Newsletter April 2011                                    

 

 

Apologies for not having produced a newsletter since February!

 

What we’ve been doing

 

We’ve had two meetings since the last newsletter.  In February, Sarah Dickinson, the Waste Minimisation Coordinator for the West London Waste Authority, outlined a strategy for waste prevention in the area. 

 

Preventing waste involves avoiding waste, reducing waste and reusing things. Unlike recycling, which has become a social norm, easy for others to see and measure, waste reduction/reuse is invisible and is much more a matter of personal values and beliefs.

 

WLWA ‘s three priorities are: to help people reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away, to encourage reuse of items through charity shops, Freecycle, give-and-take and swishing events etc, and to promote home composting.

 

WLWA aims to build relationships with community groups, and to work with them in identifying all reuse opportunities in the area. We could help by compiling a list of charity shops and similar in Ealing.

 

In March we welcomed Tom Wright, Friends of the Earth Network Developer for London, who led a discussion on how to attract and keep group members. It was an opportunity for us to examine our procedures and attitudes. One of the things that emerged from the exercise was that our communication was not always very good, and that we should work at improving this.

 

March was a busy month. At our stall at the Animal Welfare Bazaar, we focussed on getting signatures for the Waste Reduction campaign postcards, and made a few pounds selling second-hand books. Many thanks to all who helped out on the day.

 

Still on the Waste Reduction topic, Alastair, Claire, Jules and Virginia attended a photo-op outside Ealing Town Hall, where “David Cameron” was photographed cutting a waste bin in half. The Ealing Gazette printed a picture, together with an outline of the campaign to get the Government to set a target of halving the amount of rubbish that people have to put into their black bin bags, through encouraging reuse and recycling.

 

Some of us also helped out with a similar action in Brentford.

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea, Jules and Nic went to see Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing Southall, to discuss important amendments to the Energy Bill.  Subsequently, Andrea summed up the discussion in a letter to Mr Sharma:

 

Your sympathy towards the plight of tenants enduring fuel poverty gives us confidence that you will give your full support to John Leech’s amendment to the Energy Bill. This amendment is currently being drafted and will propose statutory minimum energy efficiency standards for private landlords.  It is likely to be debated in May.

 

We also discussed the role of local Councils in helping meet the Climate Change Act’s national carbon reduction targets. The Commission on Climate Change has recently suggested a 42% reduction by 2020 and 60% by 2030, both challenging targets which will require a step change in carbon reduction programmes.  The good news is that a recent Memorandum of Understanding between DECC and the Local Government Group acknowledges that local Councils should have a core duty to reduce carbon emissions.

 

However, given the scale of the reduction challenge, it is vital that this core duty be made statutory. As you so clearly understand, only if the duty is enshrined in legislation will Councils secure the funding necessary to implement measures for domestic low-carbon energy, energy efficiency and green travel. Similarly, the carbon emissions target for local Councils needs to be spelt out to clarify the extent of Councils’ responsibility. Your colleagues, Meg Hiller and Luciana Berger, are currently collaborating with Friends of the Earth’s parliamentary officer to draft an amendment to this effect. The debate on the amendment is expected in April. We would be grateful if you would add your name to it.

 

We look forward to working with you for progress on action to mitigate dangerous climate change at a time when the Government clearly has other priorities. We take this opportunity to thank you for supporting these amendments. 

 

And finally, Alastair, Jules, Penelope and Virginia took part in the “Food and Faith” conference organised by A Rocha, the faith-based environmental organisation. We gave a short presentation on the destruction of human and wildlife habitats to grow crops such as soya for animal feed, and the harmful effects of monoculture.  We suggested more environmentally friendly ways of farming such as permaculture and crop rotation.

 

 

High Speed rail line (HS2)

 

The proposed high speed rail line would have considerable impact on parts of Ealing. Greenford resident Albertina McNeill has outlined its detrimental effects on the Ealing Today website http://www.ealingtoday.co.uk/default.asp?section=info&page=eahs2001.htm

There have been opportunities to find out about the plans at road shows in the borough, and you can still obtain information, and take part in the consultation, at http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/

 

While high speed trains are considered more climate-friendly than planes, they still have considerable environmental impacts. Friends of the Earth is not convinced that the proposed London-Birmingham line will do anything much to cut carbon emissions, and thinks the estimated £16 billion it will cost could be better spent on improving existing services and on other initiatives.

A FoE briefing is available at www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/high_speed_rail.pdf

 


Nuclear Energy

 

Government officials have promised a review of the safety of UK nuclear plants, to be published next month. The review, ordered by energy secretary Chris Huhne, follows cabinet discussions about the future of nuclear policy. However, Huhne has stressed that there should be no rush to judgement about nuclear energy, which forms part of the UK’s strategy for cutting carbon emissions.

 

The safety of high-risk facilities has been a prominent issue as the fight to contain radiation leaks at the Fukushima plant damaged in the earthquake disaster continues. Germany has closed several of its older nuclear power stations. While David Cameron has been quick to point out that the UK is not prone to seismic events as is Japan, and that the Fukushima plant employs different technologies, the incident has raised questions about back-up systems that operate during emergency shut-downs. There are likely to be questions asked about methods of powering cooling systems in nuclear facilities.

 

All but one of the UK’s existing nuclear plants are scheduled to close by 2023 to make way for a new generation of nuclear power facilities.

(Information from www.fm-world.co.uk , the online magazine of the British Institute of Facilities Management)

Friends of the Earth is asking the Government not to gamble with nuclear energy but to concentrate on energy saving and renewables. To sign the petition, go to: http://www.foe.co.uk/what_we_do/nuclear_27386.html 

 

If you want more information on the FoE position, the briefing paper “Why nuclear energy is not an achievable and safe answer to climate change” is available at http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/nuclear_power_answer_climate_change.pdf

 

FoE also has an online petition about a potential loophole in the Energy Bill. The Government has said that nuclear energy will not be subsidised by taxpayers’ money, and that the industry will have to pay for its own cleanups. However, proposed legislation would allow ministers to give up their right to demand changes to agreements on how waste from nuclear waste from new power stations is dealt with.  To learn more, and to add your name to the petition, go to http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/press_for_change/nuclear_loophole_30408.html

 

For yet more information on the nuclear issue, have a look at http://www.openengineering.talk.talk.net/nuclear/html   This website was set up by EFoE member Donald Power following his participation in the Blair government’s online nuclear consultation exercise. He found he needed extensive research to enable him to respond to the questions, and has documented his findings under such headings as “A dodgy dossier”, “What was ignored”, “Labour’s nuclear links”.

 

He points out that the Government White Paper proposing the construction of new nuclear plants contains rather convincing evidence against doing so:

 

Going nuclear costs no more than what we spend on ice cream: According to the White Paper (page 169), if we didn't build any new nuclear stations in the UK, then we would need to spend an extra £1 billion per year in 2050 to meet our CO2 targets. Well £1 billion is about the same amount that we spend annually as a nation on ice cream, or a fortieth of what we spend on beer. Drinking a bit less to avoid 250,000 years of nuclear waste and the risk of poisoning half of the UK should a reactor explode, would seem to be a bargain.

 

Ditching nuclear is possible even without solar, tide and wave: The White Paper also asserts that this nuclear-free future can be achieved without reliance on a substantial contribution by any of the emerging renewable energy technologies except wind. Given that industry experts are expecting solar PV to become competitive with grid prices within 5 years, the government's assumptions are very conservative. Our children are more likely to have to give up ice cream in 2050 if we do have nuclear than if we don't.

 

Donald has also sent information about a current public consultation on the implementation of changes to the Paris and Brussels convention on nuclear third party risks. Nuclear operators will be expected to take on a liability of €1.2 billion for each of their sites – an increase from the current £140 million. However, Donald has pointed out in a letter to the Guardian that even €1.2 billion is nothing compared to the estimated $133 billion cost of compensation to the Fukushima victims, and argues that a more suitable measure would be to remove the protection of limited liability insurance from the owners and directors of nuclear companies in the event of an accident.

 

You can read Donald’s letter here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/15/nuclear-risks-fukushima-disaster  

 

More about the consultation, which ends on 28 April, can be found at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/paris_brussels/paris_brussels.aspx

 

 

Finally, you might be interested in attending “Nuclear Power – the Great Debate” organised by the Campaign against Climate Change, which takes place on Thursday 12 May.

 

Join the Campaign against Climate Change in a debate on the proposition “Nuclear Power has no place in the fight against climate change: it is simply a diversion which leads us away from the real answer, renewable energy”.

 

Speakers include Stephen Tindale, ex Executive Director of Greenpeace, who is a recent convert to the case for nuclear, and Darren Johnson, Green Party Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee.

 

The debate starts at 7.30pm in the Vernon Square campus (not the main campus) of SOAS, off Penton Rise near Kings Cross station.

For more information see www.campaigncc.org