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.”


World Autism Week

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The Autism Act is 10 years old this year. This has increased awareness and progress has been made in enabling people with autism to live fulfilled lives. But there is still considerable discrimination and misunderstanding particularly among employers.

 

Read more

Mental Health services are not on top of demand

The demands for mental health services are on the increase. But that just makes it even more important that those contacting mental health services receive prompt, joined up and well resourced care.

Red Nose Day recently highlighted the rise of suicide amongst young men. Members of the Royal family have launched a mental health campaign to challenge the stigma over mental health problems. This is helpful but more needs to be done.

Late last year, NHS providers surveyed mental health leaders to gain a better understanding of health care delivery locally. They concluded that “rising demands, in many cases, exceeded available capacity in both adult and children and young people’s services”.

An overwhelming majority (81%) of trust leaders said that “they are not able to meet current demand for community child and adolescent mental health services and 58% said the same for adult community mental health services”.

The failure to deliver specialist health care to the most vulnerable in our society can have devastating consequences, as the family of Julie are only too aware. While in deteriorating mental health Julie tried to access the mental health teams on numerous occasions. Despite these repeated interactions and Julie's involvement in a major car accident, which police were concerned indicated an attempt to take her own life, no mental health assessment was made of her condition. In the early hours of 22nd February 2018 Julie went missing. After a police search, Julie was found later that evening. Sadly, she had already passed away.

More money is vital and the LibDems have committed to that. But as the NHS survey indicates the money must be spent in the right way and when something goes wrong, as in Julie's case, each single instance must be investigated so that lessons are learnt and applied at every level of the health service.

Nick Coates says,

"we need managed plans so people don't get worse, we need safe places they can go if necessary and staff need the training and resources to respond to each individual circumstance. And we must invest more on prevention which too often is the first in line for budget cuts".

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of Mental Health Network, recently said

"If you're going to be serious about the health of the nation then you need to start with mental health". 

 

References

thecalmzone.net

www.headstogether.org.uk

www.nhsproviders.org/mental-health-services-addressing-the-care-deficit/the-demand-challenge

https://juliemhfoundation.org Permission has been granted to refer to this story.


2019 Manifesto


Tory delay and indifference driving down quality of care homes

25% of B&NES Care homes have a CQC rating of requires improvement or inadequate according to an Independent Age report published on 6th March. Although this is an improvement on last year, B&NES are still the second worst performer in the South West.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

“The Tories' sustained cuts to local government funding is contributing to the fall in standards of care, as is their failure to publish the Social Care Green Paper.

Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset and also a Care Home trustee, said:

“This has just not had the focus it needs and deserves. Two years ago the Government promised a Green Paper by Summer 2017. Then after the General Election they set up an expert panel. The panel have reported and a Green Paper should have been produced soon after. I was at a Social Care conference last Autumn and Caroline Dinenage, the Minister, promised this by December, but still we wait.

“I know this is a difficult issue but for the residents of our homes and those receiving care elsewhere, and for their families, this is an immediate problem. The Government have required Local authorities to be self-funding from 2020 but social care now makes up the vast majority of spending. In 2019/20 in B&NES this is projected to represent 82% of the Council’s income. As a result spending on Social Care is squeezed.”

LGA research published on 6 March says “Raising council tax has never been the answer to fixing our chronically underfunded social care system.”

The Information Age report also says that “At the heart of this crisis is the chronic underfunding of the system with social care spending shrinking by £7 billion since 2010. Local authorities are planning to push through social care cuts of £700m in 2018/19 - nearly 5% of their total budget - in order to balance their books.”

Nick Coates commented:

“The Liberal Democrats are ready and willing to challenge the problems in social care. We will transform the care older people receive and reduce the inequality in provision. We will put a penny in the pound on income tax to directly invest in social care to reverse the deterioration in care."

Judith Jolly, talking about the lack of a funding green paper, added:

For months the Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Conservative Government to publish the Social Care Green Paper so that we can begin to address this crisis. But instead the Tories have delayed and delayed this since the summer of 2017 as they fail to address the ballooning funding gap for adult social care.”

 

Independent Age ‘Care Home performance across England March 2019’ https://www.independentage.org/care-home-performance-across-england-2019
https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/council-tax-will-fail-protect-adult-social-care-services-year
https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8002

Not the Mogg podcast

Listen this Sunday or on your morning commute to my latest podcast. I am in conversation with Simon Allen, a friend from North East Somerset, and we are talking about the climate emergency.

Freak weather, school strikes, cars and buses, air pollution and repair cafes are just some of the subjects we cover under this heading. Inevitably the subjects of Brexit and Rees-Mogg arise as well.

https://anchor.fm/unseatthemogg/episodes/The-Climate-Emergency-e3be7m - available on 11 platforms.


International Women's Day

Friday 8 March marks the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. The theme for 2019 is “Balance for Better”, underpinning a goal for us all to work together to build a gender balanced world. It seems astonishing that despite the equalities legislation of the 1980s and subsequently that there is still a lot more to be achieved. Quite rightly we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We can all notice its absence and celebrate its presence.

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the progress made in the fight for women’s rights, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the fights for women’s rights in their countries and communities.

It is some progress that more women are working than ever before. Today, over 70% of women aged 16-64 are employed, which is up from 53% in 1971. But is still below the 80% of men in employment today.

Despite these increases, there is still a gap that needs to be bridged and International Women’s Day raises awareness of this. We need to continue the fight and achieve balance for better.

Follow the events of the day using #BalanceforBetter and #IWD2019!


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