Petition Government to declare a climate emergency

A Green Party petition is now online here . Please sign and share.

Secondly, an Early Day Motion on climate emergency has been tabled by Caroline Lucas. At the time of writing, 50 MPs have signed EDM2177 which says:

That this House notes the stark warning from the world’s scientific community that there are just 12 years left to prevent 1.5 degrees warming; further notes that warming beyond 1.5 degrees represents a threat to the future of humanity, and that even warming limited to that level will wreak havoc upon the livelihoods of countless people across the world; acknowledges that the world is now experiencing a climate emergency and that an urgent and rapid global response is now necessary; welcomes the fact that solutions to the climate crisis are widely available including renewable technology, sustainable transport options and zero-carbon buildings; supports the decisions by more than 40 local authorities to pass motions declaring a climate emergency and setting net zero carbon emissions targets for their local areas; and calls on the Government to declare a climate emergency and to release the necessary funding, including to local authorities, to enact a green new deal that would rapidly decarbonise the entire UK economy.

Please write/email your MP asking them to sign the EDM:

Jesse Norman jesse.norman.mp@parliament.uk

Bill Wiggin officeofbillwigginmp@parliament.uk

Many Thanks

Hereford students demand climate emergency action

Friday 15 February 2019 – students from Herefordshire schools and colleges took time out to demonstrate about the Climate Emergency now facing us.

Elsie Usherwood gave a great speech to kick off the march in Hereford from the Colleges to the County Council at Shire Hall. Watch here:

Hereford Times coverage here

Climate Rally Hereford – 1st December

We’re facing a Climate Emergency! Together with friends across the political spectrum, we have to show Hereford that the risks from global warming are deadly, and that systemic change – not incremental change – is needed to stop climate change spinning out of control.

Following the lead shown by Rising Up and Extinction Rebellion, the rally on 1st December will be hard-hitting, peaceful and fun.

Organisers will be meeting at De Koffie Pot, Hereford Left Bank 6pm to 8pm on 23 November to finalise plans for the Rally. Come along to help in whatever way you can.

From Friday 16 November there will be leaflets at The Rocket Cafe in Church Lane Hereford. Please go along to say Hi to Ben and collect some leaflets to give to friends, neighbours, people in the streets…you get the picture. We need as many people invited to this rally as possible. Let’s make it big so that the powers that be take notice of us. Thank you.

Rising Up say

Together we are irresistible!

We are facing many crises resulting from the system we live under (it’s a form of extreme capitalism called neo-liberalism). The system is based on unsustainable and increasing amounts of debt It is causing gross inequality, poverty, mass misery, and species extinctio. It gives a lot of money and power to a very small number of people, who use that money and power to shore up their position. This system is destroying our planet’s capacity to sustain life by destabilising the climate. There are many issues and to change anything, we have to change everything. We have to change this system in support of the most basic of universal values – the right to life.

There are loads of brilliant, detailed proposals for how things could change, how problems could be solved. But we can’t make changes without taking our power back, getting more connected to each other and to the wider world. We reckon system change needs a mass movement of people willing to take disruptive, loving and effective direct actions, saying no to the destruction and sickness and yes to life sustaining alternatives. An inclusive uprising will have many ways for people to get involved. It must be effective and sustainable, it must be fun!

Extinction Rebellion is a recently formed completely Non-Violent movement, which believes in Mass, Peaceful, Civil Disobedience. It has started in the UK, fittingly as here is where the industrial revolution began, but is now growing at a fantastic rate and spreading abroad. ER launched outside Parliament on 31 October this year.

They say:

Position

  • We are in an ecological crisis caused by climate change, pollution and habitat destruction; a mass species extinction on a scale much larger than the one which killed the dinosaurs is underway. Our course is set to societal collapse, the killing of millions, likely billions of people – human extinction is possible. The future is bleak and our children are not safe.
  • Change to avert the worst of the disaster is still technically and economically possible. The changes won’t be simple but there is nothing more important or worthwhile. It involves creating a world which is less frenetic and more beautiful; making the necessary changes will also create jobs. This is an emergency situation – action is urgent.
  • Our Government isn’t acting in accordance with what science and history tells us. Therefore our Government is criminally negligent. We have a moral duty to rebel, whatever our politics. Social science shows us that peaceful civil disobedience is an effective way to bring about change. Our lives have meaning and purpose when we follow our conscience and are willing to make sacrifices to protect what we love. We ask others who feel the same way to join our peaceful Rebellion.

Demands

  • That the Government must tell the truth about how deadly our situation is, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do.
  • Good intentions and guidelines won’t save the ice caps. The Government must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions in the UK to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth of resources per year.
  • By necessity these demands require initiatives and mobilisation of similar size and scope to those enacted in times of war. We do not however, trust our Government to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve this and we do not intend to hand further power to our politicians. Instead we demand a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.

Further Reading

Here’s a video called ‘Heading For Extinction and What To Do About It’ . It’s the kind of video you might like to watch with a good friend, while the children are out, so that you can assess what you’ve seen and heard. They pull no punches about the state our global climate is in.

A video to end on – John Jordan on Creative Activism

explores how the group Liberate Tate came into being and how they WON…The Tate has stopped taking sponsorship from BP! What does that feel like after about 6 years of work?

 

Council pass Green Party motion on pension fund investments in fossil fuels

PRESS RELEASE

12 October 2018

Green Motion on reduction in fossil fuels investments successful

Herefordshire Green Councillors were delighted with the success of their motion to council today, which was passed almost unanimously with one abstention.

Councillor Trish Marsh, proposer of the motion, welcomed the gradual reduction in fossil fuel investments held by Worcestershire Pension Fund, which also manages the pensions of many public sector employees in Herefordshire. She called on Herefordshire Council representatives on the Worcestershire Local Government Pension Fund board to work with Worcestershire colleagues to seek alternatives to investments in fossil fuels.

The motion also urges the Fund to provide regular information on the results of their policy of engagement with their fossil fuel and other carbon intensive holdings; and to review their Statement of Investment principles and Responsible Investment principles in the next year, including undertaking a carbon risk audit.

Councillor Marsh said “Herefordshire Council has long held a commitment to reducing its own carbon impact and support county carbon reductions with partners. It has taken positive steps over the last decade, including introducing LED street lighting across the county, and installing PV panels on some publicly owned buildings, measures which have also led to significant financial savings.

We are pleased to have the support of other parties, including the Conservatives who seconded the motion, in taking the Council’s commitment to combat climate change another step forward. We welcome cross party working and are glad that other parties are seeing the value of green policies.”

The Motion as submitted to full Council meeting 12 October 2018:

Motion – Worcestershire Local Pension Board

(Proposed by Councillor PP Marsh, Seconded by Councillor tbc )

The Council welcomes the recent decision by several local authority funds, including Merseyside Pension Fund, to take practical steps to reduce their investments in fossil fuels.

We also welcome the powers now explicitly given by government for pension funds to take financially material considerations, including climate change, into account.

We note increasing evidence for change in demand for fossil fuels, such as Carbon Trackers’ ‘2020 Vison: why you should see the fossil fuel peak coming’, which will impact on share prices over the next decade and thus on returns to the fund.

Worcestershire Local Government Pension Fund is responsible for the pensions of Herefordshire Council employees and many other public sector employees. It has significant holdings in fossil fuels.

We call on our Herefordshire Council representatives on the Worcestershire Local Government Pension Fund board and committee to seek alternatives to investments in fossil fuels. In particular we ask them to push for the Fund to:-

  • provide regular information on the results of the Fund’s policy of engagement with its fossil fuel and other carbon intense holdings; and
  • overhaul their Statement of Investment principles and Responsible Investment principles in the next year, including undertaking a carbon risk audit.

Response to consultation on revised national Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The NPPF is an important piece of government policy. It shapes the way development decisions are made – for example on where houses can be built and what sustainable transport arrangements should be made. The current proposals (May 2018) to revise the NPPF include support for Fracking and restrictions on on-shore wind.

Our brief submission to the consultation addressed these two issues:

Onshore wind power developments

The draft text in paragraph 153 and footnote (40) are wrong to make provisions specifically for onshore wind, which have the effect of making it more difficult for developers to get planning permission. This is contrary to the aspiration set out in Para 147 which says (paraphrased) –  that the planning system should help to achieve radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

While para 153 requires that local authorities should approve an application for renewable and low carbon development if its impacts can be made acceptable, footnote 40 penalises developments where more than one wind turbine is proposed. There is no justification for this approach, which will only serve to hinder progress towards the objective set out in para 147.

In contrast, elsewhere in the NPPF, provisions are made to allow large-scale infrastructure developments, like roads, to be permitted on the grounds of compelling public interest, even where significant harm will result to landscape, heritage and biodiversity.

 For instance in para 173 regarding SSSIs, development is generally to be avoided but: “The only exception is where the benefits of the development clearly outweigh both its likely impact (…)”;

and then regarding ancient woodland and trees, “Where development would involve the loss of individual aged or veteran trees that lie outside ancient woodland, it should be refused unless the need for, and benefits of, development in that location would clearly outweigh the loss;

 and again, “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons [49]”

 “49 For example, infrastructure projects (including nationally significant infrastructure projects, orders under the Transport and Works Act and hybrid bills), where the public benefit would clearly outweigh the loss or deterioration of habitat.”

Given the importance of climate change, we consider the NPPF should take a similar approach to onshore wind turbines as it does to other infrastructure development like roads – that is to allow the public benefit to be weighed against the landscape and other impacts on a case by case basis, rather than there to be a presumption that multiple wind-turbine developments are to be screened out of consideration.

Our view is that avoiding the worst effects of climate change is of such importance that developments that add to genuinely low carbon energy supplies, like onshore wind, should be treated in the same way as other infrastructure projects of national significance.

 Oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction

In the draft para 204, the text states that developing on-shore oil and gas reserves supports the transition to a low carbon economy. In our view, this is far from the truth. Prospecting for, extracting, and in particular, burning oil and gas contributes significantly to atmospheric concentrations of green house gases. This is incompatible with the UK’s statutory obligations under the Climate Change Act, and its moral responsibility to take urgent and effective action to minimise the likely negative effects of global warming / climate change for UK citizens today and in the future.

It is also in direct conflict with the objective set out in para 147 – that the planning system should help to achieve radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

We therefore ask that support for all developments that extend Britain’s use of fossil fuels, including on-shore oil and gas extraction, be removed from the new NPPF

18 April: Make Herefordshire Fossil Free!

A Divestment Training Workshop: join the fight to free the UK from its harmful investments and relationships with fossil fuel companies!

Co-hosted by Herefordshire Green Network and Divest Parliament

At: Garden Room, Left Bank Village, Bridge Street, Hereford, HR4 9DG 7.30pm

This free training event is our opportunity to learn how to lobby our MPs, Councillors, faith institutions or universities on climate change. We’ll be learning and putting into practice the best techniques, tricks and strategies to convince Bill Wiggin MP and Jesse Norman MP to divest their pension fund from fossil fuels and get behind a clean energy future.

Join an interactive training event that seeks to inspire locals around Herefordshire, supporting those campaigning for a fossil-free future and encouraging others to join or help start a local divestment group in your area.

To date, over 140 former and current MPs have backed the Divest Parliament campaign – including leaders of the Labour Party, Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.

Help us add Herefordshire to the list!

If you can’t make the event, you can still write to your MP using this tool (please personalise your email as much as possible): https://gofossilfree.org/uk/divest-parliament/#ask

Richard Priestley – Transport beyond fossil fuels

Many countries are now setting themselves the goal of moving from petrol and diesel powered transportation systems to very much cleaner technologies. The UK, like many countries has set itself the goal of banning sales of new fossil fuelled vehicles by 2040. Norway plans to do so by 2025. Many people still don’t seem to realize that we already have most of the technologies we’ll need to run a modern global economy purely on renewable forms of energy. Renewably generated electricity, supplied via the grid, via batteries or via hydrogen fuel cells will be the basis of most methods of transport.

For over a hundred years trains and trams have used electricity via either overhead cables or live rails. There is a strong case to keep electrifying railway lines. An emerging alternative, particularly suitable for quiet rural railway lines, where the high cost of electrification might not be justified, are hydrogen fuel cell trains. Alstom is already marketing the Coradia iLint, and Siemens are now partnering with Ballard to make something similar. There are lots of advantages to getting people and freight off the roads and on to rails. Steel wheels on steel rails generate much less friction than rubber tyres on tarmac, meaning greater energy efficiency and less pollution. The longer thinner shape of trains means less air resistance, again aiding efficiency.

We will of course still need buses, trucks and cars. There are many possible fuel options. Oslo has a fleet of 135 buses powered on biomethane made from food waste and sewage. I’ve blogged about methanol fuel cells, and a whole range of innovative and experimental ships, planes, and solar panel clad roads and cars, which are all promising but not yet in common usage. Battery electric vehicles are getting massive media coverage due to Elon Musk and Tesla, and are beginning to sell in large numbers. Last year in Norway over half of all new cars sold were either battery electric or petrol/electric hybrids, but sadly in most other countries the proportion is very much smaller. In terms of volume of sales, China is a long way ahead of any other market for battery electric or hybrid cars and buses.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the other main technology to be moving from the experimental stage to the mass production stage. (earlier blogs from me in 2015 and 2017) The Scottish government has recently helped Aberdeen double its fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses from ten to twenty. Cologne in Germany has just ordered thirty, and dozens of cities are ordering a few. Ballard, the Canadian hydrogen fuel cell specialist has now teamed up with some Chinese companies to build a fleet of 500 hydrogen fuel cell light trucks and the refuelling infrastructure to support their roll out in Shanghai. Meanwhile the Nikola company has secured 8,000 pre-orders for its huge hydrogen fuel cell trucks, and will start production next year in Arizona. At the other end of the spectrum is Riversimple, who are due to build their first twenty tiny hydrogen fuel cell cars later this year, and which our local car club may be in a position to trial. Exciting times!

The days of petrol and diesel are numbered. It is too early to say which technology will dominate in the post fossil fuel economy. Both hydrogen and batteries are in essence ways of storing surplus wind and solar electricity and it is this aspect of how best to store energy cheaply and at vast scale which may be the main determinate of which fuel is used where. There will undoubtedly be a role for many technologies in various settings. I’ll explore more on this next week.

Brexit and the Environment

Join us for a Big Green Conversation about Europe and the environment with Jill Hanna. Jill has spent many years representing the EU at high-level environmental protection negotiations all over the world, including on reforestation, the safe disposal of chemical waste, and climate change. All welcome!

A NEW DATE AND VENUE FOR THE BIG GREEN CONVERSATION FROM HEREFORDSHIRE GREEN PARTY: Burgage Hall, Ledbury on Friday 1st June, 7.30pm.

Big Green Conversations are an informal, relaxed and sociable event to which all are welcome.

The environment should be at the heart of the election

If there is one issue that should be at the heart of this election, it is climate change. When we next choose a government (in 2022), it’s likely that global temperature will have risen 1.5C. That’s the level that nations (including the UK) pledged at Paris in 2015 should not be breached to avoid dangerous climate change.

At current rates of burning coal, gas and oil, we are on track to put enough carbon in the atmosphere in the next five years to push us past that temperature increase.

But it’s not inevitable. Rapidly increasing our efforts to reduce emissions – from homes, businesses and transport – and installing more renewable energy give us a fighting chance. To build support, politicians must spell out the consequences of not taking the decisive action urgently required on climate change and introduce policies that will drive that action.

Greens have long campaigned for warmer and more efficient homes, renewable energy, public transport, and better provision for cycling – measures that reduce emissions and are cheaper for society in the long term.

I urge voters to find out where the other parties’ candidates stand on climate change and press them to commit to increased action. Because, whatever government we have and however hard or soft Brexit is, the challenge of climate change will still be with us.

Rob Palgrave, Hereford

Published in The Guardian 4/5/17

Better Transport for Hereford

Another week, another argument between our local politicians about a western, eastern or both route for a bypass which will miraculously solve all our traffic woes.
The western route is supported by the Conservative county council and what’s left of the Lib Dems. It relies on massive housing development which will fill the roads up again. It’s such poor value for money, Government won’t even fund a survey, never mind the road itself, hence the need for lots of new houses so that the builders will be made to pay for it, putting up house prices so locals can’t afford them.
The eastern route supported by It’s Our County, the City Council and Jesse Norman MP is arguably worse. It would have to go across the Lugg Meadows, close to Tupsley houses, encouraging heavy lorries and congestion along Hampton Park Road and Ledbury Road. To say that the congestion, air pollution and noise will not be popular with residents is an understatement. This is the route already stopped by Government back in the 90s, due to cost and environmental damage. So again, they won’t give us money for it.
Our politicians keep asking for bypass funding. Every time, they are told a big no. They’re told we have to try other cheaper alternatives first, to address Hereford’s main problem which is internal, not through traffic. But they keep arguing, even though the answer is the same. Civil servants in London must think Hereford is a basket case.
As they argue instead of acting, we, our kids and elderly have to sit in poisonous traffic fumes. We endure dangerous roads for pedestrians and a cycle network which doesn’t join up. Bus services are cut. Walking or biking to school feels dangerous and unpleasant, so lots of us drive our kids instead.
We need councillors who can think out of the metal box. Instead waiting even longer for bypass cash, we could focus all our efforts on funding pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities to rival those of the Netherlands. This isn’t anti-car. It would give us real choice about how we travel, improving public health and allowing the remaining motor traffic to flow freely. It would make our city more attractive to the tourists and businesses who bring in money.
We simply won’t get funding for a bypass until we’ve really tried the cheaper options. The £1.5million already secured is a good start, but we have to be consistent and determined to be taken seriously by government. How long are we going to wait in our traffic jams for our politicians to work this out? Or do we need new ones?

Herefordshire business to benefit from energy efficiency grant

A Herefordshire business has benefited from the first Business Energy Efficiency Programme, set up to help lower running costs and promote energy efficiency.

Caplor Energy, based in Fownhope, is the first business in the county to be awarded the grant. The company was awarded £12,236 for an innovative energy storage project to capture energy from its solar panels.

Read the full story on the Council website.

Let’s sort Hereford’s traffic right now

The news that Herefordshire Council has again failed to get funding to progress a bypass should make us all stop to think. Do we want to solve our traffic problems right now, or would we prefer to suffer another 20 years in traffic jams as we wait for them to find the money?

Most of Hereford’s traffic is internal. Half of all Hereford’s car journeys are less than 2 miles long. We could now switch our efforts to dealing with internal traffic and the 2 mile journeys which would never use a bypass anyway. This is much easier, faster and cheaper to fix.

This isn’t about forcing everyone to use a bike either. Just a small reduction in internal traffic could make the rest of it flow freely, as it does in school holidays.

Our politicians haven’t managed to deliver a bypass for decades. Do we trust them to deliver in the next 5 years when government won’t even fund a survey? Why are we still waiting? Why not solve our traffic issues now? A city wide 20MPH limit along with a proper well designed bike network, free school buses and better pedestrian facilities would make it easier and safer for our children to get to school and all of us to walk or cycle every now and then.

With air pollution a major factor in ill health for both young and old, even a small reduction in traffic volumes could reduce pressure on our underfunded NHS too, by making us all a little bit fitter, healthier and happier. We could start right now, but we need councillors who ‘get it’.

We’re on fire and most of us are asleep

There are reports in the serious press this morning about how Arctic ice melt appears to be out of control. As it does, the process speeds up, as, for example, ice areas which usually reflect the suns heat become green and soak up the heat instead. As tundra melts, there is an increase in the most dangerous of climate gases in the short term: methane.

This is a total emergency. This could not be more serious and it should be headline news every day. I feel as though I am in a house on fire but as a few of us shout ‘Fire, get out!’ everyone else groans ‘Oh shut up and go back to sleep’, then, as the smoke comes under the door murmur’ ‘I wish they’d shut up, they’re really obsessive about this not dying thing. All I want is another ten minutes sleep.’

And the fact that we are still considering burning more fossil fuel through fracking, and Trump is removing research funding into climate change, shows the level of insanity we are battling against.

There isn’t time! Get involved! Join a political party that takes the issue seriously, or a campaign group! Annoy your friends! (I do, both of them!).

Chancellor’s statement has nothing to say on climate change emergency

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader and MP for Brighton Pavillion, has accused the Government of ‘shirking its responsibilities’ after today’s Autumn Statement.

Lucas accused the Government of having ‘deeply skewed priorities’. She said: 

“Britain is drifting towards the stormy and unchartered waters of brexit with ministers refusing to reveal the route, or properly adjust the sails according to the headwinds. We needed an Autumn statement which rose to the challenges of the day, but we see a government shirking its responsibilities, lacking any moral compass and leaving us dangerously exposed to both economic shocks and climate change.

“This Autumn statement shows a Government with deeply skewed priorities. At a time of uncertainty they are continuing with plans to give a tax cut to corporations and the highest earners – while our NHS is strapped for cash and local services are under immense strain. We could save billions by scrapping the plans to cut corporate tax and raising the threshold for the highest earners – and we could plough that money into our ailing NHS – but the Government has refused to change course.

Lucas slammed the Chancellor for failing ‘even mention climate change’ in his speech. She said:

“With Trump’s election this could have been a moment for Britain to become a world-leader in the fight against catastrophic climate change but, instead, we see little evidence of a commitment to facing up to the greatest challenge of our times. Indeed, it is shameful that the Chancellor failed to even mention climate change in his speech. By caving into the motor lobby and freezing fuel duty again for the seventh year in a row the Government has made a mockery of the fact that it is the hottest year on record and condemned us to more carbon emissions and deadly pollution.”

“A Government with a genuinely bold vision could have used this Autumn statement to ensure that the economy is future facing on everything from the risks of a potential Brexit to the threats posed by climate change and growing inequality. Instead we have a backwards looking budget that fails to wage war on poverty and fails to grasp the realities of an uncertain world and the limited resources in it. A serious response to the situation we’re in could, for example, have included a nationwide insulation scheme to keep people warm in their homes, cut bills and create jobs in every community. Or the Conservatives could have scrapped their plan to hand cash to corporations and high earners and instead give the NHS the funding it so desperately needs.”

Jesse Norman MP meets Greens to discuss energy

In July, Jesse Norman was appointed to a junior ministerial post (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State) in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. His energy responsibilities are Nuclear and Oil & Gas including shale gas.  Soon after his appointment,  we contacted him to seek a meeting, intending to discuss the Hinkley Point decision, and fracking, among other issues.

We met him just after Hinkley Point was given the go ahead and shared our views on fracking, managing energy demand, the transport sector, home insulation, ratification of the Paris Agreement (COP21) and the extent to which government should directly manage the UK’s low carbon transition.  Unsurprisingly, there are still considerable differences between his position and ours, but it was a nonetheless a useful meeting.