Monday, November 30, 2009

Biofuels for Bristol (??): Public Meeting this Thursday, 7pm, Arnolfini

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Despite serious concerns about the impacts of biofuels in general and vegetable oils like palm oil in particular on the climate, on forests and other ecosystems and on communities in the global South, as well as concerns over air pollution and public health in nearby areas biofuel (sometimes called Agrofuel) power station planning applications are springing up from a number of companies in several parts of the UK, including Bristol (more details on other parts of the UK from Food Not Fuel.

W4B Energy announced plans in April 2009 to build a 20MW power station at Balaclava Bay, Portland, Dorset. They were refused planning permission by Weymouth and Portland Council in September 2009 but have now submitted plans for a 50MW power station in Bristol at Avonmouth Docks, (application number 09/03235/F) as well as re-submitting plans in Portland. The Avonmouth plans are now being considered by Bristol City Council and a decision is expected as early as January 2010 (documents relating to the plans are here).

W4B are openly planning to use imported palm oil - Portland and Bristol are well suited to taking oil deliveries directly off tankers. The proposed power station would burn 90,000 tonnes of vegetable oil, most likely palm oil, every year.They have also put forward jatropha as a possible fuel - yet jatropha is not yet commercially available, many plantings are failing and thousands of people have already lost their land and livelihood for jatropha plantations to feed Europe’s biofuel market. A May 2009 report from Friends of the Earth demolishes the claims that jatropha can be sustainable because its grown on marginal lands with little need for water and fertiliser.

Unsustainable economics, unsustainable standards

Under the UK Government Renewables Obligation, companies producing electricity from renewable sources like solar, wind, hydro get a subsidy. This subsidy is also available for electricity generated in biofuel power stations. The allocation of this subsidy as 'Renewable Obligation Certificates' (ROCs) is the responsibility of OFGEM. Just as with biofuels used for transport, UK taxpayers are subsidising a false climate change solution – we just don’t have adequate standards and systems set up to guarantee socially and environmentally sustainable biofuel production at present.

At the moment, the only ‘internationally recognised certification scheme’ for imported biofuel feedstock is the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This has been strongly criticized for certifying palm oil from companies responsible for deforestation and peatland destruction, for decimating biodiversity (including orangutan populations) and for violating the rights of communities, including indigenous peoples. According to Greenpeace: “deforestation, deep
peat conversion, land disputes and illegal practices continue to occur in the plantation estates owned by a company that is RSPO certified for part of its operations.”
Walhi, Friends of the Earth Indonesia, has warned: "RSPO is designed to legitimate the continuous expansion of the palm oil industry, but any model that includes the conversion of natural habitats into largescale monoculture plantations will never be sustainable." and a declaration signed by 256 organisations condemns the RSPO for “greenwashing” inherently unsustainable oil palm plantations and practices by palm oil palm oil companies. Certification schemes for soya and other feedstocks are also being developed, and have been criticised on the same grounds.

The Royal Society report Sustainable Biofuels: prospects and challenges, Jan 2008, expressed serious concerns about unsustainable practices, lost opportunities, the need for proper sustainability criteria, the need for land use to be given greater priority and large scale uncertainty about current estimates of impacts, as this extract from the report conclusion shows

The dangers of producing biofuels in unsustainable ways have been highlighted, and it is taken as given that unsustainable practices will not be ‘exported’ by the UK through its import policies….However, there is a unique opportunity internationally, not only to avoid such problems, but to produce biofuels in ways that would help to restore degraded farmlands, woodlands, forests and watersheds. In order to facilitate this, the development of sustainability criteria for biofuels and land use need to be given greater priority and momentum in international negotiations. Furthermore effective mechanisms need to be put in place to facilitate technology transfer….Elsewhere in the report, we also highlight the significant uncertainty in the estimates of the impacts (environmental, social and economic) of biofuels.’

Unsustainable land use

The relatively small amount of electricity generated consumes a very large quantity of biofuel. In turn this requires an extremely large area of land to grow the crops, whether in the UK or abroad – land which already has many pressures upon it eg to grow sufficient food of good quality, to maintain varied animal and plant populations, to maintain the ability of land to process carbon, various nutrients and water, to provide healthy leisure, educational and recreational opportunities for people, for housing, roads and so on. Food Not Fuel go through the figures here, stating ‘Ten power stations would be using 67,000 hectares - a land area that could feed a city the size of Belfast!’

Unsustainable climate impacts

Campaigners are very concerned that when full and proper carbon equivalent accounting is done burning vegetable oils emits up to 70% more greenhouse gas emissions than diesel oil - even if it is grown in the UK. A 2007 study by chemistry Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and others suggested that the use of rapeseed biodiesel was associated with 70% more greenhouse gas emissions than the use of equivalent amounts of mineral diesel, due to nitrous oxide emissions from synthetic fertilizer use. Nitrous oxide is nearly 300 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

Peat expert Professor Siegert of Munich University has said about palm oil power stations in Germany: "We were able to prove that the making of these plantations and the burning of the rainforests and peat areas emits many thousands of times as much CO2 as we then are able to prevent by using palm oil. And that is a disastrous balance for the climate."

Unsustainable social and health impacts

The environmental and social impacts of using imported vegetable oil, typically palm oil, are worse. This Biofuelwatch paper explains clearly why the UK agrofuel power industry is likely to import at least some of its fuel, and why this is more damaging.

Burning vegetable oil in power stations, whether grown in the UK or imported, results in high emissions of nitrogen-oxide gases, which can cause or worsen asthma and other lung diseases. It could also cause more emissions of tiny air-borne particles (known as PM 2.5) linked to premature deaths from heart and lung diseases and possibly cause more cot deaths in babies. The Blue NG power stations in Beckton and Southall are both in urban areas with crowded streets and road traffic congestion, and close to airports, where air quality is already not good – as is the case with Avonmouth!

The ravenous need for crops, such as palm, to create the oil required for these stations, often results in violent evictions of indigenous peoples and peasant farmers who receive no compensation, and have no where else to go. With them, thousands of species are threatened with extinction, including the orangutan, and Sumatran tigers and elephants.

In a world where one in six people are in hunger, ie one billion, industrial scale biofuels, which mean that more and more land is used for fuel, rather than for food, are condemned as a "crime against humanity" by the UN’s Jean Zeigler (see here for details).

These stations are planned around the country including Avonmouth, Bristol with minimal or no public consultation. The provision of environmental information is often very poor, making effective participation difficult eg there is still no environmental impact statement available for the proposed Avonmouth power station.

It will make world food prices higher as vegetable oil will be used for electricity instead of food. People in other areas of the world, like South-east Asia and South America could be displaced from their homes to allow the necessary vegetable oil plants to be grown.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Hinkley nuclear plant: likely to be fraught with economic and technical problems

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Our Government have been telling us, yet again, that quite a bit more nuclear power is needed to meet our energy needs. However, an excellent report on last nights Newsnight cast massive doubt over both the economic and the technical aspects of this technology. No British nuclear power station has ever been built on time. The reactor type planned for Hinkley Point, which will be the first of the new reactors to be built, is three years over time and billions over budget on a site in Finland – and construction has been stopped many times due safety errors of which there have been 3000 to date!!

Over confidence about this latest design and construction method from the French construction company Areva was so high that they had agreed a fixed price and a fixed date for completion – but its all ended in extra cost, extra delay, threat and dispute!!

Remember when they said that nuclear electricity would be ‘too cheap to meter’. That technical fix never transpired – and it looks very much like our Government are vastly over-optimistic about nuclear power this time too. Full Newsnight report text below:

By Meirion Jones BBC Newsnight

A Newsnight investigation suggests that UK government plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations to fill the energy gap by 2020 are wildly optimistic.

The British nuclear regulator has told Newsnight that he would not hesitate to halt construction if problems emerged and that no British nuclear power station had ever been built on time.

The first of the new generation of reactors in Britain will be at Hinkley Point in Somerset, and will be a replica of the new Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) reactor currently being built in Finland by the French company, Areva.
The Finnish EPR at Olkiluoto was supposed to be the first "third generation" reactor - safe, affordable, and designed for mass production.

The reactor is three years behind schedule and billions of pounds over budget after more than 3,000 mistakes were made by the builders.

The Finnish nuclear regulator has also halted construction on at least a dozen occasions due to safety concerns.

British regulator, Kevin Allars of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), told Newsnight that he will be every bit as tough as his Finnish equivalent.

Energy promises

Earlier this year, EDF announced that by 2017 Britons would be cooking their Christmas dinners with electricity generated by a new EPR nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, and that come 2020 four reactors would be operating in time to fill any energy gap.

The Energy Secretary Ed Miliband this month issued a provisional go-ahead for ten new nuclear power stations, including Hinkley Point. EDF and Areva have until June 2011 to produce a design which will satisfy the British regulators.
But Finland's regulator, Petteri Tiippana says that the current design for the reactor at Olkiluoto is not safe because emergency circuits are not independent of normal control systems:

"If they aren't independent then the failure in the normal systems can cause a failure in the safety systems," he said.

Areva have promised to submit an improved design to the British and Finnish authorities, after which planning permission to build at each of the British sites must be applied for which is likely to take at least another year - taking us to the middle of 2012.

EDF will then have just five years to build the Hinkley Point reactor if we are to be able use its power to cook Christmas dinners in 2017.


The last reactor built in Britain, Sizewell B in Suffolk, was completed in 1995 and took some eight years to build.

Five years have passed since Areva began work on the Finnish reactor and it will take at least another three years to finish the job - eight years in total.
Newsnight asked the man in charge of regulating new nuclear stations here, Kevin Allars of the NII, if any nuclear power station had every been delivered on time in the UK.

"No," was his response.

The Finnish regulator, Mr Tiippana, says it is difficult to deliver these projects on schedule because builders are not used to working to the exacting standards required on nuclear construction sites since so few new reactors have been built in recent years.

Mr Tiippana says that if construction workers do not have the right concrete to build the foundations they will use whatever is to hand, if it is awkward to put a radiation sensor where it should be they will be tempted to put it somewhere else, if it is easier to drill holes in the radiation containment vessel they will do it.

All these mistakes occurred in the construction of the Finnish reactor, just a few of the 3,000 errors detected so far. Correcting them has caused months of delays.
"When they encounter a problem on site they usually follow their previous experience" says Mr Tiippana, "this is how we did it on a coal power plant and that just doesn't work on a nuclear construction project".

Areva was so confident about the EPR that they agreed to build the reactor in Finland with a fixed delivery date of May 2009, and for a fixed price.
The earliest the reactor is now expected to come on line is 2012 and it is 3bn euros (£2.71bn) over budget.

Areva have threatened to abandon the reactor partially built unless they are given more cash.

Building nuclear power stations to order may not prove to be as easy as Ed Miliband might think.

Copenhagen 3

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From Karen Linday, Oxfam South West: Bristol’s ‘Copenhagen 3’ will make a crowd at Copenhagen climate change talks. Three Bristol-based Oxfam activists are preparing to become on-the-ground reporters for the most important moment in history. Known as the ‘Copenhagen 3’, the volunteer activists will act as the eyes, ears and voice of the Southwest at the crucial Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen on the weekend of the 12th December.

Megan Orpwood-Russell (24), Rosanne White (24) and Janine Woodward (29)
[pictured] are joining Oxfam activists from across the UK on a specially booked train, which will travel from London to Copenhagen on Friday 11th December. Over the course of the weekend, the ‘Copenhagen 3’ will be reporting on the talks and feeding back to the Southwest via the Oxfam Southwest blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Megan said: “I want to go to Copenhagen because apathy upsets me so much – when I hear my friends say ‘what’s the point?’ and insist that ‘one person can’t make a difference.

“I want to show people that if one person can encourage five others, then five more, we can soon change things! It worries me that politics could affect our climate future simply because of the fact that some countries think other countries won’t act. I want to show these leaders that a lot of people across the world have invested in this.”

In the run up to their epic journey, the ‘Copenhagen 3’ are giving talks in schools, meeting with local MPs, joining up with Southwest groups such as Stitch n’ Bitch and Sustainable Frome, and posting news of their activities on the Oxfam Southwest blog, Twitter and Facebook. Set up only on Thursday 19th November, the ‘Copenhagen 3’ Facebook page has already attracted 107 fans.

Up to 100,000 people are expected to march through Copenhagen on the 12th December – including 250 people from Oxfam international and climate witnesses. Hundreds of events and activities will be organised around the world during the day – involving many affiliates.

Oxfam is campaigning for a fair and safe climate deal. A safe deal must keep global warming below 2°C over pre-industrial temperatures. Global emission levels need to come down by 50% by 2050.

A fair deal means that governments must support financial and technical aid for developing countries to help them adapt to climate change, particularly noting the special needs of women.

For more information, please contact:
Hannah Durrant on 0117 916 6474 / 07887 632 658 /
Or Karen Lindsay on 0117 916 6477 /

The Oxfam Southwest ‘Copenhagen 3’ blog is here:

The ‘Copenhagen 3’ Facebook page is here:

The ‘Copenhagen 3’ are also on Twitter:@oxfamsouthwest

More details on Oxfam’s position on climate change can be found in here:

Help stop climate chaos and come to the Wave on 5th December:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Biofuel power for Bristol would very seriously detract from 'green capital' ambition

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Biofuels Scandal: The Hidden Cost of the Biofuels Stations proposed for Bristol and for sites across Britain. Public Meeting organized by Zenith Milner, Environmentalist, Thursday 3rd December, 7:00pm to 9:00pm, The 3rd Floor, Bush House, Arnolfini, 72 Prince St.,Bristol, BS1 4QD

Heavy government subsidies, to the tune of tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, are all that are making power stations using virgin plant oil viable. But the truth shocking is that, instead of reducing the gases that cause climate change, these biofuels stations actually increase them. Also, they cause local air pollution, causing respiratory and heart diseases and they bring about rainforest destruction on a massive scale.

The ravenous need for crops, such as palm, to create the oil required for these stations, often results in violent evictions of indigenous peoples and peasant farmers who receive no compensation, and have nowhere else to go. With them, thousands of species are threatened with extinction, including the orang utan, and Sumatran tigers and elephants.

In a world where one in six people are in hunger, ie one billion, industrial scale biofuels, which mean that more and more land is used for fuel, rather than for food, are condemned as a "crime against humanity" by Jean Zeigler, UN. But a number of these stations are planned around the country including Avonmouth, Bristol [despite its 'green capital' ambition - Ed] with minimal or no public consultation.

You are invited to come and voice your views on whether we should build biofuels power stations in this country. We hope to have representatives from Southall, Portland and Newport campaigns on biofuel power station applications with us.

Come along and bring friends and colleagues with you and let others know about it - lets get those councillors and MPs can candidates for such posts attending. Write to them and invite them – they may send a representative if unavailable themselves as has already happened.

Copenhagen Climate Summit and Cumbria...

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Excellent guide to and commentary on the soon to be held Copenhagen Climate Summit here produced by Greenpeace. It shows that the current draft treaty has no agreement on the key issues: the level and timings of carbon emissions cuts; financing of measures to adapt to climate change, transfer clean technologies around the globe, help poorer countries cut emissions and protect their forests. It also shows that there is as yet no agreement on how best to protect forests, whose destruction causes between a fifth and a quarter of all climate change.

In short, all the hard issues and real problems are currently being ducked!! See this very useful Greenpeace guide to where various world leaders (so called!) are letting us down, here - this is a snippett of what it says about our PM Gordon Brown:
...He’s failed to embrace renewable energy and quit coal putting him at odds with his own advisors on climate change. And because of wrangling over finance with the rest of the EU, the UK hasn’t been able to offer more than words to developing nations.

Gordon - have you truly seen the flooding in Cumbria and the other very serious flooding events in recent yrs or have you merely looked at them? This from the BBC website:

Five million people in England and Wales are now at risk from flooding every year,

Two million homes have been built in the natural floodplain of rivers or the coast and are vulnerable to flooding,

Scientists predict that climate change may lead to more frequent flooding in the future,

Property, land and assets to the value of £214 billion are at risk of flooding in England and Wales,

Since 1998, 28 people have died as a direct result of flooding, including children. Thousands have suffered shock, trauma and devastating damage to their homes and possessions,

Many families have still not moved back into their homes following the 2000 floods,

Six inches of fast flowing water will knock you off your feet; four inches of water will ruin your carpet, and two feet of water will float your car.
See details of the Foresight Future Flooding report, by Sir David King and 60 top scientists, here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Climate Emergency: Public Meeting

Passing on the message from Katie Buse: Please send this message on to anyone who might be interested!

Thursday, 26th November
The Stag and Hounds
74 Old Market St
Bristol BS2 0EJ

Speakers include
Richard Lawson (Green Party, pictured) Jonathan Neale (Campaign against Climate Change) and Karen Bell (Bristol University), Chaired by Katie Buse (Green Party)

How to get to the National Climate March from Bristol on Dec 05

Bristol Campaign against Climate Change has decided to use the already available public transport.

Megabus:£5 return to London Victoria, make your own way to Rally in Hyde Park.
Dept Colston Hall 07:30 or 10:30
RTN 18:30 -Bristol.21:00
use code RSPB01

Train enquiries; CAFOD 01752 551679, Christian Aid: 01395 222304, Tearfund:02086198076
Tickets £25 departsBristol Temple Meads-Paddington 09:34 on 05 DEC phone 0845 678 2976
National Express has buses running from Malborough St. Bus Station at 08:20 and 08:50.
Tickets btwn£14-£16

If you are a memberof Oxfam or the Co-op you can book with them.
£10 rtn/under 16 gofree. Leaves 0800from @ Bristol, on the Harbourside, Anchor Rd (BS1 5DB) go to: and follow links to "the Wave

or phone Charlotte( Connections) 0845 643 4123

OR you can cycle there!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sustainability, public participation and environmental information questions

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Just sent in two sets of questions for Cllr Jon Rogers to be put at the 24 November Bristol City Council Cabinet meeting:


The current draft version of the recently developed BDF Core Strategy contains this statement,
‘ambitious and sustainable economic growth…maintaining the economic growth of Bristol above the regional and national level…’

1.Would the member recognise that this statement requires very heavy qualification to make it remotely logical or possible on into the future given environmental, social and indeed economic realities?

2.Would he agree with me that this statement should be qualified using the concepts: efficiency; environmental limits; renewability; both local and global justice, now and on into the future; health, wellbeing and quality of life, given that these are the key features of development that make it sustainable?

3.Would he agree with me that unless we make full and proper use of the term sustainable in key documents, especially when paired with economic growth, the way is open for ‘business as usual’ developments which will maintain or worsen environmental and social sustainability here and around the globe?

*Public participation and environmental information

During 1998 the UN Economic Commission for Europe prepared a Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (The Aarhus Convention). In 2003 the European Commission developed two Directives to implement the provisions of the Aarhus Convention. Article 6.2 of the convention states,
‘The public shall be informed, either by public notice or individually as appropriate, early in an environmental decision-making procedure, and in an adequate, timely and effective manner, inter alia, of…the fact that the activity is subject to…environmental impact procedure.’ (UNECE, 1998).

1. Is the member completely satisfied that all significant developments in Bristol, such as the South Bristol Link or the many proposals for dealing with waste or for energy generation in Avonmouth, like the biofuel power station, or Bus Rapid Transit plans or developments on green belt land such as the BCFC stadium…involve provision of environmental information and for public participation that is in full accord with the Aarhus Convention and associated EU Directives ie that it is early, adequate, timely and effective? If not satisfied, what actions does he propose and when?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Silver surfers...Social networking for Older People: activities/training in Knowle

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From Makala Campbell (Cheung), of the Knowle West Media Centre: Hi All, do you know of an older person that could benefit from getting online? Maybe you know someone who works with older people or has an older relative or neighbour? Please forward the relevant info below (choose which one) and help get older people to this event.

And if you think there is someone I could contact personally to talk to them more about it, maybe a group or individual, then please let me know the contact details, and I'll chase it up!

Social Networking for Older People
[For organisations and individuals that work with older people]

Tuesday 8 December, Knowle West Media Centre, Leinster Ave, BS4 1NL

As the festive season approaches, the South Bristol Digital Neighbourhoods programme (SBDN) is holding an event for older people and the individuals and organisations that work with them.

At a time of year that can be lonely and bleak for some, this event will explore digital and social networking solutions to the problem of isolation and facilitate easier communication with and amongst older people.

On Tuesday 8 December 2-4pm, older people can receive training on our mobile laptops, sign up to the myguide website and set up their own Facebook account in a friendly environment, using KWMC’s excellent facilities. There will also be free mince pies, tea and coffee.

The event will look at digital issues affecting older people, with a focus on social networking and isolation.

For more information please contact Makala Campbell or Rachel Clarke at Knowle West Media Centre on 0117 903 0444 / /

Social Networking for Older People
[For older people ]

Tuesday 8 December 2-4pm, Knowle West Media Centre

As the festive season approaches, why not use the power of technology to keep in touch with your friends and family and do your Christmas shopping?

The South Bristol Digital Neighbourhoods programme (SBDN) is holding a day of activities on Tuesday 8 December to help you. There will also be free mince pies, tea and coffee!

Receive training on our mobile computers
Sign up to the myguide website for free computer tutorials
Set up your own account with Facebook – the popular website that connects you with people you know! Can you rival Ivy Bean – the oldest lady on Facebook?

Learn something new in a friendly and supportive environment!

For more information please contact Makala Campbell or Rachel Clarke at Knowle West Media Centre on 01179 030444 / /

Makala Campbell (Cheung)
Digital Neighbourhoods & Communications Coordinator
Direct line: 0117 3532895 / Main tel: 0117 9030444

Knowle West Media Centre, Leinster Avenue, Knowle West, Bristol BS4 1 NL
Company No. 4358350, Charity No. 1092375 Fax: 01179030 445

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Environmental Justice Event Bristol - 11th Nov

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From Karen Bell, School Policy Studies ( )Environmental Justice Event Bristol - 11th Nov, University of Bristol, School for Policy Studies, Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice

Environmental Justice: Achieving a Healthy Environment for All, Public Seminar

Wednesday, 11th November, 1.30 - 4.30 pm


Cristian Domínguez, National Secretary of Environment and Resources,
United Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers

Professor Malcolm Eames, Low Carbon Research Institute, Cardiff University

Judy Ling Wong, CBE. Director, Black Environment Network, UK

Maria Adebowale, Director, Capacity Global

'Environmental Justice' refers to the human right to a healthy and safe
environment, a fair share of natural resources and access to environmental
information and participation in environmental decision-making.

Social movement campaigns for environmental justice usually focus on the
inequitable environmental burdens borne by poor, black and other
disadvantaged groups.

This seminar looks at this issue at a local and
global level, from NGO, activist and academic perspectives and will be of
interest to all those working towards social justice.

This event is open to the public. FFl or to reserve a place, email:
Location: Room LT1, 3 - 5, Woodland Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1TB


Cristian Domínguez, has been at the forefront of environmental justice
campaigns in Bolivia, opposing water privatisation and working for the
nationalisation of natural resources. The organisation he represents, the
CSUTCB, is one of the main social movement organisations which brought
president Evo Morales to power.

Professor Eames has participated in and led research and consultancy
projects for a wide range of agencies including: DTI, DETR, UK Cabinet
Office, Environment Agency, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the European
Commission. In 2004 he produced a report on environmental inequalities in
the UK which has underpinned the current UK Framework and Strategy for
Sustainable Development.

Judy Ling Wong has an international reputation as a pioneer in the field of
black and minority ethnic participation in the built and natural
environment. She works on urban design, identity, health, employment, and
access to the countryside and urban green spaces. The groundbreaking
methodology developed by BEN to engage urban-based ethnic minorities has
been very influential in many areas of mainstream policy.

Maria Adebowale, formerly a UK Sustainable Development Commissioner, is the
founder of Capacity Global, a social enterprise specialising in
environmental justice.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Call for action against proposed Bristol biofuel power station: meeting Thurs 12 Nov

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I've been in touch with Zenith Milner, campaigner against virgin biofuel power station proposals, such as the one planned for Avonouth (one of many applications all over the UK). Please support her call for action - the coming weeks and months are a vital time, with planning applications being considered here. Zenith said,

Please come to our urgent meeting this Thursday 12 November to oppose the plan for a new virgin biofuel power station at Avonmouth, Bristol. Meet at 6.45 for 7 at the entrance of Coexist, 80 Stokes Croft, Bristol, B31 3QF.

W4B has plans to build a power station that would use palm oil and jatropha i.e. virgin biofuel. The plant would have devastating environmental and social consequences. These would include local air pollution from nitrous oxides and particulates which cause respiratory and cardiac diseases, ezcema and may even be related to cot death. Burning vegetable oils would lead to more climate change gases - carbon dioxide and methane - than burning even fossil fuels. Rainforest destruction would be caused, leading to violent evictions of indigenous peoples and the killing and endangering of animal species such as orang utans, sumatran tigers, sumatran elephants and many more. Using land for biofuels instead of food in a world where one billion (or 1 in 6) people are going hungry should be unthinkable. Jean Zeigler, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said it was a crime against humanity to divert arable land to the production of crops which are then burned for fuel.

The scandal is that this type of power station is only viable due to heavy Government subsidies to the tune of tens of millions of pounds of tax payers money. It is also outrageous that there has been virtually no public consultation here in Bristol, which is why so few people know about it even in a city where there is so much environmental awareness.

Consultation has also been minimal in other towns where plans for biofuel power stations have been submitted. However, when citizens have been made aware of the plans they have expressed strong opposition and supported successful campaigns that have led to planning committees rejecting the proposals in Southall, Newport in Gwent and Portland.

It is vital that Bristol shows the way by rejecting this application for a biofuel power station here in Avonmouth and making a stand against virgin biofuel power stations in general in this country.

Please join our EMERGENCY CAMPAIGN MEETING this THURSDAY 12 NOVEMBER at 6.45 for 7 at the entrance of Coexist, 80 Stokes Croft, Bristol, B31 3QF.

Please sign the online petition against the power station at

Do get in touch with Zenith at if you can help with the campaign or want any further information

For further information about biofuels:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The wildlife in Bristol's neighbourhoods...

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Off to a meeting about progressing the Wild City initiative in the local area tonight, with fellow members of the Northern Slopes Initiative. I'm hoping that the Open University's new iSpot website will be relevant and useful in some way. The site enables both casual observers of wildlife and green, natural spaces and experienced naturalists alike to create and share photos and other information and expertise with like-minded people.

The iSpot site is open for use by anyone that wants to but is also well complemented by a great new Open University course called Neighbourhood Nature (S159). This course aims to allow anyone with an interest in nature to develop their scientific and observational skills, whether they live in a city like Bristol or in a rural area. The course involves: introducing habitat types and the various animals/plants; fieldwork to be carried out in a local public open space; entering data colleced onto the iSpot site. No previous scientific experience is needed for doing this course.

[This of course also a shameless plug for my employer, the Open University, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Its perhaps the biggest achievement of Harold Wilson's Govt. I dont teach the Neighbourhood Nature course - I'm involved in Environmental Decision Making: A Systems Approach and Environment: journeys through a changing world, which are also superb courses to take...if you are interested.].

Monday, November 02, 2009

Copenhagen and Climate Change - The Cornish Declaration

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I've not long been back from a holiday in Little Petherick, just outside Padstow in Cornwall. Whilst there we looked around an interesting little church, originally 14th century. I picked up, signed and sent off a postcard I came across in the church - Climate Change - The Cornish Declaration, an initiative 'spearheaded by Truro Cathedral, [which] encourages people and organisations in Cornwall to support action to ensure that Cornwall is part of a planet which lives within its means so that families and communities survive to freely enjoy the county and beauty of Cornwall.

This includes making specific pledges that strive to

*restore the balance between nature and society

*lead sustainable lives

*leave positive footprints on the path to Copenhagen and into the future.' (details)

If you live in Cornwall or are/have been a visitor there, please consider signing and sending off a copy of the declaration (which will then be sent off with many others to PM Gordon Brown before the Copenhagen meeting on climate change).

For more on this part of Cornwall, especially the Saints Way walking and canoeing breaks, see...

Green BCFC stadium design planned for our 'green' city? Should be but isn't...

Copy of my objection to the new BCFC stadium plans, sent in just over a week ago...
Please reject this planning application (09/02242/P). Loss of green belt land and stimulus to further loss of green belt land should be unacceptable, particularly given the extent to which the stadium is not green in design.

There are concrete and long term disbenefits from loss of green belt - a land use designation that is supposed to be used to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighbouring urban areas. Granting planning permission would also be a big stimulus to further loss of green belt and yet more impacts on local communities and environment, compared with benefits that are merely possibilities under certain circumstances - and they are pretty uncertain and transient in nature. For example: credible hard facts that demonstrate that [possibly] having a bit of World Cup football in Bristol for a short period many years hence would give significant net social, economic and environmental benefits are very, very hard to come by, though hype, trivia and illusion on this issue are very easy to find!!

There are certain factors that, under current planning law and guidance, are not legitimate planning criteria against which the application should be judged. These include: World Cup games in Bristol aspirations; Bristol City FC premiership aspirations; support for the application from the local media for the stadium; support from political party leaders for the stadium; support from a multi-millionaire and major supermarket chain for the stadium proposal. These things therefore, at least in theory, should not affect decision making - I sincerely hope that this is the case.

Very little or nothing of what is planned matches the sustainable development all politicians say they are signed up to!! Bristol City have had the option of following good, green practice – but have not taken it. It would of course have gone well with Bristol's green capital ambitions and would have compensated to a degree for the loss of green belt – but they have not abided by this principle.

To what extent is sustainable economic activity promoted eg the use of local labour and local energy and materials? To what extent are the latest energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport technologies employed? Are sustainable access options - walking, cycling and light rail transport links – maximised? Will the stadium be unobtrusive in appearance and sound? Does it feature permanently protected nature reserves around the stadium, designed to maximise biodiversity? Does it aim to be a carbon neutral stadium? Do proposals avoid any 'sprawl' in design? Has there been a thorough ecological assessment of the whole area, at various times of the year before drawing up plans?

How do BCFCs plans compare with examples of football clubs who have used or attempted to use at least some green principles, designs and technologies: Dartford FC (pictured) – living grass roof, solar electricity and heating, rainwater collection and low noise and light pollution design; Ipswich Town – carbon neutral scheme; Middlesborough – solar roof and wind turbines project; Man City – community involvement, transport and waste initiatives (wind turbines were planned but sadly now abandoned)??