40,000 Climate Justice Activists encircle the Houses of Parliament in "The Wave". Climate Justice Demonstration. Saturday 5th. December, 2009. Picture by Frances Laing

  Who doesn’t have information overload about the Copenhagen Summit?  Today I’m taking an angle which connects up the micro with the macro. We know up to  eighty per cent  emissions cuts per head in industrialised nations would be something sensible to strive towards. We know there are deep divisions and vested interests at the Copenhagen summit. A lack of political will and/or evidence of sheer greed which may prevent a constructive agreement being reached. It’s looking like the huge Copenhagen circus is not going to make it. Did we ever think it would?  

This is the last blog post I’m able to write this week. (I’m not part of a PR media circus (no-one is paying me to write this…). Let’s put Copenhagen aside for a moment and look forward. Even without a legally binding agreement, we need to carry on taking action. In our local authorities, in our political parties, meeting houses, churches and homes. As groups and individuals.   

In order to reduce emissions you need to have some idea how much you’re producing in the first place. Carbon calculators have been around a long time and you can find these online with your search engine. Some are specially designed for individual households to use and some are geared towards corporations, small and medium sized enterprises. (SMEs).    

I feel we’re at the point in Britain where we need to demand that every public institution should, as a matter of law be required to measure (and publish) their annual carbon count and their planned carbon reduction targets. We’ve done it with M.P’s expenses. Yes, well carbon counts for M.P’s M.E.P’s , M.S.P’s and Welsh Assembly Members too, why not? Of course many organisations have done this already on a voluntary basis: I visited Manchester Metropolitan University this week and noticed their new building was kitted out with solar panels. Some realised long ago that measures like this stand a chance of future-proofing investments.   

"The Wave". Campaign Bus. Climate Justice Demonstration. An initiative supported by thousands of organisations. London Saturday 5th. December, 2009. Picture by Frances Laing

But at present progress is a post code lottery. Our local papers tell the story of how Cheshire West and Chester authority spent 14 million on a brand new headquarters building (HQ) despite the fact that the old building did the job perfectly well. There has been a public outcry and I’ve yet to see a credible energy audit for the new acquisition. Our city signed up to the Nottingham Climate Change declaration some years ago. This is a statement of intent and a voluntary agreement. It does not seem to have made a significant impact on local authority policy. So much for international agreements – political, philosophical or otherwise.   

At this point we should also have carbon emission reduction measures for every school, hospital and public building. Carbon emissions reduction should not be an add-on for schools. A lack of ‘Climate Change Numeracy’ costs lives.   

We may need greater incentives for private companies to publish their carbon count. We need education, but we also need enforcement and engineering.   

If you’re running a household – you need to watch the pennies. On a macro level – wasting energy means wasting public money. And anyone who produces large amounts of carbon emissions is ultimately putting everyone else in danger.   

We’re still in the middle of a global recession and we don’t know when this is going to ease up. It makes sense to avoid waste and cut down on energy costs. At it’s best, this is what good government energy-saving policies are designed to do. There needs to be a shift in thinking. And yes, I know you can’t legislate for that but I’m saying it anyway.   

"The Wave". London. Climate Justice Demonstration. Picture by Frances Laing

Transition Towns movements are trying to cut carbon from the ground up.

Cornwall Transition Banner. "The Wave" 5th. December. London. 2009

 Judging by the banners on last Saturday’s demonstration in some places (like Sheffield) they are thriving. We need more of this.   

More banners and more evidence of the diversity of the groups calling for change. World Wildlife Fund, lots of Women’s Institute banners…  
“Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament” banners were visible too – along with banners from local wildlife trusts. Here’s the scene near Westminster tube station…CND makes some important points here:
  • “Nuclear power is not carbon emission free! The whole nuclear cycle from uranium mining onwards produces more greenhouse gases than most renewable energy sources with up to 50% more emissions than wind power. Even if we doubled nuclear power in the UK it would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8%. This is because nuclear power only contributes to electricity generation which only accounts for up to a third of all carbon emissions (transport and industry account for most of the rest).
  • Climate change is happening now. A new nuclear power station will take at least 10 years to build and longer to generate electricity. Wind farms can be up and running in less than a year.
  • It’s expensive. The nuclear industry is massively subsidised by the British public. Sizewell B, the UK’s most recent power station cost the taxpayer around £3.7billion just to install Decommissioning and cleaning up all of our current nuclear sites is costing more than £70 billion.
  • It’s not sustainable. The reserves of uranium ores used to generate nuclear power are going to run out. There is only 50 years worth of high uranium ores left in the world. There may be only 200 years left of all uranium ores including poor uranium ores which take more energy to mine and process and thus release more carbon emissions.”

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Banner at Climate Justice March "The Wave". 5th. December, 2009. Photograph by Frances Laing

Food and food production is also a huge issue for climate justice activists…  

Banner. "The Wave" Climate Justice Demonstration. Dec. 5th. 2009

 All in all, those of us on modest incomes (with a minimal carbon count) I’m sure are fed up though of being lectured about saving resources. We breast-fed our children (carbon neutral). Chose cloth nappies rather than disposables (Ed. Miliband didn’t even manage this). We installed energy-efficient boilers and loft insulation. We walked or cycled instead of taking four-by-fours on the school-run. We converted disused land to grow food and kept allotments and kitchen gardens. We taught ourselves how to ‘grow our own’ organically(see this link). We’ve been carefully seperating (and composting) our household waste for years. We’d like to see our elected representatives put their households in order  now, thank you very much. That’s what we pay you for, after all. 

Need to get up to speed with the central Copenhagen issues? Listen to the latest analysis from the BBC at Chatham House at this link. (twenty minute broadcast).

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It’s a good bet that some of us are already suffering from information overload on this one. What’s going to be happening at Copenhagen? If you’re looking for a brief overview of what some of the problems are, try this Guardian article:

For some radical criticisms – go to this Greenpeace link.