Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for April 28th, 2007

UN: we have the money and know-how to stop global warming

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Climate change | Guardian Unlimited Environment

The Guardian claims an exclusive leak of the the UN report from the IPCC which will be officially released on Friday. I must admit that I am surprised by the optimism, that it is technically possible to stop global warming. We certainly need to do it and (with the possible exception of Dick Cheney and crew) most people concede this now. But do we have the political will? Certainly Canada’s “plan” launched with much trumpeting last week is less than impressive.

I think I may have become cynical. I worked on BC’s first greenhouse gas action plan over ten years ago. That identified 48 things the government could do that would pay for themselves within a tear or so. That plan was shelved, the Energy Management Branch of MEMPR was scrapped and most of the expertise dissipated. Most of that plan was never implemented.

Similarly the UN extracts promises of action from governments when each disaster strikes – and usually the solemn undertakings are never met, the pledges never fulfilled, the money is simply not forthcoming. That has happened with wars, famine, diseases, natural disasters – you name it. Will climate change be any different?

Anyway here is what the report says about Transport

Despite breakthroughs in cleaner options, such as hybrid cars, the sector is the fastest growing source of emissions, the report says. It highlights emerging technologies such as cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells and biofuels. Some campaigners warn that increasing use of biofuels could worsen problems such as food shortages, as farmers scramble to meet demand. The IPCC suggests this could be eased by a switch to biofuels made from waste cellulose. The report says government policies such as mandatory carbon dioxide emission standards are crucial, but that hikes in car tax, fuel duty and moves such as road pricing will be less effective as incomes rise. Better public transport can make a significant contribution.Potential saving by 2030 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent: 3,200

Well waste cellulose for biofuels has been promoted for as long as I have been in alt fuels – twenty years or so. And we have lots of waste cellulose from woodchips to wheat stalks. For a long time the strategy in BC was to “turn the forest floor into the fuel supply”. I think Canada had one experimental plant producing ethanol from switch grass. But that was a long time ago and I haven’t seen much about this lately.

But there is better public transport again. Just as it was on that Suzuki Foundation survey of Canadian public opinion. If only we don’t waste it on needlessly on over priced systems like SkyTrain or the Canada Line. Or the subways in Toronto that got filled in when they realized that they simply could not fund all those extensions at the same time. Lets go for simple, easy and restrictive of car use. Street cars. Rue de la Haute Montee, Strasbourg, FranceUsing existing lanes in the existing roads that are then closed to cars. And really cracking down on speeding – which wastes huge amounts of fuel and costs many lives. Use the fines from photo radar and bus lane violators to buy more trams. Car co-ops, and cheap shared ride taxis. Subscription based commuter coaches – commuters take the same route most days. It should be easy to sign them up for door to door services once the parking lots have been turned over to food production and the highway has only one lane for General Purpose traffic and all the rest of the capacity is dedicated to shared ride, essential freight and so on.

And I am sure there is a market for retrofitting small engines with hybrid drives into existing vehicles. I would much rather retrofit my old minivan than buy a new car.

“It’s time for an act of political courage, Minister” Sir Humphrey Appleby, passim

Written by Stephen Rees

April 28, 2007 at 9:52 am