Covid-19: The Saga continues…

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week once again it’s Covid.

It seems we are in a time warp and no matter what we do, can’t seem to get out of the vicious cycle humanity has found itself trapped in due to Covid-19. By the time this goes to print, Scotland and the rest of the UK will be bringing in new restrictions to stop and prevent the spread of the new covid variant, “Omicron”. I have been closely following the journey of the virus since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China in 2019. Below are some of my thoughts on why we are still struggling to bring the virus under control and what has gone wrong so far and why does it seem governments across the globe have not learnt from their mistakes.

We now know the facts and origins of the virus and how China kept things under wraps for a few months until a whistle-blower from a hospital in Wuhan revealed online the scale of the infections and death in the city in late 2019. China’s political system and the world turning a bind eye to the happenings in a communist state, all contributed to the spread of this deadly virus around the globe in a matter of weeks, thus causing utter misery, chaos and death to millions of citizens. Many have lost loved ones and all this death could have been avoided if strict measures were put in place by governments across the world; instead, they ran scared of offending China; the worlds biggest manufacturer of goods and the second largest economy after the US.

Once again, we are back to square one with possible lockdown and restrictions coming back with a vengeance. It took Boris Johnson until 23rd March 2020 to impose lockdown in all four nations of the UK. Unfortunately, as we now know, it was too late for many who lost their lives due to the pandemic and the careless attitude of Westminster covid rules and regulations that applied to the general public. Vaccine politics is being used as a weapon of choice by the rich western countries to charge exorbitant prices for life saving vaccines that the majority of the developing and third world countries cannot afford. Intellectual property rights have yet to be rescinded by western pharmaceutical companies in order that poorer countries can start production of these vital vaccines for their population. Global trade and travel were back to normal only a few months ago with no plan or exit strategy in place to avoid the spread of new variants like Omicron. The use of vaccines as a strategy to combat these new variants are falling way short of actually being effective to stop the spread of this virus. As of April 13, 2021, the United Kingdom government had ordered 457 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines.

What should we do now? For vaccine’s to be effective, at least 70% of the population have to be vaccinated with all the 3 recommended doses. Secondly, the UK, especially England was allowed to remove restrictions like face coverings in public places including transport and indoors, while Scotland and Wales stuck with the measures to reduce infection rates. This was not going to work as the biggest population country (England) would have a negative impact on the UK. Unnecessary foreign travel, including holidays should have been restricted to stop the export or import of new variants of Covid-19.

Finally, the rich have to provide vaccines to the poor, if not, we will be constantly going around in circles as we also live in a very globalised world. Here is hoping it’s not too late again and that we don’t lose more loved ones to the virus.

Keep safe and have a good Christmas and a happy new year 2022!

 

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 17th December 2021

COP26 Glasgow – A summary of the event

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on what happened at the COP26 in Glasgow and the repercussions for humanity going forward.

COP26 is now over and analysts are shifting through the small print of the documents that world leaders signed to help tackle climate change. The devil is in the details as they say. Apart from the big economies like Russia, China and Brazil, Turkey’s leader did not attend too due to a protocol issue involving his delegation in Glasgow. The presence of heads of state and government at the talks is not just symbolic. Real work gets done among leaders that cannot happen among lower-level diplomats. So, was COP26 worth it? Below are some of my observations on the outcome of the event.

It was decided unanimously to keep the global temperature to 1.5 degrees of global heating. Plus, it was also decided to get the biggest polluters to the table next year to agree to commit to cut their carbon emissions. This may seem to be delaying tactics by the biggest polluters but in actual practice it makes a lot of sense as there is no magic on/off switch to reduce carbon emissions overnight. A lot of planning will be required to have a smooth transition for a move to renewable energy as only a few countries are equipped for this change to their economy while the majority who are categorised as developing or third world will have to wait and see if the rich countries help support them via making funds available to move to a greener economy. Another big achievement was to phase out coal and replace petrol and diesel vehicles to electric. This alone will take developed countries like the UK a minimum of 10 years to put in place all the equipment and resources across the length and breadth of the country in order to meet its own targets.

Another big winner was a decision to phase out coal completely as an energy source. This was always going to be an issue as many poorer and developing countries like India still rely on coal as a source of heating and cooking. PM Modi of India has categorically said that coal would be phased out and emissions cut to net zero by 2070! By doing so he will be missing out on a key goal set at COP26 for countries to reach the target by 2050. The US, EU and China have all pledged plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. India is the world’s fourth biggest polluter of carbon dioxide after the above three. The UK is included in the EU figures and the data is from 2019.

One of the main groups missing at COP26 were indigenous communities from South America, Africa, Asia and smaller island nations from across the world. According to some sources indigenous people have preserved more than 80% of the remaining biodiversity left on this fragile planet. Reducing methane and deforestation by 2030 are the other two main goals that were signed off by all the attendees at the COP26. Unfortunately, the caveat being all this is voluntary for countries to make their own decisions. Over a decade ago the rich nations promised poorer countries over $100 billion by 2020! No money has been allocated so far and this was a major issue at the summit as many felt that no serious effort has been made apart from promising money every time at events like these by the rich nations, including the UK.

What happens next and what can we do as citizens of the world. Keep applying pressure on your local and national elected representatives and make sure to expose the nexus between politicians, corporations and donors who are the main financial beneficiaries every time a green proposal or project is rejected.

Finally! Wishing all readers, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2022!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 3rd December 2021

Conservative & Unionist Sleaze and Corruption Continues

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week once again it’s Tory sleaze and corruption.

What a roller coaster of a few weeks with sleaze and corruption back on the agenda thanks to the current ruling administration at Westminster. Our very own Tory MP David Mundell voted in the house of commons to protect his corrupt fellow MP Owen Paterson from being suspended. What the Tory party tried to do was not only defend the indefensible but use their majority to bring forward legislation that would allow Owen Paterson to go scot-free and avoid the 30-day suspension handed to him by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and Independent body setup to regulate MP’s conduct and behaviour along with overseeing the Register of Members Financial Interests.
Ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had been facing a 30-day suspension from the Commons after the Standards Committee found he repeatedly used his position as an MP to promote two companies that paid him a combined £112,000 a year. MPs voted on November 3rd on an amendment tabled by Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom. The amendment blocked Owen Paterson’s recommended 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for ‘egregious’ rule breaches. It agreed to instead set up a committee reviewing the Commons standards procedure after Mr Paterson – who denied wrongdoing – branded the process flawed. This was a lie as Owen was given the opportunity to defend himself throughout the process. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg then decided to undermine our democracy by trying to hijack our parliament once again! Even the right-wing press were appalled and finally took a stand.

What this incident has done is highlighted the ‘second job’ scam run by Tory MP’s that have been using parliamentary access, resources and privileges to make millions for themselves and their family, donors and friends. I have systematically highlighted this in my previous columns. MP Geoffrey Cox was working from a tax haven while working for the government of the British Virgin Islands! Sir Geoffrey has earned more than £5m in his second job since becoming an MP while working part-time for his constituency! The same applies to another Tory MP Natalie Elphicke who once suggested that Marcus Rashford the footballer should stick to his day job while it was revealed that she earns £36,000 as chair of the New Homes Quality Board, an independent watchdog for new-build houses.

It seems nobody really cares, at least here in our own constituency. Like Thatcher in the 80’s, Boris has slammed the final nail in the coffin of the Conservative & Unionist party in the UK. It’s time to get rid of them locally too and make Scotland an Independent nation where we can finally have our own written constitution and laws that will help our new country be equal, prosperous and fair to all.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 26th November 2021

COP26 – Another Opportunity to save our planet

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the on-going COP26 in Glasgow and the hope that politicians and world leaders come together to fight climate change that will affect all life on the planet.

The COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, began last Sunday 31st October in the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow and will conclude on the 12th November. The biggest challenge facing the world is not climate change deniers but the rich western countries, corporations and politicians who have been catering to their local population and their ideologies. For example, in America the Christian right and the majority of the Republican party leadership do not believe in climate change and that humans are the biggest contributing factor. Billions of pounds have been spent over the years so far on refining buzz words and creating technical jargon to market the impending climate catastrophe to the lay person and many millions more spent to keep these updated as new evidence is available. Below are a few examples;

UNFCCC – The UN framework convention on climate change, which was signed in 1992 in Brazil dubbed the Rio Earth summit, binds all of the world’s nations – apart from a few countries – to “avoid dangerous climate change”. However, it did not set out in detail how to do so.

Kyoto protocol – This was the first attempt in 1997 to turn the UNFCCC’s resolution into what came to be known as the Kyoto protocol. This set targets on emissions cuts for each developed country, stipulating a 5% cut in global greenhouse gases overall by 2012. Developing countries, including China, were allowed to increase their emissions. But the protocol immediately ran into trouble when the US, which signed the treaty under Bill Clinton, could not ratify it owing to opposition in Congress. The protocol eventually came into force without US backing, in 2005, but by then was largely irrelevant, so countries set out on the long journey to a new treaty that would fulfil the UNFCCC aims, resulting eventually in the 2015 Paris accord.

The Paris Agreement – In December 2015 developed and developing nations came together to limit greenhouse gases. The main goal of the Paris agreement was to limit global heating to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, while “pursuing efforts” to stay within the lower, safer threshold of 1.5C. Countries set out targets to stay within those limits, in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

The most vague and ambiguous one is NDC – Nationally Determined Contribution. Every country signed this as part of their target to reduce greenhouse gasses by around 2030! The Paris accord contains a mechanism by which every country must improve its target every five years, so the next NDC’s will be submitted by December 2030. Many countries have yet to submit their first five-year targets, as they were due in December 2020 but delayed due to Covid-19. Here is hoping that they do submit this data during COP26.

While I was writing this column, news just came in that a cruise ship procured by the government to host COP26 attendees will have to run on fossil fuels despite being equipped to use clean energy. These ships can usually connect to electricity while docked at ports, enabling them to switch off their auxiliary engines, but the port hosting the two ships does not have onshore power capabilities for medium or large vessels.

Billionaires should be focusing their massive wealth on saving our planet first before trying to inhabit other planets to repeat the same mistakes. Fingers crossed, COP26 will be a success as pressure is mounting on world leaders to act now!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 5th November 2021

Universal Credit – A Conservative & Unionist Policy to Eradicate the Working Poor!

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the Tories toxic Universal Credit system which is disproportionately affecting the disabled, working poor and low-income families.

A very long time ago I had written about the shambles that would be Universal Credit, a policy introduced by Tory MP Ian Duncan Smith to make poverty disappear and work pay. All very good, since he had this epiphany while touring Easterhouse a council estate in Glasgow in 2002. This tour was carried out for his Think Tank Centre for Social Justice which was set up to find solutions to poverty in modern Britain.

Public memory is short-lived and our MPs know this, as even though they are responsible for the worst atrocities (benefit cuts) committed during peacetime on the British public, the Tories have managed to consolidate their power and even influence the working class to vote for them in the last general elections by blaming the ‘other’, in this case European citizens living and working in the UK. Brexit and Covid have decimated the livelihoods of millions of citizens and their families with many losing their jobs overnight and many having to resort to food banks to make ends meet and provide food for their children. The £20 top-up that was provided to every single claimant of universal credit last year has now been withdrawn, leaving many to fall back on food banks, loan sharks and if living in private rented accommodation at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who are waiting to evict tenants who cannot pay their rent. I have said this before, in principle I do agree with the concept of Universal Credit as it was designed to incorporate six benefits into one. But in practice it was a disaster as the founders of this system; The Centre for Social Justice, were clueless about the complexities of the previous benefit system. There is still no evidence that Universal Credit is getting people into work compared to the previous system by the Labour government in 1999, while the costs of implementing it has risen to over £1.4 billion.

The National Audit Office said that the controversial five week wait for a first universal credit payment continued to exacerbate many claimants’ debt problems and push them into hardship. Vulnerable claimants – including those with physical, mental or learning disabilities, people with few digital skills, or with chaotic lives – were more likely to struggle with their claim, the NAO said, with the complicated process of moving onto the benefit causing payment delays and financial problems for these claimants.

On a final note, the £20 top-up was actually what amount claimants would have been receiving today if taking inflation into account and had the Tories not cut the benefit amount and thresholds of Housing, Working Tax and Child Tax Credits. The rich have got richer and the poor are made to fight among themselves. Divide and rule, the classic British policy is now being used on its own citizens for keeping the status quo.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021

 

Eat or Heat – Grim Choices for Families this Winter

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the current food and fuel shortages in the UK and the devastating impact on low-income families with the removal of the £20 per week from Universal Credit.

What a fine mess we find ourselves in due to Covid and post Brexit. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated this year that the Brexit damage will inflict a heavy financial damage on UK citizens with every person facing a cost of around £1,200. The economy has taken a hit along with a massive drop in exports, high fuel prices and food shortages. The UK governments own department that forecasts how well the economy will do in the short and long-term has predicted the worst is yet to come! Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, with all 32 local authorities choosing to reject Brexit. A recent report by the online news organisation Byline Times said Covid was a ‘’convenient scapegoat’’ and that the empty shelves were the result of Brexit and not the ‘’pingdemic’’. Brexit remains the main factor to blame for food shortages in shops and supermarkets as attempts to make the so-called” pingdemic” a scapegoat is increasingly undermined.

Warnings about empty shelves in shops and supermarkets began when Boris Johnson imposed his woeful Brexit trade deal which kicked in on January 1. Mounting red tape and other problems led to a growing shortage of lorry drivers able and prepared to take food from Europe to the UK. The dairy giant Arla, which has a dairy in Lockerbie and which supplies milk to all major UK supermarkets, said that the lorry driver shortage is hitting milk supplies. Arla was suffering more from the lack of drivers than from Covid alerts, said the managing director. “Self-isolation doesn’t seem to be impacting us as much, because we’re a very mechanised, automated business,” he added. “The food is there in the factories; it’s just about getting it to the shops. So that’s our key problem.” One farmer told Byline Times: ‘[The right-wing media] are trying to scapegoat the blame on to the test and trace ping system because they want to deflect the blame from Brexit.’’

In my previous columns since Brexit, I did warn of the impending crisis, like many sane voices in the country about the knock-on effect it will have on the most vulnerable in our society. Rising prices of food, fuel and other commonly used household goods and services are causing increased levels of stress and anxiety especially to families that have a stark choice to make; do we feed our children or heat our homes. The real problem at the heart of food shortage is Brexit. That’s it. No other country is having these issues and no amount of spin from the government will change this simple fact they had plenty of time to put in place measures that would have not allowed this chaos to play out. Removing the £20 per week from Universal Credit is like kicking someone really hard while they are down and out! While I am writing this column, the UK government has called in the army to deliver fuel and essential food supplies to petrol stations and supermarkets in England for the coming weeks. As a social enterprise, we have in the past picked up the pieces of flawed legislation introduced to penalise the poor for sins committed by the rich, here is hoping the government has a change of heart.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021

Brexit & Covid-19 combo causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the Brexit-Covid-19 combo that is causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies.

I have written in my previous columns what the impact of Brexit would be on the supply chains especially the food and drinks sector and it seems the chickens have come home to roost! The UK is going through a massive shortfall of key workers with vacancies running at a record high level. In early September the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reported that there were over 1.11 million vacancies at the end of August 2021 and this number is set to rise in the coming months. The sectors suffering the most with a shortfall of workers are HGV drivers (100,000+), Nurses (79,123), Carers (49,751), Chefs (29,996), IT Professionals (68,929), Retail Assistants (26,183), Primary and nursery education teaching professionals (30,574), Cleaners & domestics (24,148), Metal working production and maintenance fitters (19,748) and Carpenters and joiners (6,364). Other jobs highlighted with high vacancy rates include veterinary nurses, ambulance drivers and postal workers. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the Shortage Occupation List, which allows companies to recruit skilled workers from the EU and the rest of the world, to be extended to all specialist welders, as well as butchers and bricklayers. The Road Haulage Association has consistently argued that HGV drivers should be included in the scheme as vacancies have risen from a pre-COVID level of 60,000 to beyond 100,000 – threatening wider distribution disruption as the key Christmas season approaches.

To top this up last week we learnt that the UK is bracing itself for a severe shortage of CO2 gas impacting supplies of beer, fizzy drink and meat! The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was warned last week of the shortages caused by the closure of two major fertiliser plants. While the general public may not be aware, the drinks industry relies on CO2 to carbonate beverages, while the meat industry uses the gas extensively throughout processing; in slaughterhouses, and for packaging and refrigeration. The British Poultry Council (BPC) warned the industry was heading into a “downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling”. The council urged the government to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production to limit the disruption to supermarket supplies and hospitality businesses. Supermarkets shelves and restaurants are expected to be affected from this week onwards given that the gas is instrumental to the production of carbonated drinks and meat processing. All the major fast-food chains have suffered due to supply issues and this will continue in the foreseeable future unless the government gets its act together.

So, who is to blame for this mess and what can we do as ordinary citizens to stop this from getting worse? Winter is upon us and already consumers have seen a huge rise in prices of essential consumer goods. Most food and other household expenses have shot up by over 40 percent in some cases. The rich and the middle class are as always, cushioned by any negative impact on the economy but the majority of us have to rely on a hand to mouth existence not knowing when things will get better. Here is hoping that we don’t face a real winter of financial hardship and discontent as this time the powers that be will not escape the wrath of its people.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 24th September 2021.

COP26 Glasgow 2021 – Scotland’s Time to Shine on the World Stage – Part II

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, continues in this second and final part of his two-part column to share his thoughts on the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent climate policies, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our planet.

Why this apathy from governments and corporations across the globe in rejecting fossil fuels and fully embracing renewables?  The answer is our insatiable thirst for cheap oil and the powerful lobby that controls all aspects of the economy. Since the 1960’s there has been a growing movement by environmentalist in the West to raise awareness and educate its citizens on the devastating impact of oil on the planet since the industrial revolution. The eco-system, indigenous cultures and people have faced the brunt of big corporations and countries like the US and UK bulldozing their way through developing and third world countries in search of oil and other resources to feed their ever-growing consumerism.

China was chosen by Western corporations to become the intensive factory producing country of all its goods to be then transported all across the globe. The narrative globally is that China is one of the main polluters of the world. Of course, it is, what were you expecting when your own country closes most of its manufacturing industries and transfers all production to China because of its lax labour laws, non-existing human rights and the fear of a communist state to force its people to work in sometimes hostile and unsafe conditions. The world has bankrolled the communist state of China and turned a blind eye to all atrocities committed by the Chinese state in exchange for cheap goods and low environmental standards. Scotland like the rest of the UK, Europe, Japan and the US are all poised to meet their carbon emissions target. But this is a lie and misleading. So long as China keeps producing over 70% of the world’s goods, it will also be responsible for high carbon emissions.

The main beneficiaries of this one-sided trade arrangements are the biggest oil corporations like BP, Shell, etc. the list goes on. Shareholders and CEOs are making a killing in profits and will continue to do so if we don’t take action now. I sometimes feel we have already crossed the line of no return and we all are heading towards the cliff.

On a positive note, we had some good news last weekend, were members of the Green Party and the SNP voted to sign a deal making it a coalition government in the Scottish parliament. This gave the Scottish Greens its first attempt at being in government anywhere in the whole of the UK. Members from both political parties voted overwhelmingly in support of the agreement. Since the COP26 climate conference is to be held soon in Glasgow, this will give the ruling coalition plenty of time to formulate a green message to be delivered by Scotland in Scotland to the rest of the world.

Citizens from across the globe should work together in not supporting heavy fossil fuel industries by delinking from any financial gains currently being received in the forms of investments, shares and pensions. By switching to alternate providers that are ethical and support the environment, this will starve these industries of much needed cash to keep drilling for more oil. Politicians and civil servants should have in their contracts a clause forbidding them to be in a position to gain financially from the oil industry. Fossil fuel lobbyists should be banned from meeting any government officials elected or otherwise and all policies relating to fossil fuels should be made available to the general public for scrutiny before passing into law. Heavy fines should be imposed depending on company or individuals’ income as sometimes a few millions worth of fines is a drop in the ocean for oil corporations.

Here is hoping the human race stands together to fight greed and corruption and put mother nature first.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 3rd September 2021.

Triple Blow to UK Citizens by Tory Government Policies

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s higher energy bills, the end of furlough and removal of the £20 top-up to Universal Credit, a triple whammy, as millions of families will struggle financially this winter having to choose between feeding themselves or keeping warm!

From 1st October over 15 million people could be waking up to a massive increase in their energy bills with the announcement that the energy cap on some deals will be increasing by £139 per year. This is happening due to a combination of factors including Brexit and a rise in wholesale gas prices by more than 50% since the beginning of the year. Cheap energy deals are disappearing and becoming a rarity in the open market putting huge financial strains on low-income families and pensioners. The good news is that we can still reduce our bills as the price cap applies to certain energy deals like standard, default and out-of-contract tariff. Basically, they all mean the same thing i.e., if you have haven’t switched your energy supplier in a while or took no action when your last fixed deal ended, then you will be one of those that will be impacted by the price rise. Global prices of fossil fuels are rising, especially gas due to Covid-19 and a longer winter last year also meant that refiling of gas stores was delayed. Since some of our electricity is generated from gas, this means electricity prices are affected too. Energy companies are not obliged to increase their prices to match the new cap but big energy firms will do so in order to keep shareholders happy.

Add the removal of the £20 per week top-up to Universal Credit and the end of furlough and we are heading into a perfect storm brought about by polices of the Westminster (Tory) government which the Scottish government (SNP & Greens) have no control over. The worst hit will be those on prepayment meters. These are like pay as you go i.e., top up as you go along and are mostly used by low-income groups. Prepayment customers are charged more for each unit of energy than people on standard credit meters. In fact, the cheapest prepaid tariffs (£1,052, according to Ofgem) was found to be over £200 more expensive than the cheapest direct debit tariff (£846) in August 2019. Prepayment meter tariffs are also covered by the price cap. These are set to rise by even more. If you’ve chosen a fixed deal (one that has a set contract length) then you won’t be affected by the price cap changes. Housing charity Shelter estimates that nearly half a million private tenants are in arrears and this figure has doubled since the pandemic. Private renters spend more of their income on housing than any other housing tenure. Social housing is scarce and not readily available to fill the gap. The outdated Local Housing Allowance Rates needs a major overhaul as is not fit for purpose e.g., Scottish Borders is allocated a maximum of £74.79 per week rent (£324.09 per month). This is fine if you live in some remote parts of the Borders and in social housing but not in Peebles or the surrounding areas including Innerleithen. A private one-bedroom flat for rent in Peebles is around £450+. Which planet do these politicians live on, definitely not the same as us mere mortals?

We are going to witness a winter of discontent across the country if the Westminster Tory government does not get its act together and remove policy’s that impact the majority of the citizens of this country. Here is hoping that the four nations can keep themselves warm and well fed this coming winter.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 20th August 2021.

COP26 Glasgow 2021 – Scotland’s Time to Shine on the World Stage

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on global warming and the opportunity we have right here in Scotland as the host nation of the upcoming COP26 global climate event in Glasgow.

 It’s been over a year now since the pandemic struck all humanity no matter where you lived in the world, rich or poor. We are now facing a double whammy from mother nature vis-à-vis Covid and climate catastrophes all across the planet. Scotland is to hold the next United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year. For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. During this time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. So, what can we look forward to with COP26? Leaders of more than 190 countries will be attending the Scottish event and we are hoping that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will seize the opportunity to highlight Scotland’s pioneering role and contribution in renewable energy across these four nations.

Before COP26, many countries from around the world were signatories to what came to be known as the Paris agreement. This was COP21 and took place in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement’s central aim was to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. They agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.

What have we done collectively since this historic signing of the Paris Agreement? Rich and powerful countries like the US, had left the treaty in 2020 under the Trump administration but have formally re-joined this year under current President Biden. Iran, Iraq and Libya – all among the 14-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) – as well as Yemen and Eritrea have not ratified the agreement. Some of the pros of the Paris agreement are that it has global support as 197 countries have signed the document and will have the ability to bring all parties together to address the real issue of keeping the earth’s temperature to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius maximum wile aiming for 1.5 Celsius by the end of this century. The temperature increase would decrease water supplies and crop levels. In addition, melting ice would raise sea levels, flooding coastal communities and destroying thousands, if not millions of homes. By committing to reduce greenhouse gases, the Paris agreement is aimed at preventing these ecosystem disruptions.

The cons of the Paris agreement are that its difficult to enforce on a global level and has a massive impact on energy related jobs e.g. Fossil fuels. On top of this you have complex rules that varies from country to country and actually may not go far enough to slow global warming. Thirdly the rich countries are manipulating the process and figures to protect a backlash from their own citizens.

Finally, where does that leave us as citizens of Scotland and what can we do to influence politicians of all ideologies and the big corporations that are driving this profit-making madness to human extinction? Please check out my next column in September for the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent policies both locally and nationally, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our only home!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 6th August 2021.