Category Archives: localisation

EC: the Circular Economy Action Plan

In March, the European Commission published a comprehensive report on the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan, announcing that all 54 actions under the Circular Economy Action Plan launched in 2015 have now been delivered. 

This has accelerated the transition towards a circular economy in Europe. In 2016, sectors relevant to the circular economy:

  • employed more than four million workers, a 6% increase compared to 2012.
  • opened up new business opportunities,
  • gave rise to new business models
  • developed new markets, domestically and outside the EU
  • generated almost €147 billion in value added by repair, reuse or recycling
  • and accounted for around €17.5 billion worth of investments.

On this site in February there was a report about The Manchester Declaration by the UK community repair movement (follow the link to see a wide range of members). This called for the repair of products, especially electronics, to be made more accessible and affordable, while ensuring that product standards that make products easier to repair are adopted.

There are currently 1689 Repair Cafés in the world. One product successfully repaired at a Repair Café can prevent up to 24 kilos of CO2 being emitted, according to research by Steve Privett, who examined data of almost 3000 repairs carried out at 13 Repair Cafés in the UK.

These activities are in tune with the Circular Economy Action Plan formulated by The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

The EESC seeks to improve the Ecodesign Working Plan (2016-2019) in order to drive ‘wholesale’ change in behaviour through the supply chains of goods and services at a pace that would reflect the ambition of the Circular Economy Action Plan, introduced in December 2015.

The ecodesign of goods and services needs to go beyond just energy considerations – the component parts of a product should be easily recoverable for reuse and/or remanufacture and drive the creation of a strong secondary raw materials market. There must be a focus on the full lifecycle of products including:

  • their durability,
  • ease of maintenance
  • and repair,
  • potential for reuse,
  • upgradeability,
  • recyclability
  • and actual uptake after use in the form of secondary materials in products entering the market.

The EESC has reaffirmed its support for the use of Extended Producer Responsibility as a tool to promote the transition to circular economy business models. It focusses on the end-of-use treatment of consumer products, aiming to increase the amount of product recovery and minimize the environmental impact of waste materials.

An EC reflection paper finds that almost all elements of the Action Plan have been delivered but more steps will need to be taken to build a fully circular European economy. Europe is moving steadily towards a climate-neutral, competitive circular economy where pressure on resources and ecosystems is minimised.

 

 

 

o

Advertisements

This time it must be different: ten years after the economic crisis – jobs in every constituency

o

Global weather patterns have increased attention on the adverse effects of climate change and unease grows about the threats posed by automation.

American Democrats and Greens are taking on board the message delivered for years by Colin Hines, convener of the Green New Deal Group, more recently in the Guardian and repeatedly since then.

Implementation of the group’s Green New Deal infrastructure programme would mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, substantially reducing the domestic carbon emissions and automation-related unemployment.

However it will be important to build up public support for the massive systemic change advocated by many, including both Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg. The often uncomfortable personal lifestyle changes needed must be seen as part of a diverse and popular programme addressing the social, economic and climate insecurity increasingly felt by the majority.

The changes would involve dramatically increasing the funding of:

  • employment in face to face jobs that address the worries of people of all ages, such as inadequate health-care, education and housing,
  • energy efficiency measures,
  • the increased use of renewables,
  • face-to-face caring in the public and private sector – difficult to automate or relocate abroad,
  • interconnected road and rail services in every community,
  • electric vehicles for private use
  • and an enormous nationwide green infrastructure programme ensuring the rapid decarbonisation of energy, transport, resource use and food production.

The changes must be couched in terms of being a massive local job generator and one that provides business and investment opportunities. Read more here.

America’s Green Party 

As the convenor pointed out in the Financial Times yesterday, the political advantage of this approach is that it would be seen by voters to be beneficial to every constituency and, as such, should appeal to all political parties. It will require a wide range of skills for work that will last decades, help to improve conditions and job opportunities for the “left behind” communities in the UK and ensure that the urgent demands of many for action on climate change can be more swiftly met.

 

 

 

o

 

Nurture and rebuild local economies and international relations: Hines, Corbyn, McDonnell

Opposition to open borders and failed neo-liberal policies that transferred wealth to the private sector and cut funding public services, fuelled the Brexit result, Donald Trump’s election and the continued rise of Marine Le Pen in the French polls. Colin Hines, in a letter to the Financial Times, said that these trends all point to the conclusion that the future will be one of protectionism, asking “The question is, what kind?” His answer:

“President Trump is a 1930s-style one-sided protectionist. He wants to curb imports that cause domestic unemployment, but at the same time plans to use “all possible leverage” to open up foreign markets to US exports”.

To avoid a re-run of the 1930s, when the US and others took a similar approach, Hines advocates a very different kind of “progressive protectionism” – one that can benefit all countries by nurturing and rebuilding local economies, reducing the level of international movement of goods, money and services. Policies geared to achieving more job security, a decrease in inequality, and protection of the environment globally would be championed.

Shadow Chancellor: a focus on developing strong local economies 

Sienna Rodgers reports that the shadow chancellor is in Preston today, a city whose ‘co-operative council’ has taken an innovative approach to funding in the face of swingeing budget cuts (see Localise West Midlands). In his speech McDonnell will champion “creative solutions” for local authorities suffering under austerity, from bringing services back in house to setting up energy companies, with a focus on developing strong local economies.

Such economic action, many believe, must be accompanied by a profound change in our foreign/defence policy 

A serious commitment is required to averting armed conflict, wherever tensions rise, by diplomacy, mediation and negotiation, redirecting the wealth currently used to subsidise the arms industry and to prepare for aggressive military action. This has also long been advocated by John McDonnell   (see Ministry for Peace, archived).

These are the policies of Jeremy Corbyn, who has made peace and disarmament his major international priorities. He has already appointed MP Fabian Hamilton as shadow minister for ‘peace and disarmament’, with a brief to ‘reduce violence, war and conflict’, participating in multilateral disarmament meetings at the UN in New York.

Mr Hamilton, who will prioritise reducing supplies of guns and other weapons worldwide, said that Labour is strongly committed to helping to reduce the violence, war and conflict in the world which destroys so many innocent lives every day and – many would add – cripples the economies of many regions, forcing their citizens to emigrate to find peace and to make a living.

 

 

 

o 

Rebuild the local economy: prioritise labour-intensive sectors, difficult to automate, impossible to relocate abroad

Colin Hines, convenor of the UK Green New Deal Group, comments on the Guardian’s recent editorial on productivity and robots which ‘repeated the cliché that automation does cost jobs, but more are created’.

He says that the problem with this is that the new jobs are frequently in different places from where they are lost and require very different skills, hence exacerbating the problems for the “left behind”.

Also unmentioned was that just as automation is starting to really bite, the world faces a strong possibility of another serious credit-induced economic downturn, from China to the UK and a perfect storm of domestic unemployment soaring and export markets falling, as happened after the 2008 economic slump.

The answer to these problems has to be a shift of emphasis to rebuilding the local economy by prioritising labour-intensive sectors that are difficult to automate and impossible to relocate abroad.

Two sectors are key:

  • face-to-face caring from medicine, education and elderly care
  • carbon-reducing national infrastructural renewal.

This should range from making the UK’s 30m buildings energy efficient, constructing new low-carbon dwellings and rebuilding local public transport links.

Funding could come from fairer taxes, local authority bonds in which all could invest, green ISAs and a massive new green infrastructure QE programme.

This approach should become central to all political parties, set out in their next election manifestos because “jobs in absolutely every constituency” is the crucial vote-winning mantra.

 

n

Population: edited extracts from Progressive Protectionism:

Following the post on migration and immigration, we turn to Colin Hines views on population – a subject which, he notes, green groups have ‘fastidiously’ ignored, in the face of developing countries’ activists and leaders saying it was a form of colonialism and others claiming that the root of environmental problems was the consumption patterns of the rich, not the growing numbers in poor countries.

Two noted environmentalists, Jonathon Porritt and David Attenborough, disagree with their Green companions about population growth

Porritt has pinpointed a weakness: “they have a very deep fear that addressing population issues will distract people from the real issue: over-consumption in the rich world rather than overpopulation in the poor world” but stresses that “It really is possible to pursue two big issues at the same time”.

One of Attenborough’s key insights was in answer to a question about overcoming the problems of an ageing population. It is often argued that we’ll need more young people to look after the old, hence we should encourage larger families or more immigration. Attenborough’s riposte was: “The notion of ever more old people needing ever more young people, who will in turn grow old and need even more young people, and so on ad infinitum, is an obvious ecological Ponzi scheme”.

A United Nations Population Division study by David Coleman demonstrated that for the UK to retain its 1995 support ratio of working-age people to older dependants (4.09), it would need to import 59.8 million immigrants between 1995 and 2050. This would involve inward net migration of more than a million people every year and nearly double UK population by 2050.

Over the years Colin Hines relates that his focus has moved from population to food to nuclear power and proliferation, to automation and jobs then finally to an anti globalisation and pro localisation approach.

He says ruefully, “Along the way I frankly fell asleep at the wheel on the population topic. This has changed however when I woke up to the fact that if net migration continues at around recent levels, the UK population is expected to rise by nearly 8 million people in 15 years, almost the equivalent of the population of Greater London (8.7 million). 75% of this increase would be from future migration and the children of those migrants.

The population growth would not stop there. Unless something is done about this growth it is projected to increase towards 80 million in 25 years and keep going upwards”. See the Office for National Statistics here.

Chapter Two of his book (above, left) looks at the reasons why global population numbers are projected to rise by over a billion more than was forecast a mere six years ago and debunks the idea that ageing populations in rich countries need more immigration. It explores the right to fertility control as well as the responsibility for choice of family size. The policies of Progressive Protectionism which will help to reduce and eventually stabilise population growth – a crucial goal for a densely populated country like the UK – are detailed. Surprising facts are published by Migration Watch:

Over 90% of international migrants to the UK go to England, which now has a population density of 410 people per square km, just lower than India and nearly twice that of Germany and 3.5 times that of France.

As Hines says, the enormous rise in world population annually takes place at a time of increasing food, water, energy and raw material constraints, of ever worsening environmental degradation and mounting difficulty of providing adequate social needs such as education, health and housing in an increasingly unequal world. Acknowledging that population growth is not the only cause of such problems, he maintains that rising numbers also makes them much harder to deal with.

As life expectancy increases and birth rates fall, populations are ageing and it is currently thought that the only way to cope with the reduced ratio of those working to those who have retired is to increase the number of children or young immigrants

But Hines points out that longer, healthier lives mean more people can work longer, unless they are in very physically demanding labouring work. With more flexible working arrangements, more jobs can be done by older workers, enabling them to top up their pensions by working as much or little as they choose.

In the absence of immigration, it is estimated that the potential support ratios could be maintained at current levels by increasing the upper limit of the working-age population to roughly 75 years of age.

There is a fascinating ‘chapter within a chapter’ on the Japanese culture concludingAll these factors result in another advantage, people don’t just live longer, they stay healthier longer. A World Health Organisation study in 2000 found that Japanese people enjoyed an average of 74.5 years of healthy life, compared with 71.7 in the UK and just 70 in the US”. A linked FT study is also of great interest.

Hines’ conclusions:

Reduce the rate of population growth

Hines sees the cornerstone for this as being for people, from now on, to consider having no more children once they have had two. The current Conservative government appears to agree; it has today brought into force new rules on Child Tax Credit – worth up to £2,780 per child per year – so that it will only be paid for the first two children in any family. Like all this government’s cuts and ‘austerity’ this will only be a problem for low-income families.

Train workers in the UK to care for the elderly frail

A valid contribution to strengthening local economies is developing a better resourced and more caring approach to looking after the growing number of elderly who need some assistance will generate huge business and job opportunities in the care sector. A massive education and skills programme will be needed to train workers in the UK for an adequately paid career in this sector.

During this transition Hines realises that it might be necessary – and also in the nursing and agricultural sectors – for some shortfalls to be filled by immigrants for as short a period as possible. He stresses that we should in general avoid taking skilled and much-needed people from their country of origin, but short term transitional arrangements might also improve the skills of those coming and increase the benefit to their host country on their return.

See: http://progressiveprotectionism.com/wordpress/

Colin Hines will be speaking on Progressive Protectionism in Birmingham on April 22nd.

 

 

Moving towards a new, balanced, green economy

.

In her recently published book, Dr Christine Parkinson sets out a series of measures which could move us towards a new, balanced, green economy:

 

  • introducing greater incentive schemes to encourage businesses to develop, use and market greener technologies and to penalise those who don’t. Examples of this could include: using and developing renewable forms of energy; phasing out motor vehicles which use petrol or diesel and introducing those that run on easily-accessible clean energy;
  • investing in research institutions which have the ability to develop innovative solutions to today’s climate-change problems;
  • introducing legislation to reduce the use of the motor car, such as restricting the number of cars owned by each household, unless they run on clean energy;
  • phasing out coal-fired power generation, ending fossil fuel subsidies;
  • introducing a carbon tax on those companies who continue to use fossil fuels;
  • rebalancing the economy, so that the rich are not rewarded for irresponsible behaviour that adds to the carbon load;
  • setting targets for meaningful reductions in carbon emissions by an early date, as suggested by Desmond Tutu in his petition (chapter 1) and ensuring that the calculations for this are correct;
  • phasing out nuclear power and nuclear weapons worldwide and re-channelling the money saved into the incentive-schemes and investments mentioned above;
  • proper funding of those institutions regulating the tax system, so that tax evasion and avoidance is properly penalised;
  • shifting the tax system to penalise those activities which need to be discouraged, such as greenhouse gas emissions and the accumulation of wealth;
  • banning certain household appliances and gadgets, which are not necessary and only add to the carbon load;
  • establishing a new institution, which will monitor the use of fossil fuels by companies and promote, and provide support for, the use of greener forms of energy;
  • encouraging less air travel, by raising awareness about the damage this is doing to the planet and encouraging airlines to invest instead in technologies that do not damage the planet;
  • working globally with other partners to reduce deforestation;
  • re-balancing international trading systems, so that goods and animals are not transported unnecessarily across continents and seas, adding to the carbon load;
  • encouraging countries worldwide to be self-sufficient in terms of goods and resources, so that goods are not imported which can be produced internally;
  • re-thinking and re-balancing entirely transnational trading systems;
  • working globally to find a better means of international co-operation in working jointly to reduce and reverse that damage that is currently being done to the planet;
  • encouraging partnerships between local government and local cooperatives and social enterprises;
  • encouraging the setting up of local groups (3G groups), where individuals can meet together to share what they are doing to reduce their carbon emissions and to encourage each other to keep going with it, even if the majority of others are still in denial (3G stands for three generations – the amount of time we have left).

She continues: “Some of the ideas above are already being worked on, and others are not about changing the economic system but about reducing carbon emissions, but I hope these are a starting point for others to add to, if we are really serious about taking meaningful anti-climate-change measures before it is too late”. 

* 

Christine will be speaking in Birmingham on April 22nd.

“Three generations Left” can be ordered direct from the publishers, using the following link: http://www.newgeneration-publishing.com/bookstore/reference/bookdetails/1778 or can be ordered from the Amazon website, print on demand, as follows: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Generations-Left-Activity-Destruction/dp/1787190412/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483704765&sr=1-1&keywords=Christine+Parkinson

It is priced at £11.99 per copy in paperback or £4.99 for an ebook.

Whilst much of the book is viewable on this website, she would prefer you to buy a copy as any profits from the sale of this book will be used to fund her son’s work amongst slum children in Uganda.  Last year was a difficult one for this project (Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network), as due to the devaluation of the pound post-Brexit, monies sent from the UK to Uganda had lost a fifth of their value.

Contact: christine@cyen.org.uk

 

 

 

Land: Scots legislate for the common good

scotland

In marked contrast to the Highland clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries, which followed enclosure of agricultural land in England, last March the Scottish parliament passed sweeping land reform legislation intended to increase transparency, boost community ownership, end a twenty-year-old exemption from business rates granted to shooting and deerstalking estates and strengthen the rights of tenant farmers. The bill was passed by a majority of 102 to 14.

Regulation and implementation guidelines will be decided after parliamentary elections in May. Lawyers warn that more clarity is needed on provisions that give community groups the right to purchase privately held land if the government agrees that doing so will promote “sustainable development”.

A strengthening of the rights of tenant farmers, including the creation of a new form of limited duration lease, has been one of the law’s contested elements. Tenants will be able to assign or bequeath their leases to a wider range of people, a change that will encourage transfers to a new generation of farmers.

Some hope for further advances, addressing the over-concentrated pattern of ownership, where it is estimated that 432 owners account for 50% of the nation’s privately held land. A list of the top 20 Scots and foreign landowners was placed on the Highland Clearances website – now shut down. Another list has been found in the Sunday Post. 

However, landowners have warned that the changes could be subject to expensive legal challenge, citing the experience of a previous round of Scottish land reform pushed by Scottish Labour. In 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that the 2003 law strengthening the position of tenant farmers violated a landowner’s right to protection of his property under the European Convention on Human Rights.

comm-land-scotOn 16 March 2016, following a final debate, the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed but will not become an Act of the Scottish Parliament until it can be submitted for Royal Assent by the Presiding Officer. This means that the bill could receive the Royal Assent in mid-April, at the earliest. 

The law aims to increase transparency of land ownership and control through a public register and was described as a major step towards a fairer and more open model of land ownership by Megan MacInnes – Community Land Scotland.