#SafeClimate

Safe Climate

Climate change is real and here. Now!

Every year that goes by without action by government, we slide closer towards irreversible damage to our environment, societal breakdown and economic disaster.

The Green Party will challenge the conventional thinking by:

  • working with other countries to ensure global temperatures do not rise beyond 2 degrees
  • phase out fossil-fuel based energy generation and nuclear power
  • invest in a public programme of renewable generation, flood defences and building insulation

See these Green Party links:

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Balcombe Five – Not Guilty!

News from the court in Brighton where five Balcombe anti-fracking protestors including Caroline Lucas MP are on trial.

And the verdict is… NOT GUILTY!

This is fantastic news.

But as Caroline Lucas said this afternoon from outside the court in Brighton:

“We are pleased that the court upheld our right to peacefully protest against fracking, but this judgement is not a victory. We will continue to campaign to end fracking and celebrate when that has been achieved.”

In the light of the UN’s latest report on climate change, it is clearer than ever that the only safe and responsible thing to do with shale gas is to leave it in the ground.

“All five of us would like to thank everyone who has turned up to support us and thank the thousands of people who have sent letters, emails and tweets to express their support.”

Caroline’s full reaction to the not-guilty verdict can be found here.

The latest opinion polls show that Britons favour onshore wind over fracking by three to one, so the fight for a safe climate and a frack-free future is looking hopeful, but we’ll all need to play our part.

Green – in 2013

New Year message from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

31 December 2012

The Roman God of the new year, Janus, had two faces looking opposite ways – he had to look back to the past and on in to the future.  Any new year’s message surely has to do the same – so in looking forward to hopes and fears for 2013, we really have to start with 2012.

What will history remember? The Olympics, perhaps; the Greek debt crisis, maybe, although 2012 may not be the label that sits against it; the death of Lonesome George, the world’s last Pinta Island tortoise.

But what history may record for 2012 is that it was the year in which the economic  ideas that have been regarded as gospel, scarcely challengeable in mainstream discussion and embedded at the heart of government, academia and business for decades, were declared failed, their capital zero. It was certainly the year in which the voices against this clearly failed model, from Occupy and UKUncut to the Transition Town movement, became even stronger and more certain.

As the British economy bumped along on a wobbly foundation of low-pay, insecure work; as the instability of the banks continued to pose a huge, unbridled threat; as the public came to recognise that multinational companies were scooping up the meagre spoils of the economy and shipping them off into tax havens; as G4S clearly demonstrated the failure of the outsourcing model – built on the basis that the state carries the risks and the contractors could fail with impunity; it became clear that we need a radical change in direction.

On the global scale, as the Arctic sea ice shrank to astonishing lows, as the bounty of nature continued to shrink visibly before our eyes and food prices soared in response, as industrial farming methods continued to deplete our soils and pollute our oceans, it became even clearer that rapid change had to be made to our ways of life.

Instead of believing that we could run Britain on the basis of casino finance and outsourced services, shipping or flying in everyday essentials, leaving millions uncertain where next week’s rent or next month’s mortgage payment was coming from, it became clear that we must rebuild a proper, balanced low-carbon economy.

It’s become clear that we need to bring food production back to Britain – to restore the ring of market gardens that until recent surrounded our towns and cities, encourage allotments and city vegetable patches and fruit trees, to ensure that our green belt is protected, not buried under car-dependent sprawling suburbs. This was the year in which local food growing clearly became an essential to help feed the poorest in Britain.

It’s become clear that we need resource-efficient local manufacturing, making the essentials of food, clothing, shelter that we need close to where they’re needed. Small positive steps are being made. Over the year I saw small enterprises starting to build this new model of business, from Who Made Your Pants in Southampton, to Furniture Divas in Oxford. But the barriers are many, and need to be slashed down.

And it’s clear that we need to reshape our energy use and energy production. First, we clearly need  to get truly serious about energy conservation (including providing warm comfortable homes for everyone, built to the standards much of the rest of Europe takes for granted). Second, we need to move towards a decentralised, community-owned, flexible and resilient energy production system – on- and off-shore wind, solar, small hydro, anaerobic digestion, waste biofuel, tidal. Third, we need to provide a decent, affordable public transport system – and look at ways we can reshape our economy to eliminate long, miserable, pointless commutes.

All of these changes need to be built on a very different business model – not giant multinational companies emptying out our high streets, importing low-quality, non-durable goods made in dreadful sweatshops, wasting vast amounts of our limited resources. Instead we need strong localised economies, built around small businesses and cooperatives, with decently paid staff offered jobs on which they can build a life.

If I had a magic wand, I would wave it and say, let’s deliver that by the end of 2013. Of course I don’t, and the changes will take more than a year, more than a decade. But my wish for 2013 is that we can identify it as the year in which Britain made serious strides towards a new economic model, a new direction.

Let’s start with a crackdown on multinational companies – make them abandon the use of tax havens and pay fair taxes (as their small business competitors must) and ensure that they pay all of their staff a living wage and offer stable conditions – ending zero-hours contracts and anti-social, exploitative shift patterns. And go on with a serious legislative effort to end the risks of the banks again costing us hundreds of billions – separate the high street banks from their gambling “investment” cousins, install a financial transactions tax, work to promote local banks and credit unions, and insure an effective green investment bank can provide the funds we need for essential work.

Let’s move on to an Energy Bill that puts conservation at the heart of energy policy, that encourages small-scale renewables under community ownership. Add in the renationalisation of the railways as a start towards a sensible, integrated transport strategy, while abandoning the costly, inefficient HS2 plan.

Then let’s act on the NHS – protect our cost-effective, efficient, fair system – keep it publicly owned and publicly run where it is now, and bring back in house as soon as possible the outsourcing to inappropriate profit-driven multinationals. After that, start spreading out to public services. Having made the minimum wage a living wage, and ensure decent conditions for workers, any “efficiency, cost-effective” claims for outsourcing across the public sector will disappear.  As contracts expire, workers can be brought back in house – democratic accountability restored and money put into essential services now cut back.

Then we can deal with poverty – starting with pensioners. People who’ve contributed all of their lives shouldn’t be living in poverty. Let’s bring in a basic £170/week pension that would immediately lift all pensioners out of poverty. And a minimum wage being a living wage would help many workers, while the abolition of the dreadful Atos “fitness to work” scheme – GPs understand the health of their patients and their needs best would take great stress off the ill and the disabled.

Then housing – there’s 300,000 empty private sector homes to be brought back into use, and 37,000 council homes; we’d need a decent regional development policy to help with that. Much simpler – let’s give the growing army of private tenants greater security of tenure, enforce decent housing standards on their landlords, and encourage a new generation of housing co-ops in which people can work through their own housing needs.

Then some quick and sensible measures – abolish Trident nuclear weapons, immediately bring home British troops from Afghanistan – make us leaders in peace, and save some significant cash along the way.

There’s much more I’d like to add in – the abolition of university tuition fees, the restoration of an EMA-type system,  but that’s enough to be going along with for one year.

Of course, there’s no sign of this Coalition government heading in any of these directions, of understanding that the convictions to which they continue to cling are now mere intellectual driftwood, heading fast towards a smashing reef.

But Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions, and we can turn to that image as January begins and hope for change, plan for change, campaign for change. That’s what increasing numbers of British people have been doing over 2012, and more will join them in 2013. I look forward to working with the many, the 99%, who are increasingly prepared to take on the 1% and their representatives.

An Alternative Autumn Statement 2012: Greens reject coalition’s self-defeating economic programme

The Green Party is calling for positive economic policies instead of the Coalition’s dogmatic, self-perpetuating and failed “cut at all costs” approach.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “We reject this government’s self-defeating and contradictory approach of trying to cut its way to growth while providing tax giveaways to large corporations, including environmentally and socially destructive fossil fuel companies.

And we reject its inhuman and inhumane pressure on the poorest in society – households with members in work and those without – with non-pensioner benefits restricted to real-term decreases (below inflation, 1% increases) for the next three years. That’s £3.7bn being squeezed from people whose lives are often already insecure and desperate.

One certainty George Osborne has ensured is that the foodbank “industry” is going to become a permanent feature in Coalition Britain, the world’s seventh-wealthiest economy.”

“Britain needs to invest in environmentally-positive, jobs-creating policies, rather than using the UK’s historically unremarkable debt to GDP ratio to justify slashing state expenditure and further tax cuts for the wealthiest”, Ms Bennett said.

“A Green government would immediately invest the £4bn windfall from the 4G phone spectrum auction and the £35 billion quantitative easing surplus to create jobs in low-carbon infrastructure and in sectors such as renewable energy, energy-efficiency, low-carbon finance and manufacturing and in our contracting construction sector. The Green New Deal group has called for green quantitative easing to fund solar PV, insulation and other efficiency schemes that could create 140,000 jobs.

“Despite Osborne’s best efforts to hold them back, green industries are already providing essential goods and services that we need – from insulation to clean power from wind turbines – having contributed over 9% of UK GDP in 2011 – yet they retain enormous job creation potential.”

The Green Party would  ‘reboot’ the tax system to ensure that wealthy individuals and multinational companies pay their fair share, levelling the playing field for small businesses that are currently paying their taxes and struggling to compete against the tax-avoiding business giants.

Ms Bennett said: “Our reformed tax system would replace council tax and business rates with a land value tax, a wealth tax to recover some of the gains from those who benefited from the boom years and have surfed unscathed through the bust. Furthermore, we would end tax relief on private pensions, putting the savings into a Citizens’ Pension that would immediately lift all pensioners out of poverty.

There’d be a financial transaction tax to discourage casino-style financial trading, moves to force transparency in the books of multinational corporations and a genuine, effective crackdown on tax avoidance.

And it is difficult to have faith in the Chancellor’s announcement of new infrastructure projects, as his government announced a similar scheme in 2010, which has actually delivered a decrease in spending on construction. The government has also delivered just £750m of a £5bn expenditure it promised for public works at last year’s Autumn Statement.”

Ms Bennett added: “In recreating the failed PFI schemes of the last Labour government, this government is repeating its predecessor’s mistakes and announcing headline projects that are unlikely to be delivered. According to the Office for National Statistics, we already have future PFI liabilities of £144bn. Renegotiations that have saved £2.5bn are small beer in comparison.”

“A Green government would provide genuine government investment in the new schools and transport infrastructure that we need. What we don’t need is spending on new roads, an action shown to simply move congestion from one place to another.”

Demand reduction should take centre stage in Energy Bill

The government has today published its long awaited Energy Bill, detailing plans to reform the power sector.

Responding to the Bill, Green MP Caroline Lucas said:

“While I welcome the Secretary of State’s recognition of the huge opportunities offered by greater energy efficiency, I am disappointed that measures to help householders manage their bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring people out of fuel poverty are simply being tacked on to the government’s energy strategy – rather than taking centre stage.

“We have heard positive statements about incentivising businesses and industry to invest in energy saving, but unless this is much more of a priority in the Energy Bill, with concrete policies to match the Energy Secretary’s rhetoric, the potential identified by DECC to reduce electricity demand by 40% by 2030 will not be realised.

“The government’s weak Green Deal policy looks unlikely to deliver either for bill payers or the energy efficiency industry.

“The Chancellor should listen to calls from MPs to use the revenue from carbon taxes and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to invest in a nationwide housing retrofit to ensure all of our homes need far less energy to keep warm.”

Lucas continued:

“The Bill also proposes £7.6bn of new funding for low carbon generation, bringing welcome green jobs.

However the government needs to do far more to offer long term certainty for the sector beyond 2020 by committing to a zero carbon electricity supply by 2030.

“In 2006, David Cameron said that ‘we need targets as well as technology’ to make the shift to a greener economy, yet he has allowed his Chancellor to completely disregard the Committee on Climate Change, his coalition partners, the renewables industry, NGOs and a raft of the UK’s largest businesses by scrapping the 2030 decarbonisation target.

“Equally deplorable is the goverment’s refusal to support binding energy efficiency and renewables targets for 2030 that would deliver the longer term certainty that green investors are crying out for.

“Amendments are also needed to this Bill to rule out a new dash for gas.

“Gas is the real threat to our energy bills, not green policies – it has been repeatedly shown that the UK’s ongoing dependence on expensive and polluting imported gas is what is forcing up energy bills.

“Yet Ministers have failed to tackle this problem. This government’s apparent determination to keep the UK hooked on gas even in the face of the UN’s latest warnings on climate change also raises serious questions about who Ministers are listening to over energy policy and the influence of pro-gas voices like Lord Howell.”

Commenting on the confirmation of plans to subsidise new nuclear power through Electricity Market Reform, the Green MP said:

“Coalition ministers have stated again and again that their pledge to spend no public money on new nuclear will hold, yet it’s obvious that EMR has been designed to allow subsidy via the backdoor.

“Ministers must now come clean about their intention to subsidise the nuclear industry after 2020 through the ‘Contracts for Difference’ mechanism in the Energy Bill.

“We also need to know how much of the new funding for low carbon generation will be used to support clean home grown renewables rather than CCS or nuclear.

“At an estimated cost of up to £7bn per power station according to EDF, nuclear is eye-wateringly expensive and there’s a real risk that householders will be saddled with the ever increasing costs of a new generation of inflexible expensive nuclear power funding when this support could be redirected to a range of renewable energy technologies instead.

The government must urgently ditch this obsession with nuclear power, which threatens to add a huge burden to household bills for decades to come.

“Demand reduction should take centre stage in this new Bill, rather than being tacked on as a consultation exercise.  MPs must also fight for an ambitious decarbonisation target, rule out a new dash for gas, and deliver support for smaller generators to break up the Big 6.”

“This Bill, coupled with next week’s autumn statement, is an opportunity to reduce UK dependency on fossil fuels and drive the transition to renewable home grown energy system – it’s critical that this opportunity is not wasted.”