The Wrington protest against Airport expansion

Nick Coates, North East Somerset parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats joined with more than four hundred others from across the region of all ages for a mass aerial photo shoot in a protest organised by Wrington residents against the expansion of Bristol Airport. (Photo: Neil Phillips)

Nick Coates said

We are all aware that there is a Climate Emergency. So why is any sensible government allowing extra runways or airport expansion?  All the councils in the West of England, and many further afield, have declared a Climate Emergency. The Committee on Climate Change highlights the fact that the aviation sector is on a path to generate more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector. This is why I am working with others to stop Bristol Airport Expansion.

I was delighted to join with the families of Wrington and nearby villages to support them in this protest. This impacts residents along the Chew Valley, in Keynsham and surrounding villages like Compton Dando, who are all on the flight path. ”


Action is required now on buses

For more than 20 years governments have known that action needs to be taken to stop the decline in bus passenger numbers, that congestion was the main inhibitor of reliable bus services and that, to reduce air pollution, we needed to move people out of cars and into buses wherever possible.

Consultation documents were issued and legislation was passed but, in nearly every case, these were never fully implemented and never fully funded. The ideas were mostly sound. The words well intentioned. The actions half-hearted and hopeless.

The Traffic Management Act Part 6, which would give LAs powers to clear bus routes and penalised those who stop in box junctions, has never been fully implemented. Secondary legislation and guidance required for franchising by the Bus Services Act was supposed to be finished by the end of 2018 but we are still waiting for it. Funding for concessionary fares zis based on 2005/06 ticket prices and we are still waiting for a review of the funding for socially necessary services - No wonder LAs struggle to fund non-commercial routes.

For the people of North East Somerset bus services are vital as a means to travel to work, to health services, to school or college and for social purposes

Nick Coates, LibDem parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, says:

"I will be pressing B&NES to maintain services, at least, at the current level. I will be lobbying for WECA to do more regionally including looking at franchising or enhanced partnerships. I will be pushing central government for a multi-year funding settlement which demonstrated our national commitment to reducing carbon emissions, decreasing congestion and improving health."


Why I oppose Bristol Airport expansion

We are all aware that there is a Climate Emergency. So why is any sensible government allowing extra runways or airport expansion?  All the councils in the West of England, and many further afield, have declared a Climate Emergency. The Committee on Climate Change highlights the fact that the aviation sector is on a path to generate more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector. This is why I am working with others to stop Bristol Airport Expansion.

Even when you take account of any savings in emissions because cars travel from the south west to Bristol rather than other UK airports, these savings pale into insignificance when compared to the increase in aviation related emissions (principally from the aircraft).

There is neither a benefit to the economy from increased business travel (because business recognises the problem and is cutting down on their travel) nor from any boost to tourism, since it has been established that the net effect of outgoing and incoming tourism is negative to the South West economy. Moreover there are relatively few extra jobs coming from any expansion to the airport.

The airport has failed to reduce the amount of car travel significantly and even the introduction of light rail to the airport from Bristol, which is essential, is expected to have a limited impact. Indeed the airport’s entire business model and financial success depends on income from car parking. Thus the increase in land take, much of which is from the green belt and over important wildlife habitats, will go primarily to more car parking.

It is significant that governments exclude aviation and shipping emissions from their emissions numbers. Clearly this is absurd.The airport itself claims to be aiming to be carbon neutral within a short period. But this excludes emissions from additional vehicle movements and flights. If the West of England is to meet its goal of reducing emissions from 2014 levels by 50% before 2035 then we will need to both reduce vehicle movements and flights.

Noise pollution, particularly at night, will worsen under the new proposals. The promised money by the airport for window insulation is a useful mitigation but of no value in the summer and to those further away from the airport such as people living in the villages along the Chew Valley, Compton Dando and South Keynsham which are directly on the flight path. Chew Valley villages, such as Chew Magna, are also impacted by light pollution as cars hurtle through the villages in the middle of the night with full beam headlights on.

Join with me, http://www.stopbristolairportexpansion.org/, the Parish Councils Airport Association and others in opposing this planning application. There are over 2,000 comments so far - please add yours. Go to https://planning.n-somerset.gov.uk/online-applications/ and search for 18/P/5118/OUT and then add your comment or objection to any or all aspect of the application.


World Environment Day - Air Pollution

Today on UN World environment day LibDem and Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse, will introduce a Bill into the House of Commons to give local authorities increased powers to fine drivers of idling vehicles.

The Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill proposes an increase to penalties for stationary vehicle idling offences. While Local Authorities already have some powers to act on idling vehicles the Bill is intended to enhance these powers.

Wera Hobhouse said:

“For far too long this Conservative Government has failed to take air pollution seriously. They have lost numerous court cases over their inability to tackle the toxic fumes that Britain breathes every day. Liberal Democrats demand better.

"This is a major crisis, with emissions from vehicles responsible for a myriad of health problems, many terminal. Research shows that 800,000 people die every year across Europe due to air pollution.

"We must do more to tackle both the climate emergency and the air pollution crisis. The Tories must stop wilfully ignoring the problem and back my Bill."

This is an issue, not just for major urban settings but right across North East Somerset, so I welcome this initiative.


LibDems message for the European elections: Stop Brexit

Brexit is a national embarrassment given to us by the Conservatives and helped by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn. A vote for the Lib Dems is vote to stop Brexit and remain in Europe to protect our economy, public services and our environment.

See the biographies for our six excellent Candidates

Caroline Voaden

Martin Horwood

Stephen Williams

Eleanor Rylance

David Chalmers

Luke Stagnetto (representing Gibraltar)


Lib Dems now leading the challenge to Rees-Mogg

The LibDems have taken control of Bath AND North East Somerset. 

For the first time the Lib Dems came top in last week’s local elections in North East Somerset. We won 14,459 votes, which was 710 more than the Conservatives. Labour were a distant third, nearly 7,000 further behind.

Lib Dem North East Somerset parliamentary candidate Nick Coates said,

“Voters clearly want change and have decided that the Liberal Democrats are the best placed to beat the Conservatives.”

We beat our own and everybody else's expectations. It was a brilliantly executed campaign supporting a superb team of candidates.

I have been delighted to work actively,indeed intensely, over the last 7 months with successful candidates:

Bathavon North - Sarah Warren and Kevin Guy
Bathavon South - Neil Butters and Matt McCabe
High Littleton - Ryan Wills
Keynsham East - Hal MacFie and Andy Wait
Mendip (where we beat the leader of the Council) - Dave Wood
Saltford - Duncan Hounsell and Alastair Singleton
and, somewhere where I have only been a few times, Radstock where Bruce Shearn is now the councillor.

We are now the main opposition to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

And so, on to the next stage ...


Fracking must stop

It’s time to end fracking. This has always been obvious but the momentum is there to call on the Government to act. The issue in question is not about making fracking safe but about decarbonising our economy.

In the last week Greta Thunberg has spoken unequivocally to MPs and the Fracking Tsar has quit. In order to fulfill our obligations under the Paris Accord we must act now.

It was significant when an open letter on climate-related risks, co-signed by Mark Carney, Governor of the The Bank of England, said, “Carbon emissions have to decline by 45% from 2010 levels over the next decade in order to reach net zero by 2050. This requires a massive reallocation of capital. If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.”

If Government does not take a lead on this they will be letting down all those people currently working in carbon-reliant industries. Not only will such procrastination not reduce the risks of climate change but it will also not prepare us for the transition to a decarbonised economy.

Wera Hobhouse, LibDem Climate Change spokesperson, talking about a cross-party letter to the Prime Minister calling for an end to shale gas extraction said:

It is incomprehensible that this Government continues to support the exploration of shale gas in the UK. Climate change is an emergency that needs to be dealt with now, we must focus on renewable energy rather than being distracted by more fossil fuels. Liberal Democrats demand better for our planet.”

The letter to Theresa May says “Climate change is an emergency … We must not just reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we must completely stop them. The IPCC stated that there is only 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C.”


Greta Thunberg speaks to power

If you don't mind being punched in the head by an intelligent, determined and affable young woman then read her speech to MP on Tuesday 23 April below. Actually read it anyway. It is not possible to duck this. 

 

"My name is Greta Thunberg I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.

I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.

Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?

In the year 2030 I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all of your life ahead of you. But I am not so sure it will be that great for us.

I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing.

Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.

Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once.

You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.

Is my microphone on? Can you hear me?

Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it. That is unless in that time, permanent and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society have taken place, including a reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

And please note that these calculations are depending on inventions that have not yet been invented at scale, inventions that are supposed to clear the atmosphere of astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide.

Nor do these scientific calculations include already locked-in warming hidden by toxic air pollution. Nor the aspect of equity – or climate justice – clearly stated throughout the Paris agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale.

We must also bear in mind that these are just calculations. Estimations. That means that these “points of no return” may occur a bit sooner or later than 2030. No one can know for sure. We can, however, be certain that they will occur approximately in these timeframes, because these calculations are not opinions or wild guesses.

These projections are backed up by scientific facts, concluded by all nations through the IPCC. Nearly every single major national scientific body around the world unreservedly supports the work and findings of the IPCC.

Did you hear what I just said? Is my English OK? Is the microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder.

During the last six months I have travelled around Europe for hundreds of hours in trains, electric cars and buses, repeating these life-changing words over and over again. But no one seems to be talking about it, and nothing has changed. In fact, the emissions are still rising.

When I have been travelling around to speak in different countries, I am always offered help to write about the specific climate policies in specific countries. But that is not really necessary. Because the basic problem is the same everywhere. And the basic problem is that basically nothing is being done to halt – or even slow – climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises.

The UK is, however, very special. Not only for its mind-blowing historical carbon debt, but also for its current, very creative, carbon accounting.

Since 1990 the UK has achieved a 37% reduction of its territorial CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Project. And that does sound very impressive. But these numbers do not include emissions from aviation, shipping and those associated with imports and exports. If these numbers are included the reduction is around 10% since 1990 – or an an average of 0.4% a year, according to Tyndall Manchester.

And the main reason for this reduction is not a consequence of climate policies, but rather a 2001 EU directive on air quality that essentially forced the UK to close down its very old and extremely dirty coal power plants and replace them with less dirty gas power stations. And switching from one disastrous energy source to a slightly less disastrous one will of course result in a lowering of emissions.

But perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2C of warming. The “lowering of emissions” is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by “stop” I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.

The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual. The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – for example, the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine – is beyond absurd.

This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.

People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished. But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I’m sorry, but it’s still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at.

Every time we make a decision we should ask ourselves; how will this decision affect that curve? We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth, but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases. We should no longer only ask: “Have we got enough money to go through with this?” but also: “Have we got enough of the carbon budget to spare to go through with this?” That should and must become the centre of our new currency.

Many people say that we don’t have any solutions to the climate crisis. And they are right. Because how could we? How do you “solve” the greatest crisis that humanity has ever faced? How do you “solve” a war? How do you “solve” going to the moon for the first time? How do you “solve” inventing new inventions?

The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced. The easiest because we know what we must do. We must stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hardest because our current economics are still totally dependent on burning fossil fuels, and thereby destroying ecosystems in order to create everlasting economic growth.

“So, exactly how do we solve that?” you ask us – the schoolchildren striking for the climate.

And we say: “No one knows for sure. But we have to stop burning fossil fuels and restore nature and many other things that we may not have quite figured out yet.”

Then you say: “That’s not an answer!”

So we say: “We have to start treating the crisis like a crisis – and act even if we don’t have all the solutions.”

“That’s still not an answer,” you say.

Then we start talking about circular economy and rewilding nature and the need for a just transition. Then you don’t understand what we are talking about.

We say that all those solutions needed are not known to anyone and therefore we must unite behind the science and find them together along the way. But you do not listen to that. Because those answers are for solving a crisis that most of you don’t even fully understand. Or don’t want to understand.

You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more. Because you did not act in time.

Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.

Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfil something, we can do anything. And I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.

We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.

We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.

I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me.


Dump the scales

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse today took the 'Dump the Scales' campaign to 10 Downing Street alongside mental health campaigner Hope Virgo. 

Their petition, which calls for Body Mass Index to be disregarded by clinicians when diagnosing eating disorders, was launched after Hope Virgo was told she wasn’t thin enough to receive anorexia treatment.

For months Wera has been working with Hope Virgo in support of her campaign which you can find out more about at http://hopevirgo.com/. Hope Virgo now has 70,000 people supporting her campaign which also calls on the Government to review eating disorder guidance.  

My friend and colleague, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, an Early Day Motion, which has been sponsored and supported by MPs across the parties, and can be found here https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52237.

Ahead of submitting the petition Wera Hobhouse went on to say :

"The sheer number of people facing eating disorders without adequate support is shocking.

"No one should have to suffer alone. I admire everyone who has had the courage to share their stories and help raise awareness and increase understanding.

“Through working alongside Hope and others who have suffered with eating disorders, I’ve learned just how desperately needed proper support and treatment is."
 


Cross-party statement on People's Vote

Following cross-party talks, opposition parties have called for a People's Vote to be a priority and to keep the option to revoke Article 50 on the table to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

In a joint statement, Vince Cable, Liz Saville Roberts, Ian Blackford, Chuka Umunna and Caroline Lucas said:

“The UK is in the midst of a Brexit crisis led by a government dictated by incompetence.

“Given everything we now know - and the detrimental impact Brexit will have on the UK’s economy, job opportunities and people's livelihoods, the priority must be bringing the issue back to the people in a People’s Vote – with the option to remain on the ballot paper.

"We are in agreement that there is no such thing as a good Brexit and that people across the UK face being worse off.

“We have shown over the past three years we are willing to find a compromise position to end the impasse.

“Time is fast running out and any compromise that is reached must be brought back to the people through a fresh referendum, and keep the option to revoke Article 50 on the table to avoid a no-deal Brexit.”


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