Brexit Environment

Climate Change and the Tories: A Cataclysmic Combination

Climate change

Environmental crisis

On the urgent topic of the environment, the UK couldn’t be in a more precarious position than it is right now, especially considering post-Brexit scenarios.

I’ve written before, on my beliefs for the UK being more beneficial remaining within the EU, as opposed to existing on a tiny disconnected island, governed by a dictatorial party putting big business before the environment and climate. And as the omnishambles that is Brexit reverberates on, all of my fears are materialising.

As one might say, we are up shit creek without a paddle.

Theresa May’s Conservative government appears to have a suicidal approach to climate change and the UK’s energy needs, prioritising fossil fuel extraction, slashing green and renewable subsidies, and dismissing prudent and necessary investments into clean energy schemes.

Unpopular May

May’s controversial decision on the Heathrow expansion has already lost her one MP. ‘Green Tory’ MP, Zac Goldsmith, threw in his Tory insignia last week, citing the go-ahead for the highly contested third runway at Heathrow as the “most polluting, most disruptive, most expensive option” with descent already rumbling in the ranks after an uncomfortable fall-out from this “undeliverable” expansion scheme.

A second Conservative MP, Stephen Phillips – a QC and representative for Sleaford and North Hykeham, resigned shortly after Goldsmith, citing Theresa May’s cack-handed approach to Brexit as the final push for his departure. He also stated he could no longer live with being labelled a Conservative.

Flooding is named as the worst climate change threat to the UK, with communities standing defenceless against nature’s pounding. Cities, towns and villages across the country, with the counties of Cumbria and Yorkshire especially, have been deluged by repeated flooding and marked inaction from the Environment Agency and clueless leadership of the country (unless you’re counting our previous Prime Minister, Dodgy Dave and his cameo appearance in Hunter wellies as he strode purposefully up and down the country lanes).

Democracy is dead

My own community and county has just been overruled by Tory MP, Sajid Javid, when he gave the green light to fracking company, Cuadrilla. Our parish, borough, and county council here in Lancashire had already refused Cuadrilla’s bungled and inconsistent plans to frack two tiny and rural communities on the Fylde Coast: a place renowned for its clean air and green open spaces.

Javid, in his Secretary of State report, accepted Cuadrilla’s appeal; giving them a free pass to despoil our land for all its worth, spoke about climate change being a future concern, not for now:

“…that the issues raised as to how shale gas relates to the obligations such as those set out in the Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change carbon budgets are a matter for future national policy.”

Is this the best that the UK can do? To give flaky consent to a less-than-stable fracking company, riddled with debt and inexperience, to kick-start the fracking industry. Here, in the UK – an insignificant blob in the world’s ocean? With no regard for the health, safety and emissions from such a filthy industry?

“Oh, but we have robust regulations,” they say. The smug self-satisfied industry and Tory proclamations of, “Our regulations are not like America – we are gold-standard, don’t you know, pleb.”

But these Sloane-coated reassurances are riddled with vacillations and inconsistencies.

UK guilty of breaching pollution laws

Hello Tories, don’t you know you’ve just had your collective arses whipped in a High Court case by ClientEarth?

The UK government has been found guilty of breaching air pollution laws and failing to take enough action on emissions.

ClientEarth described the ruling against the Conservative government as a:

“damning indictment of ministers’ inaction on killer air pollution.”

Was this the example of gold-standard, robust regulations you were looking for, Sajid Javid?

One slightly hysterical element from the ClientEarth High Court case was that their legal representation included the esteemed Nathalie Lieven QC. The very same Nathalie Lieven QC who represented fracking firm Cuadrilla in the Lancashire Planning Inquiry over the summer.

ClientEarth describes itself as: “…activist lawyers committed to securing a healthy planet.” But it chose to be represented by a barrister, who had just finished representing a fossil fuel extraction company. This could not be further from ClientEarth’s ‘clean and green’ strapline.

Another interesting quote from ClientEarth’s article was from Jonathan Grigg, a Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at London’s Queen Mary University. He stated:

“Every day that passes, air pollution is damaging the lungs of children across the UK. It is therefore not acceptable to hope that air pollution will fall at some point in the distant future.

“The government must act now to protect this generation of children.”

The juxtaposition of this quote with the health and wellbeing of the children and residents who will be affected by the UK embarking on a fracking industry is stark.

A study published in Reviews on Environmental Health in May this year entitled Potential Hazards of Air Pollutant Emissions from Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Operations on the Respiratory Health of Children and Infants, concluded that:

“…exposure to ozone, [particulate matter], silica dust, benzene, and formaldehyde is linked to adverse respiratory health effects, particularly in infants and children.”

So what of our children and future generations being subjected, against their will, to an industry digging up and burning yet more filth-inducing emissions? Where are their rights and how are their voices being taken into consideration here?

The Director of Public Health in Lancashire, Dr Karunanithi stated:

“There is no other body that is planning to implement baseline health outcomes in Lancashire. Health outcomes are not part of the regulatory bodies’ agenda.

“I am unable to provide any assurance that this (health monitoring) will be in place on time.

“On balance, I recommend that the committee considers that no development shall commence until a scheme for established a baseline and ongoing monitoring of health and wellbeing outcomes of the local residents, as well as the workers onsite, has been submitted to the county planning authority and approved in writing by the Director of Public Health.”

Sajid Javid’s reply via the decision document was:

“…a baseline health survey of local residents would not be necessary, or relevant, and that it would not be reasonable to impose it.”

‘Reasonable’ for whom? Clearly industry and big business have won and once again, local communities’ health and human rights have been trampled on and discarded. We are dismissed as irrelevant.

Globally, we’re already on track for a 3-degree temperature rise. The UN-authored report The Emissions Gap Report 2016: A UNEP Synthesis Report concludes that current global climate pledges are not sufficient to keep within the 2-degrees temperature of the Paris Agreement. The UN stated:

“At least a quarter must be cut from emissions by the end of the next decade, compared with current trends.”

Action on climate change is non-negotiable

Emission reductions must be a global and concerted effort. Championing a new fossil fuel industry in the UK not is not only regressive and dangerous, it is downright irresponsible.

What must we do to galvanise the uneducated and disinterested leaders of our country into real climate action? Is direct action against climate change the only alternative when a vested-interests government further forces its electorate into deeper fossil fuel usage?

The lack of concern and interest surrounding climate change and the UK’s obligations to the Paris Climate Agreement is horrifying, yet somewhat expected: after all, this is a majority-millionaire-populated Conservative cabinet in charge.

The Tories’ seduction with big business and the revolving door of the fossil fuel lobby will not wash with an already-aggravated electorate. These were Theresa May’s empty words upon her recent promotion to Prime Minister:

“The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.

“We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you.

“When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you.”

Unmitigated guff, Theresa. It’s already wearing perilously thin.

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