Labour MEP Claude Moraes has been campaigning on London’s poor air quality.
On 1 May the UK Supreme Court handed down a judgement formally declaring that the UK is breaching NO2 laws and has now referred the Client Earth case against the UK government to the EU Court of Justice.
The UK government only planned to bring London into compliance with the EU Air Quality Directive in 2025, a whole 15 years after the original deadline of 1st January 2010. In arguing its case, the UK government admitted that it had been in breach of the legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide since 2010. It claims that it is under no obligation to produce a plan to reduce air pollution before 2015 – leaving millions of Londoners exposed to the health risks of air pollution, which causes 29,000 early deaths per year, more than obesity and alcohol combined.
Air pollution near London’s busiest roads is twice or three times WHO guidelines and legal limits; and levels of NO2 in London are the highest of any capital city in Europe. Not only this, but the UK has the highest proportion of zones exceeding the NO2 annual limit in the EU. Despite this, the government has made further attempts to weaken public health protections on pollution.
Labour MEP for London Claude Moraes tabled an urgent question to the Council of Ministers following reports that the UK government attempted to water down public health protections in EU environmental policy at a meeting of ministers in Dublin. The Mayor of London’s answer has been to spray roads with glue, in the hope that the pollution will stick to the ground; rather than attempting to reduce the amount of pollution we are pumping into the air.
For more information on this issue you can contact Claude’s office or follow the Clean Air in London campaign here.
SERA is looking for case studies of good practice of Labour Councillors in action – creating a more sustainable future.
While Labour may not be in Power in Westminster, in town halls across the UK, Labour Councillors are working together to make a difference to our environment – and to our communities. SERA wants to showcase that amazing work and to share ideas and good practice amongst councillors.
If you are working on a project to green your community or your council, we would like to hear from you. Find out more about how you can share your ideas and work here.
Yesterday’s Budget announcement from George Osbourne was disappointing in its lack of green measures and support for polluting industries.
At a time when the Chancellor could have supported low-carbon infrastructure, his policies have instead focused on road building, shale gas and subsidising carbon intensive industries.
Key policies within the Budget 2013 include:
- Tax-breaks to encourage the development of shale gas
- subsidising petrol use by halting the fuel price escalator
- exempting the carbon-intensive ceramics industry from the Climate Change Levy
- new support for road building
Posted in Blog
Tagged budget13, fracking
Last week I went to my first meeting of the ‘Quality of Life and Sustainability Policy Commission’, as part of my new role as a Socialist Society rep on Labour’s National Policy Forum. The focus of our work for this year is around transport – specifically, how we can give communities more of a say in our buses and railways.
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle started the discussion, presenting her current thinking around the subject and the paper that had been prepared for the meeting ‘Our Buses and Railways – Giving Communities more of a say’. Many of the ideas raised would be music to SERA members’ ears. We all agreed that one of the biggest problem with the current transport situation was that people felt is was ‘done’ to them – passengers feel helpless in the face of rising fares and poor services. To tackle this problem, we talked about new structures of ownership for our railways that would ensure that profits are reinvested or used to reduce fares, the potential for more community and cooperative ownership of railways, and ways to give power to local councils to stop private bus companies ‘gaming’ the system and profiting from poor services. Of course I highlighted the work that SERA and the Cooperative Party has been doing on a Rail Cymru – a people’s railway for Wales.
One of the important points of the discussion was to look at the submissions that we had received on the ‘Your Britain’ website. In case you aren’t already aware, anyone can read and comment on the papers that we are considering in the policy commission. Any comments you write will then be looked at the next commission meeting – and considered for inclusion in our policy thinking. Since we have so much transport expertise within SERA, I would encourage anyone with thoughts on the matter to join the online discussion as your submissions really will count. I’m also keen to help organise discussions within CLPs, regional SERA groups or other community groups, to feed into the process – if you would like to do that, please do get in touch with me directly, or via this website.
Melanie Smallman, National Secretary, SERA.
SERA’s new Brighton and Hove branch met last week for a discussion about the policies that will make Brighton better, not just greener. Local member Tracey Hill tells us more…
Just how green is Brighton and Hove? Amongst certain populations, there is a high degree of engagement with climate change issues. A multitude of community groups are not just talking about low-carbon lifestyles but acting too: community insulation initiatives, a renewable energy cooperative and food growing are great examples. But the carbon footprint of the city as a whole is relatively high, and our recycling rates are nothing to shout about.
While some actions taken by the Green-controlled council are to be applauded, they run the risk of alienating people by focusing on high-profile accreditation schemes while cutting essential services. Some, particularly those who are less mobile or on the outskirts of the city, seeing cycle lanes appearing while bus services come under threat, are coming to the conclusion that a “green future” – with a capital G or no – is not for them. This is a pity as we are risking alienating people from the climate change cause itself, difficult enough anyway to excite people about because of its abstract nature.
A local Brighton and Hove Sera meeting this week met with the theme of “Sustainable for All”. Where concerns over jobs, the cost of living and threats to vital services can overwhelm, we need to promote environmental policies which address everyday concerns, as well as moving us towards a more sustainable future.
We began by identifying the key issues faced in our city: poverty exacerbated by food and fuel prices, health inequality, the cost of transport, lack of jobs and opportunities to develop and apply vocational skills, the quality, availability and affordability of housing, and numerous doorstep issues around the state of the streets, crime and parking. Many of these issues would be found in urban areas up and down the country. We then started to discuss sound environmental policy ideas that would address some of those key issues.
As an example, audits, advice and the fitting of energy-efficient measures in homes and businesses could serve as a training opportunity. As well as providing householders and businesses with the means of reducing their bills, making homes more comfortable and businesses more profitable, this would provide employment and skills opportunities. Tying school meals in with local community growing projects could provide access to good food and education about growing as well as reducing food miles. Food waste collection and composting not only reduces landfill but makes the streets cleaner, particularly in an area where foxes and seagulls love to sniff out food waste and distribute it. Managing landlords and letting agents more proactively through licensing could improve the quality of private rented sector property as well as its energy efficiency.
There is plenty more to do for this to become a practical agenda for change, but it’s an approach which will result in active, visible policies which people can see will help them, as well as helping us all reduce our carbon footprint.
Posted in Blog
Tagged Brighton, NPF
On Monday, London Mayor Boris Johnson claimed in his article in the Daily Telegraph that climate change wasn’t happening because he could see snow out of his window.
Quite rightly, such a comment created an uproar amongst the rational minded people of his city. Climate scientists responded, pointing out that nowadays they had slightly more sophisticated techniques for predicting the weather than looking out of the window. Other wits on twitter suggested that perhaps, following his logic, if you can’t see Boris Johnson out of your window, then he doesn’t exist either.
Wishful thinking perhaps. But as annoying as his views are to those of us concerned about our environment, the (even more worrying) fact is that we aren’t really his audience here. Boris’s attempt to bury climate change in a snowdrift is really part of his ongoing campaign to win support for his future political ambitions. Because just like the deep-seated desire to roll back the state and an in-bred hatred of all things European, climate skepticism has become part of the membership package for the nasty party.
In the past few years, the Tories have been very effective in using the global economic crisis as cover to bring in the pernicious social policies they were always dreaming of, spreading their euroscepticism in the process. And, given how climate skepticism is becoming such a part of their DNA, they will try to do the same with the environment – just look at George Osbourne’s proclamations on reducing our carbon emissions at the 2011 Tory Party Conference. But we cannot let them. Because just as paying people to stay at home rather than go to work wastes money as well as wasting skills, denying the importance of our changing climate will not only missing the opportunity to build a more sustainable future, but also the chance to lead the world in this vital industries of tomorrow. Boris Johnson might think that if he can’t see it, it isn’t there, but we can’t just close our eyes and hope that climate change will go away.
Tracey Hill outlines the Brighton & Hove SERA event later this week.
The Green Party administration in Brighton and Hove has brought many challenges. One of these is where Labour should stand on sustainability. While the Tory-led coalition scuppers Labour’s carbon reduction plans at every turn, it is more important than ever that Labour continues to battle against climate change. But with severe budget cuts, we cannot afford to indulge in poorly-justified vanity schemes at the expense of key services. We need to ask ourselves how carbon reduction initiatives can be used to address the key challenges we face, such as rising living costs, youth unemployment and struggling businesses.
Sera Brighton and Hove invites you to a discussion event to consider which sustainability policies can help us now, as well as moving us towards a cleaner future. This will be a structured debate with policy starting points for small group and general discussion, so that everyone will be able to participate. While Brighton and Hove is the focus, many ideas have much wider applications and we welcome participants from across Sussex.
The event is open to all Labour Party members and their guests, as well as Sera members. If you are interested in sustainability or local policy, and have something to say on Labour and the environment, do come along! Coffee, tea and home-made cake will be provided.
Thursday January 24th at 7.30pm at the Pelham Room, Brighthelm Centre.