to reducing emissions, may not be such a quick fix after all

CAT’s Graduate School Bridges Gap to a Sustainable Society

by Kate Blair

This week the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) plays host to seventy students on the MSc in Renewable Energy and the Built Environment (REBE). Students eat communally and stay in onsite accommodation during five days of lectures, seminars, tutorials and practicals as part of monthly residential modules at CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment (GSE).

There is increasing public concern over the problem of climate change resulting from the use of depleting fossil fuels- one of the best solutions to this is the deployment of renewable energy technologies. The UK has tremendous renewable resources including 40% of Europe’s offshore wind capacity, yet as REBE course leader Mike Thompson states

“The escalating nature of climate change makes need for renewable energy urgent but expertise in this area is not able to meet this need.  This programme is being developed to meet the specific demands of the industry in its quest to provide much needed expertise in this important area.”

REBE

Furthermore Bryce Scott a lecturer on the REBE course says “The technologies and economics of renewable energy are maturing but there is an enormous gap to bridge to shift society to a sustainable basis, so there is a lot of work to be done.”

The course is validated for full MSc status by the University of East London (UEL) and has recently been accredited by the Energy Institute that provides REBE students one route to becoming a chartered engineer. The programme offers a unique combination of design, evaluation and practical experience by lecturers who all work within the field, some with 30 years of experience, and each technology is utilised and taught on site.

David Hood is one of the lecturers on the REBE course  “Renewable energy is one of the fastest developing areas of engineering in the UK. The REBE course at CAT offers practical based learning in each of the main renewable energy systems, taught by professionals in the field.”

Continue reading “CAT’s Graduate School Bridges Gap to a Sustainable Society”

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Happy New Year

Frosty CATAfter the well-deserved Christmas break,  CAT staff began trickling back into the offices today, picking there way though the icy puddles that have descended on Llwyngwern quarry. Minus 11 temperatures have meant that all CAT’s cold water pipes are frozen and at the Quarry café in town the pipes have burst. Still the sun is shining and in top office we started the new year with a big office clean.

2010 is a big year for CAT; the multi million pound Wales Institute for Sustainable Development will be opening in spring and will see a packed programme of courses, conferences and events. CAT’s ground breaking report Zero Carbon Britain 2 will be released, setting out a clear policy framework for a rapid decarbonisation of the UK by 2030. The visitors centre circuit will reopen on March the 27th after being revamped, jiggled around and remodeled.

As well as these events CAT will continue to run courses on a wide range of topics and the graduate school continues to thrive. 2010 is also an important year for the climate, rapid action is needed if we are to avert the worst effects of climate change and stay below a 1.5 degree temperature rise.  At CAT we hope to continue to inspire, inform and enable people towards practical solutions for sustainable living.

Happy New Year and we hope to see you soon

No deal in Copenhagen

There was no deal in Copenhagen, don’t believe the hype, it was a total, chaotic failure. Every leader and delegation that was present knows that the world faces environmental catastrophe if they do not act now on climate change. The UN process was unable to find a way forward and the process failed to produce anything meaningful.

What happened in the closing hours of the climate talks is vital in understanding the imbalances of the world we are living in. On the 18th of December, the plenary hall podium was given to Obama, he selected 16 guests who would have the exclusive right to speak. The rest of the world’s countries had only the right to sit and listen. The following press conference announced to the world that the US-led climate deal was agreed upon, it was called the Copenhagen accord and would limit temperature rises to less than 2C. CNN announced a breakthrough and world headlines screamed “ meaningful agreement.”

But there had been no agreement in Copenhagen; it was far from a done deal. Ministers and delegations were still sitting around the tables arguing until the next morning. At the final plenary, the chair of the discussions Rasmussen introduced Obama’s Copenhagen Accord in glowing terms saying that it had been produced by a “representative group of leaders from all countries around the world.” He then attempted to limit responses to 60 minutes- it was at that point that Venezuela started banging on the desk demanding to be heard, followed quickly by Bolivia, Sudan, Cuba and Tuvalu- refusing the accept the so- called “deal.”

As the climate chaos website states “ This mess is largely down to the actions of some industrialised countries – the arrogance of a few powerful leaders who took over and twisted the negotiations to their particular needs is truly astounding.” As Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, stated last night, “If the climate were a bank, they would have bailed it out already.”

So where now?

Copenhagen was a bitter disappointment for many, it was heart breaking to see the despair in the faces of friends made over the two weeks in Copenhagen as the news came in about the lack of deal. For many from the Alliance of Small Island States, Maldives or Africa this COP was about the survival of their country and peoples in the face of climate change. It is clear that solutions exist to the climate crisis, many of the side events, workshops and presentations that took place during COP15 showed positive and real things that can be done here and now. The Centre for Alternative Technologies report Zero Carbon Britain is one such solution. The report outlines clearly how we can rapidly decarbonise the UK by 2030.

At the Klimaforuma a declaration entitled “System Change – Not Climate Change was produced, “What people and the planet need is a just and sustainable transition of our societies to a form that will ensure the rights of life and dignity of all people and deliver a more fertile planet and more fulfilling lives to present and future generations,” it states. The signatory organisations called on governments to take urgent climate action, most importantly the “complete abandonment of fossil fuels within the next 30 years, which must include specific milestones for every five-year period.”

Continue reading “No deal in Copenhagen”

Finding Hope in No-Hopenhagen – Kelvin Mason

Worse than hopeless

First prize in the COP15 Greenwash Awards must go to Siemens and Coca-Cola for branding the host city ‘Hopenhagen’. In the centre of Copenhagen Siemens set up their faux city, brightly lit in a mendacious green. There they extolled the virtues of a range of unsustainable technologies from super-fast electric sports cars to bio-fuels. Coke posters proclaim the mega-corp’s sugar and exploitation suffused product as ‘Hope in a Bottle!’ Hopenhagen makes one sick, literally.

There was never any hope of mitigating climate change or attaining climate justice via COP15. The nature and scale of the political, economic and social transformation required would have meant world leaders meeting in the Bella Centre consigning both capitalism and themselves to the dustbin of history. Even the most optimistic deal initially on the table would not have been enough, and what was handed down was much less: unabated environmental destruction across the world for generations to come. ‘Fiasco’ was the dominant summary of expert commentators in Denmark.

Without wishing to otherwise criticise their warrior-like efforts, the second most hopeless slogan at COP15 belonged to Greenpeace: Politicians talk, Leaders act. Yes, indeed. History reveals that national leaders across the world have a solid record of taking action, regularly acting to perpetuate social injustice, war and environmental degradation.

A little way down the Christmas consumer packed high-street from Hopenhagen there was ‘Brad Pitt Saves Planet Earth’, the emblazoned golden casting caravan for a movie that, apparently with no hint of irony, will feature what it says on the can (sic). There too was a melting polar bear made of ice and sponsored by Panasonic, who also missed the irony of routinely building stand-by lights into their electronic equipment.

The brutal policing of protests that were predominantly peaceful and creative was shocking. Police readily handed out what the Danish press delightedly termed ‘baton soup’. At the slightest provocation, Police kettled protestors and used tear gas and pepper spray. Agent-provocateurs mingled with protesters and there were numerous reports of them fermenting conflict. Police used the ‘Rascal Package’, legislation rushed through to justify draconian measures against climate activists, laws previously rejected as anti-terror measures. Stripped of their shoes and jackets, people were imprisoned in wire cages in freezing conditions without access to either toilets or a telephone. With their hands cable-tied behind their backs, some arrestees experienced the indignity and discomfort of wetting themselves.

Meanwhile, most of the mainstream media rewrote the same old stories, caring nothing about the quest for new truths or whether the colour in them came from the protesters’ Santa suits or their blood: wildly red is widely read is all.

Around 1 500 people were arrested during COP15. Arguably, the most hopeless indication of all for humanity was that the press reported sixty-percent of Danes approved of the Rascal Package. Add to that the fact that even the most popular and peaceful public rally at COP15 attracted – at the very most – 100,000 people (there are some five and a half million Danes, most surely with some stake in the future) and so it goes: wonderful, wonderful Hopenhagen.

Glimmers…

Qualitatively, if not in terms of limits to temperature rise or concentrations of greenhouse gases, there was hope around COP15. For a start, all those who put their efforts into the creative resistance of Climate Justice Action and the alternative Klimaforum09 did a great job: the organisers, the facilitators, the cooks, the first-aiders, the legal observers… Everyone. There were numerous affinity group actions as part of CJA, involving a diversity from penguins through Santas and Rebel Clowns to academics holding a seminar while blockading a coal-fired power station.

CJA’s bike bloc aimed to, ‘Put the fun between your legs’ for fast and flexible direct action. Upwards of two hundred bicycles must have been reclaimed and repaired in Copenhagen. The fact that the police carried out raids looking for ‘The Resistance Machine’, a pedal powered leviathan that will live forever in the heads of many – protesters and police alike – is a glimmering tribute to the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (Dear Police, please note, the clue was in the name!)

Christiania, the semi-autonomous anarchist community in the centre of Copenhagen provided inspiring succour and sanctuary for both protestors and participants in its Climate Bottom meeting (an antidote to the Top Meeting of ‘leaders’ in the Bella Centre). Already besieged by a hostile state, Christiania’s residents acted with the utmost courage and compassion towards its visitors, in sharp contrast to the ‘welcome’ extended by Danish Society as a whole.

Hoping against hope

CJA is looking for feedback. Perhaps, although our resistance is always creative and emotionally powerful, for COP16 in Mexico we should consider more radically changing reality? As crises deepen, which they will, following the circus of capitalism and its road-show of pseudo democracy around the world becomes increasingly unproductive. Drawing on all our knowledge and experience, maybe we should go to anywhere but Mexico. If we mobilised 100,000 people to act more locally in trans-local solidarity, to provide much needed help to eco-villages, social centres, low-impact developments, refugee camps, and other projects that could stand out as good examples of just environmental and social practice, well, what a wonderful world it could be.

More information

Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination  http://www.labofii.net/
Climate Justice Action  http://www.climate-justice-action.org/
Klimaforum  http://www.klimaforum09.org/
Christiania  http://www.christiania.org/

Climate talks will fail.

It’s difficult to know where to start, its definitely more confusing than when COP15 started- so we will do it geographically and go from inside the Bella of the beast to the streets outside. The 16th of December saw chaos inside COP15, the day was checkered with sit-down protests and delegate walkouts as the probable outcomes of the climate talks became apparent. The three main blocks that form the climate talks – rich countries, major developing economies, and small island states – said they had given up on getting a substantive deal.

Yesterday civil society groups were excluded from participating in the Bella centre, particularly Friends of the Earth (FOE) who were physically removed from the building- whilst press were barred from talking to them. Outside at the NGO briefing this morning held at the Klima forum ( the parallel civil society event) NGO heads said, “ It is a strategy to silence dissenting voices within the Bella Centre.” FOE US say that with two days left of COP15 the developed countries are trying to pin the fault of the failure of the negotiations onto developing countries- particularly China and India. Meanwhile the US, UK and EU are attempting to buy off the developing countries. A clear example of this has been France and the UK lobbying Ethiopia very hard to support the proposed EU package by committing 100 million euros to the Ethiopian economy. Sounds good in principal, but the UN reckons that 500-600 million dollars is needed to deal with the effect of climate change in Ethiopia. The Africa group and development NGO’s are furious with the under hand tactic being played by the US, UK and EU by putting pressure on leaders of developing countries. Last night the Ethiopian prime minister supported the EU package.

Up till now there has been a two-track negotiation process– the Kyoto track and the Long term Cooperation Action (LCA) track. Developing countries want to hang onto the Kyoto protocol to ensure that developed countries are legally bound to reduce emissions. Developed countries, led by the US are looking to collapse the two track system and replace it with the LCA- which means emissions reductions will be essentially voluntary. The Danish hosts are working on a compromise between the US and EU, excluding developing countries from the process. At the Klima forum briefing a spokesperson declared that

“ It’s not a summit, it’s not a convention about climate change- do not believe that the people inside are negotiating for a climate solution – it’s a finance and energy summit”

The Bolivian delegation headed by Evo Morales are equally disillusioned by the process, Cristian Dominguez from the delegation had this to say:

“We were hopeful and had faith that the conference would lead to some thing positive, but this process has not been positive, it has no feelings. But we have faith, no body is going to sign anything that goes against the rights of mother earth and against humanity. Africa has been doing an amazing work defending their rights, mother earth and humanity. There has been a huge sacrifice from the people protesting in the name of the climate and democracy – yesterday massacred on the streets and arrested. The next climate talks will be In Mexico and it is there we will fight because it is our lands. We will prepare our selves well. We have lost in Copenhagen with the governments in the Bella conference centre. “

Outside snow has fallen in Copenhagen and the streets are white with fresh snow. Yesterday people again took to the streets to hold a Peoples Assembly where voices of those who are not being heard inside the Bella Conference centre could be heard. They met with resistance from the police who beat back protestors using pepper spray and batons. Delegates who were attempting to leave the conference centre to support those outside were also beaten with batons. Four media spokespeople for the Climate Justice Action Network have been arrested and are being held on remand.

For many they came to Copenhagen full of hope, but with less than 48 hours to go for world leaders to make a deal, that hope is rapidly failing. The Alliance of Small Island states said this morning “ no deal is better than a bad deal.” However amongst the chaos and collapse in the Klimaforum and the spaces outside the Bella conference centre, the green shoots of success are apparent, there is no deal on climate change because there can’t be- what’s on the table at the moment would be environmental suicide for many developing countries. We have heard over the last 10 days from hundreds of groups proposing solutions for a fair, just and effective climate deal – those groups have been building links, networking and forging new ways of working. It is in these that citizens of the world will have to place their faith.