As we reach the end of a grim year, I feel the need for ‘Reviewing the situation!’ Where has real progress been seen and what is worth pursuing next? Can a Villain be a Saviour too?
TO QUOTE FAGIN – I’m reviewing the situation, can a fellow be a villain all his life?
I’m reviewing the situation,
I must quickly look up ev’ryone I know.
Titled people — with a station
Who can help me make a real impressive show!
The lyrics go on to list lots of powerful people and landed gentry, but the conclusion is that a villain can’t really change,
It is a song about finding a conscience, questioning your motives and outcomes. I really think it is a good one for Climate Activists. It also has a section about coming to the age of 70, which to my astonishment will be me next year. YUK! Will I be cold and old? No way!
Cornwall – the easy situation to review
A perfect summing up of our achievements in the field of climate was on Friday 8th December at the Museum in Truro, for our Cornwall Sustainability Award night. I was so happy to make it and even more delighted to have completed my team-designed and hand-stitched little green dress! Thank you Louise, Susan and Tom for all your encouragement!
I am trying to recall exactly the total number of nominated organisations and am pretty sure it was over 120. When I was making and sending off our little video it seemed very difficult to squash a message into less than 60 secs, but then actually watching 30 or so in succession … seemed to drag, for sure. The Meadow Barns team were only measured against a moderate number of other comparable groups, and were not chosen … fair enough. But I was really proud that our film had far better/clearer audio than most and – with young Martha’s voice included – was very unique and colourful.
Find the film on our YouTube channel also, or hopefully it will just play here.
As Cornwall is almost an island it should not be a great surprise that many organisations concentrate on the marine environment, particularly gathering waste plastics and making them into useful recycled items. But there were so many, I felt we ought to have one category for just that topic.
The top choice stood out – Cleaner Seas has been singled out as a winner far beyond our county, for making the simplest little device that they have titled an ‘Indi’. It removes microplastics from your washing machine. It’s not cheap but something we all should save up for, it seems to me. Either read this one https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-67637023
and/or go direct to the Cleaner Seas shop here https://www.cleaner-seas.com/products/indi
Cleaner Seas are based in Bude but their product is applicable to the whole world. I like that! But equally I also loved a number of very site specific organisations, such as ‘Gleaning Cornwall’. This is a group of volunteers who save vegetables and possibly occasionally fruit from going to waste in the fields. They started and still have quite a focus in far West Cornwall, since that is the vegetable basket of Cornwall, but on their website
it tell us how much more widely their rescued food is being distributed:-
The idea of soup kitchens being only for the homeless is much outdated. For many low-income families, this is the new norm. From the handful of organisations scattered across the county, this has now grown at a frightening rate. With Gleaning Cornwall now in contact with over 100 organisations across the county and demand now also coming from as far away as Plymouth, we offer free fresh produce to feed those in need. The divide between rich and poor has never been wider! Through figures provided by these organisations, it is estimated that our produce contributes to feeding over 6,000 people each week.
In one month – March 2023 – they gleaned 5 tonnes of potatoes, 327 crates of cauliflower, 109 crates of cabbages, 211 crates of spring greens and 60 sacks of leeks. Their volunteer drivers distributed this huge haul of veg out across the county, benefiting people from Penzance up to Bude, from Plymouth down to the Lizard and from Newquay across to St Austell.
As you would expect, the evening enabled many useful conversations, in my case particularly with Councillor Martyn Allvey (we are both still pressing for progress with the hydro restoration work in Luxulyan Valley) and then with the very wonderful, vivacious Frankie Adkins, environmental journalist who has been lending us a hand from time to time. I was very happy to tell her a new story, which we will develop for you in the New Year, with ref to a Bodmin-based company called Thermoprotect where a new product for insulating homes and roofs will be launched in tandem with the ‘cork oak’ growers of Portugal. You can quickly and simply spray a render of cork in various colours onto your clean surface, to waterproof and insulate in a few hours. I am very interested to try this for my library barn and look forward to sharing the story.
A full list of winners may be found here https://cornwallsustainabilityawards.org/awards/2023/
Southwest Water public consultations
The Museum was packed with people that evening, but so too was the Alexandra Hall, St Blazey on the following Monday 11th, when folks were queuing out of the door into the car park. This was the first of 2 in-person drop-in opportunities, and for me was the culmination of a year or more exchanging emails with their site planning engineer, Ollie. I observed how he and his colleagues used a calm and measured approach to take people through the complexities of their Desalination plans, on paper and displays. There was strong interest from the media and – presumably because I was a lone voice calling for a moderate, middle path rather than showing a hostile, highly critical response – my interviews with Radio Cornwall and Westcountry TV were used. If you already read Blog week 45 you have heard my stance – wanting SW Water to aspire to do better, raise the bar higher by finding uses for brine. I am now awaiting responses from the University of New South Wales (the top team for research into sodium ion batteries) and from TATA, the company who will develop our Somerset-based GIGA battery factory. We are most definitely not short of seawater around the SW peninsula, so I definitely hope this could be a less damaging adjunct or alternative to Lithium.
Links between Cornwall and wider world
From Day 1, my vision for our Half Term Ceremonies has been that one would have a local focus (that was October and our Food and Farming), but the other 2 would look into the far distance geographically. For February I am really working up the links with China, as Saturday 10th will be Chinese New Year and the whole week could see us delivering a set of very colourful, lively opportunities.
So far 3 locations are showing strong interest, so – if your community would like to be visited and supported to run a day – please get in touch immediately, there is a further page of practical and financial info I can email out but always with an emphasis that says we need to deliver this in partnership with Chinese people, through our local restaurants or other groups, which we are trying to locate via the Devon and Cornwall Chinese Association. https://www.dcca.center
The Villain versus Saviour question is also explored online here, in the China Global South project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmvqpOYb6O0. It is hard to achieve an objective overview, balancing China’s high emissions from burning coal and fossil fuels versus the massive quantity of parts made and exported for solar PV and other renewables world-wide. I will return to this in 2024.
The Global South interview brings us round to COP 28, and states ‘Compared to previous years we feel these discussions were much more honest. OPEC came out with a letter, in which the secretary General called on his colleagues ‘to resist phasing out fossil fuels in favour of driving forward with carbon capture.’ The China delegate angle was ‘I have participated in these climate negotiations for 16 years and this is the hardest meeting I have seen, due to the issue of ‘phase out or phase down’ for fossil fuels.’
PRELUDE TO FINAL COP REPORT
On Saturday 10th I was greatly impressed and grateful for a free session about the history of COP conferences, given by Bob Walley to the small team who have set up our very own Mid Cornwall eco hub in Truro. It is not a large space, but I believe it could be capable of hitting far above its weight, reaching to many more people in the area. I will return to this in a bit, but first let me attempt a summary of Bob’s talk.
Bob Walley, Research Associate, Department for Humanities and Social Science, University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus) – Researcher in Climate Change Engagement and Communication
The first ever Conference of the Parties dates way back in the 1990s, stimulated by the release of the first ever IPCC report in 1990. The IPCC is an inter-governmental panel on climate change and their initial words (First IPCC Assessment Report or FAR) was bland and general, underlining the importance of climate change as a challenge with global consequences and requiring international cooperation.
It wasn’t until 1997 that the pace picked up, at Kyoto, but key players the USA and China were not signed up to statements yet. In Bob’s words, ‘the next 8 years were just playing with details’ until a bit of a step up occurred at Copenhagen, in 2009. Even so once again it was USA and China who vetoed any legally binding terms being agreed. The time-bomb kept ticking away and each time discomfort was growing, through Dohar and into Warsaw, until at last came COP 21 in the year 2015 in Paris. This was the milestone, when a target of warming no more than 1.5 degrees was set. It was also a special moment for Bob with his colleagues and students, who brought a very different approach to matters. They imagined creating an entire new country, a tiny, tiny place on a patch of ground in Penryn, and used this to debate how one might create everything new and different if able to start afresh with government planning, constitution and social fabric. It was a playful nonsense in a way, but news of the invented state was conveyed to the Queen and it was registered at COP as having responsibility for something v important – Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs (sometimes preceded by I for Intended = INDCs).
NDCs are the nuts and bolts of action from a COP. They say this country has determined to change in the following ways and is committed to seeing through to a better conclusion. As you see on the chart, it is often about £s or $s.
If Paris set us a major new benchmark, what came next? Well the one that we probably recall best would be COP 26 in Glasgow, when Alok Sharma was reduced to tears by the failure to endorse phasing out of coal mining. But I reckon he was a strong force, in his personal and emotional commitment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLmaumUTqVE
Last year COP 27 was mostly deemed a waste of time. Greta Thunberg is still probably the foremost voice of negativity and doom predictions. I wonder how she came to this position? Was she a puppet, being manipulated or a genuine young activist punching far above her little weight?
So now we reach COP28 and return to that question I posed at the outset, can Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber be considered a villain or a saviour? Here is a snippet from https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/global-playbook/fossil-fuel-cop-out/ which was written just prior to the final agreements in overtime on Wednesday Dec 13th …
THE NEW BAD BOY OF COP: Al-Jaber must be breathing a sigh of relief: while the United Arab Emirates came in for a deluge of criticism for its oil-producing antics in the early days of COP28, now Saudi Arabia has become Public Enemy No. 1.
Riyadh digs in: In recent days, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, became the main block to a commitment to phase down or phase out fossil fuel — something that would be truly ground-breaking.
Lavish greenwashing: Unsurprisingly, the deep-pocketed kingdom had one of the most OTT pavilions at COP this year. The futuristic Saudi Green Initiative Forum which dominates the Green Zone skyline aimed to showcase Riyadh’s “green” credentials — such as its increase in renewable energy capacity.
The world’s biggest climate meeting, the 28th conference of the parties (COP28), just concluded in Dubai. Negotiators from around the world worked overtime to deliver a new plan for addressing the mounting crisis posed by human-caused climate change. Nations reached an agreement to fund assistance for those most impacted by climate change (loss and damage) and also to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems.” Despite important progress, COP28 fell short of delivering the decisive action on climate change that science says is needed.
The key aim to phase out fossil fuels was not achieved, but other aspects were positive, for instance conducting a total audit or Global Stocktake –
The Global Stocktake was the most scrutinised text at COP28. After fierce pushback on the watered-down language on emissions and fossil fuels, the final text saw a few improvements.
There were more quite significant actions agreed also: –
LOSS and DAMAGE FUNDING
It all started so well. Within hours of the official opening at the impressive EXPO site in Dubai, hundreds of millions of dollars were pledged for the Loss & Damage Fund. The UAE opened the pledges with US$100 million, closely followed and matched by Germany. By the end of COP28, the Fund totalled US$770.6 million.
Elsewhere, 130 countries signed a deal to triple production of renewable energy and double energy efficiency. Led by EU president Ursula von der Leyen, the plan is to generate 11TW by 2030.
AGRICULTURE and EMISSIONS
Food and agriculture is a major contributor to carbon emissions, and this was tackled at the World Climate Action Summit with the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Section. This was backed by more than 150 parties that represent more than 3/4 of the world’s total food emissions, according to UAE Climate and Environment Minister Mariam Almheiri.
Deforestation is also linked to food production, and new measures to tackle this perennial problem were announced at COP28. Tropical Forests Forever is the rather catchy title for a new fund announced by Brazil, home of course to the Amazon rainforest and host of COP30 in 2025.
And with little or no fanfare in the press, I have been alerted thanks to Chrys at the Eco Hub, to 2 OTHER BIG NAMES whose messages deserve to be heard:-
further details of the Pope and his message at
and secondly there is Stella, challenging everyone to be more sustainable in the world of fashion https://www.stellamccartney.com/us/en/COP28-UN-climate-conference-stellas-sustainable-market.html
So to CONCLUDE 2023
There are major reasons to despair of the world at this time, especially when seeing such devastation in the wars raging, with little progress or hope, in Ukraine and Gaza.
But in the sphere of Climate awareness, I cannot paint everything as black. When I saw the banner at Mid Cornwall Eco Hub, showing many members as feeling really ‘terrified’ I had to confess that is not me. My number on the list would be 6 not 10 – yes I am concerned, but I use every waking hour to work for change and improvements. Happily I come across so many people on a similar path – if we are to inspire younger people to come on board, it is vital to share this good news at every opportunity.
So let us end with a wonderful summary of good news, from Sue Allen who I met at the Hub. She told me about her work in Butterfly Conservation, which includes working in redundant mines and quarries. It would be grand to help each other with this.
Take the link below and scroll down to find their 5 minute film, illustrating how ordinary folks can get together and achieve measurable positive outcomes. Hurrah!
Farewell now, til next year. But do please keep in contact and email at once if you are interested in the Chinese Half Term events. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!