This month sees the 400 year anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to the New World, from England to America. This year sees a high-tech ship also named Mayflower, sailing the Atlantic to collect scientific data. This ship has no crew on board.
The first UK citizen climate assembly reported its findings after several meetings held since last year. It is part of public engagement with climate change. Several solutions have been proposed.
Climate Assembly Report
The UK has held a unique citizen based climate assembly. It was formed of 108 assembly members taken from the general population, as a cross-section of society. It has been working on addressing questions relating to a net zero climate policy from 2050 such as:
- how will we travel?
- what will we eat?
- what will we buy?
- how will we heat our homes?
- how will our electricity be generated?
- how will we use the land?
The key question that needed to be answered was “How should the UK meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?”
Assembly members were clear on the principles that should govern policy choices. They included the importance of information and education and the need for fairness, to support those who might be adversely affected by the transition to net zero. Government had to lead the debate and take the actions necessary to reach net zero. A cross-party consensus was needed, to give long-term certainty on the policy choices made. The path to achieve a net reduction in carbon dioxide is, essentially, a collaboration between the UK Parliament, the population, Government and business.
Key findings from the climate assembly members, from across society, are as follows:
- There is a need for information and education for everyone.
- The solutions to climate change are neither easy nor free, but they need to be fair.
- It is important to maintain, wherever possible, freedom and choice for both individuals and local areas so that they can choose the solutions that work best for them.
- Co-benefits: tackling climate change could bring with it many advantages. It could see benefits for local communities, high streets and local businesses. It could boost our economy and promote innovation, including technological innovation.
- We need to protect and restore our natural environment, and our access to it.
- There is an imperative need for strong and clear leadership from Government – leadership to forge a cross-party consensus that allows for certainty, long-term planning and a phased transition.
- Achieving net zero will require a joined-up approach across society – all of us will have to play our part.
Towards the end of the report an additional section was added for Covid-19 recovery and the path to net zero. Assembly members thought that steps should be taken as part of the recovery to use the opportunity to commit to net-zero emissions. Almost 80% of assembly members thought that Government could re-think its investment to support the transition to net zero. There should be support to stimulate or support, economically, further low-carbon economy growth. Changes are required to encourage lifestyles that are more compatible with reaching net-zero.
Covid-19 impacts included: changes happening to air travel (people may continue to fly less); homeworking becoming more acceptable; the impact on public transport (people are currently less willing to use it); increases in cycling and walking or active travel options.
The ten recommendations that received most support with the most recommended first, all of which included support of 85% of the assembly members, were:
- The transition to net zero should be a cross-political party issue, and not a partisan one.
- More transparency in the relationship between big energy companies and Government support.
- Get to net zero without pushing our emissions to elsewhere in the world.
- Incentives to accelerate progress to net zero and conditions attached for organisations seeking Government financial support.
- A robust media strategy on the outcomes of the Assembly.
- An independent neutral body that that monitors and ensures progress to net zero, including citizens assemblies and independent experts.
- Move away from fossil fuels and transition to new energy sources.
- Products and services labelled to include their carbon footprint.
- A follow up on the outcomes of the Assembly covering what has been taken into account, what hasn’t and why.
- Harness the response to Covid-19 and next year’s UN climate conference, COP26, to drive international coordinated action on climate change.
Interestingly a slight majority of the assembly did not see ambitions to bring net zero before 2050 as an option. The points above include one on having products and services report their carbon footprint. This would certainly show how much carbon is embedded in a product and allow consumers to adapt due to greater awareness of a product’s climate impact.
A full overview is available in the executive summary of the Climate Assembly report.
400 years ago the Mayflower ship left England for the New World in September 1620. English puritans were on board – they became known as pilgrims. These people had left England for exile in the Netherlands two years earlier as they believed that the Church of England was beyond redemption. They left Leiden, Holland for England before going on a treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. This journey left Plymouth in south west England on 6 September 1620 with around 130 people on board. The journey concluded in the “New World” after a challenging sailing over the Atlantic Ocean in a time of autumn storms. Only one life was lost on the voyage. Resources were low upon eventual arrival, in November, off Cape Cod. The Mayflower Compact, an agreement as to the rules that would be followed, was signed before landing and establishing settlement. The immigrants were not used to the cold and freezing conditions that they found. The new arrivals probably only survived their first winter due to the indigenous people helping and teaching them. Around 45 pilgrims died in the first winter.
The pilgrim ship the Mayflower became an important symbol of European colonisation of America. It was not the first group of European emigrants, but a significant one due to the Compact declaration agreed before the pilgrims landed. The Mayflower Compact with its just and equal laws later influenced, and were a precursor of, the United States Declaration of Independence. Plymouth Colony was established from the New Plymouth landing site. By 1622 the indigenous tribe of the Patuxet were extinct. One of the last tribe members, Tisquantum or Squanto, died in November 1622.
Mayflower 2020: Autonomous Research Ship
A new fully-autonomous, artificial intelligence powered marine research vessel, also named the Mayflower, has been launched to coincide with Mayflower 400. Its full name is MAS or Mayflower Autonomous Ship. It has a job to do: undertake cutting edge marine research.
The World Ocean contains more than half of all life on Earth, covers over 70 per cent of its surface and contains 97 per cent of its water. It regulates the Earth’s climate and acts as a crucial sink of excess heat and carbon.
MAS has 6 artificial intelligence powered cameras, 30 onboard sensors, 15 edge devices and 0 humans on board. With no human onboard MAS uses artificial intelligence and automation to traverse the ocean. It is used to collect data and, like the original Mayflower, undertake discovery. Certainly there is a contrast from the conditions on the original Mayflower heading to the New World.
This ship will continue a tradition and provide much scientific data, remotely, from around the world. Full details on MAS can be found here. There is a wide range of experiments that the ship will undertake and data will be returned from automated experiments whilst at sea.