I can’t let B Heaton get away with the comment “modern planes are being made ever more green”. Flying remains the most damaging form of transport to our climate. If you want to reduce your personal impact the first two things to do are to fly less and eat less meat.
The Mayor should not be encouraged to spend our taxes on a failing airport. This money should be spent on creating a sustainable transport system in South Yorkshire, improving trams, trains and buses.
In a week where temperature records were smashed, I spent some time visiting family in London. On Friday I toured London Docklands with my brother.
The first point of note was the travel cost. An all-day off-peak travel card cost me £9.50, not much more than two return trips by bus from my home to the Hallamshire Hospital! The trains were all frequent and we never had to wait for more than about 4 minutes. If only South Yorkshire were blessed with such an excellent transport system. The biggest difference is, in London, nearly everybody uses public transport. In South Yorkshire most people choose a car to get around very slowly on our congested roads, leaving those that can’t afford a car struggling on poor public transport. It is obvious that we need a publicly controlled transport system that works for both people and planet.
A visit to the Docklands Museum reveals much about the history of the area. One exhibition was on slavery. The trade of enslaved Africans and sugar was nicknamed the Triangular Trade. Slave ships travelled across the Atlantic in a triangle between Britain, West Africa, and sugar plantations in the Americas. One wall in the museum is devoted to the names of all the captains, destinations and ships that sailed from London to trade in enslaved Africans, whose names weren’t even recorded.
Between about 1500 and 1900, Europeans kidnapped millions of Africans and shipped them across the Atlantic in conditions of extreme cruelty. To refer to the Africans who were enslaved only as ‘slaves’ strips them of their identity. They were valuable members of their community and family, farmers, merchants, priests, goldsmiths and musicians. They could be Yoruba, Igbo, Akan, Kongolese or many other ethnic groups.
European slavers dispersed them across the Americas to lead lives of forced labour, degradation and brutality. Millions died in the process. As a result, people of African descent are spread throughout the Americas and Western Europe. This is called the African Diaspora.
I remember teaching this to a class of secondary school students in Dronfield. One of the young girls, incensed by the cruelty and injustice, asked me “Why didn’t people do something to stop it before?” I explained that most white people then accepted slavery and those that did speak out against it were thought of as dangerous radicals who would bring down the whole economy.
Today the docklands is the centre of another evil trade. The massive skyscrapers around Canary Wharf house the offices of banks such as Barclays, Citic, JP Morgan Chase and HSBC. JP Morgan Chase is the biggest offender having invested $382 billion in fossil fuels since 2016. Earlier in the week Doctors from XR had cracked windows here leaving the message “In case of medical emergency, break glass.” If this investment was directed to renewable energy projects we would be much closer to ensuring a livable planet in the future. Instead, the banks keep pouring more investment into fossil fuels, ensuring our emissions continue to climb and our climate becomes increasingly unstable. If we manage to prevent the collapse of society, tomorrow’s young people will be asking us why we didn’t do more to stop it. But climate activists are treated just like the abolitionists of the past. We are ignored, ridiculed and mocked. Many people can’t imagine our society being free of its addiction to fossil fuels and don’t want change even though they understand that without change we face extinction.
The next stop on the tour was the Thames Barrage. This amazing engineering achievement prevents London from flooding. The Thames Barrier has been closed 205 times since it became operational in 1982 (correct as of February 2022). The barrier was originally expected to be raised just once or twice a year, but recently it has been needed 6 or 7 times a year. It was raised 10 times in its first decade, 57 times in its second decade, 52 times in its third decade and 87 times in the last 10 years. As sea levels continue to rise and storms increase in both frequency and ferocity, new solutions will have to be found to keep London safe.
Next stop was London City Airport, where, if you have the money, you can charter a plane to anywhere in the world. The impact of private air travel is huge because a private jet emits roughly 10 times the amount of carbon dioxide per passenger compared to a commercial flight. Only the extremely rich can afford a private jet, yet they use them with impunity to travel wherever they want. Aviation fuel is exempt from taxes almost everywhere on the planet, in stark contrast to the price paid for fuel at UK pumps. How do we stop the richest members of society from having such an enormous impact on our climate? Is it time to ban private jets?
We returned to the south bank by cable car and finished at the O2, which as well as being a giant music venue is also a shopping centre where consumers are persuaded to buy more and more things they probably don’t need!
An enjoyable day out, but plenty of food for thought!
Firstly he seems to believe we have stopped burning coal. There are still three coal power stations in the UK. Globally we are consuming more coal than ever, despite the urgent need to reduce it. Coal is the single largest source of carbon emissions and consumption increased by 9% from 2020 to 2021 with the biggest increases in the European Union and India.
Secondly, he thinks our atmosphere has “dried up and cleaned up”. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased every year of my life. When I was born back in 1959 there were less than 320 parts per million of CO2 in the air. Now it is more than 410 and it is still steadily increasing! Other greenhouse gases like methane have also increased.
Paul is confused about the effects of soot in the atmosphere. Breathing it in has serious health effects such as heart attacks, strokes, bronchitis and aggravated asthma.
Soot actually has a cooling effect on the earth as it prevents some of the sun’s radiation from reaching us. So if all the coal-powered stations were shut down tomorrow, the earth would actually warm up slightly as a result. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shut down the coal power stations though as stopping their emissions is vital for our survival.
Soot from forest fires near the arctic is causing a problematic feedback loop. The white ice in the arctic reflects the sun’s rays back to space. But if the ice is covered in soot, the dark surface absorbs the heat and increases ice melt. When the ice has melted, that surface is also darker, so more heat is absorbed and melting continues to speed up. This is just one of many feedback loops which will all interact with each other and will send our climate out of control if we don’t act now to reduce emissions.
Attempts to suggest that climate change is not a massive problem are dangerous. The record temperatures we are expecting this week are just a foretaste of the extreme weather we can expect in the future.
All the candidates have backed the Conservative Government over the last twelve years so all are responsible for the horrendous record on Green issues which have encouraged more oil, gas and coal exploitation and failed to properly insulate our housing or implement a Green New Deal to transform our economy.
All the candidates promote economic growth, which leads to more consumption and further damage to the planet. Most of the candidates advocate big cuts in taxation, but none are explaining that this means deep cuts to public expenditure and loss of vital services.
The Conservative Environment Network (CEN), which includes 130 MPs, wrote to the candidates urging them to clarify their stance on environmental issues, emphasising energy and food security. Chris Skidmore, the founder of the Net Zero Support Group of Conservative MPs, has not been impressed by candidate responses. It is clear the UK’s climate goals, which are already far too weak, are under threat.
Fewer than 70 MPs attended a climate briefing from Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance in Parliament last week. None of the leadership hopefuls attended. The briefing was the result of a 37-day hunger strike outside parliament by Angus Rose. He wanted MP’s to understand the scientific presentation that convinced Boris Johnson about climate change. Angus said it was “surprising” those vying to be prime minister did not want to make sure they were up-to-date on “the most pressing issue humanity faces” with leading scientists on hand to distil the key information.
“Hopefully they would do it for their country, for their community … or at least consider their own children, their own grandchildren,” Mr Rose added.
So what have the candidates said so far?
Kemi Badenoch has criticised the government’s already feeble net-zero strategy, arguing in a speech to mark the launch of her campaign that there are “too many policies, like the net zero target, set up with no thought to the effect on industries in the poorer parts of this country. The consequence is simply to displace emissions to other countries,” she added, accusing the government in which she is a Minister of engaging in “unilateral economic disarmament”. She seems oblivious to the fact that green investment is the best way to create jobs and level up the economy. 136 countries have already signed up to net zero by 2050. Badenoch speaks as if we’re alone in the world by working towards net zero when in reality, we’d be alone in the world if we didn’t.
Penny Mordaunt has defended the net zero policy in an article in the Telegraph. She wants lower taxes and “a huge boost for our plans to achieve net zero, where we believe that up to three million green jobs could be generated by 2030, creating the apprenticeships, new jobs, and training opportunities right across the UK”. However, she is a big supporter of both fracking and nuclear power, has generally voted against measures to protect us from climate change and doesn’t like the time pressure on the net zero policy!
Liz Truss, despite being the foreign secretary, played almost no role at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow last November and failed to mention the climate in speeches and meetings with her foreign counterparts. She has not yet spoken out against net zero. She formerly worked for oil giant Shell.
Former soldier Tom Tugendhat says “We need a growing economy and to deliver on the opportunities of Brexit.” He has a 10-year plan for growth and promises low taxes. His so-called “Clean Start” includes more nuclear energy and carbon capture technology so we can continue exploiting more fossil fuels-even though this is not yet shown to work at the scale required. He voted against a CO2 reduction requirement for new homes.
Arecent report from the Climate Change Committee found ‘shocking gaps’ in Government climate policy and ‘glacial’ progress towards net zero in some areas. But what so many of the Tory candidates are offering in this leadership election fails to reach even Johnson’s minimum standard of talking the right talk. All we’re hearing is either a deathly silence or worse, an outright denial of the challenges we face and the solutions on offer.
So which candidate should be supported? If you have a vote in the Conservative leadership and are concerned about our planet, it is clear you are in the wrong party!
“It’s not a strategy,” said the founder of the Leon food chain. “It doesn’t set out a clear vision as to why we have the problems we have now and it doesn’t set out what needs to be done.”
Dimbleby had proposed a significant expansion to free school meals, greater environment and welfare standards in farming, taxing sugar and salt, a 30% reduction in meat and dairy consumption and much more.
Instead, the few specific policies chosen by the government include an increase in domestic tomato production, and making it easier for deer stalkers to sell wild venison!
But why do we need a new food strategy?
The dawn of the £2 litre of petrol has shocked the nation. This is impacting food prices as everything needs to be transported. As the war continues in Ukraine we are missing the exports that Ukraine usually provides such as wheat, sunflower oil and fertiliser. Basic economics teaches us that such shortages lead to price increases.
But it is not just the war that has decreased the global supply of food. Due to the over-heating climate, heatwaves and floods have been damaging crops all around the world. Severe drought In Canada last year prompted a 38% drop in the country’s wheat production. In France, the heatwave has damaged wheat production and in the Central Plains of the USA, it has led some growers to write off parched hard red winter wheat, used by millers and bakers for bread flour. Harvests are underway in top producer Kansas, but the output is expected to fall “well below” the five-year average.
Blistering heat scorched wheat fields in the world’s second-biggest grower, India, damping expectations for exports to alleviate a global shortage. March temperatures soared to the highest ever for the month in records going back to 1901, parching the crop during a crucial period. Yields are predicted to slump 10% to 50% this season.
Policymakers at all levels of government should be concerned about this and be working on how we can increase our food production. As a country, we import roughly half the food we eat. It is desperately foolish to continue to rely on these imports.
During the second world war “Dig for Victory” posters encouraged people with access to land to use it to grow crops. So whether you’ve got a balcony big enough for a window box or a huge garden currently used for lawn and flowers, why not consider what you can grow to eat? There is help available from groups like Regather if you don’t know where to start. Government should be promoting food growing today.
But this won’t be enough to solve the food crisis. To ensure we all have enough to eat in the future we need to reduce our consumption of meat. Currently, 85% of farmed UK land is used to either grow food for livestock or to rear meat. We could feed ourselves with a much smaller proportion of this land if we reduced the meat in our diet. This would enable us to rewild much of the countryside, providing a chance for nature and biodiversity to recover in what is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
George Monbiot recently launched his excellent new book, Regenesis. I am looking forward to hearing him speak about it at the Festival of Debate on 23rd June. He tweeted “The government commissioned an excellent thinker, HenryDimbleby, to write an excellent Food Strategy. Then, clearly in response to corporate lobbying, it systematically junked his proposals. Yet again, it has wasted everyone’s time and done nothing to address our urgent crises.”
George believes he has discovered the solution to the food crisis. He wants us to eat PFCA, which stands for Precision Fermentation and Cellular Agriculture. This may be the first time you’ve heard of this but I think we will be hearing a lot more of it in the future. Using renewable energy, microbial protein production can be vastly more efficient than current agricultural methods and does not involve killing animals.
George believes that it could produce 5 times more soya beans per hectare than plants and up to ten times in better conditions.
Microbial proteins are produced by micro-organisms via fermentation. Precision fermentation allows these micro-organisms to be programmed to produce complex organic molecules such as proteins, with cellular agriculture permitting the production of specific animal proteins.
A study published in Nature found that, if only 20% of beef production was displaced by microbial protein, it would slash annual deforestation and related carbon dioxide emissions by half, while also lowering methane emissions. If half of the beef production were replaced, this would cut deforestation by 82%. But the study only scratched the surface of what’s possible.
What does it taste like? I gather just like meat, but I am yet to experience it. I’m certainly willing to give it a try! Boris Johnson and his cabinet should read “Regenesis” and come up with a new food strategy that acknowledges the crisis and offers real solutions.
The premiere of The Felling at a packed City Hall was a huge success. The film captures the amazing spirit of the tree campaigners who had no choice but to take radical action. They put their bodies on the line risking huge fines and even imprisonment to prevent the needless destruction of our street trees. They stood up to the bullying tactics of the Council who were determined to meet the target of cutting down 17500 trees, despite the huge reputational damage this was doing to our city.
How wonderful it is that the Council have now moved on from the dark days of dawn raids to destroy our trees. We now have an excellent Tree Strategy that ensures our urban forest is managed sustainably. It has been heartening to see new street trees planted in Nether Edge recently, paid for by crowdfunding from local residents. Thanks to the co-operative agreement between the Green and Labour Parties on the Council an inquiry will soon begin under the chairmanship of Sir Mark Lowcock. Hopefully, this will reveal the truths behind the dispute and lead to some reconciliation.
If we are going to protect humanity from the increasing threat of global heating we can learn much from the tactics used by the protestors in the film. Non-violent direct action has once again proved to be successful. These are the tactics that will be necessary to force corporations and governments to act now to reduce our carbon emissions. Do go and watch the film for a masterclass in non-violent direct action. Catch it at the Showroom from April 1st.
The consultation on whether or not the Knife Angel sculpture comes to Sheffield is a good opportunity to have conversations about carrying knives. As a young teacher, I had to remove a knife from a teenager at a school disco. Fortunately, the incident ended without injury, but it could have been so different. Knife Angel is one of several movements teaching about the harmful effects of violent behaviour. We know that every one of these crimes leaves a trail of broken lives and communities needing to heal.
Every person we can turn away from carrying a knife is one less tragedy waiting to happen. If you’re worried that someone you know is carrying or thinking about carrying knives, try to make space for having a talk with them, ask them why, tell them how you feel about it, and try to find alternatives. We all need to think about how we can stop young people from being in situations where carrying weapons is any kind of answer. To have your say on the Knife Angel sculpture coming to Sheffield, see the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit page.
Extinction Rebellion Sheffield is partnered with Extinction Rebellion Université de Goma near the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to enable the two organisations to support and learn from each other. As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world, Hazel Bober spoke to activist Francine Fataki about being a female climate activist in the DRC.
Hi Francine! Can you start by telling us a bit about the Virunga National Park?
The Virunga National Park, in the DRC, was created in 1925, making it the oldest park in Africa. Covering an area of almost 8,000km2, its main objective when it was established was to protect the mountain gorillas.
The park contains a huge variety of ecosystems, stretching from the snow-capped summits of the Ruwenzori Mountains and the active volcanoes of the Virunga mountains to the swamps of Lake Edouard, the alpine forests and the savannah. Virunga is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and is home to endangered mountain gorillas as well as okapi (also known as zebra giraffes) and elephants.
The park is important for our community in that it provides food for the local population. On a national level, the park is of huge environmental and economic importance.
The park is under constant threat of oil exploitation by fossil fuel companies. What would the consequences be if proposals by this industry go ahead?
Oil exploitation could have negative consequences in 85 per cent of the total area of the National Park.
In terms of environmental impacts, there would be the destruction of ecosystems, loss of biodiversity and certain species would be forced to migrate.
From a socio-economic point of view, we would expect reduced tourism, affecting both the local population and the country as a whole. If drilling goes ahead in Lake Edouard, accidents could cause major pollution and oil spills, affecting the survival of more than 40,000 families living in and around the national park. During the activities carried out by the oil company SOCO we recorded multiple cases of human rights abuse. In short, there will be no positive socio-political outcomes for Congolese people from proposed oil exploitation projects.
Why did you join Extinction Rebellion? What is XR Université de Goma doing to protect the Virunga National Park?
I joined XR to play a part in bringing about positive change. I’m here to say no, loudly and clearly, which most Congolese people don’t get to say! No to oil exploitation in the Virunga National Park and no to the illegal exploitation of the park’s resources. I’m also here to help my community, to raise awareness of the dangers we are facing and to remind them of their rights as Congolese people and as people living near and in the national park. In summary, as activists of XR Université de Goma, we are fighting for the rights of our fellow citizens living in this area and to prevent activities that harm the environment. Here are some of the actions XR Université de Goma has carried out:
Actions on the street and to mobilise people in schools and universities, raising awareness at markets and using performing arts to communicate this cause
Our “Oil, no thank you” campaign in which we blocked roads to companies such as TOTAL, SOCO and EFORA who have been seeking to exploit oil in the Virunga National Park since 2005
Launching a campaign calling for community management of the national park
Tell us about your experiences as a female climate activist in the DRC
To start with, this is Africa where there are certain things women aren’t allowed to do. There’s an idea that activism isn’t for women. So it’s a struggle which is not easy for a woman because nobody understands you – people give you a funny look when you talk to them about environmental issues, given that the population has other pressing issues such as poverty, famine and a lack of drinking water.
Can you tell us about the lives of women in your region?
I live in a zone where there is daily armed conflict and killing, and where women are victims of sexual violence. Women are marginalised and considered objects. I’m telling you this with tears in my eyes – the life of a woman living in the east of this country is a nightmare – it’s hell on earth.
Are women more affected than men by climate change in your country?
I would say so. The majority of women in this region work in agriculture and climate change disrupts the seasons which impacts crop yields. Women are calling for equality but this hasn’t been achieved yet in our society. As a female activist of XR Université de Goma, I’m fighting with all my strength to show other Congolese women that we are capable of playing a role in protecting the environment, just as men are. It’s not easy to find a place in a male-dominated world, but we should never give up.
I was looking recently at paying my Council Tax and to my shock and horror, I found that the Sheffield City Council still banks with Barclays Bank! Why does this matter, you may ask?
Barclays claim that they can make a real contribution to tackling climate change. But they are Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels.
It has become abundantly clear that if we are to meet the carbon dioxide emission targets set by the International Energy Agency,( the IEA), then we need to stop drilling for new fossil fuels, immediately. That means to stop drilling for new oil and gas fields. The IEA has made its position very clear on this issue. It states that there is no room for new oil-gas fields in its Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 pathway (NZE). And even the advice given by this Agency only gives a 50% chance of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees C. So the Banks absolutely should not be putting money into new fossil fuel exploration.
Two of our high street banks, here in Sheffield, Barclays Bank, along with HSBC, are some of Europe’s worst offenders for continuing to invest in fossil fuel exploration.
Barclays also fund tar sand oils, as well as arctic oil and gas companies. Since the Arctic is warming faster than any place on Earth, the ecosystems there are already under severe pressure. An oil spill in this region would be catastrophic for the unique ecosystem. The oil industry has no effective way of removing oil from the ice.
Additionally, these two banks, HSBC and Barclays, are two of the worst European banks for funding biodiversity loss.
Barclay’s commitment to net-zero by 2050 is greenwashing, Net zero targets are inadequate and are being used by banks such as Barclays to appear climate-friendly by creating targets for the future whilst continuing to support the fossil fuel industries.
Big banks made pledges to stop new investment in 2022. But in spite of this, many banks, including HSBC and Barclays, are still backing new oil and gas exploration.
The latest research by ShareAction shows that HSBC and Barclays have provided US$59 billion, US$48 billion since 2016.
And this is in spite of the well-recognised belief, now, that investment into fossil fuels is a lose-lose situation. The reasons for this are that if demand for fossil fuels decreases, the prices will fall and so the assets become what is known as ‘stranded’; whereby assets become increasingly worthless. (This happened in the US in 2020). If on the other hand demand increases, then the damage caused to the Environment by this increased usage will severely damage the economy.
At COP 26 in Glasgow last year, there were many fine words spoken, but clear measurable action was singularly missing. In the words of Greta Thunberg, there was a lot of bla-bla-bla. Meanwhile, people all over the World are increasingly paying the price for this ongoing fossil fuel exploration. And this is being done in our names.
Barclay’s commitment to net-zero by 2050 is greenwashing, Net zero targets are inadequate and are being used by banks such as Barclays to appear climate-friendly by creating meaningless targets for the future whilst continuing to support the fossil fuel industries.
There has been a large move amongst people who believe that this investment is wrong, to disinvest from Banks that behave like this and move their accounts to banks who don’t do this. Many of the pension schemes have been put under pressure to disinvest from fossil fuels, as have other Institutions, such as Art Galleries, Theatres, Universities and Doctors Colleges.
A small number of Banks have started to restrict financing to oil & gas projects. These Banks deserve us as their clients. See https://switchit.green to find out more.
If you ask most people on the street, ‘are you worried about climate change?’ then most people now say that they are very worried about this. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in October 2021, 75% of adults are worried about the impact of climate change. And yet these big Corporations that make profits for relatively small numbers of people, continue to behave in this ruthless way, disregarding the impact of their greed on people, animals, and ecosystems everywhere, reeking damage that may never be repaired, worsening the Climate Crisis.
The people most impacted by the climate crisis are the ones who have done the least to cause it. This is true in all places, all over the World, including in the UK. Women, working-class people, people of colour, indigenous people, poor people everywhere are the ones who are hardest hit by the Climate crisis that is already well underway, not tomorrow, but now.
This week, Extinction Rebellion will once again be holding protests outside Barclays Bank. This is part of the ‘Better without Barclays’ campaign that is being held around the UK. #BetterWithoutBarclays. They are asking the Banks to stop investing in fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, it is three years since Sheffield declared a climate emergency!!! And what has been done so far to seriously tackle this emergency?
Come on, Sheffield City Council, this is an easy step, stop banking with Barclays!
After campaigning on this for several years I am delighted that Green councillor Alison Teal made the most of her position on the cooperative executive to initiate the process to ban the use of the dangerous herbicide Glyphosate. Coincidentally, Brincliffe, the trial area, is in Nether Edge and Sharrow ward where I am hoping to be elected in May. I look forward to working with residents who live in Brincliffe, helping them understand the importance of this trial. Glyphosate is dangerous to insects, birds and humans. The nature emergency means we need to stop using it for general purposes as soon as possible.