Wednesday, 28 August 2019

An open letter regarding investment in Leeds Bradford Airport to members of the Leeds City Region Board from Green Party Councillors in the Region

An open letter regarding investment in Leeds Bradford Airport to members of the Leeds City Board from Green Party Councillors in the region

You will of course be aware that only a few weeks ago Leeds City Region and its constituent Councils declared a Climate Emergency in response to the stark warnings on the threat of climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the fact that we have a limited amount of time to bring our emissions under control.

Proposals to invest public money in transport links to Leeds Bradford Airport are aimed at supporting its expansion plans which can only mean more flights and more carbon emissions making our chances of hitting our net zero carbon emissions target by 2038 remote if not impossible.

A study by academics at Leeds University has shown how support for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport is incompatible with our declaration of a climate emergency. This contradiction needs to be addressed.

As Green Party Councillors in the Leeds City Region we are calling on you to oppose the use of public funds to improve transport links to Leeds Bradford airport and for that funding to be reinvested in projects that will significantly reduce carbon emissions.

I am sure you will agree with us that declaring a climate emergency and then making no changes to those actions which are in conflict with that policy makes no sense.

Cllr Andrew Cooper - Kirklees Council
Cllr Karen Allison - Kirklees Council
Cllr Sue Lee-Richards - Kirklees Council

Cllr Ann Blackburn - Leeds City Council
Cllr Ann Forsaith - Leeds City Council
Cllr David Blackburn - Leeds City Council

Cllr Martin Love - Bradford City Council
Cllr Kevin Warnes - Bradford City Council

Cllr Andy Brown - Craven District Coumcil
Cllr David Noland : Craven District Council

Cllr Andy D'Agorne - York City Council
Cllr Denise Craghill - York City Council
Cllr Dave Taylor - York City Council
Cllr Rosie Baker - York City Council

Holiday house book review - The Ladybird Book - The Story of Plastics

There's been a bit of a fad in the last few years for spoof Ladybird books such as the Ladybird book of  'The Mother' 'The Student' etc so imagine my delight to find some on the bookshelves in the holiday house we stayed in in Scotland.

They were actually not spoof books but the real thing that with hindsight were  grimly amusing.

Given the impact of Blue Planet showing how plastics have polluted our oceans and caused umtold damage to our marine ecosystems The one that caught my eye was the Ladybird book of ' Plastics' published in 1972. I laughed out loud when I saw the page on 'before plastics and they had a picture of stone age cave dwellers, as if the whole of history was completely primitive before the age
of plastic.

The whole book is completely uncritical as you would expect from an educational book aimed at children just before the dawn of the Green Movement in the UK and probably written by the industry itself. What really did strike me was what innocent times those were. Our actions had no perceived consequences. We don't have that excuse anymore.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Climate Change? No problem let's move to Havering!

As sea levels rise, heatwaves ravage the populations of our cities and crop failures leave millions facing starvation what are we to do? We are told by Climate Scientists after years of peer reviewed science that climate change will affect us all but fortunately they are rather surprisingly wrong, in Havering at least!

Now I'm no climate change denier as a general rule but the good Councillors of the London Borough of Havering when presented with a motion at a Council meeting in July asking them to 'Declare a Climate Emergency' voted against it. It would be uncharitable to suggest they ignored the scientific evidence, that they valued their own opinions, or that of some bloke in a pub, more than that of climate scientists so all I can assume is that the London Borough of Havering has a very resilient micro climate or a protective shield which maintains a stable environment. That's not all of course their economy must also be independent of all the same influences that those of us unfortunates on the rest of the planet who are actually affected by a climate emergency have to put up with.

The London Borough of Havering is a truly blessed place. So when our homes and streets are inundated, when extreme weather conditions make large parts of the world uninhabitable then the London Borough of Havering is the place to go to. I am sure that was what the Councillors who opposed the Climate Emergency meant. They want Havering to be a beacon for climate refugees. Perhaps they could build a 'Statue of Climate Liberty' saying beneath it " Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses your yearning masses". What a good spirited bunch are the Councillors who opposed the Climate Emergency motion are and what were those Havering Councillors who proposed the motion thinking of?

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Sounds from Number 76

I did a couple of compilations of varied music that I liked about 10 years or so ago. I found one of  the CDs yesterday so I thought I'd put them all in a blogpost. Harder to lose! Harder to scratch. This obviously comes under the "and also anything else I fancy talking about" part of my Blog description.
 It's pretty varied from 17th century choral music to the Dead Kennedy's but I think it hangs together OK. It finishes off with 'That's Entertainment' by The Jam. I've mentioned to a number of people that I'd like it played at my funeral. So if you happen to be there and they don't play it then please feel free to complain on my behalf.

Enjoy or not!

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Kingfisher Court will not be a new Grenfell Tower

Today I and my 2 Newsome Cllr colleagues Sue Lee-Richards and Karen Allison were on the scene as officers from Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service entered  Kingfisher Court, on Manchester Rd in Huddersfield to issue a notice making it illegal for the flats there to be used overnight as sleeping accommodation due to non-compliance with fire safety elements of the building regulations.

Kingfisher Court is supposed to be student accommodation  and during the summer it is generally overseas students who are still in residence which has limited to an extent the number of people disrupted but it was good to see Kirklees staff on hand to help those people who would have nowhere safe to stay that evening. The people managing the blocks now need to rectify the problems identified so Kingfisher Court can be a safe place for people to live in.

The relatively new buildings have had a troubled history with some of the student flats appearing as places to stay on Air BnB in contravention of their student status and therefore eligible for Council Tax. There was also some speculation that those rooms may have been used for purposes other than simple overnight stays.

So how do we end up with a situation where new buildings end up in contravention of fire regulations? Building Regulations in the UK are privatised. Developers don't have to use the Council's diminished Building Control function. Instead they can get a private contractor to carry out this work who they pay, who may cut corners and not be as stringent on compliance with the rules as they should be. It looks highly possible that this is what has occurred in this case, So with all that been revealed in the Grenfell Enquiry has anything meaningful being done to change the Building Control system? Last years amemdments to Building Regulations certainly tightened things up but in my view Building Control should be re-regulated brought back into the public sector and be properly resourced to ensure safety for residents and strict compliance with Building Regulations. The private sector should never override the public interest ever again.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Local Government Association - Climate Emergency Task and Finish Group - some thoughts

A few weeks ago the Local Government Association (LGA) declared a Climate Emergency following on from over a 100 Councils doing so, from around the country, in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report saying we have only 12 years (now 11 years!) to stabilise emissions to a level which can achieve the Paris Climate Goals agreed at COP21. As part of this declaration the LGA established a Climate Emergency Task and Finish group to examine the issues and make recommendations. I am one of five Councillors from around the UK on this group. 

Here's some thoughts in advance about some of the the recommendations we could make

  • establish a National Climate Taskforce including Ministry of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ministry of Communities, Housing & Local Government and the Local Government Association representatives to drive action on climate change at the local level, addressing barriers to action and making good practice examples the mainstream 
  • Councils to produce  Climate Action Plans on how they can cut emissions quickly and what actions they could take with greater support from central Government.
  • Councils to lead local Climate Action Partnerships to drive deeper action on carbon emission reductions. This would draw in support from business, the wider public sector, the voluntary sector and the wider community
  • Government  to give  a clear steer to local Councils that they are expected to insist on higher energy efficiency standards in new buildings up to (and preferably) the Passivhaus Standard. This to be followed as swiftly as possible by strengthening of the energy efficiency standards in Building Regulations.
  • Reregulate and strengthen the Building Control function to ensure strict adherence to energy efficiency standards.
  • Councils to produce a plan (with a timetable) for a complete electrification of their vehicle fleets and to work with other large fleet operators on similar plans.
  • Revive the Home Energy Conservation Act powers of Local Government and ask for new plans to be established within a year for costed plans to improve the energy efficiency of homes in line with the emissions savings we need to achieve the Paris Climate goals within a ten year timeframe.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Climate Emergency - Heading for 3 degrees - How do we stop it?

Tough but still not enough!
What do we know? We know that the carbon savings agreed by governments from around the world will not meet the Paris Climate goals. They will in fact take us to a 3 degree world by 2050. A global temperature rise of 3 degrees across the world is a world where large regions of the world become uninhabitable, where the sea rises by a metre every 20 years, where coastal cities are either inundated or fortresses, with many millions of refugees, where agricultural production will crash. The Home Counties of England will be more like Marrakech. 500 Million tonnes of carbon will be released from melted permafrost locking in future temperature rises. People will die in their millions. So our current inadequate Nationally Determined Contributions to reduce carbon emissions are effectively a death sentence for countless people and will condemn many millions more into stifling, miserable and poor living conditions.

So what made Climate Change into a Climate Emergency? Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the United Nations sponsored body produced a special report on Climate Change stating that  serious action to limit emissions was too slow and that if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change then action needs taking now. Currently it is estimated that the Earth's temperature rises by an average of 0.2 degrees every 10 years. So with global temperatures already estimated to be nearly 1 degree above post industrial levels we need to act very swiftly to have a chance of stabilising our Climate. Last years IPCC report said within 12 years it is now 11 years and the clock is still ticking downwards.

So what does this mean for us as local authorities?

Many of us (over 100 now at the last count) have declared Climate Emergencies. The first was in Bristol City Council following a motion proposed by the Green Party Councillors there. Many Councils have now followed their lead including my own Kirklees Council.

In Parliament the Green Baroness Jenny Jones introduced a Climate Emergency debate to the House of Lords and Caroline Lucas MP raised it first in the Commons as an Early Day Motion and in May Labour tabled a motion which was agreed.

Last week Leeds City Region announced that all the Councils within their boundaries will be net zero carbon by 2038. This target is undoubtedly tough but not enough. 2038 according to the science is 8 years too late, but it is a start and we should embrace it as an encouraging first step. Leeds City Region is a huge area consisting of the Councils of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees, Calderdale, Harrogate, Craven, Barnsley, York and Selby so to get this degree of joint commitment is impressive.

The new Leeds City Region Climate Coalition needs a new committed partner and that has to be the UK Government. All the Council Leaders in the City Region need to send a letter to whoever the Prime Minister is next month and tell them "Congratulations  you are now a member of the Leeds City Region Climate Coalition!". With membership comes responsibilities and we need their commitment to ensure we reach even the 2038 target and certainly the 2030 target that we really need to achieve.

The concern now is that feeling that the Councils that make up the Leeds City Region don't really appreciate what they have signed up to and consider it 'Business as Usual' but with a few green initiatives. What is needed now are robust action plans that demonstate what actions will be taken and by when and how much carbon emissions will be reduced by and how quickly.

A demonstrable sense of urgency is essential in a climate emergency