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.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Hoping for a good COP24

You probably never really know what the most significant events in your life are till they actually happen. I'm hoping the next few weeks are going to be mine. In early December I will be in Katowice, Poland for a week as part of EU Committee of the Regions Delegation to the COP24 United Nations Climate Change talks. To get to this point has been a three year journey.

My first Climate Change Talks experience was COP21. In the delegates area they were negotiating the historic agreement to limit Greenhouse emissions to 2 degrees above global norms and hopefully 1.5 degrees. I was outside the delegate area in Paris speaking in a room somewhere to probably less than a dozen people. As part of my talk to the folks there I reflected on the fact that UK Local Authorities had received no communications from central Government about helping them reduce emissions to achieve the Paris Climate Goals. Sadly 3 years later this is still the case.This got me thinking, especially when it became clear that the carbon savings identified by national Governments, the 'Nationally Determined Contributions' were not going to be enough to limit emissions to the targets agreed at COP21 in Paris. So why not empower Regional and Local Authorities to play their part in achieving the Paris Climate goals? Why not encourage them to produce their own action plans to reduce emissions? So the concept of Locally Determined Contributions was born. This lead to it being referenced in 3 opinions (policy statements) of the EU Committee of the Regions and also 1 in the European Parliament.

Last year at COP23 in Bonn an agreement to develop Locally Determined Contributions was agreed at the Global Local and Regional Leaders summit. This was not the same as the UNFCCC agreeing it but was without doubt a significant moment and gave LDCs a global stage.

At COP24 in Katovice, for me, it is an opportunity to make a real difference. It is the Climate Summit that agrees the Rulebook for achieving the Paris Climate Goals. How we will actually do it. I am part of the EU Delegation and so Brexit means it could be my last chance to influence global climate change agreements. So its a big deal. There are loads of positives. The European Parliament have referenced and backed Locally Determined Contributions in their position statement going into COP24. In addition the statement from  'Non State Actors' the global groups representing Local Government, Trade Unions, Agriculture and other organisations have also backed LDCs. I am receiving great support from talented and committed staff at the EU Committee of the Regions and from global bodies such as Climate Alliance and ICLEI. All things seem possible at the moment. My diary is filling up for the week and I feel hopeful.

The ambition/hope is that Locally Determined Contributions fill the gap in emissions savings that we need to make to prevent runaway climate change. That 'Think Global Act Local' becomes a tangible reality fostering an enthusiastic international movement focused on creating not just a stable environment but a sustainable better world.

So wish me well. I have a sense of mission and an understanding that this could be a key moment. Like the emissions contributions I mean to achieve I remain determined. My clock is ticking and I have to make the most of every moment in the next few weeks. Here we go!

Here is 'Determined' by Andrison

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Subtle rebrand

Councillor Andrew Cooper
So after 9 years and 592 blogposts my blog is no longer  'Greening Kirklees' but now is the imaginatively titled 'Councillor Andrew Cooper'. This reflects the  fact that though there is still a lot of comment I make on local issues and issues pertaining to Kirklees Council I am also writing about national issues such as energy efficiency and renewables in my role as Green Party Energy Spokesperson. With my involvement in COP  talks I'm also blogging a lot about policies to address global climate change.

I also have the 'rider in my Blog description that says " and anything else I fancy talking about". In the past this has included subjects as diverse as wearing braces, the Sex Pistols and Thunderbirds. Subjects which don't even a tenuous or contrived relationship with 'Greening Kirklees' so my Blog is now the title bestowed on me by the electorate of Newsome and my name.

So here I am from near the beginning of my blogging life, 8 years ago, talking about 'Greening Kirklees' and the joys of Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Greens call for action on illegal fireworks and fires at Castle Hill

Sue Lee-Richards & Cllr Andrew Cooper at Castle Hill

Following fires that set alight large sections of gorse at Castle Hill on November 4th Green Campaigners Sue Lee-Richards and Cllr Andrew Cooper called on Kirklees to enforce the Public Space Protection Order at Castle Hill that banned fireworks, fires, barbecues and flying lanterns. A fine of £75 can be issued to anyone breaking the ban.

Sue said, “What is the point of placing a rule forbidding something and then not following through and enforcing it?”

Councillor Andrew Cooper agreed, “It took Labour nearly 2 years following a successful Green Party motion at Kirklees Council to implement the ban. The lack of any enforcement at all at Castle Hill does not give the public confidence. People love Castle Hill but the authorities need to protect it.”

Andrew and Sue helped local volunteers clear up used fireworks from around Castle Hill after Bonfire Night on the 6th of November

Thursday, 1 November 2018

COP24 - Locally Determined Contributions getting closer

Just to update you on my work on  Locally Determined Contributions to address carbon emissions as part of my role at  the EU Committee of the Regions and as part of their Negotiating Team for COP24 in Katovice in December. This could play a vital role in finding some of the additonal emissions reductions we need to make to ensure we keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees C and maintain a reasonably stable climate.

There have been 2 exciting developments.

The first was a meeting last week of the ‘Non Party Stakeholders’ constituency in Krakow in advance of Katovice COP24 Climate Summit in December where they produced a statement about what they want out of the COP talks. Non Party Stakeholders covers global organisations representing farmers, women and gender NGOs, environmental NGOs, cities and regions, workers and their unions, as well as children and youth.  The ‘Parties’  are national Governments. They have produced a joint statement within which it states

The Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) constituency underscores the
need for collaboration among all levels of government and the importance of positioning
integrated, sustainable urban and territorial development as an important tool to accelerate
the implementation of NDCs. We look forward to having our engagement strengthened
through the Paris Agreement Work Programme. In 2018, cities and regions invited national
governments to fix and list NDCs under the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues Initiative,
also through the formal recognition of the Locally Determined Contribution. 

The LGMA is the global body representing Local Government interests. The concept of Locally Determined Contribution (LDCs)s to address carbon emissions is something I’ve developed at the EU Committee of the Regions where it is now firmly adopted via an opinion on Climate Governance for which I was the Rapporteur.  So I’ll be using this to push for LDCs to be included in the UNFCCC Declaration coming out of COP24 to provide a defined role for Local and Regional Government internationally to address the gap in the carbon savings we need to make to achieve a minimum of 1.5 degrees rise in global temperatures.

The second piece of good news is  from the European Parliament where in their resolution in advance of COP24 they make the following statement last week.

Calls on the Commission to further intensify its relations with local and regional authorities, to enhance thematic and sectoral cooperation between cities and regions both within and outside the EU, to develop adaptation and resilience initiatives, and to strengthen sustainable development models and emission reduction plans in key sectors such as energy, industry, technology, agriculture and transport in both urban and rural areas, e.g. through twinning programmes, through the International Urban Cooperation programme, through support for platforms such as the Covenant of Mayors and by building new fora for exchanging best practice; calls on the EU and the Member States to support efforts by regional and local actors to introduce regionally and locally determined contributions (similar to NDCs) where climate ambition can be increased through this process;

All exciting stuff, there’s clearly a growing momentum for LDCs for COP24

For a primer on what LDCs is all about here is a link to the subject on my blog click here

There’s lots more on my blog on LDCs just click on the tabs section on the right of my page on 'Locally Determined Contributions' of course!

Here's the COP24 Conference site in Katovice where I'll be seeking to get LDCs adopted by the UNFCCC in December.

Monday, 29 October 2018

50 pence for my thoughts

A 50p that celebrates the liberation of Europe from fascism
 I'm not a royalist and not a big fan of all the commemorative tat that gets produced for a royal wedding but I recognise that it is part of the heritage of the country we live in and I ignore it for the most part. We mark the end of wars and we will soon mark a 100 years since the end of World War 1. I believe in many ways that war was a pointless war as do many historians but still I see that it was an event that brought the country together in common cause and that many people gave their lives at the behest of our Government. Their sacrifice needs to be marked and remembrance is important to help us learn from the past. So we come to today's announcement that we are to have a commemorative 50 pence piece to mark 'effing'  Brexit as if this was some sort of national victory or cause for celebration. I don't care if it says "Peace, Prosperity and Friendship With All Nations" its about Brexit and arguably a detriment to all of those things.

  Of course if you're a rampant Brexiteer it might be something that you might want to celebrate but nearly half the country (and maybe more now) definitely aren't. There are deep divisions in our country rumbling on with Brexit. Racists now feel they have license to spout their nonsense more freely now they have 'got their country back'. In an already divided society people can now differentiate themselves further by identifying themselves as a Remainer or a Leaver. So the Government then goes and rubs the noses of half the country in it 'the losers' by minting a sodding coin.  I felt pretty much the same way when the Government said there would be a national holiday on 'Brexit Day' so one half of the country can celebrate whatever it is they feel they have to celebrate while the rest of us cry into our pints at the chaos to come.

Maybe it would be most fitting to have two 50 pence pieces. After all 2 x 50p makes a good old honest British pound. One could have Union Jacks on one side and the Queen on the reverse. The other coin could have the EU Flag on and Donald Tusk on the reverse. I'm of course joking but if the Government wants to make an overt dividing political statement with the coin of the realm favouring one side of the argument why not do it for the other side as well.

Here's 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols. Sorry if anyone's offended. Well not really. Not today.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Blair Witch/ Goodgym Project

I was definitely lost. My headtorch lit up various parts of the woodland but I couldn't hear or see the headtorches of the others I had been with 15 minutes earlier. Then I saw the eyes gleaming back at me. The fact they were a foot off the floor and the faint silhouette made me think dog but definitely not a chihuahua. Then I saw another pair of gleaming eyes about the same height but this time with a shadowy person shaped figure. He called the dogs to him and I felt a bit more secure as he put their leads on. I thanked him continued along the woodland path and emerged from the woods at Manor Estate in my shorts, fluorescent coat with my bulging bin bag and litter picker in hand. I was somewhat relieved to know where I was and worked my way back down Kings Mill Lane to meet the others at the other entrance to the woods.

So what was I up to in the woods late at night? "Well Officer it's like this......." Actually I wasn't doing a reinactment of 'The Blair Witch Project' or anything untoward I was in fact doing good things with Goodgym Huddersfield. The Goodgym concept is you run with a group to a place where you do a good thing for around 45 minutes such as a clean up or cutting back vegetation and then run back again. So last night it was about 2km to Longley Woods to clean up bottles and crisp packets and prune back branches and twigs on the path and avoid treading in the unfortunate dead badger, then run back again. For me a good bit of exercise to supplement my parkruns but doing some practical hands on stuff at the same time.Have you a mission for the Goodgymers in your area? Get in touch

Here's the trailer for the Blair Witch Project which seriously freaked me out when I firsyt watched it

Monday, 8 October 2018

Statement on IPCC call for urgent action on Climate Change - A plan for local action on Climate Change

Today's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should be a wake up call for the UK Government. It is quite clear that current action to reduce emissions is inadequate and that a 3 degree C global temperature rise or worse is on the cards with catastrophic effects for people in the UK and around the world.

We need a response from Government and we need it now. I am incredulous as a Local Councillor that Local Councils around the country have had no significant contact from UK Government asking for our help and assistance in achieving the Paris Climate goals. There are things we can do without direction from Government but a lot more could be achieved if there was a genuine partnership to encourage positive action on climate change quickly. Here are some key asks that Government could do tomorrow but preferably today.

  • establish a National Climate Taskforce including Ministry of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ministry of Communities, Housing & Local Government and the Local Government Association to drive action on climate change at the local level, addressing barriers to action and making good practice examples the mainstream 
  • require Councils to produce  Climate Action Plans on how they can cut emissions quickly and what actions they could take with greater support from central Government.
  • get Councils to lead local Climate Action Partnerships to drive deeper action on carbon emission reductions. This would draw in support from business, the wider public sector, the voluntary sector and the wider community
  • give  a clear steer to local Councils that they are expected to insist on higher energy efficiency standards in new buildings up to (and preferably) the Passivhaus Standard.
  • Ask Councils to produce a plan (with a timetable) for a complete electrification of their vehicle fleets and to work with other large fleet operators on similar plans.
  • Revive the Home Energy Conservation Act powers of Local Government and ask for new plans to be established within a year for costed plans to improve the energy efficiency of homes in line with the emissions savings we need to achieve the Paris Climate goals within a ten year timeframe.
These are all initiatives that the UK Government and BEIS in particular could start work on or set in motion today. We clearly need more action than this to acheive the Paris Climate goals but this would be a significant start and I'm requesting a meeting with the BEIS Minister of State Claire Perry and the Local Government Association to see what progress we can make together to address the Climate Emergency we are facing.

Friday, 5 October 2018


Blah! Blah! Blahcelona!
I've just been to a conference in Barcelona in my role as a Rapporteur on Climate Change with the EU Committee of the Regions and a fascinating few days it was. People had told me I'd like Barcelona for the architecture and general vibe and I wasn't disappointed. The Sagrida Familia (not Barcelona Cathedral!) probably the most individual and striking building I've ever seen. the Hospital Sant Pau constructed at the beginning of the 20th Century and just the general feel of the place.

Sagrida Familia

One of the things I wanted to get out of the trip was an understanding  of was views on Catalonian Independence. It's just over a year ago since Catalonia
voted to cede from Spain and become an independent nation within the European Union. Supporters of Independence point to the overwhelming majority in support of independence and those opposing it say that it is not valid because people opposing independence didn't vote saying the Poll was not valid under Spanish law. What is beyond dispute is that the response of the Spanish Government was heavy handed at best and brutal at worst. Spanish Police blocked and beat people trying to vote and Catalonian Politicians have been imprisoned and are effectively political prisoners. Very worrying within the EU but then we do have the Frack Free Three in the UK. I spoke to as many Catalonians about it as I could and it seems support for independence is still strong. Catalonian flags still fly from balconies. Many Catalonians and their buildings are sporting a yellow ribbon (not unlike the SNP logo) showing their support for those political prisoners.

There was a time when I worried about Nationalist movements being Right Wing and possibly Xenophobic. I think that was to a certain extent true but has become less so in recent times. Certainly the SNP and Plaid Cymru are generally on the progressive side of the political spectrum. The politics seems less about Nationalism as such and more about Independence and Self Determination. "Taking control" if you will!

So now what else other than Freddie Mercury singing 'Barcelona'

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The 'Tomorrow' people

Today was interesting. I reacquainted myself with the Transition Network. You remember it don't you?


 Yes that's it.

 "Rob Hopkins?" 

Yep we're on the same page. 

"Oh yes I've got a copy of the "Transition Town Handbook...somewhere. Whatever happened to them?" 

Well to be honest that was my thought and the answer seems to be that they became a global success and spawned lots of community based resilience activity all over the world being particularly successful in France, Belgium and Japan to name but a few but sadly they need to re-imagine themselves back in the UK I feel and it would be good if they could. 

In a nutshell the Transition Network is all about resilience. Resilience to a world less reliant on dwindling fossil fuels and where more goods and resources can be sourced sustainably locally. Where a thriving community becomes even more important and a vital part of the solution.

One of the reasons for the 'Rest of the World' success of the Transition Network is the smash hit film 'Tomorrow'.

 "What? You mean Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Brosnan as Bond?" 

No 'Tomorrow' a film about the Transition Movement. It's won stackloads of film awards and scores 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Its success is attributed to the fact that it spends the first 5 minutes on environmental doom and gloom 'get me out of this room' stuff and the rest of the movie on solutions, optimism and hope. Its been inspirational to people around the world and I'm ashamed to say that until today I'd never heard of it. I wonder if its on Netflix.

The reason I know all this is because today I was one of the speakers at the European Day of Sustainable Communities event in Brussels hosted by the EU Committee of the Regions and EESC which was full of people from around Europe who have been inspired by the resilience message of the Transition Movement. Their Umbrella body is ECOLISE or 'the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability'  It was great to be among like minded people to whom the ethos of 'Think Global Act Local' is intrinsic to their very being. They think small scale and value community, incremental change and recognise that as I put it today "That we don't just want to save the world but create a better world". It was a very positive event and full of articulate, bright and many young people. So when we were asked for a word to sum up our thoughts of the day I chose 'hope'.

I wonder what can be done to revitalise the fortunes of the Transition Network in the UK? It warrants serious thought. We have a group near us Holmfirth Transition Town which continues to do some excellent work but I get the feeling across the UK they are not as active as they were five or six years ago. Maybe one of the reasons is that they came out of  'The End of Oil' debate that seemed to place the crisis with the lack of fossil fuels as opposed to the fact that we'll burn them and ourselves to oblivion before we have to worry about them running out. This doesn't make the Transition Network any less relevant at all in fact the 'Hothouse Report' and ongoing extreme weather events mean that we must find ways of making the approach they take relevant to many more communities. 

My resolution from today? To watch the film 'Tomorrow' and if I like it to get many more people to watch it probably at Huddersfield Green Drinks at the Media Centre. Here's the trailer

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Reaping the wild wind

I've always admired the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. They are one of the largest membership organisations in the country. Over the years they will have had plenty of pressure on them to oppose planning applications for wind turbine and wind farm developments but they have taken a pretty robust line saying from the start that, 

"Climate Change poses the single greatest threat to birds and other wildlife and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem"

Its a bold opening statement but they do follow through and only object to about 6% of wind applications and that was when the UK Government hadn't to all intents and purposes practically outlawed onshore wind farms and turbines. They are still strong defenders of avians and are not shy to say where there are inappropriate wind developments but not as many as misinformed Mail readers and retired Colonels would like I'm more than sure. They speak of the need for wind farms to be sited away from major migration routes and breeding/roosting areas and point to examples of poor sitings of wind farms but generally not in the UK.

So why this interest? Well tomorrow I'm speaking at an event in Brussels looking at the impact on biodiversity of renewable energy and how to minimise it. What I've been encouraged by through reading the literature is the desire from both perspectives to seek common ground and a real expectation that it can be found.

Kent Wildlife Trust have produced some good principles by which sustainable (as opposed to just renewable energy) can be measured. These 6 principles are good ones to assess any renewable energy development. They are to :-

  1. Commit to ensuring overall positive outcomes for wildlife from the outset, aiming for a ‘net biodiversity gain’.
  2. Avoid sites that are designated for nature conservation.
  3. Identify potential negative impacts on wildlife and avoid these impacts wherever possible.
  4. When all possible options have negative impacts, seek the least environmentally damaging option. 
  5. Recognise that there may be unknown impacts on wildlife that development needs to consider and mitigate, employing the ‘precautionary principle’.
  6. Achieve this by consulting experts and relevant stakeholders early on ecological aspects of sites and routes.
Now my role in this debate is to assess from a UK perspective how renewable energy developments interact and match EU Nature Legislation. To be fair the EU legislation is pretty good in this regard and has at its heart a desire to balance the needs of humanity with the natural world. The question I have is will that same balanced approach be one that we will realise with our current government? As they have made it practically impossible to install wind technology on our island I think balance is the last thing they are seeking. They don't seek to harness the wind but to simply bend in the wind to a vocal minority most likely from their own potential supporters. Far from 'taking back control' from the EU we will be passing it on to narrow perspectives with no appreciation of the real issues. A triumph for the ill informed opinions of the guy in the pub over anyone who actually knows what they're talking about.

So here's 'Reap the wild wind' by Ultravox

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Last of the Sparkling Wine starring Michael 'Foggy' Gove

The 'Hothouse Earth' Report makes grim reading and questions whether we can 'safely park' global temperature rises at 2 degrees C and indicates that we may have set in train a series of carbon releasing events that will be difficult to stop and that we may end up with global temperatures around 4 to 5 degrees C higher than the pr- industrial era. This really is a nightmare scenario with a significant rise in sea levels, highly disrupted weather threatening food supplies and much more frequent extreme and violent weather events. It is a respected summation of current peer reviewed climate science and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A number of things have concerned me over the last few weeks. One is the cheery assertion by Conservative Government Minister Michael Gove that Climate Change and higher temperatures in the UK is a great opportunity for British Farmers to produce good quality sparkling wine. Now of course there may be some truth in this but it indicates a lack of perception of the grim reality of climate change. You could argue that what he said was taken out of context and that really he really does 'get it'. I'd like to believe that but you see the vote on the 3rd runway at Heathrow, the permission to commence Fracking at Preston New Road and the 4 new gas turbines at Drax that are on the cards and you can only conclude they don't believe and don't care about climate change. Sadly that goes for a lot of Labour politicians as well.

Michael Gove gave the impression when he was first elected that he had hugged plenty of huskies in the fashion of David Cameron when he was in his 'vote blue go green' phase. With his positive comments on neonicitinoids and their impact on the bee population I thought well this is a little bit different from before. Now it seems that this is yet another attempt to detoxify the Tory Party using 'green issues'. Actually it is difficult to work out which needs the most detoxification Gove or the Conservative Party. So yes maybe there will be a brief mini-sparkling Wine Age before the very worst impacts of Climate Change hit us but we desperately need to be acting NOW to reduce emissions for the sake of civilization and human sentience on this planet. Even if they had the time away from their headlong pursuit of Brexit I doubt it would make them act any more responsibly.

Thanks to Ros for the picture.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The heat is on - Climate Change kills.

In my role as a local Councillor I got a call the other week from a local resident who said they had seen hundreds of dead fish in Newsome Mill Ponds in Huddersfield. I went out to investigate and there they were lying on the surface being watched over by a heron who looked like he had already had his fill of this unexpected bounty. The theories from local people came thick and fast. Poisoning and pollution were what people initially thought but following investigations it turned out it was none of these. The long hot dry spell had de-oxygenated the water and the fish had simply suffocated. The had been killed by the weather. 

In the past, as a Green, who wants to be taken seriously on climate change I've been reticent to link single weather events to climate change, but this is different. The phenomenon we are experiencing is a global one. We have had huge moorland fires on Saddleworth Moor, wildfires in Greece that have killed many, even wild fires within the Arctic Circle due to the heat and record temperatures in Japan. Comparisons with the summer of 76 are not really valid as that was very much a UK experience. This is global one and we know that extreme events such as these are going to become more common as climate change begins to have a greater impact.

Two events happened today of note. One was a new report titled 'Planning for Climate Change - a guide for Local Authorities' by the independent Local Government Information Unit. It referenced a report by the Royal Town Planning Institute from last year stating,

 "that a lack of integration of climate change into local plans was partly a result of a skills shortage related to budget cuts, and partly due to changes in national government policy that appear to de-prioritise climate change action."

Sadly this comes as no surprise. The actions of our Government appear to be those of Climate Change deniers not that of an enthusiastic signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement. The evidence is there for all to see not least of which being a huge drop in renewable energy and energy efficiency installations. 

The other event today was the Government decision to allow Fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire against the wishes of the Lancashire County Council. Nationally the Government is pushing through permitted development rights for fracking exploration drilling overriding any local democratic objections. There is a sad lack of politicians in Westminster who 'get it' who understand that promoting these policies threatens us all.

Promoting action on climate change is so positive in terms of skilled jobs, putting money back into local economies, increasing energy security not to mention actually ensuring our survival and that of many other species that it beggars belief that any Government can turn its back on it. The disconnect between the impact of climate change on our weather and the decisions Governments and some opposition MPs make is truly worrying. These MPs must be made accountable and challenged for the stances they take. It has to be us and it has to be now. It is that urgent.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Andrew Cooper for Green Party Deputy Leader - Official Video

So here it is and thanks to Susan Jones for putting it together. It was a lovely sunny day  in the Lickley Hills looking over Birmingham. Filming had its challenges. Drones buzzing and hovering nearby, a dog owner shouting for his mutt.Yours truly may have had one or two takes and the outtakes would probably be quite amusing if they ever see the light of day.

Feedback so far has been great so a good start. A few weeks to go now in the campaigning period and like in our Local |Elections it is a case of keeping your cool, focusing on your own messages and not get distracted by things that niggle or annoy you. 

Friday, 29 June 2018

Brockholes to Budapest by train

I'm no stranger to international train travel in my role as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions. Usually its Brockholes to Brussels for Committee and Plenary meetings. I've also travelled to the South of France by train a couple of times and to Bonn in Germany for the United Nations COP23 Climate Summit. This particular meeting was looking at different approaches to tackling plastics recycling and local community energy schemes among other things so particularly interesting and a lot to learn there from others.

Wherever I can the train is my default position not just for environmental reasons but also as it is much easier to work on the move on trains. I used to get seduced by the speed and technology of planes but the inconvenience and unpredictability of air travel has been a significant reason for me to fall out of love with jet travel as well of course the significant climate change impacts.

Eurostar in 'That London'
Travelling to Budapest by train has been my furthest adventure so far. From Brockholes 'International' to Budapest is around 1300 miles. I used the very helpful website 'The Man in Seat 61' to plan my journey. Setting off from Brockholes at 6.38am to Huddersfield on
the most elderly train on my trip courtesy of Northern Rail. From there Huddersfield to Leeds, 10 minutes late but I factored in some UK slippage. Leeds to London on the newly nationalised LNER which I reckon must stand for 'Lovely Nationalised Electric Railway'. Across the road
from my Kings Cross to St Pancras station and the Eurostar then onto the train to Paris Gare du Nord station. A 10 minute walk by a tree lined Boulevard to Gare Du L'Est Station then onto the ICE train to Munich arriving around 9.30pm. I then had an hour or so at Munich station which was well provisioned with food outlets for my evening meal. At 11pm it was the Sleeper service to Budapest and a couchettee where hopefully my snoring wasn't too disruptive for other passengers.    

The point for me was that I had the time to get to my  meeting this way on this occasion and doing the green thing was also an enjoyable experience and prefereable to the tedious processing and frequent delays you can experience at airports. Of course this is my view as an individual traveller but it is Government's job to make the positive experiences of international rail travel easier for more people. Instead it chose to back a climate wrecking 3rd runway at Heathrow and with the support of a majority of Labour MPs and very sadly the abstentions of SNP MPs. 

As Greens we need to promote and highlight alternatives as much as we can but not from a 'holier than thou approach' but by showing what can be done, showing how it could be made easier for more people and showing what barriers we need to overcome to make making the right choices easier and cheaper for more people.

Here's 'Pop Music' by M from 1979 which is only relevant because it mentions London, Paris and Munich but also New York but I didn't go there!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Humanity 'on the slab'

In Brussels today I saw a 10 foot tall slab of multi coloured concrete erected in a Park between the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions. There is a small plaque nearby explaining that it is cut from the Berlin Wall and was sent to Brussels in 2014 to commemorate the wall's  demise following the end of the Cold War.

As I stood there and looked it up and down I pondered its significance. My immediate thought was how reminiscent it was of the black slab in the film '2001 - A Space Odyssey'  That rectangular slab (or Monolith) was created by a benevolent alien intelligence that had been subtly but significantly influencing the progress of humanity towards the advanced technological species that we are today.

This slab however was not created by anything benevolent at all. It was part of a wall designed to divide people, to provide a physical barrier between 2 different political ideologies. The significance of this particular part of the walls relocation to Brussels was to show by its very presence that the wall did not exist any more in its previous location. Its purpose had been lost, that people divided were now united. So why relocate it to Brussels? As Europe's Capital, Brussels represents the blurring of national boundaries and a recognition that people beyond nation states can have common purpose, that walls and boundaries had less relevance than they once had.

Of course that positive vision has taken a bit of a battering in recent years. We have seen the subject of walls and barriers between nations rise as people seek to move from areas of war and poverty to countries where they see the opportunity for safety, opportunity and a living. Their actions are completely understandable. Politics has failed them, often in the most dramatic of fashions, and they are on the move. The reactions from the countries that they are moving towards has been mixed. Some have acted with humanity showing the best of what we can be. They have welcomed people often from cultures different to their own and  have understood that many have skills, abilities and knowledge that can add to their own and give some positive benefits to society. Then there are those who have been less welcoming. Donald Trump's recent actions on the Mexican border have shown him to be a 'borderline Fascist' in more than one sense and I am not one of those politicians who call someone a 'Fascist' at the drop of the hat. He has  truly 'earned' that title. In Hungary the barbaric move to make helping migrants illegal has also shown that some Governments are quite prepared to make common humanity a crime. Being a Good Samaritan has become a risky business in Hungary.

So what are we to make of the multicoloured slab in a Park in Brussels? First of all it is important to note that it remains. It may be silent, it may be inert, its purpose may not be immediately apparent but whatever turmoils happen in the political world it will stay there in the park.  As walls rise it will remain as a reminder of a more hopeful time when barriers between people were removed. The influence it has will not be of a super advanced technological basis such as the black slab in 2001 but more of a more subtle nature. It will  make people ask questions, it will demonstrate that there was widespread hope for the future once and that common humanity and a sense of a bond across national boundaries was a view held by many millions. Any piece of concrete that can make people ask questions is a one important piece of concrete.

For those of you who are desperate to understand what '2001 - A Space Odyssey' is all about but can't be bothered to read the original Arthur C Clark's short story 'The Sentinel' here is an explanation of what went on in in the film. Some folks found it a bit cryptic understandably

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Councillor Andrew Cooper's Speech to European Parliament's ENVI Committee 21st June 2018

Thank you Chair ,  
Members of the ENVI committee, Let me first thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the Committee of the Regions opinion.
We welcome the ENVI draft motion for resolution on COP 24 as well as the adopted report on the role of EU regions and cities in implementing the Paris Agreement as they highlight the key role of local and regional authorities in the fight against climate change

·        Local and regional authorities are responsible for the implementation of 70% of climate change reduction measures and up to 90% of climate change adaptation measures. When national governments struggle to deliver, cities and regions take the lead.

·   Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, we have seen a rising status for local and regional governments. This was evident last year in Bonn with the launch of the Talanoa Dialogue and the Bonn Fiji commitment of Local and Regional leaders' from around the world.  It's now time this form of multilevel governance is acknowledged and the role of LRAs formalised in global climate governance.

·  Nationally Determined Contributions fall short in reaching Paris Agreement goals, of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees, let alone 1,5 degrees.  In order to bridge the emissions gap, we need a system of locally and regionally determined contributions (LDCs) that would complement "Nationally Determined Contributions.

·        A wealth of action to mitigate climate change happens at the local level and we know that action that is not measured is not acknowledged nor encouraged or valued. Yet, these local actions can be the most important actions of all. Making the difference between success and failure. That's why we call for the transparency framework to include, in national inventory reports a dedicated section on mitigation actions undertaken at subnational levels of government as a way to help track the progress towards achieving NDCs.

·   The Talanoa dialogue is of great importance for local and regional authorities as it allows them to make their ambitions, positions and intentions heard. It is also of vital importance to the UNFCCC and national Governments as the feedback we provide from the coalface of action on climate change will help them shape future policy initiatives. A dialogue is not a monologue. We need genuine 2 way communications. Yes we need to be heard but we also need to be responded to as well. We need to integrate the outcomes of the Talanoa Dialogue into the COP negotiating text. And it must also continue beyond COP24.

Cooperation and inclusivity are part of the solution to address climate challenges. It is essential that the EU and its Member States engage directly with democratically elected regions and other non-party stakeholders, civil society and the private sector. And it is crucial that we speak with a strong single voice at COP24.  As elected members at the closest level to the citizens we are ready to partner with you and contribute to make the world a better place.

 As a UK member of the Committee of the Regions I am clear that Brexit or (I still hope) no Brexit we should continue to work together to achieve the carbon reductions we need and to be frank this may help the UK Government to not slip further behind in our actions. If the UK is in a League of its own it will have no meaningful way of comparing its progress. Together with you we have a much better chance.

Thank you for your attention