2010 Feasta Climate Group Meeting

The annual Climate Group meeting was held near the Findhorn Community in Scotland. We started with our usual public meeting on the evening of Thursday 25th February and broke up at lunchtime on Sunday, February 28th, in time for most people to travel home and be at work the following day. We had sole use of Newbold House, which was built as a hotel and is now a retreat centre, during our stay. See www.newboldhouse.org.

Among other things, the meeting considered the progress made by Feargal Duff in getting Cap and Share assessed by the UNEP as a possible framework either for achieving the targets set in Copenhagen or for a completely new approach to the climate crisis if Copenhagen has failed. Feargal represented Feasta in Copenhagen.

We also discussed the Carbon Cycles and Sinks Network report. Richard Douthwaite says “up till now the whole climate debate has been conducted in terms how reducing the use of fossil fuels is going to cut incomes and require people to give lots of things up. The trouble is, these negatives have not been balanced by anything positive but the actions required to take carbon out of the air and sequester it in the soil would yield lots of bonuses. Soil fertility would improve, there good be better crops and incomes would be better spread.”

Richard also thinks that the focus on carbon dioxide and, to a lesser extent, the other greenhouse gases may have been overdone. “There are other important climate factors which we need to look at too. They include the effect of aerosols on clouds and rainfall, the influence of airborne black carbon (soot) on the Earth’s albedo and the warming effect of changes in land use/land cover.”

The event began with a public meeting at the Ramnee Hotel, Forres, at 7.30pm on Thursday 25th February. This will be hosted jointly by Holyrood 350, the leading Scottish climate NGO, and Feasta. Justin Kenrick of H350 opened the meeting by outlining the present state of the climate debate in Scotland and why an atmospheric concentration target of 350ppm or less is required. Feasta speakers then explored some of the measures that will have to be taken for that target to be met in addition to the near-complete phase-out of fossil fuels which H350 wants by 2029. These include a complete halt to deforestation and the draining of peat bogs plus a change in farming methods so that plants take millions of tonnes of carbon out of the air and sequester it in the soil.

The conference itself began the next day and continues until lunchtime on Sunday the 28th. Besides the Carbon Cycles and Sinks report mentioned above, several papers were drafted to provide a starting point for the discussions. Two of these were posted in the climate discussion forum so that people could comment in advance of the meeting. Richard’s paper “The benefits of the failure in Copenhagen” looks at some of the ideas that the group has developed over the past year and how these might be moved into the mainstream now that the near collapse of the official UN process has created a widespread readiness to look at new proposals. It can be found here.

The second paper “Climate Change, Mitigation and Governance” by Brian Davey points out that there is no use having climate policies for governments if governments in their present form are incapable of delivering them, as they seem to be at present. It explores the possibility that the climate movement might develop a solution. It can be found here.

There is also a paper on the future direction of the Climate Group’s work here and a paper from James Bruges here.

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.