Tag Archives: climate change

The World Health Organisation’s Manifesto for a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the 73rd World Health Assembly.  May 18th 2020:

“The pandemic is a reminder of the intimate and delicate relationship between people and planet. Any efforts to make our world safer are doomed to fail unless they address the critical interface between people and pathogens, and the existential threat of climate change, that is making our Earth less habitable.”

A summary

COVID-19 is the greatest global shock in decades.  Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and the world’s economy likely faces the worst recession since the 1930s.  The resulting loss of employment and income will cause further damage to livelihoods, health, and sustainable development. 

We cannot go back to the way we did things before.

Increasing numbers of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, SARS and Ebola, have made the jump from wildlife to humans – and all available evidence suggests that COVID-19 has followed the same route.

As infections spread, a lack of universal health coverage has left billions of people, including many in rich countries, without reliable and affordable access to medical treatment.

Massive inequalities have meant that deaths and loss of livelihoods have been strongly driven by socioeconomic status, often compounded by gender and minority status.

Attempting to save money by neglecting environmental protection, emergency preparedness, health systems, and social safety nets, has proven to be a false economy – and the bill is now being paid many times over.

The world cannot afford repeated disasters on the scale of COVID-19, whether they are triggered by the next pandemic, or from mounting environmental damage and climate change. Going back to “normal” is not good enough.

In adversity, the crisis has also brought out some of the best in our societies, from solidarity among neighbours, to the bravery of health and other key workers in facing down risks to their own health to serve their communities, to countries working together to provide emergency relief or to research treatments and vaccines.

The “lockdown” measures that have been necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 have slowed economic activity, and disrupted lives – but have also given some glimpses of a possible brighter future. In some places, pollution levels have dropped to such an extent that people have breathed clean air, or have seen blue skies and clear waters, or have been able to walk and cycle safely with their children – for the first times in their lives.

National governments are now committing trillions of dollars, in a matter of weeks, to maintain and eventually resuscitate economy activity.  These investments are essential to safeguard people’s livelihoods, and therefore their health.

But the allocation of these investments, and the policy decisions that will guide both short- and long-term recovery, have the potential to shape the way we live our lives, work and consume for years to come.

Nowhere is this more important than in their effects on environmental degradation and pollution, and particularly on the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming and the climate crisis.

Decisions made in the coming months can either “lock in” economic development patterns that will do permanent and escalating damage to the ecological systems that sustain all human health and livelihoods, or, if wisely taken, can promote a healthier, fairer, and greener world. 

To read the World Health Organisation’s prescriptions for a healthy, green recovery go to its newsroom.

There is widespread public support for policies that do not seek only to maximize GDP, but to protect and enhance wellbeing, and for governments to combat climate change and environmental destruction with the same seriousness with which they are now fighting COVID-19. It is also shown by the millions of young people who have mobilized to demand action not only on climate and biodiversity – but also for the right to breathe clean air, and for their future on a liveable planet.

 

 

 

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A different kind of life is possible: Bruce Kent

After a US commander revealed the information to the Senate, the Ministry of Defence confirmed on Sunday that it has committed the taxpayer to fund a multi billion pound replacement of Trident, with nuclear warheads based on US technology.

Colin Archer and Dave Webb point out that, given the importance of finding large sums of public money to fund the now-urgent green transition, this is the right time to highlight the huge sums devoted to the military sector and top of the list is the UK’s commitment to nuclear weapons. The proposed slogan for Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is ‘Military spending costs the Earth’. 

Amongst the articles listed on the GDAMS international campaign website was one by Bruce Kent originally published in Peace News. The article opens with his tribute to the readable, international and interesting Peace News, before signing off, at least for a time. He thanked all on the team, especially the very modest editor and continued:

Hospital is always an eye-opening experience. Any London hospital is an international community on its own: a Portuguese doctor, nurses from the Philippines and all parts of Africa – all helpful and concerned even if very over-worked. My biggest shock came in a chat with a young trainee nurse. I asked if she did an eight-hour day. She just smiled. Her working day runs for 12½ hours. She lives at least an hour away in South London. So she has about eight or nine hours at home to sleep, cook, eat and have any kind of social life. Not fair. It’s not just money that the NHS needs but good working conditions as well.

In the run-up to the general election, both main parties promised many millions to be spent on increased NHS funding. Why did they not say this and do it long ago?

We can apparently afford £200 billion for a new set of very non-independent nuclear missile submarines. Missiles are on rotating loan from the US, which no one seems to notice. Not a word so far, in all the electioneering that I have heard, about nuclear bombs except for a contemptuous mention that Jeremy Corbyn would not ‘press the button’ – and so kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians far away.

Our concern about military expenditure is clearly a global one. Only recently a report came through my letterbox from the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) started by the International Peace Bureau in 2011.

(Right: Bruce and other campaigners attended a GDAMS protest and letter hand-in at the MoD in April 2019)

GCOMS concentrates every April-May on actions all around the world, highlighting the connection between military expenditure and the lack of money for real human needs. Last time, there were 110 events in 27 countries – with UK events in York, Bradford and London. Have a look at the work in progress on www.demilitarize.org.

The need is obvious. The money spent on war and the preparations for war is a scandal and ought to be commonly recognised as such. The global military budget is now not far off two trillion dollars a year. We now have the climate change campaigners with us.

To read the small print click here and use the magnifying glass symbol to read the data from SIPRI’s Arms Transfers Database (March 2019)

Military production involves the release of CO2 in massive quantities. The two great current perils, war and climate change, are dangerous twins.

Many of the events are fun to organise, such as the ‘Move the money’ selfie project, or stalls offering passers-by the opportunity to indicate their alternative budget choices (buttons in jam jars or buckets work well, labelled ‘education’, ‘green energy’, etc). We need a group campaigning on military expenditure to be active in every part of this country, but that means hard and imaginative work and energy. We need an enthusiastic volunteer to coordinate and encourage more GCOMS events next spring. How about you?

From “The Chance for Peace,” a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

The best quote that I can end with comes, rather surprisingly, from a US general. Dwight Eisenhower was never a hawk. He can’t have been popular in his world for saying that the nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945 were never necessary. He had this to say in 1953 and you may well recognise the quotation: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This is not a way of life. Under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron….’

Bruce ends: “A different kind of life is possible. Let’s together make it happen”.

 

 

 

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Build local food systems and local business alliances: eliminate unnecessary trade

In 2001 Caroline Lucas pointed out that over the past 30 years, the rise in the trade in meat, live animals and other agricultural products in and out of Europe which has been dramatic, often involves, simultaneously, a reverse trade in precisely the same products. Examples of this absurd “food swap” include the facts that Britain:

  • imported 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands in the same year that it exported 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands and
  • imported 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb, while at the same time exporting 195,000 tonnes and 102,000 tonnes of pork and lamb respectively.

This truly absurd position mostly rewards a few already very wealthy farmers, the supermarkets and multinational food companies, at the expense of small and medium scale farmers in developed countries, and – via the dumping of CAP surpluses – those in developing countries as well. 

Local Futures is focussing on the absurd way trade works in the global economy

“Countries ship identical amounts of identical products back and forth every year – from potatoes and beef to waffles and bottled water. More than half of the seafood caught in Alaska is sent to China for processing, then shipped right back to be sold in American supermarkets (Alaska Journal of Commerce, 2018). And all this unnecessary shipping generates enormous amounts of carbon emissions”.

They believe that it’s time to raise our voices, spread the word about ‘insane trade’, and change the rules of global trade to support local livelihoods instead of corporate profits

It wastes resources, worsens climate change, and undermines the livelihoods of millions of small-scale producers worldwide. Yet it is an almost unavoidable consequence of de-regulatory ‘free trade’ agreements and the billions of dollars in supports and subsidies – many of them hidden – that prop up the global economy.

  • Mexican calves fed American corn are exported to the United States, where they are butchered for meat, which is then sold in Mexico – The New York Times, 2017.
  • African-grown coffee is often packed in India,
  • Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland
  • and Bolivian nuts are packed in Italy – UK Times, 2007.

The way forward: 

– Prevent Climate Chaos: eliminating unnecessary trade would immediately reduce pollution – including CO2 emissions – and slow resource depletion.

– Say YES to Local Economies: localizing helps small farms and local businesses to thrive,
strengthens community, and supports personal well-being. 

– Buy local food and other local products.

– Help to build local food systems and local business alliances. For links to other organizations working on these issues, see the Local Economies and Rethinking Economies and Food & Agriculture categories on the Links page.

To raise awareness about this issue, we’ve produced a short film and a fully-referenced factsheet (cover above, right) that helps to explain how and why ‘insane trade’ happens.

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Anyone interested in volunteering time to translate the film or factsheet into another language, please contact info@localfutures.org. Readers could also help by getting the film and factsheet seen by as many people as possible, following the Facebook and Twitter pages and sharing posts about insane trade which will be going up throughout the week.

 

 

 

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FT: Shinzo Abe has called on all countries to join Japan and act now to save our planet

The admirable Japan Times reports that for the past three months, this phrase: どうなっちゃってるの今年の夏 (Dō natchatteru no kotoshi no natsu, (What’s up with this summer?) was a standard greeting among friends and colleagues in Japan. The summer of 2018 broke meteorological records, devastating entire regions along the coast of western Japan. There were unprecedented levels of rain, heat, landslides and hurricanes.

The country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has called on all countries to join Japan and act now to save our planet. In the Financial Times he writes:

This summer western Japan was battered by the strongest typhoon to hit the country in 25 years. Unprecedented torrential rain and landslides ravaged the residents of western Japan this summer, killing more than 200 people, and ruining hundreds of thousands of livelihoods.

Roads are cut off by a mudslide at a section of the Kyushu Expressway in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture (all pictures and emphases added)

Meanwhile, severe scorching heatwaves struck the country and resulted in approximately 160 deaths. Fierce heat also gripped North America and Europe, and hurricanes and typhoons hit the US and Philippines.

Global warming increases carbon dioxide and acidifies the ocean, damaging its ability to self-purify. Even worse, proliferating marine plastic pollution threatens marine ecosystems and eventually, our own health.

The international community has taken steps to address climate change with forward-looking and long-term goals. An agreement was adopted in Paris in 2015 with the participation of all major economies including China and India. The following year, I went a step further at the Ise-Shima summit in Japan, as G7 members committed to devising long-term strategies.

Climate change can be life-threatening to all generations, be it the elderly or the young and in developed and developing countries alike.

Rescuers help local residents to evacuate in the town of Saka, Hiroshima Prefecture

The problem is exacerbating more quickly than we expected. We must take more robust actions. And swiftly.

The way forward is clear. We must save both the green of the earth and the blue of its oceans.

Our goals must be firmly based on the latest scientific knowledge. As we learn more, through the work and expertise of the scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the entire world should take appropriate measures accordingly.

All countries must engage with the same level of urgency. Some are still increasing greenhouse gas emissions and emit more than 2bn tonnes annually according to the International Energy Agency. All countries must put promises into practice. Developed countries should provide support to developing countries for fulfilling their obligations.

As part of their long-term strategies, governments should promote innovation to drive new growth and spread the net widely for new ideas.

No alternatives should be excluded. Japan has goals such as creating ultra-high-capacity storage batteries, further decentralising and digitising automated energy control systems, and evolving into a hydrogen-based energy society. Countries should also rank the competitiveness of a company based on its development and dissemination of future-oriented technologies. This would encourage companies to invest for the long term.

Momentum is already growing in the private sector. The number of companies engaging in environment, social and governance-focused investment or issuing green bonds is rising dramatically. Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund is one of them. Investors now require businesses to analyse environmental challenges and disclose potential risks as well as opportunities.

We must also focus on reducing emissions from infrastructure.

In Japan, our Shinkansen high-speed rail network prevents congestion and boosts the overall fuel efficiency of transportation nationwide. We also have set our carmakers a goal to cut the greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle they produce by 80 per cent by 2050 so as to realise “Well-to-Wheel Zero Emission”.

We must simultaneously boost economic growth and reduce the use of fossil fuels. That means cutting the costs and improving the reliability of renewable energy. In Japan, the volume of electricity generated from renewable sources has increased 2.5-fold in the past four years. Japan will host the world’s first ministerial meeting focused on hydrogen energy. We cannot overlook safe nuclear power generation and controls on emissions of methane and hydrofluorocarbons.

Manufacturers with large-scale greenhouse gas emissions should be encouraged to update their production methods. Countries should stop excessive steel production, which causes massive greenhouse gas emissions and creates imbalances in markets.

Finally we should tap data processing and communications advances to speed up the innovation cycle. Investing in energy transition and the sharing economy will ensure economic growth and dramatically reduce greenhouse gases.

Addressing climate change, marine pollution, and disaster risk reduction are critical pillars for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Japan will preside over the G20 next year and focus on accelerating the virtuous cycle of environmental protection and economic growth.

When the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development is held in Japan, we will extend support to African countries. We invite the rest of the world to join us in tackling this tough challenge.

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Endnote:

Today the Japan Times brings news of a data processing and communications innovation from ‘informed sources’. The Japanese government plans to launch in 2019 a system in which information on earthquakes, heavy rain and other disasters collected by government agencies and local authorities is displayed on electronic maps. Work to connect central government agencies’ computers to the electronic map system is likely to be completed by next March, setting the stage for full operations.

A photo taken on April 25, 2016, shows devastation from earthquakes in Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture. Electronic maps to show information on disasters were used on a trial basis for the Kumamoto quake.

The system is intended to facilitate the sharing of disaster information and help enable adequate disaster responses by relevant bodies. During the heavy rain in the northern part of the Kyushu in summer 2017, it was used for search and rescue operations by police and firefighters. Soon after the giant earthquake in Hokkaido earlier this month, it was utilized for the supply of relief goods by the central government.