Category Archives: Local

Local elections: reflections

Greens win in Battenhall

Greens win in Battenhall

All the results are in at last from the UK local elections. No great breakthroughs in terms of building a more ecologically sustainable and socially just future, but several small victories.

Perhaps the best results were in Scotland, where the Scottish Green Party went from 2 to 6 MSP’s, including Ross Greer who at just 21 is the youngest MSP. Congratulations to Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Nationalist Party who won 63 seats, just two short of a majority. I can envisage SNP/Green collaboration to pursue some really great policy initiatives taking Scotland on an increasingly divergent course from Cameron’s England.

The other region where the Green Party did well was here in the West Midlands, particularly in Solihull and in Worcester. In Worcester Louis Stephen won the Battenhall ward from the Tories and Neil Laurenson held the St Stephen ward, which means that the Tories lost their control of the council. Labour and the Greens may be able to cooperate to get better policies enacted as a result. In Solihull the Greens have gone from 8 to 10 councillors. A highlight there was Chris Williams increasing his vote share to 75% in a 4 corner race in Chelmsley Wood.

In London the Green Party retained two members of the London Assembly, where Baroness Jenny Jones and Darren Jonhson were both standing down after 16 years as Assembly Members. In their place Sian Berry and Caroline Russell were elected. In the mayoral contest Sian Berry managed to come in third, out of a packed field of a dozen candidates. Labour’s Sadiq Khan becomes mayor. He’ll probably be reasonably good on social justice and human rights issues, but unlikely to take a leadership role when it comes to London’s ecological footprint.

As ever it seems progress through party politics is a slow, patchy and frustrating business. Technological innovation is zooming ahead in leaps and bounds, improving the possibilities for building an ecologically sustainable and socially just future, if only we had the politicians capable of seeing the opportunities!

Shifting Investments

Glenn, David & Cathy from SHIFFT, with 6th form students.

Glenn, David & Cathy from SHIFFT, with 6th form students.

A couple of days ago I went along to the Hereford River Carnival: lots of great floats, stalls and good community fun for all the family. There was a sort of festival within a festival as New Leaf had created the h.Energy village which featured a number of local organisations advocating greater sustainability. I stopped and chatted with lots of old friends and met some new faces. One of the groups with a stall was the new SHIFFT group, which stands for Stop Herefordshire’s Investments in Fossil Fuels Today. It’s part of the rapidly growing global movement lobbying for disinvestment from fossil fuels.

A few days earlier I went up to Llandrindod Wells to have a look around and talk to the people at Riversimple and see their amazing hydrogen fuel cell car. Robert Llewellyn, the actor and comedian from Red Dwarf fame, also happened to be visiting, making an edition of his Fully Charged video blog. I think we were both suitably impressed with what a breakthrough this car is. I’ve sung its praises a number of times on this blog. Riversimple currently are crowdfunding. This is to raise equity, so has a fairly high degree of risk involved, but also the potential to buy into an early stage start-up company which might well be a very lucrative investment. It is also of course just about as ethical an investment as I can imagine. They’ve kept the minimum investment at just £50 and would love to have many thousands of small investors.

Globally vast sums of money are flooding out of the fossil fuel sector, in part driven by the ethical arguments about the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground to prevent the worst ravages of climate change, and in part due to the realization that these reserves are very likely to become stranded assets, so undermining the perceived value of oil, gas and coal companies. The money is beginning to flow into the renewables sector in vast amounts. I mentioned in my last blog about the £229 billion that went into renewable electricity generation last year. On top of all this wind and solar comes the whole raft of cleantech innovation start-ups such as Riversimple. I do hope they achieve their crowdfunding objective, initially of one million pounds, with a further two similar sized tranches following on.

Political Change is in the Air

Diana Toynbee

Diana Toynbee, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hereford City and South

Political change is in the air. For the last 35 years a neo-liberal economic orthodoxy has held sway, and the right of centre parties that support it have dominated politics globally, and locally. A couple of political landslides over the last few weeks indicate the new openness and unpredictability of politics. Syriza’s victory in Greece has been much written about: more recent and perhaps more interesting has been the victory of the Arvind Kejriwal’s anti-corruption AAP in Delhi, and Annastacia Palaszczuk’s pro-renewables Labour group in the Queensland elections.

The Green Surge continues, with the membership of the England and Wales party up at 53,276, and our local Hereford City and South branch up at 136 as of this morning. People are joining for a wide range of reasons. Many ex Labour and LibDems have joined, fed-up with the ever rightward drift of those parties. Many Tories, especially the old One Nation type, are appalled by the extreme inequality that now exists, and in many areas fears over fracking are driving former Tories to join the Greens. Perhaps the biggest group of those joining are people who previously were not really involved in politics and didn’t bother voting: now they see that if they want change they do need to get stuck-in politically. The Green Party really does have a well thought out and popular range of policies across the whole spectrum: see the Vote for Policies link below.

Locally here in Hereford we have a really excellent candidate who’d make a great MP: Diana Toynbee. The local party is buzzing. Come along to our first new Members Forum type meeting at the Riverside Centre in Vicarage Road, St James, Hereford, 7.00pm Monday 16th February. And if you’re not already a member, why not join today? (Just click link below, Join the Green Party.)

Queensland elections http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queensland_state_election,_2015

Delhi elections http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-31294500

Vote for Policies http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/

Join the Green Party https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining

Local Green Party news, plus some great fun fundraisers http://hereford.greenparty.org.uk/

Arts for Greens auction http://www.jumblebee.co.uk/greenteaparty

Renewable Energy Coops

Chase Community Solar

Chase Community Solar

Many people, like me, share a vision of a very different energy future. A future of low carbon, renewable energy, as far as possible cooperatively owned and controlled by local communities. I’ve written and spoken about this extensively. Despite the snow and ice a good number of people came to hear me talk in Ludlow on Thursday on the subject of ‘Renewables & Resilience’, organised by the wonderful Ludlow 21 group.

There is something of a fight-back by the big six and their political supporters who basically want to continue with ‘business as usual’. Changes are coming to both the tax regime and the legal structures that can be used for community renewables. George Monbiot wrote about these changes in rather alarming terms, and I wrote a blog that I posted and then took off-line 24 hours later. Having checked with Jon Halle at Sharenergy and a few other knowledgeable people, the situation is not as bleak as George suggests. It’s complicated, and still not totally clear, but it looks like community renewable energy will hopefully have a future after the changes. Meanwhile there is something of a surge of new coops launching over the next few weeks to beat the April tax changes.

Chase community solar are working with Cannock Chase Council to put solar panels onto the roofs of low income families and pensioners in Council housing. This will help drastically to reduce both fuel poverty and carbon emissions. The project will start doing 150 roofs and hope soon to expand to 300. Lots of other great projects moving forward, including the Ludlow hydro project: check-out the Sharenergy website for more information.

A couple of years ago I was running some of my evening classes in Ledbury. Out of those sessions an excellent group of local people came together and decided they wanted to start a renewable energy coop in Ledbury. After many trials and tribulations they are at last ready to start. I’m honoured to be speaking at their launch at the Feathers Hotel in Ledbury, 7.00pm, Thursday 5th February. If possible, do come, invest and join the coop: be part of the community renewable energy revolution.

Sharenergy http://www.sharenergy.coop/

The Monbiot article http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2015/jan/23/community-energy-companies-big-six-big-society?CMP=EMCENVEML1631

 

 

Green gains in Leominster

Jenny Bartlett

Jenny Bartlett

Here in Herefordshire it feels like the political landscape is shifting in interesting and hopeful ways. On Thursday there were two by-elections for the County Council. In Ledbury Terry Widdows won the seat for It’s OUR County (IOC) and in Leominster Jenny Bartlett won for the Green Party. Both seats had previously been held by the Conservatives. Back in November at the last Herefordshire Council by-election the Tories again lost the seat to IOC. It’s OUR County is a locally focused political party. Jenny joins Felicity Norman as the Green Party’s second Herefordshire Councillor, and the two of them sit together with the It’s OUR County as a single grouping, so with It’s OUR County’s twelve members and the two greens this grouping now stands at fourteen. Having won the last three by-elections all from the Tories the tide of support seems strongly to be flowing in the direction of this It’s OUR County/ Green grouping, and strongly against the incumbent Conservatives.

Out of the 58 seats on the Council the Tories now only have 27, the IOC/Green group has 14, the Herefordshire Independents 14 and the Lib-Dems three, and both Labour and UKIP none. These IOC/Green gains mean that the Conservatives will now be ruling as a minority administration.

The situation in Leominster is particularly rewarding for the Green Party in that Jenny’s victory was quite emphatic in a crowded field: she got 384 votes to the Conservatives 222, Independents 198, UKIP’s 111 and Labour’s 99. Also on the same day there was an election to the Leominster Town Council which Jane Lacey won for the Greens with 726 votes to Labour’s 202.

In 2015 the whole of Herefordshire Council will face an election, and if this political tide continues might we see the IOC/Green group forming the next administration? That really would be an interesting new direction for the county! However things will be different next year. 7th May 2015 sees a general election, all parish and town councils in Herefordshire, plus the County Council all up for election on the same day, and the boundary changes will reduce Herefordshire’s Councillors down from 58 to 53. Anybody’s guess what that combination will throw up!

STOP PRESS I’ve just heard that IOC and the Greens will formally sit as two separate groups, but still continue to cooperate as they have done over recent months.

Hereford Times http://www.herefordtimes.com/news/11350350.Greens_triumphant_in_Leominster_South_by_election/?ref=mr and Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-2697223/HEREFORDSHIRE-HORROR-FOR-TORIES.html

Three more great projects!

Plas Newydd

Plas Newydd

Three more great renewable energy projects to report: one in England, one in Scotland and one in Wales.

The National Trust, working together with Good Energy, has just installed the largest marine energy heat pump in the UK, rated at 300kW. Plas Newydd is a large 18th Century mansion on the Anglesey shore of the Menai Straits. On some winter days it consumed as much as 1,500 litres of oil a day. Now all its heating needs are met by the heat pump, saving £40,000 per year on an investment of £600,000. This is the first major step of an ambitious plan by the National Trust to generate half of their energy requirements from renewables, and to reduce their overall energy needs by 20%, by 2020.

Dingwall Wind Coop, in Ross-shire, have just got their 250kW turbine up and spinning. This is the first 100% community owned turbine in Scotland. 179 members have raised the £856,000 through a community share offer organised by Sharenergy, and 90% of the members are from the Dingwall area. They expect to make a good return on investment, and still be able to put £8,000 per year into local good causes and projects.

Sharenergy currently have a share offer open to establish a second solar coop in Leominster, in Herefordshire, where I live. This is a 90kW array, probably the first on a new build school and one of the largest on a school roof in UK. As of today they’ve raised £31,500 of the £150,000 they need to do this project. As soon as I’ve written this blog I’ll be reaching for my cheque book! This is a great project where the intention is to get the pupils really involved in learning about energy use and solar energy in particular. Instead of the usual £250 minimum stake, for people buying shares on behalf of school children in Herefordshire they’ll have a special £100 minimum stake.

The climate talks in Bonn may have got bogged down in an endless quagmire of procedural nonsense but many organisations and communities are just getting on and doing great practical projects. More power to them!

Plas Newydd http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1355838486323/

Dingwall http://dingwallwind.org.uk/

Leominster http://leominstersunrise.org.uk/abou/

 

Greens make progress, slowly…

molly-scott-Cato

Molly Scott-Cato

Looking at the European and local election results there are real reasons both to celebrate and to worry. The rise of both the Eurosceptic right and the Neo Nazi far right throughout Europe is worrying. UKIP offers little in the way of constructive engagement with any of the real issues facing the UK or Europe, let alone humanity and the biosphere. The rise of Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary represents something altogether scarier.

However in England & Wales we can at least celebrate the election of three Green Party MEPs. Previously there were just two, I’d hoped for five or six, but three is still better than two. Keith Taylor in the South East Region, and Jean Lambert in London, were both re-elected. Molly Scott Cato is our new MEP, the first ever Green MEP to represent the South West Region, and a leading green economist. She will be a great asset to the European Parliament, and a great voice for the people of the South West of England. Well done Molly and all who helped her and voted for her!

Here in the West Midlands Will Duckworth failed to get elected as our Green MEP despite getting 71,000 votes. Thanks to all who voted for him. However the Green Party in the West Midlands continues to make steady progress at the level of local councils. In 2009 we had just three councillors on three councils, now we have twenty-three councillors on nine councils: five straight years of steady increase. In Solihull the Greens have ten seats and are now the official opposition.

Overall, for the Green Party in England and Wales, this is slower progress than I’d like, of course, but still worth a bit of a celebration! 

For a different, and very interesting, angle on the UK part of the Euro elections see  http://makewealthhistory.org/2014/05/27/is-britain-a-post-democracy/

 

Vote Green this Thursday!

Will Duckworth

It’s only 48 hours till polling day. For me the anticipation is palpable. These Euro elections are really important, yet apathy, disengagement and anger seem to be the dominant public response. Turnout is predicted to be very low and the Tories, LibDems and Labour are all predicted to do pretty badly. UKIP are riding high, exploiting pubic fears and anxieties about immigration and economic woes. The Greens are also predicted to do pretty well.

These elections are fought under a system of proportional representation, so there is more reason than ever to vote Green: we do stand a very good chance of getting some very good people elected to the European Parliament, and Europe does matter hugely to us all. If we are to tackle the vast problems facing humanity we simply must get supranational organisations to function better than they currently do and the Greens are active in helping do this.

I’ve voted Green, or for the Ecology Party as the Greens were once called, at every election since the mid 1970’s. I’ve been a member of the party on and off. I am now, and would urge my readers not only to vote Green, but also join the party. For those of us committed to working for a more ecologically sustainable and socially just future they really are the only party worth voting for. In a way if UKIP is the party of fear, the Greens are the party of hope.

Alex Andreou wrote a very good piece in the Guardian about why he’ll be voting Green, and for him the anti immigrant rhetoric that UKIP has drawn all the other parties into espousing is the key issue. For me it is about Climate Change, Social Justice and a host of other big issues. For some people it is specific things, like the Green Party’s commitment to the NHS or to the Railways, or to opposing the latest trade deal that favours corporations over local communities. There really are a lot of issues on which the Greens simply do have better policies.

Here in Herefordshire we are part of the West Midlands Region which will elect seven MEPs on Thursday 22nd May. The lead candidate for the Greens is Will Duckworth, a stalwart campaigner on issues of social justice, who’d make a great MEP. Please do get out and vote, and help him get elected. Currently the Green Party of England and Wales has just two MEPs, with luck, hard work and your vote we could end up with half a dozen after Thursdays vote, including Will. That would be something to celebrate!

Alex Andreou in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/08/voting-green-european-elections-why

West Midlands Euro-elections http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/euroelections2014

Green Party in the West Midlands http://greenparty.org.uk/elections/west-midlands.html

 

Last night in Upton Bishop

Last night I was at a screening of the film Gasland organised by a lovely group of people in Upton Bishop. A very pleasant evening with a good turnout of the local community and lots of homemade cakes! The film was way too long at 107 minutes and very short on accuracy or factual detail, but did have some interesting interviews. Most of the people in the hall last night were already convinced of the case against fracking. For those who simply came to find out more it was not a good place to start and contrasted poorly with the February evening in Ludlow where Prof Michael Rosenbaum gave a very good introduction to the subject.

Rather at the other extreme from the film Gasland are a couple of weighty reports which are worth a quick look, and which I referred to last night. The Hughes Report ‘Drill, Baby, Drill: Can unconventional fuels usher in a new era of energy abundance?’ gives masses of detail on the geological potential and the difficulties of extracting this resource, while Ingraffea et al focus more on the climate change implications. In August 2013 I wrote the following paragraph in a previous blog

There has been some good coverage of the threats to groundwater and the wider environment caused by fracking. (eg, Prof Ian Stewart BBC 2 Horizon programme ‘Fracking: The New Energy Rush’ and the Ecologist TV video ‘Fracking Hell: The Untold Story’) The cumulative impact of these local disasters will have enormous economic consequences as the law suits pile up. However the fact that fracking is probably even worse than coal from a climate change point of view gets very much less coverage. Three Cornell professors, having analysed the climate change implications of fracking sum up the situation with the warning that “shale gas is not a suitable bridge fuel for the 21st Century”.

Hughes Report http://shalebubble.org/drill-baby-drill/

Ingraffea et al http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-012-0401-0

The Frack Free Herefordshire site is also well worth exploring. http://afrackfreeherefordshire.blogspot.co.uk/