Climate & Ecological Emergency Hustings – 21-11-19
Notes briefly summarising answers to questions asked. For a descriptive and more detailed account of the meeting, go to Christina’s Forum entry ( https://www.planetshaftesbury.org/forum/general-discussions/account-of-the-planet-shaftesbury-hustings-meeting-21st-november-2019 ). Here I have just tried to give the gist of what was said (any actual quotes in inverted commas). Questions/comments from audience/chair in italics - numbered questions submitted in advance. Apologies for any omissions. Happy to correct any misrepresentations – contact PlanetShaftesburyContent@gmail.com
Candidates: David Chadwick (DO) lib-dem; Simon Hoare (SH) cons; Ken Huggins (KH) green; Pat Osborne (PO) lab. Chair: Andy Hollingshead (independent member of Shafts Town Council).
Q1 – from Shaftesbury Primary School Council re: absence of compost/recycling bins for packed lunch waste (esp. fruit), lack of response from waste dept. of Dorset Council to requests, what could be done to help?
PO – ‘massive’ let down on part of Dorset Council, given children’s engagement in environmental concerns – would write to Waste Dept. re: this.
KH – suggested that fruit eaten by children should be in-season/organic – spoke of need for more recycling – but also re-use, reduce…
SH – own interest in organic gardening – disappointing situation if young people’s enthusiasm discouraged – ‘dead hand’ of educational beaurocaracy – sent WhatsApp message to Dorset Council chief executive re: this
DC – spoke of lib-dem policies including proposed Zero Waste Act
Q2 – From Arthur Simmonds. Should political system be changed in order to address climate change, e.g. through proportional representation?
SH – spoke of 2011 referendum in which first past post system voted for – claimed it works better than any other system – prop rep would give platform to extreme minorities such as UKIP and other r.w. groups.
DC – current electoral system archaic and outdated – urgent need for political reform – democracy should provide equal say to all – should work like an anti-virus, flag up problems.
PO – spoke of labour’s Make Votes Matter campaign – advocating change in voting system with growing support in party – democratisation and accountability required esp. re: climate emergency – putting nationalisation of National Grid, ending fuel poverty, before profit.
KH – current system does not fairly represent everyone – 3 year focus on ‘faffing about’ re: Brexit whilst climate emergency ever more pressing given as an example.
Q3 – From Mandy Greenwood. How should next gov’t take immediate, drastic action, as advised, without alienating UK public?
DC – changes will improve lives, thus eliciting consent – lib dem radical programme for home insulation improvements by 2025, prioritising low income homes, would work to improve lives of those having to choose btwn. heating or eating.
AH – majority of new housing has poor build quality, low ecol. ratings etc. – suggested new Act of Parliament to enforce higher standards and more state intervention – Norwich council’s ‘zero carbon homes’ quoted as good practice.
PO – mention of own work on labour plan for housing upgrades – spoke of those who through various limitations such as poverty, operated on day-to-day/week-to-week/month-to-month survival basis, with limited horizons – need to broaden horizons by tying life issues with bigger picture, as per labour’s ‘new green deal’, creating an economy focussed on reversing climate breakdown.
KH – spoke of XR’s 3rd demand, for creation of Citizens’ Assemblies – need for input from public, have the people not politicians make decisions.
SH – picked up PO’s ‘horizon’ point, not every citizen ‘on the same page’ – need for broad, deep understanding – electorate/business interests need to be persuaded, this requirement to be embedded in policy – requirement for cross-party consensus on this in parliament to give public confidence and to arrive at solutions that people will like – need for regulation, high fines for breaches of practice – incentivise people w/financial reward (carrot & stick) – listen to the young – influence of Blue Planet – need for constant ‘pester power’ from those already concerned.
From audience – suggestion there is no mention of Climate Change action in current conservative policy documents.
SH – actual manifesto not then out, would include.
KH – spoke of David Cameron, regression from ‘greening UK’ to ‘green crap’ quotes – spoke of XR demand to ‘tell the truth’ that would enable people to understand the situation -–spoke of withdrawal of subsidies for wind/solar energy.
SH – responded to this by claiming that such government support went to ‘nascent’ industries, which these no longer were. They were ‘up and running’. Claimed that UK had more solar panels (in total? per head?) than any other country.
From audience – government subsidies for fossil fuel industry vastly exceed those for green sources, would candidates be prepared to lobby to change this?
SH – agreed and says he has written to Secretary of State to challenge this and make appropriate changes to the Infrastructure Act – wishes to ‘re-prioritise the hierarchy of energy generation’ and recounted that he voted for ‘greener regulation’ in 2015 – re:fracking his opinion is that it has ‘missed the crest of a wave’, and there is no need for further regulation as it will not happen.
Q4 – from Angela King/Sue Clifford. What policies would stem catastrophic loss of insects & other UK wildlife?
KH – spoke of need to de-industrialise farming, cut/cease pesticide use, but of his current increasing concern re: EMR/EMF (ie: electro-magnetic) radiation, claiming there was strong scientific evidence for its harmful effects of both insects and humans, w/particular concern re: roll out of 5G.
PO – followed this with general point that the state has not been careful enough to check on potential downsides of scientific/technologic innovation, citing nuclear and use of neo-nicotinoids as former examples, so care needed to check on 5G etc. – farming needs to be sustainable and labour would ‘repurpose funds’ to support environmental land use.
DC – regarding 5G echoed others’ caution – spoke of lib-dems’ intended Nature Act, banning neo-nics and intended to subsidise the value of land, rather than of produce it generates, resulting in better land management.
SH – spoke of conservatives’ Nature for Climate Fund and ban of neo-nics (pointing out that they are also used in common pet flea treatments) – suggested we should all keep ‘less tidy’ gardens to support insect and other wildlife – key legislature in form of Agricultural Bill, supporting environmental preservation, enhancement and biodiversity – this he claimed the first ‘domestic agricultural revolution for 25 years’, moving away from food production as the only important criterion.
DC – spoke of lib-dems commitment to re-wilding – said that the Agricultural Bill had ‘gone nowhere’ as a result of declaration of current election.
PO – spoke of the ‘hurdle of public opinion’, citing local opposition to wild meadow area in housing estate where he lives by local residents – there was ‘a long way to go’ to educate people about these issues.
AH – spoke of ‘cost benefit’ analysis, with regard to the costs of not doing things. Eg: potential cost of not building HS2 or 3rd runway at Heathrow.
From audience - query about education policy, should it no longer promote status quo, desirability of consumption, growth by material development. Unanswered.
Q5 – from Pamela Rosling. What part can farmers/gardeners play in combating climate change/biodiversity loss?
SH – has yet to find any farmer who deliberately sets out to destroy biodiversity or degrade land – need to come out of EU to have ‘bespoke agricultural policy’ – NFU have produced report on green farming / how to, reduce agrivulture’s carbon footprint.
AH – query re: growing trees on farming land.
SH – trees a good crop on ‘low grade agricultural land – need to ‘strike a balance’ and not return to coniferous monoculture plantations.
DC – mentioned conservative party attempt in 2011 to sell off Forestry Commission and EU protective legislation for habitat conservation.
SH – spoke of Habitat Act, a ‘canon of law for stability’ carried through by conservatives.
PO – commented that farmers have livelihoods to lose from climate change – was encouraged by NFU’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2040.
From audience – comment that UK agricultural land estimated to have only 80 years of cropping left before exhausted – no sense of overview – top soil a finite resource.
KH – farmers crucial, but driven by financial criteria and poor advice to opt for quantity over quality – non-organic food cheaper because it does not include cost of environmental degradation – claimed that science indicates we must move away from animal agriculture – need to regenerate what’s lost, especially soil, and to support farmers in doing this.
DC – when lib-dems left government, conservatives closed Dept. of Climate Change and National Green Involvement Bank.