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COP21: success of climate change agreement rides on local government



For the new global agreement on climate change to succeed, local governments must be empowered to act to accelerate national governments efforts in lowering carbon emissions. The climate agreement must clearly refer to the role of cities and regions and provide adequate support, including through financing.

More ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas reduction and annual commitments of $100bn were also vital to keep temperatures from rising by 2°C. These calls were made today by members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), just two months ahead of the climate conference in Paris.

In the build-up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) the CoR – the EU Assembly of local and regional representatives – is gearing up to support the EU’s position in achieving an ambitious and binding global agreement. Speaking in Brussels the CoR President, Markku Markkula, welcomed the draft negotiation text published on 6 October, “National governments cannot tackle climate change alone: it needs industries, civic society, universities and local authorities to work side-by-side. The draft agreement therefore shows signs of promise by explicitly referring to local and regional governments: we urge all Parties to maintain these references”.

The CoR was debating its report on the COP21 with European Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete who said that, “To date, 149 parties to the COP, representing almost 90% of global emissions, have announced their intended emissions reduction contributions. It is a clear signal of the collective determination for Paris to be a turning point towards a new era of low-emissions and climate-resilient economies. The agreement in Paris matters to every citizen in every country of the world. This is why the EU will just not take any deal.” The Commissioner added that “Cities and regions are at the heart of our combat against climate change. It is also in this front where this major fight can be won. European cities and regions are the most ambitious when it comes to climate and energy goals”.

This higher level of ambition was demonstrated with the adoption of a report led by Annabelle Jaeger, French regional councillor of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur: “We know current commitments in emission reduction post-2020 will not be enough to stay below 2°C warming. I am therefore pleased to see EU cities and regions are ready to help go beyond the EU’s “at least 40% greenhouse gas reduction” 2030 target. Our position adopted today shows cities and regions are united in cutting emissions by 50% and increasing the share of renewables and energy efficiency by 40% by 2030″, said A. Jaeger.

Beyond current commitments, the COP will need to accelerate ambition over time. The CoR therefore supports the inclusion of five year-commitment periods and revision cycles in the Paris climate agreement. In the long-term and based on the safest UN climate scenarios, the CoR also calls on the EU to support the aim of reaching carbon neutrality in 2050.

The CoR also insists on committing adequate financing that takes into account the vulnerability of developing countries. It calls on all developed and emerging countries to commit new financial pledges to meet the annual $100bn by 2020 needed to deliver the climate agreement. To achieve this, the CoR proposes new more systematic ways of generating financial resources such as using the European carbon market’s revenues. The CoR demands that cities and regions be given easier access to the main global climate funds (e.g. Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility), including direct access for local governments in the most vulnerable developing countries.

United Kingdom local government ‘mix’

English Local Government

There are 57 ‘single tier’ authorities:

– 55 unitary authorities

– The City of London Corporation

– The Council of the Isles of Scilly

There are 34 ‘upper tier’ authorities. The non-metropolitan counties function as local education authorities:

– 27 non-metropolitan counties

– 6 metropolitan counties

– The Greater London Authority

There are 269 ‘lower tier’ authorities, which all have the function of billing authority for Council Tax. The metropolitan and London boroughs also function as local education authorities:

– 201 non-metropolitan districts

– 36 metropolitan boroughs

– 32 London boroughs

Scottish Local Government

– 32 unitary authorities

Welsh Local Government

– 22 principal areas in Wales (11 are named as counties (3 named as Cities) and 11 as county boroughs)

Northern Irish Local Government

– 11 districts



Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo |

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.


Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family



Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace --

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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