Lynne Featherstone MP joins the People’s Climate march in London

Lynne Featherstone MP on the People’s Climate March, LondonLynne Featherstone MP yesterday joined thousands of people in central London on the Climate March. It was one of 2,000 similar events taking place in 150 countries.

The marches seek to raise awareness of climate change issues, in advance of the summit on climate change in New York.

The Liberal Democrats are the only major party that prioritises tackling climate change.

The Lib Dem Secretary of State for Energy, Ed Davey, has secured a commitment to halve UK greenhouse gases by 2025. 200,000 new green jobs have been created since 2010, and the amount of electricity generated from offshore wind has doubled.

Further Lib Dem achievements include planting 1 million trees in England (as part of the first government tree planting programme since the 1970s) and introducing a 5p plastic bag charge to help clean up the environment and protect Britain’s natural habitat.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“I really enjoyed attending the Climate March. There were so many different people there, all united behind one cause – making our planet greener and safer, by protecting in from the threats of climate change.

“The Liberal Democrats will never abandon our commitment to the environment. We are the only party that has a record of prioritising and delivering green jobs and green growth in Government. My Lib Dem colleague Ed Davey has worked hard to make sure the environment stays at the top of the agenda, even though it isn’t a priority for the Conservatives.

“Thanks to this, we’ve secured a vital commitment to halve UK greenhouse gases by 2025, along with so many other measures like tree-planting, a plastic bag charge and greater use of offshore wind.”

How to cut your fuel bills and help the environment

Real pleasure last week to visit Camden with my colleague Cllr Ed Butcher to meet their green champion – Alexis Rowell – and see the eco-house they’ve put together.

It is a five bedroom council property refurbished to the highest energy saving specification, including wall insulation on exposed walls, double-glazed sash windows and solar heated water and electricity.

The Camden refurbishment was wholly funded by grants and sponsorship. It is envisaged that Haringey’s eco-house would follow the same model and act as a demonstration home on the possibility of the high standard energy saving in older properties.

The measures have achieved an 80% reduction of carbon emissions and energy bills and have raised the official energy saving rating of the property from G to B, a significant accomplishment for a Victorian property. The photovoltaic solar panels are expected to produce twice as much electricity as the house will need giving the owner the opportunity make money from selling the excess electricity.

What the Liberal Democrats have accomplished in Camden is pretty impressive. It is about practical solutions that people can implement.

When it comes to climate change a council has to do more than just council meetings and print glossy brochures. We need to help people make greener choices.

Good news from China

I interrupt the current frenzy around the blogs about the Lib Dem leadership to bring you news from China – promising news from President Hu Jintao’s opening speech to the Communist Party’s congress.

He talked about the need for China to “promote a conservation culture” and “energy and resource-efficient and environment-friendly industries”. Of course words in speeches come more easily than action – but it’s good to see him setting out the need for China to become more green – and that should mean good news for our one, shared global climate.

What next for international development?

Addressing the All Party Group on Overseas Development today. In weekly succession they have had Gareth Thomas (Labour Minister), Andrew Mitchell (Tory) and obviously saving the best til last – me – today! The title of this series is ‘What next for International Development? Political Perspectives.’

Despite the Labour Deputy Leader hustings on International Development being scheduled at the same time – the room was comfortably filled. Speaking on a subject where everyone in the room is an expert is far more testing than speaking to the public!

I spoke for about 40 minutes and then took 50 minutes of questions. It was very enjoyable and you can read my speech on my website. But for an abridged version – I said the Government has no consistency about where it is going between its different arms; that corruption eats up huge amounts of the money, hindering the good work that we try to do with development and aid – and that tackling corruption would now be seen as a bit rich given our current squalid failure to see through investigations into BAE and the Al Yamamah arms deal with the Saudis. But all of this is dwarfed by the complete failure of the Department for International Development to make the coming cataclysm of climate change central to its development funding programs. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Jonathan Fryer has an account of the meeting over on his blog. Shame about the photo though!

How do we tackle climate change?

Local community groups came together to discuss and work out a way forward for a sustainable agenda for Haringey. Well, given that the Labour Council and the Labour government between them have not done the necessary – this is probably a move in the right campaigning direction.

The problem is that whilst the presentations were very good – from Friends of the Earth, Haringey Residents Associations and an energy consultant – it is in the end to a great extent about political will. We really do have to work towards a sustainable future and (excuse the number of clichés) there really is no time to lose. But whilst there is a lot of emphasis put – rightly – on individual action, there is much more that need to be done by the different parts of the state, especially giving us not merely an aspirational target for reducing carbon emissions by 2050 in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill but annual targets instead.

And a bit more is required of businesses – such as why not get the FTS100 companies to publish their carbon footprint? And why does Labour Haringey show no interest or desire to take up the local Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment to get businesses to recycle? Lots of individuals recycling their glass bottles is one thing, but imagine the impact of providing more pubs with a glass recycling service – or shops a cardboard box recycling service – and the list of examples goes on.

And one of the biggest carbon emitters of all – our homes – could be so much more energy efficient: not just lagging and cavity walls, but real improvements like in some northern European countries where emissions from peoples’ houses is almost down to nothing. It can be done – and the costs can be covered by savings on fuel bills.

Nevertheless – congratulations to the organisers of the sustainable communities conference, as we sure do need pressure – continual pressure – on both Haringey Council and the Government, particularly as the Climate Change Bill proceeds.

Channel 4: about as wrong as you can be

Yesterday’s Channel 4 programme – Great Global Warming Swindle – supposedly debunking global warming has got it all wrong. Now – I’m all for scepticism and testing out arguments properly. So just because nearly every reputable scientist in the field believes global warming is real and a major problem isn’t a reason to close our minds on the subject. But if you are going to question it, you really need to do better than recycle old arguments that have long since been debunked.

What did the show have then? New evidence? No. New arguments? No. Rather just the same old sensation-seeking half-stories that have been rolled out and debunked many times before. There’s a good summary of the details of all this at In The Green.

So sorry Channel 4 – you get an F for fail for that programme.

Al Gore success!

I Al Gorenote with great pleasure that the Government has announced that they are now going to send the DVD of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ to every secondary school.

Given that this was my suggestion in the Climate Change debate on 12th October 2006 (even praised in the debate by the Tory spokesperson in his closing remarks as a jolly good idea) and which I followed up by a letter from me to David Miliband – I am well-chuffed! Of course, I heard it on the news – not in reply to my missive!

You can still watch my own YouTube clip about Al Gore’s film here.

The Green Tax Switch

It’s the big Lib Dem Green Tax Switch campaign week at the moment, so today we held our own street stall. This is a national campaign to get people to sign up to our Green Tax Switch ( And Lib Dems up and down the country are having street stalls to back the campaign. I was on our stall on Crouch End Broadway, and after a bit of early rain – the sun came out.

The big idea is to begin the move away from taxing work towards taxing the polluter – and whilst the overall tax take remains neutral – as well as helping to stop Climate Change (one of the two biggest threats we face) it also allows us to lift the bottom 10% of people out of tax altogether and cut the basic rate of tax by two pence in the pounds for everyone. (That’s not two pence off the your tax bill, but rather more!). It is a real shift in taxation policy – and already we are seeing the other parties having to come onto our territory. I am just glad that the environment is now centre stage and that we are able to force the issue politically.

It’s so great when you are doing a street stall and you see someone rushing by with both hands full of shopping as one lady did and then – as you mention ‘climate change’ – they stop! It’s the last thing they want to do with hands full and rushing about – but their conscience will not let them pass. Thank goodness so many people really care about the future and took time to fill in the Green Tax Switch sign up cards.