Archives for category: Environment

West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 22nd August 5-7 pm

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

This meeting will discuss points 4-10 of the notes circulated by John Nightingale earlier this month – arising from the ‘The Population Issue in Context’ a paper presented at the June meeting.

Those present will prioritise the points they wish to address in the time available.

Some time will be allowed to consider other topics, such as current developments in UK politics, and the relevance of China to the UK’s future (Andrew Lydon to speak on this).

A round table discussion 

All welcome. 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

o

Advertisements

Last year Birmingham Live reported that construction had started on the Icknield Port Loop scheme and the first homes were scheduled to be ready for occupation in Spring 2019.

James Lazarus, Head of Property Development and of the joint venture at the Canal & River Trust, commented that more people will be encouraged to use the city’s canals and tow-paths to commute to and from work and travel to the city centre; he earlier wrote that C&RT is “aware of the potential to run a taxi service and provision is being made in the plans to facilitate this”.(Email to chair of the  Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA), September 25, 2017). Water buses or taxis are a popular feature in 22 of those British cities and large towns blessed with central waterways.

The CBOA had pointed out that canal transport should be used for bringing in construction materials for the Icknield Port development project and the first to see the advantages of canal transport with its environmental credentials were Derbyshire’s Talbot Farm Landscapes, based in Hilton.

The company had started work on a £1.5m contract for landscape construction on a the 1,150-home Icknield development and over 5,500 shrubs and plants had to be delivered to site for the first houses built in the centre of the loop of the original Old Main Line canal at Icknield Port.

The barge’s skipper, Richard Horne, a member of the CBOA, said: “This is not just a first for a landscaping company but also for the commercial barge. Their usual cargo would be coal, aggregates or steel, not perishable products like plants or shrubs.”

An extending boom fork lift truck loaded the materials on to the narrow boat Arundel at Stenson marina wharf which travelled along the Trent and Mersey, joining the Coventry Canal. It then went on to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal before joining the Birmingham Navigation Main Line and making its way to Port Loop arriving on Sunday, ready for the scheduled unloading on Monday morning.

Professor Rex Harris (University of Birmingham), advocates using a zero-emission hydrogen powered water-bus to provide a city-centre service for Urban Splash’s sustainable residential development at Icknield Port, adding:

“One of the most energy efficient means of moving goods is by canal and the threats of global warming and oil depletion are resulting in a resurgence of interest in this means of transportation.” 

More detailed reports may be read here: https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/business/derbyshire-firm-goes-back-using-2786848

LANDSCAPING MATERIALS TO CENTRAL BIRMINGHAM BY WATER: http://www.cboa.org.uk/small-canals.html

The environmental advantages of carrying freight on the country’s inland waterways are set out in the 2019 Gosling report.

 

 

 

 

o

In June 2018, Birmingham City Council cabinet met and worked through an agenda of around 1080 pages covering important items requiring a decision to be made.

Amongst these were two which were very important for Birmingham’s environment. The first was making a decision to move ahead with a ‘clean air zone’, the second was proposing “improvements” to Dudley Road that could cost around £28 million.

BFOE responded to both consultations giving critical support to the first but expressing deep concern with the second.

The plans for Dudley Road are a throwback to 1960s mentality that supported the free movement of car and other vehicle users.

The plans are to widen the road to a full dual carriageway and some junctions to 5 lanes width. There were also some half-hearted ideas for cyclists sharing (busy) pavements with pedestrians as well as some segregated cycle lanes. There were no measures to encourage the use of buses or walking or to improve the generally poor environment along the road. Moreover, the increase in vehicles along Dudley Road would lead to more cars entering the central clean air zone.

David Gaussen, Adam McCusker and Martin Stride demonstrate against the widening scheme. Birmingham Friends of the Earth

BFOE discussed these proposals at our meetings and agreed to start a campaign against the plans. While taking our petition round we realised that local people and businesses did not seem to be very aware of the plans and were not supportive of them.

We also emailed Cllr Waseem Zaffar, the Cabinet member for Transport and the environment.

BFOE were then were invited to a meeting with council officers in March to discuss this. We had naively hoped that the council would use the Birmingham Connected policy as the foundation for the changes but this was rapidly found to be untrue. We found out that the officers were not aware of the five very progressive core aims of Birmingham Connected.

They did offer some limited improvements for cyclists and mentioned that the traffic lights would be set up to allow priority for approaching buses. We were told that the scheme’s financial viability had partly been shaped in order to attract funding from the DfT which is heavily biased in favour of cars and other vehicles.

Feeling disappointed by this meeting, we have written again to Cllr Zaffar, but have received a reply which in essence suggests that there will be a lot of growth in population in this part of Birmingham and that therefore road widening is the only solution.

We have previously been very impressed by Cllr Zaffar speaking at a number of transport meetings and heard him strongly arguing the case for better public transport and measures to persuade a switch from our car dominated environment to one where people were encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transport.

We still believe there is time for the council to think this through again and will continue campaigning against these environmentally damaging plans.

 

 

Written by David Gaussen as a member of Birmingham Friends of the Earth

Source: http://www.birminghamfoe.org.uk/what-we-do/issues-we-work-on/transport/dudley-road-improvements/

 

 

 

o

West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 27th June, 5-7 pm

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

 Woody will give a presentation entitled “The Population Issue in Context”

There is a written script but this will not be circulated in advance.  Various diagrams and charts will be handed out during the talk.

The sub-themes will cover:

  • recognising our concerns as still a minority position;
  • how best to respond to what is coming;
  • the sheer scale of human impact;
  • breaking down the factors;
  • human population as a factor;
  • the position of Population Matters reviewed and some radical challenges to its assumptions
    and strategies.

 

A round table discussion

All welcome.

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

o

 

A Bournville resident draws attention to plans for a pilot project to provide high-speed 5G wireless internet in Brussels, which have been halted due to fears for the health of citizens

The Brussels Times, Belgium’s premier daily online newspaper in English, reports that in July, the government concluded an agreement with three telecom operators to relax the strict radiation standards in Brussels.

However, the region has found it ‘impossible’ to estimate the radiation from the antennas required for the service. 

“I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not,” Environment minister Céline Fremault (right) said, “The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt.”

A pilot project is not feasible with the current radiation standards, and Céline Fremault has said that she does not intend to make an exception.

The Brussels region has particularly strict radiation standards for telecom applications. The standard of 6 volts per metre has already led to problems in the past with providing fast mobile internet via 4G in the capital.

In March, the various governments in Belgium failed to reach agreement on the auctioning of the 5G licences. It will be up to the next government to handle the proposal, said Telecom Minister Philippe De Backer.

Today news of a Gloucestershire-based 38 degrees petition has been received. It urges political leaders to challenge 5G, invoking the Precautionary Principle, and to delay Gloucestershire’s 5G expansion until it can be verified through reputable, independent and peer-reviewed studies that 5G and the total radiation levels caused by RF-EMF (i.e. 5G, together with 2G, 3G, 4G, and WiFi) will not be harmful for the environment or to the citizens of Gloucestershire –especially infants, children and pregnant women.

 

 

 

o

August, who lives in Moseley, sends a first-hand account of Birmingham students’ march against climate change. 

He writes:

More than five hundred Birmingham students bunked off school today to march against climate change.

All Birmingham-based photographs reproduced with permission: copyright August Goff

Youth Strike 4 Climate coordinated young people from various educational establishments across the city who met up in the city centre.

They marched from Victoria Square, down New Street, through Pigeon Park and back to Victoria Square to protest against the inaction of governments to tackle climate change.

The march was organised by Katie Riley, a Birmingham student. She spoke at the rally, saying:

“Educate the youth of tomorrow and the parliament of today because people who don’t know what climate change is about don’t know how dangerous it is. Some people think the topic is dull and boring because the curriculum makes it like that. So, we need to change how people view climate change in order to get the change we deserve.”

Councillors from local political parties attended, as did Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley.

Similar events have taken place in 100 British towns and other cities including London, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Oxford and Cambridge, calling for urgent action to tackle climate change, cut emissions and switch to renewable energy.

A few hours later a message was received from Irish colleagues, sending a podcast with messages from two 11-year-olds, Eve O’Connor and Beth Malone, who are involved in the schools climate strikes movementThousands turned out in Dublin and demonstrations were held in many towns.

 

 

 

0

 

 

o

For an analysis of the current position of the UK’s car industry, the range of pressures and issues it faces and its likely shape after any form of Brexit from a range of perspectives, turn to Keeping the Wheels on the Road, the third in the Bite-Sized Brexit books, edited by Professor David Bailey, the foremost commentator on the UK auto industry, Professor Alex De Ruyter, at the Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University, Neil Fowler and John Mair.

In a major contribution to the Brexit debate, seasoned industry experts, observers, commentators and representatives of the industry’s unions, provide arguments for cautious optimism through to rather shocked pessimism.

From Chapter 5: Just-in-time listening required

Co-authored by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group and David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School.

They have no doubt that the future of automotive does not lie with internal combustion engines – whether diesel or petrol – and stress the vital importance of effective management of the transition

Their counter-intuitive assertion that decimating the market for new diesel engines has brought with it damaging if unintended consequences to the protection of the planet – contributing to the first aggregate rise in the greenhouse gases produced by new cars in more than a decade – sent the writer to search for an explanation online:

Ministerial mixed messages over diesel has undermined the capacity of manufacturers to manage that transition.

The industrial impact of failing to manage the transition threatens to be severe too, with UK engine plants of manufacturers like BMW, Ford and JLR all currently heavily dependent on diesel production.

Messages from ministers have been mixed: recent reductions in plug-in car grants standing in stark contrast to the incentives offered to motorists to buy zero-emission vehicles in counties like Norway. But efforts are now being made by the Government to mandate the expansion of the UK’s vehicle charging infrastructure which should include      on-street charging and monitoring of the performance of public charging points. The authors emphasise:

“A successful transition requires more clarity from the Government in support of both the production and take up of the electric and other alternatively powered vehicles that will be the future of the sector.”

The fact that a number of major manufacturers have yet to confirm plans to build in the UK the next generations of models sends out serious warnings signals that would be foolish in the extreme to ignore.

Ministers could show they are listening:

  • by reducing Brexit uncertainty through ruling out no deal,
  • ending mixed messages over modern diesel
  • and showing much more dynamism in supporting the transition to a connected, autonomous and alternatively powered automotive future,

Burden & Bailey insist that the innovative capacity and diversity that has made the UK automotive sector the success story it has become over the past decade remain in place and David Bailey, in his second chapter, asks for an upgrading in how the UK develops its future manufacturing plans:

“There is a strong case for UK industrial strategy to be afforded an institutional status similar to both UK monetary and fiscal policies. At the very least, it should be the subject of regular strategic long-term reviews. By giving it that sort of priority, the new government would send out the kind of powerful message that British industry and foreign investors need to hear given recent uncertainty.”

 

 

 

 

o

In February, the Mayor of London issued high pollution alerts across social media, bus stop signs, road-side displays and at Tube stations. It’s the tenth time Sadiq Khan has used the system since becoming Mayor and shows why he’s working hard to tackle London’s toxic air.   

We’re now just one month away from the launch of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in central London. The 24/7 ULEZ begins on 8 April to help clean up London’s dangerously toxic air. It will replace the current T-Charge and operate within the Congestion Charge Zone.

In central London. The 24/7 ULEZ begins on 8 April to help clean up London’s dangerously toxic air. It will replace the current T-Charge and operate within the Congestion Charge Zone. ULEZ is a world first, it’s expected to cut harmful emissions in the zone by up to 45% in just two years. The Mayor is calling on London’s drivers to check if their vehicles will meet the new tighter emission standards.

SCRAPPAGE SCHEME OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Applications are now open for £23m van scrappage scheme to help London’s microbusinesses and charities get ready for ULEZ. Funding will help them scrap older, polluting vans and minibuses and switch to cleaner vehicles. The Mayor will later launch a £25m scheme to help low income Londoners scrap non-compliant vehicles

E-FLEX – FLEXIBLE SMARTER EV CHARGING

The Mayor wants to help more people switch to electric vehicles (EVs). That’s why we’re now working with partners on a vehicle-to-grid charging project that rethinks EV batteries as a two-way energy source. It uses bidirectional chargers that both charge the EV and make smart use of unused electricity in the battery when it’s stationary. We’re now looking for commercial fleet operators with EVs to join the trial.

SOLAR TOGETHER HITS 500

Solar Together London uses group-buying to help Londoners get high quality, affordable solar panels on their homes. The scheme’s now reached 500 installations, helping to supply London with more low cost, renewable energy. To find out more about the Mayor’s ambitions for solar in London, see his Solar Action Plan..

MAYOR’S ENTREPRENEUR WOMEN4CLIMATE MENTEES

Ten talented Mayor’s Entrepreneur applicants have received mentoring through C40’s Women4Climate programme over the last year. The mentoring has helped them develop their business ideas and get their careers off the ground. Seven of the group also went to the recent Women4Climate conference in Paris to represent City Hall. Mayor’s Entrepreneur awards take place on 25 March. We’ll be revealing details of the winners soon.

Read the eight sections about Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme, which will come into operation on 1 January 2020, here.

 

 

 

o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH on 28th February 5-7pm

A discussion of this question will opened by Christine Parkinson, author of Three Generations Left: human activity and the destruction of the planet.

She sent two papers which were circulated to WMNEG members in advance and any reader who wishes to see them should contact the editor via Comments. The papers were:

  • an introductory paper by Christine Parkinson
  • a summary of the IPCC 1.5°C report and some implications by Chris Martin (Central England Quakers – Low Carbon Commitment group)

A round table discussion

 

All welcome.

 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

o

Peter Beck wrote to the Birmingham Post on Thursday December 6th 2018:

While agreeing that “the Paradise Project is a fiasco” (no name and address Post letter 29 Nov 2018) I draw a somewhat different conclusion as to who is to blame. I also think that Jonathon Walker’s article (Post 29th Nov) should perhaps have been titled “Council anger with Amey”.  However Carl Jackson’s article (Post 22 Nov 2018) is very revealing and there is so much for us to learn from this disaster of a development.


https//:www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown

It is of course questionable as to whether Birmingham City Council (BCC) should be seeking partnerships with, or to employ the likes of Capita, Carillion, and Amey.  They have proved a very costly exercise. 

And why should we trust Argent, the present managers of this development?  Such companies and unelected organisations such as the LEP and PCLP (mysterious bodies to most of us) are out of BCC control, and unaccountable to the residents of Birmingham.

It does beg the question as to why we continue to demolish perfectly good existing buildings and spaces (offices, hotels, parking spaces, public spaces, shops, restaurants and cafes etc) only to replace them with the same.

After all, this requires a huge amount of embedded energy and contributes to climate change.  A good example is the Central Library. The original plan of architect John Madin for its setting was ignored, it was done on the cheap, and then successive administrations (Tory, Lib Dem and Labour) neglected and failed to maintain it.  Even so, the cost of refurbishing was estimated at £38m while the new one has so far cost more than £100m.

The new one has resulted in a drastic reduction in staff hours with an opening time of 11.00 a.m. – hardly a “world class” facility/service as originally claimed!  Further, it has led to the closure of the unique Brasshouse Languages Centre building and the transfer of its language classes (with the recent loss of English as a Foreign Language classes).  The fee payments are presumably helping to fund the Library but the classrooms do not adequately meet the students’ needs.

Another farcical aspect of the Paradise Project is its treatment of public spaces.  Centenary Square is being dug up yet again but the new version will be quite inferior to its original “gardens” ancestor.

My conclusion is that BCC should avoid private/public joint ventures and it should restrain those senior officers who currently work hand in glove with developers. We should once again give the councils the in-house resources they need to carry out the restoration, reuse, recycling, repair, refurbishment and maintenance of existing buildings. Lots of permanent jobs would then be created. 

 

 

 

o