On Trains, On Football and On Air

This week 

Another busy but enjoyable week of combining opportunities to get about the North West region, meeting up with staff and attending events; from Blackpool to Liverpool, Manchester and Preston. 

A particular highlight was catching up with so many Green Party members at Tuesday’s public meeting in Manchester on ‘No to Climate Change, Yes to Europe: How to Stop Brexit’. All but one of the 10 Manchester boroughs were represented. Brilliantly organised and chaired by Astrid Johnson in Manchester.

Later in the week, I arranged to go with Laurence, who is working with me on producing a report on a Green New Deal for the North West, to meet the new Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

I also had an enjoyable, friendly interview with Mick Coyle of Radio City Talk in Liverpool, and was wowed by the stunning views of the Mersey at the public viewing gallery from right outside their studios! 

This week I’m having a break before travelling to Palestine and Israel for a full programme of events. More on that here.

Radio City Talk Liverpool

Kashmir

I’m really concerned about events in Kashmir after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, leaving the region and its residents “virtually cut off from the rest of the world” and upended a decades-old arrangement of the region, contested between the two nuclear nations of India and Pakistan. 

I’m hearing from constituents around our region about the issue, and it should be of concern to all of us. This, of course, being one more legacy of British colonialism whose disastrous impact still lingers. We need the UK government to advocate for an ethical foreign policy that builds capacity for conflict resolution. The defence of human rights in Kashmir, including freedom of the press and of assembly, should be the starting point of any definitive peace talk.

Although the next Strasbourg plenary isn’t until September, I will be looking to see how we can use the European Parliamentary urgency resolutions process. This is used to address human rights abuses and seek, along with my fellow Green MEPs in the UK, to find a cross-party agreement for a condemnation statement of what is happening in Kashmir by fellow European parliamentarians.

More here.

Football

I had a really interesting and very productive meeting with Andy Walsh, the National Game Development Officer of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA). Who would have thought that Football could be so interesting without even watching a game?! The FSA represents over 600,000 football enthusiasts in England and Wales and is the leading advocate for supporter ownership, better fan engagement, cheaper ticket prices, the choice to stand at the match, protecting fan rights, good governance, diversity and all types of supporter empowerment.

Five of the 20 premier league football clubs are in the North West, and three in the Championship which means not only is football a part of so many people’s lives in this country, it has a significant impact on the economy in this region. 

I was glad to discuss football with someone so well-informed. From ideas and questions about improving sustainability in football, encompassing everything from easy public transport to and from stadiums, the kits and their shelf-life – right to the environmental management of the clubs and their services, including single-use plastic, pitch surfaces, paying the living wage and reduced inequality in staff pay. And then, of course, there is the really big issue of ownership models to reflect the interests of football supporters and club sponsorship. 

So much could be done. This was only the start of a conversation and we agreed that this would be a very important project. It’s something I would love to lead on as an MEP with fellow MEPs across Europe. 

Meanwhile this week

 

Good:

I was glad to see that Caroline Lucas’s proposal for a Government of National Unity was then followed up by a serious proposal at last by Jeremy Corbyn. The situation with Brexit remains as unclear and as worrying as ever and it’s going to take quite some negotiating to get us anywhere near unity. The potential alternative of a crash out no-deal Brexit demands we treat this with urgency and put the people of the UK ahead of Party red-lines. 

Bad:

Fracking started again near Blackpool and the community who have stood against it for so long, are both fearful and determined. I visited the site on Monday for the 2nd Anniversary of ‘Green Mondays’ – just days before the drills started up.

Despite the company’s protestations that they could not frack successfully within current regulations and limits on seismic activity, Cuadrilla ploughed on and caused 12 seismic events in the first day-and-a-half. One of the safety measures they’re challenging is the ‘Traffic Light System’ (TLS) that sets the limit on how strong a seismic event can be before shutting down and doing safety checks. Earlier this year, Claire Perry MP said:

“It would be a very foolish politician who would do things that would be considered to be relaxing regulatory standards when we are trying to reassure people about safety.” 

This week, however, just in time for renewed fracking, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published an updated statement that indicated they may indeed now re-assess when they have more data.

 

Where Hope Lies:

Today, people are coming from across the country to Manchester to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre. The event organised by unions reminds us:

“Two hundred years ago, about 60,000 people assembled, including a high proportion of women and children, in St Peter’s Field in Manchester. What followed was a brutal dispersal, by armed cavalry, with 18 people killed and over 500 injured. People had marched from all around, many miles, to peacefully demonstrate, amidst widespread hunger and deprivation, for the right to vote.

“That working people, by securing a voice over their fate, might be heard and might share justly in the wealth they toiled to create in the workshop of the world…this event, known as the Peterloo Massacre, has come to symbolise the centuries of unremitting political struggle that moved working people from abject poverty and squalor, and back-breaking labour, to the rights we now enjoy today.

“It inspired the rise of the Chartists and modern trade unionism and helped transform our history. Yet these struggles are never over, they must be fought again and again. After a decade of pay stagnation, growing poverty and austerity, it is more important than ever that we use the rights that others had to fight and die for to improve the lot of all work.”

I can’t make it but am delighted that Trafford Green Councillor, Geraldine Coggins, will be reading out my speech and I will share that next week

Onwards

A New Report States Fracking has “Dramatically Increased” Global Methane Emissions

A new scientific study into the cause of global methane emissions has been published today. The report – Ideas and perspectives: is shale gas a major driver of recent increase in global atmospheric methane? – was written by climate scientist, Professor Robert Howarth from Cornell University.

He concluded that the emissions from fracking “makes up more than half of the total increased fossil fuel emissions”. And that in other words, the “commercialisation of shale gas and oil in the 21st century has dramatically increased global methane emissions.”

He also talks about the 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where the climate is impacted by methane and that reducing methane in the atmosphere is one of the best methods to mitigate global warming.

Howarth found that:

“…natural gas (both shale gas and conventional gas) is responsible for much of the recent increases in methane emissions, we suggest that the best strategy is to move as quickly as possible away from natural gas, reducing both carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Natural gas is not a bridge fuel.”

My own views on today’s finding are as below:

“This latest report adds weight to the common-sense view that there is no place for fracking in any energy strategy fit for purpose. There is an abundance of renewable energy sources still to be brought into the electricity grid, and that is where the UK government should be focussing its attention and resources.

“Across Europe, renewable energy is being developed and grows continually. This is the direction the UK should be heading in, not looking backwards at dredging up yet more dirty fossil fuels.

“Just today, it was reported that Europe has enough land space to house wind turbines that could power the entire world, with wind energy being cited as a major clean power source to help mitigate climate change.

“It was also published today, that over 150 MPs, including 35 Conservatives, have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to consider more wind farms for the UK, demonstrating a turn in the tide for renewable support.”

“The untapped potential of a clean energy revolution has hardly been explored – we are just on the edge of technology here. Forging forward with a Green New Deal could be a game-changer for energy production and sustainable living.

“Fracking is not a bridge to a cleaner future – it is simply another fossil fuel. We should be banning fracking and transitioning to a low carbon society with great urgency.”

Palestine and Israel Delegation Visit

One of my new roles as an MEP, is being a member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament (AFET), and member of the delegation for relations with Israel as well as a substitute for the delegation for relations with Palestine.

For this reason, I am delighted to be able to take up an invitation to join a cross-party delegation visit to Israel and Palestine from 26th-30th August, organised by three sponsoring organisations: Danish, Norwegian and Swedish church groups.

During the visit, I will meet with representatives for both Israeli and Palestinian officials and NGOs, as well as a representative of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Program Leader of the World Bank.

I’m particularly keen to explore the potential role of the European Union and its institutions, in helping to find a way in which Palestinians, as well as the Israeli people, can be guaranteed their freedoms: to live without threat, to work, attend school and move about their daily lives in safety, alongside each other.

My interest in this region started when, as an 18-year-old, I spent some time on a kibbutz in the Negev desert; an amazing experience in itself through which I met wonderful and interesting people. It was not until quite a few years later that I learned of the wider implications of the Israeli nation-state, as it has developed.

The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner and conducts trade under an Association Agreement, which in effect means there is a close diplomatic relationship. I believe that the fundamental premise of the European Union as a peace project means that states must uphold international law and abide by conventions on human rights, which are clearly being broken by Israel in the current situation.

I’ll be writing a full description of my visit upon my return.

Dictators, Democracy & Division

More shocking headlines and news this week on just how the rules of our democracy can be distorted and manipulated to play some immoral power-game that will impact every one of us; the Conservative government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson are willing to write our views out of history and use procedures in ways never intended, to achieve a what would be a disastrous crash out of the European Union.

A no-deal Brexit means safeguards will be lost and we will be vulnerable to the powerful influence of huge global business and bigger trading ‘partners’. How on earth we are ever going to deal with the key issue of our time – the climate emergency – if we are focused on division rather than unity?

We are all at risk from this international threat to our environment and it’s a situation that requires co-operation if we have any hope of averting the worst that could come.

About that ‘No-Deal Brexit’

  • The unavoidable reality: A no-deal Brexit won’t be a clean break: this nightmare will go on forever
  • The unpleasant truth: crashing out is now very possible
  • The urgency: it’s time to save our democracy

The idea of a ‘government of national unity’ is creeping gradually up the list of possible solutions for how to get out of the crisis. And it is gaining more traction even since the article below was written.

In the Guardian this week, Jonathan Freedland makes clear:

“The myths of a no-deal Brexit are about to collide with reality. Those myths are many, and they flourish on both sides of the great divide. For remainers, the greatest is that no deal could never happen. They look at the polls that show far more Britons oppose a crash-out from the EU than support it – 50% to 38%, according to Ipsos Mori – and they can’t quite believe that any government would defy the public will on so grave a matter.

“Still, the greatest myths lie on the other side. One is the fond hope that Britons will weather the disruption of a no-deal Brexit as stoically as they withstood the blitz. The sight of British holidaymakers driven to tears over flight delays this week, with its echo of that time Britons called 999 to complain about KFC running out of chicken, should disabuse us of that particular daydream.

“…after a no-deal Brexit, we’d be back where we started. The last three years would come to seem like an argument between a husband and wife that’s raged in the kitchen. After 31 October, as my colleague Rafael Behr likes to put it, it’d be the same argument – except now the husband would be standing on the street, the front door slammed in his face, shouting his demands through the letterbox.”

All-Women Cabinet?

And today, Caroline Lucas has made a bold proposal. An all-women cabinet of unity to deal with the crisis. Well done, Caroline. As always, clear, insightful and bold. It’s about options.

An upcoming visit to Palestine & Israel

My new roles in the European Parliament include being a member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and member of the delegation for relations with Israel as well as Palestine. For this reason, I was delighted to be able to take up an invitation to join a cross-party delegation visit to Israel and Palestine from 26th-30th August, organised by three sponsoring organisations: Danish, Norwegian and Swedish church groups.

During the visit, I’ll meet with representatives from both Israeli and Palestinian officials and NGOs, as well as a representative of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Program Leader of the World Bank.

I’m particularly keen to explore the potential role of the European Union and its institutions in helping to find a way in which Palestinians, as well as the Israeli people, can be guaranteed their freedoms: to live without threat, to work, attend school, and move about their daily lives in safety, alongside each other.

I also have a personal interest in the region, which started when, as an 18-year-old, I spent some time on a kibbutz in the Negev desert; an amazing experience in itself through which I met wonderful and interesting people. It was not until quite a few years later that I learned of the wider implications of the Israeli nation-state, as it has developed.

The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner and conducts trade under an Association Agreement, which in effect means there is a close diplomatic relationship. I believe that the fundamental premise of the European Union as a peace project means that states must uphold international law and abide by conventions on human rights, which are clearly being broken by Israel in the current situation.

IPCC Report – farming/agriculture

This week saw the release of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which calls for radical changes to methods of food production and consumption. I’ll pass over to Molly Scott Cato Green MEP who sits on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee and is the agricultural spokesperson for the Greens. She refers to the South-West, where she represents. I think that there are comparable messages for us here in the North-West with our hill farming in the National Park, as well as our larger dairy and beef farms. It is clear to me that we must work with our farmers as stewards of the land to redesign policies and interventions that expand on this crucial role.

“The report acknowledges that if we are to prevent climate breakdown we must adapt land use so that agriculture becomes part of the solution rather than the problem. But we must go further and find ways of recapturing some of the emissions already in the atmosphere. The land has an extraordinary capacity to absorb and hold carbon if farmed in a climate-friendly way, and the South-West, with its largely rural economy, can lead the way.

“The IPCC recognises that intensive agriculture is resulting in high emissions and soil damage. It is also widely acknowledged that organic farming methods can restore soil health and turn land into a valuable carbon sink. The South-West is already a leader in successful small-scale and organic farming so is well placed to lead a climate-friendly farming revolution. The region also has areas that could be converted to agro-forestry, be rewilded with extensive tree cover and where peatlands could be restored.

“The IPCC report is also clear on the need to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Some land can and should be converted to the growing of protein crops but as the South-West is a leading livestock and dairy region, we need to ensure that these sectors focus on high-quality meat and dairy products and farming methods that protect soils and ensure the highest standards of animal welfare.”

Meanwhile this week…

Good

The good news is that we have got the power to stop a no-deal Brexit. Across the country, there are groups applying pressure and good politicians doing the same in parliament. On Tuesday 13 August, I’ll be in Manchester with ‘Yes to Europe’ to discuss what can be done, what’s being done and how every one of us can help. I’ll be at the Friends’ Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, M2 5NS Manchester, between 7pm-9pm.

Bad

As Cuadrilla UK prepare the extract shale gas from Lancashire again (last time they caused 57 seismic events), news comes of more safety concerns that haven’t been addressed; yet the Environment Agency and Oil & Gas Authority have given permission to begin fracking anyway. Tomorrow, I’ll be back at the roadside to stand with residents on the second anniversary of ‘Green Mondays’. The site is between Blackpool and Kirkham on the A583 near PR4 3PE. I’ll be there from 11am – 1pm. Please do read up on why the recent approval by regulators is so wrong.

Where hope lies

Co-operation, alliances, allegiances and *whatever it takes to ensure a no-deal Brexit does not happen. But any unity must be clearly defined to ensure it is on this issue and that it is temporary; that the people will decide the Government once we have safely navigated the current treacherous storms of disunity and chaos brought about by Brexit and this Conservative government. We live in rare times and this is a unique situation calling for what feels like unnatural responses.

*To move forward we must agree that Proportional Representation is a vital ingredient and so too is an agreement on immediate climate action.

Onwards

 

ps: I wish I could attend an event next Sunday that is so close to my heart, sadly I’m not available. Councillor Geraldine Coggins though will be speaking for the Greens at the bi-centenary commemoration of the ‘Peterloo Massacre’. The rally will see unions, groups, organisations, campaigns, parties and individuals setting off from 10 different start-points at noon, to converge on Albert Square for 1pm.

 

 

 

 

 

Ireland, Inundation & 12-Steps

This week afforded some free days and it was a joy to get over to Ireland to have much-valued family time; sadly I had to miss the Climate Action Bolton event but clashes of timetables couldn’t be corrected. I’ve also been getting on with planning; I decided early on that it would be important to have some tangible outcomes as a result of my first four months (whether or not that’s the only four months) in the European Parliament. With funds and resources available to MEPs that can contribute to our work here in the North West, I’ll be producing a report in October about the Green New Deal and what that means for our region.

It’s so encouraging to see councils up-and-down the country but also here in the North West declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and it’s vital to ensure that those calls result in fundamental changes in what local authorities do as providers of local services, in their procurement and practices, but also as community leaders. As a long-serving councillor, despite our media being dominated almost exclusively to the point being obsessed with national Government, I know it is in reality, local councils who have the ability to provide good leadership and to whom people relate in the first instance as their democratically elected representatives.

To this effect, our report will aim to be about “Responding to the Climate Emergency…turning a call for action into a plan. How a Green New Deal will address the social, economic and environmental crises in the North West”.

Climate Action Bolton

Early this week in my absence (but not without my input!) was the Climate Action Bolton meeting; lobbying Bolton Council to join seven other Greater Manchester Councils and declare a Climate Emergency. It’s 16-year-old Paris Hayes who is the driving force behind this. I wish I could have attended the “packed room with an impressive range of speakers” including Ali Abbas from Friends of the Earth, Lisa Nandy MP (Wigan), Dee Codd of Youth Strike 4 Climate Manchester and Extinction Rebellion and Astrid Johnson my Greater Manchester Liaison Officer.

Astrid said:

“It was a great meeting with an engaged audience and good questions that brought inspiring discussion. There was a spirit of co-operation along with collaboration; Lisa Nandy was very positive about the Green Party and Caroline Lucas in her speech. It was good to have Gina’s virtual presence and a pleasure to read her statement.”

My statement included:

“Today, I support in particular, the efforts of the Climate Action Bolton group and all interested parties that here today pressure Bolton Council to do the same. It is not only in Bolton that we are seeing our brave youth rise up to the challenge and demand that our political leaders take the climate crisis seriously – it is their future that is at risk. The youth climate strikes for example, have grown on a global scale and are simply inspiring: our young people are to be commended for taking a stand and we should hear them.”

Ireland

It was great to spend a few days accompanied by my son in Ireland this week visiting family. There’s a story -and a personally epic one in itself; although adopted, loved and brought up by Londoners, I have a wonderfully welcoming birth family (on both paternal-Protestant and maternal-Catholic sides) in the Republic of Ireland – discovered 21 years ago.

My birth father and half-sister are incredibly proud to have an MEP in the family, but bewildered and concerned about how Brexit is playing out on the island of Ireland. Sadly I don’t have any inside information or particularly greater insights than most who are following this. But I’m horrified to see the way that new Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seemingly trying to stir up trouble with the Irish Government and blame them for what is in effect, an impossible conundrum to solve. If Johnson gets what he wants- a hard Brexit – then that has to involve a border in Ireland between the EU in the south and the UK in the north. And no one of any political persuasion in Ireland wants that.

Meanwhile this week

Good:

I watched with deep concern as the news of the dam risk unfolded this week in Derbyshire and there’s more on the issues to consider around this below; the ‘good’ of it though is the efforts of the people who stepped up to help and offer kindness. The people of Whaley Bridge and surrounding areas acted from the best part of themselves in offering accommodation, toothbrushes, transportation, food and clothes to those who had left so quickly in the evacuation.

There were social media posts from mountain rescue teams thanking local businesses for providing food and rest for workers, a Muslim faith-based charity brought food to the school where many were evacuated to and countless other stories of human kindness that must have at least helped to ease immediate concerns. People at their finest.

Bad:

The awful situation for those 1,500 residents of Whaley Bridge who are still not able to return to their homes after they were evacuated due to life-threatening damage to a dam above the town. The Toddbrook Reservoir, like so much infrastructure, is just not designed for ever more extreme rainfall as the climate changes. I’ll be writing to the Environment Agency to ask what measures have been taken to increase the frequency of inspections and range of safety checks, taking into account changes in the way infrastructure like this behaves in a changing climate. A New Scientist article reports:

“Dams are typically designed to cope with a so-called 1-in-100-year flood event. But as the world warms the odds of extreme rainfall are changing, meaning the risk of failure is far greater.

“The 1-in-100-year event is perhaps happening every five years,” says Roderick Smith at Imperial College London. “I’m absolutely convinced that it is due to climate change.”

More here:

Where hope lies:

With the government and more than half of our councils having declared a ‘Climate Emergency’, the task now is how to react. Helpfully, the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has been working with a number of authorities to support them with strategies, action plans and projects. Focusing on strategic and practical considerations, APSE Energy’s 12 points will help Councils to plan and act (full details in the link at the end):

  1. Leadership: the local authority has a duty of leadership

2. Strategy: a strategy to address a climate emergency

3. Capacity: enough political will to perpetuate an approach; human & financial resources

4. Action Plan & Projects: monitoring, reporting & reviewing

5. Targets & Data: setting a target date for carbon neutrality and monitoring targets

6. Finance & Risk: the skill is in prioritisation

7. Partners: the local authority has a responsibility to support businesses, employers, academic institutions, public services    & citizens to work towards reducing their emissions.

8. Suppliers: a local authority cannot have a climate-related target whilst ignoring the activities of its suppliers that have a duty to supply sustainably

9. Education & Culture Change: making a definite effort to put in place materials & resources that will educate in order to change behaviour

10. Innovation: invest in technology, deliver services and collaborate in new ways

11. Review & Inform: reviewing strategies and action plans to ensure outcomes

12. Behaviour Change: supporting people to change their eating, travelling & buying habits. Ensuring this agenda remains at the forefront of people’s minds.

Full information here.

Onwards 💚

*Image: Whaley Bridge, Sikh Sewa Organisation Manchester