Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Comparing London and Seattle’s Climate Change Plans

Jamund Ferguson
Comparing London and Seattle’s Climate Change Plans
CEP 498
April 29, 2008


Climate change is a serious problem that affects cities around the globe. Many government bodies are taking a serious look at how to address climate change. London and Seattle are two cities that are leading the movement for a city-based approach to the issue. They both have similar climates and they both seem to have the social and political will to take on this challenge, yet they have chosen to do so in vastly different ways. This paper seeks to compare and contrast their different approaches to addressing climate change in light of various publications on the matter.

London’s Climate Plan: A Good Practice Guide to Sustainable Communities

One thing that is an immediately obvious about London’s Climate Plan is its focus on adaptation. It is a very practical plan that promotes adjusting our infrastructure to support the eventual reality that the world is going to change. The guide also seeks to look at what ways the climate might change.

Included are case studies from three areas: Bedford, Queensborough, and the Isle of Dogs demonstrating how they might be prepared for raising temperatures and precipitation. The case study of the Isle of Dogs includes specific suggestions for adapting to climate change such as building design (48), rainwater collection and reuse (49), shading (52), flood prevention (58), using water to cool (52), green roofing (56), and more. This practical advice seems to show those people who would be effected why they could benefit from these improvements and lays them out simply.

The plan contains a summary of anticipated changes in areas such as temperature, rainfall, storm intensity, and sea level rise. These summaries provide useful information and allow interested parties to make informed choices. This helps particularly in areas that are not explicitly covered in the rest of the plan. For example, we could use the information to make decisions about what type of dog house we might want to have for our pets. Providing this kind of helpful information makes it an extremely accessible document.

There is also a checklist for preparing any property for climate change. This would be helpful for builders and potential home owners who want to understand what difficulties they might be facing and how to address them early on.

In summary, London’s Climate Plan is a thorough look at how London can adapt to a warming climate. It heavily promotes green building techniques and provides practical examples instead of ideology. Its main goal seems to be buy-in from the public and developer community. Its great strength is its practicality, which will make it a popular tool for developers.

Seattle’s Climate Action Plan

The subtitle of the Plan, “Meeting the Kyoto Challenge”, gives away the Seattle Climate Action Plan’s over arching theme. In stark contrast to the London climate change initiative the Seattle Climate Action Plan is focused mainly on reducing carbon emissions and reducing ecological footprint. Ultimately, this different focus provides a special opportunity for Seattle to lead.
The plan begins with a list of specific areas where GHG reductions can be made. Under each item sub-headings outline action items that will help achieve the larger goal of meeting Kyoto targets by 2012. For each category a numeric goal is given for a GHG reduction goal in that category over the next 6 years. The main categories the city chose to focus on were public transportation, fuel efficiency and biofuels, efficiency and clean energy for both homes and businesses, leadership, and sustainability of the program.

Within the document action items are numbered and laid out with clear indicators to measure success. Many of the suggestions are bold in scope and in line with popular research on the subject. A plan to research and possibly implement a toll to reduce traffic in strongly encouraged in this outline. Other ideas for building sustainable communities are already being to be implemented:

“As part of the NBDS, the City is revising policies and regulations to ensure ‘transit oriented development’ –- compact, mixed-use developments in which walking, biking and transit access are safe and easy –- occurs at and around light rail stations.” (9)

This forward reaching and thorough look at climate change and sustainability gives Seattle’s Plan a unique leadership role. As the first major city to put in writing many of these ideas, we can give leverage to others hoping to join the movement. Ultimately what is great about the Seattle Plan is its reach. It seems interested in changing not only the city, but the world. Occasionally vague and weakly worded suggestions or politically impossible ideas may prevent some of Seattle’s CAP from taking root. However, its ideas are powerful and it seems to be a starting point for any city seeking to apply sustainable principles.

What do the Readings Have To Offer?

Energy efficiency, building efficiency, and transportation are three major themes covered in Alex Steffen’s WorldChanging, Lester Brown’s Plan B 3.0, and Douglas Farr’s Sustainable Urbanism. Another important emphasis of sustainable cities that was mentioned was that of livability. In some ways there is kind of rift between those two ideas. One focusing on technical solutions and another focusing on human-scale solutions. This could possibly explain the different approaches to London and Seattle’s plans. Livability vs. technology’s ability. Seattle’s CAP really looks at using technology and policy to create solutions to climate change. London’s Climate adaptation plan is more a practical guide to dealing with climate change. It heavily emphasizes livability. They both seem to borrow heavily from popular texts, but are missing some important pieces.

Compostable toilets are hailed as a massive way to reduce water consumption. These toilets provide a clean, effective alternative, claims Lester Brown, in his book Plan B 3.0, to the energy and water intensive sewer system we currently use. These toilets should be part of any city’s sustainability plan. One particular benefit is that of providing compost for gardens and farms. This could be linked with urban gardening to provide a massive source of fertilizer. The free fertilizer could spur rapid growth in the urban farming movement and further increase the greenness of a city.

Other areas which could have been more thoroughly addressed were land-use planning for transportation. Though some suggestions were made in the Seattle CAP, no specific analysis was given that would demonstrate its benefits. London’s plan, in contrast, rarely discussed renewable energy production, while that was a large point of the Seattle document. Without taking into account transportation and energy production we cannot fully address climate change. Surely we cannot live in a sustainable world and still depend on the same inefficient transportation and energy technologies. We must have both a livable world and sustainable one.

Sustainability is an extremely holistic approach to planning. Neither plan really can say it addresses all aspects of sustainability. When the targets of the current plans are reached there are many more avenues that need to be explored.


Seattle’s Climate Action Plan is a visionary document that outlines some important contributions the City can make to reduce its carbon footprint. This kind of document promotes radical action to address climate change. It provides a real world example of leadership at the city level, which will in turn inspire other cities to take initiative.
While Seattle’s Plan focuses primarily on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, London’s Plan is centered on how to adapt to the effects of those emissions. The London Plan may lack the lofty of goals as Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, but it does provide needed practical advice needed for developers and residents to start building the structures of tomorrow. It contains simple explanations and drawings. London’s Plan seems to promote sustainability as a healthy response to a changing climate rather than to use green design and sustainable living as a way to keep the climate from changing. Together, it is a more practical guide that keeps its focus on creating the type of sustainable society we would all like to live in.

London and Seattle have been leaders in seeking to address climate change and they are addressing it differently. Seattle is looking to change the world by leading a climate movement, while London is hoping to provide a decent experience for its citizens. Both approaches are needed and even more must be done to prepare for and prevent the consequences of a warming world.


Brown, Lester R. Plan B 3.0, Earth Policy Institute, 2008.
Farr, Douglas. Sustainable Urbanism, Wiley, 2008.
London, City of. London’s Climate Plan: A Good Practice Guide to Sustainable Communities, 2007.
Newman, Peter. and Kenworthy, Jeffrey. Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming
Automobile Dependence, Island Press, 1999.
Nickels, Greg. Seattle, A Climate of Change: Meeting the Kyoto Challenge, City of Seattle, 2006.
Steffen, Alex (editor). WorldChanging: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century, Abrams, 2007.


Me In Reading, UK

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Climate Change Opportunity Response

 Jamund Ferguson
Jill Sterrett
CEP 498: Planning for Sustainable Communities
Written Assignment #1: Op-ed Response

In Paul Krupp’s April 8th Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Krupp argues in favor of a “cap-and-trade” system for regulating carbon emissions. His thesis is that climate is a serious problem that needs to be addressed and that this can be done without disturbing the economy. Mr. Krupp, who heads the Environmental Defense Fund, believes that we are on the cusp of a major energy revolution and that many great technological breakthroughs are right on the edge of profitability. To speed this process however and avoid unnecessary climate impacts the author argues that a cap-and-trade system would benefit both the environment and the economy.

His detractors comments published in subsequent days remind us that higher European energy costs have not brought forward an elegant solution to the problem of CO2 emissions from automotive vehicles in that part of the world. They argue that even with the cap in place, many companies would simply buy the right to pollute more, and pass that on as a tax to the consumer. In Europe it was claimed, people pay up to $9/gallon for gasoline. The added tax even at the highest rate now suggested by congress, his detractors claim, would a) not even bring us up to current European gasoline prices and b) therefore not generate the kind of innovation needed to solve the problem. This is because one man claimed there is no solution to the problem.

I disagree however on the European issue and on the issue of the economic viability of low-carbon technology. The EPA claims that “Transportation activities (excluding international bunker fuels) accounted for 33 percent of CO emissions from fossil fuel combustion in 2006.” According to the Department of Energy the United States produces 85% of its electricity using fossil fuels. This combination does not put us in an equivalent situation to Europe ( In France, 90% of the electricity is produced from nuclear energy, which produces little to no climate changing GHGs. While I do not have the figures handy, it is clear to anyone that has spent any sort of time in Europe that all the major cities are massively pedestrianized and filled with public transportation options. Clearly Europe has invested money differently than the states when it comes to energy and transportation policy.

As far as the economic viability of solutions I believe that Paul Krupp is right. We are on the verge of numerous technological breakthroughs. In a very interesting interview with T.J. Rodgers of SunPower Corp. posted on conservative National Review Online as part of a series called, “The Free-Market Case for Green”, Rodgers emphasized the fairness of a cap-and-trade system on all energy companies and seemed to feel that it would support a wide number of solutions including nuclear and solar. I believe that a cap-and-trade system would likely highly favor the nuclear power energy, but also support many new technologies. The scale of the climate change problem must require a long and serious debate over the viability of nuclear power as a partial or full solution to this problem. Along with the energy industry it seems that every Fortune 500 is working on some “green” project and hiring someone to manage their sustainability initiative. In the Global Environmental Governance book we read about how policies could not succeed without the support of business. The most directly impacted industries (oil & transportation) seem to be taking the lead in the PR campaign to support climate change initiatives. Hybrid Cars and BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign have served to remind me that businesses back some approach to climate change. They acknowledge the problem and are willing to work toward solutions. It is clear to me that the government already has the support it needs from American businesses if it were to choose to go ahead with this legislation. The bigger problem may be convincing its citizens.

Any such change to current policy is going to require a massive PR campaign to sell American citizens on the plan. The more I read the various responses to this and other environmental articles, it becomes clear that climate change is not something that is widely equally in all parts of the country. Al Gore’s film as celebrated as it has been is not universally adored. Many people question his authenticity and credibility. They often question the motives behind many of the proposals given by environmentalists on the issues at hand. I believe that there minds can be changed with some more media campaigns and information. It is too bad that many extremists on both sides of the debate have turned this into something that many people refuse to consider.

Another massive hole in Krupp’s plan say his opponents is its complete failure to mention any other country than the United States. Recently the headlines have told us that China has overtaken the United States with regard to green house gas emissions. Is there any purpose in acting without them? Mr. Krupp’s answer, I suspect, would be twofold. 1) There is much to be gained from acting now for our economy and national security. Sounding like an optimist Mr. Krupp’s position seems to be that great innovations will be coming forward to overcome whatever cost the system might put forward. This is not only about the environment. It is about our country’s future. 2) By leading the way, China will have an example to follow. If we can show them how to “go green," they will have a more sure way to follow. Also by beginning this process they will face a great deal more pressure internationally to limit their emissions as well. Ultimately this will lead to them signing on to a similar international treaty in the next few years. National security is another factor that would be sidestepped in a sense by only addressing the United States. Would we prefer China to use nuclear energy instead of coal for example? What could the side effects to national security be if that were to be the case? Alternatively if Al Gore is right and Beijing and Shanghai could be flooded soon, can we really run the risk of mass migration? Both sides present serious national security concerns that will have to be addressed.

The main reason to support a cap-and-trade system in my view would not be to promote the economic growth of the green industry. I agree with those that say that if a technology is economically viable it will be developed without the need for interference from government. I believe that the best reason to support a cap-and-trade system is to protect ourselves from the unforeseen side effects of global climate change. We need not wait to take action. Economically viable solutions are on the way and many are currently available. It is time that the government step in to protect all of us from the unknown risks of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal suggested by Mr. Krupp is not the final answer to the climate change problem, but an equitable and intelligent way to begin addressing it.

Bush Climate Change Speech

You know, I think this is positive. If nothing else we can use this to face the critics. I believe that it reflects a growing consensus amongst businesses that something will eventually be done to limit green house gas emissions. This acceptance by businesses could have been what prompted the President to feel he could say something on the matter. While not very specific it could very easily be seen as generically giving support to congress to make some sort of progress in this direction. While Kyoto I believe lost in the Senate 0-98, a similar bill could pass the house next year, and as everyone is saying all 3 candidates propose a cap-and-trade system, which is great. My comments on that idea, I'll post soon. Gee, it's fun to blog isn't it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Plastic Chemicals May Cause ADHD and other neurological problems

This LA Times article, Chemical in Plastic May Harm Human Growth, April 16, 2008 brings up an issue that I find extremely compelling. While I personally don't believe that there use is a huge worry, I grew up sucking on plastic pens and other things constantly. I've wondered for years if many of the neurological issues seen in the world today and pre-mature adolescence could not somehow be attributed to harmful chemicals in the environment. It looks as though we're getting some more information and beginning to see some possible connections.l

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hi Friends

This is just a test.