Big Cities should become signatories to the UNFCCC @COP26

Simon Jenkins is right to say “Big Cities can show us the way to a more climate-friendly …” world on the 22nd of Oct particularly with the level of urbanisation happening around the world now, with more people in the world living in urban than in rural settings since 2010, and many Asian Mega-cities with 20 million plus populations.

Unfortunately, they are not party to the official COP26 and maybe they should be in future, particularly when their nation states let us down with their National Climate Plans (NCP) . They could then come up with their own City Climate Plans for submission as City Conference of the Parties and be measured against their own targets and others as well.

So l trust the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat are listening.

Hindu lives matter in Bangladesh

Protesters at the Shaheed Minar, Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel, E1

 

The recent killings of Hindu worshippers during their Durga Puja celebration and the lead up to Diwali, is deeply shocking. These attacks on homes and temples of the Hindu community must stop immediately and the Bangladesh government needs to act swiftly and give justice to those attacked and their families. 

It is completely unacceptable that any violence should be levelled at any faith group. Not surprising the killing of Hindu worshippers has shocked many around the world and is the lived reality of the Hindu community across Bangladesh. 

Let us not forget Hindu Bengalis were the main victims of the Pakistani army atrocities during the liberation war of Bangladesh, 50 years ago. Where uncircumcised Bengali men in lungi’s and women with Bindis were their main targets. So the bloody war was fought and won to establish an independent Bangladesh based on secularism, pluralism and democracy. 

If nothing else Hindu lives should matter very much in Bangladesh as the land of the Bengalis should be protecting all as the secular and plural constitution emphasises, particularly in its fifty year of formation. We can not have the land of Bengalis persecuting Hindu’s in its 50th year of independence, undermining its secular tradition.  So quite simply the Bangladesh government needs to act in the strongest terms possible, otherwise we rise losing “Amar Sonar Bangla”  

It is not often l return to a blog with additions but the circumstances merit it in this instance. So can l say, that l welcome the attempt to return to the secular constitution of Bangladesh of 1972. This is long over due from the days when former military dictator HM Ershd and Ziaur Rahman incorporated Islam as state religion in the constitution. So l look forward to seeing progress at the Jatiya Shamsad on this front. 

But l also trust specific actions are taken by the government to prevent repeats of such atrocities against the Hindu community, including the following: 

  • Investigate and trial of the perpetrators, by special tribunal if needed
  • Put In place a minority protection act, making Hinduism a protected religion.
  • and finally a minority Commission to look into ways to ensure opportunities for minority religious and ethnic groups in a overwhelming Muslim country.

Only then can we begin to deal with the huge damage done by these appalling attacks. 

 

 

Sinophobia & COP26 – watch out!

As expectations of the Chinese not being there at COP26, we have to be careful it doesn’t lead to sinophobia

We should be mindful of the growing tide of sinophobia (anti-Chinese racism) in the world also creeping into the COP26 as the finger gets pointed at the Chinese being the biggest CO2 emission polluters in the world. 

Unfortunately, sinophobia has a long history as Chinese people have faced perceptions of being “unhygienic” and “dirty” long before coronavirus came along. As early as the 19th century Opium Wars, the Chinese nation was referred to as the “sickman of Asia” This slur took a literal turn as Chinese migrants around the world came to be associated with poor hygiene and proneness to disease. Are we about to see the same happen now with CO2 emissions as China gets painted as the “biggest polluter of the world” during COP26?  

The Chinese commitment towards net carbon zero in 2060 with carbon emissions peaking in 2030 has not only be verified by reputable third party like the International Energy Association (IEA) but its suggested by them that they will reach that net carbon figure much earlier than 2060. The IEA Director General Dr Birol states very clearly “This accelerated transition would put China’s CO2 emissions into marked decline after 2025, opening up the possibility of China reaching carbon neutrality well before 2060. This would be both good for China and good for the world.”

Furthermore alarm has been compounded by Chinese power cuts suggestions that will mean pushing them off their path. In fact some like Carbon Brief suggest the power shortages might accelerate China’s climate action as the State Council – China’s highest organ of state administration – issued six specific orders to deal with the power shortages in a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. 

This of course does not take on board, the historical levels of CO2 emissions already used per capita by countries. On this metric, using figures of the carbon emissions from fossil fuels per capita since 1850, we and he US have used more than our fair fossil fuel share, as the following diagram shows quite clearly. 

In this respect both China & India, the two largest countries in Asia, have not consumed more than 38 – 148 historical tonnes per capita so far. In comparison both the UK and US the figure ranges from 1,164-1,239 historical tonnes per capita. So both us and the Americans have already consume more than 8 times more than the Chinese have so far. Yet the there will a lot of pressure on the Chinese and India certainly on the coal front. 

So in light of these figures and being mindful of growing sinophobia, they should help stop the Chinese being seen as the “dirtiest polluter of the world”  

 

 

 

 

Flash floods in London – Kensington & Chelsea investigates

In red we have the critical drainage areas in RBKC and in green the area most affected by the July floodings

 

Last night RBKC investigated the flash floods that hit London in July particularly in their neighbourhoods where we certainly had more resident participation.  On top of which we had representatives from  OFWAT, the regulator of Water Utilities in the UK and the Consumer Council for Water as well as  course Thames Water defending themselves along with local councillors. 

But first the impact the floods had in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Clearly the sewer system was unable to cope with the intense storms in July which was compounded by the high tide.  Altogether, some 25 streets were flooded, 220 residents re-housed with one block of flats completely surrounded by water and as well affected 3 schools. Some 25-50 local businesses were also affected and it has also had a major mental health toll as well. 

One of the popular demands of the evening from residents was why not enough FLIPs (Flooding Local Improvement Programme ) particularly pumps built into basement properties were not built into their homes after 2007 floods, a key element of the Counters Creek Sewer flooding Alleviation scheme proposal from 2014. 

It was interesting to note the tension between OFWAT and Thames Water and their recent performance is already an issue of concern for the regulator. Thames Water themselves accepted that their services were not good enough, largely due to its historic management and it would take some 8 years to turn it around again.  So watch this space! 

Finally the next borough scrutiny of the impact of the flash floods in West Central will be in Hammersmith & Fulham.  So far we have heard different stories of the impact of the flash flooding in West Central and how to deal with the many issues it highlights. 

Is a directly elected Mayor coming to Westminster City soon?

We had a pretty decisive vote by Croydon voters to go for a directly elected mayor in May 2022, even though the turnout was only 21 per cent last week. This confirms the pattern in London boroughs in favour of directly elected Mayors after similar referendums were won in Newham and Tower Hamlets in May to confirm their Mayoral systems when opponents put up the referendums!  This does of course pose the question, what about the prospect in the City of Westminster for directly elected Mayor? 

The decisive vote is not a surprising result bearing in mind Croydon Council’s financial challenges and political turmoil. Saying this, it will be interesting to see which political party benefits from the change. It is by no means certain there will a Tory Mayor of Croydon next May.

More intriguingly,  it is understood that Michael Gove is a massive fan of directly elected mayors in England & Wales and sees them as a key element of his levelling up agenda, sighting Ben Houchen and Andy Street as two superb example of how the model works.

The key question going forward is whether the government (Gove) will encourage more directly elected mayors through incentives (extra powers and more funds) or simply impose them across the board. There are of course two different types of models in London, one being borough-based and the other regional-based. We have many directly elected Mayors  on a borough basis in London already – Newham, Lewisham, Hackney & Tower Hamlets and of course Greater London regional one with the Mayor of London. 

Gove is not known to be scared of radical change so watch this space. Local government excelled itself during the pandemic. So is there an appetite in town halls across the land for massive structural change? So it maybe the Mayoral option is coming sooner than we realise in the City of Westminster. This all makes for interesting times. 

Clearly how leadership is undertaken is critical in either models, and that has clearly been lacking in City of Westminster over its COVID19 pandemic response being one of the worst in London in terms of take up of vaccines and the waste of several million pounds on the Marble Arch Mound which could have been better used on desperately needed front line council services. It will undoubtedly be influenced by recent events in the City from the ground. But don’t forget what is happening from the top on this matter as l suspect it won’t go away. 

 

 

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Whats a successful COP26 then at Glasgow?

For a successful COP26, we will not only need to raise the ambitions of the National Climate Plans but support the climate vulnerable developing countries and also advance the Paris Rulebook.

That means all the countries updating or submitting new National Climate Plans that collectively keep limited warming down to 1.5C within reach, as it is clear that is not the case right now. No country escape’s the climate crisis but those emitted the least and the most affected. That is why we will need to deliver the $100 bn annually to the developing world as promised in Paris even before the COP begins, as it has become an issue of trust. And finally the rule book has to have a common time frameworks for reporting and action required to help enhance pledges, to hold anyone to account.

Only then can we say we have had a successful COP26 at Glasgow.

A version of the above blog was published as a letter in the Evening Standard on the 7th of October with a supporting response from their editor. 

Flash floods in London – Westminster Council investigates

The floods last night in Knightsbridge are another reminder of the adverse effects of the floods on the 12th & 25th of July and appear to have become a regular occurrence in London.

Last week’s Westminster Council Public Scrutiny meeting at Porchester Hall, W2 was an attempt to scrutinise the issues involved but raised for me more questions than answers.

After many councillors in Maida Vale and other affected wards in Westminster City Council reported the extent of the damage done to angry local residents we heard for the first time about the Council’s Section 19 interim Report; Thames Water and London Fire Service. This while we should not forget the council has responsibility for the local highway drainage, Thames Water manage the sewer network. 

As expected while Thames Water were sorry for what had happened but did not accept any liability for compensation on the matter, emphasising they independent enquiry into the whole matter. They readily conceded the response on the day of the floods was – to quote their corporate director – ‘bloody awful’ but deny liability for the damage caused. This while the councils have responsibility for the local highway drainage, Thames Water manage the sewer network. 

For example we heard about a man of 72 from Maida Vale just getting over cancer, who had lost everything in the floods won’t be get a penny in compensation. He has since the flooding become homeless and been moved around to six different hotels by the council!  What they did not tell us was who was going to part of the independent enquiry and how they will consult with residents adversely affected by the floods. It could quite easily by made up representatives of other private water utilities, and thus not likely to say anything which means the water industry needs to address. So let us watch this space for the make up the Board for the Independent Enquiry.

We heard 230 homes were flooded in Westminster altogether and it was one of the busiest day’s for the London Fire Brigade who help drain the floods down. The local borough Commander for Westminster gave us an excellent over all picture for London, but not the local one for Westminster. Something local residents should pursue clearly given the impact in Maida Vale, Little Venice and Pimlico. 

Hammersmith & Fulham council will be having a similar Public Scrutiny Meeting on the flooding in their borough soon. Here the Brackenbury Residents’ Association and LBHF among others are compiling a list of the properties affected, a similar exercise would be useful in Westminster as well.  As the exercise in H&F mirrors closely the properties affected in the last major flood in 2007. This is significant as Thames Water claim this is an exceptional (1:300 year) event that could not have been predicted or prevented. There was of course the major Counters Creek flood relief scheme cancelled as unnecessary in 2014 but many of the alternative mitigations (FLIPS and SUDS for those used to the jargon) were not particularly well completed. Whilst the Maida Vale Alleviation Scheme had been built out in W9, but to no avail on the 12th of July! 

The threat and how we deal with flooding is clearly not going to go away around London, so keep in touch on the website stoplondonfloods.com

Lets jab the world before the booster

Whilst l have had the double jab, I shall not be taking a booster!

As a doubled jabbed 50 plus year old Londoner, l won’t be taking a booster.

As l rather it be used for the global efforts against COVID19 pandemic particularly in the developing world. As the WHO chief tells us, COVID19 is no respecter of borders so when a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating and spreading increases. As the WHO warns, we need to do everything possible to stop the spread of the virus in order to prevent mutations that may reduce the efficacy of existing vaccines.

So jabbing the world is the priority for me, before the booster.

Housing management matters

Whilst l was chairing the Housing Committee at the London Assembly during the political year 2020/21 l was inundated with complaint of Housing Association’s and their housing management, particularly of the largest ones operating in Greater London.

Indeed l found myself writing a letter of compliant on behave of many Londoners living in these poorly managed homes for a particularly large Housing Association across the whole of Greater London to the regulator of social housing. But they dropped the case, that their consumer standards have not been breached! 

“We have carefully considered the information you provided, and we have concluded that our consumer standards have not been breached. For that reason, we are unable to take regulatory action in this case. ” 

Since then there has been a lot of coverage of how bad some of this management is in London by the mainstream media both on TV on ITV News and also the papers. In the Observer they covered these issues over consecutive weekends thus following up their exposure of the issues with one particular Housing Association in London. 

So l feel vindicated in my pursuit of the poor housing management standards of many large Housing Associations as it appears at least some like L&Q have acknowledged those concerns and have began addressing these matter. 

I did of course raise the matter with the Mayor of London before my departure of City Hall at one of my last MQT, and he raised the prospect of appointing a social housing residents Ambassador. 

But l thing he needs to go much further than that. He needs to take on board these poor housing management considerations of tenants and resident of their social landlord when allocating them huge monies from the annual Affordable Housing Programme. For instance one large Housing Association was given £240 million programme whilst having major complaints on how they run some of their Estates in South London on television! So all credit to ITN News for making this a main news item, something that would usually be ignored by main stream news channels.  Let us hope the Mayor responds to my suggestion in a future round of allocations of capital funding that it should be a condition of funding that good quality maintenance of existing homes is proven. Otherwise we just storing up more problems in the future for our London residents of new social housing! 

Forging a Dhaka-Glasgow CVF-COP26 Climate Solidarity

Yesterday we had Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, His Excellency Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen  Saida Muna Tasneem High Commissioner of Bangladesh in the UK & Ireland discussing collaborative global climate action ahead of COP26 under the title “Climate change and the need for adaptation” co-organised by Bangladesh High Commission & Chatham House. We also had the former President of the Maldives in attendance, Muhammad Nasheed. 

He stated that as chair of Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), it is important for Bangladesh to support member countries gain technology, financing in climate adaptation, resilience building and amplify their voices during COP26.  The CVF and COP26 also need to join hands for a successful CVF Dhaka-Glasgow declaration and organise a leaders summit at sidelines of the world leaders summit.