Secretary of State addresses packed public meeting in Muswell Hill

Ed Davey and Lynne Featherstone address the packed public meeting on green issues.Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, answered questions at a packed public meeting on Wednesday night, at the Birchwood Centre in Muswell Hill.

The meeting, organised by local Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, gave local residents the chance to discuss environmental issues and green policy.

Residents raised concerns and questions about fracking, renewable energy, consumerism, progress on international climate agreements, and more.

The Secretary of State responded to the questions, and spoke about the Lib Dem record of delivery on green issues during this Government, including: the creation of 200,000 new green jobs by investing in renewable energy; doubling the amount of electricity generated from offshore wind; and planting 1 million new trees in England.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto for the 2015 election will include plans for five new green laws to protect the environment – including legal targets for clean air and water, an end to dirty coal power stations and an ambitious decarbonisation target for the electricity sector.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“It was great to see so many local residents at the meeting and interested in green issues. I’d also like to thank the Secretary of State, Ed Davey, for updating us on all the work he’s doing to push the green agenda in Government

“As can be seen from our record of delivery, and the five ‘green laws’ in our next manifesto, the Liberal Democrats are the only major party that is putting climate change at the top of the agenda. Indeed – we were the first party to talk about climate change in Parliament – back in the 1980s when the environment was an unpopular issue.

“I hope to hold further public meetings with ministers, and will keep local residents updated when dates are set.”

One local resident tweeted:

“Excited! Climate change is taken seriously by @lfeatherstone @EdwardDaveyMP at the public meeting in Muswell Hill!”

Energy Secretary Ed Davey to attend local public meeting

Lynne Featherstone MP and the Haringey Liberal Democrats have organised a local public meeting with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey MP.

The meeting will taking place on Wednesday 19th November, from 7pm onwards at the Birchwood Centre, 171 Fortis Green Road, London N10 3BG.

At the meeting, residents will have the chance to question the Lib Dem Secretary of State and put forward ideas about future policy on green issues.

In Government, the Liberal Democrats have already secured:

  • A commitment to halving UK greenhouse gases by 2025.
  • 200,000 new green jobs by investing in renewable energy. We have already doubled the amount of electricity generated from offshore wind.
  • 1 million new trees in England, as part of the first government tree planting programme since the 1970s.
  • A 5p plastic bag charge to help clean up our environment and protect Britain’s natural habitat.

Lynne Featherstone commented:

“Protecting our environment for future generations is essential. It’s also important to raise awareness of green issues, and discuss the ways we can best tackle threats like climate change.

“That’s why I am holding a public meeting in our local area, with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey MP.

“The Lib Dems have made huge progress on green issues in Government, but there is plenty of work still to be done. If you want to ask the Secretary of State any questions, or put forward ideas about how to strengthen Government policy on the environment – please do join us.”

Clean energy access for women and girls

Here’s my fifth blog from New York – this time on clean energy access for women and girls. Also available here.

There’s a key ingredient to women’s equality that just hasn’t made it far enough up the agenda, yet could literally power development: energy access for women and girls.

So, this morning, I spoke at a meeting hosted by the Global Alliance of Clean Cookstoves, of which I am a leadership council member, and Energia. I was also joined by Cathy Russell, US Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues. We were there to work out how to get clean energy access for women and girls firmly on the development agenda.

Women and girls’ limited access to clean energy has extremely negative consequences on their quality of life, as I’ve written before.  Put simply, without energy access, women and girls in the developing world are even more time-poor – time spent collecting fuel and water is time not spent on education or on paid work. They are least safe when they are out collecting fuel and water. And smoke-related illnesses are one of the greatest causes of ill-health for women and children.

That is why I have launched a DFID campaign to improve the economic opportunities, safety and health of girls and women through clean and affordable energy. I am working closely with the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative – which took up my suggestion to focus the first two years of the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All on women and girls. And I am working to raise the profile of the women and girls’ limited access to clean energy, and to advocate for the international community to do more.

Research is an important first step to demonstrating the extent of the issue and developing and scaling up practical solutions. In May, DFID will be co-hosting a conference in London with the World Health Organisation and the Global Alliance of Clean Cookstoves to bring together research on clean cooking. Just last week, research that DFID and the Alliance jointly conducted was commended by the UK Climate Week awards. This research supports the Alliance’s target to enable 100 million households to adopt clean and efficient cooking practices by 2020.

The energy and development communities are finally beginning to understand and respond to the gravity of this issue and the need for action. But there is a need to improve awareness and action more broadly, and to push the international community to recognise that energy is a critical element in building gender equality and improving women’s health and economic opportunities – one that really can power progress on development.

Energy access: the next thing to go viral?

Here’s one of my recent blogs in my role as minister in the Department for International Development. You can also read it on the DFID site here.

Of all the things that have gone viral this year, there is 1 in particular that stood out for me. A Swedish professor, Hans Rosling, produced a survey that tests our assumptions about the progress of the developing world. It was reported on by the BBC a few weeks back, and Rosling’s TED talk has been viewed more than 6 million times.

Many people I spoke to said how surprised they were by some of the answers – like the fact that the number of children in the world will be the same in 2100 as in 2000, or that average life expectancy globally has reached 70.

I’ve been an international development minister for a little over a year now, but some facts and figures still teach me something new.

If you asked me a week ago about the biggest causes of death in the world, I would certainly have thought of malaria, as well as diarrhoea and malnutrition. Globally, heart disease, stroke and cancer are surely up there.

But what I hadn’t realised was the deadliness of smoke inhalation from cooking and heating in homes around the world. At least 2 million people die prematurely due to household air pollution every year, while a recent estimate has put the figure as high as 4 million. Even the lower figure is around 3 times the number of people who die from malaria. And 44% of these deaths are among children.

I learnt just how important this issue is during a visit to New York last week to represent the UK on the advisory board of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, chaired by the UN Secretary General and World Bank President.

SE4ALL gathers the UN, governments, the multilateral development banks, the private sector and non-governmental organisations to try and make progress towards universal access to cleaner and more efficient energy by 2030.

This is a huge task, but an essential one. Without access to energy, medicines cannot be safely stored, children cannot study after dark, and businesses cannot prosper.

And if you are a woman or a girl, it is even more essential to have access to clean, affordable energy. Currently, women in Africa can spend 4 hours per day collecting firewood, time that could be better spent learning or working. Over 90% of rapes of women in transitional settlements occur while women are collecting firewood. And women make up 60% of adult deaths from indoor air pollution.

Right now, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity – around one sixth of the world’s population. This can be because they live in remote areas, because there is no national grid, or simply because they cannot afford it. Burkina Faso, for example, has the most expensive electricity in the world – yet it is 183rd out of 187 in the Human Development Index.

So that is why, last week, I represented the UK government on the SE4ALL advisory board. And that is why I launched a personal campaign focused on improving the lives of girls and women through access to clean energy. You can see my speech to launch the campaign here (at 36:30).

As part of this campaign, I have joined the leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an extraordinary organisation with the objective of ensuring 100 million clean cookstoves are in use amongst the poor by 2020. You can hear more about the work of the Alliance from its chair, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, here.

To kick off the campaign I also announced UK support of £7 million to learn more about how to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030, and £4.5 million for research through the Gender and Sustainable Energy Network – ENERGIA – to better understand how we can improve women’s skills, economic opportunities, health and safety through access to energy.

With the leadership of such a powerful range of people – from the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, to politicians such as Hillary Clinton, from business leaders such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance CEO Michael Liebreich to celebrities such as Julia Roberts – we have a chance to change the world. We can make it cleaner, brighter and safer.

We need to make clean energy access the next thing to go viral. And together, perhaps, we can remove one of those facts and figures that still have the power to shock and surprise.

Help for keeping warm this winter

Here’s an email I recently sent out to local residents on keeping warm this winter. You can sign up to receive similar updates here.

News reports and weather forecasts predict a very cold month ahead for us. So now more than ever, a warm and well-insulated home is vital – particularly for the elderly and vulnerable people.

There are a number of Government grants and discount schemes to help people with the cost of their winter bills, and organisations that give out free advice. Here’s a summary:

The Winter Fuel Payment: anyone born on or before the 5th January 1952 is entitled to a tax free payment from the Government, ranging from £100-£300 to help with heating bills. This year, you should receive the payment automatically – but do let me know if you haven’t and I will chase it up.

The Warm Homes Discount is run jointly by the Government and energy companies, and gives recipients a £135 discount on bills. Find out if you’re eligible and check if your supplier takes part in the scheme.

There are also discounts or subsidies available if you want to add insulation to your property or convert to greener, more efficient energy. This Government energy grants calculator may be helpful in working out exactly what you’re entitled to.

The Home Heat Helpline offers free, impartial advice to people on low incomes who are worried about their energy costs and staying warm during winter. Their free contact number is 0800 33 66 99.

Finally, the Energy Saving Trust also provides tips on how to use energy more effectively, and advice on switching providers to get the best deal.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions about the above, or if I can be of help in any other way, just let me know.

MP Encourages Energy Saving this Christmas

To see firsthand how residents locally are benefiting from the Government’s home insulation programme, Lynne Featherstone MP visited a Wood Green couple on Friday (16th December) who were having their loft insulated.

Mr and Mrs Obeng are participating in the Carbon Emissions Reductions Target (CERT) programme, a Government scheme that enables people in draughty homes up and down the country to get free or heavily subsidised insulation.

The Hornsey and Wood Green MP was invited by national energy saving installer, Mark Group to see an installation in action.

Mr and Mrs Obeng had booked to have loft insulation professionally installed, knowing that thanks to CERT funding they would only have to pay £150. For this, Mark Group would insulate their loft to the recommended level (270mm), lag any pipes, insulate hot water tanks and seal around the loft hatch. In return, Mr and Mrs Obeng would enjoy the comfort of a warmer home, save up to £155 a year on their heating bills and help to cut carbon emissions. The scheme, run by the Government, also enables free insulation for households that are receiving qualifying benefits and some residents over the age of 70.

Mrs Obeng said: “You can’t really escape the messages in the media and from utility companies about making sure your home is properly insulated, but I don’t think many people realise how little it costs. There is always the option of insulating your loft yourself but, by getting the professionals in, we know they’ll do the job in half the time it would have taken us and with a lot less hassle.”

Ms Featherstone, added: “We have some of the draughtiest homes in Europe, and many people are losing money by the minute by not having the right level of insulation. The CERT scheme is a great way to help people save money and stay warm this winter.

“I’m sure Mr and Mrs Obeng will have a snugger, warmer Christmas thanks to their decision to insulate their home. And thanks to the CERT scheme, it is free or much cheaper than expected to follow in their footsteps.

“I would encourage all residents to do so, and help make Hornsey and Wood Green’s homes warmer, cheaper and greener.”

Mark Group installs over 200 cavity wall or loft insulation projects in the North London area every week, contributing to a total of around 250,000 installations nationwide, each year. Insulation is installed following a comprehensive survey of a property and agreement with the householder and can take as little as two hours to install. For further information or to arrange a survey call 0800 616 302 or visit

Lynne Featherstone MP welcomes new campaign to help energy customers ‘Plug the Debt’

Lynne Featherstone MP welcomes a joint Consumer Focus/Citizens Advice campaign which aims to help advise people who are falling behind with their energy bills.

With temperatures starting to plummet, many people face the challenge of how to afford to keep their home warm this winter. 63% of people in London are unsure whether they can afford to pay their energy bills this winter, according to the watchdog Consumer Focus.

The most recent figures show that new cases of household energy debts nationwide have increased by 20%.2 Consumer Focus and Citizen’s Advice are concerned that many more people will be pushed into debt to their energy supplier this winter, with average price increases of 14% due to hit homes. The organisations have launched the new awareness campaign – ‘Plug the Debt’ – to help people know what to do and what their rights are when they fall behind on their energy bills.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“With many of my constituents worrying about affording their energy bills, it’s very timely that Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice are reaching out to residents to provide information on how to cope.

“It’s clearly of concern that the number of people with debts on energy bills is set to rise and these residents need to get the right help. It’s essential that people know that they can turn to their energy provider for assistance with managing their debt.”

Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of Consumer Focus, said:

“A toxic cocktail of higher energy prices, rising bills for other essentials and falling incomes could push more people into debt with their energy company this winter. We want people to know that help is out there. We’d urge people to get in touch with their energy firm as soon as they think they might have problems, before debts start to spiral. You can also get in touch with Citizens Advice or the Home Heat Helpline to find out how you can cut your bills.”

Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice Chief Executive, said:

“Each year we help thousands of people who are in debt because they can’t afford their fuel bills.  Hikes in prices are making a tough time much harder for many.  We urge people to check that they aren’t missing out on any benefits or tax credits that could ease the pressure on their finances – and if they are in debt, to get help immediately.

“Worryingly, around half of people in the UK don’t know their energy supplier has to help them if they fall into debt on their energy bills.  Lynne Featherstone MP wants to let her constituents know that help is out there and to urge people to contact their energy company or local Citizens Advice Bureau if they are having problems paying their bills.”

Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice are making people aware of the following 5 top tips if they fall behind with their bills:

1.    Always contact your energy supplier as soon as you realise you might have trouble with paying. Debts will build up and be harder to pay off, the longer you leave them. Your supplier has a responsibility to help you if you have problems paying your bill.

2.    Tell your energy firm what you can afford to pay – they have to take this into account in agreeing repayments of the money you owe.

3.    Ask your energy company, your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call the Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99 to find out about other free energy help available.  For example, you could qualify for a discount off your bill or free insulation to help your home stop leaking heat and cut your bills.

4.    Even if you are in debt you may still be able to switch to a cheaper deal with your current supplier, especially if you pay by cash, cheque or pre-payment meter. If you pay by pre-payment meter and have less than £200 of debt you can also switch to a cheaper deal with another supplier.

5.    Financial help is available which could make it easier to afford your bills – check you are receiving all of the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to by getting in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or visiting

Anyone who wants to find out more about getting help or advice through the ‘Plug the Debt’ campaign should visit or contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau.