Lockdown 2 #4

November 27th, 2020

How is this happening?

Of course many of us breathed a sigh of relief when fracking was banned (though it’s officially a ‘moratorium’, therefore temporary…), but sadly this looks like ‘fracking by stealth’….

For years, apparently, Rathlin Energy (whom I’d not heard of before, but of course I’ve written to them now – no CEO contact details on their website, however…unsurprisingly…?!) has been taking over the land surrounding the tiny village of West Newton in Yorkshire.

Oil and gas wells have been drilled in what were once peaceful, rolling fields. Now, Rathlin is about to double these operations and build two more wells.

Local volunteers have spent two years camped outside the sites, monitoring pollution levels and tracking what is going on. Now, with the burden of covid as well as winter approaching, this community is worried they’ll have to pack up and let Rathlin win this battle.

This is an example of our government’s double standards – if it was really committed to tackling the climate crisis, it would be determined to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

In ‘God’s own county’ of Yorkshire too…! We used to live there, and some of our family still do, as well as the friends we made. Hopefully, some of them will have the energy and enthusiasm to help the fight.

Talking of UK government commitment, the 10-point climate plan did actually materialise last week. As Friends of the Earth has said, a plan to tackle the climate emergency published by a Boris Johnson-led government would have been hard to imagine a couple of years ago. So it certainly is heartening that it exists. But, predictably, it falls far short of what we all need.

One of the ten points is definitely very important good news, however – new diesel and petrol cars will be banned by 2030. This announcement is a real win for people power, particularly against a backdrop of industry opposition. Cleaner cars equals cleaner air, as well as lower carbon emissions.

600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 will be fitted in housing, in order to abandon the use of gas-fired boilers. To meet climate targets, we actually need to fit 10 million heat pumps by 2030. All new homes should be built with eco-heating systems, obviously. The government apparently initially planned to ban the fitting of new gas boilers by 2022, but a lobby by Persimmon Homes blocked this.

I’ve written to the CEO of Persimmon Homes!

This week there has at least been some good news from the government (in contrast to ‘tears over tiers’ and the depressing spending review….) – onshore wind and solar power projects will be  given subsidies for the first time since 2015.

Energy companies will compete for subsidy contracts in a competitive auction to be held at the end of 2021, which could support up to 12GW of renewable energy, or enough clean electricity to charge up to 20m electric vehicles a year.

Now, on a more immediate ‘feel good’ level, a green glimpse from Guy’s Hospital (where our three children were born)  and St Thomas’ (where our nephew was born!) – well, the hospital trust’s charity anyway… It is funding the installation of low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) measures in a London borough. Because the health and social benefits of reducing motor traffic are so substantial, the wards of Camberwell Green, St Giles and Faraday (some of the most socially deprived in the UK) will have widened pavements, additional seating and roadside markings to encourage walking and cycling. Also, some parking spaces will be removed as part of the scheme, which is due to start in December.

LTNs have had mixed receptions. In Acorn Road, Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, there was massive opposition to plans a few years ago. Now, since the changes to the street went ahead anyway, one business owner has been eating his words, even welcoming the changes. 

An example of ‘the bigger picture’ proving to be worth considering, I hope – short-term worries turning out to be unfounded. Let’s all focus on what’s right for the long-term.

Two everyday things we can do: one, through shopping; one, through doctor’s surgeries.

Tesco, Lidl, Asda, McDonald’s, Nando’s and other high street retailers all source chicken fed on soya linked to thousands of forest fires and at least 300 sq miles (800 sq km) of tree clearance in Brazil. The soya is supplied by Cargill, the US’s second largest private company. Please stop buying this chicken, and spread the word – or maybe become vegetarian (a simple solution)?!

And finally today, a GP friend of mine has asked me to draw attention to this (I had no idea about the problem) – standard asthma inhalers are bad for the environment. The liquified compressed gas in them, according to a new study from the University of Cambridge, is responsible for approximately 4% of all emissions attributed to the NHS each year. Of course this doesn’t mean you should risk asthma attacks, but your doctor should be able to help you switch to environmentally-friendly alternatives in the shape of aqueous mist and dry powder inhalers.

Not only would these be kinder to the environment, but they could also incur savings for the NHS as well.

I’ll sign off by pointing you to another uplifting group of people who are trying to ‘engage the British public on climate change’ – Climate Outreach.

Check out http://www.climateoutreach.org/britain-talks-climate

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