Category Archives: Reform

The power of a growing youth climate movement

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Alison Williams of UNGA-Link sent this link to a 10 minute address at a High Level General Assembly Event on 29th June. She wrote: “You may find this young man quite inspiring; I did 🙂

A search revealed a good account by Stephanie Spear on the Ecowatch website which gave the background: “On 29 June 2015, President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Sam K. Kutesa, hosted the High-level Event on Climate Change at UN Headquarters. Leaders from government, civil society and the private sector presented many climate action initiatives to provide political momentum toward an ambitious climate change agreement at COP21 in Paris in December”.

Five months before the COP 21 UN Climate talks in Paris, fifteen-year-old indigenous climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez and actor and environmental advocate Robert Redford met yesterday after they had addressed the United Nations to encourage global action on climate change.

un aztec redfordun650[1]Photo credit: Vanessa Black

Xiuhtezcatl is the youth director of a non profit organization Earth Guardians. He was raised in the Aztec tradition and has been an active campaigner since the age of six. Now 15, he was selected to speak in an open, transparent and participatory process at the Opening Ceremony from among 200 applicants through a process facilitated by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

Martinez called on delegates to “dream big”, saying, “It’s time to look to the skies for the solutions we need, because the future of energy is not down a hole.”

The young activist asked the delegates to imagine what could be accomplished if fossil fuel and nuclear subsides were reinvested into renewable energy. The International Monetary Fund estimates global fossil fuel subsidies are close to $10 million every minute.

“The solutions are here, and they are bringing with them millions of jobs and economic opportunity,” he said.

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Xiutezcatl emphasized the power of a growing youth climate movement:

“Everywhere young people are rising up and taking action to solve the issues that will be left to our generation … Over 400,000 people marched in through the streets of New York City in the world’s greatest climate march. More than 220 institutions have divested from fossil fuels with the help of student-led movements and the number continues to grow. Youth are suing their state and federal governments across the United States, demanding action on climate change from our elected officials. We are flooding the streets and now we are flooding the courts to get the world to see there is a movement on the rise and we are at the forefront, fighting for the solutions we need.”

Despite the challenging circumstances Xiuhtezcatl urged optimism, calling on delegates to stand with youth leaders. “In the light of a collapsing world, what better time to be alive than now, because our generation gets to change the course of history,” he said. “Humans have created the greatest problem we face today, but the greater the challenge the higher we will rise to meet it. We need you to be a climate leader—not to stand up for us, but to stand with us.”

As his speech concluded, Xiuhtezcatl asked, “Who will rise with me now for mine and future generations to inherit a healthy just and sustainable planet?” Many of the delegates briefly and symbolically rose from their seats in support.

Watch both speeches on the Ecowatch website:


Will lower diesel prices counter health concerns about emissions and EU proposals to raise engine standards?

julia poliscanovaAs retailers announce the lowering of diesel prices, Julia Poliscanova, Vehicles Policy Officer for Transport & Environment, writes from Brussels to the Financial Times.

She agrees that a plan by London mayor Boris Johnson to set up an “ultra-low emission zone” is justified by Transport for London’s latest study on the health impacts of air pollution. She points out, however, that the rules actually exempt many of the badly maintained diesel cars responsible for 5,900 deaths a year (“London pollution reports add to pressure for clamp on diesels”, July 13).

transport 2 env logo*Transport & Environment represents around 50 organisations across Europe. Its mission is to promote, at EU and global level, a transport policy based on the principles of sustainable development, minimising harmful impacts on the environment and health and guaranteeing safety and sufficient access for all.

Ms Poliscanova adds that the London Assembly’s environment committee rightly points to the “failure” of EU engine standards: “Euro 6” diesels that are considered clean by Mr Johnson actually emit on average seven times the nitrogen dioxide limit, and in the case of one vehicle, 22 times.

diesel emissions

She recommends Mr Johnson to make the exemption from the charge conditional on Euro 6 diesels meeting the required limit on the road and prevent dirty diesels from poisoning Londoners, ending with a warning:

“Technical discussions currently under way to ensure that Euro testing will in future reflect diesels’ real-driving emissions are being hampered by industry lobbying”.

*Transport & Environment coordinate the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) which has observer status at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It is a member of the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC) which has observer status at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Transport & Environment is also recognised as an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. See funding and other information in the EU Transparency Register.  



Report: road freight over 300km should shift to rail or waterborne transport

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In February, the Passenger Transport Executive Group – pteg – which brings together and promotes the interests of the six strategic transport bodies serving the largest city regions outside London, published a report: ‘Delivering the future: New approaches to urban freight’.

It highlighted the role of urban freight in the UK economy and envisaged that every opportunity should be taken for freight to make its way into urban areas by rail or water or into the distribution parks that serve them.

As the report’s main focus was on ‘last mile’ journeys, it argued that those distribution sites should be located so that goods could travel the last mile(s) into urban centres with as little environmental impact as possible using zero/low emission modes.

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The European Commission’s goal is that ‘30% of road freight over 300km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050, facilitated by efficient and green freight corridors.’ The writer is particularly interested in the use of our extensive networks of inland waterways – a neglected and underused resource in comparison with other European countries where larger inland waterways are used as major freight routes as well as for making deliveries directly to city centre businesses. One of the brief case studies cited:

The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands uses a zero emission electric boat to make deliveries in the city centre. Owned and run by the city and known as the ‘Beer Boat’, the vessel makes six trips, four days a week supplying more than 60 catering businesses located along the canal network. Funding for the boat came from the city’s air quality improvement budget.

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The advantages of water transport of freight include:

  • greater safety: a key advantage of  water freight over road freight is that it is largely separated from pedestrians, cyclists and motorists,
  • lower emissions,
  • lower fuel costs (by water),
  • less need for road and track maintenance,
  • less road traffic congestion: water freight has the potential to cut congestion. A modern barge operating on an inland waterway can carry up to 550 tonnes in some areas and up to 1,500 tonnes on larger waterways. In the UK most lorries can carry up to 29 tonnes.
  • less noise and vibration,
  • improved quality of life and urban environment.

1barge freight load

To enable more road freight to transfer onto water, ‘network capacity enhancements’ should be undertaken, including the development of a more extensive network of water-connected distribution sites, more support for ongoing maintenance of waterways and the removal of barriers (such as low bridges or narrow locks) to ensure that they can accommodate more freight traffic.

Infrastructure for the loading and unloading of waterborne freight can also be available in cities that have rivers or canals passing through them, although freight must often compete against potentially more remunerative uses for the land, such as residential and office developments.

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Government, in partnership with local authorities, could work to ensure that all major new distribution parks are planned with a presumption of rail and/or water connections so that suitable sites are identified nationally and protected for freight use and the development of Urban Consolidation Centres (UCCs) with rail and water-connected distribution sites is encouraged, reducing inefficiencies and ensuring that low emission modes are a practical option for the last mile.

For more news on freight by water go to the Commercial Boat Operators Association

Green Deal Mark II? If at first . . .

Anna Watson Attwood award event‘The Green Deal and energy efficiency supply chain development: Policy lessons from a case study of Birmingham’, is based on the dissertation research by Anna Watson (Sussex University) which was awarded a distinction.

It recommends modifications to Green Deal policy, enabling it to make a better contribution to strengthening local economies and maximising opportunities for local supply chains.

Anna (above) at a civic reception where Jon Morris, Matthew Rhodes and Keith Budden received an Attwood Award, celebrating their development and promotion of the Birmingham Energy Savers scheme, from the Lord Mayor at the Council House.

Anna concludes with recommendations for local and national government, summarised below:

gnd anna recommendations

Birmingham was the first local authority to develop a Green Deal delivery programme: Birmingham Energy Savers (BES). The aim of BES was to deliver energy efficient retrofit to 60,000 households, nurture strong local supply chains, maximising the use of local businesses and so reduce unemployment.

In 2013 a British multinational facilities management and construction services company was selected to arrange household assessment and financing for recommended work from the Green Investment Bank and the installation of these improvements, working with Birmingham City Council to promote Green Deal opportunities to homeowners. However, the provider did not work with local businesses and consumers on a sufficiently significant scale to deliver sustainable market growth. There were also Green Deal policy issues around the centralisation and complexity of Green Deal financing, which retarded the development of regional energy efficiency markets.

Many involved in developing the ‘retrofit agenda’ will be moved to contact Anna, currently in Sydney, and ask for a copy of the report – in particular, the Commons Select Committee for Energy and Climate Change, which published its briefing on the subject in September.

Anna Watson:,


Scottish Land Reform Bill


IYFF logo.

A tenant farmer from SW Scotland, where the largest land holdings are controlled by the top end of Scotland’s 432 individuals who own 50% of the land, is delighted with the announcement by Scottish Government minister Paul Wheelhouse of a Land Reform Bill which – he believes – will lead to a brighter, fairer future for Scotland with more access to more land for more people.

The minister said his vision “was for a fairer, wider and more equitable distribution of land across our nation”, adding that the bill will be “another significant step forward in ensuring that our land is used in the public interest and to the benefit of the people of Scotland”.

The main investment in these farms has been done by generations of hard working tenants.

The farmer writes that evidence of rural decay; dereliction and underutilisation of land, buildings and houses on big estates around the region, are due to a serious shortfall in landlord investment.

He ends:

LRRG report cover“2014, the International Year of the Family Farm, is the perfect time for the process of land reform to begin as rural communities are suffering from the lack of access to land and confidence to carry out further investment.

“The Land Reform Review Group report laid down the foundations and tenant farmers look forward to an equally thorough and well researched report from the government’s Agricultural Holdings Review Group.

“They must grasp the wider issue of public interest and consign the failed system that is holding us back to the history books”.

Measuring genuine progress


daphne wyshamKitayun Rustom (CERE) writes from Mumbai: “Have you heard of Genuine Progress Report? My friend Daphne Wysham is working on this. Better indicator than GDP.

A search revealed an article by Daphne Wysham (right) and the main points are summarised below:

At the height of the Great Depression, Congress, lacking the tools to measure accurately how the economy was faring, turned to a young Russian-American economist, Professor Simon Kuznets of the National Bureau of Economic Research, to develop a data set to assess the state of the national economy..

simon kuznetsIn 1937, Kuznets presented a vast volume of data on income to Congress. The data set became known as the Gross National Product (GNP), later renamed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But Kuznets warned that the GNP could never adequately measure the things we value, such as housework or caring for elderly parents. Nor could the GNP distinguish between the growth of good and bad jobs. The data would be the same if workers earned their pay from employers who endangered their lives or guarded their health and safety.  He said: “Goals for more growth should be more growth of what and for what”.

Under governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland has retained its AAA bond rating demonstrating sound financial management and, as early as 2007, established the living wage for employees working under certain state services contracts.

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Maryland is now monitoring the state’s well-being using the Genuine Progress Indicator, gathering and annually updating economic, social, and environmental data that help to measure the overall wellbeing of Maryland’s citizens.

The 26 underlying indicators, which collectively comprise the “Genuine Progress Indicator,” are a more meaningful gauge of the overall economic health and wellbeing of Maryland residents than standard economic measurements. For example the state tracks factors which help to make a society more healthy and vibrant, like volunteerism, time spent with family and loved ones and air quality. They answer many questions, including:

  • Is the landscape more or less toxic than before?
  • Is the air and water cleaner or dirtier?
  • How well-educated is the populace?
  • Is public transportation decent?
  • Is crime more common?
  • Are too many people spending more time commuting to jobs than at home with their kids?

Daphne Wysham ends: “It’s time to recall Kuznets’ warnings about the limitations of the GDP and to pick up where he left off by embracing a new set of tools that will help shape good social, environmental, and economic policy — not just for Maryland, but for our entire country and the world”.

Daphne Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and is the founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (SEEN). SEEN’s pathbreaking research has resulted in shifts in public policy and investment at the national and international level. She is a frequent guest speaker on the concerns around carbon markets — and carbon offsets in particular — in generating meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Wysham has played a leadership role on Capitol Hill, advising the Congressional Progressive Caucus on a progressive agenda for climate change.

Further reading:

Jonathon Porritt’s Antidote to Gloom


Exciting, aspirational, high-tech, fair and hopeful

JP book coverIn ‘The World We Made’, to be launched tomorrow, Jonathon Porritt – one of the world’s leading environmentalists – sets out to counter the doom and gloom that surrounds today’s debates about sustainability. Instead of portraying the future as a polluted, over-populated hell-hole, he shows it as a place where we’d all love to live through the words of Alex McKay, a history teacher, who looks back to see how we got from where we are now to that world in 2050..


A compelling picture of a truly sustainable world is presented:

  • A world in which 90% of our energy comes from renewable sources, and 30% of our electricity from solar power
  • A world in which young people have forced radical changes on governments acting against the interests of all future generations
  • A world in which military expenditure peaked in 2017, and has been declining ever since
  • A world in which nanotechnology, 3D printing and biomimicry have transformed manufacturing
  • A world in which personal genomics allow everyone to manage their own health, live longer and healthier, and die when they want to
  • A world in which there are still rich and poor, but the rich are poorer but happier, and the poor are richer in so many ways..


 Some responses.

“Jonathon Porritt has found both the facts and the spirit required for imagining the future!” Bill McKibben

“Jonathon Porritt’s book dreams big, as if our future depends on it.  And it does.” Richard Branson

“I loved it!  It should be compulsory reading for all students and beyond – particularly the politicians. And I love Alex, your voice from 2050.  But above all, I love the reassurance that there is a bright and sustainable future ahead of us if we start now.” Joanna Lumley

“Revealing the gift in the arms of the problem, Jonathon Porritt beautifully shows how your applied hope, fearless action, and relentless patience can turn the world we inhabit into the world we envision.” Amory Lovins


Read more here: