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.”

Building a Better Britain

The new Green Co-Leaders set out their priorities for the next two years and explain how Greens do politics differently.

Wherever we go in Britain – from Brighton to Birmingham, Durham to Dulwich – we see the same picture. The country is in a crisis. From a creaking health service and environmental chaos to a crumbling politics and a broken economy – we live in an age of insecurity. The Conservative Party Conference was a real low point, with a Prime Minister attempting to put on sheep’s clothing while preaching the politics of the wolf pack. In the face of all that’s wrong in Britain, the Tory leadership’s main messages appeared to be that migrants were to blame and that we need to go back to the failed education system of the 1970s.

In recent weeks, it’s fair to say that the Labour Party has attempted to shift onto our territory by joining us in calling for a ban on fracking – and rolling out a pledge for the same £10 minimum wage we had in our manifesto. Of course, huge differences still exist – from Labour’s support of both nuclear power and weapons, to their leadership’s failure to support a fair voting system, their wavering on airport expansion and their reluctance to oppose the government’s reckless ‘hard Brexit’. But, overall, the change of direction is extremely welcome, particularly because it gives us space to put forward the truly bold Green policies that unite our party, and are so desperately needed in Britain.

The truth is that this country is at a fork in the road. The politics of anger and despair are knocking at the door, and people are clamouring for something new. That’s where we come in.

Take, for a start, the state of our economy. We are a rich nation plagued by poverty – with millions of people living paycheck to paycheck, without any real job security. We work all of the hours in the day, yet wages have stagnated for a decade now. We can do better than this. That’s why the Green Party goes beyond calling for wage increases and pay ratios within firms – and looks to a future where people can work less and know that a genuine safety net exists to support them when they’re not working. Our long-standing policy of a basic income – a universal payment to everyone in Britain – is gaining traction precisely because the economy is failing to deliver for so many people. It shouldn’t be radical to say that everyone deserves time with their friends and family, or enough money to live on.

Then there’s our environment – the lens through which we see every issue. Climate change is accelerating and our most precious species face being wiped out. We’ve known for a long time that the situation is critical, but now it’s getting desperate. Both the government and opposition talk the good talk when it comes to climate change – but their actions fall short of what’s needed. Laying down new tarmac for airports, ploughing billions of our money into Hinkley Point and ripping through the countryside with HS2 send us in entirely the wrong direction and are applauded by both Conservative and Labour MPs. The recent decision on fracking was the latest in a long line of backwards steps from a Conservative cabinet seemingly hell-bent on driving us off the climate cliff.

This is about the kind of Britain we want to build – and whether we want to invest our resources in oversized, overpriced projects and starting a whole new fossil fuel industry in this country or the clean renewable technologies of the future. We can build a better country – but that means saying ‘no’ to twentieth-century solutions to twenty- first-century problems, locking fossil fuels in the ground and embracing a real energy democracy.

And then there is the state of our democracy. It’s utterly dysfunctional. We have a government elected by less than a quarter of those eligible to vote and a Prime Minster who has never won a general election. The House of Lords is unelected and unaccountable to anyone. The EU referendum showed that people across the country come out to vote when they know it means something, but we can’t hand back control to the people unless we radically reform a Parliament that systematically locks them out.

Britain is a tough place to live for many people at the moment, but perhaps those facing the worst time are people who have come here from other countries. The mood is toxic and the streets feel unsafe for many migrants and for many others who feel scapegoated by this government for its policy failure. The rhetoric from the government and, sadly, some in the Labour Party too has only inflamed an already tense atmosphere. As Greens, we’ve always welcomed people who come here to make a life – it’s a big part of what makes this country what it is. That’s why we’re fighting to keep free movement within Europe, and pushing the government to take in more refugees and give local authorities the resources they need to welcome them. Ultimately, in the face of rising division across our continent we need to be building bridges, not walls.

The challenges we face – as a country, as a party and just as people trying to make sense of all that’s happening around us, are immense. But we’re resolute that we won’t let this time be de ned by those who want us to be a smaller, more closed country.

We’re proud to be leading this party at this most defining moment in history – we know how much it matters. Thank you for being part of this movement – without you, none of what we do would be possible.

This article was originally published in Green World.

SLR: Why Greens Object

HEREFORD & South Herefordshire Green Party strongly opposes the plan for a Southern Link Road for the following reasons. We have included detailed Notes but you don’t need to read this unless you want this detail.

1. THE ROAD WILL PASS THROUGH AND DESTROY PART OF GRAFTON WOOD, DESIGNATED AS ANCIENT WOODLAND. 

Four of the route options originally considered for the SLR were deemed not feasible because they affected another ancient woodland – Newton Coppice. It is inconsistent for this application to propose that Grafton Wood can be damaged but not Newton Coppice, when both have the same protected status (1).

National Planning Policy Framework requires that planning permission is refused where ancient woodland is lost or damaged, unless the benefits of the proposed development clearly outweigh the loss.

Notes:
(1) Transport Assessment Part 8 of the application explains how the route for the Southern Link Road was chosen, stating on page 4:

“In total eight options were initially developed.
 As further detailed work and appraisal has been undertaken on these options, four routes have been identified as affecting the ancient woodland of Newton Coppice. National policy now considers ancient woodland as an irreplaceable habitat which is unlikely to be fully mitigated. These options are therefore not feasible.”

(2) National Planning Policy Framework:

118. When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should aim to conserve and enhance biodiversity by applying the following principles: 

(…) planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and the loss of aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland, unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss;

(3) Planning Inspectorate decision regarding an ancient wood:

1) Northside Copse (Lake House), Fernhurst (Ancient Woodland) (Appeal decision 2013)

The case involved a proposal for a single very large dwelling which would have been built in part within ancient woodland, and also within the South Downs National Park (SDNP). The decision took into account a number of issues which make it an important case study.

The Inspector noted that the NPPF has stronger wording for ancient woodland than PPS9:

‘…whilst NPPF… cancels the advice in PPS9, the test in respect of Ancient Woodland is very similar in NPPF paragraph 118 to that in PPS9 paragraph 10 save for the fact that there is now a more onerous requirement on developers to show that “the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh” as opposed to simply “outweigh” the loss.

Considering whether the need for a development outweighs the loss of ancient woodland, the inspector upholds that small incursions into ancient woodland are unacceptable.

Impacts on the Ancient Woodland caused by the proposal would include the direct loss of flora and irreplaceable ancient soils and a substantial change in the character of the woodland arising from the development and its ancillary services. Whilst the Appellants have suggested that this would be only a small proportion of the woodland identified as AW, NPPF considers any loss to be unacceptable.’

2.  THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT WILL CONTRIBUTE ADVERSELY TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR POLLUTION

The application acknowledges that the Southern Link Road will “have an adverse impact on the environment, including increasing traffic noise, reducing air quality, and impacts to the landscape and heritage assets”. Whilst not specifically commenting on how it affects CO2 emissions, elsewhere the application claims that it will slow the growth in carbon emissions, implying that carbon emissions will increase as a result of traffic on the SLR.

This is contrary to adopted Local Plan policy SS7 ‘Addressing Climate Change’.

Notes:

1. Local Plan Policy SS7 Addressing climate change

Development proposals will be required to include measures which will mitigate their impact on climate change. At a strategic level, this will include […] delivering development that seeks to reduce the need to travel by private car and which encourages sustainable travel options including walking, cycling and public transport’

3. THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT WILL ENCOURAGE CAR USE

The aim of the road is stated to be to reduce congestion and journey times. Unless modal shift to non-car use is actually achieved through other measures – which are not a part of this application – the result will be more car use. This is contrary to adopted Local Plan policy S6 Transport.

Notes:
1. Policy S6 Transport – The safe, efficient and sustainable movement of people and goods will be promoted within the context of reducing the need to travel by:
(2). encouraging alternatives to the motor vehicle which through reducing energy consumption and pollution have less environmental impact

4. THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT WILL CONTRIBUTE TO FASTER GROWTH IN ROAD TRAFFIC. ITS FORECAST IMPACTS ON ROAD CONGESTION, JOURNEY TIMES, AIR QUALITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT ARE UNRELIABLE

The application claims that because the development is a link road it will not generate traffic. This assertion is behind the traffic modelling used to forecast vehicle movements in the surrounding network in 2017 and 2032. There is considerable and widely accepted evidence that building roads of this type does generate traffic – the induced traffic effect.

Induced traffic tends to increase environmental damage and tends to reduce the calculated benefit-cost ratio of a road improvement, because the period of relief from congestion will be shorter than planned; also because the benefit to the marginal extra travellers is less; and because assuming the extra traffic is not induced makes the ‘without’ case artificially worse than it really would be.

Notes:
1. The application Transport Assessment states:

7.1.1  Unlike residential or employment development proposals, which are trip origins or destinations in their own right, the application development will not in itself generate traffic. The purpose of the traffic impact assessment in the TA is therefore to understand how traffic is likely to re-route from existing roads when the SLR and Clehonger Link are opened, and the degree to which this is considered likely to occur.

2. In 1994 SACTRA, the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment, published its best-known report, on what it renamed ‘induced’ traffic. The average traffic flow on 151 improved roads was 10.4% higher than forecasts that omitted induced traffic and 16.4% higher than forecast on 85 alternative routes that improvements had been intended to relieve. In a dozen more detailed case studies the measured increase in traffic ranged from 9% to 44% in the short run and 20% to 178% in the longer run. This fitted in with other evidence on elasticities and aggregate data.

The conclusion was:

“An average road improvement, for which traffic growth due to all other factors is forecast correctly, will see an additional [i.e. induced] 10% of base traffic in the short term and 20% in the long term.”

The Department of Transport accepted this. The report was updated in a special issue of Transportation in 1996

3. Countryside Agency and CPRE’s 2006 report ‘Beyond Transport Infrastructure’ studied the traffic changes resulting from many by-pass and relief road developments. Three of note:

A27 Polegate bypass – 76% total traffic increase in the Polegate corridor one year after opening – of which up to 27% may be generated traffic. Casualties across the area increased
A34 Newbury bypass – A34 traffic growth far above both predictions and national averagePeak-time congestion in town back to original levelsTraffic relief to old road
is being eroded by development-generated traffic
M65 Blackburn bypass – M65 traffic in excess of predictions, leading to pressure for road wideningTraffic generation by developments omitted from appraisal process

5. ALTERNATIVE SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT MEASURES HAVE NOT BEEN APPRAISED ADEQUATELY

The application proposes that a package of measures such as behavioural change, cycling and walking promotion, will / may be introduced at some unspecified time in the future to complement the SLR and help achieve the stated aims of improving transport conditions in Hereford south of the Wye. These Sustainable Transport Measures are described in the application but because they have not been implemented there is no evidence of their effectiveness, or their value for money relative to the SLR.

It is very possible that these measures will make a positive contribution to the problem and will provide better value for money than new road building.

The Highways Agency (now Highways England) has commented on the SLR proposal that it would expect to see evidence that sustainable transport measures have been introduced and found to be insufficient before a new road is built.

Notes:

1. Highways Agency letter of 7 August 2014 to Hereford Council said that “under current guidance the building of new road infrastructure could only be justified in policy terms when other avenues such as travel planning and sustainable travel modes had been developed and shown not to address the transport needs and issues identified.”

Fracking: unsafe, unproven, bad for Herefordshire

THE GREEN PARTY strongly opposes fracking. Not only is a dangerous and unproven technology, even if it were safe it would be unacceptable because our overriding priority has to be to reduce our carbon emissions. All our efforts must be to reduce carbon use and increase renewable energy capacity.

And renewables are great news for Herefordshire where we already provide leadership.  With this, and our economic dependence on tourism and agriculture, fracking is one of the most stupid policies for our county that we have ever come across. It is only happening because some people think they can make money from it. It must be stopped.

Trump vs. Science

When future historians look back at 2016, what will they see as the most significant change?

In Marrakech, Morocco, the COP22 climate change talks are underway. The evidence for climate change is utterly overwhelming. Atmospheric CO2 has passed the milestone of 400ppm.  Each year sees the global average temperature rise. Glaciers and permafrost are melting, sea levels are rising. Urgent action is required.

As I write this Donald Trump has just won the American Presidency. He has described Climate Change as a hoax. I can think of no better parallel than when the Nazi’s described any science they didn’t like as ‘Jewish Science’. Dismissing hard science based on careful study of empirical evidence is a very dangerous path to take. Donald Trump genuinely is a loose cannon.

Globally air pollution is re-emerging as a critical issue. This week Delhi has been described as a ‘gas chamber’ and the High Court in London has condemned our government for inaction in reducing air pollution.

The solutions to both climate change and to air pollution are a rapid transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to one based on renewables. Much of the Cleantech innovation is happening in USA.

What effect a Trump victory will have on any of this is hard to tell, but it is very likely that global leadership on these critical issues will move elsewhere.

Meanwhile real world events unfold. Sotheby’s have plenty of multi-million dollar homes for sale in Miami Beach. Sea level rise, plus the region’s porous geology and the increasing likelihood of storms and hurricanes make it almost inevitable that these properties will become utterly worthless before long, but exactly when, nobody knows. Trump may be dismissive of climate science, but he is keenly aware of property prices. Atmospheric gases and geological processes of change are completely oblivious to property prices or to the egos of politicians, yet they may dominate the news events of the Trump presidency.

We live in interesting times!

This blog was originally posted at RichardPriestley.co.uk

 

Event | 24 Nov | BGC | Fracking the Shire

‘Fracking the Shire’ is the title of our next Big Green Conversation at De Koffie Pot on Thursday 24th November, 7pm for 7.30pm. Come along to find out what the fuss is about, what’s going on globally, and how it could affect Herefordshire specifically.

We are trying this event without the complication of Eventbrite – just turn up. But if you use Facebook please do click ‘Going’ and share the event as this really helps us to spread the word.

All welcome – please invite family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. If you can, download and email this poster around – or print and display!

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.

Southern Link Road to Nowhere

Dubbed the Road to Nowhere, Hereford’s Southern Link Road is appropriately making slow progress. The planning application – with around 500 written objections – was to be decided at a meeting of Council planning committee on 23 November.  Now it’s delayed to sometime in 2016, as planning officers fathom out what to do about the objections raised by Historic England which centre on the harm the road would do to the historic environment surrounding Haywood Lodge.

Late in November, It’s Our County submitted a request to Westminster to have the planning application decided by the Sec. of State on the grounds that Herefordshire Council has a conflict of interest in considering whether to grant itself planning permission – specifically it is likely to benefit financially from land sales were the road to be built.

And planning permission is not the only obstacle – the £27m funding needed to build the road has then to be approved by the Department for Transport. Roads Minister Andrew Jones has confirmed that the Council has to submit a business case once they have got planning permission and have lined up contracts with builders, and it is for him (Andrew Jones) to make the final decision based on value for money. Several of the objectors are already putting aside diary time to unpick and criticise the business case when it is released.

The national and local organisations listed below have objected or commented critically on the SLR plans – this is definitely not just a NIMBY campaign. Objectors see the SLR as a huge waste of public money, which will do nothing to reduce car usage and dependency, and will damage nature and landscapes for ever.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (effects on wildlife and vegetation )
Historic England (ancient monuments – effect on the setting of Haywood Lodge)
Hereford Civic Society
Hereford City Council
Here for Hereford
Hereford Transport Forum
Herefordshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)
Campaign for Better Transport
Hereford and Worcester Gardens Trust
Clehonger Parish Council
The Tree Council
Woodland Trust
Natural England (critical comments only)
SUSTRANS
Hereford Green Party
Callow & Haywood Parish Council

Fracking licenses approved for parts of Herefordshire

AREAS in south Herefordshire are now licensed for fracking following a government vote, reports the Hereford Times.

The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean were part of the 159 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences awarded for fracking across England voted through in the House of Commons on December 16.

But before a licensee can start operations it must apply for planning and other permissions.

The Forest of Dean and Symonds Yat are within the proposed areas.

Read the full Hereford Times report here.

Fracking in Herefordshire must be prevented

Areas in the south of Herefordshire are now licensed for fracking.
 
On 17 December, government announced that 159 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) had been awarded for fracking across England under the 14th landward licensing round.

Areas to the south of our county, including inside the Forest of Dean and in the vicinity of Symonds Yat (known as SO 50, 51 60 and 61) are now licensed for the extraction of Coal Bed Methane by South Western Energy Ltd.

Before the licensee can start operations it must apply for planning and other permissions [1].

The Green Party believes that fracking for shale gas or to extract coal bed methane is totally incompatible with efforts (and UK commitments) to minimise climate change. The fuel extracted by fracking is a fossil fuel, and when burnt adds carbon to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

The drilling processes are disruptive, dirty and noisy and pose a threat to human health and to the natural environment including water quality.

Despite the government’s assertion that shale gas is a key part of our energy future, many industry commentators believe that it is not commercially viable in the UK.

Hereford Green Party will vigorously oppose any applications the licensee makes for the required permissions.

Rob Palgrave, chair of the party said,” How shameful for Britain – days after signing the global agreement on climate change in Paris, our government announces the go ahead for more exploration and extraction of fossil fuels. I hope our local politicians will be as resolute as their counterparts in Lancashire in resisting the development of fracking here.”

NOTES:
1. The award of a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDLs) does not automatically give permission for operations to begin. The necessary planning and regulatory consents will be required before development can take place. All proposals will subsequently be scrutinised by the Environment Agency, and by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Consent from the OGA is also required before exploration or production drilling or production activities can commence.
2. Map of fracking blocks
3. List of operators awarded licences under the 14th round