Friday, 2 November 2007

FoE Climate Change Debate in Reading

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An exciting time was had by all the Friends of the Earth Climate Change debate in Caversham last night. The highlights were Martin Salter MP describing The Right Honourable Hilary Benn as ‘little Hilary’, and Labours environmental spokesman Cllr Steve Waite storming out in a tantrum. MP Salter also attacked members in the audience, safe in the knowledge that they couldn’t answer him. He even attacked George Bush, calling him a ‘corrupt creature of the oil industry’.

The Chair managed to control the speakers but had a far harder time with the audience, two of whom refused to ask a question but insisted on making a speech. In the case of one of them, Cllr Waite, this was particularly unfair as his party already had one speaker on the platform. Perhaps that’s a reflection of his poor opinion of Mr Salter’s ability to manage on his own. Mr Waite was pontificating on points made by other parties. Rob White from the Green Party had said that ‘getting RBC to sign the Nottingham declaration was an achievement’. Cllr Waite was attempting to say that they would have done this anyway, when the audience, fed up with his political games, heckled him and he stormed off. Some of the audience had left when he started speaking, a fine tribute to his speaking skills. What a way of behaving in a group of 80 potential voters, he sets an excellent example. A shame Annaliese Dodds, the Labour candidate for Reading East, couldn’t be there to learn from the old guard.

The three big political parties each tried to outdo each other in claiming to be more green than the others. Each speaker said they would go further than the Governments climate change bill, with its far distant targets and exclusion of airline and shipping CO2 emissions. Shame their parties don’t go further in that case, one would almost think they were attempting to tell the audience what they wanted to hear. In front of a crowd of 4x4 owners perhaps they would have a different story.

A few notable climate clangers:
Labour; Mr Salter announced that he had only made three work related flights while an MP, no mention of his holiday flights. He claimed we shouldn’t trade with countries with high emissions, which would rule out the USA, China, India, Scotland, indeed most countries but Germany! I hope he likes German food. He said the road tax rate for gas guzzlers is £400, but that isn’t true till 2008/9, the maximum band G is £300. While he accuses China of producing cheap goods at high commissions, he misses the fact that we are responsible for those emissions.

He also made a joke about Rob being smelly as he throws such a small amout away. People laughed as it was told skillfully, but its ridiculous to suggest that throwing away more rubbish makes you cleaner. Its not soap that people are throwing, but things they bring into their hoses but don't need; like packaging. One might suggest throwing away the Labour Pary based on his performance, they don't seem worth keeping.

Tory; climate sceptics include John Redwood MP, Cllr Fred Pugh and even their environment spokesman Cllr Richard Willis seemed to admit to his own doubts on the night! "The Conservative party needs to sort out its line on this issue if they are to avoid charges of hypocrisy: the Quality of Life review supported incentives for recycling, but Shadow Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has been aggressively attacking such schemes for months" from

Cllr Epps said that the Prius was twice the size of his Clio, but as can be seen from the chart below it has a lower impact. He may have meant that they should make the Prius smaller, I would wish they made all cars more efficient.

Cllr Willis said he had downsized to a Ford Focus, Rob White doesn’t have a car so is the greenest. Martin Salter didn’t announce his car, but has been seen in a large gas guzzling estate. My car by comparison is a Toyota Yaris that runs on 70% biodiesel made from used cooking oil.

According to the Environmental Transport Association car comparison site
Car engine model emissions g/km CO2
a 1.8 petrol estate emits 180, tax band E (£165) 37.6 mpg
a 1.6 petrol Focus emits 161, tax band D (£140) 42.2 mpg
a 1.6 petrol Clio emits 157, tax band D (£140) 42.8 mpg
a 1.4 diesel Yaris emits 119, tax band B (£35) 62.8 mpg
a 1.5 hybrid Prius emits 104, tax band B (£35) 65.7 mpg
The Cllrs didn’t announce their model/engine size, so I’ve used typical examples for comparison.,
‘The three main parties are failing to provide consistent leadership needed on green issues, say campaigners. The Green Standard - a report by nine leading environmental groups - looks at each party's commitments and actions. The Lib Dems were rated highest, getting three "green lights" indicating approval of their policies. Labour got one and the Tories none’. So a choice between poor, poorer and poorest. This is why we need the Green Party, to do what the others can't or won't.

Here are some notes from the meeting, not a complete account, apologies for any errors.

Foe Question Time on Climate Change meeting 1 Oct 07, St Andrews Church Hall, Caversham

Opening remarks from FoE, then from all Parties.
Adrian Foster-Fletcher FoE Chair
Katie Elliot parliamentary spokesperson for Foe spoke first. If reducing CO2 is like dieting, not including aviation or shipping is like dieting without including chocolate. She spoke about the new climate change bill, its a start but needs improving.

Labour, Martin Salter MP. Green standards report Labour relatively succesful, our achievement is to bring climate change into the international arena. George Bush is a corrupt creature of the oil industry. Jeremy Clarkson is a skeptic with more media access than anyone here.

Liberal Democrat, Cllr Gareth Epps. Argued that his party were the greenest of the big three. Zero carbon Britain. Green taxes, fair carbon share for all. The EU drove the green campaign; green mortgages would help people convert their homes. Is against nuclear power. By 2040 be tough with car makers. He spoke of lush grasslands? Borrow a bike scheme in Paris and fairness.

Conservative, Cllr Richard Willis, act now, go further than the govt. 60% target is not enough, 80%. Five year targets, should be 1 year. Independent body should monitor targets. Aviation pollution duty, downgraded his car to a focus, not a gas-guzzler. Green tax switch, renewable transport fuel audit, biofuels, not cut down rainforest. Govt needs a sustainability audit.

Green, Rob White. Announced he was Reading East candidate. Biggest policy is social justice. GP green for over 20 years, not just when it’s fashionable. UK C02 emissions are increasing. He cycled here, no Cameron helicopter following with a bag. Target 60% by 2030, 90% by 2030. Green Party policy 9% annual cuts needed. Contraction and convergence policy to reduce emissions and redistribute countries
development. Carbon rationing, less wealthy can sell their allowance. Learn from Germany. Stop road building and airport expansion. Make poverty history, make climate change history.

Q1 non-commitment, start with ourselves. Cars not pedestrians. Conservative John Redwood climate skeptic.

Q2 developers should have solar tiles on roofs.

Q3 real action, UK air emissions highest, Reading highest emissions from a city, 25% above average.

C. Redwood right to question everything, he represents many people, Cameron committed, and Germany has a good incentive to have solar roofs. New development should have best practice insulation & grey water.

L. Attack Redwood, I have made only 3 foreign trips in 10 years for work, many MPs do more. Worcester Labour Party made political capital from this, as did Adrian Windisch (pointed tome in the audience, I shouted back ‘liar’). See

LD. Works in rail industry, believes in it. New build should do more.
G. Get our house in order, and do more, e.g. not enough cycle parking.
FoE Katie, curbside recycling increases, were behind Europe, green eco towns.

Q4 spoke about collaboration, wasn’t a question, he was asked to leave.

Q5 Cllr Waite gave a speech, the audience heckled. No question resulted. How do we get cooperation between parties? He walked out.

Q6 Ideas carbon question FoE, part of climate chaos. Symbol to represent climate change that can be used internatioanaly? Where is the leadership on Green issues, where are the incentives?

L. We moved on civil partnership, we can on Climate change too. Re Carbon ration, need to get policy right first.(1)

LD. We 3 agree on this, the environmental speakers from the three groups should meet up.

C. Shift in taxation. Hypothecation. Green taxes ring fences for the benefit of families. Shameful that at the fuel protest there was a failure in leadership from all 3 parties.

L. Symbol, house sinking, £400 tax on a car is a green tax

Q7 What one thing would you do?

FoE Katie, regulation. Ban stuff, e.g. Light bulbs Patio heaters.
LD. insulation.
T. Tax incentive.
L. Aviation and shipping. Don't trade with countries that emit loads!
G. We have plans to save 9% a year, worked out already.

Q8 why do we still use incandesant light bulbs after Labour have been in charge for 10 years.

Q9 Ben Mitchell PBA works in flood management likes the precautionary principle but is skeptical about man made climate change.

Q10, Mark Ralph Conservative Cllr, where is the leadership on low energy machinery.

LD. Those bulbs should be banned. Government should encourage hybrid cars. The Prius is twice the size of my Clio. Brown slashed flood budget.

T. Problem to dispose of bulbs, in landfill? Debated the cause of climate change. Wrong to pollute.

G. Greenpeace campaigned on a lamp ban by 2010, hazardous waste. Sustainability, feed in tariffs. Incentivise business. Incentivise renewables.

FoE Katie. Make workplace green. Other greenhouse gases, we focus on CO2 as that’s the largest problem. Ben is a skeptic; the case for man made climate change is stronger than that for smoking causing cancer.

L. In 2011 there will be a bulb ban, business should have a reduced rate if greener,
functional flood plane saved Reading from flooding. Globalisation, higher standards of living. Socialism. Supermarkets force them to reduce packaging. I know rubbish as I was a dustman for 1 year. Reading station an example of Green Reading.

1. Labour policy triumphs representing clear thinking include getting drunks at night to pay a fine, then quickly dropped when they realised that the 'yobs' could pretend to have forgotten their PIN number. Super Casinos, yes they will, then no we won’t. Inheritance tax the same. We had the ecohomes standards, after a couple of years replaced with the code for sustainable homes. We've had years of continuously moving regulation; industry, public servants, institutions and individuals all struggle to keep up to date.

Their climate change policy seems to be the same as their other policies, pretend to be doing something while the situation continues to get worse.


Anonymous said...

I dispute two things: first it was Gareth Epps who spoke about how shamefully the three main parties behaved in the fuel crisis; and second you were right that Richard Willis voiced concern about how to dispose of low energy lightbulbs environmentally but he raised no others.

Adrian Windisch said...

In taking pages of notes over a couple of hours I could have been wrong over which party said exactly what in their desire to pretend to be more green. Whoever said it, both comments are valid and true.