The Green party’s plans aren’t perfect but they offer a much-needed attempt at climate leadership

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The Green party’s plans aren’t perfect but they offer a much-needed attempt at climate leadership

Richard Sulley, University of Sheffield

The Green party’s target is to take four seats at the upcoming UK election. Recognising it has no chance of forming a government, its manifesto is written from the perspective of a future pressure group within Westminster.

In doing so, the party highlights some key ideas and steps that could help the UK achieve meaningful climate action. This provides a refreshing attempt to outline an alternative way forward, at a time when climate leadership is severely lacking from other parties.

The Greens’ manifesto has climate action woven through it and the wording often emphasises the link between climate and socioeconomic issues, as the impacts of a changing climate could push more people into poverty and disrupt global food supply chains. It states: “The solutions to the climate crisis are the same as those needed to end the cost of living and inequity crises, making the future not just more liveable but fairer for us all too.”

The Greens argue that a rebalancing of the economy is required to achieve such a just transition. While the party stops short of calling for degrowth (producing fewer unnecessary goods and services in favour of more socially beneficial economic activity), the focus on a carbon tax and push for investment in public services and renewables could deliver a similar impact.

The party also wants to change how success is measured in the economy, calling for “new indicators that take account of the wellbeing of people and planet, and track our progress towards building a greener and fairer future”. This is the first time an established party has explicitly reframed what the measures of a successful nation should be.

The manifesto embraces an agreed basic standard of living and a set of planetary boundaries that our activities shouldn’t push us beyond, based on the theory of “doughnut economics”. By comparison, the existing model focuses almost solely on economic growth as the key measure of success.

Steps to decarbonise

One of the key issues the Greens want to address is the fact the UK’s housing stock is some of the worst in Europe. A vast programme of insulation and decarbonisation measures is needed across all tenures, and the Greens earmark £50 billion over the length of the parliament for retrofitting buildings. One issue here is that they don’t specify how the current supply chain could be scaled up to achieve this.

The manifesto does recognise that to reduce the UK’s carbon impact, buildings can’t just be demolished and rebuilt. Circularity is needed with zero extraction of new materials in the construction of new homes and buildings.

The Greens propose to tackle this with planning applications to include whole-life carbon and energy calculations. Plus, all materials from demolished buildings will need to be considered for reuse, and increased rates for the disposal of builders’ waste would ensure that this is financially viable.

Significant investment is also needed to upgrade the UK’s energy networks to enable decarbonisation, with another proposed £50 billion assigned to electricity generation, transmission and storage. The manifesto also highlights the potential for greater community involvement in – and direct benefit from – new solar and wind farms, which research suggests can speed up the provision of decentralised energy generation.

Where the Greens diverge most widely from the current energy decarbonisation orthodoxy is on nuclear. Their proposal to cancel funding for research on new technology, namely small modular reactors, appears reactionary at a time where its potential is still being explored.

nuclear power station with huge white clouds of smoke, blue sky
The Green Party would not fund research into small modular nuclear reactors. stocker1970/Shutterstock

In transport, the Greens recognise that simply rolling out the sale of electric vehicles is not enough. They want to expand public transport and active travel (walking and cycling) through a £13 billion investment to deliver public transport as a service rather than for profit.

But this would depend on giving local authorities in England the powers that London has to act as bus operators. Combined Authorities in Greater Manchester, South and West Yorkshire are currently transitioning to a franchised system, but a full “London-style” network is some way off.

The Greens are also the only party to take the bold action of proposing a frequent flyer levy, although they do not detail how it will work. Typically, proposed plans for such levies increase on a sliding scale as the number of flights increases, therefore targeting the 15% of people who make 70% of the trips.

There are also proposals to remove the aviation fuels exemption from fuel duty and introduce a domestic flight ban on journeys that can be done by rail in less than three hours, making this manifesto is an exemplar of action targeted at reducing high consumption in the form of frequent flights.

How would they deliver it?

With all this investment, there’s inevitably a question about how the Greens would pay for their plans. Figures in the manifesto suggest significant government borrowing is needed for such radical changes.

On environmental measures alone, an average annual capital and revenue spend of £40 billion would be required, including £7 billion to be invested in climate adaptation. The entire manifesto requires a budget deficit of £65 billion a year for the next five years, gambled against the as yet unknown costs of inaction.

There are some other ideas on funding. A carbon tax would make polluters pay while providing money to invest in the green transition. And taxing multi-millionaires and billionaires could help fund public services, including renationalised utilities such as water companies.

There is also a question of how practical the plans are. Nothing within the Green party manifesto relies on tech that has yet to be invented or impossible interventions. This is not the stuff of techno-optimism. But there are no cities, regions or devolved nations in the UK that have yet adopted the root and branch transformation this manifesto would require.

However, surveys show most people in the UK want decisions on the overwhelming evidence for climate change and the nature crisis, in order to create a more resilient society. The Green manifesto, then, is an imperfect but sorely needed attempt at climate leadership that reflects the urgency of significant rather than iterative change. That should be welcomed in an election where you could otherwise be forgiven for thinking that a response to the climate emergency was an optional extra.

Richard Sulley, Senior Research Fellow, Sustainability Policy, University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingThe Green party’s plans aren’t perfect but they offer a much-needed attempt at climate leadership

Military interests are pushing new nuclear power – and the UK government has finally admitted it

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Original article by Andy Stirling republished from the Conversation under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives licence.

Ben Birchall / Alamy

The UK government has announced the “biggest expansion of the [nuclear] sector in 70 years”. This follows years of extraordinarily expensive support.

Why is this? Official assessments acknowledge nuclear performs poorly compared to alternatives. With renewables and storage significantly cheaper, climate goals are achieved faster, more affordably and reliably by diverse other means. The only new power station under construction is still not finished, running ten years late and many times over budget.

So again: why does this ailing technology enjoy such intense and persistent generosity?

The UK government has for a long time failed even to try to justify support for nuclear power in the kinds of detailed substantive energy terms that were once routine. The last properly rigorous energy white paper was in 2003.

Even before wind and solar costs plummeted, this recognised nuclear as “unattractive”. The delayed 2020 white paper didn’t detail any comparative nuclear and renewable costs, let alone justify why this more expensive option receives such disproportionate funding.

A document published with the latest announcement, Civil Nuclear: Roadmap to 2050, is also more about affirming official support than substantively justifying it. More significant – in this supposedly “civil” strategy – are multiple statements about addressing “civil and military nuclear ambitions” together to “identify opportunities to align the two across government”.

These pressures are acknowledged by other states with nuclear weapons, but were until now treated like a secret in the UK: civil nuclear energy maintains the skills and supply chains needed for military nuclear programmes.

The military has consistently called for civil nuclear

Official UK energy policy documents fail substantively to justify nuclear power, but on the military side the picture is clear.

For instance, in 2006 then prime minister Tony Blair performed a U-turn to ignore his own white paper and pledge nuclear power would be “back with a vengeance”. Widely criticised for resting on a “secret” process, this followed a major three volume study by the military-linked RAND Corporation for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) effectively warning that the UK “industrial base” for design, manufacture and maintenance of nuclear submarines would become unaffordable if the country phased out civil nuclear power.

The UK navy has ten nuclear-powered submarines. Defence Imagery / flickrCC BY-SA

A 2007 report by an executive from submarine-makers BAE Systems called for these military costs to be “masked” behind civil programmes. A secret MoD report in 2014 (later released by freedom of information) showed starkly how declining nuclear power erodes military nuclear skills.

In repeated parliamentary hearingsacademicsengineering organisationsresearch centresindustry bodies and trade unions urged continuing civil nuclear as a means to support military capabilities.

In 2017, submarine reactor manufacturer Rolls Royce even issued a dedicated report, marshalling the case for expensive “small modular reactors” to “relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability”.

The government itself has remained coy about acknowledging this pressure to “mask” military costs behind civilian programmes. Yet the logic is clear in repeated emphasis on the supposedly self-evident imperative to “keep the nuclear option open” – as if this were an end in itself, no matter what the cost. Energy ministers are occasionally more candid, with one calling civil-military distinctions “artifical” and quietly saying: “I want to include the MoD more in everything we do”.

In 2017, we submitted evidence to a parliamentary public accounts committee investigation of the deal to build Hinkley Point C power plant. On the basis of our evidence, the committee asked the then MoD head (who – notably – previously oversaw civil nuclear contract negotiations) about the military nuclear links. His response:

We are completing the build of the nuclear submarines which carry conventional weaponry. We have at some point to renew the warheads, so there is very definitely an opportunity here for the nation to grasp in terms of building up its nuclear skills. I do not think that that is going to happen by accident; it is going to require concerted government action to make it happen.

This is even more evident in actions than words. For instance hundreds of millions of pounds have been prioritised for a nuclear innovation programme and a nuclear sector deal which is “committed to increasing the opportunities for transferability between civil and defense industries”.

An open secret

Despite all this, military pressures for nuclear power are not widely recognised in the UK. On the few occasions when it receives media attention, the link has been officially denied.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak announces a US-UK-Australia nuclear submarine deal in March 2023. Etienne Laurent / EPA

Other nuclear-armed states are also striving to maintain expensive military infrastructures (especially around submarine reactors) just when the civilian industry is obsolescing. This is true in the USFranceRussia and China.

Other countries tend to be more open about it, with the interdependence acknowledged at presidential level in the US for instance. French president Emmanuel Macron summarises: “without civil nuclear power, no military nuclear power, without military nuclear, no civil nuclear”.

This is largely why nuclear-armed France is pressing the European Union to support nuclear power. This is why non-nuclear-armed Germany has phased out the nuclear technologies it once lead the world in. This is why other nuclear-armed states are so disproportionately fixated by nuclear power.

These military pressures help explain why the UK is in denial about poor nuclear performance, yet so supportive of general nuclear skills. Powerful military interests – with characteristic secrecy and active PR – are driving this persistence.

Neglect of this picture makes it all the more disturbing. Outside defence budgets, off the public books and away from due scrutiny, expensive support is being lavished on a joint civil-military nuclear industrial base largely to help fund military needs. These concealed subsidies make nuclear submarines look affordable, but electricity and climate action more costly.

The conclusions are not self-evident. Some might argue military rationales justify excessive nuclear costs. But history teaches that policies are more likely to go awry if reasons are concealed. In the UK – where nuclear realities have been strongly officially denied – the issues are not just about energy, or climate, but democracy.

The Conversation asked the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to comment but did not receive a reply before the publication deadline.

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Original article by Andy Stirling republished from the Conversation under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives licence.

Continue ReadingMilitary interests are pushing new nuclear power – and the UK government has finally admitted it

Hinkley Point C

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Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn should be commended in opposing and Prime Minister Theresa May should be commended in showing caution and wisdom in the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. There are so many causes for concern in these proposals. Hinkley Point C should not proceed at any cost and there should be thorough, clear and sober assessment.

The proposed Hinkley Point C reactors (2 of them) are a new and unproven design of reactor, the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR). EPRs are a form of Pressurised Water Reactor.

The four EPRs already being built have all experienced construction problems and are all uncompleted, over-budget and delayed by years.

Four EPR units are under construction. The first two, in Finland and France, are both facing costly construction delays (to at least 2018). Construction commenced on two Chinese units in 2009 and 2010.[1] The Chinese units were to start operation in 2014 and 2015,[2] but are now expected to come online in 2017.[3]

Olkiluoto 3 in Finland was scheduled to go online in 2009. It is currently expected to start operation in 2018. source It is hugely over-budget. source

Flamanville 3 in France was due to start operation in 2012. It is currently delayed until late 2018. source

These dates of 2018 should be regarded as optimistic spin likely to be superseded with later dates.

Flamanville‘s lid and base to the reactor vessel are flawed and below the required standard, weakened by excessive carbon content in the steel. There are suggestions that the French nuclear safety authority (ASN) may require that the vessel is replaced or even that the project is abandoned.

Areva aware ‘as early as 2006’ of serious fault in nuclear reactor destined for UK

UPDATE 2-French regulator delays decision on EDF Flamanville reactor to end-2016

Continue ReadingHinkley Point C

Commentary on and analysis of recent political events

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Why did Jack Straw try to make it illegal for children at childrens’ homes to speak out about abuse? Was Jack Straw influenced by the fact that some of his friends and fellow politicians were paedophiles? Was this a desperate attempt to stop the truth coming out not only that Labour politiicans are paedophiles but highest level politicians of ALL parties?

Fifty new nuclear plants could be goal in official energy plans

Up to 50 nuclear power stations could be built under plans being looked at by the government. The remarkable figure – 10 times the number the government is openly discussing – is revealed in documents submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change by one of its own advisory bodies.

The documents are likely to raise questions as to what extent the government’s energy policy is weighted in favour of nuclear and away from renewables such as wind turbines. It comes as Brussels begins an investigation into whether Britain is providing up to £17bn of potentially illegal public guarantees for the first nuclear power plant in a generation, Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which aims to provide 7% of the country’s electricity.

Image of GCHQ donught building

NSA leaks: UK and US spying targets revealed

More details of people and institutions targeted by UK and US surveillance have been published by The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel.

The papers say that the list of around 1,000 targets includes a European Union commissioner, humanitarian organisations and an Israeli PM.

The Guardian writes that GCHQ targeted the UN development programme, Unicef, German government buildings and the EU Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia.

Latest Snowden revelations expose Obama’s lies on NSA spy programs

Just hours after receiving a report from his hand-picked advisory panel on National Security Agency surveillance operations, President Barack Obama used his end of the year press conference Friday to deliver an Orwellian defense of unrestrained US spying both at home and abroad.

“I have confidence that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance and snooping around,” Obama said, despite the cascade of revelations proving just the opposite. These revelations, including the latest from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have established that the agency is collecting and storing billions of files recording the phone calls, text messages, emails, Internet searches and even the daily movements of virtually ever US citizen, not to mention those of hundreds of millions of people abroad.

“The United States is a country that abides by rule of law[!], that cares deeply about privacy[!], that cares deeply about civil liberties[!],” he added. Who, at this late juncture, does the American president think he’s fooling? One only has to read the ruling by a Washington, DC Federal District Court judge—which was then stayed in the interest of “national security”—finding the surveillance methods of the NSA to be “almost Orwellian,” and its activities unconstitutional, i.e., criminal.

UK reneges on promised independent inquiry on rendition, torture

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has abandoned its promise to carry out an independent inquiry into Britain’s involvement in “extraordinary rendition”, detention”and torture carried out by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Instead, the inquiry will be undertaken by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), whose record is one of covering up the activities of the intelligence services.

Only last month, the ISC questioned the head of the internal security service MI5, Andrew Parker; the director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Sir Iain Lobban; and Sir John Sawers, head of the foreign intelligence department MI6. The hearing was meant to demonstrate unprecedented openness and accountability to Parliament of the secret state apparatus, after revelations by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden that the UK agencies worked with the US to monitor the Internet and phone activity of most of the world’s citizens.


Clare Algar, executive director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, criticised the decision to hand the investigation to the ISC: “If the government takes this course, it will be breaking its promise to hold a genuine, independent inquiry into the UK’s involvement in torture.

‘Megrahi was my friend. He did not kill my daughter’: Lockerbie father says British government is not telling the truth about the bombing

The father of one of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing has asked mourners to pray for the “innocent family” of the only person convicted of the worst mass murder in British history, as the nation marked its 25th anniversary.

In his address to a memorial service at Westminster Abbey yesterday evening attended by relatives of the victims, Dr Jim Swire also accused the British government of failing to tell “all the truth they know about this terrible tragedy”.

Before the service, the UK, US and Libyan governments in a joint statement promised to work together to “reveal the full facts of the case”, saying that they wanted “all those responsible for this most brutal act of terrorism brought to justice, and to understand why it was committed”. [BS: positive identification]

Employment tribunal claims fell by more than half after introduction of fees

Theresa May strips citizenship from 20 Britons fighting in Syria

Abandoned: Theresa May turns back on American-held terror suspect

Labour should “do god” BS …

Continue ReadingCommentary on and analysis of recent political events