Tag Archives: environment

In pictures: Kate Parminter’s Burntwood Lecture on Brexit and the environment

Last month, Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter allowed us to publish her Burntwood Lecture to the Institution of Environmental Sciences in which she talked about the challenges Brexit poses to the environment.

Now the Institution has kindly said that we can publish some of their  photographs of the event.

Credit: Institution of Environmental Sciences

 

Credit: Institution of Environmental Sciences

During her lecture, Kate talked about incorporating legislation into UK law, establishing systems for compliance and enforcement, joining EU frameworks and improving on EU policy. She concluded:

It should be clear that achieving this aim – this vision of a government and society and economy fully committed to environmental goals – will require an immense amount of persuasion. There will be many voices in favour of the first vision I set out – of a deregulated cheap-labour economy which devalues nature and despoils the environment – though of course they wouldn’t describe it that way – and they need countering with argument and facts and passion.

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A longer read for the weekend: Baroness Kate Parminter’s Burntwood Lecture on Brexit and the Environment

This week Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter became only the third woman (after Sara Parkin (1997) and Professor Julia Slingo (2013) to deliver the prestigious Burntwood Lecture to the Institution of Environmental Sciences.. She spoke of the challenges facing the environment from Brexit in a 45 minute lecture entitled “Separation Anxiety.” Read her full lecture below:

It’s an honour to have been asked to present the Burntwood Lecture this year, and to follow in the footsteps of such an illustrious parade of former speakers. Many of your previous guests have been eminent scientists or fearless campaigners; I stand here tonight to deliver this lecture (pause) as a politician. That’s not inappropriate, however: Lord Burntwood, the IES’ first Chairman, whose name the lecture commemorates, was himself a member of parliament and a minister in Clement Attlee’s Labour government. But more importantly, it’s not inappropriate because the great challenge of our time, the subject on which I’ve been asked to speak, is itself primarily political: Brexit.

How the United Kingdom manages its withdrawal from the European Union will shape this country’s future for decades. In the absence of any clarity from the government over what it sees as the final destination of this process, I hope I can enlist everyone here in helping me to draw up the broad approach the UK should adopt in dealing with environmental policy post-Brexit. I’m going to tell you what I think, and I hope you’ll respond at the end with thoughts of your own.

There are two competing visions for the future of the UK outside the EU. One – hinted at by some of the supporters of the Leave side during the referendum, but never fully articulated – is of a country free of the kind of burdensome regulations they liked to pretend emanated from Brussels; a fleet-footed, buccaneering, free-trading nation spotting openings in the global marketplace and exploiting them ruthlessly. This vision implies a deregulated low-cost low-tax low-value economy – with clear implications for environmental policy. In May this year, for example, George Eustice, the farming minister, attacked – quotes – ‘spirit-crushing’ EU directives, including, explicitly, the birds and habitats directives – and went on to criticise the use of the precautionary principle as the basis of EU legislation, a criticism echoed by many of his colleagues. You may remember that this kind of approach echoes Conservative ministers’ attempts, during the coalition government, to water down or scrap environmental regulations through such initiatives as the Red Tape Challenge and the balance of competences review – attempts which, happily, Liberal Democrat ministers ensured came to nothing.

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The Green Agenda: Lib Dems in Business dinner

The environment was our theme at the Liberal Democrats in Business dinner in Oxford last night (after a session of polling-day phone banking for Sarah Olney!).

We were pleased to welcome as speakers Baroness Kate Parminter, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader in the Lords and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Dr Imad Ahmed of the Department of Earth Sciences, Oxford University.

Dr Ahmed spoke of recent research into nano-particles in air pollution and how they affect our brains. The study, and how air pollution is a possible cause of Alzheimer’s, has been reported here in the UK and around the world.

Just in the news today is reporting of a move by major cities to ban diesel vehicles. This is due to their production of particulate matter (PM) and nitrous oxide (NOx). Dr Ahmed, in his talk, showed pictures of the effect of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on the brain.

The link between our health and the air we breathe was also made by Kate Parminter. Baroness Parminter spoke to us on environmental policy and what we should be doing now.

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The disruption of green tech

Finally the report from The Committee of Climate Change on fracking has been released and produced some interesting results, raising concerns of the effect of fracking on the UKs climate change targets.

Shale gas production of the UK is not going to be the answer to our energy needs when it comes to meeting our climate change targets.  It is now obvious the UK has missed the boat on this ‘payday’ unless development is done on a huge scale, industrializing vast areas of rural England. The recommended regulations in the report to facilitate the size of expansion needed will never be in place.

The regulations needed to mitigate fugitive emissions are also not financially viable, making the cost of fracking even more expensive. There will always be methane leaks, the industry cannot stop it. The industry’s own figures of 2% to 5% expected leakage of methane from exploration, production and the supporting infrastructure needed, will put the UKs climate change targets in jeopardy.

The report states that ‘UK shale gas production must displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption. Allowing unabated consumption above these levels would not be consistent with the decarbonisation required under the Climate Change Act.’  Each alternative has an almost identical climate change footprint and the imports are likely to be cheaper. If the government commits to use domestic fracked gas this will drive up energy prices and eventually hit the poorest families in the pocket!

The report does not consider the ongoing technical issues such waste disposal, water pollution, set back distances, community disruption, seismic concerns, industrialisation, etc. etc. etc! It is time for the government to stop bending over for the gas and oil lobbyists and realise they are backing the wrong horse. 

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WATCH: Alex Cole Hamilton on the SNP’s “smog and mirrors” and singing the recycling song

This week, Edinburgh Western and Lothian list candidate took part in a Scotland 2016 debate on energy and the environment. After his success at getting in John Swinney’s face on tax, expectations were high, and he didn’t disappoint.

Here are some of his highlights:

Pointing out that the SNP consistently miss its climate change targets while they cut the budget for measures to tackle climate change.

“There is no question in the climate change challenge which shows that tracking is part of the solution”

Describing SNP MInister Fergus Ewing’s justification of a planned cut to Air Passenger Duty as a “smog and mirrors approach”

Outlining the Liberal Democrat plan to make sure houses are energy efficient and warm.

Explaining how good habits on recycling are being embedded in today’s children – and singing the song his 4 year old sings every day at nursery. Whether that latter part was entirely necessary, I’ll leave to your judgement.

You can watch Alex’s highlights below:

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Failed flooding policy finds a scapegoat

Whenever a government loses control of the situation there has to be a scapegoat, and on the issue of flooding it’s not Sir Philip Dilley the Environment Agency chairman who resigned on Monday.  After his PR blunder of refusing to interrupt his holiday to visit the flooded areas he gave up his £100k position on the grounds that what had started out as a part-time non-executive post was now looking suspiciously like actual work. No, this winter’s devastating floods we are asked to believe, weren’t so much the result of government failings, but of an over concern for the protection of wildlife! “If we have to choose between people and wildlife, we will always, of course, choose people,” Sir James Bevan Chief Exec of the Environment Agency told the BBC at the turn of the year.

Like me, you may have been puzzled by this message and couldn’t quite see its relevance to what was happening across the North on that day, and the plot thickened to Bisto consistency a few days later when Liz Truss announced in a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference that Defra will be allowing farmers to dredge ‘ditches’ without seeking permission from the Environment Agency because they ‘know their land best’. Her own experts say that dredging is useful for improving navigation and land drainage, but has little value in flood prevention. So again, what was going on?

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Blue foxes, red greens and a gold star

Boxing Day saw the Countryside Alliance wrong footed. The Countryside Alliance for those not in the know is an organisation that masquerades as the champion of rural life but is in fact merely the mouthpiece for blood sports such as fox hunting and grouse shooting. It is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing and on Boxing Day like many others it was caught out by the weather.

Boxing Day is fox hunting’s showpiece day and the Countryside Alliance went wild on Twitter to proclaim that a quarter of a million fox hunters and their supporters had taken to town squares and village greens across the land to celebrate what they see as the impending and inevitable demise of the Hunting Act. With Christmas card scenes of scarlet clad gents and gentesses on horseback trotting ceremoniously in a sea of hounds and polished hunting horns heralding a return to Merry England we were treated to an endless stream of romantic snaps.

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  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 20th Jan - 11:40am
    Why should polls change now? Nothing has happened. Unfortunately, Britons need to get poorer first, just wait...
  • User AvatarLaurence Cox 20th Jan - 11:38am
    I blame Juncker for the problem over EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in other EU countries. Here is how the BBC...
  • User AvatarBernard Aris 20th Jan - 11:32am
    @ Steve Way Ou should have learned from the years-long Downing Street feud not tyyo be tak3en in by Downing street spinnning. The Guardian reported...
  • User AvatarB. I. Nary 20th Jan - 10:56am
    Totally misguided concept based on the fallacious assumption that all women are disadvantaged compared to all men.
  • User AvatarDav 20th Jan - 10:53am
    It doesn’t matter, for representative democracy, what the result of a vote in the House of Commons would have been Slight correction: it doesn't matter...
  • User AvatarCatherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan - 10:43am
    Thanks, Duncan