Climate Change Contraction & Convergence Social Change

How Can We Be A Radical Low Carbon Borough ?

[ An address by Jo Abbess to Barkingside 21 Group, Fullwell Cross Library, 28th October 2006, 1 – 3 pm.

[ Meeting Speakers :-
Chris Church, Community Environment Associates and London 21
Jo Abbess, Poole Agenda 21
Lee Scott MP, Ilford North
Harry Cohen MP, Leyton & Wanstead
Jean Lambert MEP, Greater London
Cllr Hugh Cleaver, Redbridge Council ]

[ Put a large wastepaper basket on the table ]

Hello. My name is Jo Abbess and I’m a member of Poole Agenda 21. We have launched a national campaign called “Take Global Warming Seriously” and we are members of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition.

As campaigners for the Local Agenda 21, we frequently come up against the deeply
entrenched conflict between DEVELOPMENT and CONSERVATION.

Until recently, our proposals were considered “ahead of our time”, but it seems that time has finally caught up with the Sustainability Agenda. If the Earth cannot absorb the impacts of DEVELOPMENT, then we must take the CONSERSATION route.

We have a special geography in Poole that makes Climate Change a very pressing
consideration, with a good part of the area lying close to sea level.

Global Warming is not just about flood defences and managed retreat from the sea.

It’s not simply a question of what will happen TO us, but how OUR behaviour is MAKING it happen.

Tabled new Development proposals for Poole Town North yet again concentrate on making Retail Provision and improving the attendant Car Parking. How short-sighted !

It should be the Principle that the Polluter Pays, not PLAYS !

This is where the great Principle of Localisation, or Subsidiarity, starts to become vital. This push to get decision-making at the lowest appropriate level, should enable more effective democracy.

We, the community, can have an increasing influence on Climate Change policies in our local area. We can block unsustainable proposals.

It is important to engage politically, as well as acting personally.

Even though Climate Change begins at home, it doesn’t end there. Households cannot beat local Energy and Resource Waste just by their individual actions. Money is spent for us in the infrastructure of our public life : schools, hospitals, offices, roadways, lighting.

Yes, at home we can Recycle, curb our Retail Addiction, switch off our lights, unplug our standbys, cycle to work. But the only way to tackle Energy Waste on the social scale is by getting involved with the organisations that exist to manage public life.

It’s of little use taking a LOCAL energy waste issue to national Government – it has to be solved locally. And to make our approach effective, we have to combine LOCAL environment issues, such as high levels of car traffic, with GLOBAL concerns about Climate Change.

[ Hold up large waste paper bin : more earnest tone ]

The effects of Climate Change will make the poor poorer and the rich resourceless.

We know now for certain that material consumption is driving ecological destruction. The prognosis is worse with every scientific report.

The Stern Report expected to be published on Monday will confirm the threat that Climate Change holds for our Economies as well as our Ecologies.

According to the scientists, to prevent a HIGH RISK of dangerous Climate Change, we need to keep Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere SAFE and STABLE, near to where they are now.

As the journalist Mark Lynas says : “This […] is non-negotiable: you can’t bargain with the atmosphere.”

We have to prepare our local community for Climate Change, and prepare for either CARBON RATIONING or CARBON TAXATION. These are the tools most likely to be effective in halting Climate Change.

Carbon Pricing will mean that the age of cheap, freely available Energy is over.

Carbon Taxation will feel like it’s all negative – and will mostly affect the poor as it is not an income tax. Carbon Trading Markets, just like VAT, will make everything more expensive for end consumers, without guaranteeing CONTROL of Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Richmond-upon-Thames has made the news this week by proposing a Gas Guzzler’s tax for SUV car parking. Some drivers there argue that they will not mend their fuellish ways. How high do Carbon Taxes or Carbon Prices need to be to change wasteful behaviour ?

[ Recap ]

The Climate Crisis is really an Energy Crisis – over 90% of our Energy is from the burning of Fossil Fuels – and this is not being changed very rapidly.

[ Hold up small waste paper bin ]

Therefore, the only way to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions is to reduce the amount of Energy we use.

There is no way around this. The speed at which Low Carbon Energies can be delivered is too slow.

[ Hold up C&C Chart ]

We have to follow the framework for Contraction and Convergence within the scientific consensus. And prepare for the ecological degradation from the current level of Global Warming, which means stress on both fresh water supplies and food.

[ Shift Weight ]

If you go to different towns there are often different bye-laws and policies, depending on local issues and the special nature of the area.

There are some inspirational Local Authorities such as Woking, who have dropped their Energy usage incredibly. Over 120 Councils nationwide have signed the Nottingham Declaration.

In London, in Redbridge, we also need to take a stand to make it clear – that we do not accept Carbon Pollution.

We ARE the Local Authority and we have the right to enforce our own local Climate Change policies. The first and foremost strategy is to require the Reduction in Energy Demand.

What are we going to propose ?

I’m going to touch briefly on some areas where I suggest community campaigns and Local Authority can work together. The Council needs public backing to do what needs to be done, and that’s where we, the Campaigning Citizens, are vital.

If you find any of these ideas offensive, outlandish or unworkable, please suggest better ones. I don’t claim to know everything, and I don’t always get things right. It’s up to all of us to work on Energy Waste – one person cannot have all the answers.

There will be a chance for you to make your own proposals, by written notes, or by using the flipcharts in the room during the break. I hope we can compile these as a record of your good ideas.


I propose a VOLUNTARY CARBON RATIONING scheme for everyone on the electoral roll.

We can ask people to provide readings of their electricity and gas meters, together with their car mile-ometer readings, the number of people at home, and the number of air journeys they have taken, each 3 months.

After an intial Base Measurement period, we could offer challenges and advice to people to reduce their Fuel and Energy use, and offer Council Tax Discounts for good performers.


I propose that we seek to enforce Eco-Home Building Standards which are still only voluntary.

We could make it a local requirement that all new property and office development is Energy SUFFICIENT. The buildings would need to have high levels of insulation and air tightness, and make use of efficient Renewable Energy technologies.

As for Home Heating – and Fuel Poverty – we need to turn the paradigm on its head. Ask not how we are going to heat a home, but how we are going to insulate it.

We could clad and lag our existing public buildings – set the example and show the reduced energy budget. We need a Super-Hero Cladding Team.


I think we should tell it like it is and classify SUV’s as buses ! The owner would need to have the right level of training and a licence. The driver could benefit from being allowed to drive in the bus lanes – but only if they are carrying passengers !

We could charge a Council Tax Supplement for multi-car households. We could encourage people to spill the beans on their neighbours’ car ownership, just as they do on hosepipe users.

We can close half of the public car parks, and provide a phone line so people can book their parking spaces in advance.

We can stop the school run by setting No-Parking zones for half a mile around all schools at the appropriate times.

In the Borough, we can require that all our roving workers and Contractors use Biofuel or Electric cars – remember – the district nurse used to make do with a bicycle.

When it comes to AIR TRAVEL :-

By 2020, a single flight could eat up one person’s Annual Carbon Ration.

We can set up community No-Fly Clubs for those who feel strongly they should not use air transport any more.

We can object to air travel and car advertising on the walls and in newspapers, as an aid to help us becoming a true Low Carbon Borough. Just as Cigarette advertising is now banned, so we can ban advertising of Fossil Fuel abuse.


Business As Usual is no longer an option.

We can refuse supermarkets and chain stores to operate in our Borough – unless they demonstrate control of their energy use, a reduction in their use of packaging, and have a local sourcing policy.

With Climate Change, brand new paradigms for enterprise can emerge : focussing on such areas as energy metering technology, car-free business modelling and sustainable construction.

Just like the drive for Fair Trade town status – we could declare as a Low Carbon Borough. We could concentrate on Low Flows – focus on adding prosperity without overusing material resources.

Energy security is being debated at a national level. We also need to look at FOOD SECURITY and WATER SECURITY.

London is becoming a food desert.

We can think ahead and set up Home Produce Clubs and food cooperatives for when the energy-intensive supermarkets fall.

Every community can have a Water Purification Facility for emergency provision of drinking water that does not require electricity to function.

Everyone could be asked to have a water meter at home and in the office, and we can make charges on property developers who do not design water-efficient buildings.


We can offer courses in energy management, insulation, and waste reduction.

To avoid the rogue traders in Renewable Energy we can start a Borough-approved Green Energy Team – a social business of trusted locals.

We can have a Sustainability Centre, open all hours to help people learn and adapt.

We could start working now on developing the existing network of Climate Action Groups – voluntary community groups that work with the Local Authority to promote Climate Change solutions, and campaign against Energy Waste.

In the frame of PUBLIC ENERGY :-

We could turn over disused land to Wind Parks and Solar Stations, instead of selling ground to Property Developers. I am told Fairlop Plain is ideal for a local Wind Farm. I have the figures to show that Community Wind Power schemes can be very profitable, and most people love the sight of elegant turbines.

Municipal Electricity Generation could usefully be made a priority. District Combined Heat and Power is so much more efficient than individual Gas Central Heating systems.

We can implement a Daylight Curfew Fine for those who leave lights on during the day. We can issue Council Fines for those who use outdoor heating systems.

We can oblige each local business to appoint an Energy Nanny to put Carbon in the Naughty Corner every evening and weekend, and switch things off when everyone goes home.

We can demand Public Carbon Disclosure from local businesses and Council offices.

And finally…

Remember, Remember the 4th November.

Next week is Climate Day in London and worldwide, and there will be many events including the Climate March and the I Count Rally in Trafalgar Square.

I hope you are enjoying Energy Savings Week, and have committed to reducing your energy use by 20%.

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