Thursday, 25 June 2015

Climate Change Action Day in parliament - details of the debate with constituents and the issues raised

On Wednesday of last week I was delighted to meet with a number of my constituents who had travelled down to the House of Commons as part of the Climate Change lobby day.

It was an impressive turnout and I thank all those who came down from Northumberland to lobby me, as part of the countrywide "Fortheloveof" campaign. It is so important that, in a democracy like ours, people use their right to come to parliament and lobby their MP. I never forget that I work for you and I am always keen to hear from you. 

We discussed a variety of issues and it was good to be quizzed and tested on this crucial topic. One thing was clear: we all agreed that climate change is a fundamental issue and one that poses a great risk to our planet if not combatted. 

All of us accept that climate change is an issue that already affects us today, but one that will have grave consequences for future generations, unless concerted action is taken. We have a collective responsibility to do all we can now to tackle climate change for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

During the 50 minute session in Westminster Hall I took a large number of questions and addressed the Friends of the Earth 10 questions sent down by some of my constituents. On some issues we were in complete agreement, on some issue we differed. But all agreed that the December Paris Climate Change Summit is key to achieving long term gains. The key issue is getting a deal that all countries will sign up. I am confident that Europe will sign; the problem is the emerging economies of China and India and others who are reluctant to restrict their growth, and happy to take the jobs of employers like Alcan. 
This government understands the significance of the threat posed; I believe we are making real progress. We have a commitment to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and we are on track to do this. I agree, as was put to me on Wednesday that more needs to be done, but we are making progress. 

We are leading the way with the world’s first Green Investment Bank, an initiative which I strongly champion and one that can bring real benefits to both our economy and environment. 

It was put to me that this government needs to act conscientiously in encouraging a comprehensive deal at the Paris Summit this December and I agree. We need to continue to be leaders on this issue and do all we can to encourage countries to use cleaner power sources. 

It was a useful and informative discussion and I want to assure all those who came to meet with me that I take their questions, ideas and comments fully on board.

I received a variety of briefings from Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid, and individual constituents.
I will try and address these key issues, in brief, below:
1. UK commitment to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. I am fully supportive of the UK government's approach past and present leading up to the Paris Summit. The last Government grew the economy and cut our carbon emissions and I will campaign to ensure this Government will do the same. We saw a massive increase in investment in renewable energy, including the largest offshore wind market anywhere in the world between 2010-2015. The issue will be the extent of the negotiation and the potential agreed outcomes. I suspect the problem area is not the EU countries who have been leading the way.

2. I am urged to:
- back flood defences both here and abroad - I do wholeheartedly.
- Likewise I support the use of solar panels and have helped a solar innovator from Ponteland get access to wider and better markets, taking them to DECC and supporting their business in whatever way possible.
- On coal there is cross party agreement on the reduction of reliance on coal, and my role in the campaigns on the local Halton Lea Gate and Whittonstall open cast applications is widely known and fully set out on the blog.

3.  FOE want me to oppose roadbuilding like the dualling of the A69 and A1
- I disagree, and will continue to campaign for both the A1 and A69 to be dualled.
- Likewise I disagree on the issue of shale gas extraction. The House of Commons in the spring of 2015 passed a highly detailed position between after extensive debate amongst MP of all the parties, as to the need for extraction under highly regulated rules and with extraction to be carried out in an environmentally safe way. This was after extensive debate for over 6 months in the Commons and the Lords as part of the Infrastructure Bill.
What is clear is that we can no  longer rely upon Russian or Ukrainian gas, and that North Sea Oil and Gas reserves are dwindling. We need a mixed energy supply, but preferably home grown, and I support what President Obama has done to promote shale gas extraction in the USA. Its affect on the cost of living, on  energy security, business costs and the repatriation of jobs has been remarkable in the USA.

4. I am a huge supporter of the various schemes for warmer homes and actively support the oil buying clubs and am helping set up the Tynedale Community Bank to help such schemes locally. On biomass, DRHI and the ECO and Green Deal I am working flat out with local suppliers, and DECC, to ensure their success and the expansive of more fuel efficient homes with a lower carbon footprint.

5. At the meeting we had an extensive discussion as to nuclear power, which I support. We discussed at length the change in views on nuclear, and whether this is deemed a clean or acceptable form of energy supply going forward.

6. We discussed the new tidal barrage in Swansea that the Secretary of State has just authorised and committed massive subsidy to - whilst at the same time phasing out on shore wind subsidies from May 2016:

I have not answered every question raised but will attempt to do so going forward but hope that this sets out the bare bones of the discussion, the debate and the areas of agreement and disagreement going forward.