Thursday, 29 May 2008

Government caught out making statement about CO2 which is 'plainly wrong' -- Guest post by James Abbott

[This blog has been arguing over the past year that the government are telling porkies about the level of British carbon emissions. See for instance:
What follows is a GUEST POST by Cllr. James Abbott, national Green Party spokesman on dangerous climate change, on this same important topic:]
'In an interview on the Today programme earlier this week, Hillary Benn stated that by 2010, UK CO2 emissions are on course to be 16% below 1990 levels - he went on to say that this more than met the Kyoto obligations. The claim coloured the rest of the interview with John Humphrys (and George Mombiot).

I have tried to get R4 to do a follow up interview to question this claim - John Humphrys could not promise this would happen but agreed that Ministers need to be chased up on statistics if they were questionable.

Not for the first time, a minister, in this case the Sec. of State, appears to be misleading the public about UK emissions. DEFRAs own figures show that UK CO2 emissions have fallen much less than 16% - more like 6% - since 1990. All of that reduction took place prior to Labour coming to office when the Tories were in power and there was a major recession, closures of heavy industry and a switch to gas burning in power stations.

Mr Benn appeared to be talking about the Kyoto basket of greenhouse gases (6 in all) which is on track to meet Kyoto.

The important difference is that CO2 is the single most important greenhouse gas, and Labour has failed to reduce it - which they will not admit to and rarely get pinned down on. About 70% of human induced global warming is due to CO2 emissions.

The UK is set to miss its own CO2 target. And no wonder - with yet more road building, airport expansion and incinerators being promoted by Mr Brown and his colleagues. 

It is really important that ministers are challenged on their misuse of statistics in this vital field. Sometimes its arguable what they are claiming due to the choice of words, but in this case Mr Benn made a statement specifically about CO2 which was plainly wrong.'

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

City drivers forced to slow down

Motorists will be forced to drive at 20mph or less in Norwich as part of a radical shakeup of road policy announced yesterday , which includes opening a bus and cycle lane to lorries.Norwich will become the third city in the country, after Portsmouth and Aberdeen, to have a 20mph blanket limit after councillors agreed to the principle of a £300,000 sign-based scheme across 240km of residential roads... (READ ON)

Payback time for hard-pressed drivers?

Filling up the car is increasingly leaving motorists £50 out of pocket. With the price of basics such as the milk and bread rapidly on the rise and too many maxed out on credit, it can't go on. But have Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling the wherewithal to do anything about it? Public affairs correspondent Shaun Lowthorpe reports... (READ ON)

Brown begs the oil companies to let more oil get combusted: Green response...

Brown is going today to the oil companies to beg them to reduce the price of oil/petrol. It's top of the news.
How pitiful.
This economic crisis that we are facing -- failing banks, huge debt, rapidly escalating prices for basic commodities -- IS a crisis of failing to be green: It is a 'resource-depletion' crisis -- i.e. it is being caused by oil starting to run out, worldwide; it is a manmade-climate-change crisis -- i.e. it is being caused also by food production failing in the wake of increased production of biofuels and widespread droughts and storms; and it is a crisis caused by consumerism -- i.e. unsustainable levels of debt, resulting from materialistic bingeing, and borrowing on the fantasy never-never of house prices, is giving us an inevitable hangover.
There is no way out of this crisis through even more of the same -- and burning more oil right now would just be: even more of the same.
We need instead to take a radically new approach. A Green approach...

Environmental refugees

Earlier this month, I gave a talk on Environmental Refugees to Epping Green Party. Here is a precis:

Darfur is the first climate-change war. And the first countries eliminated by climate change are, tragically, appearing now, in Micronesia.

Unless dangerous climate change is reined in, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. The 21st century, unless governments turn to Green policies, will be a century of unprecedented environmental disaster. There will be hundreds of millions of climate-change refugees, as powerful storms devastate poorer countries and rising sea levels simply inundate Bangladesh, Holland – and parts of East Anglia

It is the carbon emissions from industrial countries, of which Britain is the oldest of all, which are causing this devastation. So: how will we choose to regard the likely tide of environmental refugees? Will we bar the door to them, just as the Daily Mail and others shamefully tried to prevent any Jewish migrants to this country in the 1930s? Or will our attitude be a humane one: will we welcome in and take care of those whose homes have been swept away by hightides caused by our own profligate burning of fossil fuels?

There are two great moral imperatives, in this connection, for the 21st century:

1) To plan to help the likely millions upon millions of environmental refugees.

2) To work now to prevent there being too huge a number of environmental refugees, by acting fast to defuse and to prevent catastrophic climate chaos.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

HGV scheme gets green light

23 May 2008 08:36

Controversial plans to allow HGV lorries to use a bus and cycle lane in Norwich have been given the green light. Despite a 500-name petition against the project, a trial scheme to allow 40 tonne HGVs to use the lane on Newmarket Road for 12 months was given the go ahead at a meeting of the Norwich Highways Agency Committee.

Four members of the 10-man committee were eligible to vote on the matter, and although two voted in favour and two against, committee chairman Tony Adams used his casting vote to approve the scheme.

The HGVs will now travel from the freight consolidation centre on the A11, down Newmarket Road and travel through Castle Meadow and Red Lion Street.

But critics of the plan said today it would put cyclists' lives in danger as they will have to share road space with lorries travelling at 40mph.

Rupert Read, a member of the committee who voted against the scheme, said: "I'm very strongly moved by the arguments of the cyclists on this matter. I'm concerned it may result in more freight on the roads. It may be an incentive for people to move more freight into the city which they otherwise would not be moving at all." ... (read more)

Norwich 20mph victory sees Greens delivering on election pledges

The Norwich Greens are one group in a growing movement nationally of local Greens who work hard to turn radical and progressive ideas into a reality, and who bring a truly constructive attitude to local politics... (read more!)

Friday, 23 May 2008


  Harriet Harman on this morning's TODAY programme implied as much.

It would be a pathetic piece of populism, and a craven failure to be taking any serious green action whatsoever if, in a bid to restore its flagging support, Labour were now to freeze the planned fuel duty increase -- without compensating for doing so by taking other measures.

My own view is that it would be fine to freeze or even to reduce fuel duty -- SO LONG AS the government were introducing a serious green scheme to rein in Britain's carbon emissions, such as 'carbon rationing', instead. Tragically, however, the government has just announced last week its abandonment of its investigation into the possible introduction of carbon rationing:

Meanwhile, Government Ministers intend to lobby OPEC to increase oil production to meet supply in order to bring fuel prices down - so the world gets more CO2 and less reason to save energy!



I am today criticising a report by Natural England which suggests that the blanket protection of England's green belt land be scrapped in favour of opening up land for development. Comments by the government body's chief executive Helen Phillips on this are a real step backward.

In Natural England's 'State of the Natural Environment Report' report, Dr. Phillips claims that the buffer zones to curb urban sprawl have been neglected, offering little benefit to wildlife and little accessibility for the public. She went on to suggest that rather than preventing new housing from being built on the green belt surrounding cities and towns, it was time to find 'better uses' for green belt land.
The Green Party is already fighting Government imposed unsustainable development targets of over half a million more homes in the Eastern Region, as well as Labour plans to centralise strategic decision making, largely removing elected councillors from the process. Proposals to relax green belt protection will add to the pressure on the countryside. 
Dr. Phillips' comments are confusing and contradictory. While she rightly states that we need to find new ways to manage our natural environment to help countryside and wildlife survive, she also seems to suggest that we need to scrap green belt protection and open up large swathes of England's green belt land to development. 

This is a misguided and dangerous precedent.  Some areas of green belt land have been neglected and wildlife is indeed at risk, but this is not an excuse to send in the bulldozers for yet more urban development. This is an ideal opportunity for the Government and local councils to rethink their approach to the nation's green land management in a truly sustainable way.

We are already seeing creeping urban sprawl into the countryside.  Gordon Brown's eco-towns are being built to supposedly strict environmental standards, yet many are just Trojan Horses for developers to get their hands on more countryside, damaging the natural environment with miles of new roads, thousands of new cars and a whole new urban infrastructure that will lead to greater pollution, greater congestion and an even greater threat to wildlife.

There are almost a million empty properties around the UK that are ripe for sustainable regeneration. There is an urgent need to bring into re-use brownfield sites suitable for redevelopment. And the Government needs to radically rethink its housing policy, to deliver much higher proportions of affordable homes and to give councils the powers to require developers to install renewable energy and the highest standards of efficiency.

It is crucial for the environment and for people that England's green belt remains under protection.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

20mph limits to come to Norwich!

The Norwich Highways Agency Committee has today approved the principle
of introducing a 20mph speed limit across residential roads in the
City. The committee agreed a proposal from myself that a blanket 20mph limit, based primarily around
signage, should be introduced.

In June 2006 City Councillors unanimously agreed that there should be
a 20mph speed limit across residential roads in the city. Since then
the Conservative County Councillors, who hold the casting vote on the
Norwich Highways Agency Committee, have consistently blocked the
proposals - until today. This morning's meeting was the first one at
which I had the right to vote - by virtue of the Greens becoming the second party on
the City Council on1st May.

I am delighted that my first formal proposal to the Norwich
Highways Agency Committee has resulted in the Committee at last
agreeing to this progressive proposal of introducing 20mph speed
limits across the city. At every meeting of the committee, local
residents and Councillors from different parts of the city submit
questions and petitions asking for a 20mph speed limit in their area.
They are usually turned down because they are fighting over a small
pot of money and because the Committee has up until now taken a
piecemeal approach to reducing traffic speeds. Now that the Committee
has agreed in principle to this move, it hopefully won't be long
before residents across the city can enjoy 20mph speed limits and the
safer streets they will bring. This decision that we have taken today
means that lives that otherwise would have been lost will be saved.

The next step will be for Council officers to develop the details and
likely cost of the scheme. The officers had recommended that the
committee did not go ahead with the proposals because of the high cost
of introducing traffic calming measures such as speed bumps across the
city. However, under the proposal agreed today, the scheme will be
mainly based around signage - although we in the Greens are keen for
officers to assess alternative and additional methods of enforcement,

Following today's decision, Norwich is set to become one of the first
cities in the country to introduce a blanket 20mph limit - following
on from recent similar moves in Portsmouth and Aberdeen.


Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Is the grass greener?

Julie Hay
Politics Show East

Norwich is the greenest council in the country following Thursday night's local elections.

James Abott is a long standing Green councillor in Braintree and has watched the green vote grow in the East.

Here's his view of the events of the night...

To read on, click here!

How will green will be our valley

 Earlier this morning, Tuesday 20 May, I gave an invited talk on 'environmental philosophy' at Reepham High School in North Norfolk. The level of interest among the gifted and talented kids in the class was very exciting. I talked with mostly twelve and thirteen year olds about ecological economics as the new Copernican revolution in economics, about human beings as part of their (our) ecosystem, and so on, and the kids lapped it up and asked all sorts of challenging and exciting questions.
 It gives one hope. If these kids point the way to the future, then how will green will be our valley...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Vs. David King on nuclear

David King

claims that nuclear power is not too expensive. Well, if it really isn't, then why has no private company tried to build a nuclear power plant over the last decade, in our de-regulated energy market? There is no bar to them doing so.
The answer is obvious: because nuclear power _is_ too expensive. It is uneconomic, without vast government subsidies.

Do go and join in the debate!:

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Keynote speech on households and the Green policies they need

I have been asked to give the keynote speech tomorrow at a major national Conference of heating engineers, the IDHEE, in Eastern Region at the University of Herts. Here is a link to the powerpoint presentation that will be the backbone of my talk:

And here is a quick summary of key policy points that will be in the talk:


I will focus primarily in this talk on what policy government at all
levels – Councils, Westminster, and E.U. – need to put in place, in
order to have any chance at all of securing 90% CO2 reductions by 2050,
and 60% reductions by 2025 (plus also meeting fuel-poverty reduction
targets etc.), including:
1) Free insulation for all. A government programme to roll out an
acceptable level of insulation for ALL houses in Britain – not just new
build, within 5-10 years.
2) Renewable energy (or CHP) in ALL new developments. This policy has
already been introduced by Norwich Green Party. The Merton Rule should
be merely a starting-point, in this regard.
3) A massive programme of grants for renewable energy and energy
efficiency measures for individuals and businesses, to replace the
present government’s pitifully inadequate grants programmes.
Plus... carbon rationing!

Click here to read the industry response to the speech!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Things are gradually getting better for pedestrians in Norwich -- but there is still a long way to go...

To mark the success of the three-year 'Spatial Metro' programme, delegates from all over Europe, including Norwich's twin cities of Koblenz and Rouen, will take part in a conference at St Andrew's Hall from Thursday 15th to Friday 16th May.

The Spatial Metro EU project has brought real benefits to Norwich,
transforming places like the Lanes and St Andrew's Plain into spaces people want to spend time in.
The conference will draw on these achievements, other international success stories and the experiences of the Spatial Metro EU project and offer creativity, expertise and practical solutions to improve cities for pedestrians.


The Green Party supports these pedestrian-friendly measures that have happened and supports the Spatial Metro project, but believes that Norwich still has a very long way to go, particularly with promoting pedestrian safety and good crossing facilities across the city.


As our Party's Transport Spokesman, I'm pleased that this Conference is happening in Norwich, and we are pleased with the real improvements for pedestrians that have taken place in parts of the city in recent years, as a result of certain street closures and pedestrianisation measures. But, until Norwich has 20mph limits in residential areas, until more key zones of the city centre – such as Westlegate – are pedestrianised, and until there is proper funding available to implement pedestrian crossings all over the city where they are needed, then Norwich cannot rest on its laurels. The Green Party wants to see far more done to benefit pedestrians, and this would be a priority under a Green-Party-led administration...

Monday, 12 May 2008

What euro-sceptics really get up to in Brussels...

I've been taking a little break from blogging, these last few days, as a kind of post-election holiday. Anyway: back to work!
And what better way to get back to work, than by noting someone who seems to do virtually no work at all, ...despite being an Eastern Region MEP!
Do check out this link: see an out-and-out euro-sceptic MEP (Tom Wise) boasting about taking advantage of the Brussels expenses system... !

Monday, 5 May 2008

Beyond Boris: A view from the Green corner

On the night of May 1st, here in Norwich where I am writing from, the Green Party achieved a historic nationwide first: we became the second-largest Party on a Principal Authority Council (and so we will become the Official Opposition to Labour here in Norwich, Charles Clarke’s seat). We gained 3 seats (out of 13 up for election) in order to do this, including the seat of Thorpe Hamlet, where last year we missed out by just one vote... This year, we won Thorpe Hamlet by five hundred and one votes… It seems that there is poetic justice, after all… We are now breathing down Labour’s neck, in Norwich (they have just two more seats than us on the 39-seat Council), and if the result last night were repeated at a general election, a Green MP would be elected here and Charles Clarke would place 4th

In Norwich, the LibDems and Tories now often suffer from the ‘wasted vote’ argument that used to bedevil us. In London, our vote share in the Assembly elections has held steady, and our Mayoral vote has increased significantly. These are real achievements, However, we appear nevertheless to have suffered from an old-fashioned ‘two-Party squeeze’ in London (though not as badly as the LibDems have suffered) – for, without the extreme focus on the Ken vs. Boris battle, there is little doubt but that our vote for both elections would have gone way up. As occurred in Scotland last year, a close contest between two rival Parties (there, the SNP and Labour, in London, the Ken and Boris show) focussed the media’s -- and thus the electorate’s -- attention on those two only, and an advance in London has thereby been denied us.

Our Assembly Members got an enormous amount out of Ken, including millions of pounds of investments (that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred) in green infrastructure for London. My personal favourite item from the budget deals that Ken was forced to make with our Green A.M.s to get his budgets through was £50,000 for campaign groups opposed to the Thames Gateway Bridge project. Ken of course wants this project to go ahead; but he was willing to fund an equal playing field between objectors and proponents of the scheme, if that was a Green condition for backing his budget. I think that this creativity says a lot for both Ken and the Green A.M.s. Because of this, Ken’s Mayoralty will be missed.

The question will inevitably be asked of whether the Green Assembly Members in London can work with Mayor Johnson. When I last met Boris, last summer, when he was contemplating whether to run for Mayor or not, he said to me, with his usual tongue firmly in cheek, “I ought to be a Green”. But he isn’t, and it is hard to see much common ground between us and him. Being Conservative ought to be about conserving things, which Greens are certainly in favour of: but I foresee a London which will become even more relentlessly pro-big-business than Ken’s London was, whatever the environmental cost.

In any case, the electoral arithmetic of the Assembly, given the Conservative surge that May 1st 2008 has seen, will render the question largely academic. For, whereas Ken had to rely on Green votes to get his budget through, Boris will be able to get his budget through with Tory support alone. The electors of London in their wisdom have given Boris Johnson carte blanche to run London just as he sees fit, and have in effect stripped the Assembly of its main power. For those who thought that Ken’s regime was authoritarian or too powerful: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Sian Berry’s inspirational Green Party campaign for Mayor of London has had some extraordinary consequences in terms of the level of seriousness accorded the Green Party in this country – most strikingly, the ringing endorsement from a major national newspaper for a vote for her: . I fear the worst, for Boris’s tenure of London – people haven’t twigged yet how his semi-deliberate buffoonery masks a politician just like any other (See my past history with Boris that has led me to believe this, at ). When they wake up and realise that running a city is not like hosting a chat show, then they may regret not giving the Green Party a stronger voice in London this time around. If you want to go Green, there is no alternative: you’ve got to VOTE Green.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Greens on BBC

See the Greens celebrating their victory in Norwich on BBC news. Click here.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

My latest OPEN DEMOCRACY piece on local election results

Two New Parties Enter Cambridge Chamber!!

CAMBRIDGE has two new parties in the council chamber after a night of surprises in the local government elections...

Read the rest of the story here.

My twitter compendium from election night and since (Read from bottom up, for the full effect...)

RupertRead RupertRead Hooray! Our Mayoral vote has gone up, and we've comfortably held our Assembly seats. My nerves were excessive... Boo: Boris is Mayor. Gulp.
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RupertRead RupertRead We are suffering a two party squeeze in london. I am therefore nervous about the assembly election results for us. . .
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RupertRead RupertRead Greens come within 100 votes of winning TWO seats in waveney But near miss in both. . .
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RupertRead RupertRead Jill Weston misses in Welwyn by just 82 votes. St albans greens a strong 3rd place in their target ward. I wil be on Anglia at lunch
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RupertRead RupertRead Norw Cllr. tots: Lab 15, GRN 13, LD 6, Con 5. We won across Norwich Sth nat target constit by circa 2K votes.
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RupertRead RupertRead NORWICH first GP to become official opposition on a Principal Authority. 2 holds + 3 gains from LDs.
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RupertRead RupertRead Norw: greens win the popular vote across the whole city for the first time ever.
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RupertRead RupertRead 3 GAINS! Norwich - Thorpe Hamlet Man croft and Town Close Wards fall to Grn from LD. Projected net gains now +8, taking us to 119 Cllrs.
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RupertRead RupertRead Greens win the seat in norw which we lost last yr by 1 vote by 501 votes this time! There is poetic justice. . .
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RupertRead RupertRead GAIN! - Liverpool have won their 2nd seat. Norwich - Nelson held with 65.63%. LOSS - our Manch Hulme seat by 50.
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RupertRead RupertRead I'll be twittering thru the night and thru Friday with election result live updates--follow them by following me on Twitter, or on Facebook

Friday, 2 May 2008

On course for a Green MP...

Caroline Lucas bigs up our prospects here in Eastern Region -- exciting times to be a Green in this part of the country! Read it here!

Adrian Ramsay to be Britain's first Green MP?

A councillor has vowed to become Britain's first Green MP after historic results in yesterday's local elections...article continues below...


Helene Mulholland applauds the Green victory in Norwich in the Guardian. Read the article here.

The Tears and Tension of Election Night

Read all about last night at St Andrew's here!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

_Independent_ leader article endorses Green Party

Election Day - and the _Indy_'s backing for the Greens!

I'm campaigning all over Wensum and University wards today, getting out the Green vote...
The _Independent_ newspaper has given Siân her strongest endorsement yet. After backing from the Federation of Small Businesses and The Observer, the Indy says:

"Siân Berry, for the Greens, has been an articulate, imaginative and effective advocate for her cause. With her programme for a greener London, with more cycle-lanes, cheaper public transport, more small shops and eco-friendly housing, she has come across as a forward-looking politician, committed to a better quality of London life. We hope she can continue to find a voice in the national debate.

"So consonant are her priorities with those of this paper that, if we could vote for mayor today, we would place our first-preference cross against her name."

1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: May 2008 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Rupert's Read

22. 23. 31. 32.