Archive for Going green

Lighter later and longer

It sounds like another diet plan, but actually something much better! The Lighter later campaign is part of the 10:10 initiative to help us all reduce our carbon emissions by 10% this year, and further in future.

They’re calling for us to shift the clocks forward by one hour throughout the entire year, putting us in the same timezone as our near neighbours in the Netherlands and France. This would give us longer lighter evenings, combatting darkness-related depression and making our daily journeys brighter.

Campaigners reckon that by reducing dark hours in the daytime, we could cut at least 447,000 tonnes of CO2 pollution – equivalent to more than 50,000 cars driving all the way around the world – each year.

There’s an economic case for it too. According to one report, London’s economy could be boosted by more than half a billion pounds if the clocks were not turned back, with tourist attractions staying open later and businesses saving time in their dealings in Europe.

Scotland may well want to stay an hour behind, but with their own Parliament, etc, that’s their privilege.

If like me you support the campaign for longer lighter later days, in England at least, then join up here.

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Refuse and recycling collections over Easter…

… are the same as usual.

Thank you Islington Council!

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Islington signs up to Microgeneration Manifesto

Like other Parliamentary candidates, I’m being showered with invitations to sign up to all sorts of good and interesting causes. The Microgeneration manifesto is a bit different in that it’s aimed at organisations like local councils, rather than individual candidates.

I think microgeneration is a fantastic idea. Small-scale local power generation reduces waste, improves security and diversity of supply, keeps energy bills down, creates local jobs and fights climate change: what’s not to like?

Nationally, LibDems are committed to a major shift to renewable energy, creating a new industrial revolution with Britain leading the world. LibDems in Islington have made a start, helping local groups finance solar panels, and putting wind turbines on some public buildings.

So I’m delighted to hear from Islington Council leader Terry Stacy that Islington has signed up to the manifesto. He writes:

“Delivering carbon reduction is a priority for us here in Islington, and
we were one of the first local authorities in the country to sign up to
10:10
– pledging to reduce emissions by 10 per cent by the end of the
year. As a Council we’re extremely supportive of the four objectives of
your Microgeneration Manifesto and are happy to offer our endorsement.

“I wish you every success in encouraging other local authorities to come
on board with this critical issue.”

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Signing the pledge

Signing the pledge used to refer to going teetotal (not something I’m about to do, although I respect those who have). But there are now pledges a gogo for us all to sign up to.

Today is the last day to vote in the Power2010 ballot on which reform pledges you most want the next government to fulfil. As I’ve blogged before, these include lots of excellent ideas, including fairer votes, fixed term parliaments, ending ID cards, and the right to recall corrupt MPs.

Another pledge vote is for the top House Proud pledge, promoted by Inside Housing. I’ve already signed up to their petition pledging to make housing a priority in the next Parliament.

Housing is a vital issue in communities like Islington South & Finsbury. Islington Council is building new council homes which is great but we also need work to make existing homes greener, and action to bring the thousands of empty homes into use.

But what should the top policy be? There are three candidates for the pledge: to continue the investment in decent homes; to retrofit existing homes to make them greener; or to put residents ahead of the bottom line. I’ve gone for option B, green retrofitting. Why? Well, option C is nice but vague, and option A, the decent homes programme, is retrospective anyway.

Option B, a programme to make existing homes greener, would fight climate change, provide sustainable local jobs and give people warmer homes with lower fuel bills. It’s a brilliant idea. Just a pity it’s one the Labour government vetoed when the LibDem-backed Fuel Poverty Bill came to the vote last year….

Last week I had a really good meeting with UNICEF-UK. They happen to be based in this constituency, and are well worth a visit if only for the great gift shop at reception, all in aid of their excellent work promoting children’s rights around the world.

UNICEF are promoting three pledges for parliamentary candidates:

1. UK Child Poverty: Around 4 million UK children are denied a childhood free from poverty. Living in poverty has a profound impact on children’s health, education and well-being.
I agree to take urgent action in Parliament to end child poverty in the UK by 2020.
2. International Development: Millions of children living in low-income countries are denied their rights. They lack access to healthcare, education, fair treatment and ultimately a childhood.
I agree to champion the rights of children in low income countries and highlight the urgent need to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
3. Child Rights: Most people do not know about the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means children are often denied their right to be heard and have their views taken into account.
I agree to listen to young people in my prospective constituency and provide them with opportunities to make their voice heard on decisions which affect them.
I’m very pleased to have signed up to all three.

It is a disgrace that the Labour government has failed to hit its own child poverty reduction goals. Liberal Democrats are committed to tackling child poverty at home, through policies such as the pupil premium, and globally through effective international aid and development. It is my aim to work with existing programmes such as ‘Listen Up!’ in Islington to give my younger constituents their chance to air their views.

I also support votes at 16 (another of the Power2010 ideas) to give more young people a real say in the democratic process. It’s daft that at 16 you can pay taxes, and join the armed forces, even get married, yet not have a vote.

There’s no age restriction on the Power2010 and Inside Housing pledges, so get voting!

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Building for the future

More evidence that despite optimistic Government pronouncements, the long tail of the recession is still affecting us.

Shelter have published figures showing a fall in house-building, mortgage lending is down, and unemployment in London is the worst since Labour came to power in 1997.

Last week I met with the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, based in Finsbury. They do great work cracking down on cowboy traders, and promoting green roofs, in partnership with the inspiring Dusty Gedge. But like many in the construction industry, their members are facing a downturn in orders, with knockon effects on suppliers and retailers across the country.

There’s a stronger case than ever for the kind of green jobs programme that the Liberal Democrats are promoting, including plans to bring quarter of a million empty homes into use. These are jobs that help communities with better housing and transport, while fighting climate change; and as hands-on jobs, they can’t be exported. That’s good news for the roofers too.

The recession may have caused a fall in new building, but Islington remains one of the most densely populated parts of the UK, so getting the right planning policies is vital. As I’ve blogged before, most of us only get involved in the planning process when a particular proposal comes up that affects us; but by then the planning policies have already been written. Islington’s planning policy framework, the core strategy, is under review.

Now the Council has produced a useful summary of the latest changes proposed following input from various groups in the borough, plus outside agencies like English Heritage. They range from stronger support for independent shops to providing sites for travellers and gypsies.

The core strategy is out for consultation now. Have your say by writing to Freepost, RSEA-CUHA-YYAS, Planning Policy, Islington Council, Upper Street, London, N1 1XR, or via email. Any comments must be received by 5pm on Monday 22 March and will then go on to the Planning Inspector who has the final say on the Islington plans.

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Christmas recycling in Islington

Some useful info from Islington Council’s recycling team:

Refuse and Recycling collections during Christmas and New Year

With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Fridays, residents who normally have collections on a Friday will have their materials collected on Sunday 27 December and Saturday 2 January instead. The Council website has the full list of scheduled changes.

Christmas tree recycling

If you live in a street property you can simply leave your Christmas tree at the edge of your property along with your normal green waste from Monday 4 January. If you live on an estate please contact your Area Housing Office for more information on how to recycle your Christmas tree.

There will also be four bring sites for Christmas trees at parks in Islington between 2 and 17 January:
* Kings Square in EC1
* Rosemary Gardens in Canonbury
* Elthorne Park near Archway
* Barnard Park in Barnsbury

You can also take green waste, including Christmas trees, to the Household Reuse and Recycling Centre at Hornsey Street.

Extra recycling bags

Apparently the Council are also delivering a pack of 10 clear recycling sacks for extra recycling to the properties which get the green box service. I’ve not seen these yet but will look forward to them. Especially as I’m hoping to do a bit of a tidy up and clearout between Christmas and New Year!

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Signing up against HFCs

Signing up against HFCsMy Saturday mornings don’t normally include self-tagging in marker pen, then photographing the results. So why was I doing that today?

In the midst of all the debate about Copenhagen, Greenpeace has come up with one simple proposal that, if adopted, would see at least some good come out of the global climate summit.

As they explain, F-gases, or HFCs, are the super greenhouse gases that cool our drinks, our cars, and our buildings. They are a growing threat to our climate. Eliminating them is low-hanging fruit in the fight against climate change, because the solutions are tried, tested, and ready to go. Phasing out HFCs by 2020 is a key step in avoiding catastrophic climate change.

You can sign the Greenpeace petition, calling for a ban on the production and use of F-gases by 2020, here.

(In the de luxe version, you sign your name on part of your body and upload the photo. I couldn’t possibly comment…)

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Weak-willed Labour MPs veto 10:10 at Westminster

Lib Dem MPs have been leading the debate on fighting climate change by trying to get the Government to sign up to 10:10 this week. Having been at the 10:10 launch, I was delighted to see this motion tabled – and I’d certainly have voted for it if I was in Parliament.

10:10 is the initiative to get individuals and organisations to commit to start reducing carbon emissions right now, by reducing 10% by the end of 2010. Islington Council has signed up and so have many individuals (the Fox-Turnbull household is doing its bit by replacing our old boiler with a combination one).

With endorsement from so many campaigners, including the 38 Degrees pressure group, and with the Copenhagen summit coming soon, this would have been both popular and good, the right decision at the right time.

After all, we are the first generation to understand the full impact of climate change, and the last to be able to do something about it.

So did Labour embrace the opportunity? No they did not. Despite many individual Labour MPs and ministers pledging to back 10:10, when it came to the vote they rejected any commitment to specific action by the Government, voting through an amendment full of vague praise for existing schemes instead.

Warm words and photo ops from Labour politicians are a waste of time if when it comes to taking real action now on the environment they refuse.

It’s no surprise that Islington South MP Emily Thornberry was among those vetoing 10:10. She has already failed to vote against Heathrow expansion; and she helped kill off the Fuel Poverty Bill.

Signing up to the 10:10 initiative would have made the Government’s commitment to action clear ahead of the Copenhagen summit. But once again we will get words without action. It’s shameful that weak-willed Labour MPs let the Government whips defeat this vital move.

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Plastic fantastic

Hooray! We can now put all those annoying bits of plastic packaging in our Islington recycling boxes.

Plastic drinks bottles joined the mix a while ago, but now we can add yoghurt and margarine tubs, sandwich containers, even plastic bags. Also juice cartons and other tetrapaks.

So we can now recycle plastics, glass, paper, cardboard and cans. And compost our food and garden waste.

I’m beginning to wonder what will be left in our black bag?

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After conference

We’re back from Bournemouth, and all the long reports I’d intended to write will have to wait, possibly for ever.

This was just such a busy conference for me that I was too busy doing to document it. But here is some of what I got up to as part of Islington’s delegation.

IMG_0075On Sunday, I moved the Islington amendment in the globalisation debate, pointing out the crucial role of Europe in providing us with stability in a changing world. The difference between Iceland and Ireland isn’t one letter but two: E and U.

Also on Sunday, I was part of the panel at the End Fuel Poverty Fringe, speaking on how important this issue was to my constituents. The Lib Dem proposals would tackle fuel poverty, unemployment and climate change through a programme of home insulation: but Labour killed off the Bill. Shame on them.

I had meetings with many groups including the National Deaf Children’s Society, who are doing some important work on improving acoustics in schools, Breast Cancer Care, and the British Lung Foundation who are supportive of my campaigns on air quality. I spoke at a lively fringe meeting organised by the Lib Dem Friends of Turkey on Turkey’s future in the EU.

Housing is always a big issue in Islington, and I fitted in a breakfast meeting with Hyde Housing as well as a briefing with Shelter (appropriately enough we were ‘evicted’ from one room when our meeting ran on).

I also took the chance to raise some very local issues. At the candidates’ reception, I buttonholed a senior Tesco exec about their lorries parking at Islington Green – and later in the week raised it with the Freight Transport Association as well. And I quizzed Network Rail bosses about the vexed issue of access to Kings Cross station.

Most debates at conference are foregone conclusions – for example, we all love the NHS – but sometimes there are really distinct positions within the party, which makes for an exciting session. On Saturday we debated air brushing in ads (my PPC buddy Katy Gordon made a fantastic speech) and later in the week it was the turn of energy policy to go to the vote. I spoke in the debate against the pro-nuclear power amendment, and was pleased that I helped win the day for investment in truly renewable energy.

There were many impressive and some contentious speeches. Sarah Ludford proposed Islington’s amendment in the torture debate, reporting on her work exposing illegal rendition flights. Vince Cable controversially refloated his mansion tax idea (not yet party policy, and may never be). I signed up to support campaigns on a whole range of issues, from the Royal British Legion to Vote Cruelty Free.

And I was lucky to be one of the key seat PPCs (presumed future MPs) to be chosen to sit on the platform behind Nick for the leader’s speech.

I say lucky. First there was the briefing on do’s and don’ts. No eating, drinking, yawning – or live blogging. Then the clothes advice. Must not clash with backdrop or each other. Cue panic jacket and blouse buying by anxious female candidates with what’s left in their conference budget…. never say LibDems don’t have practical policies to stimulate the local economy. Then there was the hour-long wait backstage in cold and darkness, before emerging into blazing light on stage. Then we took our seats and were plunged back into near total darkness while Nick spoke. Is this a metaphor for life as an MP?

As ever, the conference reported by the media (anxious divisions over policy) and that experienced by delegates (sunny in every sense) were quite different. Although the new media like Tweetminster were happy to get their reports direct from the twitterer’s mouth.

We had great fun, but in a greatly serious cause. This is our last major party conference before the General Election. As Nick told us,

“Labour is lost. They haven’t the ideas, energy or vision to start again. If you voted for them in the past, you have a choice. You can give away your vote to a fringe party. You can stay at home in despair. Or you can join with the Liberal Democrats and make the difference.

“If you supported Labour in 1997 because you wanted fairness. You wanted young people to flourish. You wanted political reform. You wanted the environment protected. Or you simply believed in a better future. Turn to the Liberal Democrats. We carry the torch of progress now.”

Now back to the campaign trail!

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