The United Nation’s Independent Panel on Climate Change report published last month has added another tonne of evidence that climate change is man-made, is definitely not a good thing, and we ignore it at our peril.
Most particularly the peer reviewed scientific evidence warns that the planet our children and grand-children will inherit might not be able to sustain human life unless we change our ways.
I get the impression that climate change sceptics fear they will have to make dramatic changes to their lives, such as becoming vegan (no bad thing, but not if you are forced), grow lentils in the front garden and put up a giant wind turbine in the back. Listening to the Green Party you could be forgiven for thinking so.
Fact is action to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and reduce the rate of environmental change doesn’t have to cost jobs, reduce living standards, or dictate you have to give up roast beef and drink pumpkin ale (although it could be good for your health if you did).
A modern, successful and competitive economy is a green economy – low-carbon, resource-efficient and high-skill. If it is not green, it will be neither modern nor successful nor competitive.
A healthy and thriving society, where people enjoy life and realise their aims is a society built around a flourishing natural environment and a sustainable built environment, in which families are independent and secure from sudden rises in the cost of living, where they are able to value their sense of place. If it’s not green, it will be neither healthy nor sustainable.
As the parties put together their manifestos for the election in 2015 I hope they will all recognize that the future prospects for the UK economy lie in fundamentally shifting how we value the environment.
I’d like to see a United Kingdom where we build infrastructure and communities to last, where we invest in innovation and new technology, where we respect the natural world, and enjoy its benefits, and where we improve the health and quality of life for all in their local communities.
But to achieve any change in the things we do we have to change the way things are done, and the biggest barriers are the vested interests in keeping the way we make decisions exactly as they are.
So I want to see a manifesto with clear commitments to:
- Devolving power and responsibility – including keeping more spending, saving and jobs in the local economy, and aiming for more than half of households and businesses generating renewable energy.
- Embedding long-termism – including a zero-carbon Britain by 2050, and natural capital accounting, reform of government and mechanisms to guarantee that companies and investors are fully aware of the environmental and social implications of their decisions and actions
- Cooperating globally – including working to secure agreement on a new global climate treaty and an EU target for greenhouse gas reductions of at least 50 per cent by 2030 and halting net global deforestation by 2020.
If the UN report into Climate Change is taken seriously it will become very difficult indeed for the vested interests to resist the changes we need to tackle this; the greatest human challenge of our age.
The Girl Guides recently announced a new badge, the Free Being Me badge, to promote body confidence for girls and young women. This is long overdue; the Girl Guide’s research shows that a quarter of teenage girls would consider plastic surgery and a third have skipped meals in an effort to lose weight.
We are now seeing models posing in TV adverts promoting plastic surgery, while locally we still have the public promotion of beauty contests, damaging all the hard work our schools and organisations like the Guides do in helping young people come to terms with who, and why they should be proud of who they are.
The traditional media, unwittingly or not, has reinforced female stereotypes for decades now and while it’s not something we can tackle with censorship, something has to be done to stem the tide of psychological and all too often physical harm that these images contribute to.
The Government is backing the Girl Guides campaign but there is much more that can be done by local councils and in our communities. For more about the Guides initiative, go to www.girlguiding.org.uk
I am among those MPs across all parties who would like and have voted for a referendum on our membership of the EU at the earliest opportunity.
As part of the Coalition Government my party agrees with the policy of holding a referendum following any significant future treaty changes.
The Conservative Party also agrees with the Coalition policy although a significant number of backbench Tory MPs share my view.
Until recently Labour has been silent on the referendum issue. Unfortunately following Ed Miliband’s key-note speech on 11th March setting out his Party’s approach to an in or out referendum on our membership of the EU we are none the wiser, and it’s not Ed’s fault.
On 12th March our national newspapers demonstrated why you should never trust a headline in a political story.
The headline in The Independent was: ‘No EU Referendum Under Labour’. The Guardian led with: ‘Miliband says in/out referendum on Europe is unlikely’. While The Daily Mirror proclaimed: ‘Ed Miliband will dramatically pave way for in/out referendum on Europe if Labour comes to power’.
Perhaps the clearest policy of all on referenda is UKIPs. If they were to win a majority of the seats in the UK Parliament, something that can be achieved under first past the post with less than a third of the vote, they would pull us out of the EU without a referendum!