Urban change in a time of climate crisis

Housing is a central issue in the transition to a long term sustainable economy.  As a group Scot.E3 has produced resources on Fuel Poverty and we are currently working on more resources that look at how passive houses and a mass campaign of home insulation could contribute to a just transition while at the same time as improving the quality off people’s lives.  We’re pleased to publish a post by Save Leith Walk activist Ian Hood on the work that the campaign has done to think about the future of hosing in their area.

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Early in 2018, it became clear that developers wanted to demolish a long parade of shops in Leith Walk and replace it with a student accommodation.  A popular local campaign emerged to challenge this and in January 2019 Edinburgh Council agreed that the building should not be demolished and that the proposed development was unacceptable.  Planning Permission was refused.

But the campaign has always been about more than just opposing the wishes of developers.  To be successful in the long run we need to promote an alternative vision, one that reflects the needs of the local community and can take it forward.

Over the last year campaign members have spoken to thousands of local workers and residents about what is important to them. We have directly canvassed the opinions of hundreds of local people about their preferences for new development in the Leith Walk area.   This was followed up by a local community planning workshop that looked at the needs and wishes of people who lived in the area.

And at the heart of the emerging view was the sense that any new development had to be both sustainable and promote strong environmental values.

We did not create a single business plan or an architectural map for developers.  We identified the three different elements that can contribute to the vision.  Sketch maps that illustrate each of these were drawn up.   The need for more social housing dominated in all of the visions and also important were business space, community support and green space.

Running through the core of the vision is the idea that ecological and environmental issues are not add ons at the end of a planning process but integral to any design.

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Community Housing (see image above) faces up to the long term problem of housing provision in Leith and provides a range of solutions to housing need.  Building diverse housing that allows people to live and play together strengthens our communities in fundamental ways.

  • Opening up to the Leith Walk community by creating new access through the centre of the building.
  • A covered walkway could be created at the rear of the building bringing the housing units into connection with the sandstone building.
  • Up to Eleven housing blocks in different sizes and shapes could be built in the land behind offering a range of housing opportunities including
    • Open Market homes,
    • intergenerational housing,
    • flexible and adaptable homes,
    • co-housing models
  • Designed to the Passive Housing standards making environmentally friendly homes.
  • Living walls could blend the development into the surrounding space
  • There could be a shared guest house and other community space reducing the need for spare rooms and encouraging sharing.
  • Affordable student housing owned by the community.

Community Cohesion is about strengthening community links and helping people to focus on the challenges that affect them and develop new skills to tackle them.   It can create a new vision of community where people from different racial, class, gender, age and religious backgrounds are partners in their own futures.

  • A refreshed building, made Green Energy resilient.
  • New opportunities to existing businesses and new small, low cost starter units.
  • Blocks of colony style eco homes consisting of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom flats to allow for real flexibility over time.Social housing block providing accessible housing for older people and disabled people.
  • A Community Event Centre that could offer classes and social opportunities.
  • Opportunities for beehives, public artworks, fruit trees, bench seating. And an open air market.

Community Enterprise addresses the challenge of how to create employment opportunities in Leith that meet the demands of the global market.  It recognises that businesses are stronger when cooperation and mutual support are part of a shared value basis.  Working together to create jobs, new business and entrepreneurial opportunities can transform our community.

  • The building would be refreshed, upgrading it with an accessible green roof and additional business pods.
  • The existing shops and business would be revitalised to offer opportunities to existing businesses as well as offering small, low cost starter units.
  • Design attention to wellbeing and support for locals. A community bakery could be integral part of the building to allow people to come together, to bake bread together and to share bread together.
  • A social enterprise and community space to train and share business skills including incubator units for creative, media, IT and other businesses.
  • A block of open market starter, eco homes with space for new businesses
  • Additional green space with open meadows planted with wildflowers, recreational natural green space, community orchard, accessible allotments, beehives and vegetable gardens.

Our vision seeks to build on the strength of the existing community and to create new ways of bringing people together.  They can enhance the area, preserve its diversity and inclusivity, and contribute towards Leith having a bright future in the 21stcentury.

The Stead’s Place site is too small to contain all of these solutions but we will work with other sites and local stakeholders over the next few months to develop our plans.

Urban development today in the light of a real Climate Crisis needs to work with people’s needs and not be imposed by profit seekers.   Single sites cannot be allowed to simply focus on one issue, retail, student accommodation, tourism but must integrate different part of the community’s need into a coherent vision.

We have started that work and welcome the support of others in continuing to develop this vision.

Ian Hood

Save Leith Walk

For More Information and contact us

Email:  Info@saveleithwalk.org

Web:www.saveleithwalk.org

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STUC Fringe Meeting

The Scottish Trades Union Congress meets at the Caird Hall in Dundee from 15th – 17th April.  Scot.E3 is contributing to one of the fringe meetings:

Developing Sustainable and Socially Useful Jobs in Today’s Economy 
Wednesday April 17 at 1230pm
Committee Room 2 City Chambers
Pete Roche – research officer  – Nuclear Free Local Authorities
Speaker from Scot.E3
Meeting organised by Scottish CND

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American Climate Rebels

A post from REEL News

In 2018, Reel News went on a 14 week tour of North America to look at grassroots struggles around climate change, particularly struggles around a “just transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy, where workers and communities control the process so that they benefit from the transition, and around “just recovery” – recovery from extreme weather events which do not exascerbate current inequalities.

What we found were inspiring and visionary struggles all over the continent, led by working class communities of colour, with people organising just transitions and just recoveries themselves. Now, we’ll be presenting what we found in the form of a weekly online 11 episode series starting on Sunday April 14th – 7pm UK time, 3pm New York City time, Midday California time.

Episode 1 is about Alberta, Canada, where the long oil sands boom  has come to an end. Falling oil prices are leading to thousands of job losses – which has started a serious conversation in the labour movement about transitioning away from oil to renewables. The need is becoming more urgent as the big oil sands companies look to maximise profits and slash even more jobs through automation. This film looks at a number of initiatives, the history of oppression of First Nations people to get the resources in the first place, and a rare chance to hear from oil sands workers themselves, including women and First Nations workers.

With the current growing uprising over climate change giving renewed hope, we’re hoping that this will not only inspire you further – but will also help a little in putting the idea of just transition at the forefront of the movement.

First Stage Debate on the new Climate Bill

The Scottish Government’s new Climate Bill has it’s first stage debate at Holyrood on Tuesday 2nd April.  As it stands the bill is severely lacking in ambition and fails to measure up to the challenge set by the recent IPCC report.  Rather than take large scale action over the next decade the bill sets the target of a 90% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  This is simply not good enough.  ScotE3 supports the rally outside the Parliament that has been called for 12.30pm on the 2nd.

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‘Unlocking the job potential of zero carbon’

‘Unlocking the job potential of zero carbon’ from the Green European Foundation is a valuable addition to the evidence base that a socially just transition to a zero carbon economy is practical and possible.   The authors model the impact on jobs, short-term (during the transition) and long term, of moving to zero carbon by 2030. The estimates they provide are conservative – they don’t consider the additional employment that would be created by the additional economic activity – they don’t consider jobs in the supply chain and they don’t include activity for which rigorous data is unavailable.

The new report’s approach is not identical to the work done by the Campaign Against Climate Change published in the Million Climate Jobs Pamphlet. However, their forecasts for the whole of the UK are very similar.   They expect 980,000 additional jobs will be required during the transition reducing to 710,000 after zero carbon is reached. New jobs are calculated on a regional basis with a full breakdown available in the report’s appendix. The number of new jobs during the transition is estimates as 60,946 falling to 26,905 in the long-term.

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Fuel Poverty, Energy and the fight for Climate Jobs

Stage one of the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Bill was completed on 20th February 2019. In our view the bill is not ambitious enough. We risk missing an important opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, create new climate jobs and strike a blow for social justice. Ending Fuel Poverty could and should be part of the Just Transition to a zero carbon economy that we need. We will publish more on this in the coming weeks – contributions are welcome.

Here are Marlyn Tweedie’s thoughts on the subject.

On Feb 15th, school children, all over Europe, came out on strike in protest at the catastrophic future they face because of climate change.

We need to make big changes re. our energy sources if we are to slow down climate change.

What if we could use sustainable energy sources to reverse climate change damage and provide cheaper fuel? Wouldn’t this be a win- win solution?

Fuel Poverty In Scotland

Over 25% of households live in fuel poverty – defined as spending 10% or more of your income on fuel bills, or, if, after paying for fuel, your income is below the poverty line.

In rural Scotland, the extent of fuel poverty is higher. A 2016 report states that in accessible rural areas, there is 35% fuel poverty and in remote areas, the figure is 45%.

Regarding extreme fuel poverty, the comparable figures are 7% for Scotland, as a region; 12% in accessible rural areas and 28% in remote areas.

Low income, high energy costs and poorly insulated homes result in this appalling situation where families, young people, elderly, disabled and many working people cannot afford adequate warmth.

A situation, which, it is estimated, contributes to 5,500 deaths a year.

What Can Be Done?

Fuel poverty would be best approached as part of a radical change in energy policy.

Scotland has an abundance of renewable energies – in the form of wave, wind and tidal energy.

The costs are cheaper. Current gas and oil costs are between 4p and 12p per kilowatt hour. Renewables are between 2p and 7p.

If, alongside a switch to renewables. A mass insulation campaign was implemented, carbon emissions could be cut by 95%.

The Campaign against Climate Change notes Three quarters of emissions from houses and flats are caused by heating air and water. To reduce this we need to insulate and draught- proof buildings and replace inefficient boilers. This can cut the amount of energy used by about 40% and delivers the double whammy of reducing energy costs and helping mitigate the scourge of fuel poverty.

It is estimated that a campaign to insulate all homes in Scotland would employ 20,000 construction workers for the next 20 years.

Further reading – the ScotE3 briefing on Fuel Poverty

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Image by climatejusticecollective CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cj_collective/6992454230

Notes from the February organising meetings

We met on 20th February in Glasgow and 21st February in Edinburgh.  Here’s the composite notes of the discussion at the two meetings.  If you have any questions about any of the points or if you’d like to get involved in  any of the proposed activity do email on triple.e.scot@gmail.com

Action points and information from the February Scot.E3 meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow

Proposals for new briefings including:

  • Public Ownership and the proposed state energy company (AM, Glasgow to contribute) – MD, Glasgow to contact Andy Cumbers to see if he would write something for the blog.
  • Update on Fuel Poverty (MT, Edinburgh to contribute)
  • Housing – PC, Edinburgh to contact SH and IW to seek advice, help and information.

Other action

  • GH, Glasgow to report back on Glasgow City Council and Climate Emergency Declaration
  • AM and GH talking to XR Glasgow with a view to organising a Scot.E3 presentation to the group, AM also talking to Unite activist group
  • Agreed to publicise and organise a climate jobs bloc (suggested by activists from FOE Scotland) on the Edinburgh and Glasgow May Day marches (4th and 5th May) – PC, Edinburgh to source banner and t-shirts
  • BP, Edinburgh is liaising with ‘Lucas Plan’ groups in England over ScotE3 representation at a divestment event and a possible joint autumn conference in Scotland
  • BP to produce a draft response to the GMB position on Just Transition
  • PC to send Climate Jobs manifesto to Just Transition commission and seek and opportunity to contribute to the discussion
  • School student strikes – we handed out cards with ScotE3 website details at the Edinburgh rally and they were very popular. We should repeat this on 15th March when the next strikes are due. CM and PC are involved in Our Forth who have organised a banner making session for school students in Portobello on 10th March
  • Scottish TUC conference in Dundee (15th – 17th April) – agreed to leaflet conference PC and BP available (other volunteers welcome) and to hold a fringe meeting if possible BP to contact JP to see if he can speak, PC to find venue – agreed to produce conference packs for delegates if possible
  • Continue to work on the climate jobs pamphlet

Information

Since the January meetings – we have had the opportunity to join the panel at a Just Transition event organised by Bella Caledonia and DeSmog UK and contribute to a Transitions Edinburgh event

It’s likely that a climate jobs and education motion will go to the EIS conference in June

Scottish CND are organising days of action in 2019 to highlight the ways money saved by scrapping the Trident nuclear weapon programme could be better spent on essential public services in Scotland. March – Housing, April – Climate, May – Jobs, June – Infrastructure, July – NHS, August – Education

Next meetings: Edinburgh – Thursday 21 March 7pm at the Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace. Glasgow date to be confirmed – likely to be topic based public meeting

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School students protest at Scottish Parliament – Feb 15th https://www.flickr.com/photos/petepolitics/sets/72157706685945575

More on Hunterston

On 10 January we wrote a short blog post on the dire state of the Hunterston B nuclear reactors and reported on a meeting where environmental radiologist Ian Fairlie spoke about the risk this poses to the population of central Scotland and beyond.

Ian Fairlie was back in Edinburgh on February 5th to provide an update on developments. Along with a colleague he had presented a technical report to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) – the regulatory body that has to give EDF permission to resume operations at Hunterston. The ONR agreed with the substance of his report. Apparently the inspection of the reactor core suggests that a small number of the graphite blocks have double cracks but more than expected have multiple cracks.   It also transpires that Hunterston in fact has only one safety back up system rather than two – as became the norm in the later Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors (AGRs). Overall the ONR’s view of the current state of the reactors is even bleaker than Ian Fairlie had suggested in January. And in the face of this EDF are lobbying for reducing the accepted risk factor for the reactors by a factor of a 1000.

There is almost no chance that the reactors will be restarted in March and April as EDF have stated. This gives more time to continue to raise awareness of the safety threat they pose and to get the Scottish Government onside in a campaign to ensure the reactors are never restarted. There is no immediate threat to jobs because it takes some years for the reactors to get to a state where decommissioning can begin. This is a test case for Just Transition, however, and we need to campaign that over time the workforce is supported to move into sustainable jobs.

As we mentioned in January EDF are hugely in debt. They are desperate to restart production – not least because they have problems with their other AGRs. So they will fight the closure of Hunterston. Adding to their problems though is that, unreported and unmarked in the mainstream media, the Tories at Westminster are in the midst of a U-turn on nuclear. Although for the moment they cling on to idea that Hinkley C can still be built.

To find out more about why Hunterston is so dangerous read our latest Briefing 9.

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WWF report

A new report on ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, written by vivideconomics and commissioned by WWF Scotland was published on January 23rd.   ‘A Climate of Possibility: Harnessing Scotland’s natural resources to end our contribution to climate change’ argues that:

Scotland is a country laden with natural advantages for net zero. From our abundant renewable energy resource, to our large land area suitable for carbon sinks such as forests and restored peatlands, to our history of innovation and skilled workforce, this report shows we can hit net zero before other UK nations and be among the global leaders on this issue. 

There’s much to be commended in the introduction to the report. The authors are absolutely right that we have multiple options. However, as the report develops, one option, Greenhouse Gas Reduction through Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), is given prominence. In my view this is unhelpful. CCS is an unproven technology that would be capital intensive (making the involvement of corporations inevitable) and take longer than we’ve got. A specialist paper on CCS notes that

Although technologies regarding the capture and storage of CO2 exist, the overall cost of using current CCS procedures is still high and must be substantially reduced before it can be widely deployed. There are multiple hurdles to CCS deployment that need to be addressed in the coming years, including the absence of a clear business case for investment in CCS, and the absence of robust economic incentives to support the additional high capital and operating costs associated with CCS.

The fundamental point is (see ScotE3 Briefing 3: Time for action ) that the world desperately needs sources of energy which are clean, secure and affordable, and which can be readily put under democratic control. Fossil fuels have none of those characteristics. To continue to extract, burn and rely on them, and depend on greenhouse gas removal to address climate change, would mean continuing with insecurity of supply, oil imperialism and wars (Venezuela and Iran examples currently in the news), and high energy prices in order to meet the profit margin requirements of the big corporations who control their extraction and distribution. A focus on CCS plays into the hands of the corporations.

Mike Downham

NB We’d welcome further contributions on this topic.

image from commons.wikimedia.org 

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Briefing #8: Just Transition

The latest Scot.E3 briefing looks at what we mean by Just Transition and how a focus on climate jobs, workers rights and social justice can be core the the transition to a zero carbon economy.  Please download, use in your workplace and community group.  These briefings are produced under an open license so do feel free to adapt – although we’d appreciate if you include attribution to the existing material and if you can send a copy for further sharing/development.

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