Digital Disconnect and its adverse impact on how (or whether) we engage with nature

With so much money tied up in the digital workplace, little research has been undertaken to understand how screen time affects the average worker and our connection to the environment.

There have, however, been numerous studies into how how the length of time spent on devices impacts negatively on children and young people and as your reliance on technology grows – for work and for leisure activities – the bigger our disconnect with nature and the environment becomes.

Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman agrees we need more research into the overall effects of both working screen time (your job) and what is known as ‘Discretionary Screen Time’ – the time you use devices on a recreational basis. He says, whatever the activity, moderation is key:

“People don’t think of technology as an industry, but it is and it has shareholders. Mark Zuckerberg might be a nice guy with a hoody, but he has shareholders. I’m not anti-technology, I use it, but there is a lot of money at stake and at what point do we start to recognise that there is a level of digital use which becomes misuse?”

The particular vulnerability of young minds

Younger people’s brains are far more vulnerable to screen-consumption. Right up until the age of 25 it can affect their development and behaviour in a different way to adults. Dr Sigman says: “If you are looking at young people, whose health and social skills are still developing, there are very robust connections between social media time and depression.

“There is also something that we learn – known as face perception where we are able to recognise through people’s facial expressions their intentions, emotions and motives and research has already shown there are big differences in early stage face perception in heavy Internet users.

“Children’s ability to read face perception has been shown to improve dramatically if you take away their electronic devices. To me what is scary is what is being displaced by spending too much time in front of a screen and my advice always is that there is nothing to be lost by adopting a principle of precaution until we know more.”

Research has suggested that 16-24 year olds in America are spending more time on digital media than they are sleeping, and in offices across the world workers spend entire days chained to computers and locked into screen time without breaks to meet the demands of jobs.

Studies show that this sedentary lifestyle impacts our eating and sleeping habits, with direct links between sedation and a higher level of body fat. Dr Sigman explains says that office workers should be getting up once every hour to have a break from the screen.

He also warns that workers should also be wary of amount the amount of time they spend on Facebook, claiming that checking social statuses and photo-sharing can have a negative impact on outside relationships, including our relationship with the natural world.

There’s no doubt that the digital world has given opportunities where once they didn’t exist, and small businesses can now trade in a global marketplace. We can also use digital platforms to share our concerns about the environment and work together to try and get our voices heard.

A generation that missed out on nature?

A key factor in this developing ‘digital landscape’ is the decline in appreciation for our natural landscape. Dr Sigman cites “videophilia” – the focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media, and a move away from “biophilia” – the desire to spend time in natural surroundings. He believes that ultimately the digital lives we lead will cause evolutionary changes, not yet apparent to us, but that will filter down to our descendants, with no telling what negative impacts these will have.

He said: “I have a number of worries, I believe that judicious use of the Internet and digital media is good, but I’m wary of disproportionate use. People understand the concept of consumption, dose, and using technology as a benefit, but as with nutrition, most will overdose.

“It’s true to say that we will ultimately evolve as a species as a result of our digital environment. We are losing an important reality that we are still hard wired to have a lot of face-to-face contact. People need to make sure that they use social media and that social media doesn’t use them.”

Nottingham-based digital coach, brand strategist and public speaker Debbie Clarke points out there is a yin and yang to all things, and digital working is no exception: “Overall I love the capacity for homeworking and freelancing and networking that technology has given us.  It means that I have been able to set up my own business and have a wider reach for customers than I ever would have had from a shop. 

“It has also created jobs that weren’t even here before. I support women in business with their digital marketing. Twenty years ago this would have been an ad man agency, run by men.  Today there are so many women running the digital marketing field. It seems to be an area we are excelling in, because I think this new breed of marketing evolves around creating relationships on a human level, rather than just a straight transaction of ‘buy my product’.”

But as we saw when Facebook censored an image of the Vietnam war, the power to manipulate is an increasing concern, Debbie adds: “As with newspapers there are a few people pulling the strings and so they have the power to manipulate and alter our news feed. Also the algorithm of Facebook, another place where more and more people are getting their newsfeed, works to show you only the things you aready like.”

Can we get the best of both worlds?

Adapting to a new way of working is taking place in schools across the country, as a direct response to digital and children now have to embrace technology far earlier than previous generations.

The Digital Schoolhouse (DSH) concept was brought in almost a decade ago, first opening its doors in 2008 at Langley Grammar School to share the study and practice of how best to teach the digital concepts and skills of computing in a creative manner, easily understood by young people.

Now about to start a national roll out to 19 schools across the country DSH is hoping the programme will play a key role in developing digital landscape.

The scheme is run by UK games industry trade body Ukie and powered by PlayStation in association with the Department for Education, the Mayor of London’s Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF) and the Digital Schoolhouse Trust.

Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie, said: “The Digital Schoolhouse is equipping the learners of today with the digital skills and a fundamental understanding of complex computational thinking concepts – such as systems thinking, algorithms, abstraction – demystifying them through simple often unplugged techniques. 

“Making them understandable and relevant to their lives will give them a literacy fit for 21st century digital creative economy. The skills that the pupils are learning in the workshops will be fundamental to jobs in 20 years’ time that haven’t even been invented yet, and the Digital Schoolhouse is here to ensure that pupils thrive in this new digital landscape from an early age.

“All of the workshops are collaborative and interactive, often using unplugged techniques such as magic tricks and dancing. The pupils work together with their teacher to learn quite complex computing thinking through play and fun. Social interaction, experimentation and play are key to the way that we naturally learn and grow, and this is what has made the DSH play-based learning model so successful throughout the pilot year.” 

 


 

Laura Briggs is the Ecologist UK-based news reporter. Follow her on Twitter @WordsbyBriggs.

 

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Sizewell B and 27 other EDF nuclear plants ‘at risk of catastrophic failure’

A new review of the safety of France’s nuclear power stations has found that at least 18 of EDF’s units are are “operating at risk of major accident due to carbon anomalies.”

The review was carried out at the request of Greenpeace France following the discovery of serious metallurgical flaws by French regulators in a reactor vessel at Flamanville, where an EPR plant is under construction.

The problem is that parts of the vessel and its cap contain high levels of carbon, making the metal brittle and potentially subject to catastrophic failure. These key components were provided by French nuclear engineering firm Areva, and forged at its Le Creusot.

“The nature of the flaw in the steel, an excess of carbon, reduces steel toughness and renders the components vulnerable to fast fracture and catastrophic failure putting the NPP at risk of a major radioactive release to the environment”, says nuclear safety expert John Large, whose consultancy Large Associates (LA) carried out the Review.

Hi report examines how the defects in the Flamanville EPR reactor pressure vessel came about during the manufacturing process, and escaped detection for years after forging. It then goes on to investigate what other safety-critical nuclear components might be suffering from the same defects.

Steam generators at 28 EDF nuclear sites at risk

After several months of investigation LA found that critical components of a further 28 nuclear plants were forged by Le Creusot using the same process. These are found in the steam generators – large, pod-like boilers – that have been installed at operational EDF nuclear power stations across France.

The conclusion is based on documents provided by IRSN (the independent French Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire) that reject assurances given by both EDF and Areva that there is no safety risk from steam generators containing the excess carbon flaw.

In August 2016, IRSN warned the French nuclear safety regulator Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) that:

  • EdF’s submission was incomplete;
  • there risk of abrupt rupture which could lead to a reactor core fuel melt; and
  • immediate “compensatory” measures need to be put in place to safeguard the operational NPPs involved.


“As a result of AREVA’s failures, a significant share of the French nuclear reactor fleet is at increased risk of severe radiological accident, including fuel core meltdown”
, said Large. “However, there is no simple or quick fix to this problem.

“The testing and inspection regime currently underway by Areva and EDF is incapable of detecting the extent and severity of the carbon problem and, moreover, it cannot ensure against the risk of rapid component failure. It is most certain that the IRSN finding will equally applies to replacement steam generators exported by Areva to overseas nuclear power plants around the world.”

EDF reactors face protracted closure, credit rating falls

EDF stated yesterday that it will carry out further tests on 12 nuclear reactors during their planned outages in the coming months – and that extended periods of outage are to be expected. “There are outages that could take longer than planned”, an EDF spokesman told Reuters.

“In 2015, we discovered the phenomenon of carbon segregation in the Flammanville EPR reactor. We decided to verify other equipments in the French nuclear park to make sure that other components are not impacted by the phenomenon.”

In anticipation of the nuclear closures, year-ahead electricity prices rose in the French wholesale power market, forcing power rises across Europe up to a one-year high.

Meanwhile Moody’s has downgraded EDF credit ratings across a spectrum of credit instruments. EDF’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings fell from A2 to A3 while perpetual junior subordinated debt ratings fell to Baa3 from Baa2. Moody’s also  downgraded to Prime-2 from Prime-1 the group’s short-term ratings.

According to Moody’s, “the rating downgrade reflects its view that the action plan announced by EDF in April 2016, which includes government support, will not be sufficient to fully offset the adverse impact of the incremental risks associated the Hinkley Point C (HPC) project on the group’s credit profile.

“Moody’s believes that the significant scale and complexity of the HPC project will affect the group’s business and financial risk profiles. This is because the HPC project will expose EDF and its partner China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN, A3 negative) to significant construction risk as the plant will use the same European Pressurised reactor (EPR) technology that has been linked with material cost overruns and delays at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto 3 in Finland. In addition, none of the four plants using the EPR technology currently constructed globally is operational yet.”

Once rating agencies have had time to evaluate the seriousness of EDF’s current problems with reactors packed with unsafe crirical components, further downgrades may follow. “The ratings could be downgraded if (1) credit metrics fall below Moody’s guidance for the A3 rating; or (2) EDF were to be significantly exposed to AREVA NP’s liabilities”, the agency warns.

Flamanville EPR heading for the scrapheap

The Review also shows that the reactor pressure vessel of the Flamanville EPR, which is already installed, does not have a Certificate of Conformity issued by ASN. This means that it does not comply with the European Directive on Pressure Equipment, nor does it meet the mandatory requirement of the ASN, which since 2008, stipulates that any new nuclear reactor coolant circuit component has to have a Certificate of Conformity before its production commences.

“Without a Certificate of Conformity the reactor pressure vessel and steam generators currently installed in Flamanville 3 will almost certainly have to be scrapped”, said Roger Spautz, responsible for nuclear campaign at Greenpeace France.

The review, he added, “reveals evidence that at the Creusot Forge plant, Areva did not have the technical qualifications required to meet exacting nuclear safety standards. The plant was not under effective control and therefore had not mastered the necessary procedures for maintaining the exacting standards for quality control in the manufacture of safety-critical nuclear components.”

Areva has now acknowledged that ineffective quality controls at le Creusot Forge were mainly responsible not only for the flaws in the Flamanvile 3 EPR, but across other operational nuclear power plans – and that the technical failures date back to 1965.

Moreover, ASN has indicated that in the nuclear components supply chain three examples of Counterfeit, Fraudulent and Substandard Items (CFSI) have occurred in the year ending 2015.

The recent ASN publication (24th September 2016) of a list of the NPPs affected by the AREVA anomalies and irregularities demonstrates that the phenomenon not only has reached alarming proportions but is continuing to grow under scrutiny.

The number of components affected by irregularities and installed in NPPs in operation increased by 50 in April 2016 from 33 to 83 by 24th September this year. Irregularities affecting the Flamanville EPR increased from two to 20 over the same period.

Also at risk: Sizewell B, Hinkley C finance, Taishan EPRs

LA’s Review also relates these developments in France to the UK, specifically: the currently operating Sizewell B NPP in Suffolk; and the now contracted construction programme for the Hinkley Point C NPP.

Sizewell B which includes a number of components sourced from Le Creusot which need urgent examination and / or replacement in order to prevent unsafe operation. The fact that this could escape the UK’s nuclear regulators also indicates, says Large, that “the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) did not delve deep enough into the situation as now revealed by ASN.”

As for For Hinkley Point C, it now appears inevitable that it will not be completeted by its target date of the end of 2020, indeed it may very well never be completed at all. Under the terms of agreement for the plant’s construction accepted by the European Commission, this would render the UK government unable to extend promised credit guarantees to financial backers.

“Now that ASN has deprioritized efforts on the under-construction Flamanville 3 NPP because of its pressing urgency to evaluate the risk situation for the operating NPPs”, says Large, “there is a greater likelihood that Flamanville 3 will not reach the deadline for operation and validation of its technology by the UK Credit Guarantee cut-off date of December 2020.”

Also at risk are the two EPRs that Areva and EDF are currently constructing at Taishan in China. These are now at the most advanced stage of any EPR projects in the world, however there are increasing fears that they contain faulty components.

The vessels and domes at Taishan were also supplied by Areva, and manufactured by the same process as that utilised by Le Creusot. It is suspected that Chinese nuclear regulators may have decided to overlook this problem and hope for the best. However if they discover that the steam generators, which along with the reactor vessels have already been installed, are also at risk of catastrophic failure, that might prove a risk too far – even for China. 

The danger for EDF and Areva is that the massive commercial liabilities they may be accruing for faulty reactors supplied to third parties, together with the tens of billions of euros of capital write-downs for projects they have to abandon, and the loss of generation revenues due to plant outages, could easily exceed their entire market capitalisation.

In other words: for EDF, Areva, their shareholders and the entire French nuclear industry, the end really could be nigh.

 


 

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

The report:Irregularities and Anomalies Relating to the Forged Components of le Creusot Forge‘.

The report (French):Irregularités Et Anomalies  Relatives Aux  Composants Forgés De Creusot Forge‘.

 

Elephants: ten years left, and counting …

September 24th was an extremely important day: the opening day of the 17th CITES Congress, where Government representatives meet to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants do not threaten their survival.

It was also the day that I was to join top conservationists and event organiser Action for Elephants UK, as we were to ‘March On Downing Street’ in the name of banning the UK and world trade in antique ivory.

Experts working closely with elephants and rhinos have informed me directly that these iconic animals have just seven to ten years to extinction if they continue to be poached at the current rate. Some 90-100 elephants are killed a day, and about three rhinos a day.

We have around 250,000 elephants left and only 28,000 rhinos. You may think 250,000, well that’s not bad, but if you go back to the beginning of the 19th century, there were over 5 million elephants. We have lost 90% of the population in only 110 years.

Not only are the elephants suffering, but lions are also down to 15,000, their bones crushed for traditional medicine (an ‘inferior’ replacement to the now rare and banned wild tiger bone), their skins taken for rugs, their heads as distasteful trophies on hunter’s walls, (such as notorious ‘Cecil’ killer dentist Walter Palmer), their mouths set into snarls, so as to suggest the hunter must have been pretty brave to have shot that ‘confined’ canned lion.

Conservationists working in Africa and Asia now struggle to find a live pangolin, their scales crushed down and consumed as traditional medicine in Asia and their flesh eaten as a luxurious delicacy. Humans have managed to destroy 50% of life on earth in just the last century.

Clsing the loopholes on ivory and rhino horn

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, currently have placed most of the world’s elephants and rhinos on its Appendix 1, which automatically means they receive a worldwide ban on the trade in their body parts.

However a few elephants and rhinos in several regions remain on Appendix 2. This means they are still at risk. Many countries also own stock piles of confiscated ivory which they stash until they win rights for legal sale, which is applied for via CITES. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, this fuels the demand in ivory immediately with the highest consumers being China, USA and Japan.

Countries such as Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa appeal ongoing to CITES to sell their stock piles legally in order to generate money. The loophole here is whenever ‘legal’ ivory is released for sale, illegal poached ivory is ‘laundered’ into the trade and this is why poaching is not decreasing and is on the increase.

To make matters worse, there is still domestic trade allowed within a country’s borders, this includes trade from previously authorised stockpiles of ivory and ‘old’ ivory sold and crafted before the ban.

Many people argue that there is nothing wrong in trading ‘old ivory, but the trouble is, again, poached ivory is finding its way into the system via this antique ivory trade. Once crafted, it is hard to tell new from old ivory. The only way to stop the trade is to stop all trade.

Every species of rhino and elephant must go on Appendix 1

At Saturday’s march, I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside Born Free’s Founder and national treasure Virginia McKenna, award winning conservationist and elephant expert Ian Redmond, BBC Radio 5’s Nicky Campbell, Presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (who was finishing up filming his BBC Wildlife Crime documentary on the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade), Elephant Family’s Ruth Powys, Born Free’s Dominic Dyer, Boris Johnson’s dad and Author Stanley Johnson, Helping Rhino’s Simon Jones, Ngane, a little girl representing Malawi and IFAW’s Philip Mansbridge.

Everyone made heart wrenching speeches and we all put heart, soul and personal feelings into why means so much for each that this trade must end.

Finally, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall headed up the group, as we crossed Whitehall to Downing Street in order to deliver our letter to Theresa May requesting the ban on UK ivory trade. I can proudly say that the letter, devised by charity Action for Elephants UK and signed by some of the world’s most respected conservationists and celebrities, was accepted.

So hopefully in the light of CITES, Theresa May and environment minister Andrea Leadsom will seriously listen to the voice of the majority, as it is the majority of the UK who want to see an end to this trade.

None of us want to lose our iconic species. None of us want to visit these animals in the confines of zoos and parks 10 years from now. It is especially critical now, as the human population in Africa about to double over the next 20 years, due to improving living standards.

It’s now, or maybe never!

It is now or never that we need to look to the preservation of the elephants’ and rhinos’ land, territories and protect them from the poaching. It will be hard, as their tusks and horns are now considered white gold with their value higher than cocaine; the money obtained from their trade fuelling terrorism and corruption.

All I know is that we have one last chance to do this and it starts with CITES making sure every species of rhino and elephant is on and stays on Appendix 1. Then all countries must group together collectively and banish the domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn.

These animals’ lives are well and truly in our hands and it’s time for us to act, but the question is, is it too late and has time already run out?

 


 

Anneka Svenska is a conservationist & broadcaster who specialises in films covering serious wildlife crime, wildlife & environmental conservation and education surrounding misunderstood apex predators and other endangered species.

 

Climate food crunch demands sustainable food system

More than half of all the world’s maize crops and around a third of all wheat and rice will be grown in regions vulnerable to climate change in the next 50 to 100 years, according to new research.

At the same time, the world’s population will grow to 9 billion, and global food production will need to rise by from 60% to 110% by 2050 to keep up with demand.

Such changes will inevitably hit the poorest nations hardest, and will put at hazard the planet’s remaining wilderness areas and the surviving wild plants and animals that keep ecosystems stable.

But a second study argues that humans could have it both ways: they could produce enough food and still support sustainable development, protect the environment and meet food security targets at the same time. However, this would mean a change of diet for Western nations, and reducing meat consumption would be the simplest way to free up water and land resources.

Researchers have repeatedly warned that climate change, especially in the form of extremes of weather, has an effect on the yield of crops per hectare, and other groups have calculated that political initiatives could protect both food security and the world’s forests, especially with a shift towards a plant-based diet.

And as science works by replication, even the most plausible findings tend to be examined again and again, with different data and new perspectives.

40% of world’s cereals grown in climate-vulnerable zones

So an international team of scientists led by Dr Tom Pugh, who lectures in environmental science at the University of Birmingham in the UK, reports in Nature Communications journal that they matched the average yields per hectare of the three cereal crops that are the basis of the global food supply against maps of change in climate suitability over time.

They found that 43% of the maize, 33% of the wheat and 37% of all rice is grown in areas that will be vulnerable to climate change. The most drastic reductions in potential will be in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and the eastern US.

Western and central Russia and central Canada, however, could offer new opportunities and both could see an increase in yield potential. And, for once, the researchers say both the poorest and the richest nations will be affected.

Developing nations would at least have the opportunity to close the yield gap – that is, exploit the full potential of the available land with better technology, water management and fertiliser use. The richer nations are already producing more or less the highest yields possible, so farmers there could feel the negative effects more keenly.

“Of course, climate is just one factor when looking at the future of global agricultural practices”, Dr Pugh says. “Local factors such as soil quality and water availability also have a very important effect on crop yields in real terms.

“But production of the world’s three major cereal crops needs to keep up with demand, and if we can’t do that by making our existing land more efficient, then the only other option is to increase the amount of land that we use.”

The sustainable alternative

In contrast, a study published in Science Advances journal, led by Brian Walsh and Michael Obersteiner, ecosystem researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, argues that another solution is possible.

Sustainable consumption and production practices on a global scale could meet the environmental aspects of the UN sustainable development goals that the world has set itself, and keep delivering food to the tables of 9 billion. This would involve a concerted and co-ordinated set of approaches to grow more food with more careful use of fertilisers and water, and at the same time waste less food from spoilage.

But, chiefly, it would mean a reduction in livestock farming because, in per-calorie terms, animals require more land and water than plant crops. So by turning pasture into cropland, nations could preserve the forests and deliver more food at the same time, Dr Walsh says:

“We find a general trade-off between policies designed to protect the environment, and those designed to reduce food prices. Yet there are some broader policies that can reduce these trade-offs and reduce the pressure on the system overall so that there’s more room to achieve multiple goals.”

 


 

Tim Radford writes for Climate News Network, where this article was originally published.

 

Nuclear and fracking: the economic and moral bankruptcy of UK energy policy

As Prime Minister Theresa May and EDF prepare to sign the Hinkley Point C contract, and Scotland sees the first shipment of fracking gas from the United States, it is perhaps timely to reflect on recent developments in UK energy policy.

Both new nuclear build and UK onshore shale gas and oil extraction fail key environmental, safety and economic tests.

The UK has recently committed to a nuclear renaissance, with Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) at Westminster, describing the “dawning of a new age of nuclear”.

But by commissioning French and Chinese companies to build the first UK nuclear power station in a generation, the Hinkley Point C deal has come in for almost universal condemnation.

Theresa May clearly buckled under economic pressure from China and has backed nuclear power as the panacea to combat the electricity crunch that we face. Her questionable decision means the UK is committed to a long-term very expensive project that comes with national security and many other concerns.

Empty promises

In 2007 the Chief Executive of EDF’s UK arm effectively cooked his own goose by claiming that Brits would be cooking their Christmas turkeys using nuclear power generated from Hinkley Point C by 2017. Now EDF are claiming that they won’t go over budget, when the new power plant is delivered some time in 2025.

If ongoing experience in France and Finland is anything to go by, and with apparently few financial penalties in place for late delivery, there are serious doubts that the project can be completed in the revised timescale and on budget.

Turning to the financials, the costs of the project are just enormous. Some have claimed that Hinkley Point C will end up being the most expensive physical object ever built. The project is a £100 billion boondoggle. The construction costs alone are in the region of £18-£25 billion. Then there are the subsidies that will amount to a conservative £1 billion plus per year, for at least 35 years.

The deal penned is inflation linked at more than twice the cost of current wholesale electricity prices. The plant will then operate for a further 30 years. It has a potential life span of around 65 years and it will continue to be a drain on public finances even after the initial lucrative contract has expired.

Then try to add into the calculus the unstated decommissioning and radioactive waste management costs, and it soon becomes apparent these super-burdensome costs and risks are incalculable.

If Sellafield in Cumbria, England, is used as a baseline, such costs are just eye watering. Indeed, bucket loads of money amounting to tens of billions of pounds have already been spent, trying to make safe the UK’s nuclear legacy. Based on the available evidence one can only conclude that cheap and clean nuclear power is a myth.

Fuel poverty for future generations

In terms of what Hinkley Point C will mean for household budgets, it is estimated that it will push up individual electricity bills by around £50 per annum. But this is just the start of such price rises as Hinkley Point C is the first of a number of new nuclear projects.

It is only around 3 GW of a 16 GW plus plan. Electricity bills will spiral out of control, as they did a few years ago when there were regular inflation busting price increases. The new nuclear age described by Greg Clark will surely set us on a path to fuel poverty for decades.

Even if households and business can afford such future hideous electricity bills, it might be 2030 before we see the plant operational – more than a decade later than was initially planned. Its promise to generate up to 7% of the UK’s electricity demand will be delivered around a decade too late to meet the 2020 electricity crunch that the UK faces.

Scotland has already closed its last coal plant, the behemoth Longannet, and with other coal-fired stations in England having been phased out, by the time Hinkley Point starts generating electricity, the lights might have already gone out, if the Conservative government continue on their current energy path.

In addition, there are significant safety concerns attached to the European Pressurised Reactors (EPRS) that Hinkley Point C will use. No EPRs are operational, anywhere in Europe, with the ongoing builds in France and Finland resembling what charitably can be best described as classic Monty Python. You should not forget that this is a nuclear power station and in the event of an accident there could be significant radioactive fallout. Think: Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Windscale.

All things considered the decision to commission Hinkley Point C is inexplicable. Hugely expensive, technologically unproven, it will be delivered too late, and the nuclear waste legacy will be a curse on future generations, lasting millennia. This project will prove to be a public relations disaster for the Conservative Party, and every future Westminster government.

Theresa May should have bitten the bullet and cancelled the white elephant that is Hinkley Point C, when she had the opportunity to do so.

Glittering prizes or fracking folly?

Another controversial strand of UK energy policy is fracking for onshore shale gas and oil. The Conservative government is clearly very enthusiastic, even to the point of where Theresa May has recently been accused by the Labour Party of planning to bribe households with cash payments in order to silence public opposition.

The former Prime Minister David Cameron and then Chancellor George Osborne appeared almost desperate to replicate the success of the shale boom in the US. David Cameron said in 2014 that his Party was going all out for shale.

The continuing vision for the Northern Powerhouse seems to be predominantly based on fracking apart the shale beds of England. The prize is claimed to be:

However, at the present time, it makes no economic sense to extract high cost onshore shale gas and oil. The world is awash with cheap oil and gas, and it can be shipped from, say the US, at a fraction of the cost that we can produce it here in the UK. In fact Scotland sees its first shipment of fracked US natural gas today, and its arrival may well signal the death knell of the North Sea oil industry unless the ludicrousness of such anti-green transportation is trumpeted by Holyrood!

Let us take a Chinese lesson here. Like any buyer’s market, get in first, and buy it up cheap. These assets should be left in the ground until they are needed for energy security reasons, and can guarantee maximum economic return, and tax take. If left in the ground now, it is future money in the bank.

Caring for people and environment

Even if it was economically feasible to frack in the UK, millions of town and countryside dwellers have already seen straight through the nonsensical arguments that the industry will be good for the environment and climate, and public health risks can be regulated.

If our politicians would just spend some time and examine some of the existing evidence from, for example, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the British Geological Survey or the Scottish Government Independent Report, they would not dare to make such claims.

Take the issue of earth tremors. Scientists from Arizona State University in the US have now unequivocally shown that shale activity causes earthquakes and these effects can even be seen from Space. Yes, outer Space. Land deformations are visible near the location of the biggest earthquake ever recorded in eastern Texas, the 4.8 Timpson earthquake in 2012, widely blamed on waste water being injected at fracking sites close to the town.

Closer to home, in North-West England during 2011, two minor earthquakes may already have occurred as a result of drilling activities.

Thirsty fracking plays

Across the world fresh drinking water is in short supply. Fresh water is increasingly becoming a valuable commodity, due to contamination from agricultural, industrial and other human activity.

In terms of drilling, any future UK fracking industry will require hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of gallons of water. Even one fracking play requires up to 5 million gallons of water. Providing evidence from overseas the US Geological Survey for example has estimated that the state of Ohio from 2011-2014 used a total of 4 billion gallons of water to frack wells.

Is using water in this way the best use of this valuable resource? A resource that is so precious that all life on the planet depends on it.

Then there is the clogging of roads, noise and emissions arising from the hundreds of lorry trips, to ship the fresh, then contaminated water, from location to location. As we don’t have enough waste treatment plants in the UK that can actually clean up the contaminated water left over, will the industry shortly propose to dump it in the North Sea? And will Westminster agree?

The fact that there is no social license to frack, and the economic, environmental and public health cases don’t add up, must be of significant concern to Theresa May and her pro-fracking Ministers, as well as key players in the immature UK shale industry.

One must conclude it is not an industry with any long-term future. It can only be described as fracking folly.

Can we have more renewables please?

Most people don’t realise that renewables now supply around 25% of UK electricity and in Scotland it is over 50 per cent. Their market share has grown rapidly in recent years, trebling between 2010 and 2015.

Renewables now supply more electricity to the national grid than nuclear power and coal. They are very popular with the general public, cost-effective, and can be deployed very quickly, compared to the nuclear and shale options just outlined. They are also cleaner energy sources, and given all of these positives should surely be deployed to address the looming electricity crunch that threatens the UK.

But for the past two years the renewables industry has been under attack by the Conservative government. Changes to financial support mechanisms and the planning regime are now bringing onshore wind to a standstill. Solar support is being killed off. And while there is much rhetoric around offshore wind, it is actually progressing at a snail’s pace.

The direct effect of Conservative government policy changes has led to many thousands of green jobs being lost.

Another emerging and detrimental effect has been to undermine local community initiatives. In addition to supplying much needed electricity and investment in local assets such as community halls, churches and youth projects, community owned renewable projects encourage energy conservation, and have wider and important public education benefits.

If ever we needed some sign of reprieve for UK renewables, it is now.

A call to action

Westminster must get back on course and harness the heat of the sun, and the (gale) force of our wind, and the power of our waves and tides. It should fully embrace the energy transition from fossil fuels and nuclear power, to a renewable energy future.

Germany, Europe’s strongest economy, gets it and is making huge strides with their ‘Energiewende‘ strategy. The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood also gets it, and to pinch a phrase from former First Minster Alex Salmond, we have the potential to become the Saudi Arabia of Renewables.

The future of humanity depends on an all-encompassing global acceptance of the replacement of fossil fuels and nuclear power by renewables. If there is still a perception that British moral values lead where the world follows then its status is at best precarious.

Theresa May and Greg Clark must step up to the plate and nail the renewables flag to the top of UK energy policy. Nuclear power and fossil fuels have no economic or moral right to a long-term place in UK energy policy.

 


 

Peter Strachan is Professor of Energy Policy, Robert Gordon University. He tweets @ProfStrachan.

Professor Alex Russell is Chair of the Oil Industry Finance Association.

Authors’ note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and not those of the Robert Gordon University or Affiliates.

This article was orginally published on EnergyPost.eu.

 

No fracking in the UK under Labour! Just trade not ‘free’ trade!

“Leave the EU. Take back sovereignty!” That was what Capt. Boris and Firstmate Fox were shouting from the imaginary deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now they are denying you the right to know what sort of deal they’re proposing about your future. It’s one thing not to provide a running commentary. It’s quite another to take a vow of Trappist silence.

Surely you have the right to know what the red lines will be? We know what they promised:

  • Continued access to the single market;
  • No more £350 million a week to Brussels;
  • Restricted immigration; and
  • No more laws handed down from Europe.

But they know they cannot achieve all this. And they won’t tell us what their priority is because they disagree amongst themselves. Even if they get market access and end immigration; they’ll still have to pay into the budget and accept EU legislation without a seat round the table when the decisions are made.

That is not to regain sovereignty. It is to become a vassal state meekly paying tribute to Europe.

Tory ‘free trade’ is the rule of the oligarchs

This is why we must set out what we want from our future trading relationships. Because British businesses need clarity and certainty. They need to plan on a stable base that this government is simply not providing.

The Tories vision of trade is all about de-regulation. They want Free Trade Agreements like TTIP and CETA:

  • that undermine labour standards and environmental protections;
  • that give foreign investors special rights to undermine our laws by-passing our courts and claiming compensation from our country because we have the cheek to pass laws to protect the public that might damage their future profits!

What sort of sovereignty is this? Every law made to improve your children’s environment or extend our workplace equality challenged by a foreign business? If TTIP existed in Dickens’ Day we might still be sending children up chimneys!

It’s time to wake up to the irony … that the very people who claim to be fighting for our sovereignty are in fact doing most to undermine it.

Conference, this government won’t even let you see the text of TTIP!! Germany, Ireland, the European Parliament, even the US, have given elected representatives access to the documents. But this is how Tories conduct trade negotiations:

  • secret deals behind closed doors
  • no parliamentary scrutiny and
  • no democratic control

This isn’t Sovereignty. It’s the rule of the oligarchs! Today Labour maps out a different way. A progressive Labour Trade policy that puts you in control. Labour will negotiate trade agreements that work not just for the big multinationals, But for our small and medium-sized businesses the dynamic backbone of our economy.

They are the innovators and inventors. They employ 60% of all people in the private sector And we know that businesses that export are businesses that grow. Under Labour new trade deals will incorporate an obligation on all partner countries to create an SME access strategy stipulating:

  • industry contact points,
  • regulatory support
  • market intelligence
  • and translation services.

A Labour Trade Policy though is not simply about developing market access. It is about developing markets. We don’t want to export so we can get rich and keep others poor. We want to raise income and standards in our partner countries too so they can buy more of our goods. We are an internationalist party and we believe in the dignity of Labour. Not just in the UK but all over the Globe.

The new ‘Just Trading’ agenda

So today I’m announcing an international partnership called Just Trading. Sister parties and like-minded legislators working to create a progressive new ‘best in class’ free trade agenda based on dignity, sovereignty, high quality jobs and the public good.

Just Trading will be exactly that a community agreeing trade deals based on Just relationships and our shared values. And if anyone doubts our ability to galvanise such progress on the international stage I ask them simply to look at the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act is the international standard upon which the Paris Agreement is founded. But last week’s leak to the Guardian newspaper shows that here too our government is negotiating the secret text of a Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) that would undermine our ability to tackle climate change.

You know: the irony is that this government doesn’t need a secret deal to stop our progress to a low-carbon high-skilled future.

They’ve been managing very well without one! Last year they cut support for solar and their own figures show deployment has fallen by 93%, losing 12,000 jobs. They’ve walked away from onshore wind, attacked biomass tariffs without consultation and scrapped two world leading carbon capture and storage projects at the last minute.

‘A future Labour Government will ban fracking’

In fairness; not everything has been cut. Before he was sacked, George Osborne managed to pass what he proudly referred to as “the most generous tax regime for Shale gas anywhere in the world”. Well that will change under Labour.

You see, there are technical problems with fracking. And they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome. So on their own they’re not a good enough reason to ban fracking. The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.

So today I am announcing that a future Labour Government will ban fracking. And we will consult with our colleagues in industry and the Trade Unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK’s low-carbon future.

Energy is the cornerstone of our industry, our economy and our daily lives. Clean energy and low carbon technologies now employ more people in the UK than the entire teaching profession. They represent just 6% of our economy but are responsible for 30% of its growth.

We must unlock the full potential of this sector. It means skilled jobs, it means growth, it means clean air and a healthy secure future for our children. Britain is at the beginning of an incredible transformation of our energy system.

Power to the People!

The next Labour Government will launch a new programme called ‘Repowering Britain’ that puts you in control. It will build on the innovation and leadership of 70 Labour Councils who have already committed to run their towns on 100% clean energy by 2050. We need to localise the way energy is produced and stored. I want people earning from the energy they produce on their rooftop solar or their community wind turbines, not just consuming what the Big 6 sell.

We need to create smart networks and local grids to make energy work to pay people rather than people working to pay their energy bills. How can it be right that when the government found out that we were being overcharged by £1.4 billion a year on our energy bills they said “It’s all the customers fault – we should shop around more!” Well we do. We need to shop around for a new government.

A new Labour government will legislate to force the energy companies to put you on their cheapest tariff and to tell you if you can get a better deal elsewhere. More people die from cold each winter here in the UK than in Finland! We have 4 million people in fuel poverty and yet heat is escaping through draughty walls and windows.

We will train a skilled workforce to retrofit insulation in Britain’s older housing stock to help vulnerable people keep warm and safe and free from fuel poverty. That is why today, Clive Lewis and I are announcing that the next Labour government will roll out a ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’ programme that will insulate the homes of our disabled veterans for free.

True sovereignty does not come with nationalistic Tory slogans. True sovereignty comes when as ordinary people, we take extraordinary control over our own lives.

Internationally, Labour will create Just Trade Agreements that allow people all over the world to take real control of their own future. And here, we will Repower Britain to take back control in our own homes.

 



Barry Gardiner is the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Brent North since 1997.

 

No fracking in the UK under Labour! Just trade not ‘free’ trade!

“Leave the EU. Take back sovereignty!” That was what Capt. Boris and Firstmate Fox were shouting from the imaginary deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now they are denying you the right to know what sort of deal they’re proposing about your future. It’s one thing not to provide a running commentary. It’s quite another to take a vow of Trappist silence.

Surely you have the right to know what the red lines will be? We know what they promised:

  • Continued access to the single market;
  • No more £350 million a week to Brussels;
  • Restricted immigration; and
  • No more laws handed down from Europe.

But they know they cannot achieve all this. And they won’t tell us what their priority is because they disagree amongst themselves. Even if they get market access and end immigration; they’ll still have to pay into the budget and accept EU legislation without a seat round the table when the decisions are made.

That is not to regain sovereignty. It is to become a vassal state meekly paying tribute to Europe.

Tory ‘free trade’ is the rule of the oligarchs

This is why we must set out what we want from our future trading relationships. Because British businesses need clarity and certainty. They need to plan on a stable base that this government is simply not providing.

The Tories vision of trade is all about de-regulation. They want Free Trade Agreements like TTIP and CETA:

  • that undermine labour standards and environmental protections;
  • that give foreign investors special rights to undermine our laws by-passing our courts and claiming compensation from our country because we have the cheek to pass laws to protect the public that might damage their future profits!

What sort of sovereignty is this? Every law made to improve your children’s environment or extend our workplace equality challenged by a foreign business? If TTIP existed in Dickens’ Day we might still be sending children up chimneys!

It’s time to wake up to the irony … that the very people who claim to be fighting for our sovereignty are in fact doing most to undermine it.

Conference, this government won’t even let you see the text of TTIP!! Germany, Ireland, the European Parliament, even the US, have given elected representatives access to the documents. But this is how Tories conduct trade negotiations:

  • secret deals behind closed doors
  • no parliamentary scrutiny and
  • no democratic control

This isn’t Sovereignty. It’s the rule of the oligarchs! Today Labour maps out a different way. A progressive Labour Trade policy that puts you in control. Labour will negotiate trade agreements that work not just for the big multinationals, But for our small and medium-sized businesses the dynamic backbone of our economy.

They are the innovators and inventors. They employ 60% of all people in the private sector And we know that businesses that export are businesses that grow. Under Labour new trade deals will incorporate an obligation on all partner countries to create an SME access strategy stipulating:

  • industry contact points,
  • regulatory support
  • market intelligence
  • and translation services.

A Labour Trade Policy though is not simply about developing market access. It is about developing markets. We don’t want to export so we can get rich and keep others poor. We want to raise income and standards in our partner countries too so they can buy more of our goods. We are an internationalist party and we believe in the dignity of Labour. Not just in the UK but all over the Globe.

The new ‘Just Trading’ agenda

So today I’m announcing an international partnership called Just Trading. Sister parties and like-minded legislators working to create a progressive new ‘best in class’ free trade agenda based on dignity, sovereignty, high quality jobs and the public good.

Just Trading will be exactly that a community agreeing trade deals based on Just relationships and our shared values. And if anyone doubts our ability to galvanise such progress on the international stage I ask them simply to look at the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act is the international standard upon which the Paris Agreement is founded. But last week’s leak to the Guardian newspaper shows that here too our government is negotiating the secret text of a Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) that would undermine our ability to tackle climate change.

You know: the irony is that this government doesn’t need a secret deal to stop our progress to a low-carbon high-skilled future.

They’ve been managing very well without one! Last year they cut support for solar and their own figures show deployment has fallen by 93%, losing 12,000 jobs. They’ve walked away from onshore wind, attacked biomass tariffs without consultation and scrapped two world leading carbon capture and storage projects at the last minute.

‘A future Labour Government will ban fracking’

In fairness; not everything has been cut. Before he was sacked, George Osborne managed to pass what he proudly referred to as “the most generous tax regime for Shale gas anywhere in the world”. Well that will change under Labour.

You see, there are technical problems with fracking. And they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome. So on their own they’re not a good enough reason to ban fracking. The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.

So today I am announcing that a future Labour Government will ban fracking. And we will consult with our colleagues in industry and the Trade Unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK’s low-carbon future.

Energy is the cornerstone of our industry, our economy and our daily lives. Clean energy and low carbon technologies now employ more people in the UK than the entire teaching profession. They represent just 6% of our economy but are responsible for 30% of its growth.

We must unlock the full potential of this sector. It means skilled jobs, it means growth, it means clean air and a healthy secure future for our children. Britain is at the beginning of an incredible transformation of our energy system.

Power to the People!

The next Labour Government will launch a new programme called ‘Repowering Britain’ that puts you in control. It will build on the innovation and leadership of 70 Labour Councils who have already committed to run their towns on 100% clean energy by 2050. We need to localise the way energy is produced and stored. I want people earning from the energy they produce on their rooftop solar or their community wind turbines, not just consuming what the Big 6 sell.

We need to create smart networks and local grids to make energy work to pay people rather than people working to pay their energy bills. How can it be right that when the government found out that we were being overcharged by £1.4 billion a year on our energy bills they said “It’s all the customers fault – we should shop around more!” Well we do. We need to shop around for a new government.

A new Labour government will legislate to force the energy companies to put you on their cheapest tariff and to tell you if you can get a better deal elsewhere. More people die from cold each winter here in the UK than in Finland! We have 4 million people in fuel poverty and yet heat is escaping through draughty walls and windows.

We will train a skilled workforce to retrofit insulation in Britain’s older housing stock to help vulnerable people keep warm and safe and free from fuel poverty. That is why today, Clive Lewis and I are announcing that the next Labour government will roll out a ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’ programme that will insulate the homes of our disabled veterans for free.

True sovereignty does not come with nationalistic Tory slogans. True sovereignty comes when as ordinary people, we take extraordinary control over our own lives.

Internationally, Labour will create Just Trade Agreements that allow people all over the world to take real control of their own future. And here, we will Repower Britain to take back control in our own homes.

 



Barry Gardiner is the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Brent North since 1997.

 

No fracking in the UK under Labour! Just trade not ‘free’ trade!

“Leave the EU. Take back sovereignty!” That was what Capt. Boris and Firstmate Fox were shouting from the imaginary deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now they are denying you the right to know what sort of deal they’re proposing about your future. It’s one thing not to provide a running commentary. It’s quite another to take a vow of Trappist silence.

Surely you have the right to know what the red lines will be? We know what they promised:

  • Continued access to the single market;
  • No more £350 million a week to Brussels;
  • Restricted immigration; and
  • No more laws handed down from Europe.

But they know they cannot achieve all this. And they won’t tell us what their priority is because they disagree amongst themselves. Even if they get market access and end immigration; they’ll still have to pay into the budget and accept EU legislation without a seat round the table when the decisions are made.

That is not to regain sovereignty. It is to become a vassal state meekly paying tribute to Europe.

Tory ‘free trade’ is the rule of the oligarchs

This is why we must set out what we want from our future trading relationships. Because British businesses need clarity and certainty. They need to plan on a stable base that this government is simply not providing.

The Tories vision of trade is all about de-regulation. They want Free Trade Agreements like TTIP and CETA:

  • that undermine labour standards and environmental protections;
  • that give foreign investors special rights to undermine our laws by-passing our courts and claiming compensation from our country because we have the cheek to pass laws to protect the public that might damage their future profits!

What sort of sovereignty is this? Every law made to improve your children’s environment or extend our workplace equality challenged by a foreign business? If TTIP existed in Dickens’ Day we might still be sending children up chimneys!

It’s time to wake up to the irony … that the very people who claim to be fighting for our sovereignty are in fact doing most to undermine it.

Conference, this government won’t even let you see the text of TTIP!! Germany, Ireland, the European Parliament, even the US, have given elected representatives access to the documents. But this is how Tories conduct trade negotiations:

  • secret deals behind closed doors
  • no parliamentary scrutiny and
  • no democratic control

This isn’t Sovereignty. It’s the rule of the oligarchs! Today Labour maps out a different way. A progressive Labour Trade policy that puts you in control. Labour will negotiate trade agreements that work not just for the big multinationals, But for our small and medium-sized businesses the dynamic backbone of our economy.

They are the innovators and inventors. They employ 60% of all people in the private sector And we know that businesses that export are businesses that grow. Under Labour new trade deals will incorporate an obligation on all partner countries to create an SME access strategy stipulating:

  • industry contact points,
  • regulatory support
  • market intelligence
  • and translation services.

A Labour Trade Policy though is not simply about developing market access. It is about developing markets. We don’t want to export so we can get rich and keep others poor. We want to raise income and standards in our partner countries too so they can buy more of our goods. We are an internationalist party and we believe in the dignity of Labour. Not just in the UK but all over the Globe.

The new ‘Just Trading’ agenda

So today I’m announcing an international partnership called Just Trading. Sister parties and like-minded legislators working to create a progressive new ‘best in class’ free trade agenda based on dignity, sovereignty, high quality jobs and the public good.

Just Trading will be exactly that a community agreeing trade deals based on Just relationships and our shared values. And if anyone doubts our ability to galvanise such progress on the international stage I ask them simply to look at the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act is the international standard upon which the Paris Agreement is founded. But last week’s leak to the Guardian newspaper shows that here too our government is negotiating the secret text of a Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) that would undermine our ability to tackle climate change.

You know: the irony is that this government doesn’t need a secret deal to stop our progress to a low-carbon high-skilled future.

They’ve been managing very well without one! Last year they cut support for solar and their own figures show deployment has fallen by 93%, losing 12,000 jobs. They’ve walked away from onshore wind, attacked biomass tariffs without consultation and scrapped two world leading carbon capture and storage projects at the last minute.

‘A future Labour Government will ban fracking’

In fairness; not everything has been cut. Before he was sacked, George Osborne managed to pass what he proudly referred to as “the most generous tax regime for Shale gas anywhere in the world”. Well that will change under Labour.

You see, there are technical problems with fracking. And they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome. So on their own they’re not a good enough reason to ban fracking. The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.

So today I am announcing that a future Labour Government will ban fracking. And we will consult with our colleagues in industry and the Trade Unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK’s low-carbon future.

Energy is the cornerstone of our industry, our economy and our daily lives. Clean energy and low carbon technologies now employ more people in the UK than the entire teaching profession. They represent just 6% of our economy but are responsible for 30% of its growth.

We must unlock the full potential of this sector. It means skilled jobs, it means growth, it means clean air and a healthy secure future for our children. Britain is at the beginning of an incredible transformation of our energy system.

Power to the People!

The next Labour Government will launch a new programme called ‘Repowering Britain’ that puts you in control. It will build on the innovation and leadership of 70 Labour Councils who have already committed to run their towns on 100% clean energy by 2050. We need to localise the way energy is produced and stored. I want people earning from the energy they produce on their rooftop solar or their community wind turbines, not just consuming what the Big 6 sell.

We need to create smart networks and local grids to make energy work to pay people rather than people working to pay their energy bills. How can it be right that when the government found out that we were being overcharged by £1.4 billion a year on our energy bills they said “It’s all the customers fault – we should shop around more!” Well we do. We need to shop around for a new government.

A new Labour government will legislate to force the energy companies to put you on their cheapest tariff and to tell you if you can get a better deal elsewhere. More people die from cold each winter here in the UK than in Finland! We have 4 million people in fuel poverty and yet heat is escaping through draughty walls and windows.

We will train a skilled workforce to retrofit insulation in Britain’s older housing stock to help vulnerable people keep warm and safe and free from fuel poverty. That is why today, Clive Lewis and I are announcing that the next Labour government will roll out a ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’ programme that will insulate the homes of our disabled veterans for free.

True sovereignty does not come with nationalistic Tory slogans. True sovereignty comes when as ordinary people, we take extraordinary control over our own lives.

Internationally, Labour will create Just Trade Agreements that allow people all over the world to take real control of their own future. And here, we will Repower Britain to take back control in our own homes.

 



Barry Gardiner is the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Brent North since 1997.

 

No fracking in the UK under Labour! Just trade not ‘free’ trade!

“Leave the EU. Take back sovereignty!” That was what Capt. Boris and Firstmate Fox were shouting from the imaginary deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now they are denying you the right to know what sort of deal they’re proposing about your future. It’s one thing not to provide a running commentary. It’s quite another to take a vow of Trappist silence.

Surely you have the right to know what the red lines will be? We know what they promised:

  • Continued access to the single market;
  • No more £350 million a week to Brussels;
  • Restricted immigration; and
  • No more laws handed down from Europe.

But they know they cannot achieve all this. And they won’t tell us what their priority is because they disagree amongst themselves. Even if they get market access and end immigration; they’ll still have to pay into the budget and accept EU legislation without a seat round the table when the decisions are made.

That is not to regain sovereignty. It is to become a vassal state meekly paying tribute to Europe.

Tory ‘free trade’ is the rule of the oligarchs

This is why we must set out what we want from our future trading relationships. Because British businesses need clarity and certainty. They need to plan on a stable base that this government is simply not providing.

The Tories vision of trade is all about de-regulation. They want Free Trade Agreements like TTIP and CETA:

  • that undermine labour standards and environmental protections;
  • that give foreign investors special rights to undermine our laws by-passing our courts and claiming compensation from our country because we have the cheek to pass laws to protect the public that might damage their future profits!

What sort of sovereignty is this? Every law made to improve your children’s environment or extend our workplace equality challenged by a foreign business? If TTIP existed in Dickens’ Day we might still be sending children up chimneys!

It’s time to wake up to the irony … that the very people who claim to be fighting for our sovereignty are in fact doing most to undermine it.

Conference, this government won’t even let you see the text of TTIP!! Germany, Ireland, the European Parliament, even the US, have given elected representatives access to the documents. But this is how Tories conduct trade negotiations:

  • secret deals behind closed doors
  • no parliamentary scrutiny and
  • no democratic control

This isn’t Sovereignty. It’s the rule of the oligarchs! Today Labour maps out a different way. A progressive Labour Trade policy that puts you in control. Labour will negotiate trade agreements that work not just for the big multinationals, But for our small and medium-sized businesses the dynamic backbone of our economy.

They are the innovators and inventors. They employ 60% of all people in the private sector And we know that businesses that export are businesses that grow. Under Labour new trade deals will incorporate an obligation on all partner countries to create an SME access strategy stipulating:

  • industry contact points,
  • regulatory support
  • market intelligence
  • and translation services.

A Labour Trade Policy though is not simply about developing market access. It is about developing markets. We don’t want to export so we can get rich and keep others poor. We want to raise income and standards in our partner countries too so they can buy more of our goods. We are an internationalist party and we believe in the dignity of Labour. Not just in the UK but all over the Globe.

The new ‘Just Trading’ agenda

So today I’m announcing an international partnership called Just Trading. Sister parties and like-minded legislators working to create a progressive new ‘best in class’ free trade agenda based on dignity, sovereignty, high quality jobs and the public good.

Just Trading will be exactly that a community agreeing trade deals based on Just relationships and our shared values. And if anyone doubts our ability to galvanise such progress on the international stage I ask them simply to look at the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act is the international standard upon which the Paris Agreement is founded. But last week’s leak to the Guardian newspaper shows that here too our government is negotiating the secret text of a Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) that would undermine our ability to tackle climate change.

You know: the irony is that this government doesn’t need a secret deal to stop our progress to a low-carbon high-skilled future.

They’ve been managing very well without one! Last year they cut support for solar and their own figures show deployment has fallen by 93%, losing 12,000 jobs. They’ve walked away from onshore wind, attacked biomass tariffs without consultation and scrapped two world leading carbon capture and storage projects at the last minute.

‘A future Labour Government will ban fracking’

In fairness; not everything has been cut. Before he was sacked, George Osborne managed to pass what he proudly referred to as “the most generous tax regime for Shale gas anywhere in the world”. Well that will change under Labour.

You see, there are technical problems with fracking. And they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome. So on their own they’re not a good enough reason to ban fracking. The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.

So today I am announcing that a future Labour Government will ban fracking. And we will consult with our colleagues in industry and the Trade Unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK’s low-carbon future.

Energy is the cornerstone of our industry, our economy and our daily lives. Clean energy and low carbon technologies now employ more people in the UK than the entire teaching profession. They represent just 6% of our economy but are responsible for 30% of its growth.

We must unlock the full potential of this sector. It means skilled jobs, it means growth, it means clean air and a healthy secure future for our children. Britain is at the beginning of an incredible transformation of our energy system.

Power to the People!

The next Labour Government will launch a new programme called ‘Repowering Britain’ that puts you in control. It will build on the innovation and leadership of 70 Labour Councils who have already committed to run their towns on 100% clean energy by 2050. We need to localise the way energy is produced and stored. I want people earning from the energy they produce on their rooftop solar or their community wind turbines, not just consuming what the Big 6 sell.

We need to create smart networks and local grids to make energy work to pay people rather than people working to pay their energy bills. How can it be right that when the government found out that we were being overcharged by £1.4 billion a year on our energy bills they said “It’s all the customers fault – we should shop around more!” Well we do. We need to shop around for a new government.

A new Labour government will legislate to force the energy companies to put you on their cheapest tariff and to tell you if you can get a better deal elsewhere. More people die from cold each winter here in the UK than in Finland! We have 4 million people in fuel poverty and yet heat is escaping through draughty walls and windows.

We will train a skilled workforce to retrofit insulation in Britain’s older housing stock to help vulnerable people keep warm and safe and free from fuel poverty. That is why today, Clive Lewis and I are announcing that the next Labour government will roll out a ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’ programme that will insulate the homes of our disabled veterans for free.

True sovereignty does not come with nationalistic Tory slogans. True sovereignty comes when as ordinary people, we take extraordinary control over our own lives.

Internationally, Labour will create Just Trade Agreements that allow people all over the world to take real control of their own future. And here, we will Repower Britain to take back control in our own homes.

 



Barry Gardiner is the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Brent North since 1997.

 

No fracking in the UK under Labour! Just trade not ‘free’ trade!

“Leave the EU. Take back sovereignty!” That was what Capt. Boris and Firstmate Fox were shouting from the imaginary deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now they are denying you the right to know what sort of deal they’re proposing about your future. It’s one thing not to provide a running commentary. It’s quite another to take a vow of Trappist silence.

Surely you have the right to know what the red lines will be? We know what they promised:

  • Continued access to the single market;
  • No more £350 million a week to Brussels;
  • Restricted immigration; and
  • No more laws handed down from Europe.

But they know they cannot achieve all this. And they won’t tell us what their priority is because they disagree amongst themselves. Even if they get market access and end immigration; they’ll still have to pay into the budget and accept EU legislation without a seat round the table when the decisions are made.

That is not to regain sovereignty. It is to become a vassal state meekly paying tribute to Europe.

Tory ‘free trade’ is the rule of the oligarchs

This is why we must set out what we want from our future trading relationships. Because British businesses need clarity and certainty. They need to plan on a stable base that this government is simply not providing.

The Tories vision of trade is all about de-regulation. They want Free Trade Agreements like TTIP and CETA:

  • that undermine labour standards and environmental protections;
  • that give foreign investors special rights to undermine our laws by-passing our courts and claiming compensation from our country because we have the cheek to pass laws to protect the public that might damage their future profits!

What sort of sovereignty is this? Every law made to improve your children’s environment or extend our workplace equality challenged by a foreign business? If TTIP existed in Dickens’ Day we might still be sending children up chimneys!

It’s time to wake up to the irony … that the very people who claim to be fighting for our sovereignty are in fact doing most to undermine it.

Conference, this government won’t even let you see the text of TTIP!! Germany, Ireland, the European Parliament, even the US, have given elected representatives access to the documents. But this is how Tories conduct trade negotiations:

  • secret deals behind closed doors
  • no parliamentary scrutiny and
  • no democratic control

This isn’t Sovereignty. It’s the rule of the oligarchs! Today Labour maps out a different way. A progressive Labour Trade policy that puts you in control. Labour will negotiate trade agreements that work not just for the big multinationals, But for our small and medium-sized businesses the dynamic backbone of our economy.

They are the innovators and inventors. They employ 60% of all people in the private sector And we know that businesses that export are businesses that grow. Under Labour new trade deals will incorporate an obligation on all partner countries to create an SME access strategy stipulating:

  • industry contact points,
  • regulatory support
  • market intelligence
  • and translation services.

A Labour Trade Policy though is not simply about developing market access. It is about developing markets. We don’t want to export so we can get rich and keep others poor. We want to raise income and standards in our partner countries too so they can buy more of our goods. We are an internationalist party and we believe in the dignity of Labour. Not just in the UK but all over the Globe.

The new ‘Just Trading’ agenda

So today I’m announcing an international partnership called Just Trading. Sister parties and like-minded legislators working to create a progressive new ‘best in class’ free trade agenda based on dignity, sovereignty, high quality jobs and the public good.

Just Trading will be exactly that a community agreeing trade deals based on Just relationships and our shared values. And if anyone doubts our ability to galvanise such progress on the international stage I ask them simply to look at the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act is the international standard upon which the Paris Agreement is founded. But last week’s leak to the Guardian newspaper shows that here too our government is negotiating the secret text of a Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) that would undermine our ability to tackle climate change.

You know: the irony is that this government doesn’t need a secret deal to stop our progress to a low-carbon high-skilled future.

They’ve been managing very well without one! Last year they cut support for solar and their own figures show deployment has fallen by 93%, losing 12,000 jobs. They’ve walked away from onshore wind, attacked biomass tariffs without consultation and scrapped two world leading carbon capture and storage projects at the last minute.

‘A future Labour Government will ban fracking’

In fairness; not everything has been cut. Before he was sacked, George Osborne managed to pass what he proudly referred to as “the most generous tax regime for Shale gas anywhere in the world”. Well that will change under Labour.

You see, there are technical problems with fracking. And they give rise to real environmental dangers. But technical problems can be overcome. So on their own they’re not a good enough reason to ban fracking. The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy.

So today I am announcing that a future Labour Government will ban fracking. And we will consult with our colleagues in industry and the Trade Unions about the best way to transition our energy industry to create the vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK’s low-carbon future.

Energy is the cornerstone of our industry, our economy and our daily lives. Clean energy and low carbon technologies now employ more people in the UK than the entire teaching profession. They represent just 6% of our economy but are responsible for 30% of its growth.

We must unlock the full potential of this sector. It means skilled jobs, it means growth, it means clean air and a healthy secure future for our children. Britain is at the beginning of an incredible transformation of our energy system.

Power to the People!

The next Labour Government will launch a new programme called ‘Repowering Britain’ that puts you in control. It will build on the innovation and leadership of 70 Labour Councils who have already committed to run their towns on 100% clean energy by 2050. We need to localise the way energy is produced and stored. I want people earning from the energy they produce on their rooftop solar or their community wind turbines, not just consuming what the Big 6 sell.

We need to create smart networks and local grids to make energy work to pay people rather than people working to pay their energy bills. How can it be right that when the government found out that we were being overcharged by £1.4 billion a year on our energy bills they said “It’s all the customers fault – we should shop around more!” Well we do. We need to shop around for a new government.

A new Labour government will legislate to force the energy companies to put you on their cheapest tariff and to tell you if you can get a better deal elsewhere. More people die from cold each winter here in the UK than in Finland! We have 4 million people in fuel poverty and yet heat is escaping through draughty walls and windows.

We will train a skilled workforce to retrofit insulation in Britain’s older housing stock to help vulnerable people keep warm and safe and free from fuel poverty. That is why today, Clive Lewis and I are announcing that the next Labour government will roll out a ‘Homes Fit For Heroes’ programme that will insulate the homes of our disabled veterans for free.

True sovereignty does not come with nationalistic Tory slogans. True sovereignty comes when as ordinary people, we take extraordinary control over our own lives.

Internationally, Labour will create Just Trade Agreements that allow people all over the world to take real control of their own future. And here, we will Repower Britain to take back control in our own homes.

 



Barry Gardiner is the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Brent North since 1997.