Changing the Climate in Paris?


Copywrite Friends of the Earth EWNI

´Changing the Climate in Paris?´ is Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth contribution to Brighton Climate Action Network´s (BrightonCAN!) ´Time to Act Week´ of events (15th – 21st November)

Wednesday, 18th November, 7.30 – 9.30pm The Synergy Centre, West St., Brighton, BN1 2RA

National Friends of the Earth Campaigners, Guy Shrubsole (Climate and Energy) and Rachel Kennerley (Climate Security) and Professor of Climate Science and Society Dominic Kniveton (Uni Sussex) will lead a focused look at the current climate-change context and the structure, issues, tensions and likely outcomes of the upcoming Climate-talks in Paris. Local members of BHFoE and a leading climate-scientist will illustrate the ´global to local´ impacts of climate-change and their practical concern for meaningful agreements in Paris.

Followed by an extended Q&A session, drinks and networking.

Brighton Climate Action Network (BrightonCAN!)  launched in September 2015. Our aim is to bring together individuals and organisations in Brighton and the surrounds who are acting on climate change, and to create a broad community response to the irrefutable evidence of rapid global warming and the failure of our political leaders to take the necessary measures to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate chaos.

Over the next few weeks we are concentrating our efforts on the ´Time to Act Week´ of events, Time To Cycle, the People’s March for Climate Justice and Jobs in London on 29th November and the mass mobilisation in Paris on 12 December. We want to mobilise as much support as possible for the many events taking place ahead of and during the crucial UN climate talks in Paris in early December.

Please explore the BrightonCAN! website and follow the links to find out what you can do to support, lobby or participate in ´Time to Act Week´ and COP21 Paris-talks actions and events.

During September, we responded to a consultation by Brighton & Hove City Council about reducing the hours that George Street would be closed to vehicles (and safe and pleasant for pedestrians) during the summer.  Basically, some traders were pressing for the street to be opened to cars and lorries from 4pm, instead of 6pm, which is what triggered the consultation.
In contrast, we have asked the Council to do the opposite.  We feel that it is ridiculous that the street is not pedestrianised on Sundays, when the street is so busy and full of people.  This cannot be good for the street and certainly not good for people’s health.  In addition, we have asked the Council to look at extending the hours of pedestrianisation to later into the afternoon/evening, in both winter and summer, when many people are still using the street.
If this poses a problem for local access, then by way of compensation, it would be possible to allow access for deliveries up until 11am or even midday if that was felt necessary.  However, the general principle should be that the street is a full time pedestrianised street and that the only vehicular access allowed is for deliveries, services and residents in the street at specified times (similar to the present times but slightly altered and restricted on Sundays), excepting emergency vehicles which have 24 hour access.  Having clearer and more consistent rules would benefit everyone, while making the area safer and more pleasant for residents and visitors.
In addition, the area is well served by buses and with the increased levels of cycling in the city, many more people can access the street without the use of a car, although the provision of more cycle parking would help more people to do this.  The street is also accessible by foot for many local residents.  Anyone wanting to drive to George Street would in any case be better off parking nearby, such as in the Tesco car park, than trying to park in George Street itself, which has few parking spaces free.  There can be little benefit, economic or otherwise to allowing the street to be filled with queuing cars.  In fact it is likely to have the opposite effect over time.
This issue will be discussed by the Council on 24 November and we hope that it will throw out the suggestion to reduce the hours of pedestrianisation, but instead use the opportunity to see whether improvements can be made to the way that George Street operates, including extending pedestrianisation to Sundays.


Loss of National Park architect

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is paying its respects to one of the best Environment Ministers the country has had.  Earlier today it was announced that Michael Meacher MP died after a short illness.  

A Labour MP, he was a shadow Environment Minister in 1997.  He came down to see for himself the damage done to the South Downs when a local farmer near Lewes ploughed up a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Offham Down just weeks before the General Election.  After the election which saw Labour sweep to power, he became the Environment Minister and under his watch oversaw new legislation to open up access to the countryside and give better legal protection to nationally important wildlife sites.  He also kick-started the designation process of the South Downs National Park, using his influence to get the Countryside Agency to examine the case for a National Park.

He also secured the long term protection of both Offham Down and Offham Marshes SSSIs which had been threatened by farming.

Chris Todd, former South Downs Campaign officer and a local group member said:

“Michael Meacher will be sorely missed.  He was a huge advocate for the environment and responsible for many good acts as Environment Minister.  He was instrumental in kick-starting the designation process for the South Downs National Park.  Without him we would have got nowhere.

“His lasting legacy is clearly there for all to see and I hope the Park Authority will honour his passing to commemorate his contribution to this important and much loved landscape.”

Wildflowers for Woodingdean


Last month as the rain stayed away and the sun shone as over 60 people helped plant a new Bee World in Woodingdean, on the edge of the South Downs.

Bare grass-1

Under the watchful eye of City Park Ranger, Paul Gorringe, Woodingdean’s residents came together to plant close to 2000 wildflower plugs – transforming a 100m square space at the corner of Bexhill Road and Balsdean Road into much-needed habitat for bees and other pollinating insects.

Steve Bell Dee Simon and Monica Jennings from Brighton FoE-1

Children from Woodingdean Primary School joined in alongside local councillors Dee Simson and Steve Bell. Brighton and Hove council supplied the wildflowers as part of a wider scheme to plant around 200,000 wildflowers around the city. All the plants used were locally sourced from some of the best chalk grassland sites in Brighton & Hove.

As part of the project people living close to the site were consulted in advance, resulting in overwhelming support. The site will be maintained by both the council with support from Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth.brighton_and_hove5_425

If you’d like to create a wildflower haven in Woodingdean – or elsewhere in Brighton and Hove for that matter – get in touch with us on wildflowers4woodingdean@gmail.com


Photo courtesy of Oliver Dee

On Saturday, 10 October, Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth members protested outside Barclays Bank in North St, Brighton as part of a national day of protest to take action on climate change. We handed out leaflets to the public to make them aware of Barclays’ interests in fracking.


Photo courtesy of Oliver Dee

Barclays Bank own 97% of Third Energy – a company planning to frack across Ryedale, North Yorkshire It wants to drill 19 wells, including some very close to the North York Moors National Park. This would be the first time that a major High Street bank has directly invested in fracking in the UK.

Fracking is in the spotlight as it will involve accessing more fossil fuels, when the reality is we need to leave most of what we know about in the ground, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.  This also comes only a couple of months before the next international climate change talks in Paris where it is essential that politicians come to an agreement to take concerted action to tackle carbon emissions.

Carol Dawes, a member of BHFOE said:

“We want to make people aware just what Barclays are doing and the threat they pose to our health and environment. I was born and brought up in Yorkshire. Ryedale is a special area important to everyone. It’s our National Park just as much as the South Downs is. We cannot keep drilling for more oil and gas or we are in danger of cooking the planet and ourselves with it.  We need to move beyond dirty fossil fuels and invest in clean, renewable energy instead.”

Monica (Co-ordinator for the group) said:

We certainly put on a good show today…. 12 of us, 8 banners, T shirts, stickers and many leaflets, all brilliant and colourful. By and large we were well received and some people were genuinely shocked. For me the icing on the cake was the member of public who offered to take a wadge of leaflets into the bank and place them on the seats only for us to see Barclays customers exiting with our leaflets.”


photo courtesy of Oliver Dee

Friends of the Earth is urging anyone with concerns about Barclays funding fracking to email John McFarlane, chairman of Barclays Bank via the national Friends of the Earth website.

Outside The Grand with supporters

Outside The Grand with supporters

During the Labour Party conference we helped national Friends of the Earth leaflet about the People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs, taking place on Sunday, 29 November in London, to raise awareness about climate change.  In particular, the march is highlighting the urgent need for politicians to come to a meaningful agreement at the climate talks in early December in Paris.

Providing both people and a polar bear, we managed to distribute hundreds of fliers to delegates and members of the public along Brighton seafront.  The polar bear was a particular hit, in high demand for selfies and photos, bringing a smile and a willingness to engage from most people as we walked along.

The polar bear was only offended when he was mistaken for a giant rat by one ‘myopic’ meeting chair, who was quickly corrected by less visibly challenged members of the audience.  Overall, a great success and great fun too.

The Polar Bear and Monica prepare to leaflet outside the Mercure Hotel

The Polar Bear and Monica prepare to leaflet outside the Mercure Hotel


Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) has slammed the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) consultation on its draft plans to improve air quality as a sham [1].  Defra is claiming that the level of nitrogen dioxide in Brighton & Hove is below the legal limit [2] but didn’t check its facts.  The city has air pollution levels significantly above legal limits [3].

This news from Brighton highlights that Defra’s assessment of air pollution in the UK is wrong, while the VW scandal undermines the assumptions Defra has been making of how quickly new diesel and other engines will become cleaner. This means that it is likely that air pollution is a bigger problem than is being admitted and that it will take longer to reduce it to safe levels unless greater and faster action is taken by Government.

BHFOE now believes that Defra’s consultation needs to be scrapped and a new strategy developed.  It is critical of the approach Defra is advocating which is to push the problem onto local authorities without providing them with the tools or money to fix it.  Defra’s approach also lacks any urgency.

Chris Todd, planning and transport campaigner for BHFOE said:

“50,000 people a year are now dying from air pollution in the UK every year [4], making it one of the biggest threats to human health.  Much of that pollution comes from traffic.

“The Supreme Court ruled this year that the Government needed to come up with a new action plan to reduce air pollution ‘as soon as possible’.  Defra’s draft plan had already been highly criticised [5] before the latest scandals emerged but now it is completely discredited.  Based as it is on dodgy statistics, the plan should be binned and Defra forced to come up with something that will do the job properly and quickly.

“The Government cannot be allowed to keep kicking this issue into the long grass.  People’s lives are being ruined by Government inaction.  It has a moral and legal duty to sort this out as soon as possible [6].”

Notes to editors:

[1]   Defra is currently consulting on its draft action plan until 6 November, 2015.  The consultation started on 12 September.

[2]   See table 2, page 9, Draft plans to improve air quality in the UK, Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, UK overview document, September 2015. This shows that Brighton supposedly had annual mean nitrogen dioxide levels of only 41µg/m3 in 2013 (worst case scenario) and that it would meet the standards by 2015.

[3]   Large parts of the city centre are within an Air Quality Management Area and have nitrogen dioxide levels above legal limits.  The worst areas are around North St, Western Road and the Clock Tower.  Pollution levels at some key areas around the city are:

            North St façade: 80µg/m3 (twice the legal limit) – page 33, Brighton & Hove City Council                                                 Air Quality Action Plan, February 2015

            Valley Gardens facade: 69µg/m3 – page 35

            Queens Road facade: 56µg/m3 – page 36

            Lewes Road (Elm Grove to Vogue Gyratory) facade: 68µg/m3 – page 37

       The problem is that Defra has based its figures on national monitoring data and modelling and has not bothered to check its figures with real life monitoring in Brighton & Hove.  The question is how many other areas have been affected by this and with the reductions in monitoring how many other areas are exceeding air pollution limits but have not been registered as such.

 [4]  29,000 people were previously estimated to die prematurely every year in the UK due to particulate pollution.  Now Defra is estimating that 23,500 additional people are dying prematurely due to nitrogen dioxide pollution (paragraph 8, page 5, Draft plans to improve air quality in the UK, Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, UK overview document, September 2015).  Together, that makes over 50,000 people a year dying prematurely due to air pollution. It is estimated that 115 people a year die prematurely in Brighton & Hove due to particulate pollution alone.

[5]   Clientearth, who originally took the Government to court over its inaction on air pollution, were highly critical of the Government’s approach as outlined in Defra’s draft Action Plan, published on 12 September, 2015.

[6]   The European Court ruled that the National Courts must make sure that the Government produces plans to reach the limits in as short as time as possible.


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