Tag Archives: environment

What’s in a (Net Zero) date?

One of the questions that’s likely to be asked in tonight’s Channel 4 environment leader’s debate is about the target date by which the UK should reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions. In the summer the government legislated for 2050. In September Liberal Democrat conference voted for our policy paper Tackling the Climate Emergency, which argued for 2045. The Labour conference voted for 2030 (though that’s not in their manifesto). The Green Party has gone for 2030, and Extinction Rebellion campaigns for 2025. 

Against these targets, our policy can look rather cautious. 2045 seems like a long way away; doesn’t that mean that government will do nothing until a few years beforehand and then rush to hit it? I’m sure Lib Dem Voice readers know what’s wrong with that argument – although this was the approach that a Conservative minister genuinely suggested to Ed Davey when we were in government.

Arguing over the net zero target date in isolation is simplistic and misleading. In reality, reaching net zero will require enormous effort, stretching over decades and affecting all sectors of the economy; it’s not something you can leave to the last moment. The real debate we need to have is over how we plan to meet the target; what’s the policy programme that cuts emissions fast where we know how to, and lays the foundations for progress where we don’t yet know the right solutions? And when you start to think about what’s needed for electricity, heating, transport, aviation, industry, farming and land use – and how you persuade people to change the way they live their lives, because it isn’t only about government action – you start to understand why near-term targets like 2025 or 2030 are an unrealisable fantasy.

Liberal Democrats set out, in our policy paper and in the manifesto, how we can make rapid progress in cutting emissions from power generation, through accelerating the uptake of renewables, and in heat in buildings, through a massive energy efficiency programme. Between them we think we can cut UK emissions by more than half over ten years.

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The Lib Dems now have the most comprehensive plan to tackle climate change of any party in Europe.

For me, Monday was one of the most uplifting days in politics for years. Conference overwhelmingly passed the motion connected to Policy Paper 139, “Tackling the Climate Emergency”. This commits the party to a policy of eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy by 2045 (or compensating for any residual emissions with additional carbon removal – what is known at “Net-Zero emissions”). It was great to see Jo Swinson then put our environmental policies at the heart of her leader’s speech the following day. Duncan Brack’s summation of Monday’s debate is also well worth a watch. He deserves huge credit for chairing our working group on climate change. 

Committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2045 would bring the UK into line with its commitments under the Paris Agreement and the international aim to hold average global temperature rises to under 1.5 degrees. Both the British government and the European Commission are currently looking at a net zero target by 2050, which is unlikely to be enough. An amendment tabled by the Green Liberal Democrats to shift the target to 2040 attracted support but didn’t carry. Opinions vary on this point, but the paper and motion are clear: ‘the precise target date for achieving net zero is less important than urgent action to set the economy on the path’. Tough interim targets did pass (to cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and 93 per cent by 2040). 

But what is also hugely important is that our pathways – radical though they are – are science-based and backed-up with practical policies to make them a reality. We have worked out the nuts and bolts as well as the big vision. I highly recommend a glance at Policy Paper 139 for those interested in seeing what we are proposing in detail and who didn’t get a chance to read the full motion on Monday (or attend the debate). Its recommendations are connected to figures presented in an independent report (which I co-authored) and which was published at conference in 2017. That report contains the sector-by-sector emissions reductions pathways. It goes into detail on the technology, infrastructure and policy support required. The Guardian has hailed it as a ‘radical agenda for tackling climate emergency’. 

Liberals are interested in the “little stories” as much as the “grand narratives”. And these reports provide both. As people all over the world join their children on climate strike this Friday, we should be proud that our party has just signed up to the most ambitious and credible programme of decarbonisation of any party in Europe. It is fine for Labour to consider a net-zero emissions target by 2030 – but you can bet your socks that they won’t dare publish how they plan to meet that target in practical terms. They can’t. 

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Come to our Lib Dem Voice fringe at lunchtime!

Lib Dem Voice is sponsoring a fringe event (yes, free food!) from 1:00 – 2:30 today at the Highcliff Marriott, Bournemouth, in the Dorchester North room.

Focussing on climate change, our panellists will be asked “What sacrifices are you prepared to make for the planet?”

We have Ed Davey, MP, now Deputy Leader of the party, coming to give his ideas of policy areas that could help shift society’s habits. Joining him will be Baroness Cathy Bakewell, our Lib Dem Lords Spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Luke Murphy, Head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission; Paul Sheeky from Extinction Rebellion; and Mark Campanale of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

There will be lots of time for questions to our panellists – and also the opportunity to give your own ideas of what sacrifices you would be willing to make to save our planet.

Please come and be part of the discussion. I hope to see you there!

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25 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Lib Dems produce Bill to properly tackle plastics crisis

Today, Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Environment, will present his Plastic Pollution Bill to Parliament.

The Bill will set targets to help fix our plastics crisis and require the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for the reduction of plastic pollution.

The Bill has been backed by a cross-party group of MPs as well as Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Institute.

Ahead of presenting his Bill, Mr Carmichael said:

Plastic pollution is the scourge of our oceans. The Government must start taking action to reduce our plastic to change our

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Why the Liberal Democrats must be at the forefront of a UK Green New Deal

Since it was first introduced in the US in 2007, the idea of a Green New Deal has received substantial support amongst a wide range of the electorate worldwide, who are increasingly rallying their governments to tackle the imminent threat of climate change.

Recently gaining traction after the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to US Congress, the growing need to put a Green New Deal into practice is once again making its way to the forefront of global politics. Who will speak up for a deal like this in the UK?

A recent European Commission report revealed that the UK currently leads the way in fossil fuel subsidies, providing a staggering £10.5 billion to support the industry. The continuous commitment to propping up such environmentally harmful practices against the will of a large percentage of the UK populace is not only damaging to our mutual trust, but the future of our world.

The current state of British politics is at a critical point. At a time of great political upheaval across the nation, the Liberal Democrats have a chance to take centre-stage in refocusing the national agenda and rebuilding national trust in our party. 

A UK Green New Deal is a way in which we do exactly that. A progressive, positive agenda which underlines the importance of protecting our nation’s economic interests as well as our environmental prospects. By wielding much more focus towards supporting renewable and cleaner energies and protecting our natural earth, we can also thousands of new jobs and lessen inequality in a fresh, booming new industrial sector. 

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Lib Dems condemn “betrayal” of Swansea Tidal Lagoon cancellation

It was a project which would power 150,000 households for 120 year, a program of lagoons at Swansea, Newport, Cardiff and Colwyn Bay which would create over 34,000 jobs in Wales alone. And Wales does need jobs. It was championed by the Lib Dems in Government, but, as has happened with so many Lib Dem ideas, it’s been cancelled today by the Tories.

Coming on the same day as the the vote on Heathrow expansion, you would be forgiven that the Tories really didn’t give a hoot about what David Cameron is alleged to have once described as “green crap” – and he was one of the more progressive ones.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have condemned the decision as a huge missed opportunity and another example of the Conservatives’ neglect of Wales.

The lagoon was strongly backed by the government commissioned Hendry review in January 2017 and is supported by businesses, councils, MPs and AMs from all parties. The lagoon would have acted as a pathfinder project for other lagoons across Wales including Newport, Cardiff and Colwyn Bay.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds was furious that the opportunity to make Wales a world leader in green energy had been thrown away:

The Conservatives’ rejection of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon is a disgrace. The Swansea Tidal Lagoon would be a vital first step in making Wales a world leader in green energy, bringing untold environmental and economic benefits to the community, Wales and the UK.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently supported the Swansea Tidal Lagoon as a key part of our plans to develop an innovative, radical and ambitious green economy in Wales. It is deeply disappointing the Conservatives do not share our ambition.

When Ed Davey was Secretary of State for Climate Change he was totally behind the project. He called the cancellation an “historic mistake.”

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LibLink: Robin Teverson: We should clean up our own mess, not export it to China

Lib Dem Peer Robin Teverson has written for Politics Home about the effect of China’s ban on the importation of low grade waste should be a wake up call for us to sort out how we deal with this problem.

China’s import ban, at a stroke, destroys the business model of the UK waste industry, together with its supply chain. The knock-on effects are huge, impacting local authorities and business.

But the UK has been slow to react. Defra is working overtime on Brexit agricultural and fisheries reform, producing a two-years late 25-year environmental plan, getting thousands of EU environmental laws onto the post-Brexit UK statute book. Michael Gove, no less, admitted to the Environmental Audit Committee that he had been taken unawares.

Lack of progress in waste policy, especially in England, has been a contentious issue for some time, not least with a frustrated waste industry. Scotland and Wales have been more ambitious in finding solutions for the future. That lack of focus, in England especially, is no longer an option.

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Now is the time for an ivory ban

Think of Africa, and you think of elephants. But sadly, these glorious and magnificent animals are under serious threat from poaching. It is estimated that one elephant is killed every fifteen minutes by poachers who are part of a chain of criminal activity that makes immense profits from selling ivory tusks onto the global market. This illegal ivory is distributed all around the world with routes mirroring those of drugs, guns and trafficked people. It is shocking to find that more raw and carved ivory is traded through the EU to …

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Michael Gove is Britain’s environmental champion – no one is more surprised than me

In yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, Michael Gove sets out his plans for an environmental watchdog post-Brexit. As education secretary under David Cameron, he was seen as a career hungry politician willing to risk quality education in a drive to create academies, open creationist schools and dictate what was taught in lessons. He was marginally better as Justice Secretary, but not much. Now, he is well on the road to becoming Britain’s leading environmental champion.

This is not the first conversion on the environmental road to Damascus but it could be one of the most important.

It is even more surprising because Defra …

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5p Cup Charge Might Just Happen

Lib Dems led the way with hugely successful plastic bag charge, leading to a reduction of over 85% in plastic bags, and followed last year with policy to introduce a small charge on disposable coffee cups.

The plans were rejected by government last year, but there appears to have been a U-turn.

Yesterday, Environment Minister Therese Coffey told the environmental audit committee that the government will consider introducing a coffee cup charge to tackle the 2.5 billion disposable cups thrown away each year.

Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron commented

It is good to see

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Lynne Featherstone’s speech in climate change debate

Here is Lynne Feathestone’s speech to yesterday’s climate change debate. The party passed entirely predictable policy – in summary, Paris Agreement is fantastic. Trump and the Conservatives are awful and we are the party of renewables and the green economy.

This is what Lynne said:

It was a glorious moment in time

The signing of the Paris Agreement

The world coming together to do the right thing

Thinking of future generations

Accepting responsibility

Taking real action to turn the tide

A moment in time

But time is not on our side

And the battle intensifies

Even as 97% of experts – so beloved of Michael Gove – agree on climate change

Even as the world agrees on Climate Change

Even as we have had the hottest summers

The wettest storms

Sea levels rising

And the fiercest hurricanes in history

Climate deniers still propagate untruths

It’s a hoax made up by the Chinese

It’s a scam

scientists are fudging the numbers

In my time as Minister for International Development

I saw first hand the impact that climate change is already having in some of the poorest areas of the world

I stood in Darfur and felt desertification under my own feet.

I saw with my own eyes the ravages that too little water in Africa and too much in Asia can bring.

I implored governments and leaders to stop the fight between peoples over scarce resources.

I visited communities learning to adapt to climate change.

Those living in areas already deeply affected by climate change don’t question its existence.

They see it. They suffer from it. They didn’t cause it.

If we don’t succeed in adaptation, mitigation and keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees centigrade – then the tide of human misery we have seen fleeing conflict will be as nothing compared to those fleeing the worst ravages of climate change

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Lib Dems have a strong message on energy and climate change, but there are still unanswered questions

Reading through our manifesto last week, I was pleased to see us champion the UK’s green credentials with a strong set of energy and climate policies.

While the environment isn’t a hot topic in this year’s campaign, it’s good to see Tim writing in Business Green about the need to change Britain’s future and clean up sectors like power, heat and transport.

Our manifesto will see the UK use renewables to generate up to 60 per cent of electricity by 2030; invest in solutions like energy storage, carbon capture and storage, and grid infrastructure; and pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to set new targets on cutting emissions.

This is a fantastic platform, and we should be proud of our record on supporting clean energy and protecting the environment.

However, I’d argue there are some areas in which we need to develop our approach:

1) Lib Dems have committed to staying a part of EURATOM (vital for our nuclear industry), but what about the EU’s internal energy market, or the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)?

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder on World Wildlife Day

 

I’m afraid we didn’t mark World Wildlife Day on LDV last Friday. Fortunately our MEP Catherine Bearder did in an engaging post covering the top wildlife wins and losses in the past year.

She writes:

2016 was a historic year in the global fight against wildlife crime. From the ivory bans to the new CITES protection for over 500 species – there is a lot we can be proud of.

But we would be kidding ourselves if we think the work here is done. Wildlife trafficking is still a top four global criminal activity and the money streams gained from it are often used to fund other illegal operations like arms trafficking and even terrorism.

Wildlife by its nature is unsupervised and therefore vulnerable to the criminal gangs who exploit it for massive profit.

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New SLF publication on the European carbon market

As Brexit continues to hog the spotlight in the British media, there are still important issues being discussed and votes taking place in the European Parliament that Liberals everywhere should care about.

On the 15th February 2017, MEPs voted on a package of regulations intended to strengthen the proposed reforms to the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and added their own amendments.

Tellingly, the vote was welcomed by a number of high-emissions sectors as well as the European Commission but heavily criticised by a number of NGOs and advocates of carbon market reform, with Climate Action Network, for example, describing the compromise as a betrayal of the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement. Next week (on Tuesday 28th Feb) EU environment ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss how EU member states will respond to the vote.

The environment and its stewardship have long been and remain part of the DNA of Liberals everywhere.  As part of its series of publications that challenge and progress thinking in a number of policy areas, the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) is pleased to announce the publication this week of “The European carbon market isn’t working – and social liberals should be worried”  by SLF Council Member Edward Robinson

The article looks at the history of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), analyses why it has not been working in the way it was intended, and looks at possible reforms to the system that would make it more effective at stimulating carbon price inflation and driving the uptake of clean technologies.

As Edward says:

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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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Climate change dangers show why Liberal Democrats are needed in government

Next week the fate of the world is going to be decided. That is a statement that we have rarely, if ever, been able to say with any certainty. But the consequences of another year, five years or decade without a global climate change agreement in the form of a legally binding treaty on all major global polluters could see the progress of degradation accelerate to a point where any further action would be mostly damage control. That is the solemn mandate of the Paris Cop21 Climate Conference, co-operate or face consequences, consequences that will be more tangible than ever before.

As global temperature rise being successfully held at 2 degrees Celsius looks more and more improbable, and unprecedented ice-cap melt (like that of Greenland in 2012) continues to stun Arctic communities and swell the global oceans, the level of climate disruption is now undeniably enormous. Even the kind of serious concerted action we all hope for in Paris will not be enough for those who are already set to face the horrors of the degree of environmental disruption we have now made inevitable. The most striking case of all? The chain of Pacific islands that form the state of Kiribati. Climate scientists have suggested that by 2100, or even earlier, rising sea levels will result in the full submersion of the islands.

This will be a decisive moment in human history. At this point our human capacity for destruction will have been fully realised, we will have effectively destroyed an entire nation. Global leaders in Paris who think that at their feet is placed an impossible and sobering task should be reminded of just how sobering a task lies at the feet of Anote Tong, Kiribati’s President, who every year must plan for the future awaiting a people who will lose the very land they call home to the sea, on account of our actions.

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Tim Farron and a wonderful song

This excerpt is from Tim Farron’s main speech to the Bournemouth conference:

Since May, the Government has threatened the human rights act, demonised refugees, penalised working families, abandoned green energy. You know, if ever you doubted the effectiveness of the Liberal Democrats in Government just look at what’s happening without us. In the words of Joni Mitchell

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone “

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The Independent View: Tim Farron’s election as leader provides hope that the party will embrace and enhance the green roots held dear by members and activists.

Congratulations to Tim Farron, an MP who has long championed environmental causes. His voting record, especially during the coalition years, was consistently green. In 2013 Farron was one of 16 Lib Dems to rebel and back a 2030 decarbonisation target. How different the energy politics landscape would look had more Lib Dem MPs (and later peers) joined him and ensured there was now a decarb target in the statute books to provide long term certainty for investors in the face of growing short term uncertainty.*

But that was then. With Tim Farron at the helm we look forward to the party adopting stronger green positions, such as Farron’s repeated pledge to oppose fracking. Most importantly – and in a move that puts clear water between him and Andy Burnham, the leading candidate for the Labour leadership – Farron’s opposition is on the grounds that burning shale gas is incompatible with tackling climate change:

Shale gas will only have a future in the UK if we abandon, or significantly scale back, our climate targets – and that’s something that I hope every Liberal Democrat would oppose

This is the sort of clear leadership sorely needed in the fight against climate change and the pressing need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Only the Greens and Plaid Cymru have made so clear the climate change rationale for opposing fracking (in addition to the more widely accepted risks to communities’ air, water and peace).

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LibLink: If I’m Lib Dem leader, we’ll oppose fracking

Tim Farron has been writing for Politics.co.uk about his desire to see the party change its policy on fracking. The headline is entirely misleading, because what he actually does is show respect to the party’s processes by saying he’ll ask the Federal Policy Committee and Conference to reconsider the issue. But why?

The UK should not be pursuing another fossil fuel source, when there is so much potential for renewable generation from tidal and hydro that is still untapped. I would like the party, through the federal policy committee and the conference, to think again about our existing policy on fracking.

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Carmichael and Davey blast Tories’ withdrawal of subsidies for onshore wind

A few wind turbinesWe know that during the coalition years the Liberal Democrats ensured subsidies for onshore wind. The Guardian managed to give precisely 2 and a  bit lines at the bottom of their report to Ed Davey. He was the Energy and Climate Change Secretary who fought tooth and nail to protect renewables, but there’s no mention of that. Ed is quoted as saying:

Anti-wind power Tories will put up electricity bills, cut green jobs and reduce investment.

Alistair Carmichael also took the Tories to task for what he called a “lamentable sop to the Tory right.”

This is full-throttle Tory energy policy.

Their decision to end the renewables obligation for onshore wind is a backwards step for the UK’s energy mix.

It is a lamentable sop to the Tory right-wing who would sooner have us concede the battle on climate change than commit properly to renewables. This blinkered and outdated view of the world is bad news for the environment, but it is also bad news for jobs and investment.

In coalition government Liberal Democrats blocked these madcap Tory ideas. In opposition, we will lead the campaign against them.

 

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Opinion: Water of Life

Today many Christians are celebrating Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus, whether you view him as historical figure, prophet or messiah, used many images in his teaching. One was water.

John 4:13-14 talks of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria at the well, and Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give them will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give them will become a spring of water in them. It will flow up into eternal life.”

Water is a precious resource. Just this week there was news of California entering the fourth year of drought. Governor Jerry Brown has introduced strict conservation measures to reduce water usage by 25%. California produces a third of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans, and prices in shops across the country are already reflecting the drought.

Global warming has brought this on. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains which supplies the water California needs is at a record low. The water California needs for households, crops and industry is not available. Sacrifices will have to be made.

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Cute seals for Earth Hour Day – and some serious points about Liberal Democrat policy

On the day Earth Hour takes place, the Liberal Democrats have released a video with Nick Clegg and Julia Goldsworthy at a Cornish seal sanctuary. They highlight the nature bill that’s part of our 5 green laws in the manifesto. I know this is childish but every time I see that headline, I think of a cartoon David Laws, greened up like Elphaba in Wicked. The party’s video communications are really good at the moment. Enjoy this one.

Our plans for a Nature Bill include removing exemptions from all plastic bag charges to safeguard our environment and protect wildlife.

Posted by Liberal Democrats on Saturday, 28 March 2015

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Independent on Sunday praises Nick Clegg and Ed Davey for “keeping the low carbon show on the road”

Davey Windmills - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsAn Independent on Sunday editorial today acknowledges the contribution made by the Liberal Democrats to furthering the green agenda while in government. They give Nick Clegg and Ed Davey the credit for driving it forward in the face of opposition from our coalition partners, who come in for some criticism:

The IoS has been disappointed with the Conservatives’ record on the environment. We were prepared to give David Cameron the benefit of the doubt when he put a windmill on his roof and when he proclaimed his intention that the coalition would be the greenest government ever, but if Mr Davey is now able to make that qualified claim, it is despite Mr Cameron, not because of him.

The turning point was George Osborne’s “slowest ship in the convoy” speech to the Tory party conference in 2011, when he said Britain would go along with EU plans for green energy but would not be a leader.

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Catherine Bearder writes… 100 days to stop the Tories or Labour neglecting the environment

The countdown starts today. Just 100 days left to ensure that any future government has a strong Liberal voice in it. That means a strong voice for social justice and economic responsibility, ensuring that we finish the recovery and do so fairly. But it also means a voice that will continue to stand up for a radical approach on issues like drugs policy, indiscriminate snooping and constitutional reform. Crucial issues, but ones that both Conservatives and Labour would happily sweep under the carpet and forget about altogether if they were given the chance.

Posted in Op-eds | 10 Comments
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