29 June 2005

29.06.06. Greenhouse Hypocrisy (Try this one for size)

Editor’s note: Robert Samuelson is a respected economic commentator (that phrase is by the way sheer code), and here we have his views on matters which concern us greatly. My reaction? Well, objectionable as it may be to some, these are voices that we need to listen to and somehow integrate into our understanding of both the problematique, and of the way out. I have once again highlighted what strike me as points of contention. And would it only be that he were all wrong. But hey! He ain’t. Which leaves us with the job of being just as smart as he is, And then some. Your comments?

Greenhouse Hypocrisy

By Robert J. Samuelson, Wednesday, June 29, 2005. www.WashingtonPost.com

Almost a decade ago I suggested that global warming would become a "gushing" source of political hypocrisy. So it has. Politicians and scientists constantly warn of the grim outlook, and the subject is on the agenda of the upcoming Group of Eight summit of world economic leaders. But all this sound and fury is mainly exhibitionism -- politicians pretending they're saving the planet. The truth is that, barring major technological advances, they can't (and won't) do much about global warming. It would be nice if they admitted that, though this seems unlikely.

Europe is the citadel of hypocrisy. Considering Europeans' contempt for the United States and George Bush for not embracing the Kyoto Protocol, you'd expect that they would have made major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions -- the purpose of Kyoto. Well, not exactly. From 1990 (Kyoto's base year for measuring changes) to 2002, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased 16.4 percent, reports the International Energy Agency. The U.S. increase was 16.7 percent, and most of Europe hasn't done much better.

Here are some IEA estimates of the increases: France, 6.9 percent; Italy, 8.3 percent; Greece, 28.2 percent; Ireland, 40.3 percent; the Netherlands, 13.2 percent; Portugal, 59 percent; Spain, 46.9 percent. It's true that Germany (down 13.3 percent) and Britain (a 5.5 percent decline) have made big reductions. But their cuts had nothing to do with Kyoto. After reunification in 1990, Germany closed many inefficient coal-fired plants in eastern Germany; that was a huge one-time saving. In Britain, the government had earlier decided to shift electric utilities from coal (high CO2 emissions) to plentiful natural gas (lower CO2 emissions).

On their present courses, many European countries will miss their Kyoto targets for 2008-2012. To reduce emissions significantly, Europeans would have to suppress driving and electricity use; that would depress economic growth and fan popular discontent. It won't happen. Political leaders everywhere deplore global warming -- and then do little. Except for Eastern European nations, where dirty factories have been shuttered, few countries have cut emissions. Since 1990 Canada's emissions are up 23.6 percent; Japan's, 18.9 percent.

We are seeing similar exhibitionism in the United States. The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently endorsed Kyoto. California and New Mexico have adopted "targets" for emission cuts, reports the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. All this busywork won't much affect global warming, but who cares? The real purpose is for politicians to brandish their environmental credentials. Even if rich countries actually curbed their emissions, it wouldn't matter much. Poor countries would offset the reductions.

"We expect CO2 emissions growth in China between now and 2030 will equal the growth of the United States, Canada, all of Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Korea combined," says Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist. In India, he says, about 500 million people lack electricity; worldwide, the figure is 1.6 billion. Naturally, poor countries haven't signed Kyoto; they won't sacrifice economic gains -- poverty reduction, bigger middle classes -- to combat global warming. By 2030, the IEA predicts, world energy demand and greenhouse gases will increase by roughly 60 percent; poor countries will account for about two-thirds of the growth. China's coal use is projected almost to double; its vehicle fleet could go from 24 million to 130 million.

Like most forecasts, these won't come true. But unless they're wildly unreliable, they demonstrate that greenhouse emissions will still rise. Facing this prospect, we ought to align rhetoric and reality.

First, we should tackle some energy problems. We need to reduce our use of oil, which increasingly comes from unstable or hostile regions (the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia, Africa). This is mainly a security issue, though it would modestly limit greenhouse gases. What should we do? Even with today's high gasoline prices, we ought to adopt a stiff oil tax and tougher fuel economy standards, both to be introduced gradually. We can shift toward smaller vehicles, with more efficient hybrid engines. Unfortunately, Congress's energy bills lack these measures.

Second, we should acknowledge that global warming is an iffy proposition. Yes, it's happening; but, no, we don't know the consequences -- how much warming will occur, what the effects (good or bad) will be or where. If we can't predict the stock market and next year's weather, why does anyone think we can predict the global climate in 75 years? Global warming is not an automatic doomsday. In some regions, warmer weather may be a boon.

Third, we should recognize that improved technology is the only practical way of curbing greenhouse gases. About 80 percent of CO2 emissions originate outside the transportation sector -- from power generation and from fuels for industrial, commercial and residential use. Any technology solution would probably involve some acceptable form of nuclear power or an economic way of removing CO2 from burned fossil fuels. "Renewable" energy (wind, solar, biomass) won't suffice. Without technology gains, adapting to global warming makes more sense than trying to prevent it. Either way, the Bush administration rightly emphasizes research and development.

What we have now is a respectable charade. Politicians and advocates make speeches, convene conferences and formulate plans. They pose as warriors against global warming. The media participate in the resulting deception by treating their gestures seriously. One danger is that some of these measures will harm the economy without producing significant environmental benefits. Policies motivated by political gain will inflict public pain. Why should anyone applaud?

Source: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/28/AR2005062801248.html

27 June 2005

28.06.05. 12 Prescriptions for a European Sustainable Mobility Policy. Eh?

Editor’s Note: I am likely to be considered either churlish or difficult, or possibly negative and unrealistic in the comments that I would like both to make and invite on this, the first of two strategy papers by the European Policy Centre which appears in today’s EurActiv.com, self-described as “the independent media portal fully dedicated to EU affairs. EurActiv has an original business model, based on five elements (corporate sponsoring, EurActor membership, advertising, EU projects, and content syndication). It is well funded and the content usage is free.” (The highlighting in the below has been done by me in an attempt to draw your attention to some of the give-away themes that I think we need to discuss here.)

What has to strike the reader is the very high degree of reasonableness of the positions set out here. They address a number of the key issues involved, but always in a quite informed tone which is followed by recommendations that no “reasonable person” can disagree with. The overall thrust of their analysis however is, in my view, highly pernicious because it takes the edge of urgency off the situation, and in this proposes policy directions that are more than acceptable for all the major economic players (remember that “corporate sponsoring”) as well as their god neighbors the European Commission itself (who are kept busy and funded through the calls for more attention to harmonization of regulations . . . lots of busy work there, and funded EU projects). Who can hate a program like that. Eh? Of course they give short shrift to university involvement in the research program, but no one ever lost any many by beating up on academics. Eh?

We’ll be take a closed look at their “12 Prescriptions” tomorrow, but in the meantime I would like to suggest that if sustainability and social justice re your bag, and you feel that the present situations we face have a high degree of urgency about them, then these brothers are not your friends. They are telling us, in effect, that everything is if not perfect pretty well in hand and more of the same is what is called for. And not much else. All this brings to mind a fine phrase by Jarred Diamond in “Guns, Germs and Steel” in which he analyses certain government arrangements which he classifies as “kleptocracies”. Think about it.

12 Prescriptions for a European Sustainable Mobility Policy

Source: European Policy Centre - Published: Monday 27 June 2005 =
Other analyses from the same source

In Short:

In this EPC Working Paper, the EPC Task Force on Transport presents 12 policy prescriptions for a sustainable European mobility policy. The authors analyse the relationship between European transport policy and economic growth and argue that a strategy of sustainable mobility, broadly defined, is indispensable to achieving the Lisbon objectives on environmental sustainability, social inclusion and economic competitiveness.


Transport is at the very heart of European integration. It is the means for uniting business and communities in Europe and for connecting Europe to the world. With every step towards greater integration, the need for transport grows. Therefore, if the EU is to meet the expected increase in demand for transport as the Union grows, there needs to be a new understanding of transport from European decision-makers.

The EU common Transport Policy, as proposed by the European Commission, aims to make substantial improvements to the quality and efficiency of transport in Europe. It outlines goals that we all can support and want to see realised as soon as possible. But this strategy has been designed to gradually break the link between constant transport growth and economic growth, in order to reduce the pressure on the environment and prevent congestion, while maintaining the EU’s economic competitiveness. It is doubtful whether this can be done in the real world, and thus politicians are faced with the challenge of dealing with an increased pressure from growth in the transport sector while securing sustainability in a broad sense, including for example financing, safety, security, social conditions and the environment.

As the EU adjusts to the largest enlargement to date and tries to meet the objectives set out in the Lisbon Agenda, challenges to create a long-term sustainable European transport policy are increasing. Transport is both a fact and a pre-requisite to achieving Europe’s ambitious goals.

The title of the Commission Transport Policy paper states it clearly: “European transport policy for 2010: time to decide.” The EPC taskforce on Transport agrees that it is time to decide and suggests a stock-taking review of which policies are working and whether and how policy makers should shift their thinking.

First of all, it is important to understand that sustainability for transport and for Europe as a whole must extend beyond environmental concerns. For the EPC Task Force this means dealing with wider issues such as safety and security in transport, increased transport options for the average EU citizen, building and financing a solid infrastructure base, and ensuring that social and environmental considerations are designed to carry European transport into a robust future where it can support the EU’s enlargement and growth ambitions. The only way to really build sustainable and environmentally friendly transport is to take a holistic approach and to create a balanced analysis of all costs and benefits of transport projects. Without a fully sustainable transport for both growth and environment, we cannot build a sustainable Europe.

Such a balanced analysis for the whole of European transport policy and the Lisbon Agenda shows that trying to break the link between transport and economic growth is risky at best. Transport accounts for 4% of the EU’s GDP and directly employs more than 6 million people in Europe. Transport growth means economic growth and with it, more jobs. At the same time, as the very basis of the European economy, when Europe’s economy grows, transport must grow with it. Otherwise a point will be reached at which European growth will be threatened by the insufficiency of road, rail, sea, and air transport systems. European policy must not be the self-defeating. Certainly, in some instances and particularly in urban areas, it makes sense to decouple transport from growth. But any such policy needs to be carefully managed within a broader sustainable transport strategy. Bad regulation and quick fixes often just aggravate the problem. Our proposition is to decouple the negative effects of transport growth, but not economic progress in itself. The Lisbon Agenda goals envisage a sustainable future; transport is the foundation of that sustainable future.

Once we recognise that, as Europe grows, so too will transport, we can start to ensure that growth is sustainable by making transport through Europe as efficient and user-friendly as possible, so that not one drop of fuel is wasted in traffic jams or one euro lost to late trains or planes. First and central tool to this goal is harmonisation. Only by creating European standards can all of Europe run on time. Too often it is the differences in national regulations, and the inaccuracy or lack of implementation of EU directives in the transport sector that hold Europe back. To counteract this obstruction, the EU must enact clear measures in transport at the European level, and must create benchmarking tools to ensure that every Member State is up to code. We need regulations that lead to open skies, but also to open rails, open seas, and open roads.

When we have created the best system at home, European will be able to bring that system to the global stage. We will be able to defend our high standards for sustainability in transport and be a rule-setter for the world. Without a strong and united European voice in organisations like the WTO, our ambition for a sustainable transport will be lost in the race to the bottom by other countries.

If we can make the current system work better, we are halfway to a sustainable future. The rest of the way will come through innovation and investments in a cleaner and safer transport for the future. Today, too little funding is given to the search for better technologies and better ways to make transport more energy efficient and ‘greener.’ When funding is given to research, it is too locked away in universities is unable to make it to the industries and communities where it is needed most. The only answer to this is an increased transport R&D funding that allows ideas to be translated into the transport vehicles of tomorrow.

At the same time, we must invest in better infrastructure projects. Without better connections and links between people and places, businesses and consumers, we cannot reach the goal of sustainability. Today, infrastructure projects stand unfinished and every European loses due to the lack of ‘good’ infrastructure investment. This is because the best investments are often the longest and most expensive ones to complete. Local and regional governments do not have the money to undertake these projects, and often it is just easier to rely on limited solutions, like congestion charges, which do not solve the problem of sustainability. In the past, the EU’s answer to this was to ask for funding from private sources. But as of yet, infrastructure investment has not reached a sufficient level, as private firms only invest when they can see a profit for themselves alone. ‘Good’ investments are goods that are of benefit to all Europeans, not just one firm.

So what makes a “good” investment? A good investment is one that takes into account all the costs and benefits to European society of a given project and prioritises projects not by costs in euros, but according to what is better for Europe’s future. On the basis of good investment, the first goal of European funding must be inter-modal facilities. Without rail links to airports and seaports, we are left with only one solution. Without a system of efficient transfer facilities between rail and road, freight will continue to be shipped by road only. This is because the system often cannot bridge the point from rail to the consumer’s home or store. We need better rail, road, sea and air links because the only way to make the sustainable transport choice is to have the choice in the first place.

Please click here to read the EPC working paper in full.

17 June 2005

17.06.05. Mexico City's Metrobus Set to Open in June

Editor's note: I post this today with several thoughts in mind: The first is the relevance and interest of the topic itself: BRT in general as part of the Sustainable Mobility solution (but only one part) and a new high profile for BRT in Mexico City. Good stuff. Second, because this piece is evidence of the fact that our sprawling network does in fact work. Here we have a project which is getting shaping input by our friends at the ITDP, and then too the Embarq project of the World Resources Institute. And now you have it before you for your information and comment.

Mexico City's Metrobus Set to Open in June top

Mexico City Mayor and presidential candidate AndrÈs Manuel López Obrador has announced that the city's first Metrobus corridor will open on June 19. The new stations for Mexico City's first BRT corridor are rapidly taking form along Insurgentes, the city's most important corridor, which runs from the north to the south. As the project moves forward, there is hope among many of the city's residents (80% of whom use public transport for their daily commuting) that a new, higher quality system will make their commuting time shorter, safer and more reliable than the current alternatives.

In the next few weeks, the regular buses and microbuses will be replaced by 18-meter, articulated Euro-III standard buses with a minimum capacity of 160 passengers, and four 1.2-meter wide doors that open at-level with the station platform. In addition to replacing the older vehicles, the Metrobus corridor will also replace the atmosphere of fierce competition for passengers and dangerous driving conditions by bringing former vehicle owners and operators under a payment-by-kilometer system. Achieving this has meant negotiating directly with Ruta-2, the former concessionaire of Insurgentes. When the Metrobus corridor opens, the route will have 80 buses, 75% operated by CISA (a new consortium owned primarily by Ruta-2) and 25% operated by RTP (the government-operated bus service). The question remains of how the other corridors, operated by various concessionaires, are going to be awarded.

Not only is the project expected to improve mobility substantially for the 250,000 daily passengers that are expected to use the route, but the Department of the Environment for the Federal District also expects that emissions will be reduced by more than 73,000 equivalent tons of CO2 once the corridor is fully operational. However, actual reduction in emissions may be affected by the fact that Mexico's national government does not produce diesel as clean as the Euro-III grade, implying that particulates are going to be higher than what is required by law.

Although 32 stations and two terminals
are nearing completion along the 19.4-kilometer corridor, there is still much work to be done in terms of lane confinement, pedestrian access, and setting up the electronic payment system, which will use a pre-paid, contactless smart card. So far, ITDP has assisted the project on pedestrian access and training in operations for senior staff. In 2005 ITDP will continue its collaboration with the government on the pedestrian access and ticketing aspects of the system. While the improvements to the Insurgentes corridor is one step towards a more competitive transit system, a total of 33 BRT candidate corridors are identified in the "Integrated Program for Transportation and Roadways", the Mexico City's four-year transportation planning document.

Though 80% of people in Mexico City use public transport, Mayor López Obrador continues expanding double-decker highways at ten times the per-kilometer cost of Metrobus.

11 June 2005

11.06.05. The Commons Man (Q&A with environmental foot soldiers)

Editor’s note: I hesitate before posting this e-interview to “A day at the office” and do so only with some real trepidation, not least because I do not like to have too much personal visibility and in a world of pushing egos I really don’t want to be counted among them. But we need all the visibility we can get to rally support for the good causes of The Commons and our terrific web of group programs and projects for a more sustainable world. So here we go, warts and all. And lend an eye to the questions of the mainly young readers. They in my view are the real justification behind all this.

The Commons Man

Eric Britton, sustainable-development booster, answers Grist's questions

06 Jun 2005

question What work do you do?

answer I earn my living and pay the rent as an international adviser, consultant, and team builder for public- and private-sector organizations that have accepted that they need new thinking in the face of this uncomfortable concept that some call "sustainable development." That takes about half my time. For the rest, I have since the mid-'70s been involved in creating and maintaining a number of continuing public dialogues about various aspects of sustainable development, starting with The Commons: Open Society Sustainability Initiative.

I try to reconcile my NGO work with my advisory relationship with my private industrial and financial clients by thinking about it like this: Among our most challenging tasks is to find ways to bring together the huge creative potential of the private sector -- call it the market economy -- to produce the goods and services that we all need to live full and healthy lives. When I work with them, my role is not only to nag them about the unsustainability of their current activities, but also to see if I can help them understand that sustainability is also an important theme for them in their own operations and planning for the future. And as you can imagine, it is quite a challenge.

question What does your organization do?

answer We define The Commons as a wide-open, independent, first-stop shop on the web for concerned citizens, researchers, students, policy makers, entrepreneurs, investors, or social activists interested in quickly getting a feel for world sustainability issues, views, and developments from an unbiased critical perspective. We invite open discussion, information sharing, diversity, complex thinking, and collaborative initiatives for action.

We have a whole slew of cooperative programs under something we call the New Mobility Agenda, which we started back in 1988 as an open international platform for critical discussion, exchanges of materials and views, and diverse forms of cross-border collaboration on the challenging, necessarily conflicted topic of "sustainable transportation and social justice." And of these programs, the one that is getting the bulk of our attention these days is the Kyoto World Cities Challenge initiative. Another ongoing project is a discussion of Women, Transport, & Decision-making.

question What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"?

answer Hmm. I've never really thought about that explicitly since I always assumed that my life was going to be a continuing story of work in progress. The end goal is to make my contribution to a world in which every child born has an equal chance to lead a full, happy, and safe life.

question Where were you born? Where do you live now?

answer Born in Mississippi in 1938. I've lived in Paris, France, since 1969.

question What long and winding road led you to your current position?

answer During my childhood, I was surrounded by able and generous doctors and architects, both of whose wonderful task it is to protect and build lives. But I discovered early that I had no gifts for either of those professions, so I decided that what I wanted to do was to be a doctor and builder of society and daily lives. This led me first to a broad program of the sciences in my little New England college, followed by pretty intense doctoral work in the field of economics, spread out over several countries and cultures. But I never wanted to be an economist (not smart enough); what I wanted to understand better is what role economic matters play in people's daily lives.

Surely as important as anything in my "career choice" has been my irascible, independent personality. I am not sure that I am exactly proud of it, but no one ever really wanted to give me a job. So I had to make my own, which is what I do now.

question What do you really do, on a day-to-day basis?

answer I get up early with a grin, stretch, roll around on the floor, lift a few weights, bolt down my cereal, and get down to work: I observe, I learn, I communicate. To accomplish this, I stretch the possibilities of the affordable information technology to its limit (the usual, plus IP videoconferencing since 1994, and now Skype), and I meet and talk to people. The day starts about 7 a.m. and chugs to a halt about 11 hours later as I go for a much-deserved workout and row.

question How many emails are currently in your inbox?

answer Don't ask. (675. Aaaaaargh!)

question Who is your environmental hero?

answer No joke: St. Francis of Assisi.

question What's your environmental vice?

answer Oh, shit. On the one hand, I am far more careful than your average Joe Six-pack. I turn off the lights and water, I get around locally mainly by walking and bike (easy to do in Paris), I don't go anywhere on vacation (but hey, this is Paris), and I substitute videoconferencing, et al. for air travel with a vengeance. But the world would still, I am afraid, need a couple of planets of this size to accommodate its 6 billion if everyone did as I do.

Spend Your $.02
Discuss this story in our blog, Gristmill.

question What are you reading these days?

answer The Indian, Trinidadian, English, permanent-expatriate-wherever-he-is, poor, old V.S. Naipaul. I had read a few samples of his work with real interest over the years. But a friend from India recently brought me the entire collection of his works, and I am slogging my way through them. He is such an acute observer of the many different cultures he has rubbed up against. And since he is, like me and perhaps you, so "out of place" no matter where he is, I feel a particular empathy with him. But what a sad sack he is. (Not even getting the Nobel Prize made him grin.)

question Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?

answer I am unruly, idealistic, difficult, childish, and optimistic.

question What's one thing the environmental movement is doing particularly well?

answer Above all, constantly renewing itself and not fading away -- showing continuing ability to adapt. And we are increasingly showing ourselves able to take advantage of the good advice and observation that Alexis de Tocqueville cited in his Democracy in America (1835); he wrote, "In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others." That's it -- we are getting better at combining.

question What's one thing the environmental movement is doing badly, and how could it be done better?

answer In a way, the greatest drawback in terms of effectiveness is utopianism -- end-state fascination.

question If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?

answer Render any law, ordinance, or judgment of society -- public and private sector alike --invalid unless it emanates from institutions with strong (at least 40 percent) women's composition and leadership.

question What was your favorite band when you were 18? How about now?

answer(Boy do you have the wrong guy for this one!) Okay, when I was 18, it was the Budapest String Quartet. Today it is any of the ensembles led by the eminent musicologist and composer Professor Peter Schickele of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.

question What are you happy about right now?

answer That you and I are still here. That you and I care. And that you and I are going to make a difference.

10 June 2005

10.06.05. Green anger at plan to tax journeys, not gas-guzzlers

Editor’s note: We are definitely going to be hearing a lot about this proposal of the Blair government. I for one simply cannot imagine why they would chose to push such an idea. Talk about more heat than light. Well, let’s hear what the vigilant Stephen Joseph, director of Transport 2000, has to say about this.

Green anger at plan to tax journeys, not gas-guzzlers

Andrew Clark, transport correspondent
Friday June 10, 2005
The Guardian

The transport secretary, Alistair Darling, has angered green activists by insisting that a Mini would pay the same rate as a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle under his plans for a nationwide road charging scheme.

Mr Darling believes it would add "unnecessary complexity" to levy higher tariffs on vehicles which consume more fuel and cause extra pollution.

"If we make it more complex, it would be very difficult to get it going," he said. "This sounds like another complexity which would be a barrier to doing things."

His remarks were greeted with dismay by environmentalists, who pointed out that road charging is likely to involve a cut in fuel duty - which would mean less incentive than at present to choose smaller, fuel efficient cars.

Stephen Joseph, director of Transport 2000, said targets agreed under the Kyoto treaty require a dramatic drop in Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by 2010: "Without some kind of differential rate between cars, this scheme could be counter-productive."

In a speech to the Social Market Foundation yesterday, Mr Darling gave further details of his desire to introduce charges of between 2p and £1.34 a mile for all vehicles on Britain's roads within 10 to 15 years.

Mr Darling said action was crucial to keep traffic moving: "Think about the alternative: the prospect of a system becoming slowly but surely gridlocked, like you can see in many American and Far Eastern cities every day of the year."

Up to £200m a year of public money from a new transport innovation fund will be offered to towns and cities willing to pilot road charging or other congestion-busting initiatives.

"There are problems that cannot wait for a national solution," he said. "We need to get on with these local schemes now."

Local authorities in the West Midlands could be among the early takers. Seven councils of varying political hues, including Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry, yesterday said they were forming a coalition to "kickstart the debate" on congestion.

Opposition parties have given cautious backing to the principle of road user charging. But the shadow transport secretary, Alan Duncan, has written to the government with 14 questions - including a request for an assurance that the scheme would not be a backdoor increase in taxation.

Mr Duncan said: "The devil is in the detail and I call again on Alistair Darling to answer the questions and concerns that have been put to him."

When asked yesterday for a guarantee that motorists would be no worse off, Mr Darling would only say: "My objective is not to penalise motorists. The objective of road pricing is to free up roadspace."

Experts predict an enormous challenge in fitting all of Britain's 25m vehicles with a "black box" capable of being tracked by satellite.

Opposition to road pricing is growing among businesses which could face higher costs: National Car Rental described the plans as a "Big Brother" proposal which would infringe personal privacy.

The company's senior vice president, John Leigh, said: "The government's preoccupation with gridlock and our road network grinding to a halt is nothing short of scare tactics ... Surely these funds could be better used to improve Britain's roads, rather than looking at new ways of collecting money."

Special reports
Car industry in the UK
Transport in the UK
Oil and petrol

Useful links
Department for Transport
Department for Transport road traffic figures 2001
Transport for London Street Management
Street Works
Motorists' Forum
The AA
International Road Federation

09 June 2005

09.06.05. Car-share company in Stock Exchange drive

Editor's note: A clear indication that carsharing is starting to enter the mainstream.

Source: The Huddersfield Daily Examine, 8 June 2005

Car-share company in Stock Exchange drive

A CAR-SHARING scheme based in Huddersfield plans to float on the stock market.

CityCarClub aims to raise at least £1m by issuing shares on Ofex, the market for small and medium-sized firms.

The company - which also has operations in London, Brighton, Bristol and Edinburgh - will use the money to pay for expansion in the UK.

CityCarClub set up its UK headquarters at the Media Centre, Northumberland Street, in 2003, under managing director Chas Ball.

Members pay a monthly fee and can then choose to drive a car by the hour by booking online or phoning.

Monthly fees start at £5 while the use of the cars costs from £3.95 an hour.

Car clubs are relatively new to the UK, but are well established in North America and Europe.

In the Netherlands, Greenwheels - another car-sharing business - has more than 550 vehicles in 37 towns and cities.

US company Flexcar has 24,000 members in six major cities. It also has 400 businesses as customers.

Subscribers to the CityCarClub share offer will get a stake in the business and membership fee reductions.

The company is yet to announce its timetable for flotation.

Chief executive Dirk van Dijl said: "The proposed listing on Ofex will offer the company opportunities to expand and secure a position as market leader in the UK.

"This is a very exciting time for the company and we are looking forward to the continued success of our existing car clubs and the emergence of new ones following our increased profile and flotation," added Mr van Dijl.

CityCarClub is the UK's biggest car club operator.

It operates more than 100 cars across the country and has over 1,100 members.

A company spokesman said club members were attracted by the scheme because it reduced their motoring costs and removed the burden of car ownership.

Factors such as increased parking charges, congestion charges, road tolls and rising insurance costs all made car ownership less attractive, the spokesman added.

As a result, more people were choosing to use car clubs which took away the hassle of car ownership.

"CityCarClub has identified the opportunity and has begun to exploit it," he said.

08 June 2005

08.06.05. Mayors in summit agree to greener, cleaner cities

Editor’s note: Here we are back to these important cooperative city environment programs which are or at least should be our natural partners. We have yet to make these links but I am confident that as we continue to develop the content and support of this collaborative sustainability effort, we are going to achieve just that. And as a reminder of our fox and hedgehog strategy, I append the latest cut of that note to the end of this article. And of course we continue to await word from you as to how best to tighten these links.

Mayors in summit agree to greener, cleaner cities

Posted on : Mon, 06 Jun 2005 07:32:00 GMT | Author : Thomas Blythe

SAN FRANCISCO: The five-day U.N. World Environment Conference, ended here Sunday, saw mayors of some of the largest cities around the world signing a series of accords pledging to improve urban conditions, especially taking their cities on a greener, cleaner and healthier development path.

Mayors from as many as 50 of the major cities in the world signed a document in the ornate rotunda at City Hall committing to "build an ecologically sustainable, economically dynamic, and socially equitable future for our urban citizens".

They vowed among other things to ensure increased use of public transportation, substantial reduction in the use of trash in landfills and better access for more and more people to potable water. The accords, though non-binding, have 21 specific actions meant to make cities greener.

After the historic signing ceremony, the mayors heard a 500-member choir sing in unison a song composed for the occasion, "Together We Can." They also listened to U.S. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi say "What you are doing here today is taking a different approach — a united approach — on the stewardship of the environment." Pelosi later described the accords as a "blueprint for the future health of our children".

As participants in the accords, the mayors pledged to take at least three actions every year, that would cover initiating new laws and policies in the areas of energy, waste reduction, urban design, urban nature, transportation, environmental health and water. The accords have several noble aims -- like access to potable water by 2015 to the entire population of the universe, affordable public transportation for all city residents in 10 years, recreation facilities within half-a-mile vicinity for every city dweller by 015 and zero growth in the amount of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators by 2040. One another notable recommendation has been the increased use of renewable energy to meet 10 per cent of a city's peak electric load within seven years.

The mayors who attended the conference came from cities like
Jakarta, London, Seattle, Rio de Janeiro, Lausanne, and Kolkotta.

U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan told the mayors that by 2030, as much as 60 per cent of the entire world's population will be dwelling in cities. This growth poses great challenges for the urban planners and problems like clean water supplies and garbage removal, he said. "Already, one of every three urban dwellers lives in a slum. Let us create green cities."

June 5, the date on which the first environmental summit was held in
Stockholm in 1972, is observed the world over as the World Environment Day. For 2005, the summit had adopted the theme, "Greener planning for cities".

The conference deliberated on global warming and what mayors can do to curb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists have described the accords as the municipal version of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which requires countries to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. The Bush administration, however, opposes the treaty because officials believe it would raise energy prices and cost millions of
U.S. jobs.

US vice-president Al Gore, in an address, told the mayors to initiate steps to fight global warming. Gore, one of the architects of the Kyoto document, said that climate change was already melting glaciers, raising temperatures and altering weather patterns worldwide.

"We are witnessing a collision between our civilization and the earth, a transformation of the relationship between our species and the planet," he said. "Is it only terrorists that we're worried about? Is that the only threat to the future that is worth organizing to respond to?"

Source: earthtimes.org - http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/3097.html


The Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge – International Partnership Strategy

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”

The Kyoto World Resources Inventory has thus far identified more than five hundred groups and programs as working in this and related areas world wide: each in their own way, in their chosen own target area, with their own time focus, with their own tools and goals. And, if they are lucky, with resources to do the job. In which case it's a fair question to ask: why should we as an informal world citizen consortium with no assigned institutional mandate dare to think about adding with our own efforts to all that? Might it not be preferable for us just to get out of the way let all these other people simply get on with the business at hand? Hmm.

Certainly no one thing is unique about the Kyoto World Cities Challenge, other perhaps than the fact that like Isaiah Berlin’s proverbial hedgehog we know only one thing: the true need for dramatic, effective, short-term, no-excuses action in our chosen target area of transport and sustainability in cities. Against this backdrop here are the defining factors that in our view combine to make Kyoto Cities a potential winner, certainly different from the rest, and perhaps a good partner for you and your colleagues in your work.

  1. Single focus: (a) CO2. (b) Traffic in cities. (c) Very sharp, openly targeted decreases (20%?). (d) To be achieved in a very short period of time (20 months?). That’s it!

  2. But is it only CO2 and Kyoto? Not by a long shot. We chose CO2 reductions as an initial target since they have a high profile and also provide a strong surrogate for the overall challenge of transport dysfunctionality. Cut CO2 and you cut traffic, pollution, accidents, costs, time abuse and the list goes on. Most of the world's cities lie in countries that have no legal Kyoto thresholds. But their needs in this respect are even greater.

  3. Geographic coverage: Program coverage is world wide (but can only work if it takes on one city at a time). This is above all a city project, a city decision, a city action. It does not depend on international treaties, other levels of government to foot the bill; it works within the city, its existing asset base, quality of leadership and degree of public support. In that city!

  4. Explicit targeting: You take up the challenge, do your homework and then set the targets that are going to do the job in your city. And then you either succeed or you fail. And all that firmly in the public eye. (No place to hide.)

  5. Big House/Open Doors: Invites enormous diversity of disciplines, backgrounds, geographies and competences, reaching way beyond the ‘normal’ transport or even environment groups, enriches the perspectives. Both for the Kyoto program overall and at the level of each city.

  1. Strong female leadership and participation. In large part motivated by dissatisfaction with traditional male dominance and the values that appear to go with it.

  2. Car-like mobility: This may surprise, but quite frankly we do not see democratic pluralistic societies agreeing to accept large downgrading of their mobility arrangements. Which gives us our target: as good or better conditions of transit than they are getting out of their cars under present arrangements. (Think about it!)

  3. International peer support network: The personal engagements, combined with the very high quality and great variety of backgrounds of the distinguished individuals who have agreed to support the 20/20 Challenge through the International Advisory Council. Members have both an international support role, and also as their time permits are helping to create “clusters” to support discussions and initiatives in their own city.

  1. Working partnerships: Organized from outset as an open international partnership project, working links are being set up (a) with international and national groups with broader sustainability agendas, and (b) at level of individual cities informal working groups are being created to lay the base for their local 20/20 programs.

  1. Comfort Zones (and lack thereof): Many programs and almost all committees seek to achieve "Comfort Zones" in which all interests present of lurking in the background come to a general agreement as to priorities, what needs to be done, how to do it, etc. Kyoto Cities seeks quite the reverse: a large number of competing ideas and points of view, plenty of room for internal contradictions and conflicts, and a good and continuing dose of cognitive dissonance as a means for accommodating all this necessary variety.

  2. Supporting context of intensive technology-based IP networking: The state of the art, practical, user-friendly Communications Bridge holds the underlying key to brining the pieces of the puzzle together and thereby making the whole thing work.

  3. Culture change: The project is about governance, democracy and citizenry in the 21st century. In its own small way it proposes and examines a new model. Once a 20/20 project has been carried out and the results assessed, your city will never look again in quite the same way at their transport, environment or indeed other problems of governance and quality of life. Which is why we sometimes call it . . . “the nose of the camel”.

If you take the time to work your way down this list, you will appreciate that this program and approach is not for everyone. It is certainly not for the timid nor for the all-too familiar half-interested. Indeed it cuts sharply across the grain of conventional thinking and behaviour in many respects. That is because it has to. The challenge is huge and immediate, and it requires a bold, high responsibility, high energy, no excuses approach. Is it for you?

The Kyoto World Cities Challenge is one well defined remedial program that cities can, if they wish and have the guts, start to engage immediately. It is not the only thing that they or the rest of the world should be doing to confront the challenges of environment and the costly dysfunctional transport arrangements that hinder almost all of them in their life quality and economic viability. It may not even be the best one around. But the issues are so important and so largely unaddressed, that if you have any concerns at all you probably should take a closer look (http://kyotocities.org).

08.06.05. Dutch Awards for entrepreneurs combating poverty

Editor’s note: Why is it so important to try to give widest recognition to outstanding successes in the area of sustainable development and social justice? Well, first because it is such a hard uphill struggle, and any good news at all is going to be much appreciated. And secondly because emulation is such a strong device for learning and leading change. "I see, I understand, and why not? I may even try it myself." At least that's my theory.

Dutch Awards for entrepreneurs combating poverty

And the winner is… Rinette Soeropawiro, Noel Sarmiento Percil, Hervé Millet, and a whole range of other young entrepreneurs with promising business plans.

The international contest ‘Business in Development Challenge’ intended to generate innovative plans to combat poverty. It succeeded. Almost 800 plans were delivered, of which two-third by people from developing countries.

Rinette Soeropawiro, who had to postpone her graduation as an agriculturist in Surinam to be able to participate in the contest, will start cultivating tropical mushrooms on agricultural waste for local consumers and for export to the whole Caribbean. Gaining a first prize of 20.000 euro, she commented delighted: “Now I can really start growing oyster and straw mushrooms. Initially we’ll employ seven people, and I hope we’ll soon be able to double this amount.”
Noel Sarmiento Percil from the Philippines, also a first prize winner, came up with an intricate plan to collect plastic waste and recycle it into material for the plastic industry. “We already started advocating waste collection among the people in the region of Luzon, but now we have the money to start the plant. Some twenty people will find employment in the factory, and some 150 waste collectors can enhance their income.”

The Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, Agnes van Ardenne, president of a jury consisting of Dutch CEOs, commented that the problem has never been a shortage of ideas, but the lack of tools, contacts and resources to make them financially viable. That is why forty selected candidates have been assisted by professional coaches to turn their ideas into realistic business plans. Thanks to this approach the physicist Henry de Gooijer will be able to start manufacturing lanterns on solar energy in rural Cambodia. His plan is not among the winners, but he says “our business would not be viable if it depended on winning a prize. Participating in the contest meant for us that we were forced to seriously think through our ideas and come up with something beautiful and practical. Providing electric lighting means people do not have to rely on kerosene and candles, but can study and work in the evening. We have already laid the foundations for the workshop. We will start with four employees, which will rise up to thirty people in five years.”

Since the organizers, the NCDO, Fair Ventures with help from Stichting DOEN, considered the contest a great success, it will be repeated this year.

See all the plans here

03 June 2005

03.06.05. The $20,000,000,000,000 question

Editor’s note: “Sustainable and Responsible Investment”? Is this some kind of weak pandering joke? Smokescreen? Greenwash operation? Before we make up our mind, let’s have a closer look. The following article appeared today as part of openDemocracys online debate on the politics of climate change. This is the first of what I hope will be a useful cycle of background pieces which are intended to give us a better feel for what this means and what we might do with it.

The $20,000,000,000,000 question

Nick Robins, openDemocracy, 3 June 2005

The climate crisis results from a tragic misallocation financial resources towards activities that fail to account for their environmental impacts. If we are to make the bridge to a secure climate future, then fresh thinking is urgently required on how to steer the world’s immense investment resources towards energy options that simultaneously deliver sustainability and decent returns for the world’s savers. The task ahead is daunting, but early signs are promising.

The total value of all the companies listed on the world’s stock markets now amounts to over twenty trillion US dollars ($20,000,000,000,000). To date, precious little of this store of financial wealth has taken account of the cost of carbon emitted from these companies’ products and processes. And, looking ahead, business-as-usual projections from the International Energy Agency suggest that over $16 trillion will be invested in the world’s energy infrastructure up to 2030, mostly in fossil-fuel facilities, generating an additional 60% in greenhouse gas emissions. All indications suggest that this capital will be mobilised.

The multi-trillion dollar question is therefore how to mould those old financial drivers of “fear and greed” so that they work with the grain of a low carbon future rather than against.

This process has already started. The introduction of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme on 1 January 2005 has transformed the way that financial markets value companies affected by the scheme. The scheme has created a new market in carbon dioxide allowances estimated at some Euro 35 billion (US$43bn) per year, potentially rising to over Euro 50 billion per year by the end of the decade. Investment banks now regularly factor in a cost of carbon into their valuation spreadsheets for affected sectors. For Chris Rowland, a leading City analyst, “it’s possibly the biggest change the European utilities industry has seen since the industrial revolution”.

The carbon caps might not have been as tight as many had hoped, but already the price for carbon dioxide allowances has risen from just Euro 7 in April 2004 to over Euro 20 in May 2005. This is heading towards to the UK government’s mid-point estimate of the actual damage done by a tonne of carbon dioxide of £19 (Euro 28).

It should be noted how easily financial markets absorbed this shift in costs. The sky hasn’t fallen in, and capital has started to move to those companies best positioned for a carbon-constrained future.

Climate change and the investment chain

Other parts of the investment chain have also taken action. The socially responsible investment (SRI) community has been at the vanguard of the shift. At my firm, Henderson Global Investors, we now see long-term growth opportunities in the companies providing solutions to climate change, whether in cleaner energy systems, efficiency enhancements or sustainable transport systems. We have also commissioned Trucost to carry out a pioneering carbon audit of one of our Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) funds, which shows that incorporating sustainability factors into the selection of investments can yield real environmental benefits for investors. The Trucost audit will be released on 13 June.

More broadly, the Carbon Disclosure Project has mobilised 143 leading institutional investors to request improved disclosure on climate change from the world’s leading 500 companies. And at the recent Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk in New York, two dozen US and European institutional investors with over three trillion dollars of assets under management issued a ten point call to action. This urged pension funds, fund managers, companies, and financial regulators to intensify efforts to provide the analysis and disclosure needed to manage climate risks. The group also committed to deploy $1 billion towards business opportunities emerging from the drive to reduce emission.

These are all positive developments, but they will still be insufficient to tip the investment balance unless smarter policy frameworks are introduced. Even in the UK, where the government has developed a relatively sophisticated approach, the word “investor” is still strangely absent from its climate change programme. Certainly, making sure that the cost of carbon is reflected in commodity prices is a necessary step – and large funds, such as those backing the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change now support the UK’s long-term carbon reduction target of 60% by 2050.

Markets and a climate-constrained world

But to be truly “joined up” from a financial perspective, policy should also address other parts of the investment chain. Financial regulation now lags behind economic realities. This means it is still possible for companies to list on the world’s leading stock markets without disclosing potential carbon costs and liabilities; this gap needs to be closed.

In addition, the duties of investors need to be brought into line with a carbon-constrained world. Managers of institutional investments – whether pension or mutual funds – are governed by the concept of fiduciary duty, ensuring that their decisions are prudently made in the best interests of the end-beneficiaries. This has commonly been interpreted as meaning the maximisation of short-term returns, without regard to wider social or environmental realities. The harsh facts of climate change – along with other sustainability threats – should prompt governments to modernise this interpretation. Inspiration can be sought by looking once again at the long-standing “prudent investor rule”, challenging trustees and managers to recast the ancient virtue of prudence in light of climatic realities.

Financial markets move on sentiment, and investors are now awakening to the deep risks associated with climate change and the potential opportunities in finding ways to respond effectively. By updating financial regulation and investor duties to take account of carbon, governments would not only make the achievement of climate goals more likely, but could also help secure stable investment returns at a time of a global pension crisis. The prize is clear, and it’s worth at least twenty trillion dollars.

01 June 2005

01.06.05. How in 2005 the French Saved Europe for Civilization

Editor's note: One nanometer behind the push to sustainable development and social justice lies that thing called politics, the art or science of government. It’s a never ending process of learning, communicating and adapting. As this Op-Ed piece written in the immediate wake of the French referendum rejecting the proposed European constitution.

Fifteen Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong

Or How in 2005 the French Saved Europe for Civilization

Eric Britton, The Commons, Paris, 30 May 2005.

6:30 a.m. The morning after. The radio alarm goes off. Oh my aching head!

As I woke this to the self-pitying howls and doomsday messages coming from Right and Left alike in the wake of yesterday’s referendum here in France in which a clear majority of the voters said “No” to the proposed new constitution for Europe, I suddenly was reminded of a phrase we used back in the late fifties when I was a buck private in the (US) army making the world safe for democracy.

We said, with only half a smile, that ours was a classic situation of: “The incompetent leading the unwilling to do the unnecessary”. And if ever there were a single phrase that caught the mood here today, that has to be as good as any.

The key to today’s apparent conundrum here lies in the first half of that phrase -- leadership failure.

Neither the government nor the parties of the Right were able to make a convincing case for what should have been a simple win. To the contrary, they made such a great hash out of their explanations, which they decided to tinge with a certain petulant fear-mongering, that a substantial portion of the electorate voted against the treaty simply because their supposed leaders and mentors were grossly incompetent of making their case. Air ball.

And as often happens here the apparatchiks of the Left, our dear Socialists, were unable to do any better. They shot themselves in the foot in the last presidential election three years ago when it should have been a shoo-in. And this time they did it again. It seems to be an art form over here.

The least of their problem was that they couldn’t stop bickering among themselves and hence were unable to present a united face.

But here’s the real joke: Even if they had managed to present a united front, they still would not have been able to make their point. You see, they simply can’t figure out who they are and what it is they want for their country. Right and Left in France are deeply confused. Sound familiar America?

The simple truth is that this matter of making “Europe” is serious and important business that commits the people of France to a future. Future? What future? Look. If you don’t know what is going on, you would have to be a fool to plunge into that dark space. And yesterday there were some fifteen million Frenchmen who came to the polls and said: Whoa, we better have a look before we jump.

But not all the problems were with the leadership vacuum here in the Hexagon.

The second gross agent of self-destruction was the all but comical performance and incompetence of the European institutions, the European Commission, the Parliament, the European Bank and the rest. The Great White Hope of Europe? Hardly. Their representatives wandered in from time to time with weak smiles, tepid words, and a bit of finger pointing, but they too had nothing commanding to offer. And if the European project cannot be made clear by its own leaders, well we can’t be all that harsh on the national politicians here.

The outstanding lesson was that no one trusts the politicians. And not only here.

And, or so it often goes, that nobody trusts what they see as over-paid neo-Soviet decisioncrats in Brussels whose concern for their own cushioned jobs and prerogatives far outstrips not only their commitment to but also their understanding of what “Europe” is supposed to be all about.

Hmm. Okay, it’s always great fun to whine, but is there any good news? Well happily there is plenty of it, and if we can get a good grasp of this then we are well positioned to decide as to what to do next.

For starters, the last two months of the information program and public debate was a significant first for this Republic. There has been nothing like a true citizen consultation of what Europe is supposed to be all about here over these last decades, and this too was a critical lynchpin of the leadership failure.

But this time the debate took place and the level of citizen involvement and interest was very high indeed. Everybody – quite literally – talked about it, argued, polemiced and occasionally even listened over these last weeks. And if you take into account the atrocious performance of their leaders in explicating the issues, the fact that some seventy percent of the voters actually went to the polls to place their votes on a sunny day in May is an enormous vindication for the entire process. Bingo! Democracy is alive and well in France.

Second: the polls made a clear statement. W now know that a major rethink is now needed. And the message has been sent that the citizens of France need to be directly involved in this process. I think we should be able to work with that.

And finally, there is another phenomenon working here about which we are not hearing much in the press, and that is the somewhat arcane concept of “swarm intelligence”. Defined typically as the results of collective behaviour in decentralized, self-organized systems – which sounds like a good working definition of 21st century democracy to me.

The interesting thing about swarm intelligence is its suggestion that large groups can develop a degree of cognition and even understanding of which the individual parts are not necessarily capable. Think about it. Fifteen million Frenchmen sent a message.

Alexis de Tocqueville put it this way when he contemplated the lessons, if any, that America might have for the Old World. In Democracy in America, he wrote: “In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other

forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.”

“Knowledge of how to combine “. Well, this is precisely the process that must now be engaged. All but the weirdest maniacs here know fully well that Europe is a great idea and great ideal. But someone needs to explain to us what it means. Clarity of thought and engagement of intelligence. Which is what those fifteen million Frenchmen are asking for.

Stay tuned. This is far from over. And one day it may be explained to our grandchildren how the French saved Europe for civilization.

Eric Britton is an international consultant to government and industry who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. He can be reached at mail@ericbritton.org.