The Cheltenham Climate Change Forum

....Climate change news, views and world politics

Note: The inclusion of the following news articles and comment does not necessarily reflect the views held by the Cheltenham Climate Change Forum.
Governments adopt Bonn agreement on Kyoto Protocol UNFCCC Press Release, 23 July 2001
Esso concerned over Body Shop's UK boycott move Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters. 5 July 2001
'Winter Floods - Summer Droughts' in store for South Justin Penrose, PA News
Cutting emissions is as optional as breathing Andrew Simms, Head of New Economics Foundation's Global Economy Programme, Aug 2001
Kyoto still afloat - but it's taken on water Comment from Friends of the Earth, July 2001
UK Government Renewables Plan Comment from Friends of the Earth, 3 August 2001
What does green mean? We talk about eco-friendly architecture - but is it just so much hot air? Jonathan Glancey, 4 August 2001,
The Guardian
Campaign websites on climate change issues  

Governments adopt Bonn agreement on Kyoto Protocolnd


The 180 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change now meeting in Bonn have reached a broad political agreement on the operational rulebook for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The meeting will now continue through Friday the 27 th and start the process of translating this agreement into more detailed legal decisions.


"Today's agreement will keep up the pressure for early emissions reductions by governments and the private sector in the developed world," said Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the Convention. "It should also strengthen financial and technological support to developing countries to enable them to take action on climate change. The next step is for developed country governments to ratify the Protocol so that it can enter into force as quickly as possible - preferably by 2002."

Under the agreement, a special climate change fund and a fund for least developed countries will be established under the 1992 Convention to help developing countries adapt to climate change impacts, obtain clean technologies, and limit the growth in their emissions. In addition, a Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund will be established to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes.

One of the most difficult issues to resolve was how much credit developed countries could receive toward their Kyoto targets through the use of sinks (which absorb carbon from the atmosphere). The meeting agreed that the eligible activities will include revegetation and the management of forests, croplands and grazing lands. Individual country quotas were set; the result is that sinks will account for only a fraction of the emissions reductions that can be counted towards the Kyoto targets.

The meeting also adopted the rules governing the Clean Development Mechanism, through which developed countries can invest in climate-friendly projects in developing countries and receive credit for the emissions avoided by these projects. The rules specify that energy efficiency, renewable energy, and forest sink projects can qualify for the CDM, while developed parties are to refrain from using nuclear facilities in the CDM. An executive board has been set up to oversee the Mechanism. Other rules address the international emissions trading regime, which enables developed countries to buy and sell emissions credits amongst themselves, and the Joint Implementation regime, under which OECD countries can invest in projects in countries with economies in transition.

The Bonn agreement emphasizes that all three of the above mechanisms should be supplemental to domestic action and that domestic action shall thus constitute a significant element of the effort made by each Party.

The Protocol also includes a compliance mechanism. Compliance with the Protocol will be overseen by a Compliance Committee with a facilitative branch and an enforcement branch. For every ton of gas that a country emits over its target, it will be required to reduce an additional 1.3 tons during the Protocol's second commitment period, which starts in 2013. Additional compliance procedures and mechanisms will be developed after the Protocol enters into force.

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Cutting emissions is as optional as breathing

Article by Andrew Simms, Head of New Economics Foundation's Global Economy Programme

Is there a point negotiating on how far to build a bridge across a canyon? The mistake made by the United States and the industrialised countries working on the Kyoto Protocol is to treat scientific advice on targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions as optional. In fact, they are as optional as breathing. Fail to meet them and we will lose a livable atmosphere.

The storm of haggling over curbing emissions missed that adequate action is ultimately non-negotiable and represents unimaginable economic consequences. Whatever political agreement is signed such as the Kyoto Protocol, or another more logical and embracing deal like contraction and convergence, industrialised countries will need to radically change how they live. George Bush raises the spectre of growing emissions from developing countries. But an average US citizen is still responsible for around 20 times the carbon dioxide emissions of a person from India and 300 times that of someone from Mozambique.

A range of estimates from the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN Environment Programme point to rich countries needing to reduce emissions by anything up to 90 per cent. How could it be done? Too much faith has been put in technology. In a global economy driven by crude growth, efficiency gains are constrained by the laws of physics. Astrophysicist Alberto Di Fazio compared greenhouse gas accumulations to world industrial output over time and found a correlation that was almost 'total'. Without radical cuts in day-to-day consumption, the extra time that technology could create Di Fazio considers to be 'negligible'. For example, the average car from all but one major manufacturer in the US, today produces more greenhouse gasses than ten years ago. The 'weightless economy' is getting heavier. It turns out that individual life choices are crucial, not just about middle class hand-wringing.

However, there are few precedents for widespread lifestyle change. Short of universal downshifting, or conversion to anti-materialistic religions, only war economies provide an approximate analogy. All the major industrialised countries have recent experience of them. They can generate senses of extended responsibility, purpose and focus. They always involve the complete re-gearing of the economy. The enemy here is a hostile climate, not another country. But the victims of climate change could be more than in any war. According to the insurance industry the economic damage will be greater, global bankruptcy striking around the mid-point of the century. And, similarly, life and death decisions have to be taken amid inescapable uncertainty.

Resource efficiency was a major focus for British people during the Second World War. In six years from 1938 there was a 95 per cent cut in private vehicle use. Public transport increased significantly. Consumption of all goods and services fell 16 per cent in a similar period. A change in diet meant that while people were eating less, they were eating better. Life expectancy for people away from the bombs and bullets increased and infant mortality fell. For some, less really was more. Behaviour changed partly in response to a massive government information campaign, itself amplified through media as far ranging as Good Housekeeping and Feeding Cats and Dogs in Wartime. It changed because people clearly understood the nature of the threat. New patterns of behaviour became self-policing. Wasting food, material or fuel was seen as anti-social. Rationing was a fact, parameters were set by government, but without public support the country would have been ungovernable.

Poor countries with conventional foreign debts have lived with badly designed 'structural adjustment programmes' for decades. To tackle the ecological debt of global warming, rich countries could now run the equivalent of environmental war economies, working within the framework of 'sustainability adjustment programmes'. Scenarios to meet the 90 per cent emissions cut, and balance the environmental budget, can be drawn for negotiable timeframes over the next 30, 50 or 70 years. All countries in the Earth Summit process are committed to having national sustainability strategies by 2005. So, foundations already exist. In 1943, Hugh Dalton, president of the Board of Trade said, 'There can be no equality of sacrifice in this war. Some must lose their lives and limbs, others only the turn-ups on their trousers.' In Bangladesh 20 million people are threatened by homelessness due to flooding so that we can drive our sports utility vehicles.

At the time of the first OPEC crisis in the United States a Congressional Declaration of Purpose to shape domestic policy called for 'positive and effective action' to protect 'general welfare... conserve scarce energy supplies' and 'ensure fair and efficient distribution.' Apply this more generally and there is a new global plan to tame a savage climate.

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Kyoto still afloat - but it's taken on water

Bonn agreement: comment from Friends of the Earth, July 2001

The Kyoto Protocol has survived the best efforts of George W Bush and the US administration to kill it off. But obstructive behaviour by members of the Umbrella Group has forced Mr Pronk and countries supporting the Protocol to water it down substantially. Forest "sinks" at home and in developing countries, emissions trading and other provisions threaten to allow industrialized countries to minimize domestic action to cut greenhouse gases. And implementation of the compliance system has been partly delayed after disgraceful pressure from Japan in particular.

Environmental campaigners will be demanding early ratification of Kyoto. But they will then be campaigning to ensure that governments treat the Protocol as only a first step towards tackling man-made climate change, and that they do not use the loopholes in the Bonn deal to avoid action at home. They will also be demanding that compliance rules are introduced quickly and ensure that the Protocol is a properly enforceable and effective international agreement.

Friends of the Earth International Climate Campaigner Kate Hampton commented: "The Kyoto Protocol is still alive. That in itself is a triumph for citizens all over the world who have campaigned so hard for governments to act to tackle dangerous climate change. It is also a political disaster for President Bush, who with the arrogance of power thought that his decision to renege on Kyoto would be enough to kill it. But the price of success has been high. The Protocol has been heavily diluted. Its effect on the climate has been massively eroded. This is not an academic question of tonnages and percentage points. Each move away from action will bring further misery and destruction to communities across the world. We leave here with new hope for the future. But we warn the world's governments: this is only a small step forward. You have a very long way to go."

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Eco-friendly architecture: what does green mean?

What does green mean? We talk about eco-friendly architecture - but is it just so much hot air?
By Jonathan Glancey Saturday August 4, 2001, The Guardian

The London Assembly building

Earlier this week an official report raised fears that the Greater London Assembly's new headquarters will not be as environmentally sound as it should be. The report proved to be out of date, and the problems it raised have since been overcome. But the incident revived an old question: what is a "green" building?

There is no single clear answer, although each of us has some idea of what such a building looks like. For some, it is something William Heath-Robinson might have dreamed up, an architectural pot-pourri of miniature windmills sprouting from conservatory roofs hedged in by ineffable solar-powered gadgets and ostentatious compost heaps. For others, the self-consciously organic architecture of Imre Makovecz will come to mind - villages of wooden buildings found mostly in western Hungary. Makovecz calls these folkloric adventures in timber "building beings". They feel alive in a Hansel and Gretel, Babes in the Wood way. And for yet others, the notion of a green building conjures up tents, igloos, huts, benders, tree houses and caves. Few of us think of ultra-modern, hi-tech architecture, and yet Foster and Partners' remarkable Swiss Re headquarters emerging in the City of London, a future home for some 4,500 office workers, will be among the most environmentally sound new buildings of its type and scale anywhere in the world. An environmentally friendly office block may seem a contradiction in terms, but this will be a special building. Not only will the windows actually open, but the building will be ventilated by fresh air. The air inside will be further oxygenated by trees and plants in the "sky gardens" that spiral up and around its glazed, conical structure. Swiss Re will use much less power than conventional office buildings for lighting, cooling and heating. Its low energy bills will offset the initial environmental costs of its steel frame, imported components and sophisticated construction.

But how do we measure greenness in general? If we calculate only the energy a building uses for heat and light during the course of a year, what does that tell us? What if the materials used in its construction have had to be transported by diesel-powered freighters and jets guzzling aviation fuel? And what if the same is true of the products the building sells or produces? The Sainsbury supermarket that opened last year near the Dome at Greenwich is said to be among the most ecologically sound of its type. Yet a green superstore is a contradiction in terms given that so much of the food it sells will be imported from around the world. The shop may be made out of all the correct materials, it may use little energy compared with other supermarkets, yet the total energy spend may still be high.

There are many building types we might well do without, even if they could be tamed to use as little energy as possible in terms of heating, lighting and ventilation: out-of-town superstores, air-conditioned shopping malls, cul de sacs of executive homes. But given that we are unlikely to curb our demands for more and more of everything that money can buy, how can we best measure the energy consumed in their construction and maintenance? One of the most compelling new measures is "eco-footprinting", which I learned about from Pooram Desai, director of the BioRegional Group. Eco-footprinting, explains Desai, is a form of energy audit that allows us to estimate the burden that the consumption of anything, from food and paper to building materials, puts on the environment. The production of steel, for example, requires the expenditure of 10 times the energy required in the making of bricks or concrete. However, it is possible to reduce the impact by recycling steel or by designing buildings in which the use of steel is balanced by long-term savings in energy costs incurred through heating, lighting and ventilation.

Eco-footprinting also makes some striking points about individual countries' greenness. "The planet has a total productive 'bio-capacity' of 12.6bn hectares," says Desai, "representing the 25% of its surface not made up of deserts, mountains and deep oceans. From this total bio-capacity we can work out the average eco-footprint per capita based on current estimates of the earth's population, which is around 6bn people. This gives an average of 1.9 hectares of bio-productive land available per capita to meet all our needs." Currently, we are out of balance: to match global energy consumption, the earth would need to be 1.25 times bigger than it is.

So what? Well, according to Desai, the average eco-footprint in the UK is 6.29 hectares per capita (1.4 of this from our cars alone). If the British pattern of consumption were the global norm, the planet would have to be three times as big. The figure for the US is 12.2 hectares per capita (the world would have to be six times as big); the figure for Bangladesh is just 0.6 hectares per acre.

Eco-footprinting principles have been applied to the much-feted BedZED housing development in south-west London, designed by Bill Dunster Architects for the Peabody Trust. In this innovative housing scheme, recycled materials have been used wherever possible, and virtually every component used in the construction and fit-out were drawn from a 35-mile radius to minimise transport energy costs. Where steel has been used, it has been recycled, although recycling is more expensive in cash terms than using new steel. The BedZED housing has courtyards, sky gardens, live-work arrangements, an independent energy supply selling electricity that has been generated there to the national grid, lavatories flushed by recycled rainwater, a village green, a sports centre and a pool of electric cars. It may well become a model for a new way of living if getting to and from work in the city becomes too much of a chore and the realisation sets in that it is possible to be "green" without growing a beard, wearing sandals and shouting at cars from the saddle of a bicycle.

Yet, as Jonathan Deans, a partner of Gardiner and Theobald, the cost consultants for BedZED, points out, this kind of project is unlikely to become a part of the design-and-build process by which the government, for example, procures public buildings through the PFI (private finance initiative). Schemes like BedZED require an imaginative, intelligent and precise control of the supply chain, the procurement of recycled and reclaimed materials and the handling of subcontractors. The design-and-build/PFI route is nominally all about efficiency, but in truth it is more to do with getting buildings (especially public buildings) designed on the cheap to keep government borrowing figures as low as possible.

Where once the public sector led in setting out principles for intelligent architecture, we now rely on the private sector, which has no set standards. Where a demanding corporation such as Swiss Re is involved, an architecture of real inventiveness can emerge. Yet too many housebuilders and design-and-build companies are more interested in smothering the country in fast-buck instant architectural solutions than in wasting money (as they see it) on environmentally sound projects.

New design techniques, such as energy audits and parametric modelling (which allows architects to adjust the structural mass and thus the total energy input of a building on screen and before contractors set to work on site), are encouraging architects and engineers to work together to minimise total energy use, or at least to offer an optimum balance between building costs and ecological cost. We can have ultra-modern design and tread as softly as possible on the planet. But it will only be when schemes like BedZED prove to be what people want (we'll soon find out) and offices like Swiss Re prove their mettle that eco-footprinting will be taken more seriously in the macho, short-term, rapid-turnover world of building.

Meanwhile, we need to learn to look at new buildings in a much wider energy context. Even an office by Imre Makovecz would be wrong-headed if the only way to reach it was by car. The green belt is increasingly studded with business parks boasting ponds that draw dragonflies and gardens full of butterflies. But each business park is at the heart of a car park. As to what we build, this is another question. But better the sandalled footprint of a Heath-Robinson house with its earnest compost heap than the stomping, high-heeled footprint of yet another out-of-town shopping mall.

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UK Government Renewables Plan: FoE comment

Welcome for Green Power Law but target is too low, warns FoE

Friends of the Earth today welcomed proposals from the Government that will make it a requirement to increase the amount of renewable energy used in the UK. But FOE also warned that the official target was too low and backed calls from MPs [1] and environmental groups for it to be increased.

The Renewables Obligation - the details of which were released by the DTI today [2] - will impose a legally enforceable quota on all utility companies to supply electricity from renewable sources such as wind power and solar power. It replaces an earlier system based on individual projects.

The Government's target is for 10% of all electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2010. Friends of the Earth and, last year, the House of Commons Environment Select Committee have both called for this target to be doubled to 20%.

FOE Energy Campaigner Mark Johnston commented: "The Government is introducing a good system that is flexible, efficient and has the potential to deliver renewable energy on a very large scale. But still Ministers are relatively unambitious when it comes to setting targets. Other European states are moving much faster than the UK. If we are serious about honouring our international commitments on climate change, then we have to go well beyond the present target." [3]

[1] Last year, the House of Commons Environment Select Committee, while examine the UK Climate Programme, said the Governments target of only 10 percent of electricity to be from green sources was too low. The Committee recommended the target should be double to 20% over the same time period.
[2] A briefing explained how the Renewables Obligation will work is available on request.
[3] The 10% by 2010 target was first adopted by the Labour Party in 1995.

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Campaign websites

26-28 Underwood Street Hackney, London, N1 7JQ
Tel. switchboard: 020 7490 1555


FACE UP TO CLIMATE CHANGE - THE REAL FUEL CRISIS and "Gambling with our climate may be acceptable to those of us living in affluent societies in the north (northern hemisphere nations), reckoning that we can adapt or buy our way out of climate trouble, but this gambling mentality is not one that would find many takers in Mozambique...". Dr Mike Hulme, University of East Anglia

PLANE CRAZY Broken Promises - Airport Expansion, Europe's Merry Go Round click on 'Campaign publications', then scroll down. "An unquestioning attitude towards future growth in air travel, and an acceptance that the projected demand for additional facilities and services must be met, are incompatible with the aim of sustainable development. The demand for air transport might not be growing at the present rate if airlines and their customers had to face the costs of the damage they are causing to the environment." The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 1994

Campaign website information provided by Paul de Zylva, FoE Campaigns Co-ordinator, FoE London.

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Last updated: 14 August 2001
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