Monday, 3 June 2019

Cabot Circus, consumerism and carbon emissions

In their campaigning for urgent action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency Extinction Rebellion have targeted Cabot Circus shopping centre. This article is about why they are right to have done so. If such shopping centres helped us to live happier, healthier, fairer, greener, sustainable, convivial lives I’d be all for them. However, the opposite is the case. Conventional politics and the mainstream media celebrates and advocates mass consumerism, the belief that the more we consume the better off we are. This, to say the least, is remarkable as Bristol's conventional politics also recently voted to build a sustainable, zero carbon city.

A massive shopping centre - whose development included one of Europe's biggest multi-storey car parks - is clearly not consistent with building a sustainable, zero carbon city. Mass consumerist societies eat up resources like there is no tomorrow and spew out vast amounts of climate change causing carbon and very large amounts of all kinds of wastes.  Cabot Circus fights against Bristol's green aspirations. It is one of the reasons why the city ecological footprint is three times the sustainable level.


Mass consumerism wants people to identify strongly with the products or services they consume, especially those commercial brand names with apparently status-enhancing appeal. Luxuries and unnecessary consumer products are used as social messages, all about keeping up with the Joneses, continuously competing with others without increasing wellbeing. Any substitution of healthy human relationships, which we need to be building up in our communities, for relationships with products or brand names is very unhealthy. Some say mass consumerism is a social control process, part of cultural leadership in modern society. A picture of optimism and happiness is often painted about shopping and consumption but the evidence shows that over-consumption makes us unhappy.


It is satisfaction, security, stability and fulfilment that makes us happy - product advertisers and marketers have no genuine interest in these things. It’s in their interest to see that needs become wants and that the wants are perpetuated. Thus mass consumerism favours selling products that wear out or break, instead of being made to last. Ever-changing fashion is similarly favoured because purchases in a nearly-new and good condition ‘must’ be replaced or you ‘won't be trendy’. This maintains sales and maximises profits, from which a small number of people gain. Fostering obsession with super-rich celebrities helps here - which is why they often feature in many adverts, often dominate the media and are often courted by the politicians pushing mass consumption.

When Cabot Circus shopping centre  was opened in 2008 the then Bristol City Council Leader, Labour Councillor Helen Holland said that Cabot Circus 'is a quantum leap' beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy described Cabot Circus as ‘pretty stunning’. Helen Holland is now a senior member of the Mayor of Bristol's Cabinet, which says it wants to build a zero carbon city.  


We cannot mass drive and mass shop our way to a sustainable society. Cabot Circus does not prominently feature local products, quite the opposite. People will not on the whole walk or cycle there - the focus is on driving to the very large car park. Genuinely green items like recycled products or second-hand goods are very far from what it’s about. Plastic bags are given out left right and centre. The focus of Cabot Circus is much more about the global economy than the local economy, more about a small number of already rich people getting even richer than local people meeting their needs.


It would have been much more valuable to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities in Bristol to get together a proper strategy to maintain and develop shops, services and jobs in each locality. We need development to be localised. Cabot Circus is a million miles from local production for local needs yet this is the pattern of development we need for a happier, healthier, fairer, greener, sustainable and more convivial city.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Triple crisis: ecological, climate and socio-political

The world we are a part of and dependent on is being laid bare, stripped and unprotected... by us. It is self-harm and ultimately self-destruction if we fail to change. There is a climate emergency but also an ecological emergency as biodiversity declines and land degrades - and these are interdependent with each other and with a socio-political crisis. This is why I became a Green 37yrs ago, campaigning to show that growth is not progress and for society to be transformed to make it sustainable. It's not that there is nature and there is humanity...there is only nature. Its not ecological and social systems but one socio-ecological system.  

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) major report on the ecological crisis is as important as any of the climate change ones that have received such attention of late. Climate change is certainly one significant part of the triple crisis that we are facing. However, there are many other ways we are breaching environmental limits as measured by: industrial, chemical farming;  overfishing; socio-economic effects; deforestation; species extinction; our water footprint; the spread of monocultures; dysfunction and death due to toxic pollution, and more. Sustainability is a whole system phenomenon. Types of impact are interrelated. If we don’t take a whole system approach to finding solutions our actions may be ineffective or cause further damage through effects we did not intend or anticipate.
 
Falling biodiversity levels means we have: not protected natural assets; not kept ecosystems healthy;  lost regenerative capacity; not maintained the ability of ecosystems to deliver goods and services; not kept wastes and pollutants below environmental capacity for safe processing. We have only one planet with limited resources but human numbers have risen and our over-exploitation of the world has intensified.


Humans are one type of animal and so are a part of ecosystems. People and socio-economic systems are an integral part of the biosphere, the thin layer around the planet that supports and contains life. The science of ecology tells us that: everything is connected; everything must go somewhere; nature knows best; and there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Affect one part of a system and you affect all parts. There are many ways in which organisms connect to other organisms and to their surroundings, for instance water makes up most of the living parts of the planet  – most of you and I are water. Water passes through and around living and non-living things, carrying substances and energy with it.
There is no waste in nature and there is no away to which things can be thrown. When we ‘get rid’ of solid, liquid and gaseous wastes they still exist in various forms and are moved around.  What we flush 'away' goes from toilet bowl and waste pipes to sewers to rivers to the sea and into marine life and flowing to beaches. Carbon dioxide from Bristol homes, shops, factories and traffic builds up in the atmosphere, causes climate change and impacts us via weather extremes. Radioactive substances in nuclear waste flasks from Hinkley Nuclear Power Station accumulated in Bridgewater soil near the railway line and had to be removed for special disposal. Particulate matter from vehicle exhausts travels into the air and penetrates deep into all our lungs.
Complex and varied habitats have become established and sustained. Species have come and gone but living systems keep going. Humans have come and will go. Resources like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, water are reused and recycled.The living system as a whole keeps working and existing on a geological timescale, surviving even comet impacts. The planet will survive human impacts - but will we? Everything has an environmental cost. Energy and materials come from the environment and wastes and pollutants go back to it. So we need to work with not against natural systems and give back as well as take.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Candidate for...Chief Climate Change Denier

There are many reasons to oppose Ann Widdecombe as a candidate for the EU Parliament eg her opposition to gay marriage, her climate change denial, her objection to women becoming priests and her support for the death penalty, gay conversion therapy, the shackling of pregnant prisoners receiving hospital care and for homeopathy.

Even if you were in favour of her extreme social conservatism you should be very concerned indeed because she is hugely out of touch with science, scientific methods and scientific research processes, founded on reason. 

Ann Widdecombe completely fails to appreciate the increasing mountain of scientific evidence on climate change, the biggest threat to our way of life and to all life on our planet. A timeline of her views on climate change, shows a rapid move from scepticism, to very firmly differing from the generally accepted view of scientists, to active opposition to UK legislation to take climate change action, to stating that there is no climate change, to celebrating being right to oppose the nonsense (as she sees it).  
  • In 2007 she was sceptical of the claims that specific actions would prevent catastrophe, saying that switching light bulbs would not save the world.
  • By 2008 her doubts were solidified by Nigel Lawson's book about climate change and she said she was a heretic on global warming.
  • She was one of just five MPs (Conservatives Andrew Tyrie, Peter Lilley, Christopher Chope and Philip Davies, with Ann Widdecombe) voting against the UK Climate Change Act 2008.
  • In 2009 she said that there is no climate change, asking people to look out of their window to find the evidence.
  • In 2011 she wanted 'climate change money' (whatever that means) to be spent instead on our armed services.
  • In 2014 wrote that she and her fellow climate change rebels were spot on in fighting the Climate Change Act nonsense.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stress the urgent action needed to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees but we are heading for 3 degrees. David Attenborough presented Climate Change: The Facts calling climate change our biggest threat in thousands of years. School children all over the world went on strike to call for a climate emergency to be declared and action taken. Bristol City Council, the First Minister of Scotland and today the Welsh Government have declared a climate emergency. Extinction Rebellion have peacefully protested for the truth on climate to be told, all over the world and brought parts of London to a standstill for over a week with over a thousand people arrested. If you are concerned about climate change it makes no sense to support election candidates that are opposed to urgent action to tackle it.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Tackling climate change: specific actions needed now

Extinction Rebellion wants: the truth about climate change to be told; the creation of a citizens assembly to oversee the changes required; and to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. These have of course been subject to some scrutiny (see here for instance) as their peaceful direct actions continue to keep the issue of climate change in the public eye and widely discussed for a sustained period - a significant achievement in itself.

Here is an interesting article looking at the specific actions the UK Government could take that would be welcomed by many campaigners. BBC Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin was given the suggestions below by environmentalists on Twitter:

  1. Cancel the expansion of Heathrow Airport and bring in a frequent flyer levy, so that after the first flight in any one year the more you fly the more you pay
  2. Make home insulation a National Infrastructure priority
  3. Bring in a charging network for electric cars given that the market has failed to do so
  4. Make sure farming cuts its emissions, such as through involvement in large scale rewilding (the mass restoration of ecosystems)
  5. Ending all tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas and banning fracking
  6. Bring back the development of onshore wind farms
  7. Give businesses a duty to cut their emissions and protect nature
  8. Act much faster than the current 2050 and other targets say
(There was division on whether consumer capitalism needed to be ended or whether the current socio-economic and political system could deliver zero carbon living)

Really interesting suggestions. There is nothing that I would disagree with though I'd need to see the details for all of them - and would attach conditions as appropriate. For example: the development of onshore wind farms needs to be appropriate to local needs and local, informed and empowered involvement in the planning system; rewilding needs to be done in the right way, in the right places, for the right reasons and must not be a substitute for cutting emissions to begin with.

If you went for rapidly implementing all of them on a large scale you would go towards but would not achieve Extinction Rebellion's target of zero carbon emissions by 2025 however. No-one can be completely sure of what it would take to achieve a zero carbon society until we start to make serious efforts and learn as we go along  - but we have to try to make the biggest emissions cuts we can, as soon as we can. 

For me widespread root and branch political and socio-economic changes are needed to achieve zero carbon emissions (and certainly to achieve a fully sustainable society, in place of the consumer capitalism with which it is incompatible). For an initial set of actions, aimed at making large carbon reductions in a short time and begin to transform the underlying political and socio-economic system causing the problem, I suggest the following four actions, to add to the eight above:

> Integrated transport systems investment on the scale of tens of billions in each of the biggest cities and towns all across the UK, prioritising walking, cycling and public transport (especially light rail). Combine this investment with plans to regenerate truly local and regional economies to reduce the need for motorised transport to begin with.

> New, much tougher laws to protect the green, open, more natural spaces within and around cities and towns combined with a programme to enhance the biodiversity of these spaces, especially via planting native trees.

> A major drive for the UK to grow as much of its own food as possible, as locally and regionally as possible, based on what it is most sustainable to supply ourselves with (including gearing farming subsidies to this end).

> Set the highest practical standards for product and resource recovery, aiming to set in place everything needed to establish a circular economy (substantial progress in recycling and remanufacturing plus major development of re-use, bio-refining and product-service systems).

> Establish local and regional citizens assemblies, to work with a national citizens assembly and with a brief to maximise the involvement, participation and empowerment of people and organisations.  To achieve zero carbon requires serious, widespread and large scale public engagement and the building up of two-way social learning about the actions needed (there needs to be ownership of the problems and potential solutions).

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Climate Change: the Facts

Not sure what all the law breaking by environmentalists in London is about? Climate Change: the Facts, presented by David Attenborough, airs at 9pm on Thursday 18th April (that's tonight) on BBC1 and will then also be available via the BBC iPlayer.

The scientific evidence has many times reconfirmed that the consequences of climate change include:
> shrinking snow, sea ice, glaciers and polar ice caps
> rising sea levels
> more frequent weather extremes such as excessive temperatures and excessive rainfall and flooding
> more drought affected land
> more intense tropical cyclones
> extreme weather in places being the most important cause of poverty
> fundamental rights to life, health, water, food and housing impacted eg through more frequent and severe wildfires, water shortages, failed or destroyed crops
All the impacts are forecast to become even more severe if we don’t urgently tackle climate change at the speed and scale needed. We have already delayed proper action for decades. If allowed to get to a tipping point climate change will become irreversible, with catastrophic global consequences for human societies and for life on Earth. See https://www.ipcc.ch/

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Thank you OU - and congratulations on your 50th

Broad-based studying with the Open University has given me two open degrees. This has supported and developed me in so many varied ways as a person, employee, member of my community and citizen of my country. I'm very grateful for everything the Open University has done and continues to do as it moves through its 50th year.

Through my studies, beginning in 1983, I first gained a BA and then later a BSc (Hons) Open. This has enabled me to grow in diverse ways: I studied technology when working in industry as a technologist; I took modules on decision making, the social history of science and technology and urban change as my interest in and concern about social, political and environmental issues grew; I studied managing schools whilst working as a teacher; several modules in philosophy enabled me to formally follow through on a long held personal and academic interest.
All this and more through the Open University has enabled me: to personally develop; reinforce my research and development work as a technologist in industry; develop skills and knowledge for science teaching; develop skills and knowledge for environmental and political campaigning; progress from gaining graduate to a number of postgraduate qualifications, including a Masters in Ecology and Society; work as an Associate Lecturer in Higher Education, teaching about and for the environment. 
The Open University has enabled me to flourish as a person. It has broadened and deepened my knowledge, understanding and skills, in both science and social science. It has given me the skills and the confidence needed to voice my opinions both privately and publicly and influence community and social change. It has been there to help me build a number of careers: first scientific work in industry; then work as a science teacher in schools; as a social and environmental campaigner at various times over many years on issues of concern; tutoring students and supervising research in the higher education sector.
A very big thank you to those who set up the Open University 50 yrs ago this year and to all the staff and students there who have helped and supported me along with many others.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Progress towards a zero carbon Bristol?


Since committing to achieving a net zero carbon (carbon neutral) city and to taking adequate action to tackle air pollution the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees and most of Bristol's City Councillors have also committed to:
 
> an expanding Bristol Airport
 
> opposing congestion charging, the most effective way of reducing traffic
 
> building more roads and expanding the capacity to travel in other ways too
 
> building 33,500 houses in the city (whilst also protecting green spaces apparently)
 
How can all these be achieved together? This is once again talking some of the language of environmentalism and then doing things that are pretty much business as usual.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Fathoming February Further


To add further detail to the explanation for the UK recording its highest ever February maximum temperature the idea of blocking weather patterns is a useful one. Blocks are significant scale air pressure patterns that are relatively static that can halt or change the direction of the normally expected progress of the weather. These pressure patterns stay in place for several days or even weeks, stopping the weather from changing. For example, the very long, very hot UK summer of 1976 and the very cold UK winter of 1963 featured blocks.

As you can see from the image the weather map of the UK shows that a block was in place around 26 February 2019 when the temperature exceeded twenty degrees for the first time on record. Winds that normally bring in a change in the weather were diverted northwards and around the UK. Weather blocking has also been a feature of the record breaking extreme weather experienced in Australia this year too (see here).

Climate change is both bringing more extreme weather events and is slowing down the movement of weather systems, in part because of greater warming at higher latitudes relative to the tropics, slowing global circulatory winds. Slower moving weather systems means that those subject to extreme events such as heatwaves or very heavy rainfall bringing flooding, experience them for longer, which worsens the impacts.

How climate change can make catastrophic weather systems linger for longer:
https://phys.org/news/2019-02-climate-catastrophic-weather-linger-longer.html

On blocking weather patterns:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr2EmBYDK_8

The February 2019 weather:
https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/2019/february/february-2019

Blocks in meteorology:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_(meteorology)

UK weather block example from Jan 2019:
https://twitter.com/metoffice/status/1081192613015883776?lang=en

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Fathoming February

As I write this post parts of the UK are experiencing problems with flooding, notably in Yorkshire and Wales on this occasion. The rainfall figures are quite striking, though what is being reported as extreme weather in that it is severe and unusual is now happening with increasing regularity - in this sense extreme events are becoming more 'normal'.

It is the purpose of this piece to illustrate how unusual weather is becoming increasingly usual, just as the scientific evidence on climate change said would happen. I could delve into the details on the current UK weather to illustrate my point but an even more striking example is last month, so I will be fathoming out the February 2019 weather.

For the first time ever the UK recorded temperatures over 20 degrees centigrade during February 2019, breaking the record two days in succession (see here). Understandably this attracted positive comments from people who enjoyed the warmth and sunshine. Amongst the media reporting was the front page headline 'Fabruary' in The Sun. However, is it really fab that humans beings have such a huge impact on Earth's systems that weather extremes occur with increasing frequency? It is clearly not fab, as considering farming and food, wildlife, air quality and the global picture straightforwardly confirms. 

If you are a farmer you rely on having certain kinds of weather for your crops and animals at certain times of the year, so when the weather is extreme or unusual there are consequences for yields, profits and survival in business - and therefore for our food prices and food security. For wildlife, temperatures are a stimulus to action: plant growth; emergence from hibernation; whether to migrate or to stop and seek food, water and nesting sites following migration...but what was in sync goes out of sync when climatic and wildlife systems change at very different rates. Our food production depends on healthy insect populations, not least for pollination of crops and for natural control of pest species.
Take a look at this photo showing the air across London on the 26 February 2019 when the temperature record was set and you will see a lovely blue sky and a clear sunny day. You will also see the haze of air pollution that is causing climate change and affecting our health due to its toxicity.
 
 
It's not just in the UK where temperature records are being broken at this time.  It is winter here but summer in Australia - and they have just has the hottest summer ever recorded (see here). This has meant increased hospital admissions due to the heat, more bushfires threatening lives and forests, power blackouts due to the rise in air conditioner use - and mass deaths amongst wildlife, including horses, bats and fish. It's not fab, it's a matter of life and death.
 
 

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Reviewing my reading

1.What is economic progress and success?
Interesting development I thought...and then I read the phrase 'promoting sustainable economic growth'. You can't sustain growth on a finite planet so the phrase is a contradiction in terms. So much of what has claimed to be green in Bristol has failed to recognise this.
 
A former Maplin store that has stood empty since the company went into administration last year is to be transformed into a £1.5m sustainability hub.
 
2.Wildlife and animal welfare: There used to be ten million elephants roaming across Africa, now there are less than half a million - and this is the kind of decision now taken.
 
A report by cabinet ministers in Botswana has recommended lifting a four-year hunting ban and the introduction of elephant culling.
 
3.Food and health: If you go vegan or vegetarian beware of unhealthy, inaccurately labelled, processed, pricey food options.
 
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said many products are being identified as "healthy" because they are vegetarian, vegan, free from certain ingredients, or have fewer calories. But, it said, many have high levels of fat, salt or sugar, and are highly processed.
 
4.Human environmental impacts: Human food increasingly eaten by wildlife causes harmful changes including in their DNA,  in their general health due to vitamin deficiency and increasing the possibility of disease spread from pets to wildlife.
 
Animals are what they eat. It is one of the subtle but important biological changes associated with the fact that domestic livestock, food waste and even our pets are becoming integral parts of the diets of some species.
 
5.Species protection: Excellent news for a species that is very good for biodiversity.
 
Beavers will become a protected species in Scotland from May, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has said. The long-awaited and controversial move - opposed by many farmers - follows extensive wrangling over how their numbers should be managed.
 
6.Habitat protection: You wouldn't want to dump tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef would you? But it's been given permission.
 
Australia plans to dump one million tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef. Despite strict laws on dumping waste, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) gave the go-ahead.
 
7.Air pollution: How can we have confidence that the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees is really committed to getting clean air that is healthy & unpolluted when this keeps happening? It is the poorest, most vulnerable in society who suffer most from air pollution.
 
Bristol’s Green group has condemned the Labour-led council for missing a second deadline to provide a clean air plan for the city.
 
The plan was supposed to be written by the end of 2018 and the authority was given until 21 February to respond. In a letter sent to the environment minister on Thursday 21 February, elected mayor Marvin Rees said the date had "regrettably not been met".
 
8.Biodiversity and interdependence: Seems to me that we are cutting off our nose to spite our face by destroying and reducing biodiversity vital to our food supply and livelihood.
 
The plants, animals, and micro-organisms that are the bedrock of food production are in decline, according to a UN study. If these critical species are lost, the report says, it "places the future of our food system under severe threat".
 
9.The importance of verification: A piece on the economic and environmental pros and cons of Bristol Airport expansion - with properly checked figures - written in response to a Bristol city councillor who favours both the expansion of the airport and a zero carbon city.
 
I totally respect the fact that people (especially politicians from different parties) are entitled to hold different views. However, when those opinions are written down, for example in an article for this publication, then they really need to be fact-checked before the author goes to print.
 
10.Climate change: To go zero carbon we certainly need to be doing this - and sooner than within 6yrs if possible. (If we are to tackle climate change on the timescale scientists say is needed ALL our homes should be zero carbon not just new homes).
 
New homes should be banned from connecting to the gas grid within six years to tackle climate change, UK government advisers say. They want new-build homes in the countryside to be warmed by heat pumps - and cooking done on induction hobs, rather than using gas boilers and hobs. In cities, new housing estates and flats should be kept warm by networks of hot water, says the report.
 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Building sustainability requires processes of change that are sustainable.

In my zero carbon Bristol by 2030 post I referred to having the practicalities in mind when setting targets and timescales, particularly when these are about radical, fundamental changes. I'm saying if we don't first have an intense period of  public engagement and the building up of two-way social learning about the actions needed to tackle climate change then there wont be ownership of the problems and potential solutions . If we don't first have engagement and ownership then targets and timescales will be commonly seen as imposed, they will generate a significant backlash and action on climate change would be enacted by fewer people and organisations. Action would be slowed and less effective.
 
In addition to targets and timescales consistent with moving towards sustainability we need a process of change that is sustainable.
 
My experience over several decades of campaigning tells me we need engagement throughout society in particular to:  
 
  • Avoid or minimise situations where politicians and their parties aren't fully aware of the implications of what they have signed up to 
  • Eliminate or reduce signing up to targets and timescales just for short term political gain, with little/no intention to act to achieve them 
  • Avoid the adoption of contradictory, incoherent policies and actions 
  • Generate good levels of public awareness of and active support for the kind of measures needed, with their associated costs and benefits
  • Avoid plans, documents and agreements that do not address the fundamental drivers of unsustainability
  • Establish an ongoing, flourishing process of two-way social learning about the actions needed
  • Cooperatively form and enact plans and actions as well as their ongoing monitoring and adjustment 
Really engaging means: open exchange of ideas; establishing mutual understanding; providing effective, timely information; promoting trust; highlighting decision-making processes; dealing with complex, possibly controversial issues; obtaining unique insights; serving each other.  The best engagement  develops a common view, a sense of purpose – and allows communities to take control and set agendas. This is the way to learn to live better lives and take us towards sustainability in a sustainable way.
 
I'm referring to widespread engagement throughout the whole of society, to a level that creates a critical mass to keep change going. I applaud anyone who gets involved and tries to make a difference, especially the school pupils and students striking recently. However, we have to go well beyond protests and marches that are sadly not representative of the public in general and have engagement involving individuals, civil society, business and the state the like of which we have not seen before. The kind of 'consultations' currently conducted by local and central government are not genuine and certainly not what I am referring to. If there was a critical mass to tackle climate change on the scale and at the pace needed it would already be happening - but it is not and so we need to focus first on getting it.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Zero carbon Bristol by 2030: how?

I'm all for ambitious targets and actions that get to the root of problems, consistent with the scientific evidence, especially when they are as serious and urgent as climate change. I know that when targets and timescales for change are set however, it is very important to have the practicalities uppermost in mind. Setting targets and timescales that are not smart, not achievable and not realistic can be counterproductive. I have mixed feelings about the plans to make Bristol carbon neutral (net zero carbon) by 2030 and the Green New Deal in the United States, which includes the radical step of decarbonising the US economy in ten years.

One particular concern I have is that politicians and their parties aren't fully aware of the implications of what they have signed up to. Or that they are aware and have signed up just for short term political gain, with little/no intention to act to achieve the target and timescale. Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and Greens all support making Bristol net zero carbon by 2030 but this is a very short timescale and the city certainly does not have the powers and the money to achieve it at the moment. Nor can Bristol achieve net zero carbon on its own - significant, coherent, coordinated action is needed across all levels of government, business and civil society. 

It is far from clear that there is public awareness of and support for the kind of measures needed to achieve a net zero carbon city (by which I mean net zero for all carbon emissions, direct and indirect, from production and consumption). There have been plans, documents and agreements in Bristol in the past eg Green City in the early 1990s, Bristol Local Agenda 21 developed during the mid 1990's and launched in 2000, winning European Green Capital 2015 status. None of this has stopped Bristol having an ecological footprint approx. three times its land area or addressed the fundamental drivers of unsustainability. 

So, would I not adopt the target of achieving a net zero carbon Bristol by 2030? Not exactly. I would adopt the target after an intense period of genuine and widespread public engagement about it, if public support for it was clearly demonstrated and an ongoing process of two-way social learning about the actions needed was clearly going to flourish. I would then cooperatively form and enact plans to build a conserver city (details here). Any plans and actions will need ongoing monitoring and adjustment.
 
 
Where does the leadership of Bristol stand? On the Sunday Politics West of 3 Feb 2019 Elected Mayor Marvin Rees strongly & publicly committed himself to both a zero carbon city and to expanding Bristol Airport. Supporting Bristol Airport expansion on the scale proposed means a lot more carbon emissions and sends out all the wrong signals to the public, to businesses and to politicians. Mayor Rees was backed by Bristol Conservative Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate Mark Weston and this consensus only adds to my concerns. That Bristol has been threatened with legal action by central govt for not submitting plans to tackle air pollution on schedule subtracts from my confidence that we will get social, economic and environmental action on the scale and pace we need too. 
 

Relevant links:

http://bristolgreencapital.org/bristol-carbon-neutral-2030-ambition-nov-2018/

https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2018/11/14/bristol-greens-declare-climate-emergency-and-bring-citys-co2-emissions-target-forward-20-years/

https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3066475/bristol-and-manchester-unveil-fresh-plans-to-tackle-climate-emergency

https://bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/action-needed-for-bristol-to-be-carbon-neutral-by-2030

http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org/en/

https://www.c40.org/press_releases/global-cities-commit-to-make-new-buildings-net-zero-carbon-by-2030

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47198581

http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/city_footprint2.pdf