This is an open letter from Oliver Baines to Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council on the environmental consequences of Newquay Spaceport. The context is the recent declaration of the Climate Emergency by Cornwall Council
I was so shocked at George Eustice’s announcement on Wednesday that I decided to canvass opinion from colleagues, many of whom have been working with us over the last few months, before writing to you. To date I have received 23 replies (astonishing in itself) of which one wanted more information and 22 expressed a range of reactions from incredulity to rage. Yesterday I went to talk to the spaceport project manager to find out the detail of what is being proposed and listened carefully to what he had to say. Continue reading “Newquay Space Port: open letter to Julian German leader of Cornwall Council”
To: Cllr Cornelius Oliver, executive member
St Ives Labour Party
St Ives Constituency
30 May 2019
Dear Cllr Cornelius Oliver,
We are writing to you with regard to the attached Local Constituency Pact recently published by Cornwall Progressive Alliance – please see the copy below.
As representatives for the majority of unions in Cornwall and their members we strongly endorse this initiative. Will you and your party commit to the code of conduct set out in the pact?
We believe that any MP or prospective parliamentary candidate who claims to serve the interests of all their voters and not just those who voted for them, should have no problem in signing up to this local constituency pact.
As you can see the pact makes reference to MPs voting records and you can see updated records here https://cornwallmp.org/
Mebyon Kernow have already agreed to do so and we are in touch with other parties.
We look forward to your response.
We’ve created a separate website setting out detailed voting records for each of the six Cornwall MPs.
Brexit dominates everything but there are a whole raft of issues drowned out by the one over-riding issue of Leave vs Remain. Don’t let this one issue dominate how you vote at the next election! The cost of ignoring other issues like school cuts, the NHS and local wages is simply too great in a poor area like Cornwall.
The voting records also contain a local constituency profile for each of the six constituencies. This includes school funding, local wages and the cost of housing as well as carbon emissions for the whole of Cornwall
From James Croftson
Dear George Eustice MP 1-April-2019
I’m extremely disappointed with your response to my email about climate breakdown. This is by far the biggest issue we face.
I know Brexit is important to you, and has been for many years: I understand the way Brexit has been handled is something about which you feel passionately enough to have resigned from your position in Government, and I realise this must have been a very difficult decision for you to have taken. However, Brexit will vanish into insignificance in the face of what will happen if we continue failing to treat the climate crisis as real.
I genuinely feel very concerned that you don’t seem to know enough about the truth of the climate situation, and – given your standing as an Honourable Member of Parliament – you have a duty to make yourself better informed, even whilst the Brexit situation absorbs a large majority of all MPs’ time. I say this because responsibility must surely come hand-in-hand with accountability; you have held senior positions in Government, including in Departments that are extremely exposed to climate breakdown, and yet I do not believe you have demonstrated a sufficiently strong grasp of our most important issues to enable you to fulfil the role you were elected to perform. In the end, as much as I disagree with your stance on many subjects, and as broken and flawed as our current political system is, you are my representative in Parliament: the only means I currently have of trying to influence for the better the way our country is governed through our political system is through you.
I have reluctantly acknowledged that emailing you individually on the subject of climate breakdown will have no effect. The response that you have sent below includes significant sections that are word-for-word repeats of similar emails/blogs/speeches from other Conservative MPs. It seems clear that you (and perhaps all of you) have taken a response written by someone else, perhaps in the Conservative Central Office, and copy-and-pasted it into an email that you have implied represents your own views.
Let me be clear: you saving time by replying in bulk to similar emails with a generic response is one thing, and I’m sure in periods of high workload it can sometimes be appropriate. However, responding in a way that portrays yourself to hold certain views – when these portrayed views demonstrably contradict your actual opinions – is not acceptable. You have a proven track record of voting in Parliament against policies that – according to your email below – you would appear to be ‘proud’ to support. Do you see the difficulty this creates for your constituents in terms of transparency and trust?
I have been prompted into publishing this as an open letter in the public domain rather than restricting it to individual email:
- Because of the severity of the climate breakdown situation now facing us;
- Because of the desperately short period of time that we have available to address this situation before irreversible and run-away climate breakdown kicks in (if indeed it is not already too late);
- Because of the triviality that you appear to assign to the matter through your ignorance of the basic facts;
- Because I believe it is important that your constituents can see for themselves the attitude and views of the person they elected to represent them.
For this reason, I will dissect your email (copied in full below for reference, along with my email to which you were responding) line by line to show why what you have written is so unacceptable. Wherever possible, I have quoted information published by your own Government, such that conducting an online search for the quoted text will produce the source information, usually in a Government publication.
A. I am proud of the Government’s record on addressing climate change. The UK has played a leading role as the world has worked towards a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Paris Agreement.
This is a staggering statement. Do you genuinely believe it?
Firstly, as a whole the UK Government (especially the Conservatives) have a dismal record when it comes to climate change. For example, the Conservatives have simultaneously decimated the renewables industry whilst continuing/increasing support for fossil fuel generation. The Conservatives have made it almost impossible to deploy onshore wind in the UK through changes to planning processes and financial support mechanisms, despite it now being amongst the cheapest forms of electricity generation. In the same time frame, they have attempted to bypass the established planning process to fast-track fracking, despite the higher costs, greater environmental hazards, and significantly higher public resistance. There is much more that could be said on this specific subject: although I have made brief comment on it below in response to another of your misleading remarks, I would welcome an opportunity to explain to you in more detail the perversity of this situation.
Secondly, and more importantly given your statement of ‘pride’ above: your individual voting record on issues around climate change show that you have ‘generally voted against measures that prevent climate change’ [these words in italics are copied directly from the independent website ‘TheyWorkForYou’, which provides an overview of how MPs have voted]. For example:
- On 3 May 2016 you voted not to reduce the permitted carbon dioxide emission rate of new homes. (40% of UK emissions come from households, according to the Committee on Climate Change)
- On 14 March 2016 you voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry (Carbon Capture uses technologies to capture, transport and store carbon dioxide emissions from large point sources, such as power stations.)
- On 5 November 2014 you voted against local government having powers to develop more integrated, frequent, cheaper and greener bus services with integrated Oyster card-style ticketing. (Carbon emissions from vehicles remain the biggest source of emissions in Cornwall.)
B. Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation.
You seem to think it praise-worthy that the economy has grown two-thirds since 1990. It is distressing to know that people who hold this view, such as yourself, are responsible for the highest levels of decision-making in our Government, because this view is so fundamentally flawed. At its core, economic growth is a measure of material consumption. Perpetual economic growth on a finite planet is categorically not possible. ‘The only people who think otherwise are madmen and economists.’
Even if one ignores the farcical pursuit of perpetual economic growth, which has been the primary cause of our presently unfolding environmental catastrophe, the reduction of carbon emissions of 40% since 1990 is – in and of itself – entirely misleading.
Firstly, it is not possible to extrapolate our emissions reductions from the last 30 years forward to the next. We have closed a lot of coal power stations in recent years and we only have a few more to go: once they are all closed, we will not be able to continue that approach to continue reducing emissions. Do the Government realise this?
Secondly, the date of 1990 is often quoted but seldom explained. The reason 1990 is referenced by those wishing to portray a positive image (‘Look how well we’ve done’) is that this coincided with the significant switch from coal-fired electricity generation to gas-fired generation. It is very easy to dress up the resulting carbon reductions as an example of what we have done to reduce emissions, but the hard truth is that the reduction in emissions fortuitously fell out from political (miners) economic (‘dash for gas’) drivers: they are not the result of any carbon reduction policy, let alone anything that the present Conservative Government should take credit for, and it is very misleading to imply otherwise.
Thirdly, a large proportion of our carbon emissions reduction since 1990 is a direct result of closing factories and moving our manufacturing base to South East Asia. The calculation methodology employed by the UK Government excludes carbon emissions associated with imported goods, and it also excludes international shipping – as well as aviation. Electricity generation in South East Asia is much more reliant on polluting plant such as coal power stations (which we in the UK have closed). This means that when these imports are properly accounted for, the carbon emissions associated with our consumption of these goods has actually increased dramatically – even though this is entirely hidden from the figures upon which you base your claim.
C. The Government’s Energy Act puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent and underpins the remarkable investment that the UK has seen in its low carbon economy since 2010.
Firstly, the Committee on Climate Change was formed by the UK Government under the Climate Change Act 2008 to be an independent body that advises the UK Government (a) on its emissions targets and (b) how well it is achieving them. Their Progress Report to Parliament, published in summer 2018, says “the fact is that we’re off track to meet our own emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s.” In the Foreword, Lord Deben (Chairman of the Committee), refers to the Government’s ‘Clean Growth Strategy’ (that you highlight later in your email). There are strong warnings from Lord Deben regarding this strategy: “a polite way of drawing attention to Government inaction in a host of areas”; “this can’t go on… Act now, climate change will not pause while we consider our options”; “act in the consumer interest: pursue the low-cost, low-risk options, like onshore wind”; “enforce standards… where consumers have been cheated by misleading industry claims”. (Does any of this sound familiar?) He goes on: “It is my hope that this report will… give climate change the priority it deserves within government”; “with each delay, we stray further from the cost-effective path to the 2050 target”. You may find the content of the CCC’s review disheartening, because it undermines your perceived view that we’re somehow doing well. It is specifically for this reason that I urge you to read it, and to challenge yourself to open your eyes to the reality facing us.
Secondly, expanding on some of the themes outlined in that report, there is absolutely zero chance of us meeting a reduction of 80% by 2050 unless major, structural changes are made in the way our economy works and our society is governed. Many things cannot be reduced by 80%: for example, electrified mass-transit systems that may be possible in cities are clearly not going to be viable to the same extent in rural areas. This means other areas of our economy will have to make proportionately larger contributions. We don’t even have a sensible dialogue about how to get remotely close to an 80% reduction, let alone an implementable plan.
Thirdly, the aspiration of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 is based on an understanding of climate science that is already out of date: meeting that target would likely see an inhospitable planet within the lifetimes of people currently alive today. So even if you were right that the ‘UK Energy Act puts us firmly on a course to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050’, this effectively amounts to a death sentence. The IPCC 1.5 Degrees report, published in Autumn 2018, makes it clear that the entire global economy needs to be net-zero (in terms of carbon emissions) by 2050. Even now, the majority of the world’s population struggle to meet basic standards of living: the next few decades of spiralling climate breakdown will only escalate their difficulties, because the poorest parts of the world will be hit hardest, as the UK Government already know – and as is already evident. Who on earth are we to dictate that developing countries must prioritise low carbon transport and low carbon industry, when access to clean drinking water, and basic food supplies, hospitals and education are far higher up their lists of priorities? Rich nations such as the UK must be aiming for net zero by 2025, or 2030 at the absolute latest, if we are to have any reasonable chance of avoiding global, irreversible and run-away climate breakdown.
Fourthly, in terms of total historical contribution to global carbon emissions, we in the UK are second only to the US – despite the UK being a small European country with a population dwarfed by many other countries (Professor David Mackay, former Chief Scientific Advisor to UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change; explained in his book ‘Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air’). We therefore have an overwhelming moral obligation to do ‘more than average’ in terms of the effort required to address climate breakdown.
Fifthly, a significant contribution to our emission comes from residential housing. The UK Government did have a Zero-Carbon Homes plan, launched by the Labour Government in 2007, which progressively constrained the allowable emissions from new build property over a period of 10 years. By 2016 all new builds should have been built to zero-carbon standards (Code For Sustainable Homes: Level 6). Whilst it is claimed that the European Passivhaus philosophy was much more robust as a means of reducing emissions (for reasons I’d be happy to explain to you, but are possibly too detailed for this letter), this fell into irrelevance once the Conservatives came to power anyway, because the plan was diluted, delayed and ultimately cancelled. It is perfectly possible to build better houses, but without ambition that is actually upheld by Government, aspirations will fail. 40 years ago the Scandinavians were building houses 3 times more efficient than our current regulations – and even then the enforcement of our regulations raises a lot of questions. There is no technological barrier here.
And finally, on the subject of targets set in the distant future:
“It’s as easy to make promises of future generations who have not yet been born and so cannot be asked,
As it is to point fingers and fire unjust accusations, blaming all of our problems on those who have passed”
Very few, if any, of our present MPs will still be MPs when this 80% aspiration becomes due. Where is the accountability? I acknowledge that our current political system makes it difficult to think more than five years ahead: this is to our severe disadvantage. However, other societies have been successfully guided by the question “What would be good for people living here in 5 or 7 generations’ time?” We desperately need to find a way of reflecting that mind-set.
D. The UK is a world leader in clean growth and the Government has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy in the UK since 2010.
This is an interesting claim, because taken at face value it looks impressive. Unfortunately, lifting the lid on this figure reveals some less impressive facts.
Firstly, yes: the UK Government has invested in renewable energy since 2010, and £52 billion is not a surprising figure. However, in the same time frame, the UK Government has provided significantly more financial support to the fossil fuel industry: roughly 50% more. Presumably you are aware of this? If you are, then you’ll also be aware this financial support for fossil fuels is higher than in any other European country. The UK Government claims not to ‘subsidise’ fossil fuels, but instead offers ‘tax breaks’ and ‘reduced tax rates’, for example for North Sea Oil and Gas exploration and decommissioning activities. The problem is, by World Trade Organisation definitions (which the UK Government supposedly accepts) subsidies and tax benefits are one and the same. Both mechanisms exist to provide financial support to companies, at the expense of taxpayers. Specifically: the WTO definition of ‘subsidy’ includes ‘government revenue that is otherwise due is foregone or not collected (e.g. fiscal incentives such as tax credits)’. Other countries generally do not make such claims: for example, the German Government acknowledges the financial support it provides to fossil fuel companies, but it is less of a problem for them because the total is so small in comparison with the support it provides to renewables. Essentially the UK Government is, at best, grossly manipulating the truth. The roughly £75 billion financial support to delay the inevitable collapse of the North Sea Oil industry puts the £52 billion investment in renewable energy clearly in perspective (I say ‘inevitable’, based on the irrefutable fact that the economically extractable volume of oil will be a lot less than the total volume in the ground, because of the physical processes involved in extracting it and the law of diminishing returns. When we see headlines such as ‘Unprecedented levels of investment in North Sea Oil’ – it is because as the amount left in the ground decreases, the incremental cost of retrieving each barrel rises. It’s not because we have suddenly found lots of lemons: it’s because the lemons we have already been squeezing for decades are almost dry.)
Secondly, it is interesting that you mention the year 2010 in your response. The coalition with the Lib Dems saw a huge investment in renewables. During the 2010-2015 period, you’re right that we probably were world leaders. However, since the coalition ended, the Conservatives have destroyed the renewables industry that they previously helped to build, effectively banning the deployment of onshore wind (one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation) and actively promoting the development of fracking (one of the most expensive, let alone dangerous and polluting, forms of electricity generation). I would be very interested to see your figures for UK Government investment in renewables, split 2010-2015 vs 2015-2019.
Thirdly, would you say that your decision on 8th September 2015 to vote to apply the Climate Change Levy Tax on renewable energy generation: supports, or undermines, the UK’s position as a world leader in clean growth? That levy was originally conceived as a business energy use tax from fossil fuel sources (the main source of carbon emissions). Its aim was to increase energy efficiency and to reduce carbon emissions: applying it to renewables was a perverse outcome indeed.
E. The Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy identify and target the huge potential opportunity for the UK from clean growth and transition to low carbon economy, while the National Adaptation Programme 2018-23 sets out a strategy for dealing with the effects of a changing climate.
Firstly, as introduced earlier, the initial damning review of the ‘Clean Growth Strategy’ by the Committee on Climate Change (the independent body that the UK Government itself set up to monitor the Government’s own progress on climate-related issues) says a lot about the value of the strategy. The fact the CCC have continually increased their criticism of the Clean Growth Strategy highlights that the Government are not heeding the warnings of their own specialist advisors on the subject. The Chairman, Lord Deben, has recently stressed that the approach of the Government stands to “undermine the integrity” of the very framework of the Climate Change Act, upon which the Clean Growth Strategy is based.
Cross-referencing related documents issued by the UK Government:
- The UK Government stated in 2018 “We know that every pound spent reducing CO2 today pays for itself between 5 and 20 times over in offsetting climate impacts.”
- The Government’s report ‘Updated energy and emissions projections 2017’ (pages 17-19) shows that their own carbon budgets will be missed between 2023 and 2032;
- The Government’s ‘Clean Growth Strategy’, published in 2018, says: “In order to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets (covering the periods 2023 to 2027 and 2028 to 2032)… we are prepared to use the flexibilities available to us to meet carbon budgets… if this presents better value for UK taxpayers, businesses and domestic consumers.”
- Essentially the Government is trying to reserve the right to create its own Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for whoever is in Government in 2023-2032, by framing the issues around the affordability of climate clean-up with caveats in terms of ‘value to… businesses’;
- Taken together, these imply that even though the Government says it acknowledges the long-term additional costs of failing to act on climate change now, ultimately it will allow itself to bow to the short-sighted views of business when determining whether or not its own legally-binding carbon reduction targets are worth achieving;
- Furthermore, the ‘flexibilities’ highlighted above include ‘using over-achievement from one budget to make up for future under-achievement in another’, and ‘purchasing carbon emission reductions from other nations’. The first of these options is akin to saying ‘we don’t need to score any goals this week, or the week after, because we scored three last week’: clearly if a team adopted this approach it would lose, regularly. The second option, in the context of previous comments about our overwhelming moral obligation to do more than average, betrays an embarrassing lack of ambition and courage. If we were genuine ‘world leaders’ in the way you describe, how come the Government is even talking about paying someone else to compensate for our lack of ability to meet our own targets? If we can’t find a way of doing it, with all the ‘UK Leadership and Progress’ that the Strategy boasts about, then who on earth are we expecting to do it for us?
Secondly, the Industrial Strategy is totally misaligned with the over-arching requirements of a climate system that is breaking down. The entire 258-page strategy document, which is sub-titled ‘Building a Britain fit for the future’ includes the term ‘climate change’ a pitiful 4 times (excluding repetition through captions and titles of reference documents): each of these is a peripheral observation: certainly not a driving feature. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who published the Industrial Strategy, recently published an online video giving a ‘1-year-update’ on progress so far. Sir David Attenborough opens the video with the aphorism: “The future of humanity, and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us”. Literally a few seconds later, another voice says “Let’s be the responsible tech of the world, and start to make responsibility the new normal” followed by “When we all start going into space, suddenly we’ll see our planet as a whole: we’ll see ourselves as one globe and one people,” accompanied with video footage of prototype commercial space travel technology. Is this serious? Just when one thinks that the approval of a third runway at Heathrow is as far outside the realms of a credible plan for addressing climate change as one could imagine, the Government think it appropriate to suggest, in a sub-2-minute summary of ‘progress to date’ on one of its flagship Strategies, that commercial space travel is something to look forward to?! This is preposterous. We absolutely do not need to embark on a journey to commercialise space travel simply to realise that we only have one fragile planet, and that the future global population will be forced to endure the repercussions of our short-sightedness, stupidity and greed.
Thirdly, specifically in terms of energy strategy, the UK Government is enormously exposed. I am not necessarily speaking as a personal advocate of new nuclear power, but I am aware that many well-known environmental activists have reluctantly come to a conclusion that new nuclear is essential if we are to get anywhere close to carbon neutrality, because the alternatives for base-load power (coal, oil, gas) are not compatible with reducing carbon emissions. (Renewables are important, but we are never going to ‘renewables our way our of the energy crisis’, primarily because in a low- or zero-carbon emissions future a high proportion of our reduced, but nevertheless essential, energy use will be electrical, and electricity cannot be stored in the amounts necessary to enable us to rely solely on intermittent and/or unpredictable sources.) The Government specifically mention the need to expand UK Nuclear capacity through Hinkley Point C and a pipeline of subsequent projects. However, because of the failure of successive Governments to build any new nuclear power stations in the UK since Sizewell B came online in 1995, the UK no longer has access to enough home-grown expertise to fulfil this strategy on our own. We are thus at the mercy of foreign profit-seeking organisations, especially in France, Japan and China, to provide the expertise and finance and to manage the risks. Admitting that we are almost entirely reliant on foreign input, surely does not constitute a robust ‘Strategy’?
Fourthly, the UK Government does not understand the expected true costs of decommissioning our existing fleet of oil and gas assets, and so cannot be relied upon to provide assurances that their costs have been correctly factored into the Strategy. In March 2019, the Commons Select Committee published their report “Clarity needed on impact of decommissioning on public finances”. The conclusions are stark:
- “Government support for oil and gas may become incompatible with its long-term climate change objectives.”
- “There is significant uncertainty over the potential costs to taxpayers of decommissioning offshore oil and gas assets.”
- “It is unclear how actions taken by the Department and the OGA are reducing decommissioning costs for oil and gas companies.”
- “The Department does not yet have a clear plan to ensure the UK maximises the benefit of developing exportable decommissioning skills and resources.”
- “The Department has a worrying lack of understanding of the potential for government liabilities to decommission assets used in fracking.”
- “There is uncertainty over whether carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) will become a viable option for reusing oil and gas assets.”
Fifthly, the experience of the UK offshore wind industry to date reveals much about our ability to capitalise on the opportunity to export our skills and knowledge abroad. One would be forgiven for assuming that because the UK has the largest offshore wind capacity in the world (>30% of total capacity), we must surely be well placed to benefit from a long-term export market as other countries follow our lead. Yes, the UK currently has an impressive array of offshore wind capacity, but outside of UK waters, UK companies represents less than 5% of the global supply chain. This puts an entirely different spin on the idea that the UK is a ‘world leader’, because it clearly demonstrates that whatever strategy may have existed (if indeed there was one) to capitalise on our early experience has utterly failed to deliver a long-term export market that might otherwise have boosted our economy in a positive way for decades. This is a very big missed opportunity.
Finally, regarding the National Adaptation Programme 2018-23 to which you directed me: even the 2-page Ministerial Foreword completely undermines the comments in your own email. It includes the following quotes:
- “An important aspect of adaptation is communication and we will work to ensure that across society people understand the challenges and risks which may lie ahead. Government will look to improve communication channels and work with professional bodies to widen and deepen understanding of climate change risk and engage ever more people to take action to adapt.”
- “The aim set out in the first National Adaptation Programme in 2013 still stands: A society which makes timely, far-sighted and well-informed decisions to address the risks and opportunities posed by a changing climate”.
- “Climate change affects us all and adapting to it is not something government can do alone: we need the engagement of all from outside government – industry, local government, the public – as we all work together to strengthen the resilience of our nation.”
Do you realise the irony of this, given your dismissal of the severity of the situation? And does the Government realise the irony of this, given that the climate debate in the Main Chamber of the House of Commons on 28th February 2019 (which was the event that triggered the start of this present dialogue between us) was the first time climate change had been debated there for two years, and yet hardly any MPs – especially from the Conservatives – turned up? This sentence is particularly astonishing: “Government cannot do it alone – we need the engagement of all”. The public are driving the communications; the Government are ignoring them.
If the Government will not take seriously its responsibility to engage with this subject, even internally at a debate in the House of Commons, then what is the point of a National Programme that highlights ‘communication’ as a central challenge to Adaptation that requires a mutually supportive dialogue?
F. The Government has also agreed to support and expand offshore wind and made the historic commitment to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.
Many offshore wind farms are now being planned without any government subsidy at all, because the costs have fallen such a long way in recent years. The change has been unprecedented: in one sense this is a definite success of the investment programme that the UK Government has enabled. However, it would be foolish indeed to think that this by itself will somehow solve the climate crisis. Deployment of offshore wind is one very thin sliver of what needs to be done. Yes, we can take a brief moment to congratulate ourselves on the offshore wind industry having almost reached the point of being commercially viable without Government support, but please let’s not kid ourselves that we have somehow saved the world.
Globally, energy use is rising far faster than the deployment of renewables: this means despite total installed capacity of renewables increasing, the proportion of our overall energy mix coming from renewable sources is actually decreasing. Against this backdrop – and especially given your point about the Government’s commitment to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025 – the recent decision to re-open the Nant Helen surface coal mine in Wales is somewhat incongruous, don’t you think?
G. I hope that the information above is helpful to you, and I thank you for taking the trouble to write.
You’re kidding, right?
Example 1: New weight-loss diet: it’s OK to ignore certain calories!
It is farcical to pick and choose which sources of carbon emissions to include in the analysis. Aviation and shipping are two of the most significant factors, yet they are explicitly excluded from the official statistics.
On what basis does the UK Government think it appropriate to pick and choose like this? (Emissions from aviation are specifically worse, because an amount of CO2 emitted at high altitude does proportionately more damage than the same amount emitted at ground level.)
Are the emissions from the aeroplanes and ships somehow less relevant? Surely not: that would be like saying the calories from cake and ice-cream can be excluded from a weight-loss diet.
Would you go to your tailor and say:
“My attempts at losing weight loss are going really well! After deciding to ignore the calories from all the extra cakes and ice-cream I’ve been eating, I’m definitely losing weight. Definitely. However, please could you widen these trousers, they’re getting a bit tight.”
Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide continue to rise. UK emissions would continue to rise if they were properly accounted for. Global temperatures continue to rise. Year after year we experience ‘the hottest year since records began’. Insurance pay-outs for extreme weather events continue to escalate. There were forest fires this year in Scotland, in winter. The numbers and intensities of hurricanes and tropical cyclones continues to increase. The rate of loss of Arctic sea ice continues to increase, bringing forward the projections of when sea ice will not exist in summer. The list of measured and monitored effects of climate breakdown is immensely long, and growing.
The UK Government can fudge the numbers all it wants: the proof is in the pudding.
As I am sure is evident by the lengths I have gone to to rebut the claims in your email, I am thoroughly frustrated by your attitude to the climate crisis and by your apparent refusal to acknowledge the truth. However, it is only by consistently sharing the truth that we have any meaningful hope of avoiding the worst of the events that are widely expected to unfold within the lifetime of my children.
Therefore, despite my anticipation that it may be a fruitless exercise, I would accept a meeting with you to explain all the points in this letter in as much detail as you would like, and to provide you with references and signposts to further information wherever necessary. As you know: Cornwall Council recently became the first Unitary Authority to declare a Climate Emergency: the number of Parish, Town, City and County Councils making the same declaration is increasing quickly. There are plenty of other people in your constituency who would also be prepared to talk with you about this, especially if you actually engaged with the subject.
My hope is that sending you this letter and offering to talk with you might provide you with at least a basic understanding of what needs to be done, and – though I realise I may be stretching it here – inspire within you a genuine desire to act on that understanding, as far as possible within the capacity that your constituents elected you to fulfil.
Earlier reply from George Eustice
22nd March 2019
Dear Mr Croftson,
Thank you for contacting me about climate change, I apologise for the delay in responding to you.
I am proud of the Government’s record on addressing climate change. The UK has played a leading role as the world has worked towards a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Paris Agreement.
Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation. The Government’s Energy Act puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent and underpins the remarkable investment that the UK has seen in its low carbon economy since 2010.
The UK is a world leader in clean growth and the Government has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy in the UK since 2010. The Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy identify and target the huge potential opportunity for the UK from clean growth and transition to low carbon economy, while the National Adaptation Programme 2018-23 sets out a strategy for dealing with the effects of a changing climate. The Government has also agreed to support and expand offshore wind and made the historic commitment to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.
I hope that the information above is helpful to you, and I thank you for taking the trouble to write.
George Eustice MP
Member of Parliament for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Letter from James Croftson
28 February 2019
When Greenland is bare, London and most major global cities are underwater, and hundreds of millions of people have been forced into mass-migration through combinations of coastal flooding and crop failures, it will not matter whether the UK is part of the EU. I have refrained entirely from contacting you about Brexit because I believe that, whatever the outcomes from it, the consequences of Brexit will vanish into insignificance in the face of the threats we face from climate breakdown.
Please could attend the debate on climate change tomorrow in Parliament, and demand far more urgent and drastic action than is currently being done. Specifically I would like you to highlight that the term ‘climate change’ is misleading: it is more appropriate to speak of ‘climate breakdown’ because of the severely negative consequences. The words ‘climate change’ are far too neutral: they suggest no urgent or decisive action is required in response.
The current action of the government is not enough to do our share to keep global temperatures below the 2° required to prevent potentially irreversible runaway climate breakdown within the next 11 years.
This is being strongly expressed repeatedly by the IPCC, the CCC, the IPPR, as well as numerous concerned and informed members of your constituency, and Cornwall Council and numerous village and parish councils in Cornwall.
Please pass this on and demand that the UK Government declare a Climate Emergency and implement urgent action.
Please could you let me know what you did on your return.
To the prospective parliamentary candidate for the…[name of political party]… in the parliamentary constituency of …[name of constituency]
We, as your local constituents, wish to develop a stronger more accountable relationship between MP and constituents. We believe that our MPs should be the voice of Cornwall at Westminster and not outposts of Westminster in Cornwall – here to represent local concerns rather than sell the party line.
We recognise the tensions between an MP’s responsibilities to voters, party or Country but we are entitled to expect that MPs meet their voters formally in public to explain why they have cast their Parliamentary votes in particular ways and to hear from groups whose voice may have been ignored or misrepresented. We therefore submit a code of conduct which we ask you to sign:
Code of Conduct
1. My first responsibility will be to my constituents even if it means voting against my party where its fiscal or social policies are detrimental to large numbers of voters in my constituency.
2. I will attend an open, public meeting in my constituency every year and report back to my constituents on my voting record in Parliament. I will explain why I supported some legislative proposals and not others. I will also report progress on promises made at election time.
This shall be on the condition that all such meeting are hosted by a third party and chaired in a manner that ensures I get a respectful hearing. A record of the meeting will be posted on the internet for public viewing.
3. I will regularly seek out the views of local civil society organisations who work for the benefit of the community, especially those who work with the most marginalised.
4. I will seek to work constructively with other MPs in and outside my party for the common good both of my constituents and the Country
Here is a link to an online folder containing extracts of 4 Cornwall MPs voting records on climate change.
MPs such as Sarah Newton are speaking at schools to take questions and discuss climate change. How our MPs voted on this issue should be part of the conversation. Please share this post widely – especially to parents. Thanks!
Apologies if I have not included your MP. We are still working to complete the full voting records. However All Cornwall MPs either ‘consistently’ or ‘generally’ voted against measures to address climate change so the voting record will not actually be that different to MPs Scott Mann and Sheryll Murray.