Wednesday, 27 September 2017

LDCs - Still Determined

Today was hard.

I was at a meeting organised by the Greens in the European Parliament on Climate and Energy Policy. I (but of course) raised the issue of Locally Determined Contributions as a way of boosting our chances of acheiving the the COP21 Paris Climate Goals. The reception to the issue seemed warm enough, and no particular negativity towards the idea. I have already followed up by providing more information for MEPs in the Green Group and I'll do more follow up later.

 So why was it hard?

I've been 'on the road' with this for much of the last month and pushing Locally Determined Contributions as concept for nearly a year now. I like travel but the going back and forth to Brussels, and other places, has been pretty much weekly. I have also got a bit weary talking about the subject. I know it is very worthwhile. I know it is the right thing to do. I know the world will be a much better place with it. It is the lack of tangibility of the subject matter that can be tricky for some people. If you're saving a whale, or a tree, or erecting a wind turbine, or insulating 1000s of houses, or planting 1000s of trees then it feels very practical, real and doable. Introducing a new way of addressing climate change using the sleeping giant powers of Local and Regional Governments around the world doesn't float everybody's Rainbow Warrior. But it has to be done!

The 'Cooper Law of Monomanias' is that they are completely fine while you're making some progress and so it is with LDCs (I much prefer the initials, 'btw', than saying the whole thing out loud). I've seen people with monomanias spend a lifetime on them and maybe there is a value in that for the concepts and for the people that promote them. Personally I need to map a subject from idea to implementation with some sort of idea of timescales. Those timescales are now beginning to become more apparent to me.

There is the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR) Plenary meeting in October which hopefully will adopt my Opinion on the EU Environmental Implementation Review. This includes the concept of LDCs and also Mr Marco Dus's Opinion on Climate Finance does as well. There is only one amendment opposing LDC's  and it is from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). ECR want to delete all reference to LDCs on the basis that this is duplication of  local action already recorded at a national level. ECR contains UK Conservative Councillors and one look at their own Councils would tell them this is simply not the case. Knowing the political make up of the CoR the ECR are unlikely to get this amendment passed. Fortunately for me!

In November is COP23 the UNFCC Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany. I will be there for the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders where I will do my best to get get LDCs adopted there. If it does then comes the real work of how LDCs are implemented in practice which is the really exciting stuff. I would envisage some early adopters in each continent and a big initial focus on the EU and the United States. Getting US Mayors on board with LDCs is vital if we are going to 'trump' Trump in his bizarre illogical opposition to the Paris Climate Agreement. Getting even the smallest Councils and municipalties on board with LDCs in the US, or anywhere really, is going to bring the realities and benefits of addressing Climate Change closer to people and that's got to be good.

Well back to Brexit bound Britain now. I'll run another 5k tomorrow. That'll help. Here's Transeurope Express by Kraftwerk.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Locally Determined Contributions – A new tool to address Climate Change.

A briefing note on Locally Determined Contributuion by Councillor Andrew Cooper – Green Party Councillor on Kirklees Council , Member of the UK Delegation to the EU Committee of the Regions and Green Party of England Wales Energy Spokesperson.

There is an opportunity at the COP23 Climate Talks in November to bring action on climate change closer to Local and Regional Governments around the world and closer to the communities that they serve.
At COP21 in Paris 2 years ago National Governments expressed their efforts to achieve carbon emission reduction targets as ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ - NDCs. In the case of the UK our NDC made no reference to the work being undertaken by Local Authorities to reduce emissions. Efforts at the local level to improve building standards beyond building regulation, install LED street lights, plant trees to sequester carbon etc were simply not measured or taken into account in those national contributions.
At the International level it is acknowledged that there is a shortfall between the agreed NDCs and the savings required to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. This reality requires fresh ideas to address this gap.

The growing momentum for Locally Determined Contributions to address Climate Change
There is a growing momentum behind the concept of Locally Determined Contributions where Local and Regional Government can set out their own plans to reduce carbon emissions. The idea was originally conceived by Cllr Andrew Cooper from the UK in his role as a member of the UK Delegation to the EU Committee of the Regions. There is a strong reference in the Opinion he is Rapporteur for on the EU’s Environmental Implementation Review. Another Opinion on Climate Finance by Italian member Marco Dus also makes reference to LDC’s. Both these Opinions will be going forward for approval at the EU Committee of the Regions Session on the 10th and 11th of October. In addition LDC’s are now included in a European Parliament Opinion being led by the Rapporteur French MEP Gilles Pargeneaux on ‘The Role of Regions and Cities in the implementation of the Climate Change Agreement’. His Opinion calls for,

"the creation of a system of Locally Determined Contributions to be implemented in direct and complementary to Nationally Determined Contributions"

Valuing action on Climate Change at the local level
Establishing a system of Locally Determined Contributions, to complement those that are determined by National Governments, could spur action at a local level. We are often asked to ‘Think Global and Act Local’ and by mirroring the terminology of ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ this helps stress the importance of action at the local level.
It is said of many things that if something isn’t measured it isn’t valued. An International system of Locally Determined Contributions would provide a platform for the valuable and vital action by Local and Regional actors to reduce carbon emissions and thereby be a spur to greater action to reduce carbon emissions.

Fostering International Cooperation on Climate Change at the local level
Locally Determined Contributions could help foster international cooperation between Local and Regional Authorities whereby best practice could be shared and peer support provided to those areas needing assistance where it may not be available within their country or from their National Government.

Ensuring the additionality of local action on Climate Change is recognised
Ensuring additionality should be a key feature of Locally Determined Contributions. Some countries are good at linking their NDCs with local action others are not. Being clear about which LDCs are additional and which are contributing to NDCs is important. Both should be measured to ensure local action is valued but it is important to be clear about what is additional, and what is not.
Existing mechanisms such as the Global Covenant of Mayors should be recognised as approved methods of demonstrating compliance as a Locally Determined Contribution. Robust existing methods of demonstrating carbon reductions should not have to go through additional hoops.

Providing a valid platform for local and State Government involvement in climate action in the USA
With the announcement by the current US President of their intention to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement this puts greater emphasis on action in the US at the level of individual State and lower levels of Governments. The US Conference of Mayors has indicated its intention to honour the COP21 Paris Agreement and LDC’s can provide a new structure that enables this involvement on action at the state level.

Accessibility for both large and small municipalities
Local and Regional Government can range from areas representing millions of people to just a few hundred. It is important that Locally Determined Contributions enable participation from Local and Regional Governments from the very small to the those Regional bodies that are larger than some nation states

Bringing COP and Climate Change action closer to local people and communities
The introduction of LDCs/RDCs at the lowest tier of Government will give a new opportunity for engagement with communities and non-governmental organisations. The strong links Local and Regional Authorities have with Community Leaders and key local agencies makes them ideally placed to drive local action on climate change. Establishing Local Partnerships to deliver LDCs and RDCs could provide a new impetus and focus for climate mitigation actions on the ground. LDC’s could provide the same basis for global community involvement at a local level that Local Agenda 21 provided.

Locally Determined Contributions and Brexit
The UK has stated that it will honour its current Nationally Determined Contributions which were part of the EU negotiated total. Though LDCs/RDCs have come out of EU Institutions if they are agreed at COP23 they will become part of an International Agreement and the UK will still be able to engage with them when/if Brexit finally comes into effect.

Councillor Andrew Cooper
Moble - + 44  (0) 7721 348619
Twitter @clrandrewcooper

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

I  boarded a Transpennine train from Huddersfield to Leeds today. As the train came into the station the guard beckoned us all to the front 3 carraiges. We got on the train and were informed that as there was only one guard on the train that to ensure passengers could be properly monitored only half the train would be in use. We were then informed that the threat level was 'critical'. People on the train started looking around, checking each other out. Playing 'Spot the Terrorist' I guess. I tried to avoid looking at the young Asian man opposite me. He was probably going shopping, seeing a relative, going to play football. It didn't matter really but I felt for him and anyone who might be assumed to be a Muslim on that train.

MI5 Threat levels on the likelihood of a Terrorist Attack are as follows

  • LOW means an attack is unlikely.
  • MODERATE means an attack is possible, but not likely
  • SUBSTANTIAL means an attack is a strong possibility
  • SEVERE means an attack is highly likely
  • CRITICAL means an attack is expected imminently
So right now 'something horrific' somewhere could happen. To me substantial, severe, critical all just tell us all to be scared, To watch out, to stay at home and to look at other people a bit more closely than you would normally. Of course the likelihood of being bombed compared with being knocked down on the road in a traffic accident, having a medical emergency etc are not easily comaparble. If they were we could perhaps make some sort of meaningful comparison about how shit scared we should be, but then that just feeds all the paranoia that is out there anyway. The threat level alerts seem to be the very antithesis of the stoic, revived (and much revised) WW2 'Keep Calm and Carry On' motto that now graces many a coffee mug and tea towel. Are threat levels consistent with British culture and values. Well maybe not. They don't feel very 'stiff upper lip' at all really.

We are not given any information about why the threat of a terrorist attack is 'critical' rather than 'severe' or 'substantial' or where it might occur. Its not like a weather forecast but you can imagine someone standing up pointing at a map of the UK saying "the likelihood of a terrorist attack in Cornwall or the Outer Hebrides is quite low but if you're in a major conurbation like London or Manchester perhaps you should stay at home and watch a movie or the entire box set of ' Game of Thrones' from beginning to end. When we move down from 'Critical' to 'Severe' or a more comforting 'Substantial'. then you shoudl feel safer to venture outside into the sunshine (or more likely rain)

Of course there's a real danger writing something like this that an atrocity happens 30 seconds after I upload this blogpost and someone says "I told you so" but that would miss the point I am making. The threat levels are so similar to each other that all that most of them mean is to be wary, be vigilant,be very afraid.

"Alright Cooper what do you suggest we do then?" - There should be tailored announcements when MI5 knows something, with a Spokesperson making a statement. Obviously not compromising anybody or anything but giving more of a narrative than the all encompassing ' Be Afraid' threat levels. The danger is that people become unfazed by them and ignore them 

Has anyone even considered that some of the very few maniacs who are sitting in their sad flats waiting to commit these sort of atrocities may consider that one of their objectives may have been acheived if we are at a 'critical' state of alert. No bombs need to go off now, no vehicle needs to plough into a shopping centre today as 'terror' has already been acheived and has the Government approved label authenticating that fact. They can bide their time to when we are in the comfort of a 'substantial' level of threat before they act. All Government has really acheived is a delay.

I want to live in an optimistic country, where we are not told to be afraid. Where life, love and the pursuit of happiness makes us look with hope to the future. We need to regain innocence, expectation and positivity. So here's 'Sunny' by Boney M from a less complicated time. "What about the IRA?" - Sigh!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Lockwood Path Clearance

Me, Cllrs Karen Allison and Julie Stewart-Turner joined Lockwood residents to clear the path between Victoria Rd and Rashcliffe Hill Road of Vegetation, rubbish and a heavy builders bag of sand. Rewarding to see the difference we made in just a couple of hours. A hard work out!

Kirklees Question Time - Thursday 12th October 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

COP23 - Bonn - Growing support for Locally Determined Contributions to tackle Climate Change

My initiative to get the concept of Locally Determined Contributions adopted as a new global tool to address climate change has taken some important steps forward.

To recap briefly. The targets established in the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement were agreed by National Governments and so were described as Nationally Determined Contributions. We know they fell well short of what was required to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees C (and a stretch target of 1.5 degrees C). The idea behind Locally Determined Contributions (and Regionally Determoned Contributions) is to record and encourage action by Local and Regional Authorities that may not otherwise be taken into account when assessing progress on reducing carbon emissions. The idea is that if we measure it then we encourage carbon mitigation plans and action. To this end in my role as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions I have promoted the concept of LDCs/RDCs in an Opinion I am leading on the EUs Environmental Implementation Review. The idea being that if it as adopted by an EU institution then the idea gains more credibility and traction.

There have been 2 important developments. Another Committee of the Regions Opinion on Climate Finance and Governance being led by Italian Member Marco Dus has adopted the principle of Locally Determined Contributions and now for the first time the concept has been taken up in the European Parliament. French MEP Gilles Pargeneaux has included in his Opinion on 'The Role of Regions and Cities in the implementation of the Climate Change Agreement' a call for,

"the creation of a system of Locally Determined Contributions to be implemented in direct and complementary to Nationally Determined Contributions"

So now 2 EU Institutions have this idea on their agendas. I am keen that this becomes a key outcome of the International Climate Change Talks, COP23 in Bonn in November. If it is adopted there then Locally Determined Contributions goes global and everywhere from Kirklees to Kamkatcha will have a framework to act locally to reduce emissons. If this occurs then Brexit or no Brexit, Councils in the UK will have an international treaty empowering them to produce plans to address climate change. Exciting times!

Previous posts on Locally Determined Contributions

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

No reduction to the Council Tax Reduction scheme

Kirklees is currently contemplating reducing the Council Tax subsidy for vulnerable groups to save just over £1million each year. The proposals would see lone parents with young children and people in receipt of a range of Disability benefits and war pensions having to pay around an additional £1.50 to £2.00 per week. To people who are on low incomes already this is not an insignificant amount.

It is important to recognise why the Council is even considering this drastic move. Huge cuts by central government have limited Kirklees ability to properly fund services people expect of their local council. The additional £14million cut Kirklees received last year when  government failed to honour the level of funding we secured from the Council Tax freeze grant was particularly difficult for Kirklees.

Understanding why Kirklees is proposing such cuts is not the same as agreeing with them however. I don't believe our local Council should be in the business of making poor people poorer. Kirklees Council should operate according to a set of values and principles rather than simply being an organisation which manages an ever dwindling amount of resources. We need to find other ways to make the books balance. Always easier said than done but if regard this as acceptable it opens the door to further cuts for this same group of people in future years. The genie would be well and truly out of the bottle. So I am opposing this proposal and I would be disappointed if a Council that is led by the Labour Party somehow found this acceptable.

The Consultation on the proposal runs till October 15th I urge as many people as possible to respond on the link attached