Welsh Green Dragon

On the seventh day of Christmas Welsh Green Dragon gave to me… by Chris Halpin

So you’ve survived eating cold turkey sandwiches all week, you’ve just about eaten you body weight in cheese and you’re almost glad to see the back of a mince pie for at least another 11 months. We certainly get through a lot of it over the Christmas period, and many of us will now be thinking of our healthy and energetic start to 2010. In this interim week-long limbo between Christmas and New Year, its easy to laze in front of yet another vintage film on ITV and forget all about the growing mountain of waste outside your back door.

So what easy things can be done to combat some of this leftover stuff? You mastered your surprised ‘oh isn’t this a lovely present face’ on Christmas morning when you opened that hideous jumper from Grandma, or received the John Grisham thriller you’ve no intention of ever reading. How on earth can you offload them now everyone’s gone back home and you’re left with a pile of tat you don’t want or need? After tiring of my gifts after about 5 minutes, I went for a trawl on the internet to explore ways one can do exactly that – although at first I stumbled across this reworking of a timeless Christmas Carol!

Having never yet hosted my own Christmas dinner, I too am oblivious to what happens to all that leftover stuff after a Christmas with all the trimmings. It seems for the most resourceful, any leftover food is shoehorned into the subsequent days dinners – and I’m not just talking about those aforementioned never-ending turkey sandwiches. Delia Smith, love her or hate her, has a number of recipe ideas utilizing the leftovers from Christmas lunch ranging from Turkey Soup to a Stilton omelette (so maybe i could manage a bit more cheese then!).

No doubt in the coming weeks every street will become littered with the skeletal remains of the once beloved Christmas tree. Now with pride of place in the heart of every cosy living room the length and breadth of the country, soon to be standing naked and bare on the end of each street corner. Cardiff Council can spare us all the rather depressing January sight that is the christmas tree graveyard as they offer a Christmas Tree recycling service. Well, I may have dressed that up  a bit, as their website advises you to remove the decorations, chop it up and whack it in your green wheelie bin. The same can also be said of that real christmas holly wreath you had hanging on your front door, the boughs of holly with which you decked the halls and the cheeky mistletoe you hid at the top of the stairs.

In terms of recycling all your Christmas cards and wrapping paper, The Woodland Trust are collecting cards at all M&S, WH Smith and TK Maxx stores throughout January. And good news with this is, not only will they be recycling and making new paper but they are also pledging to plant 12,000 new trees, the location of which you can decide by clicking the link above.  Wrapping paper needs to go in your green recycling bags – its estimated that 32 square miles of wrapping paper could end up in UK bins after Christmas!

Finally, back to that dodgy board game, trashy novel or putrid smelling aftershave you received from Auntie Phyllis. Well the charity shop could well be the answer for those who are more ethically minded – here’s Oxfam’s rough guide to the kind of goods they accept. Otherwise you could always whack it up on eBay!

For more information take a look at Cardiff Council’s Christmas recycling guide.


Copenhagen – Was a legally binding treaty always expecting too much? by Chris Halpin

So it’s all over and descended into absolute chaos, but is it really that suprising? It wasn’t only inside that things started to take a turn for the worse last week, as talks stalled police and activists clashed on the streets surrounding the Bella Centre in Copenhagen.

It now transpires that China chucked the largest spanner in the works and is getting most of the blame for the demise of COP15, alongside America who according to Gordon Brown, showed a lack of ‘ambition’. Without the superpowers agreeing to anything meaningful or tangible, the weak agreement that has been signed could place a legally binding deal in serious jeopardy. When world leaders were gathered at the summit on Friday to ‘sign’ on the dotted line, in fact they were thrashing out a weaker international consensus which merely capped global temperature rise by 2 degrees and agreed remuneration packages and aid for countries who face the immediate onslaught of climate change.

Here’s the Channel 4 news coverage from last night. Keep watching as the live interview between Ed Miliband and George Monbiot is particularly compelling – it starts just before the 4 minute mark.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Crucially, no date was set for a peak in carbon emissions, no date was set for any of it to become legally binding, nor were any international emissions targets defined. However much activism and pressure was placed upon world leaders to reach a deal, could we really have expected anything more in just two weeks? Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband are now insistent that the procedural process for the talks must change, as negotiations involving 193 separate countries made for a diplomatic nightmare.

They say that some of the smaller nations were effectively holding the whole summit to ransom, as talks stalled last week for hours at a time when smaller countries threw their toys out of the pram over the developed world not taking enough responsibility for their historical carbon emissions. This meant hours of precious negotiating was wasted and talks had to continue until well after midnight on a number of occasions to make up for lost time. It was also probably part of the reason why a hurried and weaker agreement was signed in the dying moments of the conference so that the fortnight’s talks were not deemed as a total failure. This certainly needs to be addressed in time for next years summit in Mexico, as although it is commendable that the UN ensures every nation has its chance to speak, this is evidently not the forum in which such a discussion should take place. How can a fortnight’s worth of negotiating be enough to hear each and every one of the 193 countries represented, with over 25,000 delegates in attendance, with such an emotive issue on the negotiating table?

This can be demonstrated by last-minute comments made by the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who likened the final accord to the Holocaust. This was quickly denounced by European leaders and however inappropriate it shows the frustrations of the G77 and developing world that the richer nations could not get together to agree lasting targets based upon their previous behaviour.

Last week saw Carwyn Jones on behalf of the Welsh Assembly pledge to help the Mbale region of Uganda prepare for climate change, but unfortunately this is small fry on such an international stage. Such measures should be adopted by other larger developed nations rather than keeping their own interests top priority. This is only demonstrated by China, America, South Africa, India and Brazil breaking away from the main talks to forge a watered down strategy that better suited their economies rather than the environment or consideration of the most vulnerable of nations.

So what will happen now? Well it’s important that international momentum does not falter in the hangover of the conference, although this looks bound to happen. Also, does achieving this ‘weak’ agreement stand in the way of further definition of a legally binding political treaty? With talk of countries making voluntary targets, it’s no wonder the developing nations kicked up so much of a stink in the first week of the summit that the Kyoto agreement should still stand. Just because COP15 is over, it does not remove the obvious challenges we face with Climate Change. World leaders seem to have sidestepped the main issues and chosen short-term gain over long-term probability. It is now back in the hands of NGO’s, International Environment groups and campaigners to lobby world leaders to pull their proverbial fingers out, as there certainly is no planet b.

Cardiff – A sustainable travel city? by alexlodge

In light of events surrounding the Copenhagen Climate Summit, there’s a growing public awareness of the threats posed by climate change. But is this translating into effective action in Cardiff? The city has been making a concerted effort to reduce CO² emissions and combat climate change through a project aptly named ‘sustainable Cardiff’. Selected as Wales’ first “sustainable travel city” by the Assembly Government, a £28.5 million scheme aims to reduce congestion and pollution and promote public transport.  Part of the money has already been invested into providing free cycle hire, bus travel around the city centre, and improved bike and walking routes. The money has also given a final go ahead for the Pont-y-Werin (translation: Bridge for the people) pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Ely river between Cardiff’s sports village and Penarth.

On your bike

Transport, particularly private cars are widely acknowledged as one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. Scientists say the need to change the way we travel is becoming ever more pressing. Cardiff Council have introduced a ‘keep cardiff moving’ travel plan that aims to cut car journeys and encourage the public to use buses, cycle, walk, or share car journeys at the very least. In terms of total impact on climate change, driving is thought to release around six times more CO² emissions than flying and seven times more than ships and boats. Cars alone create nearly half of our total transport emissions.

Changing perceptions

Lee Waters, Director of sustainable travel charity, Sustrans Cymru says achieving a sustainable travel plan in Cardiff will only be successful if people change their perceptions. “People need to be shown that there are alternatives rather than using a car all the time. We need to encourage people to use their cars less and choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment’. Listen below to Lee Waters, Director of Sustrans Cymru on ‘False Perceptions’…

“We need to break down this car culture and realise that it’s quicker and healthier to get around the city on a bike or walk.” Critical Mass is a peaceful gathering that wishes to see less car-dominated cities and more people cycling. On the first Saturday of every month, bikers depart from the steps of the Cardiff Museum at 11am and cycle en-masse around the city centre to raise awareness of cyclists in Cardiff.

Cardiff Cycling Campaign’ join the event every month – they are an organisation that promote cycling and are bidding for improved cycle routes and a cleaner transport environment. Cardiff Council claim “Cardiff is becoming an increasingly cycle-friendly city with 80km of cycle routes”. However, Cardiff Cycling Campaign argue ‘some of these cycle routes are no more than lines on the map, with nothing but blue “cycling permitted” signs to show that bikes are allowed on the road.’ They are currently campaigning for cycling access through the new St Davids 2 development, the A470, the Cogan Spur, and the Western Cycling Corridor.

On Your Bike – Free Ride Scheme (OYBIKE)

Cardiff residents and visitors who register with the Cardiff Bike Scheme can hire a bike from bike stations in 10 locations in Cardiff city centre and Cardiff Bay.

Users have to register online and pay an £18 annual fee or £5 a week to use the bikes, which are free for the first 30 minutes and have a small charge after that. Delme Bowen, Councillor for Traffic and Transportation says the new OYBIKE scheme which started in September has so far successfully seen a monthly increase in usage within Cardiff. Have a listen below:

I thought I would have a go at Cardiff’s new Bike scheme. Watch the video below to view my experience.

There’s mixed opinion in Cardiff. Some people think it’s a great idea whilst others need a little more convincing…

Lee Waters says ‘the OYBike scheme in Cardiff is still only on a very modest scale compared with similar programmes in Copenhagen or Paris. In Cardiff, there are only about 70 bikes and 9 drop off points. However he also points out that thirty years ago Copenhagen had the same level of cycling that Cardiff has today. Now, over a third of all commuting journeys in the Danish capital are by bike. Let’s hope Cardiff has the potential to achieve the same.

Detailed plans for 84 turbine Aberdare Wind Farm revealed by Chris Halpin

Nuon Renewables’ final layout for their proposed wind farm in an area of forest adjacent to Aberdare has been submitted to the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

The Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy project will be built on land which is currently owned by the Welsh Assembly Government between Aberdare and Neath and to the north of Maerdy, Treorchy and Glyncorrwg.

After extensive public consultation there have been some amendments to the initial proposals. Originally there were to be 112 turbines in total, yet this has been reduced to 84. Also some of the turbines have been sited in alternative locations to better suit the landscape and surrounding views.

Each turbine will measure 145 metres, and if developed the developers say the array could generate enough power to meet between 22 and 33% of electricity demand in the Rhondda Cynon Taf and Neath/Port Talbot area.

For photomontage views of what the wind farm will look like from around the area, check out this map.

For more information visit the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy project’s website.

Reaching further with renewables in South Wales by catherinegraham4

Following on from Chris’ comment a few weeks ago, I went down to Aberdare to do a little more investigating into the wind farm proposals in the valleys.

“What are your views on the community wind farm projects?” Cue blank expression and furtive glance. Most local people just nodded along with interest as we explained the topic of wind turbines in their area, despite being unaware of all the details. However, as conversation progressed, the majority response was a resounding “yes” to supporting the community schemes.

These schemes were launched between January and March of this year, throughout Cynon Valley, Afan, Neath and the Rhondda Valleys. Nuon Renewables set up a comprehensive consultation programme within local communities on proposals for a large scale wind energy project. With plans to have over 100 wind turbines up and running by 2013, the community engagement factor was key to their success. By allowing communities to have a say and to even take part in the design stage of the project, we think this could serve as a positive force for changing attitudes within communities.

Drop-in sessions were held in Aberdare, Cymmer, Glynneath, Hirwaun, Maerdy, Neath, Tonmawr and Treorchy to hear local views. A recent survey found that 73% are supportive of more wind energy schemes in Wales. The fundamental aim behind opening up to the public in this way is a forward-thinking and inspiring one and will hopefully take us to a period when people independently support renewable energy.

However, the reality of the situation remains that not enough people know about wind energy, as was proved by our day in Aberdare. Despite the thrust of information that has been generated, those who have no prior interest would be unlikely to peruse letters detailing upcoming plans to build turbines. Even the drop-in sessions would appear an effort for those unaware of the issues.

Therefore, with no knowledge and consequently no involvement, it is much easier to cast the letter aside and to decide that a turbine’s ugliness or inconvenience is the most important worry. The point to make is that people generally disagree with wind turbines when they are not entirely clued up on the subject. One local man we spoke to in Aberdare, Hywell Williams, actually said: “I thought that they were not an efficient source of energy”. Ideally he should already know that many communities have the potential to generate 5MW each; it all makes a huge long-term difference.

Mick Bates, Assembly Member of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, explains why Wales has failed to meet the 2010 wind energy targets: “It is down to cowardice. All this could have been done but politicians haven’t done enough because people don’t like the look of turbines.” If the message about ever-decreasing renewable energy was more hard-hitting, then aesthetics and noise would not be prioritized issues.

Regular leaflets, a newsletter or even a magazine could be circulated to households explaining about renewable energy on a general level. Workshops or groups could be set up to inform people and local radio, television and even the educational system could become involved. After all, it is our children who will one day either maintain or drop the push for renewable energy. The community projects need to be more than just part of a plan for one wind farm in south Wales but current as part of a daily lifestyle.

A promising scheme launched very recently, is one aiming to offer communities financial incentives. Windpower Wales has signed an agreement with the Board of the VESTRI foundation and £3000 will be invested in local needs for every turbine installed. People must remember that there is less government money available at the moment so this is surely an effective way to improve local services and avoid raising taxes. Everything remains in the favour of the people. It is just a case of letting them know.

Of course, the battle to inform people correctly can only be entirely successful when fought on a national level. Allowing an environmentally friendly voice to speak out more regularly in the media, pushing the promotion of wind farms and making people sit up and understand the facts without the bias of an opposition butting in; these are the main remedies for success.

This, in the big picture, can only be achieved when we gain strong political support from the Labour UK government. However a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step and community projects are definitely a firm step in the right direction.

Perhaps by persevering to eliminate those blank expressions, we can hope to rely on a continuing support for renewable energies in the future. A struggle today will lead to an easier, safer and more efficient tomorrow.

Wales at ‘The Wave’ Radio Feature by Welsh Green Dragon

As promised, below is the podcast/ radio documentary on last weeks Climate Change demonstration in London. Many thanks to those who contributed, including Haf Elgar from Friends of the Earth Cymru, Luned Jones from Oxfam Cymru and the Austin family from Merthyr Tydfil.  Also included is a slideshow so it all makes a bit more sense!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

COP15 – the first week… by Welsh Green Dragon

Right well I’ve been speaking about the build up a fair bit but have yet to actually talk about what is going on at COP15. It seems the jargon busters are at work and negotiations are truly in full swing, and the enormity of what needs to be agreed is becoming apparent. The BBC World Service have created this interesting article on where every country stands in relation to its Carbon emissions and future carbon planning, which contextualises what needs to happen in Denmark.

Despite pledges to the tune of £1.2 billion being made by Gordon Brown to help developing nations adapt to climatic changes, it appears that reaching a singular global deal, or text, is looking difficult. Poorer nations feel that they should not have to reduce their carbon emissions and it should only be those who were part of the previous Kyoto protocol who should make massive reductions. There has also been controversy with yet more leaked documents, this time the draft Danish text setting out their plan B if negotiations don’t go according to plan.

With regard to last weeks ‘ClimateGate’ debacle, it was interesting this week when the Met Office announced that the last decade has been the hottest on record. That certainly should douse the spurious claims of climate change deniers that there is no such thing as global warming. And not only that, but next year is also predicted to being the hottest year yet experienced in modern history. Alongside this new research which seems has been perfectly timed to counter the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia, the Met Office have also produced some stark projections for what will happen if global temperatures were to rise by 2 degrees and then 4 degrees centigrade.

So what will week two of the summit bring? Well the leaked draft text is part of the way there but what is looking like a two tier agreement will only exacerbate the disparity between rich and poor. With Environment Minster Jane Davidson and new First Minister Carwyn Jones in Copenhagen rubbing shoulders with their international counterparts, can they persuade other larger nations to take Wales’ lead with the ambitious carbon reduction targets set out by the Welsh Assembly?

As more ideas are thrashed out WGD will try to get in touch with some people who are in Copenhagen and see if they can give an insight into what is happening first hand.