Conservatives back fracking and seek to take some shale decisions away from local councils

From Drill Or Drop: A Conservative government would take some decisions on shale gas drilling plans out of local control.

In the manifesto published this morning, the party said:

  • Drilling that did not involve fracking would be classed as permitted development and would not need planning permission
  • Major shale planning decisions could be made by a government minister rather than a local council planning committee.

This marks a major change in policy for the Conservatives, who have previously promised “local people know best” and there would be “no compromise” in taking account of the views of local communities.

The Conservatives are now the only the only major party in the UK to support fracking. Labour and Lib Dem manifestos, published earlier this week, promised to ban or oppose it.

This is a big difference from the 2015 election, when only the Greens promised an outright ban, as it has done again this year.

[Read full article on Drill Or Drop website…]

#GE17: Conservatives isolated as only major party to back fracking

From DesmogUK: The Tories are now the only major party in the UK that does not oppose fracking.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats promised to ban or oppose the practice in this general election campaign.

Labour’s manifesto promised an outright ban, and said the party was against fracking because “it would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee on Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline”.

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto said the party opposes fracking “because of its adverse impact on climate change, the energy mix, and the local environment.”

But the Conservatives maintained that there is a role for the fledgling industry.

[Read full article on DesmogUK website…]

Theresa May announces she wants to bring back fox hunting

From The Independent: Theresa May has announced she hopes to bring back fox hunting.

The Conservatives will renew a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning 2004 ban on the blood sport, Ms May said. “As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote.”

 

[Read article on Independent website…]

Cyclists don’t count as road users, argues transport secretary

From The Guardian: The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has been accused of showing “an astonishing lack of knowledge” of his brief after arguing in the House of Commons that cyclists do not count as road users.

Grayling, shown in a video last month knocking a rider off his bike by suddenly opening the door to his ministerial car outside Westminster, made the comment on Thursday morning.

Grayling was questioned by the Labour MP Daniel Zeichner about an interview he gave late last year warning that London’s new protected cycle lanes “perhaps cause too much of a problem for road users”. Were cyclists not also road users, Zeichner asked.

“What I would say to him, of course, is where you have cycle lanes, cyclists are the users of cycle lanes,” Grayling responded. “And there’s a road alongside – motorists are the road users, the users of the roads. It’s fairly straightforward, to be honest.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Solar subsidy cuts lead to loss of 12,000 jobs

From The Guardian: More than 12,000 solar power jobs have been lost in the past year because of government subsidy cuts, according to the industry.

A third of solar jobs have likely been lost in the UK, found the report by PwC for the Solar Trade Association (STA), based on a survey of 238 companies, around 10% of the industry.

The losses are in addition to around 1,000 jobs that disappeared when several companies went into administration in a matter of weeks last year, but less than some dire predictions that forecast 18,000 jobs being axed.

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Badger cull expansion ‘flies in face of scientific evidence’

From The Guardian: The imminent expansion of England’s controversial badger cull “flies in the face of scientific evidence”, according to the nation’s foremost experts, who have called on new prime minister, Theresa May, to halt the “failed” policy.

The scientists say the badger cull, intended to curb tuberculosis in cattle, is a “risky, costly, and inhumane” distraction and may actually increase TB infections.

TB is a serious problem for farmers, with 36,000 infected cattle slaughtered in Britain in 2015 at a cost to the taxpayer of about £100m. But this is a “monstrous” waste of money, according to one of the scientists, who says the problem could be effectively tackled by cracking down on the spread of TB between cattle.

The environment secretary, Liz Truss, backed a rollout in February, saying: “I want to see culling expanded across a wider number of areas this year.”

UK plan to boost cycling and walking ‘worthless without more funding’

From The Guardian: The government’s cycling and walking investment strategy “won’t be worth the paper it’s written on” unless backed by sustained funding, cycling campaigners claim.

The British Cycling policy adviser and 1992 individual pursuit Olympic champion Chris Boardman believes far more ambition is needed if Britain is to create a cycling and walking culture to rival countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

His comments come as the government launched its blueprint to encourage more walking and cycling with the aim of boosting the number of people who get around by bike or on foot by 2040. Yet the ambition is backed by just £316m over the next five years, barely half the cost of upgrading Bank tube station in London. “Frankly it’s embarrassing,” said Boardman.

The funds available for both walking and cycling work out at just £1.38 per person in England outside London, according to the CTC, a national cycling charity. The CTC notes that the Department for Transport has set aside £15bn to upgrade motorways and trunk roads.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

The Observer view on the Tories’ shameful record on climate change

Observer editorial: Since the election, the government has performed a series of dizzying U-turns on its green policies. It has announced cuts to subsidies for onshore wind and solar energy; scrapped the zero carbon homes standard; ended the green deal for home insulation; and reversed its promise to exclude national parks from fracking.

to scrap many subsidies and regulations altogether will be hugely damaging to Britain’s efforts to reduce emissions and is antithetical to Mr Cameron’s 2010 pledge to lead the “greenest government ever”. It is vital that any framework provides long-term certainty to encourage private investment in green technology. Any reform therefore needs to be gradual and signalled well in advance to maintain industry confidence. But to the alarm of green NGOs and business groups alike, the government has ripped up its green policy framework overnight. This will have a long-term effect on investment, and not just in the green sector: business will question whether they can take government commitments at face value.

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Al Gore puzzled by UK cuts to renewable energy support

From The Guardian: The former vice president of the US, Al Gore, has called on the British government to resume its former leadership on climate change, in order to forge a global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions this December at a crunch conference in Paris.

While saying he would not interfere in other countries’ politics, Gore said he was “puzzled” by the Conservative government’s measures to roll back support for renewable energy.

Citing a range of recent government actions – such as slashing subsidies for solar and wind power, and ending support for energy efficiency in homes – he said he could not understand the rationale for such measures, while climate change presents a clear danger to the UK and the rest of the world.

“Will our children ask, why didn’t you act? Or [will they] ask, how did you find the moral courage to rise up and change?” he demanded of a business audience at a climate change debate in London on Tuesday.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

UK risks missing its carbon targets, climate advisers warn

From The Guardian: The UK risks missing its carbon targets and harming investment because of a string of recent cuts to green measures, ministers have been warned by the government’s statutory climate advisers.

Lord Deben, the chairman of the committee on climate change and a former Conservative environment minister, has written a strongly-worded letter to energy secretary Amber Rudd to tell her that the government is creating confusion among potential investors in the low carbon economy.

His words chimed with those of John Cridland, director general of the CBI and widely regarded as the most senior voice in British business, who on Monday said the government was sending a “a worrying signal about the UK as a place for low-carbon investment”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“Tory attacks on green policies signal dark times ahead for the environment”

Tony Juniper writes in The Guardian: The last few months mark the worst period for environmental policy that I have seen in my 30 years’ work in this field. The attacks on renewable energy, the scrapping of zero carbon homes and the resumed use of pesticides that are known to kill birds and beneficial insects are among the policy reversals that confirm we are into a new and troubling period.

The basis for the lurch backwards has been predicated on managing public money and the cost of living, when if fact neither are backed by evidence. Take the fact that more than 40% of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (Decc) budget is spent on nuclear waste management, and yet this technology, which will take years to make a material difference to our energy security, remains favoured by policy while renewable technologies that could deliver more quickly and cleanly are being undermined.

When one looks at the scale of subsidy backing fossil fuels – never mind pro-fracking policies – the government’s position becomes even more nakedly distant from evidence and rationality.

[Read full column on Guardian website…]

The nine green policies killed off by the Tory government

From The Guardian: Amber Rudd has been accused of “grotesque hypocrisy” today for claiming the government is leading on climate change while overseeing a string of attacks on green policies. Some environmentalists say it’s the worst period for environmental policy in three decades.

We’ve rounded up the green measures that have been axed or find themselves in the firing line, to show the breadth and scale of the changes.

  • Scrapping support for onshore wind
  • Solar subsidies to be axed too
  • Biomass hit too
  • Killing the flagship green homes scheme
  • Selling off the green investment bank
  • Watering down the incentive to buy a greener car
  • Giving up on zero carbon homes
  • Fracking in Britain’s most important nature sites
  • Goodbye green tax target

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tory Government kills off flagship green deal for home insulation

From The Guardian: The UK government has effectively killed its flagship scheme to insulate homes because it says take-up has been too low, but has admitted it has nothing to replace the programme with.

The green deal was hailed as “transformational” and the “biggest home improvement programme since the second world war” by ministers when it was launched in 2013.

But the number of householders taking out the unique loans at the heart of the energy efficiency scheme were much lower than had been hoped, with just over 15,000 issued or in progress according to statistics.

On Thursday the Department of Energy and Climate Change said it was ceasing financing to the Green Deal Finance Company which issues the loans, and was bailed out by the government last November with a £34m loan. Today’s move is expected to lead to the company immediately halting the issuing of new loans, although existing ones or loans in progress – known as ‘green deal plans’ – will not be affected.

The government also said it was ditching another element of the scheme, known as the green deal home improvement fund, which saw cashback paid to householders who installed measures such as a new boiler or cavity and solid wall insulation.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tory Government suspends ban on pesticides linked to serious harm in bees

From The Guardian: Farmers will be able to use blacklisted pesticides linked to serious harm in bees after the UK government temporarily lifted an EU ban.

Opponents called the decision “scandalous” and criticised the government’s secrecy, which The Guardian revealed has included gagging its own expert advisers. But prime minister David Cameron defended the move. “We should follow the science,” he said.

Bees and other pollinators are essential for many crops but are in decline due to pesticides, loss of habitat and disease. Over 500,000 people signed a petition opposing the suspension of the ban.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Solar power subsidies cut might save just 50p on average electricity bill

From The Guardian: The government has unveiled plans to slash subsidies to solar power projects in an attempt to drive down annual household electricity bills, but later admitted it might save customers just 50p a year.

Industry executives warned the latest attack on renewables would take Britain “back to the dark ages”, hitting jobs and investment while damaging David Cameron’s credibility on tackling climate change.

Ministers have targeted larger solar installations of less than 5 megawatts – enough to power 2,500 homes – in a consultation on the early closure of the renewable obligation (RO) subsidy in April 2016.

The government also announced a review of another subsidy, the feed-in tariff, to make further significant savings in a move that could threaten state support for solar panels on roof tops.

In addition, ministers are to remove the guaranteed level of subsidy for coal or other fossil fuel power plants that switch to greener fuels such as biomass – generated by burning plants or wood pellets. The government says the move could save £500m a year from 2020 onwards.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tory Government makes ‘outrageous’ U-turn over fracking in precious wildlife sites

From The Guardian: The government has made a U-turn on its promise to exclude fracking from Britain’s most important nature sites, arguing that the shale gas industry would be held back if it was excluded from them.

Campaigners accused ministers of putting wildlife at risk and reneging on their pledge earlier this year to ban fracking in sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs), which cover about 8% of England and similar proportions of Wales and Scotland.

Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, told MPs in January: “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks [and] sites of special scientific interest”.

But the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), which laid draft regulations in parliament on Thursday covering which areas fracking would be excluded from, has confirmed that exploration for shale gas will no longer be prevented in SSSIs.

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Tory Government scraps zero carbon homes plan

From The Guardian: Housebuilders, planners and green groups have condemned the government for scrapping plans to make all new UK homes carbon neutral.

The zero carbon homes policy was first announced in 2006 by the then-chancellor Gordon Brown, who said Britain was the first country to make such a commitment.

It would have ensured that all new dwellings from 2016 would generate as much energy on-site – through renewable sources, such as wind or solar power – as they would use in heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation. This was to be supported by tighter energy efficiency standards that would come into force in 2016, and a scheme which would allow housebuilders to deliver equivalent carbon savings off site.

However, both regulations were axed by the government on Friday, in a move Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said was “the death knell” for the zero carbon homes policy.

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