Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Newsome Councillors visit Hillside Primary School

Today myself and Councillors Julie Stewart-Turner and Karen Allison visited Hillside Primary School. We've done a few of this visits now to various Primary schools in the Newsome Ward. I'm keen that we demystify Councillors and local democracy to make it accessible, normal and for local politicians to be people they are aware of. So I always enjoy these visits. You always get good questions and views. Thanks to Kirklees staff for facilitating this event.







Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Councillor Andrew Cooper - Speech to Kirklees Council on Declaring a Climate Emergency


Firstly I welcome this motion to 'Declare a Climate Emergency' and I thank Councillor Murgatroyd for his initiative in bringing it forward. It follows on from a number of other motions by Councils around the country the first one in the UK in Bristol introduced by my Green Party colleagues there and this has been followed by a number of others including Stroud and most recently Bradford Council last night. It is also now a global phenomenon and even Councils on the other side of the Planet in Australia are passing similar motions based on the call to action inspired by the IPCC report.
So what is it all about. We have limited time to act and national Governments are not acting nearly fast enough. I was at the UN Climate Talks in Katovice , Poland last month where on behalf of the EU Committee of the Regions we were calling for National Government’s to work in partnership with Local Authorities to address climate change. So a quick question to members. How many emails , memos, calls for assistance with the Paris Climate goals have we in Local Government received from National Government since it was signed over 3 years ago? You know the answer it is zero.
We are the people with the closest links to communities, who can mobilise action quickly, who have strong links with the wider public sector and business. If we are not properly valued and involved in action to address climate change then we will fail.
Passing this Climate Emergency motion is an important first step but it will meaningless if not followed up by meaningful action. I know recycling is an important issue and does have a relationship with climate change and it is somewhat bizarre that it is the only specific aspiration mentioned in this motion. There is a lot more we could do.
In July this year Government announced that we could set our own energy efficiency standards in our Local Plan and that crucially these could be higher than those set in National Building regulations. On Monday I visited the Navarre Region of Northern Spain where the Local Authority there is currently building 524 Passivhaus accredited homes for social rent. It was inspiring stuff, the people on the lowest incomes having good standard housing with negligible fuel bills. It was good to see such strong leadership. It is not an isolated story and around Europe we now seeing tens of thousands of such homes being built. In the UK we have leading authorities like Norwich and Exeter doing some successful groundbreaking work on Passivhaus developments. In Kirklees it has been a bit slow. The Passivhaus Report produced by the All Party Policy Task force probably reported about 2 years ago and has never been responded to. Now I know some positive work on standards is being pursued but we like a strong statement of what our policy is in this area to guide officer and show we are a leader in this area.
Similarly with the use of electric vehicles we are well behind a number of other Local Authorities. We now have 3. I am told via the Examiner that we have another 17 planned. Leeds City Council has 200 electric vehicles. We need to do more.
We have been at our best as once the Leading Authority on Green policies when we have been our boldest. When we were the first Council in the country to provide householders with a universally free insulation scheme. We won the prestigious Ashden Award recognising our pioneering work in energy efficiency
When we finally decided to pursue a solar programme on Council homes ( 5 years too late in my opinion) we won the Solar installer of the year award. No we shouldn’t chase baubles for the sake of it but recognise that fortune favours the bold.
We need to ignore the naysayers, those who urge caution based on outdated or just wrong knowledge, and ignore those who will never take a risk until they have all the information they feel they need. Why should we take this approach? Because it is a climate emergency and should be treated as such. We don’t have the time to come up with perfect plans, we should be guided by what has worked well for others and take informed risks when we need to. If we heed the advice of dinosaurs we will go the way of the dinosaurs.
Action on climate change is a great opportunity for this council. New skills, activities that can bring communities together. Not simply saving carbon and energy but money as well. Let’s pass this motion and act decisively not just for Kirklees, or to do just what others have done but to provide the direction and leadership on climate action that is lacking in this country.
Support this motion

Friday, 28 December 2018

Green Party New Years Day Bus Service - 26 years and counting!

2019 New Year's Day Bus - Andrew Cooper, Sue Lee-Richards & Karen Allison
Our New Year's Bus Service is now in its 26th year. It feels bizarre that we've been doing this each year for nearly half my life. The concept was from David Taylor a Green Party member and public transport enthusiast who lived in Linthwaite at the time. I remember his knowledge of bus timetables was phenomenal. I dimly recall an evening in The Sair Inn in the nineties where David and our first Newsome Green Councillor Nick Harvey were in conversation discussing the best way of getting by bus between 2 points with changes, times etc. Both were experts and however tedious a subject might be its always a pleasure to see people who really know what they are on about in animated discussion.

So here we are. Today I, Cllr Karen Allison and our 2019 candidate, Sue Lee-Richards got our timetables on the bus stops and in local shops. The timetables have also been distributed to 7500 homes in the Newsome Ward in our 8 page Annual Report newsletter. 

I've never regretted doing it, even on the occasions when it rained all day and we had hardly any passengers, and even when someone who could have given more consideration to their personal  hygiene decides they are going travel with us. It's a service and part of the rhythm of my year. With so much uncertainty in my life there's a comfort in knowing exactly what I'm doing at least one day out of 365 in a year. So here we go again. I know the route and though I couldn't do it blindfold perhaps in a few years time maybe the service may be provided by an autonomous, driver less and electric vehicle. When it does I may just come along for the ride.



Sunday, 16 December 2018

COP24 - Green success at Global Climate Talks

Councillor Andrew Cooper at the COP24 Climate Talks
Green Party Energy Spokesperson Councillor Andrew Cooper was part of the EU Committee of the Regions Delegation attending the COP24 Climate Negotiations in Katovice Poland last week. He is a Councillor in Kirklees in West Yorkshire.

The COP24 Climate Talks took the important step of deciding how the Paris Climate goals of limiting Global Temperature increases to 1.5 degrees centigrade were to be achieved. The talks established the ‘Rulebook’ for achieving  tough carbon reduction targets. Many have rightly  been concerned at the lack of ambition in the final agreement and in particular the lack of recognition by the United Sates, Russian and Saudi Arabia who seem to put oil interests ahead of a safe climate for the people of the world.

Councillor Cooper said, “My mission at COP24 was to get more action at the local and regional level and push the United Nations to acknowledge the need for National Governments to do much more to reduce carbon emissions. What we knew before the climate talks was that National Governments had not agreed enough carbon savings to limit a global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees to ensure we had a reasonably stable climate to pass on to future generations.”

“Countries Carbon Emission targets are described under UN rules as Nationally Determined Contributions. I had proposed, and got EU backing, to call for a new category of Locally and Regionally Determined Contributions to encourage local and regional governments, below the State level, to take more action to reduce their carbon emissions. There was real progress towards this goal in the final statement signed up to by World Leaders in Katovice.”

There is now a statement in the final text on how to assess  Nationally Determined Contributions that refers to preparing implementation plans to include “domestic institutional arrangements, public participation and engagement with local communities”. This statement gives a much greater role to Local Councils and Regional bodies in the UK and around the world.

Councillor Cooper said, “ I’m very pleased that we managed to get such a strong statement out of the COP24 Climate Talks from over 200 governments from around the world. In a UK Context we need to be asking what our Government will be doing now to work in partnership with  Local Government and devolved administrations to help reduce carbon emissions. A growing number of Councils have now declaring a Climate Emergency following the IPCC Report that showed we have less than 12 years to reduce emissions to a level compatible with a stable climate. Now is the time to back up those declarations with solid actions.”



Thursday, 13 December 2018

COP24 Update - Nothing is guaranteed.

The headline for the outside world with COP24 is the refusal by the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia to
COP24 - Katovice - Poland
do anything other than 'note ' the IPCC report saying we only have 12 years left to get our house in order to keep the average global temperature rise to a survivable 1.5 degrees. I say 'the outside world' because a lot of the time you are inside. COP24 very much has the feel of an International Space Station (with gravity!). You don't see much of the outside world. You could be anywhere, in any part of the world. You're also very conscious that people from every part of the world are there as well. The experience for most attendees is probably equivalent to a Festival of Climate Action. In the various meeting rooms, every possible aspect of climate change, climate mitigation and climate adaptation is
Miguel Canete - EU Climate Change Commissioner
discussed in depth. Now and again there will be a star turn. Top of the bill yesterday was former US Vice President Al Gore giving a bravura presentation on the 'State of the Climate' with ongoing criticism of the shortsightedness of governments and businesses.

My mission at COP24 was very clear to me. To focus on the issue I had conceived and promoted for the last 2 years, 'Regionally and Locally Determined Contributions' - RLDC's. It's hard to make a subject with this title sound engaging. What exactly does it mean? The short explanation is that just as we have carbon emission savings identified for nations, Nationally Determined Contributions - NDCs, we also should have savings identified for Councils and other political bodies at the Local and Regional level - RLDCs. To engage the power of the local could
With CoR Vice President Markula at the EU Commission Briefing
help bridge the gap between the emissions we need to save and those identified in the NDCs. So if it works the difference between achieving and failing to achieve the COP21 Paris Climate Goals.

So I've been away from home for 10 days and frankly want to get back. At COP24 I've made a number presentations and press interviews as well as participating in briefings on progress of the talks. The key one for me was with EU Climate Change Commissioner Miguel Canete where I asked for strong support for RLDCs but also the ongoing involvement of Local and Regional Authorities in developing policies and strategies to address climate change. It's not going to be as easy an ask as you might think. COP stands for 'Conference of the Parties' and the Parties are Governments. Giving LRA's their own contributions is regarded by some as ignoring the agreed structure of global action on climate change.
Presenting on RLDCs in the EU Pavillion
So even if it makes perfect sense to seek to resolve climate change in this way it may be politically difficult to deliver.

What we do know is that there has been a growing pressure for action at the local and regional level to have greater recognition fro LRAs.  Todays's statement from 'Non State Actors'  through the Talanoa Dialogue Call for Action has piled on the pressure for greater emphasis on action by LRAs on mitigation and adaptation. Here's just some of the positive statements they made yesterday that were endorsed by the Presidents of COP23 and COP24 that indicate a greater role for LRAs

"Actors in all countries, including Parties and non-Party stakeholders at the national, regional and
Al Gore doing his impressive 'State of the Climate' talk
community levels are already taking action. Pre-2020 action is vital for putting the world on a path towards achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. But it is not only governments that must act. Non-Party stakeholders can and should join in pre-2020 action and complement action by states. "


"Multilateralism and cooperation will enable us to address problems together, find solutions, and build consensus for the common good. Only a global coalition of actors – including Parties, national and sub-national governments, private sector companies, the investment community, civil society and all non-Party stakeholders – can take us there."

 "Together, Parties, working with non-Party stakeholders including sub-national governments, should pursue efforts to strengthen mitigation and adaptation commensurate with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. They must work together in the planning and pursuit of low emissions and climate-resilient development." 

"We call upon civil society leaders to marshal the public and political will needed to drive action. We call upon them to engage political leadership, influence and challenge norms, enhance awareness, and mobilize action at the regional, state and local levels." 


Andrew and the Andalucians (not a new band)
A really positive meeting for me yesterday was when I met 2 representatives from the Andalucian Government, Jose Fiscal Lopez, Minister of Environment and Territory and Jose Hernandez teh Depity Regional Minister. In Andalucia they had established a Climate Law that meant carbo savings carried out at the local level fed directly into the Spanish Governments Nationally Determined Contributions. They have effectively created an RLDC and are happy for the EU Committee of the Regions to use them as an example of best practice for others to follow.

So where are we with only a day to go before COP24 is supposed to end? Well nothing is guaranteed. I'm hoping all the positive work we have done from the EU Committee of the Regions team pays off and we a greater role for LRAs in action to address the threat of global change. Lets see what happens.
Goodbye COP24





Sunday, 9 December 2018

COP24 - Locally Determined Contributions - Reasons for Optimism

I've been busy over the last 2 days speaking at a number at events at COP24 on Regionally and Locally Determined Contributions on behalf of the EU Committee of the Regions. I'm here till late next Thursday and intend to make the most of every opportunity to get the message across.

Staff at the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR) have really done an amazing job in securing the support of the LGMA, the global body representing Local Government and the European Parliament. There has also been some great work done by the CoR on social media and production of promotional materials on LDCs for COP24. I really feel we have a top notch team here and we a deserve a win. We also have the support of some committed NGOs like Climate Alliance and ICLEI who have strong networks and knowledge we can link in with,

So where does hope lie from Locally Determined Contributions at COP24? The strongest statement I have seen so far that indicates the need for Locally Determined Contributions come from the latest UNFCCC Gap Report that analyses the gap between the Nationally Determined Contributions and the savings we need to make to acheive the Paris Climate goals. It states

"Non-state and subnational action play an important role in delivering on national pledges. Non-state and subnational action could potentially allow countries to raise their ambition. However, current impacts are extremely limited and poorly documented.
  
Action by non-state and subnational actors (NSAs), including regional and local governments and businesses, is key to realizing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the impact of current individual NSA pledges on reducing the emissions gap is extremely limited

 If international cooperative initiatives succeed in increasing their membership and ambition, much greater potential can be realized
  
To enhance the credibility of NSA action, monitoring and reporting of actions and resulting emissions reductions will be essential"

This statement stops short of calling for Locally Determined Contributions but it has to be the natural conclusion from such a statement.

A lot of work goes on in the run up to Climate Summits like COP24 and the key meeting earlier this year was in Bangkok was of the Paris Agreement Working Programme. The conclusions from this feed into COP24. A key statement there on Nationally Determined Contributions refers to

"Contributions from sub-national or sectoral baselines"

This could indicate the possibility of a Locally or Regionally Determined Indicators approach. What is important now is to push hard for such a statement or stronger to make its way into the final text of COP24. That is my job for the next few days. 


COP24 - Postcard from the edge of oblivion

COP24 Pavillion - Katovice
As I write this Blogpost the United States (President Trump), Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have all declined to 'welcome' the latest report from the IPCC showing we have only 12 years to act to stabilise the climate by getting a grip on emission reductions. Of course nobody really 'welcomes' bad news but in UN diplomacy terms this means acknowledging its legitimacy which is the starting point for taking radical action to address the problem. Disappointing doesn't cover it really. Instead they have decided to 'note' the report. 'Note' is diplomatic code for "I saw it but I'm not going to necessarily do anything about it". So why do these oil rich nations run by despots behave so poorly? Well the clue is in the question I guess. My hope is that when Government Representatives from these countries arrive tomorrow that they move their position swiftly to one which is compatible with the survival of civilization.

How should the UK respond? Well ignoring our own Government's failings for just a second perhaps we should react in the same way as we would to a Novichok attack or the murdering of a journalist in a Government building. Acts of barbarism by Governments are not all as obvious as these examples but the contempt shown for science and the billions who will suffer is truly horrific and mind bogglingly self serving.