The South West Regional Assembly has been working with the Environment Agency, Government Office South West and the South West Regional Development Agency on the development of the South West Climate Change Action Plan.
Photo: Ruscombe fields
The Plan’s principal purpose is to prioritise the actions we must take now, coordinate regional activity to achieve these and identify actions where initial enabling work has to be achieved to unlock future activity. See the draft Plan here.
Unfortunately I was not aware of this consultation until last week and therefore my comments are much briefer than I would have hoped. There is indeed much to welcome in this report like the recognition that groups like Transition Towns can play and the priorities listed in the report. However I don't think it is anything like up to the task of delivery. Here below are three key points I made:
1. Economic Forecasts and Peak Oil: Like the RSS this report is flawed by being based upon a model and prediction of economic growth which has not assessed significant likely changes in factors during the next 20 years. Its perspective needs to be rethought, and additional plans developed that take account of different economic forecasts. One example is the failure to take on board the implications of oil price rises and forecast rises resulting from Peak Oil (ie the point at which oil production rises to its highest point before declining). Expert opinion agrees that it is fast approaching or has been reached yet there is no mention in the report of Peak Oil. The significance of Peak Oil can hardly be over-stated. Oil is the fundamental underpinning of our civilization. When the oil runs out the economic and social dislocation will be unprecedented. We are very concerned that long-term global policymaking on this aspect, perhaps the biggest decision this century, is virtually non-existent. The Swedish government is an exception in that it has already launched a programme to end Sweden's oil dependence by 2020.
2. Aviation emissions: no report looking at CO2 emissions can be taken seriously unless it explicitly calls for an end to Airport expansions. It is extraordinary that this has not been addressed. For the UK, international aviation is responsible for more than 13% of the total climate change impact. To not address this contribution makes no sense. Three years ago the Tyndall Centre calculated that if Britain were to meet its target of cutting greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2050, and emissions from aviation were not reduced, all other emissions – from households, businesses, energy generation and cars – would have to go to zero. Flying would take up everything that was available. There should be a target for the reduction in the need to travel, and separate targets for the modal split of each mode. For example work noted in raising awareness of climate change with business must include reducing the need to travel especially by air, with an encouragement to use video conferencing and other technologies to replace face-to-face meetings. Use of trains for domestic travel should be facilitated. See also the recent damning report from the Sustainable Development Commission, published with the Institute for Public Policy Research that highlights airports drain on local economies:
3. Lack of Urgency: while we welcome the ambitions of the SW to 'punch above it's weight' there are still very clear indications that the necessary urgency has not been grasped. While the Government has spoken lots about the need to take action there is very little evidence of actions necessary being taken (eg against the advice of their own advisors they are planning more nuclear power and airport expansions). Similarly this report lacks the urgency needed. We would welcome an Emergency Plan of immediate actions needed. SWRA needs to take a key role in showing not only the target for emissions (at least 80% by 2050 is required) but also in developing and explaining the path to achieve that target.