More rainforest protected, followed up with Gauke and injured my hand

I’m typing this one-handed after injuring my hand yesterday – should all be OK, but I have now seen my own knuckle bone and tendons.  Looked like a bit of chicken thigh until the blood arrived.  Was scoping out a potential solar farm, then learned an important lesson – don’t help out re-cradling a cattle fence when you’re a bit tired.  I’ll leave it there!

I’ve just has a message from World Land Trust – please use my code to swap to Ecotricity to increase the pot:

“I am writing to let you know that we have received a further £300 donation from Ecotricity and they have confirmed that this is due to your recommendations to friends.

This donation will be placed in the WLT Action Fund to be used where most urgently needed to support the Trust’s land purchase and protection projects.

Since the WLT was established in 1989 we have been able to help purchase and protection of over 500,000 acres of tropical forest and other threatened habitats which would otherwise have been lost. 

Thank you again for your support which is greatly appreciated.”

Karen Gothard (Lowe), Donations Manager, World Land Trust

And I sent the following email to David Gauke from Stoke Mandeville hospital while waiting to be seen by the plastics team – will follow up with an in-person meeting.  The Climate Coalition are thinking about the idea – I have to be honest and don’t think it will go anywhere, other than to make the point:

Dear Mr David Gauke MP

Thank you for your letter regarding community energy and the government position on climate change.

I’m writing to follow up the other action you took when we met on 26 June: to speak to Amber Rudd about taking leadership alongside BP, Shell, health organisations, Church of England and scientists to persuade the UK public of the need to tackle climate change.  The letter does not refer to this action.

I read today of the moves to push local councils to expedite planning decisions on fracking applications.  Given your government is willing to move against public opinion on this controversial technology to increase fossil fuel extraction, surely you can do similar or more on climate change, and other sources of cleaner energy such as solar farms?

Please can you let me know of progress on the action described above, plus the lapsed action on Positive Money, with the additional context above.

Regards,

John Bell

No help here, oh dear

So, we met with the UK Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Tax), MP David Gauke.  As promised, we talked to him about shale gas and how its exploitation is incompatible with keeping global warming to less than 2º Celsius.  My conclusion after the meeting is that the current UK government will not back up its rhetoric with equivalent action – climate change will not be addressed.

The surgery was running late, so Danny Bonnett and I had a chance to practise our arguments beforehand, while sitting outside the Berkhamsted Town Council offices.  We would also mention the risk to our pensions that continued investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction brings, as raised by the UK Environment Audit Committee recently.  We’d also discuss how the UK renewable energy sector is stagnating due to government planning policy.

We then went in, got through the formalities and the conversation stated.  I read the recent quotes from David Cameron and George Osbourne that climate change is serious, man-made and something we should do what we can to address.  I stated the evidence that current targets gave us a less than 50% chance of avoiding the 2 º Celsius rise in temperatures.

David started by saying how the US has reduced its carbon emissions by more than anywhere else by moving over to shale gas.  He backed down from that argument after I pointed out that the US had a coal-based electricity generation network before they switched to gas, whereas we already have a gas-based system, so we won’t get the same benefits.  Plus we are starting 10-20 years later than the US – the remaining carbon budget is much lower now than it was then.

He did seem very interested in Danny’s first-hand accounts of how the UK renewable energy sector is on its knees at present due to uncertainty.

But his main argument for continuing with government policy was the need to keep energy bills down, particularly for businesses, and to do so in a way that was politically acceptable.  I.e in a way that would help them get re-elected.  Whereas shale gas is controversial, they think it is low-carbon (it’s not) and they think it is less controversial than onshore wind-farms.

They are evidently not going to take a strong stance to persuade the population that it is worth paying to replace our dirty power stations with renewable energy.

So, where does that leave us?  For meaningful action on climate change, at least a couple of Business, Government, Media and the Public need to make seismic changes to change our attitudes and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  I know some think that they are within their moral rights to live as they please, and there should be incentives in place to make sure that our actions are acceptable to society.  Or that there is no point in making changes in their lives if the majority do not do similar.

Well, the Government is not going to bring in those incentives.  The media continues to serve all opinions on climate change, whether scientifically valid or not, so the public will be able to find a way to justify denying the problem or that they can be part of the solution.  Business will aim for profit, and the Government will not be incentivising sustainable practices to a large enough extent.

So, the only way through is a revolution.  Society as it stands cannot cope with climate change.

Or get those kids trained in survival skills.

Or maybe we all need to take responsibility for our actions, and reduce our own emissions.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

So, climate change is real – what next?

Danny Bonnett and I are meeting David Gauke, the UK minister for tax, on Friday.  In the context of recent affirmations on the reality of climate change from the leadership of the Conservative party, we will discuss with him the policy implications, particularly for shale gas or fracking.  The following is what we intend to say:

David Cameron and George Osbourne have recently stated that climate change is man-made and that we should do what we can to prevent it.  We are faced with a choice between either leaving shale gas in the ground or with missing international pledges to limit temperature increases to 2° Celsius.  What will the government choose?

David Cameron, UK Prime Minister “I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces”.

“I’m someone who believes climate change is happening, that it’s caused by human beings. We should do what we can to prevent it” George Osbourne, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer.

According to the science, current climate change targets in the EU would lead to a 30-50% chance of keeping temperature rises below 2° Celsius.

To me, “doing what we can to prevent it” does not equate to aiming for a 40% chance of success.

Put simply, if we are to back up these words and commitments with action, shale gas production cannot happen in the UK, even with carbon capture and storage.  At the point when shale gas production in the UK would be becoming large scale, we would have to stop, leaving wells only partly tapped.  Investment in shale gas would also delay investment in very low or zero carbon sources, leaving a huge legacy for future generations.

Achim Steiner, head of UN Environmental Programme “We sometimes have to take a step back and ask ourselves: for the sake of having another 20 years of dirt cheap energy are we really going to put millions of years of evolution, of ecosystems, of ecosystem services at risk?”.

I agree with George Osbourne when he states “Let’s try and do this in as cheap a possible way as we can”.  The cheapest way to tackle climate change is to invest now in zero or very low carbon energy.  The sooner we make this move, the lower the overall costs, as Lord Stern described in his report in 2007.  If we want to continue to revitalise the economy, let’s do it in a way that creates skills and jobs that are relevant for the future.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke