Holyrood 350 — H35O

4 Action Points For Holyrood To Avert Climate Chaos

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The Holyrood 350 campaign

Sum­mary:

Holy­rood 350 is a response to the recog­ni­tion that we have to reduce CO2 con­cen­tra­tions from the cur­rent 400ppm (it was 387ppm in 2009) to 350ppm, in order to avoid cat­a­strophic cli­mate change. Since inter­na­tional nego­ti­a­tions cur­rently seek to set a ceil­ing of 450ppm, while car­bon emis­sions con­tinue to rise rapidly, Holy­rood 350 is seek­ing to per­suade the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and MSPs of all par­ties to intro­duce leg­is­la­tion and take prac­ti­cal and crit­i­cal action to ful­fil and sur­pass our comit­ment to reduc­ing our car­bon emis­sions by 80% by 2050, and so set an exam­ple for the rest of the world to follow.

“Cli­mate change is for real. We have just a small win­dow of oppor­tu­nity and it is clos­ing rather rapidly.” Rajen­dra Pachauri (Chair, IPCC)

The time for set­ting future tar­gets is passed; we have to take rad­i­cal action now, if we are to leave our chil­dren a world that is still inhab­it­able. Cli­mate Change is the con­se­quence of an eco­nomic sys­tem built on the neces­sity for end­less eco­nomic growth on a planet which has finite resources. Tack­ling the causes of cli­mate change requires us to fun­da­men­tally re-orientate our eco­nomic sys­tem so that it meets the needs of cur­rent and future gen­er­a­tions in a way which enhances the flour­ish­ing and well-being of peo­ple and ecosys­tems every­where. We will cre­ate a fairer, health­ier and hap­pier soci­ety — as well as a soci­ety with a future — by using our fair share of nat­ural resources, and so liv­ing in an energy healthy not energy obese society.

Sci­en­tific Background:

Unless we reduce our CO2 con­cen­tra­tions from the cur­rent 400ppm to below 350ppm, it is highly unlikely that we will avoid cat­a­strophic, run­away cli­mate change. If we pro­ceed on our cur­rent path of allow­ing emis­sions to rise and sim­ply nego­ti­at­ing for reduc­tions some­time in the future, then human­ity will soon no longer be able to con­trol run­away cli­mate change as the planet’s own feed­back mech­a­nisms kick in, says NASA sci­en­tist Jim Hansen. In 2008, Jim Hansen wrote that:

“If human­ity wishes to pre­serve a planet sim­i­lar to that on which civ­i­liza­tion devel­oped and to which life on Earth is adapted, pale­o­cli­mate evi­dence and ongo­ing cli­mate change sug­gest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its cur­rent 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm. The largest uncer­tainty in the tar­get arises from pos­si­ble changes of non-CO2 forc­ings. An ini­tial 350 ppm CO2 tar­get may be achiev­able by phas­ing out coal use except where CO2 is cap­tured and adopt­ing agri­cul­tural and forestry prac­tices that sequester car­bon. If the present over­shoot of this tar­get CO2 is not brief, there is a pos­si­bil­ity of seed­ing irre­versible cat­a­strophic effects.”

In an inter­view for The Guardian, Hansen explained that core sam­ples from the bot­tom of the ocean allow CO2 lev­els to be tracked mil­lions of years ago. They show that when the world began to glaciate at the start of the Ice Age about 35m years ago, the con­cen­tra­tion of CO2 in the atmos­phere stood at about 450ppm. Hansen says that

If you leave us at 450ppm for long enough it will prob­a­bly melt all the ice — that’s a sea rise of 75 metres. What we have found is that the tar­get we have all been aim­ing for is a dis­as­ter — a guar­an­teed disaster.

Hansen was him­self one of the archi­tects of a 450ppm tar­get. The rea­son for his reassess­ment is that the “slow feed­back” mech­a­nisms are only now becom­ing fully under­stood. They amplify the rise in tem­per­a­ture caused by increas­ing the con­cen­tra­tion of green­house gases. Ice and snow reflect sun­light but when they melt, they leave exposed ground which absorbs more heat. As ice sheets recede, the warm­ing effect is com­pounded. Satel­lite tech­nol­ogy avail­able over the past three years has shown that the ice sheets are melt­ing much faster than expected, with Green­land and west Antarc­tica both los­ing mass. The good news, he said, is that reserves of fos­sil fuels have been exag­ger­ated, so an alter­na­tive source of energy will have to be rapidly put in place in any case.

Jonathan Por­ritt — speak­ing in Edin­burgh on 14th May 2008 along­side Richard Lochhead, John Swin­ney and John Elvidge — spoke about the recent cal­cu­la­tions done at Mauna Loa in Hawaii which:

…revealed that for 2007 those con­cen­tra­tions had now reached 387 parts per mil­lion. It may not sound like much of an increase on 382 parts per mil­lion, but the sting in the tail of this par­tic­u­lar infor­ma­tion was that in fact the con­cen­tra­tion of CO2 is accel­er­at­ing. We used to assume an aver­age of slightly less than two parts per mil­lion build up in the atmos­phere, now there sci­en­tists are telling us we must assume at least 2.15 and pos­si­bly 2.2 parts per mil­lion per annum.

Por­ritt went on to say:

Now that just reminds us that this is a real time exer­cise that we’re involved in here.  The planet is immensely dynamic, it is not a sta­tic sys­tem which we just look out on and think we can man­age slightly bet­ter in terms of where it is now.  We all know that what we’re see­ing in terms of a change in cli­mate today is a con­se­quence of the emis­sions we put into the atmos­phere 30 or 40 years ago.  So that is bound to affect the way in which we think about how we now man­age these issues in the future.

Why Cur­rent ‘Solu­tions’ can­not Succeed:

Mark Lynas’s recent arti­cle in the Guardian was titled ‘Cli­mate Chaos is inevitable: We can only avert obliv­ion’. In it he shows how when the Stock­holm Net­work asked the Met Office’s Hadley Cen­tre to run three alter­na­tive visions of the future through their mod­el­ling sys­tem, all three led to well over 2°C rises (2°C being the tip­ping point after which feed­back loops are expected to kick in too severely to be restrained).

The sce­nar­ios and rises are:

  • AGREE & IGNORE — the cur­rent approach in which inter­na­tional nego­ti­a­tions lead to weak tar­get set­ting which coun­tries then effec­tively ignore — lead­ing to rises of 4.85°C;
  • KYOTO PLUS — suc­cess­ful bind­ing inter­na­tional nego­ti­a­tions with tar­gets coun­tries keep to — rises of 3.31°C; and
  • A rad­i­cal STEP CHANGE mar­ket approach to severely restrict com­pa­nies using fos­sil fuels in the first place — rises of 2.89°C.

Mark Lynas con­cludes that: no polit­i­cal sce­nario we could envis­age will now keep the world below the dan­ger thresh­old of two degrees.

If he is right, then surely we need to cre­ate a dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal sce­nario? Cre­at­ing a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal sce­nario will involve:

  • ensur­ing car­bon is given a price and that cor­po­ra­tions sub­si­dies and exter­nal­i­ties are removed so that low-carbon, locally-based, small-scale eco­nomic activ­i­ties becomes cost com­pet­i­tive. It involves
  • ensur­ing our demo­c­ra­t­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment acts to shift rapidly from fos­sil fuel and other pol­lut­ing energy sources to renew­able energy, from build­ing infra­struc­ture which encour­ages high-emissions to build­ing infra­struc­ture to enable a zero-carbon soci­ety, from being at the mercy of inter­na­tional finance run sim­ply for short-term profit to enabling the growth of the real econ­omy that ensures our well-being. It involves
  • work­ing from the ground up to build resilient zero-carbon com­mu­ni­ties which can wean us off our depen­dence on oil and cre­ate the space for vibrant local deci­sion mak­ing, economies and communities.

The Holy­rood 350 cam­paign is part of the broader inter­na­tional 350 cam­paign which is seek­ing to inspire gov­ern­ments and peo­ple to make the changes that will enable sur­vival of our species.

Holy­rood 350 Solution

The Holy­rood 350 cam­paign is call­ing for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to set an exam­ple for the rest of the world to fol­low by intro­duc­ing imme­di­ate mea­sures to dra­mat­i­cally reduce and ulti­mately stop car­bon being extracted from the ground to pass through the econ­omy into the atmos­phere. We pro­pose the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment takes imme­di­ate steps to:

  1. Price Car­bon Out of the Econ­omy — Intro­duce a scheme within 12 months which will ensure that high-carbon prod­ucts, modes of trans­port, etc. are fast replaced by low-carbon ones. The nec­es­sary rapid rise in the cost of high-carbon options would be accom­pa­nied by the rapid devel­op­ment and shift to low-carbon ones. There are var­i­ous sys­tems for achiev­ing this (e.g. Cap and Share, Trad­able Energy Quo­tas, etc.) all of which are based on giv­ing each per­son the right to the same amount of emis­sions which are reduced year on year, so reduc­ing our col­lec­tive emis­sions to a level which can be absorbed by the bio­mass. The form such sys­tems take can also enable us to solve a range of other prob­lems gen­er­ated by liv­ing in a socially unequal and energy waste­ful soci­ety, e.g. through ensur­ing pol­luters are penalised, and those using less car­bon (espe­cially the poor) benefit.
  2. Switch from Car­bon Hun­gry to Energy Healthy Infra­struc­ture — An imme­di­ate end to the con­struc­tion of infra­struc­ture which is accel­er­at­ing our car­bon use and accel­er­at­ing cli­mate change, includ­ing the imme­di­ate end of motor­way build­ing, air­port expan­sion, and out of town shop­ping cen­tres. A rapid trans­for­ma­tion in energy pro­duc­tion, con­struc­tion and in trans­port infra­struc­ture, includ­ing rolling out effec­tive mass insu­la­tion and energy con­ser­va­tion schemes, pub­lic and com­mu­nity ben­e­fit renew­able energy schemes, and expo­nen­tially expand­ing (and elec­tri­fy­ing) pub­lic trans­port. To move to being an energy healthy soci­ety by 2028 we also need to rapidly ‘power down’ and ‘power up’ by:
    1. ‘Pow­er­ing down’ from using car­bon based and pol­lut­ing energy sources, and from being energy obese (reduc­ing energy use by 50% by 2028) and
    2. ‘Pow­er­ing up’ by rapidly expand­ing renew­ables (tidal at 11%, wind at 50%, CHP and hydro pro­vid­ing the rest, by 2028).

    This tran­si­tion will hap­pen any­way as oil, gas and coal run out, but needs to be done now in order that the car­bon from the remain­ing fos­sil fuels are not released into the atmos­phere. How this energy trans­for­ma­tion can tech­ni­cally be car­ried out by 2028 is out­lined in the Cen­tre for Alter­na­tive Technology’s widely acclaimed Zero Car­bon Report.

  3. Estab­lish The Green New Deal — Recog­nise the under­ly­ing cause of the ‘triple crunch’ of the credit-fuelled finan­cial cri­sis, accel­er­at­ing cli­mate change and soar­ing energy prices. Begin the process of re-regulating the finan­cial sec­tor which has been legally obliged to pur­sue the high­est returns for share­hold­ers with­out thought to how this can destroy the social, eco­nomic and envi­ron­men­tal fab­ric. As a first step, push for the transna­tional financiers and cor­po­ra­tions to become trans­par­ent in their deal­ings so that they become account­able for the impacts they are hav­ing, and ensure they are account­able through pay­ing tax rather than using tax havens to avoid con­tribut­ing their fair share to pay­ing for the trans­for­ma­tion we col­lec­tively and urgently need to under­take. Push inter­na­tion­ally for tax havens and their secre­tive deal­ings to be stopped, and in the mean­time push for leg­is­la­tion to make any agree­ments reached in such juris­dic­tions lack any legal sta­tus here. Begin build­ing a new alliance between politi­cians, envi­ron­men­tal­ists, indus­try, agri­cul­ture, and unions to put the inter­ests of the real econ­omy ahead of those of foot­loose finance in order to make mas­sive invest­ment in renew­able energy and wider envi­ron­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion, lead­ing to the cre­ation of an employ­ment rich, secure and envi­ron­men­tally healthy soci­ety.  The pro­grammes and poli­cies required to begin this process are detailed in The Green New Deal (new eco­nom­ics foun­da­tion, Larry Elliott, Car­o­line Lucas et al 21 July 2008).
  4. Sup­port Com­mu­nity Build­ing Local­i­sa­tion — A dra­matic increase in the Scot­tish Government’s excel­lent sup­port for com­mu­ni­ties seek­ing to make the tran­si­tion from an oil depen­dent econ­omy to a local one: evi­dent in the wave of Tran­si­tion Town, Going Car­bon Neu­tral, etc, ini­tia­tives. The Land Reform (Scot­land) Act should be expanded to extend sup­port to urban com­mu­ni­ties to also have the first right (and sup­port) to buy impor­tant com­mu­nity land and build­ings when they come on the mar­ket. This expan­sion must not be at the expense of exist­ing sup­port for rural com­mu­ni­ties to do like­wise, but can enable urban com­mu­ni­ties to rebuild them­selves, partly through learn­ing from the expe­ri­ence of rural com­mu­nity initiatives.As the pre­vi­ous three actions are taken to stop the extrac­tion of car­bon, a level play­ing field will emerge in which food, energy and the things we need and want are pro­duced far closer to home, with deci­sions increas­ingly being made at a local level; enabling us to re-establish healthy local economies and communities.In place of large cor­po­ra­tions pro­duc­ing cheap and shoddy goods through exploit­ing cheap labour and engag­ing in prac­tices (includ­ing long dis­tance trans­porta­tion) which dam­age the envi­ron­ment, in place of our fuelling those aspects of the econ­omy in China and the rest of the Major­ity World which enable those with power in such coun­tries to fur­ther exploit those pushed off their land and denied their rights, we will come to rely on estab­lish­ing healthy local economies here, which will enable healthy economies there.

The three pre­vi­ous steps cre­ate the grounds for this fourth step which ulti­mately depends on peo­ple being will­ing to rebuild their com­mu­ni­ties as sus­tain­able, healthy, resilient and desir­able places to be through relo­cal­is­ing their econ­omy. With­out this last step, we can­not stop the dev­as­tat­ing extrac­tion of car­bon, nor demon­strate to the world how to get back below 350ppm and so stay below the dan­ger thresh­old of 2°C.

In sum­mary: there is no way we are going to be able to pull back from the brink and — in the process — develop the localised economies needed for ful­fill­ing low car­bon lifestyles unless:

  • There is clear leg­is­la­tion in place to ensure a level play­ing field for all, so that indi­vid­u­als, com­pa­nies and pub­lic bod­ies are able to act to dra­mat­i­cally reduce their emis­sions to the level nec­es­sary. Unless
  • There is a clear pro­gramme to change energy use, infra­struc­ture, and the mate­ri­als we use, from carbon-based to carbon-neutral. Unless
  • There is swift leg­is­la­tion to curb the abil­ity of finance and the profit motive to exploit and dam­age, rather than serve soci­ety. Unless
  • There is dra­mat­i­cally increased sup­port for com­mu­ni­ties to make the transition.

If gov­ern­ment says such a pro­gramme can­not be embarked on within 12 months, we request an oppor­tu­nity for imme­di­ate dia­logue with the Scot­tish Government.

The Imme­di­ate Side Effects/ Ben­e­fits of this Approach:

Mov­ing to a localised econ­omy involves rebuild­ing com­mu­nity resilience and can involve us — almost inad­ver­tently — tack­ling a range of other social prob­lems which at the moment seem to be grow­ing and intractable. Take an exam­ple given by Andrew Simms of the New Eco­nom­ics Foun­da­tion. He writes that:

Cuba demon­strated it is pos­si­ble to feed a pop­u­la­tion under extreme eco­nomic stress with very few fos­sil fuel, but there were other sur­prises too. As calo­rie intake fell by more than one third, of neces­sity the pro­por­tion of phys­i­cally active adults more than dou­bled and obe­sity halved. Between 1997–2002, deaths attrib­uted to dia­betes halved, coro­nary heart dis­ease fell by 35 per­cent, and strokes and other causes by around one fifth. The approach was dubbed the ‘anti-model’ because it was both highly man­aged and led by com­mu­ni­ties, it focused on meet­ing domes­tic needs rather than exports, was largely organic and built on the suc­cess of small farms.

The extra­or­di­nary fact is that although cli­mate chaos threat­ens our species with extinc­tion, pre­vent­ing cli­mate chaos requires us to tackle the same forces that are caus­ing the destruc­tion of the envi­ron­ment and of other people’s lives right now. The prospect of cli­mate change can either paral­yse us into inac­tion or rad­i­calise us into tak­ing action. If we act, we can build a far bet­ter world; if we don’t, then our species will become extinct — there is noth­ing to lose in tak­ing ratio­nal rad­i­cal action now.


Note 1. CARBON TRADING SYSTEMS: to Price Car­bon Out of the Economy:

Cap and Share’ which requires those bring­ing car­bon emit­ting fuels into the econ­omy — the car­bon extrac­tors — to buy the rights to sell­ing those fuels by pur­chas­ing cred­its from the pop­u­la­tion. Their costs are then embed­ded in the far higher price of car­bon based prod­ucts, and indi­vid­u­als can afford these costs because they have sold their per­sonal car­bon credit to those com­pa­nies. Those who use beyond their fair share will then be penalised by the increased cost, while pro­duc­ers will be moti­vated to pro­duce carbon-low alternatives.

‘Per­sonal Car­bon Trad­ing’ (as advo­cated by the Envi­ron­men­tal Audit Com­mit­tee of the House of Com­mons in May 2008) ‘Domes­tic Trad­able Quotas’/ ‘Trad­able Energy Quo­tas’ (as advo­cated by the Scot­tish Green Party) are dif­fer­ent names for essen­tially the same idea: each of us would have an equal, free car­bon allowance every year. When we pay our home energy bills, or buy fuel or travel tick­ets, we would pay using ‘car­bon points’ from our allowance, as well as money. We would each have a car­bon card (like a bank card), with the points stored on it, to make this work. Peo­ple who use more than their fair share of car­bon could buy extra points from those who have spare to sell. In this way, pol­luters are penalised, the rest of soci­ety ben­e­fits and the total amount of car­bon pro­duced is con­trolled. If the size of the allowance is reduced year by year, this becomes a path­way to a fairer, lower car­bon future. The process of going carbon-neutral is accom­pa­nied by a process which rewards those liv­ing low-carbon lifestyles. At the moment this would reward the 80% of the pop­u­la­tion respon­si­ble for below aver­age emis­sions. The wealth­i­est (glob­ally and nation­ally) are respon­si­ble for the vast bulk of emis­sions through the amount of goods/flights/etc. they use.

Note 2. CONTRACTION & CONVERGENCE:

The Con­trac­tion part con­cen­trates on the total amount of Car­bon being put into the atmos­phere. This lays down an annual fall of global emis­sions — how great that fall would be would depend on the final level of atmos­pheric car­bon con­sid­ered safe.

The Con­ver­gence part lays down how the enti­tle­ments to emit car­bon are dis­trib­uted between the coun­tries of the world. Ini­tially these enti­tle­ments would reflect cur­rent emis­sions to reflect the dif­fi­culty in mak­ing the tran­si­tion. How­ever these ini­tial enti­tle­ments will con­verge towards equal per capita emis­sions across the planet. The year when enti­tle­ments reach equal­ity would be sub­ject to nego­ti­a­tion. Once con­ver­gence has been reached then all coun­tries enti­tle­ments would con­tinue to fall, that is to say contract.

Con­trac­tion & Con­ver­gence is the under­ly­ing inter­na­tional approach H35O — along with most oth­ers — sup­port. In a sense Holy­rood 350 is advo­cat­ing uni­lat­eral con­trac­tion and con­ver­gence within Scot­land in order to show that this is pos­si­ble and inspire oth­ers to fol­low our example.

Note 3. Who We Are

The Holy­rood 350 cam­paign is the ini­tia­tive of peo­ple
who are actively work­ing across Scot­land to dra­mat­i­cally reduce their
com­mu­ni­ties car­bon foot­prints, and who call on the Holy­rood Gov­ern­ment
to take urgently these steps to enable Scot­land as a whole to do like­wise
and chart a path for other coun­tries to follow.

  • Justin Ken­rick of PEDAL, Por­to­bello Tran­si­tion Town
  • John Riley of Car­bon Neu­tral Biggar
  • Jonathan Daw­son of Find­horn Eco-Village, Forres
  • Mike Small of the Fife Diet
  • Nick Wild­ing of Towards Tran­si­tion Falkland
  • Rachel Nunn of Going Car­bon Neu­tral Stirling
  • Eva Schon­veld of PEDAL, Por­to­bello Tran­si­tion Town
  • Andy Ross of Car­bon Reduc­tion Action Group, Glasgow
  • Lucy Con­way of the Isle of Eigg
  • Alan Drever, Sleat Com­mu­nity Trust, Isle of Skye

Launched at ‘The Big Tent — Scotland’s Fes­ti­val of Stew­ard­ship’, Falk­land,
Fife on 27th July 2008:


, 24th July 2008
H35O — Holy­rood 350 — Launched at The Big Tent, Falk­land, Fife 27th July 2008

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