Climate Change – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges. Here is the question about climate change

Given the consensus on climate change, why are mainstream parties failing to address the issue?

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Steven Jackson for webI don’t see it as climate change but an increase in extreme weather events.

I studied marine biology at university and saw how the effects of increased CO2 are even more extreme under water than on land. Whatever we do, it needs to be carbon neutral.

I don’t think political parties are doing enough. We need to address issues of power generation and cars. We need to build on the international consensus and the UK is leading the world in this respect by the actions we have taken. There is little we can do as the UK alone – all the world leaders need to take action. We need to get away from the short term.

Angela Smith for webGoing over 2oC would be dangerous. There is broad political consensus but there are still back woodsmen such as the former Secretary of State for the Environment who was a climate denier. This government has missed opportunities.

We need concrete policies at home in order to be listened to on the international stage. We need to be a leader and not a follower and Labour’s policy of de-carbonising electricity by 2030 is an example. We can’t argue in Paris (the next Climate Change talks) that everyone else should act if we haven’t. Developed countries have to take more of the burden.

Audience comment:

The short-termism of 5 year elections takes precedence over the long term policies needed to tackle climate change.

Agreed by both candidates

TTIP – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.

Here is the question about TTIP:

What is your approach to the TTIP given it provides huge powers to corporations, causing a serious and significant threat to environmental standards – a race to the bottom?


Note: If you don’t know what TTIP is, there is some brief info and a full report by the Environmental Audit Committee.

Angela Smith for webLabour is not opposed to the principles of free trade or to TTIP but wants a broader approach to free trade. The TTIP could help economic growth but the detail is critical.

It could affect environmental standards, food and the NHS. I am concerned that corporations will be able to sue governments under TTIP at the expense of the environment, for example fracking in Quebec.

Labour is in favour of working within the EU, as it creates a single market for environmental standards. This should be a race to the top for standards, not to the bottom. Labour will not sign up to TTIP unless the UK standards for fracking are in place and not US ones which are much laxer.

Steven Jackson for webWe need to send out the message that the UK is open for business. But under TTIP we need transparency; the negotiations should not be in secret. The government has been put there by the public and so the public should know what is going on. The Conservatives support the trade aspects of it and will make sure it’s a race for the top for standards and not for the bottom.

The Badger Cull – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges. Here is the Q&A about the badger cull:

Should the badger cull be continued?

badger 2

Steven Jackson for webI know I do not have the expertise in this area that Angela Smith has.

Instinctively I am opposed to the culling of wild animals and think it should only be done as a last resort. The cull should be stopped and there should be a review based on truly independent evidence as I do not think the information is robust enough.

However, we must do anything we can to support farmers, and bovine TB is crippling them. TB is a nasty and costly disease and has to be controlled, so no options should be ruled out. But it should only continue based on the best scientific evidence and only be done in hotspots and if there are no other options. Vaccinations, exclusion zones or other methods should be tried first, as culling animals is never a desirable solution.

Angela Smith for webThe previous Labour Government commissioned a £50 million, ten year project, which concluded that culling would make no significant difference to TB in cattle. Several of the scientists involved, such as John Krebs, Rosie Woodward and John Bourne, believed culling badgers would be effective and were surprised by the outcome. They were independent scientists looking at the evidence.

This study has been swept under the carpet. The current government has cherry picked the science to justify going ahead with the cull. So have some vets and other politicians. In the first round of the present cull, 2 years ago, the target of 70% of badgers culled was missed. In fact, in Somerset only 48% of the target were culled and in Gloucestershire 39% and these cull rates will make the problem worse. In the second year the Government removed the expert panel who were critical of the first year. In year two only 341 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire and 274 out of a target of 615 (45%) in Somerset.

Labour believes that culling should be the last resort and would halt the present cull. The project is failing. The way forward is biosecurity and vaccination.

Audience Comment:

Historically, when there was a TB outbreak in cattle, there was a period of 20 years where cattle were routinely tested for TB, particularly before moving them around the country. This kept TB at low levels. When this was stopped, rates of TB rose.

GM and Food – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.

Here is the Q&A about GM and food:

What is your position on GM food and its impact on organic food producers?

Tractor in field

Angela Smith for webLabour is not fundamentally against GM food – it would be assessed on a case by case basis. The evidence suggests that GM may have a role in improving food production. GM food has been tested rigorously and all tests show it is safe. Labour would not stand in its way, as we need to find a way to feed the world and we need to be sensible about it. We cannot ignore rising world population and GM may have a role.

The EU’s use of the precautionary principle has held back the adoption of GM. Recent changes in legislation mean that the final decision is made by member states.

There is a market for organic food and that’s fine, both can exist.

On food generally, there is a need to change meat production methods to improve welfare standards. We also need to improve food security so things like the recent contamination with horse meat cannot happen again. The Food Standards Agency has been weakened in this government and Labour would bring it back.

Steven Jackson for webAs with fracking, decisions on GM must be science based and evidence based. The Conservatives think there is a place for GM food. Food security is vital and we should aim to make the UK at the cutting edge of GM development in the world. This is why the Government has launched the Agri-tech strategy and Food Enterprise Zones, which make it easier for farmers to expand in innovative ways.

Organic foods are fine if people want to eat them. They are safe for the environment, have better yields and long term production. But they have to be commercially viable and we need to be able to export them.

Audience Questions

What will be the impact of GM on organic farming? If an organic farm is next to one growing GM crops?

What are your views on slaughtering – stunning and non-stunning?

Why do we need to export food rather than feed people in this country?

Steven Jackson for webOrganic farming is booming. We want to see increased export of UK food, including organic. This is why we have set up UK Food and Drink to increase food exports. We need a chain of custody so people know where there food has come from and to maintain standards across the board.

We need good food labelling, with such things as where it is from and whether it contains GM. The Conservatives are renegotiating the CAP (EU Common Agricultural Policy) as it is not working for our farmers. We want to cut red tape and get the best deal for our farmers.

Angela Smith for webStunning / not stunning is an EU decision and Labour MEPs led the way in framing legislation on slaughter.

Food security is important at home, but I do not have a problem with exporting food. Milk is now cheaper than water, which means dairy farmers are struggling to make a living from just selling milk. They may benefit from exporting products such as cheese and yoghurt, which have more value than the raw milk.

The Conservatives cut back our protection in the CAP. There is a role for Britain in the EU.

Community Energy – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.

Here is the question about community energy:

What policies do you have to help community Energy projects?

Penistone FoE group members doing the hydro survey

Steven Jackson for webThe NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) has cut red tape to make it easier for community energy projects to get permission. If you are not in a conservation area, you can put up solar panels or ground source heat pumps.

The long term plan has to involve renewables and we have introduced the Green Deal to support technologies.

Angela Smith for webInvestment is required in renewables to show confidence in their long term future. The previous Labour government legislated for zero carbon targets for new housing by 2016, but these targets were taken out by the Conservatives.

Labour would bring them back and would give the Green Investment Bank powers to lend money to businesses to invest in renewables and energy saving.

Fracking – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.
Here is the question about fracking:

What is your position on fracking?

Steven Jackson for webI am staggered by the potential quantities of oil and gas and the potential for jobs and investment. But we need more information – what works in the US and Canada may not work in the UK.

Fracking should be decided locally. All fracking operations would need environmental permits based on full environmental impact assessments. Monitoring of each site for a full 12 month period prior to approval should be required, to assess for earth tremors and pollution of water aquifers.

Angela Smith for webI am sceptical about the figures for value and job creation – no one knows how much shale oil and gas there is and it is easy to overestimate the potential. Fracking is faltering in the US due to falling prices of coal and oil and the industry could collapse.

A robust and rigorous regulatory framework for environmental protection is in place, thanks to a House of Commons vote which defeated a Conservative move to a laxer system of regulation. The first requirement is a baseline assessment. Labour will complete the safeguards so that drinking water would be protected and there would be no fracking in National Parks.

However, there may be a place for fracking within the constraints of keeping below a 2oC temperature rise and ensuring energy security. It could be used to replace coal, before carbon capture and storage is fully introduced, as shale gas is less polluting than coal. 70% of gas will be imported by 2025 and we could use our own fracked gas instead. We would only do fracking if it meant we could still keep within the 2oC climate change target.

Audience Comments

The evidence from Oklahoma suggest earthquakes are caused by fracking

Fracking is a big user of water and the South East of England is frequently short of water



Energy – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.

Here is the question about energy (see also the Fracking and Community Energy questions):

Experts say that 4/5th of all known oil reserves need to remain in the ground, otherwise the ‘safe’ limit of a 2oC rise in temperature will be exceeded. How can we contemplate extracting the oil reserves reported to be under Gatwick Airport?

wind turbines at sunset, millhouse green

Angela Smith for webGoing over a 2oC temperature rise is a serious risk. Labour has pledged to de-carbonise electricity by 2030. There will be a big role for renewables; solar and wind. Carbon capture and storage can also be used, and using this we can clean up our fossil fuel supply. There is also a role for nuclear.

We need a sensible, pragmatic approach. Oil isn’t only used for energy, it is also important for chemicals such as plastics and transport. Labour would encourage the development of electric vehicles through the Green Investment Bank.

I opposed the Severn Barrage because of the impact on wildlife; we need look carefully at the effects on biodiversity of such schemes. The Swansea Bay tidal lagoon has less impact.

Steven Jackson for webDecarbonisation is important, but the Conservatives would ensure the costs were borne by energy companies rather than tax payers and energy bill payers.

Ideally oil, coal and fracked oil and gas should be kept in the ground. However, we have to consider energy security as the UK is a net importer of energy. We might need to utilise our fossil fuel reserves if energy supply becomes unreliable from other countries.

Wind farms have a role but on-shore is very inefficient and does not work enough of the time. Solar power is important – the UK is already in the top ten percent of generators of solar electricity in the world. We should encourage solar panels on schools and council buildings.

Nuclear power has a role, which is why the Conservatives have commissioned the first nuclear power station for 20 years. Tidal barrage and off shore wind also have a role in making the UK energy secure. We need an energy strategy

Audience Comments

Why are we building more nuclear stations when the waste issue remains unresolved? Solar should be included in all new buildings We need to cut down on energy use New homes should be sold on the basis of energy running costs as well as capital Renewables are not efficient

Personal/Party Statement – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.

Both candidates were invited to give an opening statement about their Party’s environmental policies and their local priorities:

Steven Jackson for web

After the 2010 General Election the conservatives were the largest party and promised to be the greenest government ever. However, the financial crisis and governing in a coalition meant that to some extent environmental policy and Big Society was sidelined. However we still have a proud record over the last five years. Recycling rates are four times higher than in 2010, waste top landfill is down by 2 billion tonnes, 11 million trees have been planted and 10,000 km of rivers cleaned up. Marine Conservation Areas have provided protection for sensitive areas for the first time.

The use of brownfield sites through regeneration for housing and commercial use is something I have been involved in personally.


  • To ensure that unproductive wind farms are stopped
  • To build more housing while protecting green field sites
  • To build public and community transport

Angela Smith for webMy priorities would be

Legislation for the de-carbonisation of the UK electricity supply by 2030 to ensure that the targets in the Climate Change Act are met

To ensure the UK has strong representation at the next Climate Change talks

The development of a low carbon economy through the great opportunities in new green businesses and energy efficiency. There are about 1 million potential jobs in the sector. Labour would give borrowing powers to the Green Investment Bank to fund new green businesses

Invest heavily in energy efficiency. The Green Deal has been done poorly.

Introduce a national adaptation programme for climate change. And a 25 year plan for the recovery of nature

On animal welfare – halt the badger cull, maintain the hunting ban and introduce new laws covering the breeding and sale of dogs to improve their conditions

Final Question

(but recorded here as it is a more personal statement than a position on an issue)

What would you want to know before making a decision for or against something?

Angela Smith for web

Is it in the long term interests of the country and everyone living in it?

Steven Jackson for webI would like to be able to see a snapshot of a household 50 years into the future and effect that the decision had.

Green Question Time

The environment is a vital issue for the next Government but often gets ignored in election campaigns. Issues such as planning, energy supply, climate change, agriculture and food, transport, water, biodiversity and pollution all have a great bearing on our lives .

Candidates for website

We have organised an election hustings, the Green Question Time, which will be the ideal chance to grill Penistone and Stocksbridge candidates about where they stand on issues before votes are cast.

Green Question Time is on Friday 10th April at St Andrews Church Hall, High St, Penistone (next to the library). Entry is free, the doors open at 6.30 pm for refreshments and the event will start at 7pm.

So far, two candidates have confirmed they can attend – Angela Smith (Labour) and Steven Jackson (Conservative). The candidates from other parties (Rosalyn Gordon, Liberal Democrat and Graeme Waddicar, UKIP) are currently unable to attend and give us their perspectives on environmental issues.

We held a similar event in the run-up to the 2010 General Election which about 50 people came to. We all went away feeling more informed about how different parties would act on environmental issues and what candidates would do locally to protect the environment.

The Green Question Time is open to everyone, and the chair will take questions on the night. Or, for those who cannot make it, questions can be emailed to The chair will be Paul Bridges, a member of the St Andrews Congregation.

Do you know where your election candidates stand on important environmental issues? What will the parties do to slow down climate change? How will biodiversity be protected? How will housing be made more sustainable? How can we provide the UK with enough low carbon energy? And how does protecting the environment fit in with other priorities?

What will you ask?