Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday 13th March 09, Yorks+Humber Climate Change Plan

Up early to go to the Climate Change Plan and Regional Adaptation Study launch event at the Royal York Hotel next to the station. I took my bike trailer off as one part of it had broken, I'll try to find time to take it in to repairs sometime.

The conference was organised by the Yorkshire and Humber Assembly about the 2009-2014 Climate Change Plan for Yorkshire and Humber, see, and the Y + H Regional Adaptation Study, see After a coffee at 9.30, and an introduction by the chair of the Y+HA Sustainable Development Board, the Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spoke in his usual quite animated and enthusiastic way... he really does understand the enormity of the situation and the difficulty we're going to have reducing emissions (mitigation) and dealing with what climate change throws at us (adaptation). There was a short Q+A afterwards, and I managed to be one of the two people to ask a question. The question I originally intended to ask was partly answered when he answered the first person (it was about whether he saw the economic recession as a good thing as it caused reduced resource use and therefore carbon emissions, and whether he could see any opportunities to address the greenhouse gas issues as part of the recession). So when my time came with the microphone, I said I was pleased to see him again, as I'd first met him as a winner of the Oxfam Carbon Footprint Competition, and I asked if the Government had any plans to adopt The Green New Deal? He seemed genuinely pleased to be reminded of the Oxfam/CRAGgers visit a year ago, and praised my 'extraordinary' attempts to live a low carbon lifestyle. He did partly answer the question and came to chat to me afterwards.

My favourite quote from him today was "The future will be inherited by the low carbon and the resource efficient."

After a short break we were introduced to the Climate Change Plan by Jeremy Walker, chair of the Regional Flood Defence Committee, and he explained why this region is especially vulnerable to climate change, and briefly went through the priority areas of strategy and monitoring, our built environment, transport, health services, businesses, land management, and the importance of engaging us, the citizens and decisionmakers.

He handed over to the Nick Cooper from Royal Haskoning, the agency which co-ordinated the Regional Adaptation Study, who took us through some of the projected climatic changes we might expect by 2050. These include average temperatures up 2 Celsius (doesn't sound a lot but it actually is) and extreme temperatures up 3 degrees C. There will be 17% more rain in the winter and 26% less in the summer (read winter floods, summer droughts) and sea level up by 35cm with much higher surge events. The mean wind speed stays much the same but with storm events more likely, expect higher destructive peak winds. The impacts of these variables are flooding, erosion, buildings damaged from wetting/drying stresses plus storms and floods, agriculture and forestry affected by changing seasons, differing yields, new crops possible/necessary and irrigation needed in summer, possibly by trapping winter rainfall in reservoirs. Also pests and diseases with new vectors (for instance 'blue tongue' in cattle, transmitted by a fly which originated in Africa and, due to mild winters, has come through Europe and crossed the Channel to the UK, damaging our livestock industry). Then there's the impact on the emergency services, with floods and moorland fires, and heatwaves like recently happened in France, which killed many people. Our transport will be affected... rail tracks buckling or being washed away, 'roadmelt' and even lorries being blown over, a surprisingly serious problem. And then there's biodiversity... many species will need to move, needing corridors, and many niche species will just die out. The importance of our peatlands was mentioned, as they are a vast store of carbon, and drainage lets that oxidise into yet more CO2, keeping it wet allows them to grow, absorbing carbon.

Then, a quick dash through how we adapt to the inevitable climate change, with planning, monitoring, innovating and taking any opportunities it throws up. Implementation of these was discussed, with the different sectors such as green infrastructure, land management, the private sector and public services all playing their part. How to enable change and engage stakeholders, collecting and publicising evidence and pioneering pilot studies... all enormously complicated and far from easy.

Then a presentation from John Clubb, about how to take forward the delivery of this.... after all, we have no time to waste and don't want to come back in a year to hear more of the same. We need action. For me, one of the most telling graphs of the whole morning was one showing the effects of the current policies of the Y+H Assembly (creating jobs, prosperity, improving infrastructure, etc) with regard to carbon emissions.... the projections are that they will just go up and up. And what's needed is a swift reduction. Which, if that's to be achieved, means a radical rethink in what the Y+HA stands for, in my view.

Finally, a short Q+A session with a panel of people from the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Forward and the agencies already mentioned. The best question was from Dylis Cluer, a Green Councillor from Scarborough Borough Council, who mentioned that at a previous meeting like this, that there was a suggestion that aiming to reduce meat consumption by 1% a year would be one way of helping to reduce overall greenhouse emissions. She asked whether or not that was in the Climate Change Plan. The Chair of the meeting, Cllr Arthur Barker, confessed he was a beef farmer, so he wasn't positive about this, and the another panel member also said it wasn't included. A pity really, as the UN suggested that it would be a very effective way to cut our footprint, and called on Westerners to have 'one day a week without meat'.

I had a quick lunch there, and was disappointed to see lots of bottled water there, and meat too, which meant that the carbon footprint of the event was much higher than it needed to be.

I cycled away bearing loads of interesting documents from UK Climate Projections, the Environment Agency, the Nottingham Declaration, Yorkshire Futures, Natural England, the Yorkshire and Humber Assembly, the Local Government Association, the Friends of the Earth (including response to this Climate Change Plan), Royal Haskoning, Yorkshire and Humber Biodiversity Forum and AEA. A lot of reading!

Called in on the Building Society on the way home and then to the welders on James St, who said if I left my broken trailer with them over the weekend, they'd fix it on Monday. So before they closed, I cycled down carrying the trailer and left it with them.

Tea was more mushroom soup, with a chunk of Gill's quiche and another avocado sandwich. Spent a long time during the evening looking through the documents I got today, looking through websites, and familiarising myself with the subject.

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