Eco-footprint Working Group (EWG),
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

 eco footprint

c/o John Fellowes (chair)

21 December 2007

Attn. Mr Chris Field,
Chief Policy Officer
Community Leadership Forum
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

Dear Chris,

Sustainable Community Strategy visioning forum, 29 November 2007

We thank you for the opportunity to take part in the above meeting, and to join in the discussions with the various members of the Community Leadership Forum.

As you know, EWG is a Partnership between Kingston Council and local environmentalists, linked to the Environment & Sustainability Department of the Council, established in 2006 to support the Community Plan commitment to reduce Kingston’s Ecological Footprint to a sustainable level as early as possible. We are encouraged by various aspects of the forum, including the openness to environmental perspectives, and the emphasis on tackling climate change. The five EWG members present have had a chance to report back to the group as a whole, and we would like to underline the following recommendations, most of which were made in the “Sustainable Communities” group discussion on the day.

1. Notwithstanding its absence in the National Outcome and Indicator List, Ecological Footprint reduction should be a central commitment of the Sustainable Community Strategy, as befits its prominent position in the Community Plan and other council publications. Arguably Kingston cannot be considered a sustainable community until the environmental impact of its citizens comes within the limits of one planet, or approximately 1.8 global hectares per capita. At present it stands at 5.6 global hectares, a three-planet lifestyle (about half of this being the land required to neutralise our carbon footprint). Reduction to a one-planet lifestyle will take committed effort over decades to achieve, and the Strategy should be setting us firmly in this direction, with an agreed timeframe for guidance.
2. To progress towards sustainability, Ecological Footprint (EF) provides a uniquely comprehensive and transparent tool for measuring progress, and EF accounting should become a component of all RBK decisions and actions in different sectors. We recognise it will be a challenge to make this groundbreaking commitment a reality, and EWG will happily offer further input as required to facilitate this transition. In this connection we advise RBK to obtain the software from Stockhom Environment Institute (which conducted the previous Kingston EF study) at a low cost (~£2000) given the central importance of this tool.
3. We are aware that the goal of EF reduction could be perceived to be at odds with aspects of economic development, particularly those associated with Kingston’s status as a shopping centre. These conflicts need to be explored and solutions sought. We look forward to opportunities to take part in discussions exploring a positive development vision, whereby aspirations for economic development can be reconciled with ecological realities. Such discussion is something we owe to the younger (and unborn) generations, who are invariably under-represented among community leaders. A proposed “Think in Kingston” event in March, “Eating Our Way to Sustainability”, will be one such opportunity.
4. We support most of the five “cross-cutting themes” presented at the meeting. If “Tackling Climate Change” in particular, rather than reducing the Ecological Footprint in general, is to be the first of these, then we recommend explicit inclusion of other environmental aspects elsewhere, such as under Encouraging, Unlocking and Informing (little use “Expecting”!) Responsibility. The breakdown of responsibility toward community and land comes with physical separation from it (as in globalisation); thus active reconnection is required.
5. As noted we do not support “Sustaining Prosperity” as an adequate theme, since this appears to accept the discredited past model of development that depletes natural capital. We recommend “Enabling Sustainable Prosperity,” to address this ambiguity.
6. The “Encourage Independence” theme was not adequately explored on the day and we remain unclear on the pros and cons of this.
7. We support certain of the national indicators endorsed on the day, as of unequivocal value to recording progress toward sustainability: these include per-capita carbon dioxide emissions (NI 186), residual household waste per head (NI 191), number of local bus journeys (NI 177) and, related, children’s mode of travel to school (NI 198). The latter two also enable monitoring of progress towards the issue rated of greatest local concern in the Borough Profile 2007: traffic congestion. Our subgroup also highlighted overall/general satisfaction with the local area (NI 5) and participation in local volunteering (NI 6), which seem wholly positive.
8. A measure of improved management for local biodiversity in support of the “no net loss” commitment was also considered important, though the sole national indicator (NI 197) was felt to be rather weak and indirect. Consultation with the local Biodiversity Action Partnership is recommended on this.
9. While “adaptation to climate change” was not proposed as a key outcome/indicator, we trust the CLF will be taking advice on vulnerability to extreme weather events, notably flooding.
10. The alignment of other suggested indicators with “Sustainable Communities” is more complex. For example our subgroup put forward “net additional homes provided” (NI 154) as an indicator, but opinion was divided, as this might lead to maximisation, rather than optimisation, of housing solutions, with inevitable environmental and social costs; less land-hungry solutions to the housing shortage, such as incentives to increase house-sharing and inhabited loft extensions, seem a priority. Similarly “working age people claiming out of work benefits in worst-performing areas” (NI 153) appears a blunt instrument: while focus on this indicator could lead to welcome reductions in benefit abuse, it could also create incentives to penalise those in real need. We suggest such indicators are adapted for the local situation.

Once again we thank you for the opportunity to take part in these discussions, and look forward to future communication in steering the course towards a sustainable Kingston.

Yours sincerely

John R. Fellowes, PhD (Consultant on Biodiversity Conservation)

For Eco-footprint Working Group, including:

Nor Aziz, PhD (Sustainability Team, Kingston University)
Martin Birley, PhD (Senior Consultant on Health Impact Assessment)
Mariana Cervantes-Burchell (Co-founder/Manager, Kingston Real Nappy Network)
Nicola Corrigan, ?? (Sustainability Team, Kingston University)
Sean Duggan (Editor, Surrey Comet group)
Sam Hermitage (Green Futures)
Jeannette James, PhD (World Development Movement and Fair Trade Steering Group)
Marilyn Mason, FRSA (Plastic Bag Free Kingston)
Vreni Oleram, PhD (Kingston University)
Hannah Smith (Sustainability Team, Kingston University)
Bernadette Vallely (Save The World Club)
Jean Vidler (Green Futures)
and representatives of the Environment & Sustainability Dept., RBK

cc. Rob Dickson, Head, Environment & Sustainability Dept., RBK