Government caught out making statement about CO2 which is ‘plainly wrong’ — Guest post by James Abbott

[This blog has been arguing over the past year that the government are telling porkies about the level of British carbon emissions. See for instance:
What follows is a GUEST POST by Cllr. James Abbott, national Green Party spokesman on dangerous climate change, on this same important topic:]
‘In an interview on the Today programme earlier this week, Hillary Benn stated that by 2010, UK CO2 emissions are on course to be 16% below 1990 levels – he went on to say that this more than met the Kyoto obligations. The claim coloured the rest of the interview with John Humphrys (and George Mombiot).

I have tried to get R4 to do a follow up interview to question this claim – John Humphrys could not promise this would happen but agreed that Ministers need to be chased up on statistics if they were questionable.

Not for the first time, a minister, in this case the Sec. of State, appears to be misleading the public about UK emissions. DEFRAs own figures show that UK CO2 emissions have fallen much less than 16% – more like 6% – since 1990. All of that reduction took place prior to Labour coming to office when the Tories were in power and there was a major recession, closures of heavy industry and a switch to gas burning in power stations.

Mr Benn appeared to be talking about the Kyoto basket of greenhouse gases (6 in all) which is on track to meet Kyoto.

The important difference is that CO2 is the single most important greenhouse gas, and Labour has failed to reduce it – which they will not admit to and rarely get pinned down on. About 70% of human induced global warming is due to CO2 emissions.

The UK is set to miss its own CO2 target. And no wonder – with yet more road building, airport expansion and incinerators being promoted by Mr Brown and his colleagues. 

It is really important that ministers are challenged on their misuse of statistics in this vital field. Sometimes its arguable what they are claiming due to the choice of words, but in this case Mr Benn made a statement specifically about CO2 which was plainly wrong.’

City drivers forced to slow down

Motorists will be forced to drive at 20mph or less in Norwich as part of a radical shakeup of road policy announced yesterday , which includes opening a bus and cycle lane to lorries.Norwich will become the third city in the country, after Portsmouth and Aberdeen, to have a 20mph blanket limit after councillors agreed to the principle of a £300,000 sign-based scheme across 240km of residential roads… (READ ON)

Brown begs the oil companies to let more oil get combusted: Green response…

Brown is going today to the oil companies to beg them to reduce the price of oil/petrol. It’s top of the news.
How pitiful.
This economic crisis that we are facing — failing banks, huge debt, rapidly escalating prices for basic commodities — IS a crisis of failing to be green: It is a ‘resource-depletion’ crisis — i.e. it is being caused by oil starting to run out, worldwide; it is a manmade-climate-change crisis — i.e. it is being caused also by food production failing in the wake of increased production of biofuels and widespread droughts and storms; and it is a crisis caused by consumerism — i.e. unsustainable levels of debt, resulting from materialistic bingeing, and borrowing on the fantasy never-never of house prices, is giving us an inevitable hangover.
There is no way out of this crisis through even more of the same — and burning more oil right now would just be: even more of the same.
We need instead to take a radically new approach. A Green approach…

Environmental refugees

Earlier this month, I gave a talk on Environmental Refugees to Epping Green Party. Here is a precis:

Darfur is the first climate-change war. And the first countries eliminated by climate change are, tragically, appearing now, in Micronesia.

Unless dangerous climate change is reined in, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. The 21st century, unless governments turn to Green policies, will be a century of unprecedented environmental disaster. There will be hundreds of millions of climate-change refugees, as powerful storms devastate poorer countries and rising sea levels simply inundate Bangladesh, Holland – and parts of East Anglia

It is the carbon emissions from industrial countries, of which Britain is the oldest of all, which are causing this devastation. So: how will we choose to regard the likely tide of environmental refugees? Will we bar the door to them, just as the Daily Mail and others shamefully tried to prevent any Jewish migrants to this country in the 1930s? Or will our attitude be a humane one: will we welcome in and take care of those whose homes have been swept away by hightides caused by our own profligate burning of fossil fuels?

There are two great moral imperatives, in this connection, for the 21st century:

1) To plan to help the likely millions upon millions of environmental refugees.

2) To work now to prevent there being too huge a number of environmental refugees, by acting fast to defuse and to prevent catastrophic climate chaos.

HGV scheme gets green light

23 May 2008 08:36

Controversial plans to allow HGV lorries to use a bus and cycle lane in Norwich have been given the green light. Despite a 500-name petition against the project, a trial scheme to allow 40 tonne HGVs to use the lane on Newmarket Road for 12 months was given the go ahead at a meeting of the Norwich Highways Agency Committee.

Four members of the 10-man committee were eligible to vote on the matter, and although two voted in favour and two against, committee chairman Tony Adams used his casting vote to approve the scheme.

The HGVs will now travel from the freight consolidation centre on the A11, down Newmarket Road and travel through Castle Meadow and Red Lion Street.

But critics of the plan said today it would put cyclists’ lives in danger as they will have to share road space with lorries travelling at 40mph.

Rupert Read, a member of the committee who voted against the scheme, said: “I’m very strongly moved by the arguments of the cyclists on this matter. I’m concerned it may result in more freight on the roads. It may be an incentive for people to move more freight into the city which they otherwise would not be moving at all.” … (read more)


  Harriet Harman on this morning’s TODAY programme implied as much.

It would be a pathetic piece of populism, and a craven failure to be taking any serious green action whatsoever if, in a bid to restore its flagging support, Labour were now to freeze the planned fuel duty increase — without compensating for doing so by taking other measures.

My own view is that it would be fine to freeze or even to reduce fuel duty — SO LONG AS the government were introducing a serious green scheme to rein in Britain’s carbon emissions, such as ‘carbon rationing’, instead. Tragically, however, the government has just announced last week its abandonment of its investigation into the possible introduction of carbon rationing:

Meanwhile, Government Ministers intend to lobby OPEC to increase oil production to meet supply in order to bring fuel prices down – so the world gets more CO2 and less reason to save energy!



I am today criticising a report by Natural England which suggests that the blanket protection of England’s green belt land be scrapped in favour of opening up land for development. Comments by the government body’s chief executive Helen Phillips on this are a real step backward.

In Natural England‘s State of the Natural Environment Report report, Dr. Phillips claims that the buffer zones to curb urban sprawl have been neglected, offering little benefit to wildlife and little accessibility for the public. She went on to suggest that rather than preventing new housing from being built on the green belt surrounding cities and towns, it was time to find better usesfor green belt land.
The Green Party is already fighting Government imposed unsustainable development targets of over half a million more homes in the Eastern Region, as well as Labour plans to centralise strategic decision making, largely removing elected councillors from the process. Proposals to relax green belt protection will add to the pressure on the countryside. 
Dr. Phillips’ comments are confusing and contradictory. While she rightly states that we need to find new ways to manage our natural environment to help countryside and wildlife survive, she also seems to suggest that we need to scrap green belt protection and open up large swathes of England’s green belt land to development. 

This is a misguided and dangerous precedent.  Some areas of green belt land have been neglected and wildlife is indeed at risk, but this is not an excuse to send in the bulldozers for yet more urban development. This is an ideal opportunity for the Government and local councils to rethink their approach to the nation’s green land management in a truly sustainable way.

We are already seeing creeping urban sprawl into the countryside.  Gordon Brown’s eco-towns are being built to supposedly strict environmental standards, yet many are just Trojan Horses for developers to get their hands on more countryside, damaging the natural environment with miles of new roads, thousands of new cars and a whole new urban infrastructure that will lead to greater pollution, greater congestion and an even greater threat to wildlife.

There are almost a million empty properties around the UK that are ripe for sustainable regeneration. There is an urgent need to bring into re-use brownfield sites suitable for redevelopment. And the Government needs to radically rethink its housing policy, to deliver much higher proportions of affordable homes and to give councils the powers to require developers to install renewable energy and the highest standards of efficiency.

It is crucial for the environment and for people that England’s green belt remains under protection.

20mph limits to come to Norwich!

The Norwich Highways Agency Committee has today approved the principle
of introducing a 20mph speed limit across residential roads in the
City. The committee agreed a proposal from myself that a blanket 20mph limit, based primarily around
signage, should be introduced.

In June 2006 City Councillors unanimously agreed that there should be
a 20mph speed limit across residential roads in the city. Since then
the Conservative County Councillors, who hold the casting vote on the
Norwich Highways Agency Committee, have consistently blocked the
proposals – until today. This morning’s meeting was the first one at
which I had the right to vote – by virtue of the Greens becoming the second party on

the City Council on1st May.

I am delighted that my first formal proposal to the Norwich
Highways Agency Committee has resulted in the Committee at last
agreeing to this progressive proposal of introducing 20mph speed
limits across the city. At every meeting of the committee, local
residents and Councillors from different parts of the city submit
questions and petitions asking for a 20mph speed limit in their area.
They are usually turned down because they are fighting over a small
pot of money and because the Committee has up until now taken a
piecemeal approach to reducing traffic speeds. Now that the Committee
has agreed in principle to this move, it hopefully won’t be long
before residents across the city can enjoy 20mph speed limits and the
safer streets they will bring. This decision that we have taken today
means that lives that otherwise would have been lost will be saved.

The next step will be for Council officers to develop the details and
likely cost of the scheme. The officers had recommended that the
committee did not go ahead with the proposals because of the high cost
of introducing traffic calming measures such as speed bumps across the
city. However, under the proposal agreed today, the scheme will be
mainly based around signage – although we in the Greens are keen for
officers to assess alternative and additional methods of enforcement,

Following today’s decision, Norwich is set to become one of the first
cities in the country to introduce a blanket 20mph limit – following
on from recent similar moves in Portsmouth and Aberdeen.