General Election 2015: Colne Valley candidates respond to our climate questions

 

General election

We would like constituents to be able to make an informed choice at the ballot box – with a clear idea of the parties’ policies on climate change and the environment.

With that in mind, we prepared a number of questions related to climate change and the environment that constituents may wish to ask at election hustings. (You can see these on https://kirkleescampaignagainstclimatechange.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/general-election-2015-ask-the-candidates-the-climate-question-10-25-questions/ Each of these questions includes a link to allow further reading on the subject.)

On 17th March, we emailed the six prospective parliament candidates for the Colne Valley constituency, asking them to respond to five questions selected from this longer list.

We informed prospective parliament candidates that we planned to make their responses to these questions available on our website with a publication date of Wednesday 15th April.

The responses we received are set out below, question by question. Responses are listed in alphabetical order of the candidates’ surnames.

We received responses to every question from:

Chas Ball (PPC, Green Party)

Jane East (PPC, Labour Party)

Jason McCartney MP (Conservative Party)

Paul Salveson (PPC, Yorkshire First)

From 15/4/15, this page will be updated every Monday until the General Election with any further responses we receive from PPCs for the Colne Valley constituency.

1)    Aviation

The Committee on Climate Change has warned that unless UK aviation keeps its emissions below the 37.5 million tonnes per year limit, other sectors of the economy would have to make cuts of over 85%. (That is so that aviation can effectively double its emissions compared to the 1990 level, while the UK as a whole can make 80% cuts compared to 1990 by 2050.) Will your party permit a new south east runway, if it means such drastic cuts in the carbon emissions of all other sectors of the economy?

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2015/03/committee-on-climate-change-writes-to-sir-howard-to-say-aviation-co2-emissions-must-not-be-abover-2005-level-by-2050/

Chas Ball (PPC, Green Party)

No, the Green Party would stop airport expansion, in particular no new runways at either Heathrow or Gatwick, and ban night flying. It would also end the favourable tax treatment of aviation and have a separate target for aviation emissions of below 37.5 million tonnes CO2 equivalent a year.

Long-distance travel by air is one of the most energy-intensive and polluting forms of transport and causes health-damaging local pollution near airports.

Jane East (PPC, Labour Party)

I have answered the specific questions, but would like to make a couple of general comments.

Firstly I am delighted to see that Ed Miliband has put the international quest to tackle climate change at the heart of our manifesto. As the introduction says, ‘tackling climate change is an economic necessity and the most important thing we must do for our children, our grandchildren and future generations’.

Secondly, I would like to see that goal interpreted in everything we do. There are references to the need to put climate change at the heart of foreign policy and to the investment in Green jobs. But I would have liked to see a reference to our commitment to better building regulations in creating new homes. I believe the commitment is there, but not fully reflected in the manifesto.  As I tweeted on the weekend after having met Bill Butcher of the Green Building Company, I would be committed to working for greener building regulations. PassivHaus is a great aspiration which we should strive for.

To turn to your specific questions: I have added some references to our policy but also some personal comments.

Our detailed background policy documents recognise any new capacity must go hand in hand with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. There are no firm commitments to expansion, but recognition that following the Davies Review we need a swift decision on expanding airport capacity in London and the South East, balancing the need for growth and the environmental impact. I am a committed internationalist, but recognise we need to limit aviation activity. Changing our patterns of consumption to focus on local produce would be a great start.

Jason McCartney MP (Conservative Party)

We need to have airports that can meet the demand from individuals, families and business people to travel around the world. It is also important, however, that this need is balanced with the need to make our airports quieter and more environmentally friendly. Ministers tasked the Davies Commission with looking into Britain’s aviation capacity. The report concluded that there is a need for one net additional runway to be in operation in the south east by 2030. The Airports Commission’s consultation on three proposals has now closed. During the 12 week consultation the Commission estimates that it has received over 50,000 responses, from a broad cross section of individuals and organisations. I look forward to the Commission publishing the full details of the consultation, along with its final report, in the summer this year.

Paul Salveson (PPC, Yorkshire First)

If we were in a position to influence government, we would be against further airport development in the south-east. My own view is that we should be very careful about encouraging air travel and push for stronger inter-city rail links in place of domestic flights, including some high-speed rail development. There should be through-trains from the North to mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel. Where airports exist (e.g. Leeds/Bradford) there should be much better public transport links, either by rail or tram/train. Aviation should pay more tax, reflecting the environmental damage it causes.

2)    Fracking

Even though our constituency is not currently at risk of fracking, would you oppose fracking nationwide – particularly given that the Chief Scientist at the Department for Energy and Climate Change stated last year, “If a country brings any additional fossil fuel reserve into production, then in the absence of strong climate policies, we believe it is likely that this production would increase cumulative emissions in the long run. This increase would work against global efforts on climate change”?

http://kevinanderson.info/blog/uk-international-commitments-on-climate-change-are-incompatible-with-the-development-of-a-national-shale-gas-industry/

Chas Ball (PPC, Green Party)

Yes, the Green Party would ban all UK fracking operations – following a growing number of nations worldwide – and withdraw all relevant licences as soon as possible. We would also ban other new fossil fuel developments such as other unconventional fossil fuels and open cast coal.

Three years ago we called for a moratorium on fracking-related activity while the environmental and economic impacts of drilling for shale gas were evaluated. On that basis, we are now emphatic and unambiguous in proposing an outright ban on fracking and related extreme energy technologies (coal-bed methane and underground coal gasification, as well as hydraulic fracturing).

Fracking is incompatible with the UK’s climate change obligations and will put communities and our environment at risk. There are serious and legitimate concerns about the potential for fracking to cause water contamination, air pollution and harm to wildlife and public health. Fracking sites would entail mass lorry movements, blighting our countryside and villages.

Jane East (PPC, Labour Party)

Labour policy includes establishing a robust environmental and regulatory regime before extraction can take place, with measures designed specifically to tackle the climate change impact of shale gas. I have listened carefully to local experts on this and believe that policy is the best way to influence fracking on a wider scale. I agree that fracking should be ruled out in Protected Areas and close to aquifers. That would rule out fracking in many parts of the UK including in our constituency. This imposition of stringent controls forms the basis of Labour policy and will be the best way of preventing speculative uncontrolled fracking. Currently we are a net importer of gas from other parts of Europe. As North Sea gas reduces, and despite a significant commitment to reduce energy consumption, we may find ourselves needing imported gas from wholly unacceptable sources, such as that fracked in the US. I want us to focus on reducing consumption and on providing better renewable energy, preferably under local community control. In that context I hope we never need to use fracked gas at all, from anywhere in the world. However I do recognise that for the majority of the British public their priority is energy security. We need to be able to continue to heat our homes. As we strive to reduce our carbon dependence I would accept there may need to be stringently controlled fracking at home rather than imports from far more dubious sources.

Jason McCartney MP (Conservative Party)

I voted for a moratorium on fracking. It was clear there was a deal done between the two front benches to get the fracking legislation through, and I could not support that. The implications of fracking are massive and there was no reason why we couldn’t have had a pause to fully investigate all the issues involved. Fracking should not go ahead if it does not have the confidence of the public, something it does not have at the moment.

Paul Salveson (PPC, Yorkshire First)

I’m totally against fracking – it’s an easy but unsustainable get-out for government to avoid hard choices on how we live. A devolved Yorkshire regional government should have power to ban it, as Scotland and Wales have already done.

3)    Onshore wind.

Onshore wind is cheap, popular and creates jobs and currently provides nearly 5% of our power. The Committee on Climate Change suggests it needs to continue to grow – to a more than trebling of today’s capacity – up to 2030. Do the candidates agree with the government’s advisors on climate change?

http://www.actionforrenewables.org/timetoactonshore/

Chas Ball (PPC, Green Party)

Yes, the Green Party will expand mature renewable technologies such as wind energy and solar PV in the period until 2030. By bringing down costs, in part by reducing planning constraints, including those for onshore wind, we will assist this sector to grow.

With more community participation in the development of on shore wind we believe there will be more local support for the decentralizing of energy production. Local democracy is withering and dying because councillors are hemmed about by regulation and their functions have been systematically removed over the past 30 years. Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has virtually abolished onshore wind energy by overriding local planning and halting turbine projects.

Jane East (PPC, Labour Party)

The IPCC in its most recent report argued for a massive shift towards renewables. According to the Public Attitudes Tracker Survey (conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change), 82% of the UK public support renewable energy, such as wind, solar and wave-power. I believe we should explore every option for increasing our power generation from renewable sources.

Labour recognises the potential job creation through investment in onshore wind, and I personally favour the model being developed locally at Longley farm, where local ownership enables community benefit. Labour will create an Energy Security Board to plan and deliver the energy mix we need – including onshore wind. We will set out a legally binding target to take the carbon out of our electricity supply by 2030. We will push for an ambitious target in Paris to get to the goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century.

Jason McCartney MP (Conservative Party)

No I do not. I think onshore wind has had its day in this country. Onshore wind is turning the public off renewables and I would like to see our resources geared to offshore wind instead. I welcome the announcement of the Tidal Lagoon project made in the Budget.

Paul Salveson (PPC, Yorkshire First)

I am fully supportive of onshore (and offshore) wind power – it is a sensible alternative to coal, gas and nuclear. I strongly support Valley Wind’s proposals in the Colne Valley. Care needs to be exercised in where turbines are located but much of the opposition to onshore wind is highly subjective and ill-informed.

 

4)    Rail travel

Since 2010 rail fares have risen by 27%. Research suggests that the costs of rail privatisation have been more than £11bn of public funds. If all unnecessary costs were eliminated, the resultant saving could be used to reduce fares. This would equate to a cut in fares of 18%

Do you think the current ownership model is working for the common good and if not, what is the alternative?

https://kirkleescampaignagainstclimatechange.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/local-activists-part-of-nationwide-railripoff-protest-against-new-year-train-fare-rises/

Chas Ball (PPC, Green Party)

Our privatised railways are fragmented and uncoordinated, ticket prices are high and unpredictable, and timetables do not connect seamlessly with buses and shared mobility options at stations. This means rail fails to play its full part in delivering an effective alternative to the private car.

The Green Party is committed to bringing rail services into public ownership and control. The current fragmented structure does not put the passenger and the total journey experience at the centre of planning.

The Green Party will consult widely on the organisational details of a rail operation in public ownership and how it will link to democratic accountability at the regional and city-region geographical scales.

Putting this plan into action for the common good means bringing the railways back into public ownership – making them belong to us all, run by rail workers for passengers.

On 26 June 2013, Green MP Caroline Lucas published a Private Members’ Bill to do just this, a policy supported by 66% of the British public. As Caroline says, a privatised railway ‘is a blatant transfer of public money to private interests at the expense of the taxpayer and rail passengers’. Bringing the railways back into public ownership would cost very little if it was done as existing franchises fell due for renewal.

In addition on the railways, we would not support HS2 (the proposed high-speed network). The money to be spent on this hugely expensive project, which at best will reduce journey times for a few passengers, would be much better spent on improving the capacity and reliability of conventional rail connections between various major cities, improving the resilience of the existing network to climate change and reopening lines and stations that have been closed.

Jane East (PPC, Labour Party)

This is such a big issue locally. We need to get our railways right to take cars off the roads. Northern rail needs serious investment. We will establish a national body, including rail users, to oversee and plan for railways. There will be a strict cap on fare increases across all routes and a freeze in the first year whilst we bring about reform. We will legislate so that there is a new legal right to the cheapest ticket. We will legislate so that a public sector operator can take on lines.

We will devolve regional transport decisions. Buses are also important in this context.

Jason McCartney MP (Conservative Party)

I believe we benefit from private sector innovation and operational experience in its railways. Following privatisation, more people travel by rail than at any time since the 1920s, and reliability levels are high. On top of this, demand for rail travel continues to grow and is exceeding forecasts in a number of areas. I am looking forward to seeing Stage Coach and Virgin deliver over £140 million in investment for passengers on East Coast with faster journey times; new trains; more services; and 50 per cent more capacity. They will also bring lower headline fares; and connects five towns that have never been connected to this franchise before including Huddersfield in 2018. The franchise is good for taxpayers, too. It will run for eight years, with the option to extend it for a further year. In that time, it will return £3.3 billion in premium payments to the taxpayer.

Paul Salveson (PPC, Yorkshire First)

The current ownership structure is expensive and inefficient. My book ‘Railpolitik – bringing railways back to communities’ charts an alternative based on passenger and worker-owned co-operatives running regional services and a UK-wide intercity operator owned mainly by the UK government but encouraging passenger and worker involvement. We should not go back to the old BR but look forward to a more democratic and accountable approach. Rail has a lot to offer in environmental terms but we should not concentrate too much on ‘high speed’ – though it has a role. It should be fully integrated with the conventional network, which HS2 isn’t. I’m all for reducing fares but we need to have the capacity to meet the extra demand, so we need more trains and extra track capacity etc.

 

5)    Roads Programme

Last year the Environmental Audit Committee said that air pollution – which takes the lives of 29,000 people annually in the UK- was a ‘public health imperative’. In light of that, do you think that the government’s road building programme is the best use of £15 billion and if not, how would you prefer that it be spent?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/08/caroline-lucas-infrastructure-bill-british-green-policies-15bn-roads-pollution

Chas Ball (PPC, Green Party)

The Green Party would not spend £15 billion over the next parliament on the roads programme although some of this funding allocation would be required for fixing potholes in existing roads and to increase the investment in cycling. The present government has significantly expanded the cycling budget and this would be maintained and increased.

We recognise the latest scientific evidence of the harmful effect of diesel on human health. A major cause of air pollution is emissions from diesel vehicles (cars, buses and trains).

To tackle air quality problems in many urban areas of UK we would introduce Ultra Low Emission Zones, like the one being planned for London, to tackle air pollution and to comply with EU limits.

We would aim to accelerate the uptake of ultra low emission vehicles (mainly electric vehicles and petrol electric hybrids) by a range of incentives.

We would also begin with a consultation to develop a framework for the progressive elimination of diesel exhaust emissions, including through our rail policy.

We would support and expand the work already started under the present government through the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to provide incentives for the operators of bus and taxi fleets, working with local authorities to invest in clean technology (e.g. low emission vehicles) for sound business reasons.

Jane East (PPC, Labour Party)

I am pleased to say our manifesto says very little about new road building, although it does recognise the need to invest in strategic roads and to repair local ones. I would like to see far more invested in subsidising local bus services and in promoting local economies in a way that reduces the need to travel.

Jason McCartney MP (Conservative Party)

I welcome the Government’s plans to build over 1,300 new lane miles on motorways and trunk roads, tackling congestion and fixing some of the longstanding problem areas on our road network. When 90 per cent of journeys are taking place on our roads this work is vital to help people get on and get around. This £15 billion investment will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential.

Paul Salveson (PPC, Yorkshire First)

It certainly isn’t a good way to spend £15bn. The money should be spent on improving public transport, including rail re-openings but also funding local bus services which are currently being cut at an alarming rate. We should be doing much more to encourage cycling and walking, with more pedestrian priority measures in our towns and more off-road cycling routes. I am very much in favour of 20 mph zones in built-up areas.

 * * *

Further information:

Huddersfield Greenpeace has also asked Colne Valley PPCs two questions, focusing on fracking and reducing CO2 emissions (as set out under the UK Climate Change Act). You can read their responses here https://greenwire.greenpeace.org/uk/en-gb/node/25199

Party manifestos came out week commencing 13th April. Friends of the Earth plans to give parties and their manifestos a score based on their promises on different environmental issues. You can read more: http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/election-manifestos-will-they-be-good-people-planet

Carbon Brief have analysed the manifestos in detail. Read more: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/04/election-2015-what-the-manifestos-say-on-climate-and-energy/?utm_content=buffer24a30&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

 

 

 

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