Sunday, 22 November 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes

The City Council have now produced their long-awaited Climate Change Action Plan, following their ‘Call to Action’ earlier this year and the activists response of a ‘Call to Real Action’, and just in time for the Copenhagen summit. Sir Richard Leese and others will fly off to Copenhagen (i.e. by the most carbon intensive travel mode) and proudly brandish it in front of world leaders.

What do I think of it? Well, there are plenty of fine words in it. To be fair, the Council are being ambitious with it, particularly when compared with the other Greater Manchester boroughs. As well as a proposed 41% cut in the City’s carbon footprint by 2020, there is a ‘commitment to create a Total Carbon Footprint framework’ by 2013 (this means including embedded carbon, i.e. the carbon cost of everything consumed in and by the City). The 64 page document contains numerous welcome ideas ranging from the large-scale insulation of housing to increasing local food production.

But - of course there is a but; in fact there are several buts. In his foreword Sir Richard talks of a picture being painted of our City’s future, What follows however is a picture which is little different from the City today. On transport for instance there is no recognition of the need (beyond a nod to video-conferencing) to move away from the commuter model and the recognition that public transport also has a carbon cost.
The vision could and should be better. Major deficiencies are the lack of detail as to how the 41% will actually be reached, and the absence of any plan for beyond 2010.
It is somehow expected to co-exist with the Council’s other plans for continuous economic growth. And perhaps most blatantly, any recognition of the real impact of the airport (the air travel) is coyly shelved until beyond 2013.

Following the influence of Call to Real Action, the Council have included a large number of people in their writing groups and, to be fair, they have produced the plan in a relatively short period of time. So can I say that the approval on Weds 18th November of this document by the City Council marks a big step forward?….
Well, What a difference a day makes – on Thursday the 19th the Council Planning Department approved the demolition of 200 year old cottages, and a neighbouring beauty spot at Hasty Lane; this to make way for an extra airport freight hanger. Never mind that airfreight has been falling for 2 years (and in the promised low-carbon city should fall much further); never mind that the Wythenshawe councillors (of all Parties) unanimously voted to opposed the plan.

To their credit the Lib Dem councillors on the committee opposed the plan, but the Labour majority on the committee saw it through.
It is hard to have any confidence in the City Council’s ability to make the changes it claims to want, when it commits such blatant acts of vandalism in almost the same breath.

Cockermouth memory

The news of the terrible flood in Cockermouth brought back a memory for me, indeed one of the very earliest, and haziest, memories I have; this was of floods there in 1954 (our family lived there between 1953 and 1957). Although that was a very wet year, the floods in the town did not match what we have just seen, and there was never a day when 12 inches of rain fell; in fact before last week there had never been a day in Britain since records began when 12 inches of rain fell - that is no longer the case.

For me this illustrates that whilst extreme weather events have occurred throughout history, and while no single event on its own should be taken as proof of climate change, the evidence of more extreme weather is definitely stacking up.

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