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Public health emergency: move some freight from road to water and reduce air pollution

“There are an estimated 11,000 deaths per year at the moment, but this will rise as the population continues to age”. (The British Heart Foundation (BHF) 

Summarising an Environmental Law paragraph:

  • Transport is the biggest source of air pollution in the UK.
  • In town centres and alongside busy roads, motor vehicles are responsible for most local pollution.
  • Surface transport is responsible for around a quarter of UK emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a major contributor to climate change.
  • Many areas still fail to meet national air quality objectives and European limit values for some pollutants – particularly particles and nitrogen dioxide.

As the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK has climbed to 59,000 and 64% of transport and storage businesses now face severe skills shortages, (according to a recent report by the Freight Transport Association) it is a good time to consider a shift from HGV to barge.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF), has warned that more than 160,000 people could die over the next decade from strokes and heart attacks caused by air pollution. Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the BHF, which compiled the figures, said: “Every day, millions of us across the country are inhaling toxic particles which enter our blood and get stuck in our organs, raising our risk of heart attacks and stroke”.

Bellona Europe (header below) comments that inland waterway transport has greater potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than road or rail, when discussing ways to make the mobility sector more clean and carbon-neutral.

“With air pollution contributing to around 40,000 deaths a year and four in 10 children at school in high-pollution communities, it’s clear that tackling air pollution needs to be everyone’s urgent business.”

 

 

 

 

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Political strategist in the FT: Corbyn-Labour’s ideas are framing the decisions the new government is making

Johnson is ‘parking his tanks on Labour’s lawn’

Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that the Labour party “won the argument” in the UK general election has stunned some commentators, but John McTernan a widely experienced political strategist, argues that – to use Corbyn’s words – Labour has “rewritten the terms of political debate”.

The Conservative party won the election, but they are far from winning the battle of ideas. In the Financial Times today McTernan describes Johnson – elected on the promise of “getting Brexit done” – as being devoid of policies which would retain the new electorate the Conservatives now represent. He cites the worst Conservative attempt to devise an agenda aimed at working people shown in an infographic after a recent budget in which their boasts about cutting tax on beer and bingo., was widely burlesqued (below left).  

That one-dimensional vision of working-class needs and desires has been ditched, he feels, but the void has to be filled — and that is where Labour policies present themselves.

McTernan points to the funding for NHS concession on nurses’ bursaries packaged with other policies as a significant reversal of direction and says that Mr Johnson’s promise to intervene, to buy British and to use state aid to protect UK industries is also being interpreted as “another example of parking his tanks on Labour’s lawn”. He comments: “When Tory plans for new council house building are announced or the remake of rail franchising begins, it will all be the hand of Mr Corbyn”.

But, he asks, “at what point does the mask actually become the face?”

Not in the immediate future, fear those concerned about the post election disability ruling by the government’s Department for Work & Pensions.

A historical perspective

McTernan (right) summarises a process which started with Mr Corbyn’s predecessor Ed Miliband:

  • Labour would propose a policy.
  • The Tory government would denounce it as extreme.
  • The tabloid press would pile in.
  • Then the government would adopt it after all.

It happened with energy price caps. And it happened with the living wage. But he ends:

“(S)omething deeper is going on. From corporate capitalism to housing, from climate change to transport, Labour’s ideas are framing the decisions the new government is making” – a movement that is not going to disappear.

 

 

 

 

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Nationalise British Steel? A viable asset, essential to a decarbonised economy

 

Andrew Pendleton (New Economics Foundation) reminds us that since Margaret Thatcher first stood on the steps of Number 10 in 1979, successive UK governments have chosen to withdraw all but the barest bones of support from Britain’s foundational industries, of which steel is one. He questions whether any owner of steel manufacturers in the UK could thrive in the hostile environment UK governments have created.

Failed by the current government’s blind faith in markets, Pendleton writes,  the people of Scunthorpe and many other places have had no voice whatsoever in how the economy was run, until ‘the blunt instrument of the EU referendum’. The loss of this significant company will intensify the sense of loss that contributed to the Brexit vote

There are risks in selling to the Turkish Military Pension Fund or to the Chinese Jingye Group, about which very little is known, industrially, but the interest of foreign buyers suggests that British Steel is seen as a potentially viable asset.

Many tonnes of steel will be needed to build a cleaner economy – for wind turbines, electric vehicles and the rail lines made in Scunthorpe, critical to a decarbonised economy. As Pendleton points out, steel production is ‘problematic’ for climate change – but steel production in Scunthorpe can be ‘greened’ by investing to reduce its carbon emissions, eventually reaching zero as coal-free production (below) becomes the norm.

In Germany, Thyssenkrupp recently demonstrated running a steel blast furnace completely on hydrogen – opening up the prospect of zero-emissions steel production by using renewable hydrogen.

Hydrogen will become cheaper as current methods, which rely on creating hydrogen fuel from purified water, are superseded by less expensive technologies such as one being developed by Stanford researchers, who have been separating hydrogen and oxygen gas from seawater via electricity.

And millions of tonnes of carbon used in shipping will be saved by using steel close to where it is manufactured

Pendleton sees the current economic model, ‘now the default preference of our policy-makers’, as absurd; in Fife, steel fabrication firm BiFab is in mothballs (right) while energy giant EDF imports the casings for the turbines on its new offshore wind farm from Indonesia.

He points out that Indonesia and some of our European neighbours’ governments habitually intervene to ensure that ‘foundational industries’ have guaranteed supply chains and amply-filled order books.

British Steel owners Greybull, a private investment company which owns many other industries, are unlikely to be seriously affected, but the company’s workforce, its suppliers, Scunthorpe and the wider economy will. It will be a disaster, politically and economically. Andrew Pendleton ends:

“Nothing short of immediate nationalisation is needed; anything less will be a betrayal of a whole town and will send shockwaves through the UK’s industrial heartlands . . .

“It is not too late for the government to step in and take the company over, which would have the immediate effect of keeping people in work and the economy of a town afloat. This is absolutely government’s proper role. But it shouldn’t stop there. After nationalisation should come a three-pronged approach:

  • focus on industrial strategy for British Steel in order to secure its supply chains
  • fill up its order book with a proactive procurement policy.
  • and create a worker owned company who could then benefit from an ownership dividend

“Given the UK’s need to invest and build green infrastructure, such as railways, steel is of national strategic importance”. 

 

Read Andrew Pendleton’s article here.

 

 

 

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At most, ensure survival – at least, create a healthier world

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The cartoon by Joel Pett (above), Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, states that whether global warming is real or not, the proposed measures are beneficial to everyone.

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Cartoon printed by USA Today in 2009 before the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

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On the left of the cartoon a man asks, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” On the right the question is answered in the form of a list on a screen, showing what would be gained:

            • energy independence,
            • preserve rainforest,
            • sustainability,
            • green jobs,
            • livable cities,
            • renewables,
            • clean water and air,
            • healthy children, etc., etc.

When discussing how society should respond to climate change, consensus might well be achieved by presenting this cartoon’s message.

 

 

 

 

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Media 97: An inconvenient truth? A Dutch reader notes UK’s ZERO coverage of 40,000 climate change demo in Amsterdam

She writes: “*zero* coverage in the UK over climate demo Sunday 10th in Amsterdam?! 40,000 people at climate change demo in Amsterdam and it RAINED heavily all day … we got soaked to our underwear …)!!”

An online search today saw no UK coverage on the first four ‘result’ pages – only American and European coverage.

Adding wryly: “When 40 yellow vests get together it’s shared all over the planet…

Forty thousand people joined a climate change protest in Amsterdam on Sunday, March 10th, urging the Dutch government to take action on climate change.

The demonstration, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, drew around 40,000 people despite heavy rain, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The high turnout is the proof that people now want a decisive policy on climate from the government,” Greenpeace, one of the march organizers, said in a statement.

The Netherlands could be especially vulnerable to the rising tides brought on by climate change. Much of the country already sits below sea level, and some of its land is sinking.

While the U.S. has been backpedalling out of global climate change agreements like the Paris accord, Dutch lawmakers have passed ambitious climate change laws, seeking a 95% reduction of the 1990 emissions levels by 2050.

In January, however, a Dutch environmental research agency said the government is lagging behind its goals. “We are under sea level, so we really need to do something about it,” said a 21-year-old climate studies student at Amsterdam University.

Students around the world have been leading protests to prompt their governments to address climate change. A worldwide school strike is planned for later this week. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager widely known for her climate change activism, said on Twitter that at least 82 countries plan to participate in the upcoming protest.

Will British media fail to report the forthcoming school strikes as well as this one?

 

 

 

 

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Reinsurers: heed industry thinktank as droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires escalate

 

After a year of disasters (documented in detail here), the reinsurance industry travelled to Monte Carlo for its annual get together  (8-14 September).

Hurricane Irma was accompanied last year by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, along with earthquakes in Mexico and wildfires in California. In all, there was $136bn of insured losses from natural and man-made catastrophes in 2017 according to Swiss Re, the third highest on record.

A report, “Climate Change and the Insurance Industry: Taking Action as Risk Managers and Investors”, was written by Maryam Golnaraghi, Director, Extreme Events and Climate Risk research programme for The Geneva Association, which is described as the industry’s leading thinktank.

It notes that following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, there has been a burst of initiatives and activities across a wide range of stakeholders to support the transition to a low-carbon economy (mitigation side).

Latest developments include:

  • growing but highly fragmented and in some cases conflicting climate policy and regulatory frameworks at national to local levels and across regions;
  • innovation in clean and green technologies, with some gaining market share;
  • rising interest in green financing, with efforts to reduce barriers to green investment on the part of shareholders, asset managers, standard-setting bodies and rating agencies, and growing demand for low-carbon commodities.

As well as building financial resilience to extreme events and other physical risks by providing risk information, improving distribution channels and payout mechanisms, Ms Golnaraghi reports that the insurance industry is supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy through its underwriting business, investment strategies and active reduction of its carbon footprint.

 

There is no reference to this support in the FTs report of the insurance industry’s response to escalating disasters, summarised as:

  • ‘a wave of merger and acquisition activity’ as insurers and reinsurers reconsider their business models,
  • some are ‘bulking up’,
  • others have decided to get out.

Reinsurance companies should call for immediate greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, as climate change continues to progress and extreme weather is becoming more frequent and dangerous and heed the Environmental Defense Fund warning that if these are not ramped up, last year’s unprecedented disasters may soon become the norm.

 

 

 

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Could the Stroud formula could rescue Broken Britain? Or will tribalism rule?

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For years Stroud District Council has been led by a cooperative alliance of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties – a ‘rainbow alliance’ (below).

Last May. Gloucestershire County Council’s agenda and minutes post recorded that Cllr Lesley Williams and Cllr Rachel Smith advised that the Labour and Green members had formed a political group called the Labour and Green Cooperative Alliance.  They explained that under the arrangement the Labour and Green members would work cooperatively but would continue to look at issues on an individual basis.

Professor John Curtice summarised the electoral maths: almost half the nation voted for broadly progressive parties in 2015 (49% backed Labour, the LibDems, Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru, while 51% chose the Tories or Ukip). He considers the impact of a coalition with even one ‘minor party’.

Labour MP Clive Lewis and Green MP Caroline Lucas noted that in the 2017 general election more than 40 local alliances were formed, where almost exclusively Greens put the national interest before that of their party.

It had a huge impact on the vote – more than doubling the average swing away from the Tories.

 

They pointed out the challenges we face:

  • markets that are too free
  • a state that can be too remote,
  • a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
  • and climate change on a scale our people and our planet simply can’t cope with. 

Continuing: “It will take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation”.

They point out that the millions of young people who voted live in a world of social media in which their identities and allegiances are permanently in flux. They like and they share. They flock to one idea, group or party and then another. A politics that is purposeful but also responsive, open and collaborative is needed.

The case for an alliance between ‘progressive’ parties, has been described by Simon Jenkins (above right) as unanswerable:

“In 2015, 49% of voters went for broadly progressive parties, including Labour, the Lib Dems and nationalists. But at elections they fight each other as rivals. As a result, 40 to 50 seats that might have gone to a single left-wing candidate went Tory.

Then, as now, Westminster tribalism won. Machismo required Labour “to contest every seat in the land”. That is apparently more important than denying the Tories a strong majority – let alone winning elections.

MPs Lewis and Lucas end:

“We are from different parties and different political traditions – and we celebrate that because, while we share so much, we can learn much more from each other. If we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve.

“The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.

Information sought:

People on the mailing list of this website are drawn from many areas of Britain and visitors come from several countries (opposite: eleven in May), the overwhelming majority from America.

British readers, expats and other well-informed readers are asked to send, via comments, any other examples of an effective co-operative alliance within councils and parliaments.

 

 

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Should the Green Party join Corbyn Labour and fight together for social justice and for the planet?

Owen Jones suggests that the Green Party should join Jeremy Corbyn and fight together for social justice and for the planet: “For those attracted to the Green message of a “peaceful political revolution” to end austerity, Corbynism seemed like a natural new home”.

He thinks it is time for the Green Party to join forces with Labour, unite the English and Welsh left under one banner, bring one of the country’s most inspiring politicians into the spotlight and reinvigorate the campaign to save the planet from environmental destruction, adding:

“It’s exactly the arrangement that has existed between Labour and the Co-operative Party for nine decades: indeed, there are 38 MPs who belong to both. Rather than proving the death of green politics, such a pact would give it new life”.

In an act of political sacrifice at the last election, the Green Party stood down candidates across the country to avoid splitting the left-of-centre vote.

A pact could be made, creating the sort of relationship the Co-op Party has with Labour, with dual Labour/Green membership.

There would be Labour/Green MPs just as there are Labour/Co-op MPs today

Significantly more Green MPs would be elected. Climate change would become a genuine political priority. It should also mean Caroline Lucas in the shadow cabinet – and later in government with the environment brief. This would end a pointless division on the British left. Owen Jones continues:

“Lucas herself has been a committed fighter for causes that must be central to Labour’s message. She was right to criticise pre-2015 Labour for failing to challenge the “austerity message”, and has opposed cuts to everything from women’s refuges to schools. Her courage in fighting climate change led to her arrest at an anti-fracking protest in 2013.In many ways, her campaigning zeal echoes that of Corbyn, who she has repeatedly fought alongside. Indeed, it is hardly controversial to point out that Corbyn is closer to Lucas politically than he is to many of his own MPs, and yet absurdly Lucas is a political opponent”.

“Yes, the Green leadership wants Labour to go further – on everything from committing to a shorter working week to more radical taxation. But as someone who agrees with her – that Labour’s offer is not yet radical enough – I believe the Greens’ influence in pushing for greater radicalism would be strengthened, not diluted, in a formal pact”. He ends – after recognising the opposition from some within both parties:

“A red-green alliance is surely overdue. this could be the makings of a formidable political alliance to defeat Toryism and form a government to eradicate social injustice and help save the planet. And surely that prize makes the pain of overcoming partisan differences worthwhile”.

 

Read his article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/22/greens-labour-jeremy-corbyn

 

 

 

 

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Media 57: corporate control of British & American society

media lens new header

In their latest post, Media Lens say that people on the political left embrace Bernie Sanders because he talks honestly about corporate control of society. We include a summary of their article here, believing that the British media is also, to varying degrees, an ‘arm of the ruling class’.

  • Sanders talks about the causes of vast and shameful inequality in the world’s wealthiest country.
  • He talks about corporate media bias rooted in advertiser funding.
  • He talks about ‘whether or not we think it’s proper for the United States to go around overthrowing governments’.

They see Sanders’ recent discussion with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks (TYT) show as an astonishing departure from standard, six-second soundbite politics. Imagine a high-profile UK politician talking like this about the media:

‘First of all, we’re talking about the corporate media, right?…We need to break through the fog of the corporate media, which does everything that they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues. I’m on the corporate media every single day and you don’t know how hard it is just to try to demand that we begin to talk about the real issues. They really do not want to. They talk about everything under the sun, but not the real issues.’

Sanders is not arguing that the corporate media is merely biased, or unbalanced, in reporting issues; he is arguing that it never talks about real issues.

He offers a jaw-dropping example: ‘Here’s the story. I have been mayor for eight years, Congressman for sixteen, a US Senator for nine years. Do you know how many times people in the media have said: “Bernie, what are you going to do to end poverty in America? This is an outrage! We have 47 million people in poverty, what are you going to do about it, Bernie?” The answer is zero. Not once.’

The remarkable result, as Sanders notes:

‘Concepts of income and wealth inequality, concepts of justice, learning what goes on around the rest of the world [are] never talked about in the corporate media.’

So what is going on? Why won’t corporate media discuss real issues?

Sanders explains: ‘I had to write a letter to the presidents of all of the networks to tell them that on their Sunday shows they never talk about climate change. Almost never talk about it. Why? Well, does it have to do with the fact that they get a lot of coal company and oil company money advertising? I think it does. They don’t talk about it.’

He is correct. The not-for-profit Media Matters for America reported that, despite ever-worsening warnings of the dangers and a long list of broken temperature and other records, media coverage actually declined in 2015. (Much more detail is given in the article, link below). He adds:

‘I want a vigorous effort to address climate change. I mean, I am very worried. I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. You can’t cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry; you’ve got to take them on.

‘The fact is that big business does not want the public to be alarmed about climate change because people will demand action that will cut into corporate profits’.

‘So the media is an arm of the ruling class of this country and they want to talk about everything in the world except the most important issues. Because if you talk about real issues, and people get educated on the real issues, you know what happens next? They actually may want to bring about change.

‘They are scared to death. They get scared to death of the idea that young people are actually getting involved in the political process and want real change. That working class people are saying, “You know what, we need to end establishment politics and economics, and move in a different direction.” That is their nightmare.’

After a passage about the press coverage shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Corbyn received during the leadership campaign Media Lens editors end:

Like most leftists, we support Sanders’ comments and reject the liberal commentariat for reasons to do with concern for the welfare of all citizens, not just the rich, and above all out of fear for the survival of our species and planet. Business as usual – with corporate power subordinating everything to profit – is now the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. As Klein says, and she is not overstating: ‘If the next president wastes any more time… the climate clock will run out, plain and simple.’


Read the Media Lens article here: http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2016/816-last-chance-president

 

Not before the children? Low media coverage for Corbyn’s environmental policies

The Protecting Our Planet manifesto, launched on 7th August at the eco-hub at Kings Cross in Central London, was covered well by the Ecologist and the Independent plus two business sustainability sites. We quote from the Ecologist:

Promoting the well being of our planet, its people and ecosystems must be at the heart of the Labour Party’s vision of a fairer, more prosperous future.

jc environment

“There is an electoral dimension. To win, we must show we have a modern vision of an innovative country that has a new idea of prosperity and success.

“Our collective aspirations must lie with a greener vision of Britain. And we must reach out to those voters who care deeply about the environment if we are to build the electoral alliance we need.

“Climate change is a threat to our very existence. Tackling climate change will only be effective if social justice is at the heart of the solutions we propose”. After quoting Pope Francis the following aims were listed:

jc env goals

A week later Rupert Read wrote: Corbyn is great, but the Greens are different. Thirteen days later Yvette Cooper followed suit – Corbyn-lite.

As Steve Beauchampé wrote:

“Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens”. He ends: “Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!”

It would disturb most corporate interests and their political dependents even more.