Solar Alliance to light lives of a billion people

I find the ambitions of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) enormously exciting, which is why I organised a Lord’s debate on the UK Government signing up to them.  It is an international agreement, formed at the United Nations by treaty between 121 states. Importantly, the alliance is being led by India, which makes it the first large-scale climate initiative to be led by a ‘developing’ country. Together the signatories seek to raise $1 trillion US dollars for investment in solar power, and by 2030 the treaty aims to provide affordable green energy to a billion people who do not currently have any electricity. These are lofty goals and they demonstrate an understanding that green investment gives the opportunity to significantly increase the living standards of the world’s poorest while protecting the ecological resources on which all our livelihoods depend. So far, all good.

The problem is that $1 trillion investment by 2030 is pennies when compared to the $2.4 trillion that the IPCC says must be invested in clean energy each and every year to avoid catastrophic climate change. More than 2% of world GDP must be invested in avoiding climate change if we are to keep within safe limits.

The government whips kindly gave me time to have this debate, but that didn’t stop me expressing my disappointment at the Government’s Explanatory Memorandum to the treaty, written by the Secretary of State for International Development. Those notes celebrate the UK’s involvement in the alliance but then nakedly expose the true lack of ambition behind our involvement. It is stressed that our membership:

“places no legal or policy requirements on the UK”,

and that,

“initial UK ISA collaboration will be through existing UK government funded programmes”.

That means the Government want to develop our bilateral relationship with India, with the Solar Alliance being a nice green gesture to move that along. It seems to me that the largest contribution that our Government will be making is creating new commercial opportunities and investment opportunities for UK business. My conclusion is that we are signing up to yet another impressive-sounding green initiative but then doing absolutely nothing of substance. I find this deeply disappointing and a continuation of this Government’s “promise big, deliver disaster” approach to green issues.

The recent IPCC report makes clear that limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees will expose 10 million fewer people to the impacts of rising sea levels, particularly in small island nations such as the British Overseas Territories. They are why we are involved in the alliance in the first place and we will be letting them and ourselves down, if we don’t act faster and sooner to stop climate breakdown getting worse.

Farmer’s padlock their Roundup, but not gardeners

My oral question (see Youtube) on the use of Roundup put the Minister under pressure to act as several peers followed up with hard hitting points of their own. Roundup and Glyphosate herbicides can cause cancer, and farmers are required by law to keep their supply under lock and key. That law doesn’t apply to gardeners, who can store it and spray it where children regularly play. Continue reading “Farmer’s padlock their Roundup, but not gardeners”

Rebellion for Life Oct 31

The Extinction Rebellion begins today. A series of Non Violent Direct Action protests organised by academics and many others.

Climate breakdown is officially happening. We have the evidence of arctic glaciers going into meltdown, humanity is destroying bio-diversity, with the 60% decline of animal populations since 1970. Continue reading “Rebellion for Life Oct 31”

Children deserve clean air

This week, I attended the Clean Air Parents’ Network Reception in Parliament, where I met with parents and carers who are campaigning to protect children and babies from dirty air.

The Clean Air Parents’ Network launched their new campaign at the reception, calling for a Clean Air for Children Programme, which would introduce a range of emergency measures to protect children and babies’ lungs from illegal and harmful levels of air pollution where they learn and where they play.

The Clean Air for Children Programme sets out a clear plan which ensures local action, with the support of central government, to address air pollution and protect children and babies from its harmful effects.

All children should have the best start in life, and the air they breathe should not stunt the growth of their lungs or contribute to them developing future illnesses such as asthma and lung cancer. Yet despite this, children across the UK are exposed to dirty air every day, and thousands of schools, nurseries and playgrounds are located near roads with illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

Children living in the most deprived areas are four times more likely to have under-developed lungs, whilst for the 1 in 11 children in the UK who have asthma, air pollution is not a distant threat but an immediate risk to their health and wellbeing.

If you’re a parent or carer, you can join the Clean Air Parents’ Network by signing up on their website or joining the Facebook group.

Protect the property guardians

An estimated 5000-7000 who live in a legal grey area as “property guardians” are being ignored by the government – these are people who become live-in security to protect commercial and residential properties during periods of vacancy. I’ve secured a parliamentary debate on Monday to call on the government to provide proper legal protections for them.
Originally seen as a win-win situation, property guardians were young professionals living in interesting building such as schools and cinemas for a low rent. This gave the property owner peace of mind while the property was vacant, at a much lower cost than hiring professional security and boarding the property up.
In London’s overheated property market, what was once a cheap lifestyle choice has now given rise to near-market rents. The GLA research, led by the Green Party’s Sian Berry, found that for many people it is their only way to afford to live and work in London.
They live in a legal quagmire and no one seems sure exactly what rights they have. Property guardians occupy under a contractual license, meaning that they don’t have any of the legal protections contained in a Tenancy Agreement. Some guardians have been kicked out of the properties with only days notice when the property has been sold. The buildings are sometimes dangerous and unsuitable for habitation – the Fire Brigade have had to shut down some of the buildings occupied by Guardians as they posed an immediate danger to life. Local Authorities, who have statutory housing functions, are unsure of their enforcement powers in relation to property guardians, while Council buildings make up approximately one fifth of those occupied by guardians.
The Government has so far resisted calls to clarify the legal rights of property guardians. Heather Wheeler MP, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, wrote to the Committee saying that the Government “doesn’t endorse these schemes and highlights their clear drawbacks” but nonetheless ‘people are free to make their own housing choices”.
Property guardians have an important role to play in ending the scandal of empty properties. The Government’s position is untenable – they are both denying the opportunity to house people in empty properties, and denying the rights of the people who already do so. I will be calling on the Government to amend the law to grant legal protection to property guardians, include property guardianship in their homelessness strategy, and provide clear guidance to Local Authorities and other statutory bodies.
FURTHER INFORMATION is available at the London Assembly website. It includes the Report by the Housing Committee; response from the Mayor of London; and response from the Housing Minister.