Stirling Methodist Church goes fossil free

2020 will be a significant year as Scotland prepares to hosts the COP26 climate change talks in Glasgow in November 2020.

In the meantime. Here is a blog from Possible with a round-up of positive news from 2019. Locally, Stirling Methodist Church has just become the first Methodist Church in Scotland to go fossil-free.

Last January’s quote is worth repeating:

‘Fear is a short-term spur to action, but to make changes over the long term, we must have hope.’
Katharine Hayhoe,  an atmospheric scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University:

Action:
As we start the year, now may be the time to do your annual CO2 assessment and offset. As a household we have just made our 2019 offset using the UN website on the geetotal  link above both for calculation and offset. It only took 15 minutes (no point in endless precision) and has helped families in Malawi with solar powered-cooking, benefitting both health and climate.

Climate Emergency from acceptance to action

Climate Change has hit the headlines a lot more in recent weeks and it is now accepted – in words at least – that we are in a climate emergency. The tricky bit will now be to keep the climate emergency ‘front of mind’ for our decision makers, and all of us. MPs have been quoted as saying they have not given the climate a higher priority because they have not had this mandate from their constituents. Now is the time to put that right.

At a local level in Stirling, Stephen Kerr MP has invited constituents to give their views on what neds to be done on climate change. Stirling Methodist Church’s Green Team has written to him with some challenges (see end of this blog) and he has accepted an invitation to continued discussion. If you are in the Stirling area and would like to add your voice, please get in touch (jon@cameroncape.net) . You can join in anywhere with a letter to your MP or MSP, see here for resources.

The BBC Climate Change film with David Attenborough can be a powerful resource for yourself or to share. There is also a four minute version.

Other snippets:

  1. Sea level rise – estimates have been too conservative says a new “structured expert judgement” report, which warns that 200 million people could lose their homes this century
  2. The Bank of England warns of “a Minsky Moment” and agrees to disclose climate risk on its balance sheet. $20 trillion of assets are at risk of being wiped out by climate change if companies fail to prepare.
  3. Climate Outreach launch a useful new report on “mainstreaming low carbon lifestyles”

Stirling Methodist Church’s Green Team email to Stephen Kerr, Stirling MP

Dear Stephen

Thanks for your letter of 5th April on the subject of climate change and the environment.
Your interest in constituents’ views on this issue is welcomed.

We have discussed and set out below responses to the questions which you have posed.

  1. How important is the issue of Climate Change?

Along with other and inter-related  ‘planetary boundary’ issues – see 5 below – Climate Change must be the number one political priority locally, nationally and internationally. Thirty two years ago in 1987, the Brundtland Commission established the concept of sustainable development as  the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Future generations will judge this generation. On present trends we  will be found to have failed both our young people and future generations. As David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, across the generations, have acknowledged, human civilisation along with  many fellow species now face an existential threat. There is no Planet B.

  1. How important is improving the local environment?

Climate change and related planetary boundaries are foundational issues for our time. They impact on our local environment, for example in relation to flood risk, but as yet far less than they do on local environments in the global south. For south pacific islands this is meaning a threat to the very existence of a local environment.  Extreme weather events, glacial loss and rainfall loss are causing major death and disruption in local environments today in already poor  many areas. For the UK, poor air quality is a key local environmental concern for major cities in particular  and action to address this can be complementary to climate change action.  This is less critical for Stirling. In addition to flood risk, a key local environmental concern for Stirling is the maintenance of discrete communities by maintaining ample  green space between them. Maintenance of natural habitats for example by shifting towards more organic and sustainable farming methods is also a key concern.

  1. What can UK Government do to address Climate Change?

UK Government has been a global leader, for example in establishing legal long term  climate targets in a climate change act and the UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy can provide a basis to continue in this leadership. However, sadly current evidence suggests that we are not on course to meet the targets which have been set. Earlier this month, BEIS published a report confirming that we ae off target and the gap is widening (See Note at end of this email). {Projections are always subject to uncertainty and some of the projected increase in the emissions gap may be due to enhanced measurement. But the gap is clear and this is before the need to toughen up on targets.
What can UK Government do?
As our MP we ask you to consider the following:

  1. Urge the UK Government to toughen its emissions targets with a new early ‘net zero’ emissions target. The date for such a target can be discussed. Many local authorities have set net zero targets including Oxfordshire whose net zero target is 2030.
  2. Having undertaken (i) urge UK Government to take sufficient action that its net zero target will be met.
  3. Raise the profile of climate change in public awareness. Make it the number one issue in your own political priorities and promote wider public understanding of the climate emergency which we face.
  4. Raise awareness of the strong contributions that action on  food (the need for a shift towards a more  plant based diet as the IPCC recommends to meet both climate, and  health needs) and  transport (motor and air in particular) need to make in our response to climate change – it is not all about energy. This relates both to Government action (e.g. bring forward the end of new non-electric car sales to 2030) and to our responsibilities as citizens
  5. Reinstate the Zero Carbon Homes Plan which George Osborne scrapped in 2015 under pressure from the developer Persimmon Homes (other developers backed the plan). According to a recent study, scrapping the plan has cost the UK more than £2bn in wasted energy (https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/cost-of-scrapping-zero-carbon-homes-revealed ) as well as contributing to the emission shortfall and wasting an economic opportunity for UK industry to be ‘ahead of the pack’ globally.  The 2019 Budget announcement of no gas heating  in new homes by 2025 is welcomed but not sufficient.
  6. Reinstate policy support for onshore wind, solar and other renewables, end fossil fuel subsidies encourage fossil fuel divestment and provide a level playing field for low carbon technologies. The latter has been called for by the trade association Energy UK in its April 2019 report the Future of Energy, see https://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/level_low_carbon_playing_field_critical_to_energy_future_energy_uk_says

As the report emphasises, many steps can be taken which require no Government spending.
Energy represents the British energy sector as a whole. We would also urge you to consider the recommendations of the trade associations representing the renewables sector.

  1. Urge UK Government to echo the work of Scottish Government in thinking through and acting on the issues of Just Transition (local equity in the UK) and Climate Justice (global equity). More broadly, we would ask you to urge UK Government to take a lead in international discussions to set a  new context for international trade negotiations which acknowledges  that the UK and other counties which industrialised early have reaped economic benefit from levels of carbon emission over several centuries which are not possible responsibly for nations industrialising now and that, in calling for such nations to restrict emissions, climate justice requires acknowledgement of historical emissions. This is not a trivial point, it is a key to unlocking future agreement on effective levels of action and the absence of  adequate acknowledgement of this context has been key to the difficulties faced in past COP negotiations.
  2. Actively seek a cross-party consensus in the UK on the above actions. There is great value in policy competition across the political parties on the UK’s response to climate change and we do not expect or wish to see all parties adopting the same policy. However, the best chance of us emerging from this climate emergency successfully is if across the UK and across the world there is common cause and a commonly agreed ‘floor’ level of action on which there is political consensus. We would hope that something along the lines of the seven points above could provide the basis for such a consensus ‘floor’ level of action which reflects the urgency of our climate challenge.
  1. What can UK Government do to improve the quality of our local environment?

As set out in 2 above action to address climate change  and other planetary boundaries also impact positively on local environments.  Action on sustainable use of plastic is key amongst these actions (strongly relating to biodiversity as well as the local environment. Air quality action must relate to gas combustion in buildings as well as to transport and biomass. Action to avoid over development is also key.

  1. Other comments on the environment

Climate change as a challenge which is intertwined with other key challenges. These have been brought together in analysis of the planetary boundaries which  we as a civilisation breach at our peril. The nine key boundaries are analysed in the work of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, see https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html
We ask you to urge UK Government to acknowledge planetary boundaries and their interconnection as key challenges to inform all aspects of public policy.

We’d welcome your thoughts on these points and be happy to engage in further dialogue

Hope for 2019

Here is a quote from Katharine Hayhoe,  an atmospheric scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University:

‘Fear is a short-term spur to action, but to make changes over the long term, we must have hope.’

Her article is worth a read. Linked to that, here is what it would take to keep warming to 1.5 degrees:

‘Scientists say it may still technically be possible to limit warming to 1.5C if drastic action is taken now
The study found there is a 66% chance of staying below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels if immediate action is taken Climate change could be kept in check if a phaseout of all fossil fuel infrastructure were to begin immediately, according to research. It shows that meeting the internationally agreed aspiration of keeping global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is still possible. The scientists say it is therefore the choices being made by global society, not physics, which is the obstacle to meeting the goal. The study found that if all fossil fuel infrastructure – power plants, factories, vehicles, ships and planes – from now on are replaced by zero-carbon alternatives at the end of their useful lives, there is a 64% chance of staying under 1.5C.’

Final news:
5 Renewable Energy TED Talks To Start Your 2019

Action:

Katowice climate change summit

The Katowice climate change summit this month and the IPCC report in October have caused  climate change to grab a few headlines at least briefly. The summit made some progress  but the pace of progress stands in sharp contrast to the messages given to the summit. David Attenborough at the age of 92 and Greta Thunberg at the age of 15 gave some stark messages. Together they are a real spur to action as we move towards a new year.

You may have seen Greta’s speech to the summit. If not Its key messages addressed the adults attending:

“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children. You say you love your children above everything else. And yet you are stealing their future We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis”

A slightly longer TED  talk by Greta is worth spending 10 minutes or so to view TED talk 12th December 2018. It concludes with this:

“We do need hope. Of course we do but the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere so instead of looking for hope, look for action then and only then, hope will come”

At the start of the Summit, David Attenborough gave the ‘people’s address
His key message:

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of most of the natural world is on the horizon…Leaders of the world, you must lead.”

Here are some other links relating to  the Summit and the IPCC report  if you want a bit more background

https://unfccc.int/katowice
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/16/what-was-agreed-at-cop24-in-poland-and-why-did-it-take-so-long
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46582265
https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/


Now to action:

  1. There is a global petition to banks you might like to participate in: Fossil Banks – No Thanks
  1. If you’d like to follow up yourself, or for your household on the Cut and Offset pats of Geetotal, you will find guidance on our website

PS We have just tallied up carbon emissions for last year using the link from the Geetotal website. This just took 10 minutes – its about making reasonable guesstimates. This year for our household, we have used the UN carbon offset site.

We selected this Malawi safe cooking project as our carbon offset project. Its listed under Project Type in EE (energy efficiency) households

Flooding and Climate Change

Flood risks have not had much prominence in the news this winter, but a new study should give us pause for thought. The study, by Newcastle University, analysed changes in flooding, droughts and heatwaves for every European city using all climate models. Looking at the impact by the year 2050-2100, the team produced results for three possible outcomes – low, medium and high-impact scenarios. But even the most optimistic case showed 85% of UK cities with a river, including London, would face increased flooding. In the high-impact scenario, some cities and towns in the UK and Ireland could see the amount of water per flood as much as double. The worst affected is Cork, which could see 115% more water per flooding, while Wrexham, Carlisle, Glasgow, and Chester could all see increases of more than 75%.

The increase in severity in the predicted impact has come after the team, in a first of its kind, examined all three climate hazards together in the largest study of its kind ever undertaken. The study also projects very severe heatwaves in southern Europe.

At a global level,  world scientists have sent us all another clear message. Having digested that, take a look at these Eleven Reasons for Hope, from Friends of the Earth and here are some great stories from the Global Footprint Network

This month’s action?  How about signing the Avaaz pledge:
As a citizen concerned about animal welfare, climate change, and biodiversity, I pledge to eat less meat (or no meat at all!), and encourage workplaces, schools, supermarkets, and restaurants to join in helping spread this critical culture change more widely. T will help animals, the planet, and my health, and contribute to keeping our planet safe for future generations.
More on Plant Power next month…

Sweden makes net zero emissions commitment

At the start of a new year, here is the great news that an entire country now has the same core commitment as Geetotal – to add no more to total greenhouse gas emissions. The country is Sweden, and their country-wide  ‘net zero’ commitment is for 2045. See the story here

To start the year with some visual entertainment, here are the Guardian 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

PS We have just tallied up carbon emissions for last year using the link from the Geetotal website here

This just took 10 minutes – its about making reasonable guestimates.
This year for our household, we have used the UN carbon offset site

We selected this Kenyan safe cooking project as our carbon offset project
Its listed under EE (energy efficiency) households

Let’s Talk About Climate Change

The fourth Geetotal strand is Share (Cut, Offset, Pressure, Share). Let’s weave climate change into our conversations more frequently. Here is a good post about what works best

Spreading knowledge is seen as key along with a sense of hope but we can’t hide the bad news either.

Two bits of good news this month:

  1. Younger people are getting the message: “A survey of over 1,000 younger voters’ priorities, revealing climate change is the issue 18 to 28 year olds most want to hear politicians talk more about”. And climate change was amongst the top three priorities fir voters under 40 alongside health and education.(Source “Bright Blue” think tank)
  2. More than 40 Catholic institutions will make largest ever faith-based divestment, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

And here’s the less good news…

“Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years. Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years.Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable.

This year’s greenhouse gas bulletin produced by the WMO, is based on measurements taken in 51 countries. Research stations dotted around the globe measure concentrations of warming gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The figures published by the WMO are what’s left in the atmosphere after significant amounts are absorbed by the Earth’s “sinks”, which include the oceans and the biosphere.” Full story here

Meanwhile, in a bit of slightly good news, carbon intensity (carbon emissions in relation to economic output) fell slightly –but not enough  to meet Paris targets. “Emerging economies – the so-called ‘E7’ group of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and Turkey – together cut their emissions intensity at a faster rate of 4.2 per cent, while the G7 nations lagged behind with an overall emissions intensity cut of 2.9 per cent.” Full story here

Food and Climate change – is time to eat less meat?

Food and Climate Change: time to eat less meat. IPCC has been giving this message for a long time and its earlier estimates  are now seen to have underplayed the challenge of biomethane from livestock. Its funny how any analysis which says things aren’t quite so bad  (for example  publicity earlier this month suggesting that 1.5 degree warming might still just be achievable) gets headline news along ‘climate change is overplayed’ lines but studies like this one get far less publicity.

“Global methane emissions from agriculture are larger than estimated due to the previous use of out-of-date data on carbon emissions generated by livestock, according to a study published in the open access journal Carbon Balance and Management.

In a project sponsored by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Carbon Monitoring System research initiative, researchers from the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) found that global livestock methane (CH4) emissions for 2011 are 11% higher than the estimates based on guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2006. This encompasses an 8.4% increase in CH4 from enteric fermentation (digestion) in dairy cows and other cattle and a 36.7% increase in manure management CH4 compared to IPCC-based estimates. Revised manure management CH4 emissions estimates for 2011 in the US from this study were 71.8% higher than IPPC-based estimates.”
Read more

Hurricane Harvey and climate change

Hi All
Three  key items this month.

Hurricane Harvey and climate change
Climate change is about climate not weather. The clue is in the name. No single weather event can be said to be due to climate change. But extreme weather events ae becoming  more frequent and more severe due to climate change.40 million people have been affected this year by extreme weather events. There are three key ways in which Hurricanes like Harvey are made worse by climate change

  • warmer water: more evaporation and more rain
  • higher storm surges through higher sea levels
  • warmer air, more severe storm effects, see

Think positive
Optimism is in the air and for most of us being optimistic helps us to take action. Take a look at the positive stories in this Eco Guide to Optimism.

For example:

“last year global emissions plateaued while growth has continued. Previously emissions have only plateaued during recessions. This suggests we are starting to unlink greenhouse gas emissions from production and consumption”

and

“Wind and solar made up three-quarters of new energy capacity and coal demand was cut by 10%”

More good news stories also from Go Fossil Free with 100 organisations making the decision to disinvest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQfYM2LCBoE


Fossil fuel divestment

And still on Fossil fuel divestment take a look at Christian Aid’s Clean Up Our Cash Campaign for September and October. In this campaign, every day in September and October, campaigners will visit a high street branch of one of the biggest UK banks.

Would you like to join in?


 

Methodist Church Divests

Two key items this month.

1. Fossil fuel divestment

The Methodist Church in Britain has made a landmark decision this summer to disinvest if fossil fuel companies do not follow strategies consistent with meeting Paris Climate summit objectives of at most 2 degree global temperature rises. Full story is the last item below.

Pressure does work and the divestment movement is growing. Please follow up with your bank or pension fund by reading Share Action’s briefing and emailing lauren.peacock@shareaction.org.

You can also support the reinvest Scotland campaign.

2. Family planning and emissions reduction.

You may have seen the press coverage around the Family Planning Summit taking place this month. Extending voluntary access to family planning is now recognised as a major tool in combatting global poverty as well as empowering women. Less widely known is the positive impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by helping reduce fast-growing populations especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It should be stressed that this is about voluntary access not enforced family planning such as the former policy of the Chinese Government. There is a way to contribute via  our  annual carbon offset payments. Take a look at http://www.popoffsets.org/calculator.php.


Finally, if you want a sobering read, here is a recent Ney York magazine item. A  very thorough appreciation of the risky times that lie ahead

If you have not yet done so, please consider making the Geetotal commitment. If you have done so, now may be the time to do your annual CO2 assessment and offset).

Do follow wegeetees if you are a Twitter user and please retweet, see https://twitter.com/wegeetees


Leave the Oil in the Soil

The Methodist Central Scotland Circuit, at the instigation Stirling Methodist Church, has led the way in a ground-breaking decision taken at the June 2017 Methodist Church Annual Conference.
Way back in  November, Stirling Methodists tabled a notice of motion at their Circuit Meeting calling for the Methodist Church to divest from oil and other fossil fuel companies that threaten to accelerate, not reduce, climate change and instead focus investment on clean energy.
The Central Scotland Circuit and the Synod of the Methodist Church in Scotland backed the motion and submitted ‘Memorials’ to the Annual Conference. Several other Circuits and Synods across the country followed suit and  sent similar Memorials to Conference.. Taking investment funds out of oil and similar companies, known as ‘fossil fuel divestment’ became the subject of the greatest number of Memorials  to this year’s Annual Conference at the end of June.
The  official response was to  call for a long review. But  instead,  the Methodist Church has agreed  to take fossil fuel companies to task in 2018 and plan to remove investment from,’ ‘any company that  has not committed to a Low Carbon Business Plan in tune with the Paris proposal of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees’.
Smaller groups like the Quakers have made similar decisions, as has the national Church of Sweden. The Methodists, prompted by the Stirling Church, have become the first large UK-wide Church to take this step.
Walter Attwood from the Stirling Methodist Church Green Team said ‘Oil has supported a large number of jobs in Scotland  and that will be on many  people’s minds, But the fact is that every £1million spent on clean energy brings more jobs than the same money spent on fossil fuels. This is a landmark decision by the Church. At local level  Falkirk Pension Fund manages public sector pension investments. It should now look to do something similar. If you would like to support the local Divest Forth Valley campaign you can contact me at wattwood675@gmail.com  Lets leave the oil in the soil’.