Category Archives: Environment
The vision laid out by the participants in the Labour leadership contest makes Roy Jones from Colwyn Bay – who prefers “the much maligned ‘Corbyn manifestos’ “- fear for Britain’s future (24th January).
He sees, in the contest, not a word on the economy, infrastructure and environment, from Labour’s would-be leaders.
Looking back over our previous reliance on empire with an abundance of minerals from home and abroad and an industrial revolution of science and technology which made us the workshop of the world, he continues: “This fell into decline, albeit with a brief period of hope after World War II, until faced with the inability of Britain’s bosses to modernise industries and Thatcher’s wilful destruction of most of them. All this leaves our balance of payments, income and expenditure, reliant on the financial service “industry” for 80% of those sums”.
Roy Jones lists some measures advocated in two Corbyn-inspired manifestos for a society skewed by years of preserving the status quo at the worker’s expense:
- a green industrial revolution, advancing science and technology and skilled jobs,
- the rebuilding of our public services
- providing rent controlled housing,
- addressing poverty and inequality – a living wage of £10 an hour
- increasing public ownership
- and setting up a people’s bank.
But ends: “I fear the worst kind of flabby Labour future”
He asks how climate change can be tackled effectively, stressing that the poorest countries should not focus on reducing their CO2 emissions, which are already extremely low – three-quarters of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity, and commenting: For low-income countries, development has to be the priority, and this relies on energy. If that energy is to be green, then OECD countries should take responsibility, providing technology and financial support. “The great global injustice of climate change is that the peoples who have contributed least to the problem are the most vulnerable to its effects”.
Ann Pettifor’s book The Case for the Green New Deal succinctly explains what the Green New Deal (GND) is, where the idea came from, why it’s necessary, and how to make it happen. It was conceived a decade ago by a group of British economists and environmentalists and recently popularised by progressive US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
GND measures to decarbonise economies which will create millions of jobs include:
- investment in renewable energy and zero-carbon public transport;
- upgrading buildings for energy efficiency;
- building “smart” distributed power grids to provide affordable clean electricity to all; reorganising the food system;
- ending subsidies to the fossil fuel industry;
- and prioritising basic needs.
But though OECD countries need to cut emissions by 80% over the next decade fiscal revenue isn’t sufficient to finance large-scale green development. Economist and an expert in monetary theory, Ann Pettifor is well placed to describe how the GND can be funded.
With a tightly regulated financial system based on publicly-controlled and accountable central banks, it’s possible to fund a Green New Deal that will eliminate waste, transfer green technology to the rest of the world and build a fairer, more equal society.
Citing China’s effective deployment of capital and exchange control measures, she argues that in order to implement this programme, public control over the monetary system must be regained, offshore capital must be brought back onshore and capital flows regulated and taxed.
The GND represents a set of economic and political reforms that, in combination, form a platform capable of uniting hundreds of millions. As such, it should be a key plank for left parties in Europe, North America and Australia.
Martinez comments: “The cost of failure will be climate breakdown: vast areas of the planet rendered uninhabitable; hundreds of coastal cities (including New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Lagos) permanently submerged; food and water scarcity; vicious climate wars; hundreds of millions of climate refugees”.
He ends: “If a Corbyn-led Labour government can implement its version of the GND (labelled the Green Industrial Revolution), this will be a huge boost for the global battle to save the planet”.
Colin Hines, co-ordinator of the Green New Deal group, draws attention to Kate Proctor’s account of today’s vote at the Labour Party’s autumn conference in Brighton, backing a motion by the campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal to set a target to achieve net zero and guarantee green jobs, working with scientists and trade unions to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
For the record, the members of this group, who have been working together for at least ten years, are Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of the Guardian, Colin Hines, Co-Director of Finance for the Future, former head of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit, Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solarcentury and SolarAid, Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, Richard Murphy, Professor of Practice, City University, Director Tax Research LLP, Ann Pettifor, Director, Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME), Charles Secrett, Advisor on Sustainable Development, former Director of Friends of the Earth, Andrew Simms, Co-Director, New Weather Institute; Coordinator, The Rapid Transition Alliance, Assistant Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility and Geoff Tily Senior Economist, TUC.
In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn wrote his Protecting Our Planet manifesto
In it, he said he would stand for Britain providing international leadership on climate change and the socialisation of our energy supply leading an end to the era of fossil fuels. Measures to be taken would include:
- building a modern, green, resource-efficient economy – creating 1 million new green climate jobs,
- ensuring everyone has access to a low-carbon, affordably heated home and
- tackling the air pollution crisis in our big cities and committing to full independent public inquiry into levels of air pollution.
The Green New Deal proposals to retrofit zero-carbon measures on social and council housing and public buildings relate to the first two measures listed and there are many more, which would usher in a green industrial revolution creating tens of thousands of good, green jobs across the country. Lauren Townsend, a trade unionist and spokesperson for Labour for a Green New Deal, said: “It is time for our movement to come together to build a Green New Deal from the ground up in every town, village and city.”
In May, Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally after Parliament had agreed to take action on climate change following Labour’s call. After delegates passed the motion today, Labour officially backed the Green New Deal proposition which should be added to its next manifesto. Anti-climate change activists have said it is the most radical set of left-wing policies to be passed by party members in a generation.
Will the next government move more freight by rail and waterways to reduce air pollution and road accidents?
Money Supermarket reports that more than half of fatal accidents on British roads involve HGVs, though lorries make up only 10% of the traffic. HGVs are involved in one in five fatal crashes on A-roads and an HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic.
Department for Transport figures are quoted, showing that 82% of articulated heavy goods vehicles exceeded the 50-mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% broke the 40-mph limit on single carriageways in 2013. Despite this, in 2015 government raised the speed limit for HGVs travelling on single and dual carriageways in England and Wales. An HGV over 7.5 tonnes can now travel along a single carriageway at 50 mph, up from 40mph. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways increased from 50mph to 60mph.
The arrival of even bigger HGVs (double articulated mega-trucks) and ‘platooning’ trials pending with a driver in the first cab, controlling the following vehicles has raised further safety concerns. Last year, the Government announced that trials of partially self-driving platoons of lorries were set to take place on roads in the UK by the end of 2018.
Edmund King, president of the AA pointed out that we have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries – and that platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.
A few recent accidents:
The northbound carriageway between junctions 38 (Huddersfield) and 39 (Wakefield) was closed after an HGV overturned following an earlier collision with a car. The HGV was fully laden with glass bottles that had to be unloaded and diesel that had spilled across all three carriageway lanes had to be cleared.
M6 was shut after lorry crash between J12 and J13, near Cannock. The HGV hit the central reservation and later caught fire. Three lanes reopened southbound just after 12:30. Northbound remained closed most of day.
The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.
The A38 was closed in both directions, between the A513 near Fradley and B5016 near Burton on Trent due to a crash and an overturned HGV. Around 40 tonnes of grain were spilled in the carriageway.
Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.
An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.
There were severe delays on the M6 southbound between Junction 16 and Junction 15 due to two lanes being closed following an HGV fire. There was approximately seven miles congestion back to J16.
There is an alternative:
A Route One article reviewed reports by continental researchers who believe that their findings offer some support to policies being developed at Pan-European level to promote new multimodal transport corridors. These involve rail, inland waterways, short-sea (coastal) shipping. The researchers concluded that shifting a greater proportion of freight from roads to rail, boat and/or ship for part of its journey would be a sustainable way of meeting continuing rises in freight demand and reducing numbers of road accidents.
The Freight by Water 2018 conference, part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions. Inland waterways across the world have proved to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials.
The conference highlighted several success stories and discussed several opportunities for freight by water, including the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. Its conclusion:
The time is right to increase freight using inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe as an alternative to road and rail freight.
A Moseley resident draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne (left), recalling that Jeremy Corbyn’s policies struck a chord with some voters as he cut the Tories’ Commons majority in the 2017 General Election. These included the intention to impose tougher wealth taxes, to renationalise great swathes of the country’s public utilities, to cancel our Trident nuclear defence system and to introduce rent controls.
He added: “Above all, they saw a man who stuck to his principles, unlike David Cameron and Tony Blair who they regarded as snake-oil salesmen . . . I believe that voters were right to admire Jeremy Corbyn back then”.
Oborne expressed later disappointment: “He’s sat on the fence for so long that the iron has entered his soul, as early 20th-century PM David Lloyd George once said of an opponent. . . Rather than being too Left-wing, I’m convinced Corbyn is not radical enough. Very occasionally we get a reminder of his old passionate commitment to Left-wing politics”:
- He has been outspoken in his opposition to U.S. warmongering in the Persian Gulf against Iran
- He is the only frontline British politician to condemn India’s illegal clampdown in Kashmir
Has Corbyn been “spineless and far too willing to change his mind?”
Oborne notes that in 2013 Corbyn (right) was one of a dozen Labour MPs who voted in the Commons against spending seed money on HS2 high-speed rail project. But then he changed his mind and voted for its construction. The following year, Labour’s election manifesto supported the new link.
Less cogent is his criticism of Corbyn because in the 1975 referendum, he voted for Britain to leave the EU’s predecessor, the Common Market and in the 2016 referendum, he changed his mind and campaigned for the UK to stay. The writer believes that this is a perfectly reasonable attitude, shared by many, because:
- the EU has seen peace between its member states, despite their history,
- poorer regions have received funding,
- many of the EU’s environmental policies have been beneficial
- and the economies of member states have become so closely interwoven that a break would cause serious and prolonged disruption to the British economy.
Oborne continues: “But U-turn Jeremy then supported a Commons amendment in January demanding that we stay in the EU for longer and then called for a permanent customs union and close alignment to the single market . . . and now his Labour party wants a second referendum”
Towards the end he writes: “Next month will mark (Corbyn’s) fourth year in the job and it looks more and more as if he has flunked that chance. His influence is waning by the day. On October 31, with Brexit, this country faces one of the most important peacetime decisions for generations. It will be the last proper chance for Corbyn to show leadership”.
Labour has convened an International Social Forum, bringing together politicians, economists and social movement leaders from across the world. It will launch a new dialogue on the reform of the international institutional architecture needed to tackle the global challenges of the twenty first century.
Its first meeting on Sunday began the construction of a programme to reform our global economic policymaking architecture in order to address climate change.
“Currently, only greenhouse gases generated by goods and services produced within the country are measured”
Lamiat Sabin, journalist and parliamentary reporter, informs us that Jeremy Corbyn intends to disclose for the first time the “true impact” on the climate of Britain’s emissions:
Though these levels have reduced, Ms Sabin points out that statisticians are not adding on the emissions generated from imported goods — which the Labour leader says have “barely changed” in 20 years.
Jeremy Corbyn: Britain is effectively “offshoring” its emissions to the rest of the world:
“It’s time we were honest about our contribution to the climate crisis. It is even greater than we think. So under Labour, Britain will become the first major economy in the world to measure these consumption emissions and take action to reduce them.”
Labour is seeking to amend the Climate Change Act
An instruction to the Committee on Climate Change should include an assessment of Britain’s “total footprint emissions” in its annual report to Parliament, with recommendations to reduce them.
“Offshoring our emissions isn’t just bad for the climate, it’s bad for British industry”
Mr Corbyn explained that when we measure the emissions from goods produced in Britain but not those produced overseas, it puts industry here, especially energy-intensive industries like steel, at a disadvantage.
He vowed to invest billions of pounds in his party’s plan for a green industrial revolution, which Labour hopes will help close the north-south divide by basing a vast majority of up to 400,000 new jobs in the north of England.
Mr Corbyn sees the urgent need to tackle global emissions, instead of merely ‘passing the buck’ to countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions who produce our goods and services, adding:
“We will send financial and technical support to the developing world, helping them to adopt greener methods of production and reducing the carbon content of the goods we import.”
Note: The National Policy Forum is a body of representatives from all the major groups in the Labour Party. Its role is to shape the Labour Party’s policy agenda. NPF Representatives read and discuss submissions received via the Labour Policy Forum website, and discuss them in the relevant Policy Commissions. Go to this site to offer your policy proposals to your regional representative.
So writes Alan Simpson (left), formerly Labour MP for Nottingham South.
Labour has to shift the focus to the health of the planet that is perilously at risk. More than 1,000 doctors (including 40 professors and former presidents of royal colleges) now call for widespread “non-violent civil disobedience” over Parliament’s failure to address the unfolding ecological and health emergency staring us in the face.
Everything, absolutely everything, must focus on two things. Labour has to block any prospect of a no-deal exit from the EU on October 31.
The trouble is that Labour is in almost as much of a mess as the Tories. At a time when the government is in complete disarray, Labour’s standing in the opinion polls is actually falling. Labour isn’t seen as offering the bigger, alternative vision and Brexit ambiguity looks more like weakness than leadership.
Mischief-makers are having a field day with identity politics in order to deflect attention from the structural issues that divide society, the deeper grievances; poverty, unemployment, squalor, ill-health, hopelessness, the towering evils the 1945 Labour government set out to tackle. As you set out to address them, the divides of race and religion melt to the sidelines.
We have to address the real “health disruptors” that stare us in the face:
- London’s current heatwave doesn’t compare with temperatures in France; 1.5°C higher than their 2003 heatwave in which thousands died.
- Catalonia is on fire.
- Guadalajara, in Mexico, woke up to find districts buried in two metres of freak hailstones, the size of golf balls.
- Similar “golf balls” had shattered windscreens in southern France only two weeks ago, just before the climate roller-coaster raced into overheating.
- The last 40 years has seen an 80% fall in bee and insect populations that pollination (and biodiversity) depends on.
It is all part of the unrecognised war we conduct upon ourselves (and our children)
So, back in Britain, where is the press challenging politicians on the existential crises facing our soils, water supplies, air quality, ecosystems and biodiversity?
On all the really big issues of the day, the press (and most politicians) have gone AWOL. One reason is that there are now no answers that don’t involve systems change.
The situation cries out for an urban mining, circular economics, that reclaims compounds and elements from products and buildings, reusing and recycling materials – including IT and electronic waste – that are finite rather than infinite. Product lifetimes have to be dramatically increased (along with the repair services to underpin them).
- There is as much copper circulating in the economy (or accumulating as scrap) as probably remains in the earth.
- Britain imports all of the 17 rare earth elements we rely on for everything from lasers to cancer drugs, from mobile phones to surgical supplies. Virtually all are currently lost as exported waste or inefficient recycling.
- We import 12.3 million tonnes of iron ore each year but produce 10m tonnes of scrap iron and steel, the bulk of which gets dumped abroad.
- The weight of clothing we discard is equivalent to the weight of clothing we import. And Britain discards the same weight of electronic equipment each year as the equipment we buy.
The Tory leadership race is dominated by prejudice and pandering to the rich and powerful. It will chase neoliberal delusions, no matter what social divisions or ecological disasters come in their wake. Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”
Simpson ends, “In doing so, I don’t care if my culture, my race, my sexuality, nationality or religion comes a poor second. The changes Labour must deliver, within the coming decade, will determine whether our children and grandchildren have the chance to sort these things out for themselves”.
Alan Simpson now advises the party on environmental issues. His article may be read in full here:
“The savage rules of the almighty Market have created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”: Paul Halas
Paul Halas: “As we approach the 2020s there’s a growing awareness that we need change and we need change now. Running the country according to the savage rules of the almighty Market has created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.
In the Western Daily Press (26th April) Paul describes the Conservatives’ genius in persuading millions of long-suffering voters that the national economy operates like a household, so in order for the nation to “live within its means” we all have to tighten our belts.
But this concept – invented by Margaret Thatcher’s think tanks – was directed only at the 99% who always “suffer the destructive effects of austerity” as Halas points out.
The cuts to health, education, transport, disability benefits and other sectors go un-noticed by the I% who can afford to opt out of these systems – symbolised here by one of her ministers.
The household economics concept, Halas continues, ”echoed by every administration since . . . (is) easy to understand yet utterly meretricious”.
He refers us to sources such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, so the writer obediently found the latest report, which certainly did not confirm “the impression that everything in the garden is rosy”. Tax receipts have risen, but there is no indication that “lashings of money are flowing into the Treasury” as had been stated in the same column on 23rd April.
OBR: damned with faint praise?
- The economy ended 2018 growing a little less strongly than we expected in October. In recent weeks survey indicators of current activity have weakened materially, in part reflecting heightened uncertainty related to Brexit.
- The Government’s stated ‘fiscal objective’ is to balance the budget by 2025-26 and past forecast performance suggests that it now has a 40% chance of doing so by the end of our forecast in 2023-24.
- One risk to the public finance metrics that we do expect to crystallise over the coming months is an improvement in the accounting treatment of student loans . . . we estimate that it could increase the structural budget deficit by around £12 billion or 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2020-21.
- Net trade and private investment were markedly weaker than expected, weighed down by a slowing global economy and Brexit-related uncertainty. Business investment has fallen for four consecutive quarters – its longest continuous decline since the financial crisis.
Halas expands on tax issues and the misdirected quantitative easing adventure:
Although the prime function of tax is to regulate the economy and keep inflation under control, the failure of many of the richest individuals and corporations to pay their dues, thanks to absurdly flabby fiscal legislation, has helped fuel the UK’s runaway inequality and damaged society immeasurably.
It is estimated that 80% of new money created (by the government, via the banks) ends up into the coffers of the financial institutions and their clients, rather than funding investment and welfare as it should.
And ends: “The only sustainable way forward is to invest massively in greener forms of energy and greener transport, to create a greener infrastructure and a greener environment. This won’t be possible without a vast reduction in inequality, more public ownership, more localism, and a far more cooperative approach to economics – all policies the Labour Party is adopting. All those with vested interests will doubtless raise a billion objections, but the consequences of keeping our heads in the sand and trusting the Tories to come up with solutions would be catastrophic”.
LABOUR declared “a national environment and climate emergency” today.
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman made the comments in the Commons as she asked the government whether it would join Labour in doing the same. She called on the government to meet with young climate strikers, who have previously had their meeting with Energy Minister Claire Perry cancelled.
Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) Friederike Lurken said it is “important” Labour is taking this step.
She said: “We are living through a climate emergency because governments and industry have not shown the necessary leadership and so far have not acted fast enough.
Fortunately thousands upon thousands of people are rising up with XR, and cultural institutions are joining with us. Dozens of local councils around Britain have already declared a climate emergency – both inspired by and through grassroots pressure from XR and the global School Strike For Climate.”
Labour’s intervention came as a major UN report warned today that the world is seeing record sea level rises and devastating floods, storms, heatwaves and wildfires as climate change impacts grow.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said “there is no longer any time for delay” on tackling climate change as the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) state of the climate 2018 report was published.
The physical signs of climate change and the impacts on people are accelerating as record greenhouse gas concentrations drive global temperatures to increasingly dangerous levels, the report said.
However provisional government figures show that Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3 per cent in 2018 as pollution from the energy sector continued to fall. Emissions of the gases which drive climate change have fallen for six years in a row, and are 44 per cent below the 1990 baseline for Britain.
In Scotland, Extinction Rebellion interrupted First Minister’s Questions at midday today to demand action in the face of the climate emergency.
A spokesperson from Extinction Rebellion Scotland said “Extinction Rebellion Scotland did not wish to undermine other concerns raised by MSPs, but to highlight the climate crisis as this is not sufficiently dealt with despite its pressing importance.”