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Good morning curious.earthlings,

Yesterday saw a watershed moment, with the news that the Guardian has taken the brave step of banning all fossil fuel adverts from its publications - evidence that fossil fuel firms are increasingly being regarded as companies that threaten the health of the planet.

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This week, we explore the news that Europe’s train network is set to grow to meet demand from the increasing number of people looking to ditch flying for something greener.

And we go behind the headlines on the UK’s first Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. We’ll find out if it’s all it’s cracked up to be - is this an assembly with teeth to make real change or a dressed-up public consultation? Read on to find out and, most of all, enjoy!

Reading time this week is 3:37 minutes.

p.s. Have you listened to the Curious Earth podcast yet? Search curious.earth on Spotify, iTunes or Google Podcasts and let us know what you think!
 
Climate Change

Power to the People?! - UK's first Citizen's Climate Assembly

by Helen Steiger

What's Going On Here?

Last weekend, the first of four ‘citizens’ assemblies’ on climate change was hosted in Birmingham.

What does this mean?

What is a Citizens' Assembly?
The assembly is made up of 110 ‘ordinary’ citizens selected to represent a broad spectrum of UK society. With diverse ages, ethnicities, geographies and views regarding the climate emergency, the assembly will offer their opinion on the best way for the UK to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is the first national citizens’ assembly for the UK, although the concept has been employed in other local government issues and in other countries worldwide.

What will actually be happening in these assemblies?
Each assembly involves talks and presentations from leading experts on how climate change, and climate action, will impact policy and the running of the UK now and in the future. The first assembly featured a welcoming presentation from the beloved Sir Davey A - so expect the line-up to include the ‘creme de la creme’ of environmental experts! 

Following this, members are encouraged to ask anything they wish before debating and then the assembly’s conclusions will be written up into a report that is then presented to the ‘decision-makers’.

Why should we care?

The Citizens’ Climate Assembly is a genuine attempt to bring public opinion into the political decision-making process - but is it the right approach? Time will tell, but it can’t be the only measure taken to solve our ever worsening climate crisis. 

But is it enough?
The assembly is specifically to allow public opinion on achieving net-zero in the UK, and will not debate whether climate change is an emergency, or if the net zero target is ambitious enough. This has been criticised by leading climate figures who are demanding more urgent action e.g. net zero by 2030. 

Furthermore, the recommendations made by the assembly aren’t legally binding so there is no guarantee that they will be taken on by the UK government. Some are quite skeptical as to whether the strategy  is an effective method of bringing public opinion into UK policy. Citizen assemblies were used in Ireland, but only two recommendations were then implemented by the Irish government, with many more slipping under the radar. However, the assembly did help to overturn Ireland’s abortion ban...proving it can be effective!!

Be Curious!

  • Follow the progress of the four assembly meetings in Birmingham on their website and through various media channels.
  • Find out more about the concept of Citizens’ Assemblies and see what you think of them - is it something we should see more of? 
  • Use your own voice!! You may not have been one of the lucky members of the public to participate in the UK’s first  assembly, but that doesn’t mean your voice isn’t powerful! Talk/write to your MP, support action groups whose values and opinions reflect your own and join protests to show those in power what is important to you!
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Pollution

Could sleeper trains be the new short-haul flight?

by Fran Haddock

What's Going On Here?

Night trains are returning to the tracks across Europe following pressure from the Swedish flygskam movement and Flight Free 2020!

What Does This Mean?

Between 2009 and 2018 the European night train network shrank due to competition from budget airlines. However, over the last few months we’ve got wind of a revival with both new routes and restoration of previous networks. ÖBB, Europe’s largest operator of night trains have announced revival of the Vienna-Brussels night train, and also plans to have a Vienna-Amsterdam route by the end of the year.
 
More exciting still is a new sleeper train service proposed to start in 2022 or 2023 from Sweden to Cologne, which could have passengers in London by the morning via already existing connections. Even in the UK there is progress with renovation of the Great Western Rail sleeper from London to Cornwall and £150 million investment in the Caledonian Sleeper between London and Scotland.

Why Should We Care?

There’s no doubt that this revival comes secondary to travellers looking for alternatives to flying due to environmental concerns. Although impact varies depending on what is fuelling the train, train journeys will pretty much  always come out with a hugely lower carbon footprint than flying. For example the Vienna and Brussels night train is proposed to release 10 times less CO2 than flying!
 
As we discussed in our Flight Free 2020 article, travelling by train not only reduces your personal footprint but influences others to do the same - thus increasing demand. Flying is set to double globally by 2037, which in no way aligned with our net zero targets. We think the revival of the night train is just the ticket to start reversing this!

Be Curious!
  • See if you can take your next journey in Europe by night train! Seat 61 is a very useful resource. 
  • Check out Lonely Planet’s list of Europe's best night trains for inspiration!
  • Join: Tom, Conrad, Will and Fran (that's me) with flight free 2020!
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Other news we found curious...

Data storage could soon account for 8% of world's energy use - TreeHugger
Greener NHS campaign announced to tackle the climate emergency - NHS England
Donald Trump removes pollution controls on streams and wetlands - The New York Times
Glasgow to phase-out single-use plastics within two years - Edie
Urban populations in the south-east at greatest risk from air pollution - Guardian
Airbnb launches new sustainability education hub - Business Green
Tropical forests losing ability to capture CO2, study says - Carbon Brief
Helen Steiger
NEWS WRITER
Fran Haddock
NEWS WRITER
THANKS FOR READING

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