Posts Tagged climate change

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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10:10 launch

1010 launch group
This week I was proud to be alongside Simon Hughes MP and Islington’s own Cllr Greg Foxsmith at the national launch of the 10:10 campaign – pledging to cut our carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010.

Islington is one of 9 councils nationwide to sign up at the start; there were to have been 10, but Labour Greenwich pulled out at the last minute (although they have now followed dozens of other organisations and signed up since the launch). Simon Hughes was the only MP speaking at the event, and one of the comperes was Camden’s eco-champion Alexis Rowell; so the Lib Dems are visibly leading on the fight against climate change.

Islington’s already taking a lead on the green agenda. Public buildings and street-lights run on sustainable energy, including solar heating of the water at Highbury swimming pool. Libraries and primary schools are bieng insulated, and the borough’s new council housing meets high environmental standards. And the innovative Climate Change Fund has helped families, businesses and local groups to cut emissions through energy saving and using renewables.

I’m pleased to have played a part in setting Islington on this road with initiatives like switching the streetlights over to renewable energy, and opening our recycling education centre.

So when Friends of the Earth called me this week with an appeal as part of their Get Serious about CO2 campaign, and started telling me how “councils like yours” are failing to act, I was not impressed. Why criticise all councils when some are doing the right thing? It’s unfair and lacks credibility. I’ve already got a standing order to FoE, but I declined to increase it this time. And I sent an email complaining about their fundraising script. FoE replied the next day, saying:

“In our recent appeal mailings about our new Get Serious about CO2 campaign we talked about positive examples of what some councils are already doing to cut their emissions. We wanted to use these to inspire other councils to start cutting theirs. As it stands there are only very few councils really starting to tackle CO2 emissions of which Islington is one….We have made an amend to the telephone script to point out that it’s not all councils who need to change.”

I’m really pleased that FoE is not only campaigning for more action but also giving credit where it’s due.

The 10:10 initiative comes from the Not Stupid team; at the launch, the fantastic Franny Armstrong reminded us that we are the first generation to fully know about climate change, and the last to have a chance to stop it. You can join in here.

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Thornberry’s indifference helps kill Fuel Poverty Bill

If your MP could help pass a Bill in Parliament which could save lives, help the poorest people in Britain, help in the fight against climate change, and what’s more create jobs in a recession, don’t you think that would be worthwhile?

I do, and that’s why I backed the Fuel Poverty Bill introduced by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath.

With the spring weather we may forget the tragedy that 20,000 people needlessly die from the cold each year, and many more become ill. Fuel prices have more than doubled over the last five years. Many homes are poorly insulated so that energy is wasted.

The Fuel Poverty Bill would end fuel poverty by 2016 by bringing all homes up to standard and cutting fuel bills for the poorest families. It would mean fewer people face illness or death from cold and damp. It would help to reduce the wastage of energy which contributes to climate change. And it would produce work for thousands of people when we desperately need it.

The Bill has been backed by many major charities, including Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth. I want to thank all the Islington residents who signed my petition supporting the Bill. I would have voted for the Bill, and I congratulate MPs from all parties who did so.

Sadly I have to report that despite their hard work, the Bill will not go forward, because it just missed getting the 100 votes needed.

I am totally disgusted with Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, who once again did not bother to vote.

This comes after she failed to vote on Heathrow or on knife crime, she voted in favour of Post Office closures, against tax cuts, and against more money for social housing in Islington.

It is a disgraceful record.

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Not Stupid!

On Sunday night, as promised, I was part of the record-breaking premiere of the Age of Stupid at Islington Vue, one of over 60 cinemas showing the film simultaneously.

I went with fellow candidate Jo Shaw, along with other friends of Angel resident Betty Harris, one of the film’s 200+ funders. To quote Jo, “it’s a difficult film to watch at times, dealing with the effects of climate change and the limited time we have to get to grips with our carbon emissions. Basically scientists are pretty much agreed that we’ve got until 2015 to get our act together, or it may be too late to prevent catastrophic climate change.”

It’s an inspiring film because it doesn’t just portray the devastation caused by climate change but shows how we can, still, change it – provided we act together and act now. Do we want to be suicidally Stupid, or Not Stupid.

The film avoided being too one-sided or preachy. Pete Postlethwaite plays the only fictional role, a man looking back and asking why we didn’t act when we could. But most of the footage is real people in the world now: and their lives show both the terrible impact of climate change and our oil-dependent lifestyles, but also the complex human stories involved.

The film is helping raise awareness of the urgent need for action by government in the run up to the Copenhagen summit. Being at the premiere we also saw the live Q&A with the film’s director, producer and star. They praised the government for the Climate Change Bill, but condemned the decision to go ahead with expanding Heathrow; and if the Kingsnorth power station goes ahead, they are asking people not to vote Labour again.

What else you can do:
– go and see the film! It’s on at Screen on the Green at on Sunday 29th March, Tuesday 31st March and Thursday 2nd April, all at 2 p.m.
– sign up to be Not Stupid
– come on the Stop Climate Chaos march on 5 December.

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Come on feel the noise

Like many Londoners on a sunny Sunday, this morning I hopped on the tube and headed off to a picturesque pub.

The Green Man is a half-timbered pub, with cherry blossom in the garden. Outside there’s a traditional red letter box and across the road, the village green has daffodils in flower. The nearby field has geese, goats and horses. It sounds idyllic. It should be. But this is the Green Man at Feltham, yards from the airport boundary, right under the Heathrow flight path.

The planes are flinchingly loud, and so low you feel you could reach up and touch their landing gear. With one every few seconds, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the most enthusiastic plane-spotter enjoying a pint in the Green Man’s beer garden.

I was there with other MPs, leading candidates, and Euro campaigners to highlight the impact of air travel on climate change – and to protest against Government plans for Heathrow expansion.

As we took our photos on the village green, first one, then a second police car rolled up. Were they enjoying the sight of our photographers lying flat on the grass to get the best angle? Or were we to be arrested for some breach of the increasingly mad anti-terror laws? With 5 MPs, an MEP, three lawyers and a trades union official among our number, it might have been interesting to see them try. But in fact after a friendly hello, we ended up doing photos with the police car too. (They’ve not yet banned that….)

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The Age of Stupid

I’m off to a film premiere on Sunday evening. But no red carpet at Leicester Square.

The Age of Stupid is having a record-breaking ‘people’s premiere’ with simultaneous screenings at dozens of cinemas across the country. It’s a docu-drama about the impact of climate change, starring Pete Postlethwaite as a lone survivor in the future looking back on our age, the age that could avert disaster if we act.

I’m going to be treading the green carpet at the Islington Vue, along with my friend Betty Harris. Betty helped fund the film, making her an angel from the Angel! And though the Islington premiere screening is sold out, the film can be seen at The Screen on the Green on Sunday 29th March, Tuesday 31st March and Thursday 2nd April, all at 2 p.m.

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