Category Archives: Issues

An act of incredible irresponsibility

On her first day as Prime Minister and just  days after the Committee on Climate change issued a risk assessment warning that the UK is ill prepared to meet the problems brought by climate change, Theresa May has decided to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change and to transfer its responsibilities to the a new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.clim_change

Climate change is too large and wide-ranging an issue to become subsidiary to business, energy and industry and this decision displays an belief based on ideology rather than evidence of the capacity of business and free trade to resolve all problems.

Business and industry can certainly have a part to play in innovating to meet our changing climate but that must be within  a policy directive that identifies action on climate change as the challenge of our times that determines which industries are developed, how we manage our land and our agriculture, what kinds of transport infrastructure we can and can’t develop. And all that calls for a co-ordinated plan – not an inconsistent mass of half-hearted afterthoughts from a range of departments that have other priorities.

Can we really believe that a business, energy and industrial strategy can really contain the actions needed to face the dangers of widespread and recurring flooding, water, food, and energy insecurity, loss of biodiversity, and risks to health from new pests and diseases that are predicted to arise as temperatures increase?

This challenge could be an opportunity to build a clean and fairer economy – a chance to bring forward new industries providing rewarding jobs, and improve health and wellbeing. But this new government looks like throwing that chance away.

climate2

Sustainable housing in the High Peak

persimmon1The High Peak Local Plan, adopted in April this year, commits the borough council to pursue sustainable housing policies that provide for new building of affordable housing, while respecting the landscape and the natural habitats of this beautiful region. But, faced with a shrinking budgets and weak planning legislation, does our borough council have the means to stop unsustainable plans from going forward?

There`s really no argument against the perception that more housing is required within the UK, but there are plenty of arguments against the method of planning that the current government has imposed on councils and the people they should represent. The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) is not overtly a bad process. It allows for adoption of a local plan and for people to organise to submit neighbourhood plans. But despite the fact that plans have been approved and accepted by government inspectors, the council are often left without any real power to uphold the plans when planning applications that have been refused go to appeal.

Large building and speculative interests have fortunes at their disposal and so can wreck the democratic process by employing expensive legal representatives against which most councils cannot respond. Why? Because the current Tory government has more or less bankrupt most authorities and how can you justify expensive legal costs when you have schools and adult care to consider? No contest really and so our sympathy must be with councils who do try to protect their environment against unsustainable and inappropriate developments.

Aside from the appeals issue, the NPPF, just doesn’t work very well to deliver the housing we do need. The problem is, there’s no obligation on developers to actually build the houses once the permission is obtained. Foot-dragging keeps the supply of houses well below demand, raising the price developers can obtain per unit built.

It’s a recognised problem that delivery of built houses is well short of what is planned for and we can now look forward to the latest government response to this – the Housing Delivery Test – yet another example of attempting to solve the wrong problem. The Housing Delivery Test will force councils who do not meet house building targets to release more land for development – which of course is more likely to be on greenfield sites than the original land allocated for building. So, instead of being penalised, foot-dragging developers are rewarded by being given access to land not previously available for building! Does anyone really believe that this is not deliberate?

Take a look at this blog post on the issue by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

So what can we do? Easy answer in my view:

  • Join the Green Party, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Friends of the Peak.
  • Get the facts about so-called sustainable development
  • Start writing to your MP and the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark. Write in your own words and spread the word – it is the only weapon we have against what is essentially the destruction of the democratic process.

Currently in my part of the world, Burbage, Buxton there are two contentious planning applications (HPK/2015/0573 & HPK/2016/0234) and another in the pipeline. None of these fit the criteria for ‘sustainable development’ and all three are on greenfield sites which in all cases form part of the boundary that should exist between development and the National Park.

persimmon

Meanwhile large areas at Harpur Hill and opposite Staden Lane plus ‘brownfield’ sites in Buxton remain empty and up for sale despite planning permission having been granted. It is not too late to let the ‘powers that be’ know what you feel about this situation and if you would like to object to applications as noted above the application references are as above. You can submit comments and objects to planning applications on the High Peak Borough Council website.

Paul Waring

greenholm

Another Europe is possible

Meme-Supporters-Caroline-Lucas

On Saturday 28th May I travelled down to London to attend Another Europe is Possible’.  I only knew about the event as I had begun to follow Owen Jones on Twitter. Recently, I had been reading quite a few of his articles in the Guardian and liked his politics. I have always supported Britain being in Europe long before a referendum was announced. This maybe has something to do with being a History teacher, teaching Citizenship and an interest in politics from an early age. Like many others over the years I had become very disenchanted with politics and apathetic towards MPs, but the EU debate is an area I have always had strong views about, and because of this I decided to make the long trip to London for the day. It was worth it.

Recently, I attended a debate on the EU at the Devonshire Dome. The view I expressed at the Devonshire is just one of many views I have been sharing with friends for some time now, which is we need to remain in the EU because of the peace and security that Europe has now enjoyed for over seventy years. This a belief that the movement Another Europe is Possible promotes.

Indeed many of the positions of Another Europe is Possible are shared by the Green Party which is why Caroline Lucas was the first speaker on the platform to advocate this movement. My impression of her was someone who has a resolute determination to speak on behalf of the Green Party, but an openness to working with others on the progressive left to make change happen. Caroline’s speech was impressive and made an immediate impact with the audience. Caroline posed the pertinent question of ‘What kind of country do we want?’ This is of course at the very heart of this referendum for the British public to decide. She acknowledged that the EU has plenty of faults, as do I, but she questions how challenges will be solved by a Brexit, especially those issues which are transnational like climate change. I agree.

Caroline acknowledged as so did many others during the day that the EU does need to be more democratic and transparent, but so does Westminster. She believes, there will be similar trade deals to TTIP even if we do leave. The best way to defeat TTIP is to fight it from within the EU. Again, views broadly shared by all the speakers. Her opinions also resonated with my own when she spoke about the ‘toxic rhetoric’ of the Leave campaign in which there is a ‘harking back to an imaginary golden age’. I personally do not know when this golden age existed, nostalgia does play its part in history, but this is the small minded view that  Another Europe is possible is fighting against.

Another Europe is Possible is currently touring the country with a wide variety of speakers from different political parties and organisations to get the message across that it is best to reform the EU within. It is good to see that these events are well attended and it demonstrates that people do actually care about the future direction of Britain. It advances the viewpoint that not all of the British public are as apathetic about British politics as we might think. The idea of working together for change is the primary purpose of this movement which began last September with a handful of people, which within a short space of time has been galvanised into a broader based action group. This lobby group is very much in its infancy and does need support to make the changes possible that I am sure the British public want if we are to remain in the EU.

Louise Birch, Green Party member, Buxton

More videos

Owen Jones

John McDonnell

Yanis Varoufakis

Moorland Management – 27th January

Meeting on moorland management

Wednesday 27th January 2016
7:30pm Royal Hotel, Market Street, Hayfield

UPLAND HEATHLAND Upland heathland_ipcress7

Robert O’Connor, a local Green Party member and ecologist/conservationist, will lead a discussion on the subject of moorland management in the UK.

The blanket bogs and upland heaths of the UK account for something like 1.35 million hectares (lowland peat covered about 65,000 hectares in mainland Britain in 1990, now likely to be much less due to commercial extraction).  Changes in land use over human history include; strategic use of uplands for defence and transportation, animal stock grazing and low level agriculture, industrial use including quarrying, hunting and other forms of recreation, and more recently the use of uplands as freshwater catchment areas.

Other issues under consideration for discussion include:

  • Land ownership  
    Who owns what?
  • Hunting
    Killing of ‘non-preferred’ species on estates managed for game hunting, and how much money is involved in game hunting.
  • Effects on biodiversity
    Estates managed for hunting tend to have low species diversity – for example moorlands managed for red grouse are mostly dominated by heather, which is the preferred food plant of red grouse.
  • Effects on CO² storage
    Blanket bogs store significant amounts of CO² in the peat layer, accumulated over thousands of years.
  • Effects on flood attenuation
    Requires a holistic and landscape approach in implementation of ‘future-proofed’ flood alleviation schemes.
  • What is being done now to address habitat degradation?
    A quick look at some exemplar conservation projects undertaken by various NGOs, such as the RSPB.
  • Appropriate use of public funds in subsidies
    Looking at various payment schemes to landowners past and present.

For more information:

 

 

Calling all Young Greens in Derbyshire

Its 2016, a new year has begun. Derbyshire Green Party is seeking to invite all the Young Greens within Derbyshire to a meeting

Young Greens

Venue: The Brunswick Inn, 1 Railway Terrace, Derby, DE1 2RU

Date:     Saturday 23rd January

Time:   1pm – 5pm

The meeting has been organized jointly by me, Matt Genn, Acting Derby Young Greens Co-ordinator and Marten Kats, Derby City Greens Co-ordinator.

We look forward to meeting you in order to decided how we should be organised and what we would like to campaign on in 2016.

Like out Facebook page – Derbyshire Young Greens Facebook group: Derbyshire Young Greens

Global warming and the ice age

Looking up at grey skies in August, I’d say many of us have flippantly said “Global warming? Bring it on!” More seriously, opponents of action on climate change have made claims of beneficial effects of warming for agriculture and the economy as a whole. Maybe the storms and flooding of the last few days, repeating and exceeding the floods of last year and the year before have provided  a more sombre idea of the effects of global warming on our weather systems. In  this post, Phil Ælse explains why global warming won’t be a pleasant experience!

What does the term global warming means to you? Do you envisage yourself  enjoying balmy days on Blackpool beach, strolling along the promenade at Llandudno in shorts and sun-glasses, and picking coconuts from the palm trees along Skegness front?

Unfortunately, whilst the general temperatures will increase in the short term, the specific effect on Britain could be less pleasant.

Think Costa Rica not Costa Brava: increased humidity; sweaty, smelly bodies; respiratory illnesses and skin disease on the increase; viruses and bacteria that flourish in dank conditions running riot; food spoiling rapidly and drinking water that needs boiling before use.

Britain’s Geography make it a damp place – even Julius Caesar commented on that: “The nights are short and the weather miserable, with frequent rain and mists.” Global warming won’t change that.  The Pennines cause water vapour to rise and that soon comes back down as rain.

phil1

In general terms the east of Britain suffers more from this effect than the west, as the colder air streams across the North Sea are more ready to dump rain than the typically warmer Atlantic and its beneficial Gulf Stream to the west.

The Gulf Stream is a continuous current of warm water that runs from the Gulf of Mexico across the Atlantic and up the west cost of the UK. This is what gives places like North Wales and Lancashire relatively warm coastline, compared to places at the same latitude, such as Newfoundlgulfstreamand on the Canadian east coast. But whilst the sea and air temperature of the west coast is higher than the US east coast it is the welsh mountains of Snowdonia and the Pennines that then cause the cloud vapour to rise and dump rain on us.

 

Now, imagine if we warmed the ice cap at the North Pole. This will result in a stream of cold water pushing down the Atlantic and could cause a diversion of the Gulf Stream, pushing it south and away from the UK. This would remove the beneficial warming effect from our coast line and seas, and would means that we wouldn’t get the same comfortable temperatures, but we would still get the same clouds hitting the Pennines and rising to fall as rain. Except this is now more often going to be as snow and ice during the winter.

gulf2

So, yes, an initial rise in global average temperatures may give you a slightly warmer climate –  with all the problems of warm humid climates. But by 2050 we could start to see the diversion of the Gulf Stream, meaning that the climate our children will ensure will be more like that of Canada, with three metre deep snow drifts, transport chaos and frozen water pipes. The worst case result of the diverted gulf stream is that there will no longer be any warmer water streams being sent up to the Arctic Circle’s seas. The glaciers and ice caps will ultimately spread, not shrink, and northern Europe and the UK will eventually (and whilst not in our grand-children’s life time, fairly rapidly in geological terms) be brought in to the next ice age.

This has precedent. Ice core samples have been taken from the Poles and from ancient glaciers that show there is a direct correlation between rising  CO2 levels and an eventual decline in to an ice age. The last big ice age, some 11,000 years ago caused the Gulf Stream to shut down. The regional climate of the Northeast Atlantic became considerably cooler and as a result north-western Europe dropped back to ice age conditions within tens of years of this diversion.

icecore

So how is this our fault?

Humans have only been around for a few thousand years, and ice ages have happened for millions of years and multiple times. Cows and pigs haven’t just started pooping and parping. What’s changed?

The difference in this case is the speed in which carbon dioxide (the most prominent greenhouse gas) is rising during the global industrial age compared to previous pre-ice-age periods. Each ice-age has been preceded by a gradual increase in carbon dioxide over thousands of years. In the last three hundred years, the rate of carbon dioxide has increased vastly, meaning that the rate of increase of the ice core graph is not a curve as in previous occurrences, but a near vertical line as can be seen on the extreme right of the graph.

This meteoric rise is a result of our massive increase in carbon emissions from our altered way of life. Flying, driving and heating with fossil fuels means we are creating CO2 in spades.

Demanding fresh meat on our table every day means we have millions more cattle animals than we ever had before. To satisfy this demand, animals are now raised in factory conditions. Raising animals on pastures can be a means of absorbing CO2,  but these intensive methods add to the emissions that are changing the climate on which we depend.

An economy based on producing and marketing ever increasing numbers of  disposable consumer products means more and more energy is used in creating, transporting and disposing on giga-tonnes of products, many of which are used once then thrown away.

What can we do?

We need a different kind of economy. One that serves the needs of our communities rather than a continual treadmill of production for production’s sake. We need to get rid of the nonsense of long supply chains for goods that can be produced locally.  We can make a start in our own lives by buying local produce and supporting local shops, by sharing tools and equipment that aren’t needed every day –  but in the end the system must change.

We need to move a distributed modern energy system based on renewable energy with people in control of their own energy supply. The UK already has some community energy projects – other European countries, such as Germany have a lot more. If there is no community project, what about installing solar panels or switching to an  energy provider that provides equitably generated electricity, and tell the fuel guzzlers WHY you switched.

And even when it seems like talking to the wall, we need to make sure our MPs know how we feel when they vote for things like fracking.

Ultimately, it may not be enough. But what you do will affect your community and your grandchildren. Doing nothing at all, you only allow the disaster to strike and  when your grand-child looks at you and asks “Why is it so cold?” will you be able to say “Its just a cold snap, dear”, or will it be “Because my generation destroyed it all for you!”

 

Across the world we are rising for climate justice

 

This weekend has seen people throughout the world take to the street to demand
effective action on climate change.climate1

Even in Paris, where demonstrations have been cancelled because of the state of emergency, thousands of pairs of shoes were arranged to represent those demanding action

Together, we are demanding that governments finally acknowledge that so far they have failed us. So many conferences have come and gone and emissions and temperatures have continued to rise. Despite pledges to end subsidies on fossil fuels, governments in many industrialised countries, including our own, have dramatically increased such subsidies and have supported technologies that carry a high risk of pollution, such as deep sea drilling, fracking, and extraction of oil from bitumen (tar sands). World wide, fossil fuel subsidies are at least 4 times higher than subsidies on renewable energy sources. The number is even higher when failure to internalise costs of environmental pollution are taken into account, as they were in the IMF report released in May 2015. That report estimates subsidies as around 10 million dollars per minute.

climate2

On Monday, another conference will start in Paris. Can we expect any better? Certainly not if we aren’t prepared to fight, to insist, to not let them off the hook. Pledges made by individual countries, so far would see temperatures rise by more than 3 degrees – a catastrophic result. The conference is promoted as “business friendly” and corporate lobbyists are present in force, where ordinary citizens are excluded.  We are promised business solutions, but, big business’ “solutions” for the climate remain basically the same: prevent any meaningful global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoid any form of public scrutiny and regulation by pushing failed market-based mechanisms such as a ‘global carbon price’, and promoting various for-profit schemes and hazardous techno-fixes.

actnow

Everyone can do something. Just making our representatives aware that we are watching their response to the demand for real action on climate change. On Saturday, Green Party members in the High Peak constituency were out talking to people in Glossop, encouraging them to sign a letter to our MP, Andrew Bingham. Please download the letter and send it to Andrew Bingham, or adapt it to include your own concerns – or send a similar letter to your own MP.

Letter_to Andrew Bingham

 

 

Climate Change Summit – Paris 2015

Paris 2015: A Place for Hope

On 5th November, Donald and I were among more than 100 people, who cop21 gathered at Derby Cathedral for a public meeting on climate change,  designed to give people the opportunity to hear about and discuss the issues to be debated at the Paris 2015 Climate Change Summit.

John Selwyn Gummer – now Lord Deben –  addressed the meeting. He chairs the Independent Committee on Climate Change and will represent the UK at the Paris 2015 conference. He began by outlining the three arguments he uses to counter climate change deniers:

  • Risk – the choice between acting on climate change and not acting. If the promoters of climate change are wrong and we act, nothing will have been lost – the atmosphere will be healthier. If the climate deniers are wrong and we do nothing, we shall face catastrophe.
  • Care – he said that as a result of centuries of astronomical exploration planet earth is the only planet to support life as we know it. That does not rule out the possibility of discovering life on another planet; it does mean that for the time being, planet earth is rare and therefore needs to be cared for and treated with respect.
  • Act Responsibly – in other areas of life we do not choose to act stupidly and therefore it is wrong to go on acting stupidly by increasing CO2 emissions. The link between climate change and CO2 emissions was as true as the link between smoking and cancer. We must therefore keep our CO2 emissions down to avoid crossing the critical 2 degree rise in temperature threshold to prevent disaster happening.

Lord Deben went on to describe how we get to that target. He emphasised that the Climate Change Act 2008 was achieved by an All-party consensus in the UK and that was key to its success. He was very optimistic and positive when he talked about his hopes for Paris 2015. He pointed out that in Australia and Canada political changes had meant that both countries were now committed to taking climate change seriously. He remarked on the co-operation that now existed between China and the USA. He pointed out that there is now a scientific basis for the reality of climate change and that all the nations responsible for 85% of carbon emissions now all have climate change legislation.

Lord Deben concluded his talk by stating two key things that he saw as essential to progress being made in Paris.

  1. The need to recognise that Paris will not achieve an answer that is perfect – it may get the best answer that can be had for the time being but it will need to be improved on and modified over time.
  2. The importance of achieving a binding agreement in Paris – something to hold people and nations to, rather as the British Climate Change Act obliged the Government to take carbon emissions into account in any budgetary proposals that were put to parliament.

Apart from this, he said little about his views on the compatibility of economic growth and corporate deregulation with the need to cut net global carbon emissions to zero by mid century or whether corporate lobbying is delaying action to slow down climate change.

He spoke of the stand made by the Pope making a significant difference to worldwide awareness of climate change, not least in the USA, because it made it impossible to ignore the reality of climate change. He stressed that the encyclical also made it clear that you cannot deal with climate change in isolation from other issues such as world poverty and justice for the poor.

Q & A session:

Investment in Renewable Energy

  • Q If Britain, as he stated, is a leader in combating climate change, why have we not put more investment into renewals?
  • A It seems that renewables have been too successful.  For example,  off-shore wind farms were giving a return of 40% not the 29% forecast and this created a problem for the chancellor who presumably then decided they didn’t need investment!

Fracking

  • Q Fracking is raping the earth so why are the government legitimising it?
  • He appeared to imply that Fracking is a separate issue. He believes science and the evidence of science is that it is safe.
    By the mutterings from the audience, I think many people thought he must be looking at different evidence! He talked about the need to ensure that we had our “own” supplies of gas because of the dangers of being dependent upon Putin. He didn’t respond to the heckler who said that fracked gas is a fossil fuel, the implication being that we have to keep all fossil fuels in the ground.

The time for questions was limited as Lord Deben had to catch a train. There wasn’t time to go into the issue of other green-house gases, including methane, with agriculture, notably animal husbandry being currently a major emitter, coupled with the conversion of natural grassland and forest to cultivation of animal fodder or ask whether he still enjoys beef burgers!

Donald and Jean Macdonald
Derbyshire Green Party

This public meeting was organised jointly by the Derby Diocesan Environmental Group and Derby Cathedral Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee (JPICC) of which Donald is Chair.

Stand up for climate justice

Compassionate Derby – 28 November

Compassionate Derby

Saturday 28th November 2015
10:30am – 4:30pm St. Peter’s Church, St Peter’s Street, Derby

Back by popular demand for its fifth year running, Compassionate Derby is an ethical living event that is free to attend and where everyone is welcome!

Compassionate Derby 2015There will be a range of cruelty-free food and lifestyle products, lots of free samples, charity and campaigning stalls, children’s activities, a diverse program of talks throughout the day, a generous raffle and much more.

So why not head to Derby on November 28th to do a bit of Christmas shopping and find out more about living a compassionate lifestyle.

The Green Party will have a dedicated stall, so if you can make it, we look forward to seeing you there.

Time to act together on climate change and for a fairer, safer world

chesterfieldWe can’t wait for the next elections in 2020. We must act now
against the government’s disastrous policies. Everyone can do their bit to save the planet and build a better society.

Over 80 people, of all ages, squeezed into a meeting room in Chesterfield last night, for a meeting organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC), supported by the local TUC, the Green Party and the Socialist Workers Party.

Margi Senior became active because of  plans to drill for gas in nearby Calow. Local people came together, sharing skills and energy, and together they got the application thrown out, initially by the county council planning committee  in Matlock ( in June 2014) and then at an appeal at the end of October. ” Hopefully that is the end of the matter” she said, an example of People Power that can and must exerted elsewhere to stop fracking and similarly harmful extraction methods.

The note of hope and optimism she struck continued throughout the evening.

Martin Empson of the national committee of the CACC spoke of two recent reports:

  • The World Meterological Organisation reveals that global temperatures are already 1 degree higher than pre industrial temperatures, half way towards the danger zone of 2 degrees higher. The world is “already in unchartered territory” and needed to act fast and dramatically, starting in Paris next month at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.                   .
  • The World Bank ” Managing the Impact of Climate Change on Poverty ” predicts that an additional 120 million people would be thrown into extreme poverty by the impact of climate change. The report calls for ” comprehensive packages of carbon emission  reductions” although its proposals remain focused on technological and big business solutions.

The CACC instead emphasise the importance of the People Power and the need to create a broad based popular movement to demand serious action on climate change. The Paris talks should be regarded not as a  last chance  but as an opportunity for this movement to develop and grow. Martin spoke of ” a growth in confidence among activists on the ground” and an increasing willingness to discuss fundamental issues and the need for radical change to create a better and fairer society, as evidenced by the popularity of the work of Naomi Klein.

Chesterfield TUC chairman, James Eaden, introduced the final speaker, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, saying how good it was to see and hear a prominent politician speaking out, and attending marches and rallies, about a whole range of important causes- trade union rights, respect for refugees, climate change etc.

Natalie spoke of her  attendance at a lobby of Lancashire County Council, when, under pressure from a well organised anti fracking campaign, councillors, including some Tories, had rejected plans for fracking. There was a need for a message of optimism and hope she said, agreeing with Martin that the need for action on climate change presented an opportunity to create a better, fairer, more sustainable world. Although people taking individual action to reduce their own carbon footprints is  all well and good, what’s really needed is fundamental systemic change, and the creation of a movement capable of bringing this about.

In response to discussion and questions from the floor Natalie reminded the meeting that the Tory Government had no mandate for its programme, including its withdrawal of support for green energy measures. We can’t wait until 2020. We must act now. Everyone can do their bit to save the planet and build a better society.

Among the wisest words of the evening were those spoken by a young Green Party member who made reference to the mini election that took place in his school on General Election Day. The Green Party had got more than 100 votes and the Labour Party over 80, compared to the Tories only getting around 20 and UKIP less than 10. The desire among young people was for real change. What he and they couldn’t understand was that the left seemed to concentrate too much on what divided them rather than what they had in common. This had to change. His contribution got perhaps the loudest applause of the evening, suggesting those in the room, whatever their age, agreed with him.

Stand up for climate justice

Peter Allen

A new Age of the Train?

new_mills

30 year old Class 142 train at New Mills Central station

Are we about to enter a new Age of the Train?

Green Party members from the High Peak local group have been looking at the fine print of Government policy, and doing a bit of informal research out and about in Derbyshire.

First of all, what do people actually want from the railways? Well, a good start might be that the travelling public should be able to buy a ticket to their destination and then get to the appropriate platform, and yet at many of Britain’s stations neither of these basics can be assumed.

You wouldn’t think that just buying, or trying to buy a ticket would cause huge problems, and yet we have found in this part of the country that it is the hassle of getting a ticket that exasperates people just as much as expensive ticket prices, poor station access and late trains. People put up with unmanned stations. Everyone has experienced being crammed onto an ancient, crowded train with just one guard. The last straw for travellers is when in addition to hurrying to get to work on time, they have to queue at their destination to buy a ticket before leaving the platform to avoid being fined. Try persuading a commuter to ‘think green’ and swap their comfy car for that option!

One High Peak resident who had recently lived and worked in Hong Kong commented: – “Returning to the UK, I didn’t expect the High Peak to be served by 12- car commuter trains which arrive every three minutes, but in 2015 and the age of smart phones, I was amazed to find that there are so few ticket dispensers installed on platforms, and such little use in the UK of stored value cards like the Oyster card.”

What has brought this about? Under-investment? Vanity projects? Profits before people? The current Conservative government has of course raised expectations with its talk of the Northern Powerhouse, and more recently with the announcement of its National Infrastructure Commission. In the foreword to ‘Transforming the North’s Railways’, the Secretary of State for Transport and Derbyshire Dales MP, Patrick McLoughlin  wrote in February 2015: “This government has huge ambitions for the North of England and the railway is key to those plans.”

northern_powerhouse

Northern Powerhouse – rhetoric and reality on separate tracks?

Great words – but at the Green Party we really wonder whether these ambitions can ever be achieved for the travelling public when it’s private companies bidding for franchises who are in the driver’s seat.

An issue we care about passionately at the Green Party is inclusion, providing a civilized society for everyone. Cloud-cuckoo land? Well, what about just getting to the platform?

chinley

How do I get to the platform, please? Your route to the Sheffield-bound platform at New Mills Central

One of our members spent a few hours observing conditions for travellers at Chinley, a station on the mainline between Manchester and Sheffield, where the only access to both platforms is via a footbridge with two sets of steep steps. Mums and Dads with pushchairs struggle to use the steps safely. Travellers to/from Manchester airport risk hurting themselves hauling heavy suitcases up and over the footbridge, and of course people with a mobility problem or people who use a wheelchair are nowhere to be seen. No ramp, that’s your lot, so they don’t come.

The Green Party demands an inclusive society, and we will acknowledge progress where it has been made. Representatives from the rail companies and the Department of Transport would argue that Access for All and Station Improvement programmes have delivered substantial improvements to many stations, and rail operators have a duty to help if access to a particular station is substantial. The Equality Act of 2010 does offer some protection for rail users if they feel discriminated against, but when it comes down to it, members of the public would just like to travel in safety and comfort from A to B without having to consider taking court action against the operator of the services, or tweeting yet another “dissatisfied” comment to Customer Services.

The Green party isn’t satisfied that our railways are being run for the benefit of citizens, and has committed to implementing a comprehensive plan for fully accessible transport so that public transport will be usable by all members of the public. What’s more, the Green Party feels strongly that the privatisation of the railways has created a situation where the tax payer is like a supplicant at the gate of the Lord of the Manor, begging for alms. We are not satisfied with this relationship. The needs of all of our citizens are our first priority, and only by taking proper control of our national rail network can we hope to achieve a civilized service for everyone.

We want our railways to be more accessible and attractive for everyone. Only when and if this happens will people ever be able to choose to leave the car behind and opt for more environmentally friendly means of transport which, alongside other benefits, will help provide a sustainable long–term solution to our chronic air pollution.

Interested in reading more? Have a look at the Green Party’s policies in detail at:

https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/tr.html

Paul Tattam

Public Meeting in Derby: Paris 2015 Conference

Public Meeting at Derby Cathedral

Thursday 5th November At 2.30 pm

Featuring John Selwyn Gummer, Lord Deben

An outspoken voice on climate change, Lord Deben chairs the Independent Committee on Climate Change and will be representing the UK at the Paris 2015 conference.

This is a unique opportunity to put your questions to the UK’s leading representative on climate change.  It is free to attend, and refreshments will be available.

Lord Deben has had a long and varied career in frontbench politics. Now the chair of the Independent Committee on Climate Change, he will be visiting Derby Cathedral to debate the Paris Summit on Climate Change. Chaired by the Very Revd Dr John Davies, Dean of Derby; questions welcomed.

Green Party members may wish to use the opportunity to ask Lord Deben questions face to face.

This event has been organised by the Diocesan Environmental Group and Derby Cathedral Justice & Peace Group

 

Time to act on climate change

730timetoact

Climate Change Conference

Methodist Central Hall, Oldham St, Manchester
Saturday 10th October, 10 am to 4:30 pm

It is time to act. Long past time!

In December, world leaders will meet in Paris to discuss international action on climate. After years dragging their feet, our government has gone into reverse gear. Tax breaks for oil companies, fast tracking for fracking, sabotaging clean energy projects by slashing subsidies.

The Green Party is the only party that puts action on climate at the centre of its policies for energy, for economic renewal, for transport, for housing. So, we have a lot to contribute to a conference that aims to look at the alternatives to austerity and climate chaos.

For more details: www.globaljustice.org.uk/events/time-act-climate-change-conference

System-Change-not-Climate-Change-588

PUBLIC MEETING – Fracking in Derbyshire

Organised by Derby Climate Coalition with support from Derby 38 Degrees.

Monday, 21 September 2015
at 7:00 PM
St Peters Church,
Saint Peter’s Churchyard, Derby

Fracking in DerbyWe will discuss
• The economic and environmental consequences of fracking
• The actual plans
• What can we do.

 

Speakers include Brian Davey, Nigel Lee and Chris Williamson.

Members from a number of other organisations are coming. Tea and coffee available. Please come along if you can.

Book a place by using this link: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/events/stop-fracking-in-derbyshire

Background

This government seems hell-bent on promoting fracking for shale gas in Derbyshire.

Fracking map DerbyshireOn August 18th the government announced it would hand out a fresh round of licences giving exclusive rights for gas and other fuel exploration in 27 areas across the country. Two of the 10km by 10km squares of land affected are in Derbyshire. The licence for land between Derby and Long Eaton will go to Warwick Energy. That company has said test drilling could start in 2019. The affected area runs across the East Midlands, as shown below:

The other area includes parts of Amber Valley, such as the countryside around Ironville, Riddings and Somercotes and the licence will be held by Ineos. It is somewhere in that square where the firm says test-drilling could start in 2016 or 2017 with the possibility of “early stages of producing commercial gas by the end of the decade”.

Green Party members are invited to attend. 

High Peak Greens Meeting

High Peak Greens Meeting

Wednesday 26 August – 7.30 pm

Royal Hotel,
Market Street, Hayfield,
High Peak
Derbyshire
SK22 2EP

Lots to talk about including:
Fracking
Anti Austerity March
Climate Sense Campaigning
Local Campaigns

 

Peter Allen – High Peak Regional Co-ordinator

Derbyshire Green Party

The Far From Glorious Twelfth

Two_grouse_'picked'_after_the_previous_day's_shoot._-_geograph.org.uk_-_547403From August 12th until a couple of weeks before Christmas Britain’s wealthy elite will be let loose on its moorland uplands. Driven grouse shooting involves beaters going in front of the people with guns “beating” the heather so that the birds fly into the air where they are then shot at. Around half a million birds can be killed during the season. If that seems barbaric, even worse is the fact that in order to maintain this so called sport, all grouse predators are being destroyed on the uplands, and the moors themselves destroyed by burning the heather in the name of “management”.

Hen Harriers are an iconic bird of the uplands, however in 2014 there were only 4 nesting pairs in England. A couple of weeks ago there was an outcry in this country when it was discovered that Cecil the Lion had been shot and killed in Zimbabwe, but where is the outcry at the loss of Hen Harriers? Five adult birds have disappeared this year, and whilst the disappearance is reported euphemistically as “mysterious” the obvious answer is that they have been shot, poisoned or trapped by game keepers to protect the grouse for shooting.

In the same vein game keepers are now systematically ridding the uplands of mountain hare because they are said to carry a parasite which infects grouse. Literally mountains of mountain hare have been killed in Scotland and the practice is spreading South.

When concern is raised about grouse shooting and the practices which support it, the argument is put that it provides employment and income to areas which would otherwise have none. However the grouse shooting season is a few months and whilst the hospitality trade might benefit slightly during that period, assuming those that shoot do frequent the restaurants and pubs of local areas, that benefit would be spread much wider, both geographically and time wise, if people were coming to look at the wildlife rather than kill it.

Not only that but grouse shooting costs us in terms of higher water bills, because of the cost of clearing water polluted by higher particulates as a result of peat burning.

And then there is the cost to the atmosphere: Peat is a carbon sink and the High Peak is one of the biggest peat uplands in England and therefore one of the biggest carbon sinks in the UK. Management for grouse shooting consists of burning areas of heather on a cycle year by year. The effect of this is to release unwanted carbon directly into the atmosphere but more long term it has been shown to severely compromise the build up of future peat. It also obviously destroys the existing vegetation, much of which such as sphagnum moss is protected (and is one of the reasons for which subsidies from the EU to the landowners exist), and as stated effects water supplies. (http://www.wateratleeds.org/ember/)

Leading conservationist Mark Avery has launched a petition calling on parliament to ban grouse shooting . You can sign it here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104441.

You could also contact your MP to ask him or her to support a ban. Green Party policy is clear. The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to all blood-sports. Our manifesto includes the commitment to ban driven grouse shooting.

Charlotte Farrell

Combined heat and power – an efficient and decentralised energy solution

greenenergyWhen we think of energy efficiency, we often think of making homes and businesses more efficient in their use of energy. Combined heat and power (CHP) confronts efficiency from the other end of the chain, looking at how to make use of the heat that conventional power stations produce as a waste product.

Phil Else explains how CHP works and why it is a technology that’s ideally suited to small-scale local initiatives to produce power and heat for farms and communities.

So, what is CHP?

Not something that seems to be at the fore front of domestic heating issues, CHP systems are rapidly becoming an important alternative form of energy that small scale farmers are using to generate additional income and make use of farm land that they are prevented from using due to the fallow-land subsidies to reduce the ‘food mountain’.

The basics of a CHP system are:

  • Electricity is generated using a gas or diesel powered engine.
  • Such an engine, just like your car engine, generates a phenomenal amount of heat that is ordinarily vented to the atmosphere, however this heat can be recycled to run domestic or commercial heating systems, generate steam or provide heat to greenhouses and similar processes.
  • The engines can be set to run off bio-diesel or bio-gas, which can be created from the waste products of greenhouses, such as vegetable and fruit leaves and animal waste.


The advantages of a CHP system to the local farmers who are investing in them are:

  • They can sell the electricity generated to the National Grid (on currently decreasing tariffs) and they can also use it to power their homes and farms.
  • The heat produced warms their home and greenhouses
  • The engines are fuelled by gas generated from vegetable waste product.

 How can CHP systems help support Green Party values?

  • The engines can be used to provide electricity to local homes, businesses and infrastructure (eg: street lighting).
  • Being relatively small (about the size of a road transport container) they can be sited close to schools, council offices, care homes, market places, hospitals and housing estates.
  • Using locally sourced vegetable and animal waste they can be powered using carbon-neutral fuel (fuel that has it’s carbon emission equal to it’s previous carbon absorption)
  • Sited and used locally the systems have an intrinsic value to the community and can reduce community or residential power and fuel bills.
  • A council owned system can be used to benefit local charities and social housing schemes by providing free or subsidised heat and power.

What does it cost?

A small engine (400 kW – enough to power a large clinic or small school) costs approximately £350,000 plus a maintenance contract. If used to feed the national grid the pay-back period using locally generated bio-gas is 7-8 years, or if used to provide heat and power to social housing has a much greater intrinsic value.

Find out about CHP schemes

http://www.edina.eu/page/125/District-Heating-Schemes.aspx

http://www.vitalenerginetworks.co.uk/casestudies/oldham-district-heating-scheme/

http://www.energ-group.com/combined-heat-and-power/information-centre/case-studies/liverpool-museum/

Phil Else is a lecturer at Trafford College, Greater Manchester. Having been involved in the plumbing, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning industry for many years and has turned his hand to teaching the subjects related to the building services industry. Green ideas and technologies are firmly linked with providing sustainable buildings and protecting the environment, and Phil tries to ensure that green issues are raised and considered as part of any on-going design and at construction project inception. Phil joined the Green Party in 2014.

Time to take a stand for our social security system and the common good

A typically timid Labour Party has felt unable to properly oppose the latest cuts to welfare benefits being proposed by a smug new Tory government. The Green Party has no such reservations.Green MP Caroline Lucas said, ahead of this week’s vote:
“Our crumbling social security system is on the brink – now is the time to take a stand “

Cuts are proposed to Tax Credits and there is a plan to limit all financial support  to two children only. The slightly more generous benefits currently paid to those too unwell to work are being abolished. Young adults (under 21) will no longer be able to claim Housing Benefit at all and those under 25 will not benefit from the introduction of a so called ‘ living wage’ which, when combined with cuts to in work benefits will be nothing of the kind for many low paid workers.

Perhaps the most vicious of the proposed ‘reforms’ is the lowering of the Benefit Cap from £26,000 to £20,000 ( £23,000 in London). Under the existing cap the families affected are mostly large and living in London and the South East. The cap has had drastic consequences for many of them, forcing them to move away from areas where rents ( and the prospects of a job! ) are highest.
Under the reduced cap almost all families with 3 or more children will be affected, in all parts of the country.

A couple with 3 children living in Brighton in private rented accommodation for instance will only get £50 per week towards a rent which is usually set at least at the Local Housing Allowance level of £230 pw. This means that £180 has to be found from £334 of benefits ( which are set at a level that even this government believes is the minimum amount required to afford essentials, not including
housing costs) leaving £154 pw for a couple and 3 children to live on, less than half of this minimum amount.

But even in Derbyshire, where rents are lower, the impact is huge, with such a family likely to be contributing up to £100 towards a private sector rent and not even having enough Housing Benefit to cover a council or housing association home , even if they all squeezed into a one bedroom flat!

The Benefit Cap must be strongly opposed on grounds of social justice but also because it makes no economic sense. Families will have to choose between eating and paying the rent, and many are likely to be made homeless as a consequence. They will then become the responsibility of cash strapped local councils to provide emergency accommodation, local councils which will have to implement the cap and are likely to take the blame for something over which they have no
control. Perhaps such families , who have chosen to feed and cloth their children rather than pay the rent , will be declared ” intentionally homeless” and not entitled to assistance, in which case children will presumably end up in care at even greater expense and often with disastrous outcomes.

The main intention is probably not to save money but rather to scapegoat the unemployed , to divide those in work from those looking for it or not well enough to do so. The whole thing is based on the lie that it is easy to stay on ‘welfare’ with a higher income than those in work when the reality is that a family of five earning £20,000 a year in employment is also dependent on benefits ( Child
Benefit Tax Credit and Housing Benefit) to survive.

The Green Party is determined to oppose such scapegoating, and is pleased that at least a minority of Labour MP, were prepared to join Caroline and other opposition MPs in voting against the bill , breaking the whip to do so. We will work with members of all parties and of none to oppose this dreadful government, which is anxious to ensure the continued and growing prosperity
of the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

Join us in the fight for the common good. There is more wealth than ever in this country. It is just in the wrong hands.

Peter Allen

The Greek crisis is about Democracy not Debt

euro-373008_640It is interesting that Greece, the cradle of democracy is now having to defend that very concept in the face of an onslaught from the corporate masters of the global economy. With the Greek referendum vote, the issue in Greece has escalated from an economic crisis, to a crisis of democracy.

As Caroline Lucas has said:

“The Greek people have made a decision which must now be respected. This referendum has seen EU states do their very best to undermine the democratic will of the Greek people but it’s time to draw a line under the past and move onwards”.

We cannot argue that former Greek governments, both of the right and left, badly managed the Greek economy. The EU and international finance were complicit in making this bad situation worse by failing to ensure that further loans to Greece were used for investment and did not end up lining the pockets of the wealthy. But the neo-liberal ‘free-market’ policies that dominate world finance want and need debt and Greece was encouraged to increase its debt rather than address tax avoidance and increase Government revenue.

By crippling Greece with debt, international financiers have been able to force her Government to sell assets to the private sector. They have also ensured that the bulk of Greek revenue goes to debt repayment, that is, to the private sector financiers, rather than to the welfare of the Greek people. Debt has become a commodity; it is traded and used by the private sector to increase personal wealth. Neo-liberal economics needs debt to create money and wealth. By loading governments with debt the financial institutions can divert tax payers’ money away from social provision and state investment in to their own coffers as interest repayments. For these institutions, cfreating debt is good business and leads to hugh personal bonuses.

The Greek crisis is not really about debt but about repayments. Debt is now a corporate asset, if a borrower defaults, then the asset becomes valueless. This was the root of the 2008 financial crisis. If Greece defaults it is the big financial institutions that will be hit, and they are using austerity to protect their interests.  They are demanding that money that should go to support the welfare of citizens goes instead to themselves. So the people of Greece must suffer in order to protect the assets of the wealthiest institutions and people in the world.

The interests of money and international finance are being put ahead of the needs of people – this is a democratic crisis. What are Governments for, to serve the people or international finance?

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, said:
molly scott Cato2“This referendum has provided an opportunity for all EU states to reflect on the balance of power between finance markets and democratic governments”.

This isn’t just a Greek crisis, it affects us all. The Conservative Government is determined to continue with its austerity measures in order to pursue its privatisation agenda and to reward its supporters with tax breaks. Austerity is not about sound economics, it is an ideology driven by the neo-liberal free-market. It is being driven by the corporate sector that has effectively hijacked governments. The rich and the powerful are once again driving the political agenda in their own interest and are ignoring the needs and wishes of people. They are challenging the very concept of Democracy.

The Greek people have raised their voices and have demanded that their government listen to them and address their needs, as they should in a Democracy. There are solutions to the Greek debt crisis and part of that solution is to recognise that some of the debt is un-payable.

Caroline Lucas has pointed out that there is a historic precedent for this:
caroline-close“History shows us that countries can escape crippling debt in a just way. In 1953, at the London Conference, Greece was among the European nations signing a deal which allowed for the cancellation of German debt, to enable the country to grow again after the destruction of the Second World War. Europe needs to come together to offer the Greeks a deal which allows their country to be rebuilt.”

But the difference then was that the debt wasn’t a corporate asset; Governments weren’t controlled by big business. It is essential now for the Governments of Europe and America to address the debt crisis and to be seen to be standing for the interest of the people and not spinelessly bowing to the pressures of the global corporations. This is the demand from Molly and the European Greens:
molly scott Cato2“We now urgently need to see a conference to address the issue of Greece’s debt with restructuring and debt relief a clear outcome. There also needs to be clear support for rebuilding the economy, especially by investing in sustainable sectors of the economy”.

Further, we now need to see Governments acting as part of democracies, in deed and not just in word; to listen to the calls coming from their people for economic justice and for the gross inequalities in society to be leveled off. If they fail to do this, the global corporate sector will be triumphant and democracy will be effectively dead.

Mike Shipley

First posted on East Midlands GP Blog on 7 July 2015

Derbyshire Greens Critical of Delays to Rail Electrification

The Green Party in Derbyshire believes the ‘pause’ in the electrification of the Midland Main Line announced by Transport Secretary and Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin is actually a humiliating full stop.

This long-heralded plan formed part of a £37.5 billion package of rail improvements announced by the Government before the general election.

Derbyshire Dales Green Party election candidate Ian Wood said:

Ian Wood‘A few weeks ago Mr McLoughlin was telling voters about the exciting new future for railway travellers in this part of the world.

‘But there is a strong whiff of suspicion that he already knew that the figures did not stand up.

‘And now he has had to tell Parliament what Network Rail must have known for months – that the railways in his own constituency are being left behind while the Cotswold railways serving the Prime Minister’s constituents are to be improved as planned.’

The Green Party’s concern is that the Government will eventually declare that the electrification upgrade in the East Midlands has been somehow superseded by their much more expensive high speed rail proposals designed to get business travellers to London more quickly.

The Green Party says Midland Main Line electrification would cut CO2 emissions by 40% and would support lighter more efficient trains which would be cheaper to run.

Meanwhile the high speed project from Birmingham to London is going ahead at a cost of around £50bn.

Ian WoodMr Wood said:
‘The whole East Midlands region needs an efficient rail network to help strengthen the regional economy and to relieve the strain on the existing network.

‘Mr McLoughlin led voters to believe their faith in the railways and their willingness to pay enormous fares on the privatised rail network would at last be rewarded with a modern railway.

‘Now that the Government has failed to secure the improvements everyone knows are essential, voters can see the brave talk of a northern powerhouse was a load of distracting public relations.’

Nationalise railways