Tory government drops fracking question from public attitude tracker

From The Guardian: The Tory government has stopped asking the British public whether they are for or against fracking for shale gas, just weeks before the first fracking operation in seven years is due to start.

The number of people against extracting shale gas has outweighed those in favour since 2015, and the latest polling by officials found 32% opposed with just 18% in support.

Now the Tory government, which backs fracking and recently relaxed planning rules to help the shale industry, has temporarily suspended that line of questioning.

“This is scandalous as the government knows full well that there is overwhelming public opposition to fracking,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary.

Tony Bosworth, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Perhaps having recently tried to change planning rules so that fracking companies could drill more easily, they were just scared of a record bad survey result for them this time, so have stopped even asking anymore.”

The question was dropped from the latest update of the four-year-old public attitudes tracker run by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“As we suffer in the heatwave and Greece burns, the Tories are signing off a fracking bill that is laughable”

Harry Cockburn writes in The Independent: “In Greece, the death count may reach triple figures. Wildfires have melted cars, wiped villages off the map and decimated families… What could our governments do to alleviate the carnage? What about some fracking? What about pumping millions upon millions of gallons of water and chemicals down into earth to break rocks to release gas which we can then burn?”

[Read column on Independent website…]

Environmental campaigners slam the Tories’ ‘Road to Zero’ emissions strategy

From Morning Star: The Tory government’s “Road to Zero” strategy to reduce vehicle emissions announced today has been slammed by environmental campaigners.

Morten Thaysen of Greenpeace, described the target of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel-burning cars from 2040 as “weak by international standards.”

“The car industry should be in the doghouse for its diesel pollution and stalling emissions reductions,” he added.

“But instead of being pulled up, it’s yet again being given a free pass from the government to carry on business as usual.”

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Tory MP blocks law to protect police dogs and horses from getting stabbed

From Metro: Plans to give police dogs and horses extra legal protections from attacks have been blocked by a Tory MP. There were groans in the Commons as Sir Christopher Chope dealt a blow to campaigners by announcing he objected to the Animal Welfare Service Animals Bill.

[Read article on Metro website…]

UK’s new air pollution strategy ‘hugely disappointing’, says Labour

From The Guardian: A new clean air strategy published by the UK government has been criticised as “hugely disappointing” by the Labour Party. Other groups said it did little to tackle the dirty diesel vehicles that are the main source of toxic air in urban areas.

The new clean air strategy is a response to an EU directive on cutting harmful emissions. An air quality plan, published in July 2017, is related to a separate EU directive on cleaner air. The latter plan was condemned as “woefully inadequate” by city leaders and “inexcusable” by doctors, and was ruled illegally poor in February, the third such high court defeat for ministers.

On Thursday, the government suffered another legal blow, with the UK referred to Europe’s highest court over its failure to tackle nitrogen dioxide pollution, which mostly comes from diesel vehicles.

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Brexit could wreck green agenda, says UN

From The Guardian: The United Nations has warned the government that Britain’s reputation is at risk over plans that would significantly weaken protections for the environment after Brexit.

In a stern intervention, Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme, called on the environment secretary Michael Gove to honour his promise to deliver a “green Brexit”, ensuring the environment would not suffer from Britain’s EU departure.

The warning comes after proposals to protect the climate after Brexit were dismissed as “toothless” by green campaigners. Under the plans, the new post-Brexit watchdog would not have the power to take the government to court over breaches of environmental standards. At the moment, the government is answerable at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which often forces ministers to act.

Campaigners have warned that the current plans would leave Britain with a weaker system for enforcing environmental safeguards than those maintained in the United States by Donald Trump.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Fast-track fracking plan by Tory Government prompts criticism

From The Guardian: Fracking opponents have reacted with anger after ministers unveiled measures to help projects through the planning system in England, which campaigners said would make drilling a shale well as easy as building a conservatory.

Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites in England without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level.

Greenpeace said the government had turned a deaf ear to communities and councils, and would make “exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“Fracking statement cements Tories’ disregard for evidence-based policy-making” says Green MEP

Press release from Keith Taylor MEP: Responding to the Tory Government’s announcement that it will accelerate its plans to fast-track fracking across England, by relaxing planning laws and overriding local democracy, just seven days after a consultation on the proposals closed, Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East, said: “This process has been a sham; the Government can’t claim with any credibility that it has assessed even a handful of the responses to the hefty consultation on these anti-democratic plans that it closed only last week.”

“Ultimately, the Conservative government, for all its empty green promises has proven determined to defy the evidence and local communities and hasten the climate breakdown by fast-tracking a fracking enterprise for which it has been unable to demonstrate either an economic or energy security case. It is with absolute certainty that experts and climate campaigners say: there is no possibility that the UK will meet its legally-binding climate targets if fracking is rolled out across England.”

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The majority of older people across England are living in areas breaching air quality limits

From The Labour Party: New Labour analysis of figures obtained from the House of Commons Library reveals the numbers of older people living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution across England. The analysis reveals that over 7 million older people aged 60 and over lived in areas which breached legal pollution limits in 2015, including:

  • 3.7 million people aged 70 and over
  • 1.45 million people aged 80 and over
  • 257,000 people aged 90 and over

In total, 56 per cent of all people aged 60 and over in England lived in an area which breached air quality limits for nitrogen dioxide in 2015.

Outside of London, Yorkshire & the Humber had the highest percentage of people aged 60 and over living in areas breaching air quality standards (79 per cent), followed by the North East (72 per cent), North West (67 per cent) and the West Midlands (62 per cent).

[Read full article on Labour Party website…]

Green Party says Tories’ environment rhetoric is dangerous

From The Guardian: The Conservative Party’s rhetoric on the environment is a “fluffy communications strategy” when change on plastics could happen in half the time pledged, the co-leader of the Greens has said ahead of her party conference speech.

“The government’s 25-year environment plan – finally published a few months ago – is desperately disappointing,” she will say. “A vague promise to ban ‘avoidable’ plastics in a quarter of a century is woefully inadequate and easy to do, with the politicians who wrote it likely to have retired or expired by the time it would come into force.”

Speaking to the Guardian ahead of her speech, Lucas said she thought the Conservatives’ electoral strategy on the environment could be dangerous.

“It is dangerous to have a nice, fluffy communications strategy which lulls people into the sense you can trust this government on the environment, when time and time again they’ve shown you simply can’t,” she said.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Air pollution: UK government loses third court case as plans ruled ‘unlawful’

From The Guardian: For the third time, the Tory government has been slammed by the courts for failing to produce an adequate plan to tackle the growing problem of air pollution, in a landmark judgment that will force ministers back to the drawing board in their efforts to clean up dirty urban air.

The high court ruled that the government’s current policy on air pollution was “unlawful”, and ordered changes. Air pollution has become a leading test case for environmental legal activism in the UK, as scientists have found as many as 40,000 people a year are dying from dirty air across the country.

As a result of Wednesday’s judgment, clean air in the UK will be overseen by the courts, rather than ministers, in a “wholly exceptional” ruling in which the government was roundly defeated.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

London reaches legal air pollution limit just one month into the new year

From The Guardian: Air pollution in London has reached the legal limit for the whole of 2018 less than a month into the year, prompting calls for the government to “get a grip and show they’re serious about protecting health”.

Toxic air has been at illegal levels in the capital and most urban areas in the UK since 2010 and results in around 40,000 early deaths a year.

The date of this year’s reaching of the limit, at Brixton Road in Lambeth, is actually a significant improvement on previous years: for the last decade air pollution has reached illegal levels no later than six days into the year.

The improvement is partly the result of action taken by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who introduced cleaner buses on routes through pollution blackspots and charges to deter dirty vehicles from central London. “But I have one hand tied behind my back due to government policies and inaction,” he told the Guardian.

Clean air plans put forward by ministers have already twice been declared illegal at the high court for failing to cut air pollution in the “shortest time possible”, as EU law requires. The government is now awaiting the verdict in a third case brought by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, after a hearing earlier in January.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“Theresa May, charging us for plastic won’t make up for those awful Tory environmental policies you’re keeping quiet about”

Caroline Lucas writes in The Independent… “Stopping climate breakdown won’t happen by tinkering around the edges of an economy reliant on fossil fuels – which is why the Government’s record doesn’t live up to May’s claim today that we are ‘leading the world on climate change’.”

[Read column on Independent website…] 

Have the Tories blown hot and cold on the environment?

From BBC News: Once in power, critics say, David Cameron’s enthusiasm for the green agenda began to wane, and some questioned his genuine commitment to the cause.
There was a planned sell-off of state-owned woodland in England.
In 2013, it was reported that David Cameron had told Downing Street aides to “get rid of all the green crap” – referring to environmental levies on energy bills.
And he backed fracking, to the dismay of green campaigners.
After the 2015 election yielded a Conservative majority, the Green Deal for home insulation was scrapped and subsidies for on-shore wind farms came to an end a year earlier than initially planned.

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UK citizens are suing the Tory Government over climate negligence

From OpenDemocracy: The UK government is leading us to climate tragedy, by failing to align its climate change targets with science and international law. So 11 UK citizens, plus the charity Plan B, have started legal action against it.

The Tory Government knows its domestic target for carbon emissions reductions by 2050, unchanged since 2008, is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement. It does not deny this, but makes lame excuses about the difficulty of setting a more ambitious target.

[Read full article on OpenDemocracy…]

Found: The strongest evidence so far that fracking can harm people

From Yahoo! News: Babies born within 1.9 miles of fracking sites are at greater risk of being born with low birth weight, researchers say – increasing the likelihood of infant mortality, ADHD and asthma.

Researchers led by Michael Greenstone of the University of Chicago analysed records of more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013.

The researchers found no health effects in babies born further away than 1.9 miles from fracking sites – but the closer babies were, the more likely they were to be underweight.

[Read full article on Yahoo! News…]

“Tories’ Brexit bonfire of red tape poses serious risk to our air quality”

Ibrahim Dogus writes on LabourList: By the eighth day of this year, London had already breached annual air pollution limits set by the EU. By September, the situation had deteriorated to the extent that mayor Sadiq Khan was forced to trigger a emergency high alert on the capital’s air quality, with warnings displayed in public and those with lung and other problems warned not to engage in strenuous exercise to avoid any health problems.

High levels of NO2 can lead towards asthma, heart problems and even cancer. But bad air isn’t just bad for our health. It is a drain on the economy, with six million workdays lost to sickness related to, or exacerbated by, the problem. It has been estimated that illness associated with air quality costs Britain more than £24bn per year – and that is before the additional pressure on our already strained health service is taken into account.

Evidence shows that spikes in air pollution may also see a dip in workplace productivity, exacerbating one of the economy’s chronic problems. A better environment, with improved quality of air, would be a boost to the entire economy in addition to our health.

“The Tories’ rebranding won’t wash: being green is about more than fluffy bunnies”

Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato writes in the Guardian: The problem for the Tories is that being green is about so much more than fluffy bunnies. While individual policies on animal protection are welcome, in a nation full of animal lovers they are easy wins. They also ignore the central lesson of ecology, a lesson that Gove and his fellow Tories have never been able to grasp: that life on Earth is one system. Nature abhors not only a vacuum but also compartmentalisation. Those lovely beavers and polar bears need somewhere to live; more than compassion and concern they need a habitat. And if you let a fracking company pollute the waterways or throw subsidies at fossil fuels then the beavers will die and the polar bears will starve.

First, will he persuade his government to ban fracking and go all out for renewables? Fracking poses huge threats to some of our most fragile and treasured landscapes and will expose communities and wildlife to noise, air, light and water pollution. The government remains committed to this destructive industry and in the recent budget, Philip Hammond left Britain’s renewable energy industry out in the cold with no new subsidies for low-carbon electricity generation until 2025.

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