31 July 2006


Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett was on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, and she refused to categorize Israel's bombardment of Lebabnon as "disproportionate".

Jack Straw (in public) and Hilary Benn and David Milliband (in private) all have concerns about the government's policy, as do backbench Labour MPs.

In contrast, Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas has joined thousands of peace campaigners in calling on Tony Blair to demand an immediate ceasefire in the two-week Lebanon conflict.

US Skips Talks on Clean-Energy Technologies

George Bush's top environmental adviser, James Connaughton, will skip upcoming climate change talks with Tony Blair, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and about 25 chief executive officers (among them, BP, DuPont, Duke Energy Corp, Virgin Group, Edison International, Goldman Sachs, Swiss Re, and Timberland). The meeting, in suburban LA, will address how to work together to accelerate the deployment of clean-energy technologies. Blair continues to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the US on everything, just look at Lebanon, but it's a one-way-street -- the US picks and chooses which British policies it will support.

27 July 2006

Personal Carbon Trading

David Milliband is stealing Green Party policy by announcing personal carbon trading allowances. That's fine. Go ahead, David. We're relaxed about it. Steal away. The problem is that the rest of the government's policy portfolio (aviation, a lack of action on energy efficiency and the existing housing stock, alliances with the US despire their inaction on Kyoto, slashing grants for renewable energy) makes it a bit of a farce. It is not about one cabinet minister making one speech about one topic. It has to be about a co-ordinated, "joined-up thinking" effort to make the environment, the planet, the central theme of all policy decisions. This is where mainstream parties fall down on the job. They're only part-time environmental parties.

Newsnight programme on animal testing

Newsnight (27th July, 1030pm) will be having an entire programme devoted to a debate on the ethics of animal testing.

From the Newsnight webpage:

We'll have animal rights protesters, leading scientists, ethicists and others debating what should be allowed, what should be banned, and how far the campaign has backfired because violent tactics put people off.

26 July 2006

Security Around Nuclear Transports

You might have seen the front-page headline in the Mirror last week about an undercover reporter planting a device that could have been a bomb on a train transporting nuclear fuel.

The train was going from Kent to Cumbria, and the device was planted at Brent Yard depot (north-west London in a built-up area).

Mr Parry said his only identification as a legitimate rail worker was a fluorescent orange jacket and hard hat, which could be bought at any builders' merchants. He said: "This was not a one-off. It was the 10th time I had wandered freely into the depot."

Turns out that the same company, Direct Rail Services, was temporarily banned from transporting fuel after a similar security breach in 2003. The Trade Secretary at the time was Patricia Hewitt.

These trains appear on no public timetable. The depot was near a sports stadium, a large hospital, one of London's major roads, and it was surrounded by housing estates. There are more than 1,000 nuclear transports through the UK every year.

The government wants to expand nuclear power, at the expense of focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and that means more transports and more long-term waste.

People should contact our local Labour MPs and ask why this kind of expansion is occuring:

Jim Cunningham, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Office phone:020 7219 6362

Geoffrey Robinson, same address
Office phone:020 7219 4504

Bob Ainsworth, same address
Office phone:020 7219 4047

Ward Forums To Begin in September/October

Here in Coventry, 18 ward-level forums are being established to replace the former area forums (South West, South Central, North, etc). The final meeting of the South West area forum (which includes Earlsdon, where we ran in May 2006) was on 22nd June.

For now, Coventry City Council plans for them to meet quarterly, and they're hoping for a "high level of participation" from the public. The ward forums will begin meeting in September and October.

The next step would be to extend and deepen this process.

The Coalition's participatory budgeting process takes over a year to allocate funding and implement projects. The process consists of five main phases.

1. Starting in December, the Coalition discusses citywide priorities for the year and reviews the budgeting process.

2. Residents meet in their neighborhood groups to discuss citywide and neighborhood spending priorities. Each group prepares project proposals, including a "needs" budget and a "wants" budget. The residents elect two delegates to represent each group in the Coalition.

3. The neighborhood delegates meet to share their budget proposals. City staff and Coalition funders outline the funds that are available. After the meeting, neighborhood groups re-evaluate their needs and wants.

4. The neighborhood delegates meet to decide on budget allocations. The delegates negotiate on the proposed activities until they agree by consensus on a budget.

5. Neighborhood groups implement and monitor their projects through a yearlong funding cycle.

City residents, neighborhood groups, partner organizations and city staff collaborate throughout the budgeting process. Residents in participating neighborhoods, most of which are low income, identify community priorities and develop project proposals. Neighborhood groups, representing over 1,100 residents on average, advocate for these priorities and implement funded projects.

To reduce obstacles to participation, the Coalition offers childcare, eldercare, oral and written translation services for nine languages and transportation reimbursements for participants in need.

25 July 2006

Solar Boats on the Coventry Canal?

Solar-powered boat shuttles are now in use in London and Hamburg.

For the London one (on the Serpentine), any surplus electricity generated by the boat's solar panels is fed back into the National Grid.

I'm sure that someone in Coventry could make a go of marketing 4 mph, silent, pollution-free cruises between the Canal Basin and The Greyhound at Sutton Stop.

24 July 2006

Food Miles

To paraphrase Grease, food miles are the word.

Food miles are the distance that food takes from field to plate.

We can't eat whatever we want, with no regard for seasons or regionality. It's self-centred to think that, well, we need tropical fruit year-round, no matter what the impact on the environment. It doesn't produce good tasting food, either. Produce has to go on long journeys, it's harvested before its ripe, it's overchilled, and then, it's overpackaged.

It means encouraging local fruit and veg shops (like Jo. Richards) to support local farmers, or looking into organic vegetable box schemes that source from England, or buying only fruit and vegetables from a few counties away when in Saino's, Tesco's or M&S.

Sustain has a lot of good information on this issue:

In the UK the five largest retail chains account for 80 per cent of the market, and their marketing decisions have a massive effect on the producers, other retailers and the environment. The supermarkets exert a virtual monopoly over many towns and villages, so many consumers have little choice but to shop at the major multiples. The supermarkets' drive for efficiency, their central distribution systems, overseas sourcing and the expansion of their retail area incur costs to the environment and society which are not accounted for. At a European level, there has been a huge push for an expanded road network which has been supported by major international and European food companies. As a result, plans by the European Commission for the Trans-European Network (TEN) will cost up to $580 billion over 15 years. This will result in more and bigger roads, which will facilitate the expansion of multiple retailer dominance over smaller independent operations. The large-scale retailers - with lower prices that are partially the product of hidden transport subsidies - will draw customers from ever further away and dependence on the car will grow. The expansion of the European Union into Eastern and Central Europe will further increase food miles. The European Commission's own impact assessment suggests that the planned doubling of the motorway system alone is expected to lead to the demise of 1,000 small villages throughout Europe.

23 July 2006

The Elderly and Global Warming

If we think it's hot and muggy now, wait until August.

We are observing and suffering the first effects of global warming," Hervé Le Treut, meteorologist at the French Centre for Scientific Research told IPS.

"The emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are leading to higher temperatures all over the world, but these are observed in an irregular manner across the continents," he said. "The global weather is clearly disturbed."

Record temperatures of well over 35 degrees Celsius were recorded all over Europe this week. This year's death toll remains low compared to some 35,000 people who died across Europe in the heat wave of 2003. That year 15,000 people, mostly the elderly, died in France.

"The heat wave of 2003 reached its climax during August," Le Treut said. "This year temperatures have been over the average already during the spring. The hottest days are still ahead of us."

CMIS and Coventry City Council meetings

Something that I'm quickly realising is that I need to become fare more acquainted with the nuts and bolts of how local government works. It's a forest of acronyms (LDFs and ALMOs among others), procedure and committees.

CMIS is Coventry City Council's way of providing past reports/minutes of council meetings, as well as agendas for future meetings.

If you dig deep enough, you'll find interesting documents about what is really going on. This document outlines (page 14) that a climate change strategy for the council will be drafted towards the end of 2006.

20 July 2006

Music and Climate Change

Pearl Jam are in the midst of a 6-month, 69-date, world tour, and they are offsetting emissions of CO2 released on the tour -- trucks, buses, airplane travel, hotel rooms, concerts venues and fans driving to and from their concerts -- by providing funding to nine nonprofit organizations that help to reduce global warming.

The Premises is a music studio in Hoxton, London, which has 18 solar panels on the roof. The panels generate enough electricity to power its guitars, amplifiers and microphones all year round.

They are just two examples of how one sector of business can moderate its impact upon the climate.

Sustainability Appraisals and Cov City Council

Coventry City Council has a consultation ending on 21st July on the sustainability component of the Local Development Framework. They need feedback on what it should include.

The SA aims to promote sustainable development by ensuring proper considerations of sustainability issues in planning documents. All Development Plan Documents and Supplementary Planning Documents will be subject to a Sustainability Appraisal.

19 July 2006

Lloyds, Insurance and Climate Change

High sea temperatures are a key ingredient in wind storms, and sea water temperature has risen recently by between 0.2C and 0.6C. That means more Katrinas, polar ice cap melting, and a threat to insurable business in coastal areas around the world. Lloyds of London's director, Rolf Tolle, recently said that:
"It's clear that the insurance industry has not taken catastrophe trends seriously enough. Climate change is today's problem not tomorrow's. If we don't take action now to understand the changing nature of our planet, we will face extinction."
Pretty strong stuff.

Resuming our Green Party blog

The Coventry Green Party returns to the blogosphere! In addition to monthly meetings, press releases, pressure upon the council, and pressure upon local MPs, we want to ensure that if people search for "climate change" and Coventry, "cycling" and Coventry, and other key words, that they can make contact with us. We'd like to forge a network of people in Coventry concerned about climate change, sustainability, and who want live in a carbon-thrifty way.

Contact us on 07906 316 726 (mobile phone for Scott Redding, our candidate in Earlsdon during the 2006 local elections), or attend our monthly meetings.