Tag: environment

Challenge ahead for MP Philip Dunne as he takes lead of Commons Environmental Audit Committee

Former minister and Ludlow MP since 2005, Philip Dunne has been elected chair of the environmental audit committee (EAC) by follow MPs. I congratulate him. His predecessor was Mary Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield who lost her seat in November’s general election. Under Creagh’s leadership, EAC was forthright, challenging the government on many of its policies and bringing new issues to the its attention. Dunne himself says Creagh will be a hard act to follow.

How do we double tree cover to slow climate change, boost wildlife and improve public health – a Marches National Forest?

Friends of the Earth has organised a lobby of councillors across the country asking them to support doubling of tree cover. I support that objective. We must plant trees to create a carbon reservoir to slow climate change, boost wildlife and improve public health. But should it be a wave of small woodland schemes or a huge project like a Marches National Forest? We must get this right. That means selecting the right species of trees, ensuring we have enough skilled arboriculturists to manage woodland, planning for public access and ensuring a market for the harvested timber. Timber is a long term crop, so we must ensure that tenants and landowners have the right incentives and support. Trees must be planted in biodiversity poor areas, not those rich in wildlife or already storing carbon.

As the Brexit skirmishes continue, it is easy to lose track of other important pieces of legislation struggling to get parliamentary time. One of those is the Environment Bill. The second reading of the bill on 23 October was abruptly cancelled to make way for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. That’s ironic as a large part of the Environment Bill is concerned with reinstating the environmental protection the UK will lose if it ceases to a member of the EU. The bill aims for a lot more, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, measures to improve air quality, and rules to ensure biodiversity net gain from housing and some other developments. It’s a great forward looking bill. At least, that’s what ministers say. In practice the bill is colander bill. It is full of holes. It fails to incorporate the principle of non-regression into law. It sets 2037 as the earliest date for any environmental targets and those targets are at the behest of ministers. It allows environmental policies to be watered down by ministers at a whim, including the target for biodiversity gain. It is a bill that takes the emergency out of the climate emergency.

Update 19 September 2019 Despite having declared a climate emergency, Conservation councillors voted to extend the M54 from Telford to Shrewsbury. They argued that was the only way that we would attact bigger companies to the county. I argued for investment in sustainable transport including trains. The motion was passed by the Conservative majority. Original article Climate emergency. Bah humbug! What is wrong with Shropshire Council? Instead of concentrating on the special qualities of our county, its greenness and quality of life, they want it to be just like Leeds or Birmingham. The latest idea from the environmentally dysfunctional council leadership is to extend the M54 to Shrewsbury. They know this will do nothing to improve traffic flow. It’s a smooth flowing road and everything ends up in a queue at Preston Boats anyway. But the reason the petrol heads at Shropshire Council want to extend the motorway is to attract foreign investors. They want to open North Shropshire and parts of Mid Wales for massive, sprawling development. The motion before Shropshire Council tomorrow is nothing more than a vanity project from council leaders that wish stamp their outdated legacy on the county. That legacy will be concrete and pollution….

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