Current Activity

June 2015 I funded some of the work behind Leo Murray’s proposal for a Frequent Flyer Levy to replace Air Passenger Duty. The report (prepared by CE Delft) is here  and the Observer letter signed by many NGOs supporting the proposal here.

First half 2015 I’ve been very busy on two projects: developing funding for the Climate Coalition’s 2015 activity, focussed on a lobby of Parliament in June 2015, and then the organising of local (calderdale and wider) participation in the lobby (read some articles here); and assisting the development of LAON (the anti-opencast coal campaign) which I sponsored for Network funding in 2013 (see December). In June we were able to launch their first website.

May 2015 I wrote the evidence evidence concerning the highways and parking impact of a small Sainsbury’s store proposed for development in Hebden Bridge which influenced the Inspector’s decision Inspector’s decision to reject their appeal.

April 2015 I completed the research and writing of my article on the Transformation of England’s population projections in the 2000s Transformation of England’s population projections in the 2000s to be be published in the Journal of Population Matters in June.

February 2015 Those 3 applications were all funded at the Network conference (of which I was one of the organisers; I devised the theme: the nature of social change), providing total funding in excess of £50,000.

August 2014  I’ve sponsored 3 applications in the 2015 environmental pool of Network for Social Change, the bidding round for which begins at this time of year: from Feedback – investigating massive food waste in the international food supply chain; Campaign for Better Transport – against a threatened return to road building; and Rainforest Foundation – combating large-scale palm oil developments in the Congo Basin rainforests. The next stage is for the applications to be shortlisted (or not) at the Network conference in September before further assessment.

July 2014  I launched not one but two new websites: the first – Green Calerdale – an environmental  portal for the district, bringing together campaigning, volunteering and places to go/things to do all in one place. And the home for the new bee partnership Get Calderdale Buzzing mentioned in January below.

The second is Transport North, ostensibly the site for the Yorkshire & Humber environmental transport grouping which I chair but the scope of which I’ve now enlarged to cover the North as a whole, and then North v South. I’ve done this in collaboration with Campaign for Better Transport and with some encouragement from Stephen Joseph.

July 2014 What has been an exceptionally busy half year (with new websites to launch and update, and much more) has meant that the research for my UK Population briefing (see December 2013) has had to be put back. Still, so far, no one else has published on the issues it will cover so maybe nobody’s that interested. Hint: here’s the very last footnote from the 2013 Global Population briefing – “83 The latest UN figures for the UK’s population are: 1950: 50.616m; 2013: 63.136m; 2025: 67.210m; 2050: 73.131m; and 2100: 77.175m. The UN projection for 2050 and 2100 just a decade earlier were 66.166m and then 64.375m. The current ONS principal projection, prepared on a different basis, has the UK 2060 population as 81.5m and 2010 as 97.0m”  I presented a workshop on the ‘England’s future sustainability crisis’ to the FOE ‘Basecamp’ conference this month, and not one member of staff bothered to turn up.

July 2014  Calderdale were very busy at the FOE annual ‘Basecamp’ conference’ in Derbyshire: making presentations on the topics we had suggested (see May 2014) – and the Calderdale motion about governance and strategy was passed; in particular pressing for a continuous campaign all the way to the international climate talks in Paris; and (item above) I also talked through the outline of the UK Population briefing and consequential ‘sustainability crisis’ it may reveal.

June 2014  I’m a member (via FOE) of the reference groups attached to two of the DfT/Highways Agency feasibility studies into what are claimed in the 2012 National Infrastructure Plan to be seven of the most ‘notorious and longstanding road hotspots’ in the country. This quickly turned into an farcical and techinically dodgy scramble to get some road schemes ready for the Autumn Settlement in December and next year’s General Election. Its the 900 Mile Road Revolution! Hurrah.

The first of these – the Trans-Pennine corridor across the Peak District National Park – is certainly notorious, if only for the repeated failure of successive ‘road building solutions’ to intervene successfully and sustainably, as sensible demand management and improvement of the rail corridor instead would do. But apparently this simple lesson cannot be learnt, so we’re back in there again, pointing out all the flaws.

But the second – Leeds Bradford Airport surface access – is neither notorious or a hotspot, and anything at all worth bothering about; just a small regional, overwhelmingly leisure airport, now owned by a venture capital group who bought it for too large an amount at the top of the market.  Apparently the government is trying desperately to find a way to give it £10-40-80million (who cares!) ‘free money’ to better connect it to its catchment area; and so increase the number of flights, and the quantity of carbon emissions, and even (ironically) the amount of road traffic it’s meant to be diminishing. I pointed all this out, but whilst no-one contradicted my argument I don’t think they were listening either. (linked article available soon).

May 2014  Under new procedures FOE local groups were able to suggest a number of topics (4 would be shortlisted) to be discussed at this year’sBasecamp’ annual conference in June. Calderdale FOE was very busy and suggested at least four, two of which (in bold) were eventually selected: about failures in the FOE governance process and strategy implementation; the invisibility of our international climate change campaign; the absence of an international biodiversity campaign; and of a communications ‘narrative’explaining our ‘Planetary Emergency’ analysis to the public and what we were doing about it. We also submitted a formal motion on the first of these, the only one coming forward this year, and essentially a repeat of the one from 2012 – because no action had been taken in response in the two years since (see July-September 2012 below).

May 2014 I wrote to the Committee on Climate Change giving the FOE analysis on whether a new SR runway could be accomodated within the emissions ceiling they had set in their 2009 report, prior to them commenting on the Davies proposals in their 2014 Progress report. This was my last substantive work for FOE on aviation.

April  2014 Members of the public are able to ask questions at the Calderdale Council Cabinet meeting so I put one about the lack of leadership that was undermining the implementation of our climate change strategy (that, and the failure of critical central government measures such as the Green Deal to improve housing energy efficiency, just as part of their indifference to any local action on carbon reduction). The message was taken and a few months later the Head of Environment has taken more of the reins. I also went to a public meeting organised by the Energy Bill Revolution to ask the shadow Climate Change minister Jonathan Reynolds MP whether Labour intended to make the Green Deal really work. He managed to duck that.

March 2014  In Calderdale one of the organisations I direct (Calder Future) began a programme of ‘river stewardship’ – clearing vegetation along the river bank, using volunteers – which we’re organising at the request of the Environment Agency and Calderdale Council and in response to the 2012 floods. You can read about what happened in the summer’s programme here.

February 2014  I attended the annual conference of the Environmental Funders Network where the highights were listening (again) to George Monbiot talking about the power of trophic cascades, and the discussion led by Keith Allott of European Climate Foundation on the need for a concerted approach across funders and campaigning organisations to the Road to the Paris COP in December 2015. I gave this my strong support.

January 2014  We began work in Calderdale on developing a local partnership to improve bee-firiendly habitats. (We first suggested this in 2012 but sometimes things take time). It would based on Buglife’s b-lines concept. [See July for the launch.]

December 2013  I paid a visit to the Oxford Migration Observatory as one of the first steps in structuring the research for my UK Population briefing, to follow-up to the global one.

December 2013  The application I’d been sponsoring for a £15,000 grant for the UK anti-opencast campaigning network made it onto to the shortlist to be funded by Network for Social Change in February 2014, so they will definitely get something! [addendum: in the end it nearly £14,000]  I’m really pleased because as everyone rushes to support the anti-fracking campaign – not necessary in my view because it’s never going to happen; there’s no business case – they continue to neglect the real uk ‘leave it in the ground’ campaign – which is coal –  and the disempowered community campaigns struggling on with no help from the major NGOs and against the odds. The network is coordinated by Steve Leary, who really knows his stuff but it’s so under-resourced it doesn’t even have a website.

In the same application round I also assessed the bids to Network from Platform (opposing a proposed gas pipeline to the EU from Azerbaijan), Energy Bill Revolution (campaing for a massive programme of UK domestic energy efficiency) and CTC (increased cycle safety). They all got through and were funded.

November 2013  I began the paper.li edition of my Environmental Aggregator Twitter feed, which recompiles the tweets into a newspaper format with pictures, fuller text and is searchable by day. You can access the headlines at http://bit.ly/19Dn8rg and the ‘all articles’ listing at http://bit.ly/P7ykIB ; published Monday-Friday at 9am. Addendum 2014: I thought this ‘product’ would prove interesting and useful to a wide range of audiences but after a full year’s publication it turns out no-one can be bothered. The viewing figures don’t even register. Still, I like it  so I’m carrying on!

October 2013 Calderdale Council began consultation on lowering the default residential area speed limit from 30mph to 20mph, which Calderdale FOE had begun promoting in the spring with 20’s Plenty for us. It doesn’t normally happen that quick.

October 2013 Here’s FOE’s principal submission to the Airports Commission which I wrote in May, on Aviation and Climate Change Aviation and Climate Change. I spoke at the Commissions public evidence session in Manchester on 9th July and talked through the FOE position with the Commission secretariat at a meeting in August. In October 2013 Sir Howard Davies gave a speech setting out their ’emerging thinking’ and I wrote this FOE response to continue the dialogue

October 2013 About 5 year’s work by Calderdale FOE came to fruition when the first annual implementation conference for the district’s climate change strategy Calderdale’s Energy Future was held on 14th October. I’ve worked with Council officers first on the strategic approach, and then how to translate that into a successful implementation framework and programmes. Undertaking local carbon reduction is uncharted territory, technically difficult and at present pursued without any assistance or interest from central government. Fortunately the CEF strategy is underpinned by the pioneering study A Mini-Stern Review for Calderdale: the economics of low carbon development undertaken by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures at Leeds University. I also acted as ‘creative director’ for the new CEF website.

July 2013 At the FOE ‘Basecamp’ (which has replaced the September annual conference) I discussed with Andy Atkins, Board Chair Roger Clarke and Board Legal member Simon Steeden all the outstanding issues from the governance and strategy motions submitted by Calderdale FOE and approved by the 2012 Conference (see the entries for July, August & September 2012, and March 2013 below). Because the Board response had been inadequate the only resort available had been to submit a further motion for the 2013 process, but this had not been prioritised for debate. The view seemed to be that that was the end of the matter, despite all the unresolved issues and unanswered questions, but in fact it only emphasises that FOE’s formal governance and accountability mechanisms are defective if not broken.

June 2013 Following  a last minute uncertainty as to whether Friends of the Earth actually intended to issue as a formal FOE briefing the global population research they had commissioned from me – in the end it featured as a one sentence and footnote reference in a separately written briefing on ‘Global population, consumption and rights‘; by September 2013, when addressing the question ‘Why doesn’t Friends of the Earth campaign on population?‘ it had disappeared entirely. Obviously I was not best pleased – I decided to publish it myself via the Foundation: Global Population to 2050 and beyond: Sources, Analysis, Discussion Global Population to 2050 and beyond: Sources, Analysis, Discussion. In the event this turned out to be the best outcome, providing ARF Analysis with its first research publication and the independence to now prepare its counterpart on UK Population (for issue in 2014) which I had always known would be more controversial and which FOE would in the end never release.

April 2013 I submitted a critique of an important component of FOE’s Planetary Emergency organisational strategy: the ‘routemap’ intended to set out the milestones towards a more sustainable  2050. Published unbeknowns to me in November 2012 Mapping a route from a planet in peril to a world of well-beingving is in my view full of flaws – therefore ‘a routemap to nowhere’ – and consequently (further) undermines the delivery of the strategy itself.

March 2013 Having contacted the Board in advance, and had a positive meeting in December with FOE Exec Director Andy Atkins, about the motions I was very disappointed with the ineffectual response provided by the Board in February. To four substantive motions effectively: ‘no action’ or ‘wait and see’ (the exception being the promise of a new Communications Strategy, apparently to be finalised in the summer). I’ve written to all Board members saying that their response is ‘not accepted’; so in formal governance terms, what happens next? I’ve also pointed out to them that there are significant deficiencies in the Articles of Association relating to governance of both FOE companies.

October 2012 As FOE’s Aviation Campaigner I’ve written submissions to the Transport Select Committee (inquiry  into airport capacity) and DfT (submission about the draft Aviation Policy Framework and the inclusion of aviation emissions within the UK carbon budget) , and now in the context of the newly established Airports Commission which has been created to devise a new UK airports and aviation policy that the DfT were never going to capable of doing as they cracked under industry pressure. On 3rd December 2012 I represented FOE at an evidence session for the Transport Committee inquiry alongside campaigner colleagues; predictably the Committee’s pro-expanion predelictions were on display and they and showed no interest in the climate change issue (as can be seen in their eventual report).

September 2012 All the Calderdale Motions were passed by Conference by large majorities and no-one speaking against; but it was noticeable that none of the Board members or staff directors wanted to discuss the issues with me.  They obviously found it too difficult.

August 2012 Calderdale Motions 5 and 9 (which is a composite of 5-8) have been prioritised in the Local Groups ballot for debate on Sunday 16th September; so effectively the original sequence of 4 motions will all be considered. You can download them with the explanatory Background Information here.

July 2012 Calderdale FOE has submitted four motions on various aspects of organisation performance and accountability to be debated at the Annual Conference in September (the associated text of the 2011 FOE strategy is here); will be organising a meeting there on the same subject; and also another one at which Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research will be presenting his analysis of global CC reduction prospects. A version of that – ‘Climate Change – going beyond dangerous’ – is here .

July 2012 Over the next few months I’ll be coordinating the preparation of the FOE response to the government’s long awaited (and when it eventually appeared highly disappointing) draft Aviation Policy Framework. The removal from the draft of substantive content relating to the two core issues of aviation emissions and capacity expansion – which need to be interacted with each other – is indicative of the industry’s determination to regain its ‘policy capture’ of the DfT which so marred the 2003 White Paper process. This work builds on the submissions on the Framework’s scoping analysis, and on APD, which I wrote in 2011.

June 2012 I largely completed my draft of a briefing on Global Population which I’ve researched and written for FOE. This topic has always been regarded as ‘controversial’ by organisations like FOE – so not susceptible to discussion – and the intention has been to overcome this obstacle by laying out the various elements of the demographic analysis in a dispassionate manner. In the end another year passed before publication.

May 2012 I attended a workshop (part sponsored by ARF) on the development of FOE’s much needed underpinning economic analysis, where NEF presented some of the work in their Great Transition project.

March 2012 After a campaign over many years Calderdale FOE finally secured a local climate change strategy for the district, with a 40% reducti9on target by 2020. Subsequently we”ve moved on to promoting the mechanisms required for its speedy implementation.

Winter 2011/12  I did some research to provide FOE with the basis of a housing market analysis, and subsequently participated on FOE’s behalf in the TCPA’s New Market Towns initiative.

October 2011 I participated in the FOE national campaign around the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework and focussed our local campaign in Calderdale on the ‘brownfield before greenfield’ issue. At the same time we’ve been making detailed submissions into the developing Calderdale Local Plan, due to be published for consultation in October 2012.

May 2011 At the end of May, and as my last act as a Friends of the Earth Board member and Chair of its Campaigns Committee, I completed negotiating with FOE Executive Director Andy Atkins and Policy & Campaigns Director Craig Bennett what should be the campaigns content of the new organisational strategy Sustainable Development in a time of Planetary Emergency  The big question remains: will Friends of the Earth be able to actually implement it?

May 2011 I researched and wrote the FOE submission on HS2 to the Transport Select Committee, but was less than happy with the subsequent deployment of my carefully balanced positioning!

Updated November 2013