hero imgage

Climate Action

22 Nov 2022 11:20

The Climate Emergency is happening now, and at a much faster rate than was anticipated just a few years ago. We need to take action immediately and stop the endless discussion, reports and inadequate action plans. We have 5-6 years of our carbon budget left before the prospect of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C will be history, and rises over 1.5C will bring catastrophic consequences, even for the South Hams.

The Many scientists describe what is happening to the climate as 'scary' as evidence mounts that the climate is changing at an alarming pace and we can either be frozen in awe at the spectacle, or we can act. But we need to act fast.

South Hams Emissions

According to the government's ( BEIS Green House Gas open_in_new ) data, South Hams GHG emissions are:

Year kilo-tones eCO2
2018 751
2019 719
2020 659

So, a year-on-year reduction of 4.2% in 18/19 and 8.3% in 19/20. However, the transport contribution in 19/20 was much reduced due to COVID and will have artificially inflated the 2019/20 reduction. In previous years, transport has been stubbornly constant. Looking back over the past decade, for the sectors there is data, there is an average year-on-year reduction of about 4.1% per year.

Carbon Budget

This is the amount of eCO2 we can emit into the atmosphere before the prospect of limiting warming to 1.5C is all but gone. We all have a responsibility to address this issue and the South Hams carbon budget is calculated to be 3.4 million tonnes eCO2. We should not emit more than this figure ... ever. If we emit more then we have to remove it. However, at our current emission rate of about 650 kilo-tonnes of eCO2, we will have used up all this carbon budget in just 5-6 years. To avoid this we need start reducing our emissions immediately by a minimum of 13.7% per year.

These figures are clearly laid out in the Tyndall Centre Report open_in_new which is produced by a highly respected team in Manchester that includes Prof Kevin Anderson. It is a conservative figure as it is 'energy only'.

Our current emissions reduction rate of approximately 4% per year is nowhere near enough. We need to at least treble this rate of reduction and sustain this reduction rate for several decades. We need on average to be reducing emissions by 13.7% per year.

The SHDC Action Plan

The SHDC Action Plan does not provide any pathways or targets designed to achieve the reductions necessary. It focuses on the Council's own emissions that amount to less than 1% of the district as a whole. For district wide action it relies mainly on the Devon Carbon Plan open_in_new which while it is full of ideas provides little in the way of pathways, targets or measurable indicators.

There are many actions we can take. Back in early 2020 I produced a preliminary set of Climate Action Proposals open_in_new for consideration and inclusion in the Council's Action Plan. They never were included due to the unfortunate political leadership of the Council. However, these proposals were only meant to serve as suggestions and to illustrated the many things that could be done, with a little imagination and determination, and to also to emphasize the importance of the Council's role in providing leadership.

The Action Plan needs to be developed so it delivers a 13.7% per annum average reduction in eCO2 across the district as outline in the Tyndall Centre Report open_in_new.

The Green Economy

At the core of what needs to happen to reduce emissions in a way that is sustainable, is a transition to a Green Economy. An excellent overview of a particular approach called Doughnut Economics is provided by Kate Raworth in this video:

Prof Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics open_in_new provides the principles to be considered when building a Green Economy and emphasizes the need for design. One of the design principles is "to thrive not to grow". So growth should not be a target in itself, but that is not to say that all growth is bad. Green Growth open_in_new will be appropriate in some circumstances, but some believe we should be Reversing the Freight Train open_in_new and working towards Degrowth open_in_new.

Every position has a convincing logic behind it but the practical considerations of what is possible and the pathways available locally should inform the design. There is a clear need to be directing and managing a nascent green economy and to create the right conditions and infrastructure. This should be one of the priorities of a Local Authority.

Social Currency

Much has been written about the need for 'behavior change' and 'modal shifts' but little has been offered on how to effect these changes. One way is by attaching real value and reward to actions that will bring community benefit, and this would of course include reducing eCO2 emission.

So imagine a simple system whereby you can reward the driver of a car-share by simply using a QR code on their dash. The driver is motivated to share and the passenger(s) save on their own fuel costs. If you combine this with an integrated system for booking journeys, a platform for spending locally (see next), there exists a real possibility of driving down emissions as well as building a resilient local green economy. For more information see BBC - Community Currencies open_in_new and Citizen Coin open_in_new.

Local Integrated Retail and Delivery Platform

A green economy needs to encourage buying local as this reduces food-miles and builds local economic resilience. It also keeps money circulating locally to the benefit of all local businesses and communities. Visa's report Where you shop matters open_in_new shows that for every £10 we spend locally almost 40% (£3.80) is retained in the area, in contrast just 5% is retained locally through wages and other factors for a supermarket. In the UK almost 80% of spending is through large retailers. People have busy lives and the convenience of a supermarket and the likes of Amazon, means local businesses struggle to compete.

There needs to be an alternative.

We need a platform on which local producers can sell their goods and the user experience is the same as ordering online from the local supermarket or Amazon, with doorstep delivery. This would encourage local buying and allow local businesses to flourish while keeping money local. It would also provide the means to integrate services to greatly reduce eCO2 emissions.

How would it work ?

This comes back to the concept of 'design' mentioned above. The platform would provide an integrated solution with the following functions:

  1. An online shopping venue for local goods and services, to include 'community shopping', allowing individuals in a community to place orders for items and for these orders to be fulfilled and delivered together.

  2. A pick-up service from businesses based on orders received alongside a network of small fulfillment centres comprised of shops and other venues.

  3. A delivery and pick-up service integrated with car-share, load-share and public transport. Transport needs to be multi-functional and demand-led if we are to reduce travel emissions, which constitute a huge 40% of the total.

  4. Support for a Social Coin to reward voluntary effort.

This is not a trivial undertaking but it is doable and it needs to be done. As Prof Kate Raworth suggests, whatever we do, it must be thoughtful and designed. It is a key ingredient in the creation of the conditions and infrastructure that will allow a Green Economy to develop.

Key Actions
  1. Encourage investment in the renewable energy sector including the skills to support and maintain. Build on the Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) initiative which will create many skilled green jobs and opportunities (see Baltic Wharf link).
  2. Work with partners to ensure the district has the cross-section of skills to increase the efficiency of homes, install and maintain PVs, install and maintain EV charge points, etc
  3. With partners create a local integrated retail platform.
  4. Introduce a local electronic social currency.
  5. Encourage and support the re-use and re-purposing of items and to promote the ideals of a Circular Economy where ever possible.

A key phrase in all of this is the Council needs to work with partners. It cannot do this alone. It needs to have the vision, provide the leadership and bring people together.

The Joint Local Plan, and the Climate Change and Planning Policy Statement

The Joint Local Plan open_in_new (JLP) defines the planning policy for Plymouth, West Devon and South Hams, that guides planning decisions. There are other factors that need to be considered, but the JLP is the planner's bible. A Local Plan, like the JLP, needs to be reviewed every 5 years and submitted to central government for approval. The current JLP was approved and adopted in 2019 and is due for review in 2024.

In the mean time a Climate Emergency Planning open_in_new statement has been produced which new developments will be expected to abide by.

It is an important step in the right direction.