Author Archives: michaeljshipley

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Greens Question Government Claims on Fracking

Charlotte at Barton Moss farck-free camp

Charlotte at Barton Moss farck-free camp

Derbyshire Green Party has said that it finds no reason to be reassured by energy Minister Matthew Hancock’s statement that Government has guidelines on fracking that would “protect Britain’s great National Parks and outstanding landscapes”. They also ask why these guidelines will not be applied to all other parts of the country, where most people live. Hancock’s comments came on the day that the Government has announced a new licensing round for gas and oil exploration that covers large areas of the UK including most of the East Midlands.
Charlotte Farrell, the Greens Parliamentary candidate for the High Peak said that by issuing these guidelines the Government was admitting that even the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were now at risk from fracking. ‘The Government has announced that under what they call ‘extreme circumstances’, even the Peak District could be opened to fracking companies. Who, I would like to know, will judge these ‘circumstances’? I question the independence of Government advice on such matters with the Chairman of Caudrilla, a leading Fracking company, working as a Director of the Cabinet Office, advising ministers.’
The Greens also question whether the regulations that the Government say will control any possible adverse effects of fracking, are really so strong. ‘When this Government came to power in 2010, they boasted that they would have a ‘bonfire of regulations’, Charlotte said. ‘These include the downgrading rules on hazardous waste, on air pollution, on degrading land and on noise, some of the very problems associated with fracking. In addition this Government has slashed the funding and staffing of the bodies that have the responsibility to regulate fracking, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.
‘As if all this wasn’t enough concern, this Government is a supporter of the little heard of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP] that is being negotiated between the USA and the EU. If this deal goes ahead, the fracking companies will be able to challenge any regulations that they claim affect their profits. Any action to limit the licensed companies activities, even if taken to protect our health, safety or the landscape could lead to very expensive lawsuits against the Government that we, the taxpayer will have to settle. Greens will stand firmly with communities who rightly oppose fracking. The only beneficiaries of this damaging technology will be the already very rich corporations who will sell off any gas they find gas to the highest bidder.’

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Time to Vote Green

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Decisions in Europe affect our daily lives.

This Thursday we go to polls in one of the closest-fought, and important, European election campaigns in years.
With the European Parliament about 300 miles away from us here in East Midlands, it can seem a little distant – but the laws it passes and the rules it adopts affect all of us, every single day: and usually for the better.
Whether it’s setting air quality rules for the benefit of our health, international climate change policy, business regulations to create a level playing field, job creation priorities, or energy generation methods, the European Parliament has a say. Who we vote to represent us in the EU’s only democratically-elected institution will makes a real difference. Will the parties of business as usual form the majority and hand power to the multinational corporations, caving in to their 30,000 lobbyists? Or will the Green voice be strengthened, the voice of ordinary people, the voice that will speak up for the common good?
This is why the vote on Thursday matters – it’s a chance for us all to choose the kind of future we want for our communities, and the people we want sitting around the table when the rules are made.
For the last decade-and-a-half, we in the UK have had a Green representative at this table, speaking up for the interests of people, not big corporations and big money interests. Our Green MEP’s sit as part of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in Brussels – the fourth largest in the European Parliament – and they have been able to deliver positive changes for us all. They have capped bankers’ bonuses and called for reforms of the banking system to ensure it works for all of us – not just a few bankers at the top.
They have delivered a ‘youth guarantee’ – a promise of a job or training place for every unemployed young person that wants one – and won support for a new ‘carers leave’ to ensure that those of us caring for older or disabled relatives aren’t penalised at work.
Green MEPs have shaped the EU’s farming and fisheries policies – banning the cruel and wasteful practise of ‘dumping’ dead fish at sea, and won key votes on climate change policy to ensure that the UK adopts a target on delivering new renewable energy projects – and the jobs that go with them.
But crucially, EU policy is about a long-term vision: and ours is a vision of local economies that puts people first, a more equal society – one where discrimination is never tolerated – and one in which our environment is protected.
Encouragingly, when people hear this vision, and examine our policies and legislative priorities for achieving it, they like what they hear. For example, recent polling shows that three in five people support our policy of capping bankers’ bonuses. Two-thirds support our policy to increase the minimum wage to a living wage. Support for ending privatisation in the NHS is growing as is support for the renationalisation of the railways. Green Policies are growing in popularity as an alternative to the failed business as usual policies that protect the rich and penalise the less well off, the very people who make the economy and society work.
There is every reason to vote in the European Election on Thursday, there is every reason to Vote Green.

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European Election May 22nd 2014

Time to Vote Green Flooded cars

A Policy for Youth

Portrait of a young boy crossing guard standing on the road holding a stop signIn a remarkable piece of Orwellian ‘Newspeak’ the Tories running DCC are trying to claim that their proposed budget cuts to the County Youth Service were in fact part of an ambitious plan to make youth provision in the County ‘Bigger and Better’.  Their original plan to axe all youth clubs and to scale back its professional youth workers met with such an outcry of opposition that the Council has been forced into a rapid rethink, which they are trying to dress up as the product of a consultation.  One is forced to wonder why they didn’t think to consult first and avoid all the uncertainty for young people, parents and workers.

Adults have a moral responsibility to ensure there is adequate provision for young people in society, enabling them to develop and mature into citizens who are able, in time to take over the running of society.  It is wrong to think that we can cut and privatise youth services, leaving them to the whims of ‘the market’, as if youth provision was some sort of expendable luxury.  It is not. It is a necessity, never more so than in times of economic hardship and high youth unemployment.

Young people face the same range of problems that adults do, but of course they can lack the experience of knowing how to handle them.  It is in our collective interest to ensure that they are able to find and implement solutions to these problems before they become deep seated and built in to the fabric of the emerging adult.  Of course some of these problems can be properly handled by parents or by close relatives, some can be addressed at school, but in many instances this is not enough.  A young person may feel unable to approach a parent or simply doesn’t have the opportunity to do so and teachers might seem too remote.  In the absence of any other provision, they will turn to friends, who also lack experience, to the internet, that may give poor advice, or fall into a fantasy world making up strategies that have no basis in reality.

??????????????????????????????????????To give structure to a youth service, the Green Party supports the introduction of ‘youth schools’ in every community, as found in some European countries such as Denmark.  These are informal, but professionally managed providing a safe place for young people to go and meet out of school hours.  They are like an enhanced youth club but offering a much wider range of activities, and free at the point of use.  In addition to structured courses along the lines of adult evening classes, they offer the opportunity for socialising and for finding informal but informed advice, attendance is voluntary and the management aims to be inclusive.

Green education policy recognises the importance of involving young people in the design and content of their education. This is taken from article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Any policy relating to youth provision must closely involve young people themselves.  It is not enough to ask them what they want, often they will not know.  Why should they?  It is adults who have the understanding of what works and of what is possible, and who hold the purse strings. But they must ensure that what is being provided does meet young people’s needs and not the needs and wishes of the older generation.  We want to see ‘youth schools’ develop as a partnership between  the users and the providers, not tied to an imposed curriculum with targets, but meeting the needs brought by the young people involved.

While we want to see a properly financed and managed structure to youth provision, we also recognise the importance of the voluntary sector.  The enthusiasm and energy that volunteers bring to youth activities is inspiring and so important in firing the young imagination and sense of belief.   To hand over youth provision to voluntary groups as the Tories want to do under their ‘Big Society’ banner will overwhelm this volunteer enthusiasm with the day to day demands of management,  financing and insurance regulations.  We believe that the Local Authority has to back up the volunteer sector with professional management, help and advice, training and secure finance.

The idea of the ‘youth school’ is not meant to be some stand alone solution to the ‘problem of youth’.  We do not see young people as a problem, however we do see that too often their ability to grow and develop their own potential is frustrated by the constraints of adult society, and too often by the policies of Government fixated by the demands of the avaricious market.  Too often politicians, who talk of the ‘problem of youth’ rather than the ‘opportunity of youth’, seem incapable of making any other provision than organised activity that usually centres on sport.  Providing properly funded and universally accessible sporting opportunity is good, but it is not a complete youth policy.  Of greater importance is developing the means by which young people can become active members of their society, including becoming economically active. Green economic policy recognises the importance of fostering the often dismissed informal economy and self employment. Often crudely dismissed as the black economy, this sector makes a significant contribution to the local economy and can provide a route into employment.  Helping young people into self employment would be another function of the ‘youth school’, giving help and advice on converting their ideas into a viable business proposition.

Greens therefore want to see increased provision for young people away from formal education.  We accept that this has cost implications but we regard these costs as an investment not a waste.  It is our responsibility to make this provision, it is not some ‘bolt on’ extra.  The fact that Government does not do this is symptomatic of their priorities, set by powerful vested interests.  Despite the so called ‘economic crisis, we can afford to give a £160 million tax break to the oil industry, the richest business on the planet, with a visceral aversion to paying tax.  We can afford to spend a similar amount on a decade long programme of weapons procurement for the Ministry of Defence.  Spending £5 billion on refitting the Aldermaston nuclear weapons facility passes ministers without even an announcement.  The Treasury is defrauded annually out of £30 billion on unpaid tax that is legally due to it, and of course we can’t even begin to discuss the £37 billion bonus pot paid out by business, most of which will disappear off shore.  So it’s not a matter of what we can afford, it is where we choose to spend – and in a democracy, that should be down to us. It is time for the people to speak.

It is in our collective interest to provide a nurturing and enabling environment for each emerging generation, they after all will inherit the Earth.

© Mike Shipley

European Union

Defence of Human rights

The demand for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union does not come from the majority of the British people. We have had our say and we said yes. Nevertheless, some argue, that since the last referendum was in 1975, people might have changed their mind, and there is a new generation of voters who must have their say. But the logic of this is that the matter of membership of the Union can never be settled, we must have a referendum on the EU every generation. Until, that is, the people give the answer that the Euro-sceptics want – the answer that will suit their vested interests, that will give them the freedom to do as they please in our country.

Since 1975, we have been subject to an endless propaganda campaign by the billionaire owned right wing press that has used distortions and half truths to paint Europe black on every occasion. Now they sense that their propaganda is beginning to turn the tide in their favour, that this time, we will give the answer that they want.

But what is this anti-European sentiment all about? Can it really be the backwash of the endless conflicts we have had with our near neighbours throughout our history? Surely not. The British love going to Europe, many go to live there, they love the Mediterranean life style, guzzle gallons of European wine, eat more pizzas than Yorkshire puddings. Growing numbers of us count ‘Europeans’ as our friends, romance flourishes across the leaky borders of the EU. So why the hostility?

Most European countries have a strong sense of civil society, most strongly seen in the Scandinavian countries, but not at all exclusive to them. There is a greater acceptance of the role of the state in peoples’ lives. Continental people are more community minded, there is greater material equality coupled with equality of opportunity. Local authorities provide and maintain high quality public spaces and facilities, and people use them, and in so doing interact with each other more, developing that sense of community. Of course, all this provision comes at a cost, on average, taxes tend to be higher. And there lies the crux of the argument.

The right wing of this country are heavily influenced by America and from there, they acquire a visceral hatred of taxation and of public ownership They are obsessed with private ownership and provision. They have no interest in democracy or of the general well being of majority of us. They want to accumulate vast personal wealth and use it to control the political process to ensure that government governs on their behalf. They see the European Union as an obstacle to achieving this dictatorship by wealth.

In the face of this threat and the reality that in the UK as in the USA, private wealth can and does buy political favours and electoral results, we need some political presence that can act on behalf of the general interest. Since Parliament has abandoned this role with MP’s meekly following the diktats of the Party managers, we increasingly must look to the European Union to secure our human, social and environmental rights.

The EU is far from perfect or democratic and the Green Party is calling for a serious reform of its institutions to increase democratic accountability, and to reduce bureaucratic waste. We do not want to see further centralisation of economic powers, rather we want to see a devolution the other way, not only from Europe but also from Westminster. We want to see self reliant regions, neither dictated to by the EU or by the national government. We are not wanting isolationism, we want to foster cooperation across national boundaries. We want to see all levels of government focusing on securing a sustainable future for us all, recognising and fostering good practice where ever it might be in order to enable us all to live full creative lives.

This is not the vision of the Euro-sceptics. They want to withdraw from the Human Rights Act, to scrap the Working Time Directives and the minimum wage, they want their businesses to have the right to hire and fire us at will and on their terms. They want to pay us lower and lower wages so that they can pocket bigger profits to build their economic and therefore political power. They want to scrap environmental legislation because they think they can insulate themselves from environmental degradation with their wealth. It matter not to them under what conditions we live, we are nothing more than economic units of production and consumption.

The European Union was born out of a vision of far seeing people. They were shocked by the waste and destruction of two European wars that spread out to engulf the world. They wanted a better future for their descendants, a future in which people could live without fear. The Constitution of the European Union, much hated by Euro-sceptics, commits the Union and its member states to the promotion of peace and the well-being of its people. Its core values include non-discrimination, equality between women and men, tolerance and justice, the eradication of poverty, the protection of human rights, in the particular the rights of the child, sustainable development and the development of international law that respects the principles of the United Nations. Further, any member state that violates these principles shall be suspended or expelled. It is little wonder that the Euro-sceptics want to withdraw the UK from the European Union. And if we allow them to have their way, will we, the ordinary people, be better off?

© Mike Shipley

Sinfin Community School – Derby

Derbyshire Green Party supports the governing body and leadership team of Sinfin Community School in opposing the government’s requirement for the school to become a forced academy in the light of its OFSTED inspection reports from 2012. The most recent monitoring inspection visit from October 12th 2012 reports progress being made in a number of areas including the school’s highest ever attainment in the GCSE results in the Summer of 2012. While the report does note where further progress is required and focuses on the speed of that development, it nevertheless mentions a number of ongoing improvements, which suggest that the school’s staff is working hard to address the issues raised. Why then in November 2012 did the government replace the governing body and order the conversion into a forced academy?

Academies are exempt from the national curriculum, the regulations concerning the quality of food provided for students, the teachers pay scale and even the requirement to hire qualified teachers. All of these are the essential elements of an accountable and equitable education system serving both a defined national need and that of a local area. It would appear that community involvement in education is now unimportant in government policy, which is that every school in the country will be an academy by 2015. In other words there will not be a national education policy for the curriculum our children learn or the rates at which our teachers are paid or the fact that teachers need to have qualifications. It is unsurprising that the Department for Education is cutting hundreds of jobs at the moment, because it will be private companies in the form of academy chains who will be running our school system, not the democratically controlled Ministry of Education or Local Education Authority. We are a short step away from schools being completely privatised and eventually from schools being run for profit. This was never revealed in the Conservative election manifesto or in the published Coalition agreement. This policy has been forced through with out the proper engagement of the stakeholders in our education system.

A school like Sinfin Community School needs to support its students using deep knowledge of its local context. It does not need a formula solution using business people whose first priorities will be the for profit business model rather than teaching and learning. Ten miles away in Ilkeston a school which was previously designated as satisfactory is now inadequate in three of the four inspection categories including leadership and management. This has occurred after a year as an academy with the Ormiston Trust. As an extra affront to the local community the parents of children at the other Ormiston academy in Cotmanhay are facing a merger into this currently failing school. This proposal has come about because of falling rolls (a temporary issue) and despite an assurance when the chain took over both schools that they would remain separate.

There is no such thing as one size fits all in education and academies are certainly not that solution. The Green Party urge all with an interest in the education of our young people to vigorously oppose this stealth privatisation of our education system.

[Philip Hood, Ilkeston]

BENEFIT CAP CLAP TRAP – by Peter Allen

The Green Party has spoken out strongly against the so-called “welfare reform” proposals being pushed through Parliament. A particularly pernicious proposal is the “Benefit Cap” which will leave families homeless or starving.

The proposal is that families which do not include anyone in work will have total “Welfare Benefit”, including Housing Benefit, capped at £500 pw, leaving unemployed families renting from private landlords, particularly in and around London, unable to feed and clothe their children whilst keeping a roof over their heads. In Central London Housing Benefit is currently limited to £400pw for families needing four bedroom accommodation and £340pw for three.

Elsewhere in London and the South East the limit is only slightly lower. It is almost unbelievable that the cap makes no allowance for the fact that rents in some parts of the country are two or three times as high as in others.

Even this Government believes that a lone parent family with three children needs a minimum of £273pw to meet essential living expenses after housing costs, and one with four needs £335. The Benefit Cap will leave the three children family living in private rented accommodation in Central London with only £160pw to live on. A four child family will have just £100 !

In reality the amount left over after rent is paid is likely to be even less, since rents for most homes in the private sector are higher than the current Housing Benefit limits, and the poor are already having to make up the difference by cutting back on essential living expenses.

The Government says it has decided on a £500 pw cap because this is the average net wage earned by families in work. Whilst not disagreeing that there should be some financial benefit from paid employment, the current Benefit rules already provide this, and many working families already receive large amounts of Housing Benefit in London, given the high rents in the private sector and the chronic shortage of social housing.

The proposal is outrageous. The real problem is a lack of sufficient decently paid jobs and affordable housing, in one of the most unequal societies in Europe. Unemployed families will be forced out of London in particular, perhaps into depressed seaside towns, where they may find housing but probably no jobs. Many may end up working back in London, in one of the

many essential low paid service jobs on which London depends. Maybe they will leave their children behind, and become migrant workers, like workers in China, with whom British business tells us we must compete!

There are plenty more planned too, including cuts to disability benefits and a freeze to child benefits. And the only thing Tory MPs are complaining about is the decision to stop Child Benefit payments to higher rate income tax payers!

Labour are all but silent on the issue of welfare “reform”, anxious to chase swing voters in marginal seats. Worried that many such voters are persuaded that the people to blame for their own increasing economic hardship/insecurities are those even worse off than themselves , rather than the super-rich ( greedy, dishonest and incompetent bankers in particular) and the capitalist system itself.

The Green Party must continue to say loudly and clearly that the poorest and most disadvantaged shouldn’t be the ones paying the highest price for a crisis which they did not cause.  Benefit claimants and migrant workers should not be scapegoated. Most benefit claimants are already in work, have recently been in work, are retired from work, will soon hope to return to work or are too ill to do so.

As for migrant workers…. please read this article published in The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/felicitylawrence?INTCMP=SRCH

Animals at war by Jane Reynolds

A bronze packhorse at the London ‘animals at war’ memorial

On remembrance Sunday, Derbyshire green party chairwoman Sue Ledger and I visited the Animals in War memorial on Park Lane, London. It’s an impressive monument – a curved stone wall with images of various animals, along with two heavily laden bronze mules progressing up the stairs of the monument, and a bronze horse and dog beyond it looking into the distance. It bears several inscriptions, but the one that  struck straight to the heart for both of us was “They had no choice”. A more fitting statement also for many of those humans who lost their lives to war than the words inscribed on the Cenotaph – “The Glorious Dead.” Other inscriptions on the memorial are less clear about the exploitation of animals for war – an exploitation that continues today as dogs and dolphins are trained to detect mines. On the far side of the monument we read that animals “played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom”.
We arrived at the monument at 10.30 and It was a moving experience to join with others in remembering these victims of war who are not so much forgotten as simply disregarded. The general direction of the service, however, was a romanticised vision of animal heroism rather than a reflection on the suffering of these animals and the morality of forcing them into wars that for the most part have little to do with human freedom, and certainly have nothing to do with animal freedom.
Perhaps it is natural to search for something positive in the face of loss and suffering, but war must not be seen as glorious either for humans or animals. To quote Harry Patch, last surviving veteran of World War I, who died in 2009, “War is organised murder and nothing else”.

Remembrance day is important and should be marked as a time of mourning for all those who have died in wars, not because they were heroes but because they were living beings whose lives were cut short. It should also be a time for regret and shame that we continue to consider war and preparation for war as acceptable.

Sue at the memorial 11/11/2012

For all humans and animals who have died, or are dying in wars.
For all those who have died or are dying because resources to feed or house them have gone to war preparations.
For all those who will die until we learn to live in peace.

[Jane Reynolds is a technical author and lives in Stuttgart.]

A Police Commissioner for Derbyshire

John Youatt, the convenor of the Derbyshire Dales region interviewed Carole Brister, an independent member of the Derbyshire police authority (DPA) – and chair of its Citizens’ Focus and Partnerships committee.

Carole served the DPA for nearly 10 years. She found the position extremely interesting and worked hard to represent the views of her community. She finds it disappointing that a good system has been abolished in favour of a party political system. However, Carole states: ‘The process is underway, whether we like it or not, and I urge people to turn out and vote for their candidate. This way at least the elected Commissioner will have a mandate’

The DPA consisted of 17 people:- 9 elected councillors appointed by the county and city councils to reflect the councils’ political make-up; and 8 independents. There was thus a stronger overall democratic and citizens’ element, with better balance and continuity, than the new system. In one case (not Derbyshire), thousands of £s is being spent by a rich right wing candidate, dedicated to cuts and outsourcing, or privatisation. He might prove to be the model for any Tory or UKIP commissioners.

Very few strong independent “great and good” citizens have come forward (as Cameron had hoped). It seems that, with only days to go, the turn out, with no government funded leaflets, and on a winter’s day, will be poor. In most cases, only political parties have the cash and organisation to put up candidates. The Tories’ purpose that they can dominate shire police forces, might be achieved: their mantra that it will be ‘more democratic’ will almost certainly fail. Labour, likely to win the next general election in 2015 or before, is standing in Derbyshire and elsewhere, but is opposed to the principle and might well abandon the practice in due course.

John says, “If there was anything wrong with the current authority, it could have been mended by direct elections, eg of the chair and a few members, coincident with the county elections. I don’t understand how a party-funded commissioner can swear an oath of impartiality. It’s fatally flawed”

Green party members have the usual options – not to vote: or to write ‘not this system’ or similar; or to read the candidate manifestos and vote for the only experienced candidate, closest in beliefs to the Green Party.

All the candidates are on the website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-19506238 Here you can look for the candidate with the best experience and the best manifesto for you.

Some basic facts.

  • Derbyshire constabulary’s recent budget is £180m of which £1m is spent on the Police Authority
  • The 17 members were paid a basic fee of £9k, with a support staff of a CEO and 9 officers
  • The DPA had a clear structure with 4 main committees, one of which was dedicated to community focus. It had statutory powers
  • Recent cuts have been well managed. The Derbyshire Police are in good shape all round. It is actually recruiting at the moment
  • The present Gov’t, or at least the conservative element, is seeking cuts of 20%
  • The Commissioner will be paid £75k and a deputy could be paid £45k. He will have sweeping powers over the budget and the Chief Constable
  • The officers will be transferred on current terms for at least 2 years
  • There will be a panel to scrutinise the work of the Commissioner consisting of 10 Councillors and two independents with no power
  • Some Tories favour the USA model in which party policies are delivered vigorously by locally elected party members
  • Senior police officers have been muzzled
  • The constabulary’s assets of buildings, equipment and vehicles worth hundreds of millions of £s will be at the disposal of the Commissioner
  • The count is on Friday morning at Alfreton leisure centre. The result is expected in the afternoon.

The election of Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

 

Few would argue that the actions of the police have an enormous impact on Derbyshire residents. Their role is to uphold laws agreed by Parliament on behalf of the community. To do this they are provided by a budget provided by the tax payer, partly from central government and partly from a proportion of Council tax paid directly to the Police Authority. In reflection of this budgeting arrangement, local councils are represented by elected Councillors on the Police Committees and the Home Secretary, nominally with Parliaments consent, can set a strategic framework for national policing. In the current financial climate, resources are scarce and the Coalition Government is forcing the Derbyshire Police Authority to cut 170 jobs to save £22m.

Difficult decisions will have to be made, the police can not do everything that the community might wish them to do with the budget provided. What will be cut? Funds for crime prevention? Funds for partnerships with youth agencies to help young offenders change their behaviour? How does the enforcements of traffic speeding compare with drug enforcement? Is enough attention given to pursuing corporate fraud? The list is endless.

Under a proposal brought forward by the Conservative Party and enacted by the Coalition Government, the way the police are managed is about to change. All Police Areas outside London will be voting on Thursday for a new position of Police and Crime Commissioner, an idea imported for the USA. Although operational decision will remain the prerogative of the Chief Constable the management decisions and budgeting allocations will lie with the new PCC, who will also hire and fire the Chief Constable.

The Green Party opposed the establishment of the PCC, fearing that the holder of this post, who in many cases will have been sponsored by a political party, will be more susceptible to the corporate lobbying of vested interest groups and to the populist agenda of the tabloid press than the real priorities of the people of Derbyshire. These fears have already been given substance here in the East Midlands. The Sunday Telegraph, hardly a conspiracy theory newspaper has disclosed how Mervyn Barrett, one of the “independent” candidates in Lincolnshire has flooded the county with DVDs and leaflets in a £100,000+ election campaign “secretly backed by American neo-conservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatization” The fact that he thinks G4S, who already run most of Lincolnshire back-room operations, to be a “well run” company, is particularly alarming.

[see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9623068/The-secret-US-lobbyists-behind-Police-and-Crime-Commissioner-election.html# ]

To stand in this ‘democratic’ election, a candidate needs to put down a depot of £5000, and would need to spend at least as much on publicity in order to be noticed among the slick gloss of the big money candidates like Mr Barrett. The Government has refused to fund a mailing to the electors to inform them about who is standing. By putting high finical hurdles in place for participation in these elections the coalition government have ensured that only those with considerable financial means, or support from business are able to participate and that is not democratic. When the former Police Chief Ian Blair is so concerned he tells the public not to vote you know there’s something amiss.

The Green Party will not be participating in this sham election and we advise our supporters to follow Ian Blair’s advice and not to vote. We remain committed to proper accountability and control of the police, but that can best be achieved through directly elected police boards that can properly reflect the range of interests and priorities within the County. It will not be achieved by the imposition of a police commissioner who the public do not understand, want or can afford to pay for.

Duncan Kerr & Mike Shipley

This Cull is Simply Wrong.

 Once again the Coalition Government flies in the face of sound evidence and gives in to simplistic right wing opinion, this time as expressed by the Country Landowners. They want to kill badgers, they are generous donors to the Tory party, so they are to be allowed to kill badgers as a reward.

Culling badgers to control bovine Tb has no scientific basis, Lord Krebs, who led the recent Badger Cull trials has described it as ‘crazy’, his report showed that culling is ineffective and runs the risk of increasing rates of infection. Analysis of the cull trials in southern England by the Medical Research Council showed that rates of cattle infection increased in the cull areas. Disturbing badger clans by culling them only increases badger mobility, an effective way of speeding up the spread of the infection.

The proposed culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset are not ‘evidence led’ as the landowners claim, neither are they being scientifically planned. To be regarded as successful, the culls require 70% of the badgers in the control area to be killed, yet the landowners do not propose to carry out a population survey, so they plan to kill 70% of an unknown figure – utter nonsense.

For the cull to have any hope of having an impact on bovine Tb, an area of 150 square kilometres will need to be controlled for a period of four years, with clear access to at least 70% of this area for the culling teams. With shooting to be done at night, the safety issues involved are clearly considerable, and a 100% clean kill rate is highly unlikely, so many badgers will be wounded, to die later. But of course, the consortium of land owners who are organising the cull will have a good excuse to close all public access to this area. Probably they also plan to hunt foxes while they are at it! They will also doubtless claim the cost of the cull against their tax, so in the end it is the taxpayer, who mostly oppose the cull of badgers, who will pay for the killing. The landowners set as their target a reduction of the incidence of Tb of 15%. So at the end of the cull, they will still have 85% of the disease untouched, what then?

The scientific evidence is clear, Lord Krebs large scale trial of culling concluded that “badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle Tb”. His report recognised that the main cause of the spread of bovine Tb is from cattle to cattle transmission, therefore substantial reductions of the disease in cattle requires improving cattle-based control measures, including husbandry, transportation and vaccination. These measures must be the focus of funding and research, not another culling ‘trial’. In response to these recommendations, the government has chosen to reduce the funding of badger vaccination trials that began in 2006, while at the same time it pays out £millions of tax payer’s money to compensate farmers, [£500,000 in 2009.]

There are a multitude of reasons why this the cull is wrong; the scientific evidence does not warrant it, there are significant concerns over animal welfare, and public safety. For us there are ethical concerns, do we share this planet, or do the rich and powerful have the right to take it as their own and do as they please? The cull demonstrates once again that in our economic system, nature has no intrinsic value, if it can’t earn profit, it must be swept aside.

Sadly the badger has become the scapegoat for this disease, which the Green Party recognise as a serious disease of the dairy herd. It has to be properly tackled in order to safeguard the health and welfare of cattle and the livelihood of the dairy farmer. The Government, DEFRA and the NFU, all who choose to ignore the science and continue to claim that culling is effective, must now accept the scientific evidence face up to the reality that at least 85% of the disease is caused by cattle to cattle transmission. That requires proper funding for the necessary scientific research and development of treatments and husbandry systems. Unless this is done, the disease will continue to spread as will the distress it causes to farmers and their herds.

Mike Shipley 20/9/12

Tories commit planning suicide – again

Let’s be very clear, this is a dysfunctional coalition government desperately seeking measures to divert attention from the real problem – that economic plan A [austerity] isn’t working. The end game is now apparent, be it tomorrow or 2015, Labour can win the next general election, especially if, with Gordon out of the way, it signs a provisional pact with the Lib Dems.          

The latest diversion, to blame the lack of ‘growth’ on planning, is plain daft – and they’ve tried it before. They try to think that it is ‘red tape’ that is holding back growth, not the banks or their austerity policies.

For every large extension that isn’t refused or moderated by planning, there will be two happy persons: the home-owner and the contractor. There will be between 2 and 5 very unhappy persons:- the neighbours to the sides and at the back. The emotions of the latter will be stronger and linger longer than those of the home-owner. Democratically unsound…

For every green field in the green belt approved for a housing estate on previously ‘guaranteed countryside’, there will be two transient beneficiaries – the landowner and the contractor. There will be a whole village or market town’s worth of very angry people. Their anger will be even greater and last longer if the houses are for well off incomers and not, as previously promised, at least in part for local people in need. Another democratic disaster in waiting…

Bear in mind that the Tories learnt these lessons in the past:-

  • In 1988, Nicolas Ridley (not the one burnt at the stake) rescued a by election by agreeing to distinguish in planning between local need and open market. Thus the affordable housing system was born leading to thousands of targeted houses. To throw that way is as ill-considered as his own simultaneous attempt to protect his own backyard.
  • On at least two occasions, the Tories have proposed loosening the green belt. Each time a few growls from their very own faithful “saved” the green belts.
  • In 2010, they launched a bonfire of planning policies which had been developed with great care and consensus over 50 years. As per the usual tactic, they backed off a bit to give the impression that they were listening. The National Trust and the CPRE rather fell for it and accepted that their concerns about greenbelt and rural development had been met. But the house-builders / landowners weren’t satisfied. Thus a second attempt to push for greenbelt development, in the name of ‘growth’.

They must be either very desperate or very silly to try these tricks again

The real answer is well proven. The Housing Corporation used to sign off £millions of grants for housing schemes every year that met the real need and kept thousands of workers in work. The money was provided and this was a sound investment in durable infrastructure. The money is there today, there isn’t really a deficit – just tax the tax avoiders; tax aviation fuel and air ticket sales; cancel Trident and nuclear power; invest in renewables to generate revenue and reduce imports; create green jobs and reduce the dole and generate taxable income. And then – Bob’s your uncle. A happy 90% and the planet saved. Oh yes – and the next election won!

© John Youatt September 2012. 

Kate Barker, Green Party Candidate for the by-election in St Helen’s, Chesterfield

I’ve lived in Chesterfield for almost 13 years and this town is home to me. I was lucky enough to be raised and go to school here, so I have family and friends in the town and know the local area.

I believe Chesterfield is one of the best places to live in the UK and I see the role of a councillor as being someone who maintains this by listening to local people, taking action on their behalf and making a positive difference to people’s lives and the town. In particular I would fight against cuts to our frontline services and work to protect those who are vulnerable and needy. I would campaign for safer streets, better facilities for children, and more visible policing.  Above all I pledge to listen to residents and take action to address their concerns.

I am proud to be a member of and to stand as a candidate for a political party I can believe in. The Green Party is different – we have strong principles and ethics and we believe in listening to the people we represent and taking action to help. Support for the Green Party is growing and 3 councillors have been elected locally 1 to Bolsover District Council, and 2 to Sheffield City Council. In total the Green Party has 135 councillors on 46 councils across England and Wales.

I have always had an interest and passion for protecting our natural world. Living on the edge of the Peak District, I’ve grown up to be a keen hiker and I regularly go for long walks in the Peaks with my partner, Tom, and my dog. I also enjoy swimming and horse riding. After university I went into the charity sector working for environmental, overseas development, child welfare and cancer care charities, which has given me real insight into some of the difficult issues people face and the support that is needed. I’ve worked in the charity sector now for 11 years and it’s hugely satisfying. I believe that representing the residents of St Helen’s ward as a Green Party Councillor will be even more so.

Waking the Giant

In his book ‘Waking the Giant’ Professor Bill McGuire says, ‘Human interference in the natural world has consequences that are usually surprising and often unpleasant.’  As we consider the future scenarios of climate change that he spells out in his book, we might think this something of an understatement.  The unpleasant surprise that he has in store for us is the link between climate change and geophysical responses – earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004, some tried to label this tragedy as a climate change event, wanting to use the shock of the destruction to wake people up to the potentials dangers ahead. This was probably misplaced, and it enabled sceptics to dismiss such warnings as alarmists.  Since then, geologists have looked seriously at whether climate change can affect the earth’s crust, what they have discovered, as summarised in Professor McGuire’s book, does not make comfortable reading.

First, to remind ourselves of the context: heat trapped in the atmosphere by increasing levels of carbon dioxide causes changes in the behaviour of the atmosphere, which in turn will cause changes to the water cycle.  In other words, the climate will change.  As James Lovelock has shown, all events, biological, chemical and physical are interlinked, so it is reasonable to ask whether a change in the climate, can have an effect on the solid Earth.  While such a link seems at first glance unlikely, Professor Bill McGuire has shown convincingly that there is a link.  His conclusion is clear, in a warming world there is a greater risk of seismic and volcanic activity, even small changes in climate can trigger significant geological events.

Through studying the geological record we now know that CO² levels in the atmosphere are as high as they have been for 15 million years and they have risen within the last 200 years.  Global average temperature is now within 1°C of its highest for 1 million years.  2010 was the hottest year on record.  Climate scientists are generally accepting that the likely rise in the global average by 2100 will be 4-6°C.  In the high latitudes, this may be as much as 10-14°C.  With this temperature rise, the ice caps and many of the world’s glaciers can’t survive.  As a result there will be a significant transfer of water from the arctic and antarctic, where it mostly sits on land to the worlds ocean basins. This represents a transfer of weight from the ice-covered land to the oceanic crust.  This weight transfer is how climate can affect the solid crust and the semi-solid mantle below.

At the end of the last ice age, 52 million cubic kilometres of ice melted, transferring the weight of this water to the oceans.  This amount of ice exerted great pressure on the land and pushed it down into the earth’s mantle.  It also suppressed movement in fault lines and volcanic activity.  Free of this great pressure the land began to recoil, rising up and releasing the tension that had built up in geological faults causing earthquakes.  Some of these earthquakes triggered huge landslips into the sea, causing tsunamis.  This recoil effect will happen where ice is retreating leading to the heightened possibility of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Melt-water entering the oceans will put added pressure on the oceanic crust forcing it down.  Between rising land and sinking seabed there will be a zone of tension where fault-lines will be subject to increased pressure, one such fault running parallel the coast is the San Andreas.  Many of the world’s volcanoes are in coastal regions.  Sitting under them are pockets of magma.  Rising land and/or falling seabed squeeze these pockets up towards the surface, making it more likely that the volcanoes will blow.

One of the most rapidly warming areas of the earth is Alaska, and here the level of seismic activity is rising.  The Bagley ice field has lost 1 km of ice over the last 20 years, the land is recoiling, triggering earthquakes.  As the permafrost melts, landslips become more frequent and glacial lakes drain rapidly as the natural earth dams give way.  In 2005 50 million cubic metres of rock and ice broke off mount Steller in southern Alaska travelling 9km at speeds of up to 100 metres per second.  Fortunately, there were no communities along this path.  Others have not been and will not be so lucky.

If the retreat of ice in the Arctic continues, it will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity across the whole region. In 2010 the eruption of just one volcano, Eyjafjallajökull caused major disruption to international flights with a knock-on effect on the economy.  As the ice retreats, more such events are likely.  With ice and permafrost melting, sediments around the coast could become unstable, vulnerable to earthquakes.  A major slippage of this sediment could trigger a massive tsunami, as happened at the end of the ice age, 8,500 years ago, sending a major tsunami crashing into the east coast of Scotland.

These changing conditions raise a further concern that the so-called gas hydrates that lie in deep cold water and under permafrost, could be disturbed and start to break down.  Gas hydrates form when some gases, mostly methane join with water to condense as a solid under cold high-pressure conditions. If the conditions that keep them stable begin to change, through warming for example, they will break down, releasing their methane to the atmosphere.  Methane remember, is about twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Submarine landslides, triggered by earthquakes and melting permafrost, could also disturb the hydrates, resulting is a sudden explosive release of methane. Such sudden releases have been implicated in rapid climate change events in geological history.

There are between 10 to 30 years to save the arctic from irreversible melting that will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity, with unknown impacts.  In 2010, CO² emissions rose 6%, despite the global recession.  The global economy is now going bust for growth and there is no significant or coordinated action to limit carbon emissions.  As a result of big oil lobbying of the Durban Climate Change meeting in January 2012, no international action is planned until 2020.  Climate change will happen because we are doing nothing to stop it.  We can now add geological havoc to climate chaos.  As Professor McGuire said ‘Things are going to be bad, if we do nothing they will be worse.’  Take your choice.

[based on a talk by Professor Bill McGuire Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, UCL, given at the Peak Climate Festival 5th May 2012.]

Waking the Giant – How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes, by Bill McGuire, Oxford University Press,                               ISBN13: 9780199592265

 

Foston Mega-piggery – update.

UK Company, Midland Pig Producers (MPP) is applying (application CW9/0311/174) to build an indoor pig factory farm on a green field site near the village of Foston, South Derbyshire. If the plans are approved it would be one of the largest factory farms in the UK, containing 2,500 mother pigs (sows) and around 25,000 pigs, with 1,000 going for slaughter each week.

The County Council’s decision whether or not to give permission for this development has been postponed as the Council await more evidence on odour and noise to be submitted by Midland Pig Producers.

In responding to a national campaign against intensive pig units by Pig Business, the developers, claimed that objectors were mostly from outside the area, and that there was no serious local opposition to the proposal.  Derbyshire Greens did not believe this and we decided to go and ask residents of both Foston and neighbouring Scropton what they thought.  David Foster organised a doorstep survey and went off to find out local opinion.  In all David and his team of surveyors spoke to 67 people, 85% of whom said that they were opposed to factory farming.  Of those, 65 were meat eaters and 97% of these agreed that it was important for farm animals to be reared in a humane way, 95% of them saying that they would be prepared to pay a little more for this.

In addition to the moral issue of animal welfare, the campaign against mega animal units believes that they can pose a threat to human health, and also to traditional methods of farming and the employment that these provide. 79% of people questioned shared our concern about the human health implications of factory farming.  87% agreed that such huge scale animal units did pose a threat to traditional farming.

From this, we conclude that the people likely to be most affected by the Foston development do have concerns about these mega units.  Their concerns can’t be dismissed as ‘nimbyism’, they are concerned about the welfare of farm animals, and they do want to see humane methods of animal husbandry.  In this they aren’t alone, a 2006 survey of public opinion about animal welfare carried out by ‘Eurobarometer’ for the European Commission found that a majority of consumers rated this as an important issue with 63% of respondents saying that it would influence their purchasing preference.

The Green Party is pledged to end factory farming.  We regard it as unsustainable and morally indefensible.  We believe that the five freedoms of the Animal Welfare Act, 2007 should apply to farm animals.  These freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst,
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  • Freedom to behave normally
  • Freedom from fear and distress

We contend that intensive animal units are incompatible with these freedoms accorded to pet animals in law.  To us, it is perverse to deny them to those animals who happen to be classified as farm animals.

If you don’t want to see massive US-scale pig factories entering the UK, then make your voice heard by registering your opposition directly to the planners on the Derbyshire County Council website.

For more information and sample letters of objection, go to the Pig Business website,

http://www.pigbusiness.co.uk/pig-business-events/foston-june-2011/take-action/

Note that objections based on animal welfare issues will be ruled as invalid by the planners.  Grounds for objection include loss of visual amenity, smell, noise, and the impact of traffic.  It is worth mentioning regional issues such as loss of jobs in traditional farming and the fact that such massive developments are unsustainable and have a high carbon footprint.

You can also make your voice heard through the Pig Business online petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/object-to-the-introduction-of-huge-factory-farms-into-the-uk

The most important thing you can do is to always buy from ethical sources

The Queens Speech, a ‘Squandered Opportunity’.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, Caroline Lucas MP said that the Coalition Government had squandered a vital opportunity to put action to tackle climate change and the growing environmental crisis at the top of its legislative agenda.  ‘Listening to the Queen’s Speech today, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the climate crisis has simply gone away. In the face of mounting scientific concern about the urgency of the threat we face from climate change, the deafening silence from this Government is unforgivable.’

We know why there is no action.  This government is protecting the investment in the carbon sector made by those who keep it in power – read the article on the Carbon Bubble, posted here earlier this year.  This Government is incapable of showing leadership – that is not its purpose.  Its purpose is to dismantle the State and sell it off to the private sector.  It is using what it calls the ‘economic mess’ as the smoke screen to do this.  It will only address the climate crisis when its backers in the financial sector are ready to make money out of it.  By then it will be a very costly task for us all.

Others see things differently.  Writing in the Financial Times, Nicholas Stern called for a ‘Queen’s Speech for Growth’, looking to the renewable energy sector to kick-start the shrinking economy.  He said ‘Policies to encourage low-carbon investment would provide new business opportunities, would generate income for investors, and would have credibility in the long term, both because they address growing global resource challenges, while tapping into a fast-growing global market for resource-efficient activities.’

In 2010, the Green Party manifesto called for a ‘Green New Deal,’ borrowing US President Roosevelt’s concept for an economic plan to end the great 1930’s depression by investing in public works.  The Green’s fully costed economic strategy would have seen the deficit cut by 2015 through investment in the green economy, increasing employment, cutting energy costs and boosting tax revenue. Corporate media empires chose to ignore this alternative strategy since they wanted to promote privatization and protect their interests in the carbon sector.  They hood-winked the electorate into voting for a range of ‘conservative’ economic strategies that, as we warned – have led to a double dip recession and rising unemployment.

The Green programme set out clear targets to cut carbon emissions to avoid warming exceeding 2°C, we called for cuts to annual carbon dioxide emissions of 10% – starting now, with the aim of reducing emissions by 65% by 2020 and 90% from 1990 levels by 2030.  The key to doing this is to decarbonise the energy sector.  To achieve this we proposed:

  • Reducing energy demand through insulation and energy efficiency measures, creating new local businesses and thousands of jobs
  • Investing in genuinely renewable energy sources, aiming to obtain half of our energy from renewables by 2020, backing this with direct government investment with strong and clear policy support, creating genuine energy security, boosting business and employment
  • Switching the investment planned for new coal, nuclear power and nuclear weapons to research into renewable energy technologies and their commercialisation, creating a major export potential
  • Supporting renewable heat with a levy on waste heat from power stations, supporting sustainable energy crops and combined heat and power, helping councils develop heat distribution networks, boosting local employment and the rural economy
  • Supporting the adoption of bio-gas from sustainable organic sources, but opposing the large scale cultivation of bio-fuels, especially in poor countries
  • Bringing the electricity network and gas mains into the public sector to develop them to suit renewable energy schemes and introduce smart meters and appliances
  • Support Europe-wide renewable energy initiatives, including the building of highly efficient Long Distance High Voltage DC power lines.

In addition, Greens proposed a range of other policies to encourage low carbon living.

  • Develop public transport as an acceptable and reliable alternative to car travel.
  • Change planning guidelines to ensure that facilities are within reasonable walking distance of residential areas, cutting the need for travel
  • Support to small and local business, including local supply networks.
  • Decarbonise food production by supporting small-scale organic farms supplying local markets.

Had Greens been in government, we would now be creating jobs, boosting tax revenue and securing long-term energy supply.  These policies will have to be adopted as some time, in some form.  As Nicholas Stern understates in his Financial Times article, ‘there is a recognition that actions [on low carbon investment] cannot be delayed indefinitely’.  However, the longer action is delayed, the costlier it will be for all of us.  We are hearing may calls at present to ‘make the switch’ – to seek out cheaper energy suppliers.  If consumers are really serious about making long term savings on their bills there is only one switch that will be effective, the switch to Green policies.

Mike Shipley

 

Can renewables meet the UK’s energy demand?

 

Those who are heavily exposed to the Carbon sector are running scared of renewables.  They put out propaganda to say that renewables cannot meet our needs, their favourite target being wind energy.  ‘What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?’ If the wind doesn’t blow, it means that the sun has gone out and the atmosphere has disappeared.  The wind always blows somewhere, a wind-powered grid would be interconnected over a large geographic area, it would also be backed up be other renewable sources such as tidal, solar, biomass and a range of new technologies that, with proper investment, will come available.  We only need nuclear if you want to keep nuclear weapons, we only need coal and oil to protect the financial sector.

A number of studies have shown that the UK could obtain 100% of its electricity from renewable sources.  One such report was by Price Waterhouse Coopers, called ‘100% Renewable Electricity, a roadmap to 2050 for Europe and North Africa’.   [http://www.pwc.co.uk/assets/pdf/100-percent-renewable-electricity.pdf

This report has shown that the electricity supply system of Europe and North Africa can be developed to one that is 100% renewable by 2050 if the right policy framework is put in place today to drive activity in the coming decades, and without nuclear power.  The report concludes that this transition would be invisible to consumers as it should be possible to deliver it without any changes in lifestyle being required or any changes from today’s levels of power reliability.  As we have seen over the Feed in Tariff, this government isn’t prepared to put the right policy framework in place.

Another report by the Centre for Alternative Technology called Zero Carbon Britain, [www.zerocarbonbritain.com ] goes further and shows that the whole energy sector can be de-carbonised, including transport fuels and agriculture.  This would require some changes to lifestyle but it would lead to no reduction to overall well being or quality of life.  If we fail to decarbonise we will experience significant changes to our lifestyle as well as diminished well being and quality of life.  This would be due to the volatility in the carbon market leading to price escalations and scarcities, and to the impact of climate change.
The UK is fortunate in having ample renewable resources.  If developed these could give us energy security from a diverse mix so that we are never reliant on one technology or industry.

Renewable energy sources available in the UK include:

  • Off shore and on shore wind
  • Wave, tidal stream and tidal barrage
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal
  • Solar, thermal and electric
  • Novel sources, eg saline

Although not an energy source, energy efficiency measures and insulation can reduce overall demand, which greatly increases energy security.

UK current final energy demand is about 205GigaWatts (source: the Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2009).  That includes electricity, heat and transport.  With some sensible energy efficiency measures, it could be brought down to about 120GW.  For example, switching from petrol to electric cars would yield 20-25GW of energy savings.  Extensive buildings insulation could save another 25GW, [greater than the current contribution from the nuclear sector].

Renewable energy potential, UK

Wind

Wind energy is the major source of renewable energy in the UK.  By linking renewable generators across Europe with a High Voltage Direct Current transmission, variability in supply in any one region can be smoothed out.  The mean potential of offshore wind around the UK is about 2000GW.  We need to tap less than 10% of this potential.
Estimates for onshore wind vary from 35-120GW mean power.  The high figure is based on all suitable sited being used, which would create great opposition, a figure of between 35 and 50 GW would be more realistic.

Wave

We really don’t know what our technical wave resource is, because the technologies are still in their infancy. From what we know of energy in the waves, we may be able to harness anywhere in the range 5-65GW mean power.

Tidal stream

We don’t have a much clearer ideas about our tidal stream resource, either. Some say 5GW mean. Others put it at 40GW mean, with peaks at times up to 100GW.

Tidal barrage

The total for England & Wales is about 5.5GW mean power. That still leaves scope for more tidal barrages in Scotland that are yet to be unevaluated.  Barrages generate opposition because of the scale of the development and tidal stream developments may be preferred.  On some sites however, barrages may be considered as part of flood control, so would be duel purpose developments.

Biomass

Unlikely to be much above 10GW mean power, given we need to grow food.  Anaerobic digestion of organic waste could add to this figure and give valuable liquid fuels.

Geothermal

Not fully surveyed, estimates by the industry put our geothermal resource at about 4GW.

Solar thermal

Solar thermal could, with 10GW mean power, meet half our water-heating needs.

Solar electric

Our photovoltaic (PV) power potential is immense, but at present, it is an expensive way to get electricity. PV panels across 10% of the country (yes, that is a humungous area) would provide more energy each year than we demand, but most of the supply would be in the summer months, of course, whereas energy demand peaks in winter.
Summary

Offshore:                     200GW

Onshore:                      50                   conservative

Wave                             5                    minimum

Tidal Stream                 5                    minimum

Tidal Barrage                5                    England & Wales

Biomass                       10                  no food competition or use of waste to energy

Geothermal                    4

Solar thermal               10                   for heating

—–

total                             289GW

Current final demand   205GW

Reducible to:  120GW  with insulation, efficiency, electric transport

No figures available for:

  • Solar electric, immense potential but seasonal and currently expensive.
  • Saline: very early research stage,
  • Biomass waste: arguably should be used for compost
  • Algal biofuel: early R&D, environmental impact unknown
  • Hydro and micro-hydro, could be of regional importance, linked to water supply.

[Thanks to Andrew Smith at London Analytics for providing referenced figures.]

We have the renewable resource, it needs the Government to create the policy framework that will allow it to develop.  Until they have deflated the Carbon bubble, they will choose not do this and continue to claim that renewables can only make a limited contribution to our energy supply.

Mike Shipley

Greens condemn ‘Inevitable’ market closure claim.

The Green Party in Derby has expressed serious concern at a claim by Derby City Council leader, Philip Hickson to BBC Radio Derby, that closure of the Eagle Market was ‘inevitable’.

‘This statement by the Tory leader prejudices any meaningful negotiations on the future of the city’s two markets,’ said David Clasby who is standing for the Greens in Darley ward.  ‘We have been promised a review of market strategy for 5 years, the delay in producing a report shows a lack of commitment to our markets by this and previous administrations.’

Jane Temple, who will be standing against Mr Hickson in Allestree ward claimed that the Council showed much more interest in encouraging the supermarkets.  ‘The City Council has recently given permission for three new supermarkets, and two more are under consideration.  All of these will damage the Eagle and Guildhall markets.  A policy on markets and shops should have been brought forward for discussion before more supermarkets were allowed.’

The Greens want to see supermarkets controlled and more encouragement given to small traders.

‘If we support independent local businesses then the money we spend stays here in the city.’ David Clasby said.  ‘The Council Leader seems to want to close the large market and squeeze all the stalls into the much smaller Guildhall market. This will mean local people who run their own business losing their livelihood. The only reason is so that they can hand the lease on the Eagle market back to Westfield who can bring in another big multi national chain. Who exactly benefits from that decision? Who is making money from that? The Eagle centre market has lacked investment for years, coupled with petty bureaucracy, in the hope of driving the traders out so that this position can be reached. A big multi national company does not lead to an overall increase in jobs, quite the opposite in fact, as lots of small local retailers close down. I want to see more commitment to local businesses, in particular I support the Eagle and Guildhall markets.  Let’s have more local character and fewer bland national chains.”

The Carbon Bubble

In 2010, the Climate Change conference in Cancun adopted an agreement that carbon emissions should be limited so that the rise in global mean temperature should not exceed 2°C.  In addition, it was recognised that this rise might need to be reduced to 1·5°C.  Although the sceptics didn’t notice, that conference accepted the science of Climate Change.  What it didn’t do was to understand the economic implications of restricting temperature rise.  It’s not simply calculating the cost, Nicholas Stern did that, it’s around 2% of global GDP and rising.  We now have to understand the grip carbon assets have on the global economy and find ways of loosening it.

If we are to limit temperature rise to 2°C, the Potsdam Institute has calculated that global carbon emissions in the period 2000 to 2050 will need to be limited to 884Gt CO². In the first eleven years of this century, thanks to the inaction of political, economic and business leaders, the world has emitted 321 GtCO², leaving a carbon budget of 565 GtCO² up to 2050.  At present, despite the global recession, emissions are rising and the 2°C carbon budget will have been ‘spent’ by 2027.  After then, we leave the 2° world and enter 3°+.  At the last Climate Change conference in Durban in January, there was a behind the scenes acceptance that we will have to adapt to 3°C of warming.  That is not a comfortable prospect and millions of people will suffer as a consequence.

The reason why global leaders find it so difficult to implement the policies that will limit temperature rise to less than 2°C is not due to scepticism but because the global economic structure is built on unsustainable practices and resources, notably carbon based fuels.  Limiting temperature rise to 2°C or less requires a switch to sustainable practice, and a switch away from fossil fuels.  We know this, so why isn’t this happening?

A report called Unburnable Carbon, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative showed that the top 200 oil, coal, and gas companies have reserves that will emit 745 GtCO², these reserves represent their market value, and the market naturally assumes that these fuels will be burned.  In addition, these companies continue to prospect aggressively, needing to replace reserves that underpin share price.  Around 50% of the valuation of a fossil fuel company lies in its declared reserves.  When Shell announced a 20% reduction in its reserves its market value fell by £3 billion in a week.  Naturally, these companies try to secure new finds as a buffer to maintain their value, profits and dividends.  In the oil and gas sector, this now means ‘unconventional’ sources like tar sands and shale gas.  To finance these explorations, investors continue to pour money in to the carbon sector, assuming that this investment will yield burnable reserves that will secure a return on their investments.

Exactly how much carbon, and therefore warming potential, private companies have on their books is difficult to estimate because of confidentiality.  Further, the private sector accounts for only about one third of global carbon stocks, add in state enterprises and total reserves would yield 2,795 gigatonnes. Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors has estimated that if all proven and probable oil and gas reserves are burned, CO² levels will rise beyond 700ppm, leading to 3.5°C to 5°C of warming.  Add in the proven coal stocks and the planet becomes uninhabitable.

The problem lies not with science but with economics, and all the human failings that are associated with it. The world economic system is built on carbon.  This is not simply our reliance on carbon fuels to drive economic activity; global assets are built on the value of fossil fuel companies.  Between 20% and 30% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is based on fossil fuel.  Fund managers invest heavily in fossil fuel companies, seeing them as a safe haven for investment with above average returns in the short term.  The funds invested in fossil fuel assets include pensions, life assurance schemes, and personal savings plans.  A majority of people in the western world have their future security tied to the fortunes of these carbon rich companies.  We are indeed all in this together.

If we are to restrict the rise in average global temperature to less than 2°C, the rate of burning of fossil fuel will have to be restricted.  Sequestration technology is not going to be ready in time.  To achieve this target, only 20% of known reserves can be burned over the next 40 years, and this might have to be reduced further if feedback loops begin to kick in.  That means that 80% of the assets of fossil fuel companies are un-burnable.  None of the unproven and unconventional reserves that are now being prospected for at great expanse can be burned.  There can be no return on the investment in 80% of reserves and in all new prospecting. This is the carbon bubble.  Depletion of fossil reserves isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that they can not be used.  The wealth of some of the worlds biggest and most powerful companies, and therefore of stock exchanges, is based on an unusable asset.  If these companies had to devalue their reserves by 80% the carbon bubble would burst – remember what happened to Shell with a mere 20% downgrade.

The heavy investment in carbon assets also explains the reluctance of governments to back renewable energy.  Renewables coupled with efficiency measures can replace fossil fuels, and without nuclear power.  With a range of technologies like wave power waiting in the wings, existing technologies can more than cope with efficient demand.  But if governments promoted these technologies, the value of carbon rich companies would decline.  It isn’t just scepticism that stops the deployment of renewables, or that stops agreements to limit temperature rise, it’s vested interests and their control over the political process.  We can suppose that those who profess scepticism, like many MP’s of the ruling Coalition, have heavy investments in carbon rich assets.

Denial of climate change is a smokescreen that hides the real denial that lies at the heart of global economics: the denial of long-term consequences.  Economics does not think in the long term, profit today is the mantra, tomorrow is somebody else’s problem.  Greens keep focusing on the scientific argument, refining their arguments with ever more facts, trying to convince the so-called sceptics with the sheer weight of the evidence.  Apart from the lunatic fringe, most of these sceptics may well accept the science, however, they are not interested in science and statistics, what they are interested in is how they maintain their position of wealth and privilege in a warming world.

There are ways to break out of this carbon strangle hold.  To do so we need:

  • political action to require long-term accounting.
  • investors to take the decision to begin the switch to low carbon assets.
  • everyone who can afford it, to accept lower returns in order to secure the only long-term investment that matters: the future health of our planet and all who live on her.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King has responded to the concern expressed by Carbon Tracker and others and is considering whether over exposure to carbon assets represents a risk to market stability.  A small step and it remains to be seen whether investors will similarly take note.  However, a globalised economy needs international agreement to require climate change to be factored into market valuation.  The markets will not do this until it is too late.  A strong political lead is required.  We can help this process by being informed about the dangers of another asset bubble bursting, by being aware of our own exposure to this danger, and by demanding effective preventative action.  We can also work to help the Greens promote a new, low carbon and sustainable economy.

Mike Shipley