Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Appoint Nigel Farage as UK Ambassador to Tuvalu

When US President Elect and Climate Change denier Donald Trump suggested UKIP Leader and Climate Change denier NigelFarage as being an ideal UK ambassador to the States it got me thinking about which country I would like him to be UK Ambassador for. Tuvalu seemed the obvious choice. It is a low lying island and the words 'low' and 'lying' often come to mind when thinking of Farage and also Trump come to that. It may well be one of the first places to disappear due to climate change induced sea level rise. As the sea level rises above his green wellies Mr Farage may begin to appreciate the reality of climate change more.

I'm waiting to see if the petition passes through Parliamentary Standards.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Clean Up at Hunters Waste Site begins

The festering heap of rubbish left by Hunters Waste Management at their former Queens Mill Rd site has started to be removed by a partnership comprising Kirklees Council, Suez Waste Services, West Yorkshire Fire Service and the Environment Agency. Legal avenues are being pursued to ensure those who were responsible for this stinking refuse mountain are held to account and made to pay for their crimes. It is a relief to finally see this issue being addressed after a difficult summer for neighbouring residents and businesses.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Gutted! - Newsome Mill Fire


On Thursday  morning my mobile phone started receiving messages before 6.00a.m. telling me the news that Newsome Mills was ablaze and that nearby residents had been evacuated from their homes. I saw the community rally round really quickly as St Johns Church and Newsome Scout Hut opened their doors to residents. They got the tea and coffee going and breakfast for those people who were temporarily moved from their homes. Newsome Village Store donated food for evacuated residents and the Fire Service and Police were caring and professional helping some particularly vulnerable residents who lived nearby. Kirklees Emergency Planning and Building Control were on the scene early on dealing with their responsibilities for the community and the building itself. The local response to the immediate crisis has shown the community and local services at their very best.
The question is what happens next. The structure of the Mills itself is severely compromised and as I write this it is expected that the Mill Building may have to be demolished. Hopefully  the iconic clock tower will remain. There have been 2 controversial Planning matters associated with the site. The private owners of Newsome Mills itself have been reluctant to develop on the site due to the costs of converting the mill which is/was a listed building. The private owners of the land at Hart Street near the Mills have sought to develop the site on a number of occasions. The fact that the land is part of the historic setting of Newsome Mills has been one of a number of reasons that  local people have opposed development there. With the suspected arson of the Newsome Mills site we will have to see what happens next.

For now we need to take stock and let the investigation into the blaze be carried out by the appropriate services. This has been a truly awful year for the people of Newsome with the Hunters Waste site going up in flames, the vandalism and burning of Newsome Community Bowling Club's buildings and now Newsome Mills itself going up in flames. If, as I expect, Newsome Mills turns out to be arson then all these fires will be the result of the actions of people who have no regard for the local community or the people who live there. Let’s hope for a better 2017.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

PRESS RELEASE - COP22 - Marrakech - Greens call for an end to Fossil Fuel subsidies

Representatives from  governments from around the World  are meeting In Marrakech, Morocco this month to see how the targets that were agreed in the Paris Climate talks last year can be delivered.  Green Party Energy Spokesperson Councillor Andrew Cooper who will be attending in Marrakech has called for all fossil fuel subsidies to be phased out globally over the next 3 year to help acheive those targets. Councillor Cooper is part of the EU Committee of the Regions delegation that is representing the position of Local, Regional and Devolved Governments from across the European Union.

Councillor Cooper said "the International Monetary Fund has calculated the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry to be in the region of a  colossal $5.3 Trillion (£4.3Trillion). That is the equivalent of around £570/year for every person on the Planet.This is  a huge expense that is damaging to our environment and the health of the people of the world. Subsiding damaging fossil fuels in this way makes it even harder to acheive the targets agreed at COP21 in Paris last year."

" This huge subsidy puts into context the recent $1 Billion Low Carbon Fund offered by Big Oil and Gas companies. This fund represents a very small drop in an ocean of oil money supported by huge subsidy from Governments around the world. We should be clear that this is no where near enough to mitigate the damage their industry inflicts on out environment on a daily basis"

Cllr Cooper called for those subsidies to reinvested into positive actions that help combat climate change

"Imagine if the amount of subsidy to the fossil fuel sector was instead invested in large scale energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes to fund the transition to a low carbon economy."

"We need a quick end to all fossil fuel subsidies. Direct subsidies should be stopped. Other subsidies should be removed by imposing carbon taxes sufficient to pay for the damage caused by burning fossil fuels. The needs to avoid major economic disruption and to protect the poor mean that this cannot happen overnight but it must happen quickly and to an agreed timetable. The poor and those on low incomes should be protected against price increases and be the first to benefit from renewable technologies and energy efficiency measures i.e. solar panels and insulation measures to homes,

For this proposal to be successful we need each country to create and publish a subsidy phase out plan within 9 months for discussion at the next Climate Summit, COP23.

It is going to be interesting is to see how the UK Government representatives in Marrakech justify their current policy decisions which fly in the face of the scientific evidence. This year has seen £1 Billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies in the North Sea, planning and financial incentives for shale gas companies, cuts in support for renewable energy and energy efficiency and the bizarre and wrong headed proposal for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The UK Government is fast reclaiming our former title  of 'The Dirty Man of Europe'. We need to see some rapid acceptance from Prime Minister May that we need less warm words on Climate Change from her Government and more properly insulated warm homes powered by renewable energy."

We also need a commitment from fossil fuel companies to change to a more positive culture by:

·         Not funding climate denial organisations and campaigns.
·         Not lobbying governments to prolong subsidies.
·         and to positively develop their own transition plans to more socially and environmentally useful activities

Friday, 28 October 2016

Green Councillor calls for more green and less red for pedestrians at busy Southgate crossing

Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper has called for more time for pedestrians to cross at a busy Southgate junction opposite the University of Huddersfield.

"This crossing is used by many hundreds of people each day such as students who go to the University, Sainsburys shoppers or those walking to Aspley and beyond. People using the crossing have to get across the road in 3 to 4 seconds from when the green pedestrian light comes on till it turns back to red. This is simply not enough time for many people to get across safely. If you are elderly or have poor mobility crossing this road at this junction safely is almost impossible. Additional seconds are needed for pedestrians if we are to reduce the risk of injury or even possible fatalities at this very busy junction off the roundabout."

Cllr Cooper has raised the issue with Kirklees Highways and asked for more consideration to be given to pedestrians on this busy route

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Green Party Response to the West Yorkshire Transport Strategy 2016 - 2036

Here's the final response  we gave to the West Yorkshire Transport Strategy. I was persuaded to take the following sentence out of our response as it wasn't the right tone I quite liked it though

"The intermediate West Yorkshire stop on the Northern Powerhouse Rail route HS3 should be located in Narnia as a fantasy project should be located in a fantasy kingdom."

 So if you're reading from West Yorkshire Combined Authority that is what you could have had!

The Green Party Response to the West Yorkshire Transport Strategy 2016 - 2036

This response to the West Yorkshire Transport Strategy represents the views of the Green Parties of West Yorkshire and has been shared and agreed with our elected representatives on Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees Councils and through consultation with Party members throughout West Yorkshire.

How strongly you agree or disagree with our proposed policies described in each of the core themes and the cross-cutting theme?

We believe a 60 year vision is needed. 20 years is too short a period to realise the sort of transformation in our transport system that is needed.

An initial observation on the consultation questions is that there are a lot of obvious ‘Motherhood and Apple Pie’ statements that we are asked to express an opinion on. This devalues the consultation exercise and could lead respondees to question its validity.

Delivering the Strategy is very dependent on road improvements with a strong emphasis on road schemes which will lead to increased capacity on Major routes. This accommodation of demand can only be temporary in nature. Delivering road improvements to local congestion hot spots is eventually and inevitably self-defeating as demand increases and diminishes the dubious benefit of the investment.

Road surfaces however desperately need improvements for all road users especially cyclists who are at most personal risk from potholed roads. The austerity budgets being imposed by central Government on local Councils is leading to a rapidly deteriorating road network

In the Consultation questionnaire it asks whether we should “Provide new roads to improve access to development sites” – This seems a very odd question and leads to a strong suspicion that it is aboutencouraging development in green belt as it assumes development will be away from existing hubs.We need to develop housing and employment around existing transport hubs and communities rather than creating new ones. We must avoid monoculture communities e.g. commuter belt towns. We also have concerns that improving orbital roads may well suck the life out of city centres

Demand reduction needs to be an aim of the Strategy. We must have policies in place that limit the necessity to have vehicles. Spatial Planning that links existing transport hubs with new development is one way of addressing demand, as is l.  Travel diaries/Travel Planning are important tools to help people adopt healthier forms of transport.  More food grown and used locally to avoid food miles is another approach.  You should also be working with local councils, developers, and bus operators to ensure that developments proposed over the next 15- 20 years in DLP’s can be serviced by public transport, cycling and walking.  The alternative is more congestion and pressure to carry out self-defeating road improvements

We strongly believe that local and community rail improvements should be prioritised over new road schemes, as should improvements to the bus network which currently carries 5 – 6 times more passengers than rail. A process of “Debeechification” should begin with greater emphasis on improving and expanding the rail network; while more road space should be dedicated to bus priority lanes.

HS2 is largely irrelevant to our local transport needs and the money would be much better spent on improving public transport infrastructure locally ie rail, light rail, tram and bus networks. We strongly oppose a masterplan for a new HS2 Yorkshire Hub Station in Leeds on that basis.

The question as to where the intermediate West Yorkshire stop on the Northern Powerhouse Rail route HS3 should be located is unfortunately irrelevant as we believe this is a fantasy project not grounded in reality.

The Consultation Questionnaire says that we should “Involve Communities in making improvements to their neighbourhoods to create safer and healthier places” – How and with what money?

Accessibility for people with disabilities should be an important part of the Strategy particularly as we move to more pedestrian friendly town centres.

We should look to banning diesel cars from all Town and City Centres – California has set a good example with a policy that we should follow – starting by announcing a ban on the worst polluting diesel vehicles/cars from Town Centres to start by 2020.

“The current duopoly of First and Arriva in West Yorkshire is uncompetitive and does not act in the interest of the public transport user.  It gives unfair advantage to the dominant operator in any sub-area and stops the development of other operations that could significantly improve services.  Effectively the market works for First and Arriva, but nobody else.  In our view anything short of the powers that Transport for London have regarding buses means the main providers of public transport in West Yorkshire will not work in the interest of its people.”

What you think we should measure to show our progress in delivering transport improvements in each of the core themes and the cross-cutting theme?

The Strategy should be set against the context of the Paris Climate Agreement. It should be an integral part of the Strategy to show how it is contributing to the carbon emissions reduction targets set in the Nationally Determined Contributions agreed in Paris last year. It is a major omission that it is not. 

The Strategy says it wants to have “The best bus system in Europe” as an aspiration. This is a very strange aspiration. Where is the best bus system in Europe? How is it determined – what about the rest of public transport? What about walking and cycling?

The automatic assumption that all growth is good is a fundamental problem with the strategy. Growth can negatively impact on quality of life through, for instance, air pollution and the knock on impact on public health. What we should measure to show progress in delivering improvements to road network are decreasing emissions in terms of Carbon/SOX/NOX/Particulates and noise reduction. 

We need a holistic cost analysis of different transport options for instance public transport V car would have added a lot of substance to the strategy. There is no such analysis in the strategy and this is a major weakness.

Another important way to measure the success of the Strategy would be by measuring modal shift from car to Public Transport and measuring the use of the Mcard for regular public transport users.

“Road deaths” are not just about traffic accidents but the premature deaths caused each year as a result of emissions and low air quality – Gloucestershire’s Speed Reduction Partnership give communities their own speed guns – This is a good example that West Yorkshire could emulate.  

We were asked to say how we should measure progress in delivering improvements to places to places to live and work? There is a well established methodology called the Happiness Index that would be well suited to this task. We should also measure progress through satisfaction surveys of commuters and general transport users using all modes of transport.

Have we missed anything you feel should be included in the strategy?

A hierarchy of users should be followed through in the Strategy starting with the pedestrian first and the private car last.

The strategy should not encourage aviation by supporting the expansion of Leeds/Bradford airport. This would be in harmony with a strategy that took a holistic approach to transportation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Rail use for freight should be encouraged and there is an absence of serious comment on this in the strategy documentation.

We need to invest in traffic signals so vehicles can move more freely, more efficiently and in a less polluting fashion. This should be linked with Action in the ground by the Highways Agency and local Councils.

There are jobs in a ‘green approach’ to transport policies – e.g. cycle logistics firms. Showing how the transport strategy is going to support employment would be a positive addition to the strategy

The benefits of new technology should benefit us all – autonomous and connected vehicles providing “collective” solutions rather than new gadgets for an elite. We are thinking particularly of advances towards driverless cars which may become a reality during the life of this strategy.

Fleet Managers need the right policy levers to enable them to be the first movers on new vehicle technology such as electric and hybrid cars. Showing how this could be achieved in the strategy would have been helpful.

We would be happy to meet relevant officers of West Yorkshire Transport Authority to discuss our observations 

Yours sincerely

Councillor Andrew Cooper on behalf of Green Parties across West Yorkshire

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Age of Plastic

Change happens imperceptibly but there are moments of transition, if we notice them, that show that the world is going through a phase change if not your full on paradigm shift. One moment in time I captured on camera was the move from orange sodium streetlights to pearly white LED ones with 50% of the energy demand and 50% of the cost. A positive all ways round you would think except that some people liked the warm orange glow and others thought is gave a better light. This demonstrates the first law of change - "You can't please all of the people all of the time". 

Other changes are more symbolic but nonetheless filled with significance. The move from paper £5 notes to plastic ones was interesting in many ways. On the reverse side we lost social reformer and Quaker Elizabeth Fry and gained former Tory Prime Minister Winston Churchill whose very chequered political past has been largely forgotten due to the strong, inspiring and necessary leadership he provided in World War 2. It was, however, the material rather than the images on it that had the most impact on me. We had moved from paper, a renewable resource, to plastic a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry. The £5 note, as a symbol of our economy, showed that the Bank of England investing in a non renewable resource (even if it is longer lasting and can survive a washing machine) and as such is a symbol of the problem with how UK Government policies on energy are fundamentally flawed on climate change with support for renewables and energy efficiency dumped in favour of fracking and nuclear.

Compared with the worldwide subsidy of fossil fuels, the changing of the material for a few billion worth of UK bank notes is small fry. It is estimated, by the International Monetary Fund, that worldwide fossil fuels are subsidised to the tune of $5.3Trillion each and every year. On Tuesday I was interviewed by Talk Radio who asked me to comment on the £100/year on UK domestic energy bills to support renewables and energy efficiency programmes. This is peanuts when compared to the huge tax breaks and other subsidies enjoyed by fossil fuel companies and generators and this will be something I will be pointing out at every opportunity when I attend the World Climate Summit on Climate Change, COP22 in Marrakech next month. The shift we need at Marrakech is to put the subsidy we give to climate destroying fossil fuels into sustainable sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency to limit demand for heat and power.

If we do invest $5.3 Trillion a year towards a sustainable future maybe then we could symbolically return to paper based money, sourced from recycled materials but who would we have on the back of the £5 note? Answers on a post consumer waste postcard please.