Below is Daniel Reid’s write up from our November 2021, Meon Valley Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting. With thanks to Meon Valley CLP Secretary Daniel Reid for chairing the meeting. If you are a member and would like to attend a CLP meeting, you can attend in person or via Zoom. Please contact us for more details:

Initial Business

After submitting Meon Valley CLP’s contribution to the Social Care policy commission following October’s meeting on the subject, we received this response from Welsh National Policy Forum delegate Tony Beddow:

“Many thanks for this submission from your CLP, and please pass on my thanks to all who took part.  You have identified the main issues: retaining a skilled workforce, having national standards relating to assessing needs and providing adequate responses, merging the skills of the NHS in all its forms with the skills of social workers and others to provide fully integrated care that is responsive to the changing needs of the client and the wider family, and of course finding the funding to do all of this. I look forward to the NPF getting to grips with this enduring topic.”

The Climate Emergency: What Needs to be Done?

To begin the meeting Dan briefly outlined the outcomes thus far from COP26, which included:

  • the developed world pledging to provide $100bn a year to poorer countries by 2023 (slipped from 2020) to help them adapt to climate change;
  • a commitment to end and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 (>100 nations);
  • an agreement to end the financing of unabated fossil fuel projects abroad by 2022 (25 nations);
  • an agreement to stop approving or building new coal projects, and to phase out coal in the 2030s for developed countries and the 2040s for developing countries (23 nations);
  • the Global Methane Pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 (~100 nations);
  • the US and China agreed to co-operate in tackling climate change.

Aspects of COP26 look promising, particularly the ending of deforestation.

One member suggested that as a CLP we could promote the kind of behaviour that is needed in the fight against climate change, and look at what can be done on both a local and national level. We could lobby our MP on environmental issues, and keep publicising parliament’s action (or inaction) on climate change.

The challenge of energy costs at a time of increasing energy consumption must be considered. One idea is to have a progressive pricing structure for the use of energy. For example, the first hundred units of energy could be free, then the next hundred is on a Tier 1 tariff, the next hundred is on a Tier 2 tariff, etc. This means that households that are using energy for the basic necessities will be paying a negligible amount, whereas households that are using copious amounts of energy for luxury comforts such as the heating of a swimming pool will pay a higher rate for the excessive use. This may be more convenient and easy for people now due to the prevalence of smart meters in homes.

Gridwatch is a very enlightening website which tracks the UK’s use of energy sources. Wind provides a sizeable portion of our energy but is intermittent and therefore unreliable. When wind is low, the energy deficit is made up for using gas turbines. Gas producers bid to provide for this demand in a very inefficient market model. It was argued that nuclear energy is the only way to really achieve net zero. It can allow countries to achieve energy independence if they are willing to invest in it.

Dan quoted the PM from his foreword to the government’s ‘Build Back Greener’ plan, “We will unleash the unique creative power of capitalism to drive the innovation that will bring down the costs of going green, so we make net zero a net win for people, for industry, for the UK and for the planet…This strategy shows how we can build back greener, without so much as a hair shirt in sight. In 2050, we will still be driving cars, flying planes and heating our homes, but our cars will be electric gliding silently around our cities, our planes will be zero emission allowing us to fly guilt-free, and our homes will be heated by cheap reliable power drawn from the winds of the North Sea.”

Is this the right approach? It puts a lot of faith in technological innovation and implies that we can do what is needed without having to make any difficult cutbacks. One member pointed out that climate change and the lack of response to it has been caused by the free market being allowed to run loose too much. There has to be national — and international — intervention in order to achieve climate targets. The Labour Party is the representative of collectivism, and this is what is needed in stopping climate change. A member said that the economic model by which we operate is unfit for this cause. It encourages disposable consumerism, imperial plundering of resources, and wasteful, unnecessary trade.

The question arises: what is the role of the UK when it is a relatively minor emitter of GHGs? We can act as a good influence to more significant countries, but an important consideration is that we must not damage the country by making a poor green transition and thus serve as a bad, off-putting example.

James Bickle, who has written a great article for our website about climate change, listed to the group immediate things that can be promoted to reduce emissions: reduction of red meat intake, more cycling, more electric cars, retrofit insulation of homes, reduction of food waste and better use of it, heat pumps for homes, and buying ‘green’ (such as chocolate from more eco-friendly sources).

Sustainable farming is one solution with local relevance. Many crops are grown simply to produce ethanol, when we have a severe lack of homegrown fruit and vegetables.

Reflecting on COP26, it was recognised by the group that the pledges of the contributing nations count for nothing if they are not being fulfilled. Pressure must be maintained on all relevant parties to keep focussed on their targets when the agenda has shifted to other things. This can be done locally by observing and communicating with our MP. Maybe an international body could legally enforce these commitments.

Some problems with emerging technologies was highlighted. The batteries for electric cars only last a few years, and can cost around £6000 to replace. This is not an option for a lot of people. It may be that when production increases there will be the benefit of economies of scale which would lower the price. There is also controversy about the sourcing of materials for the batteries themselves. Plus a lack of charging points in the UK at present, which the government has pledged to improve upon. Heat pumps also have their problems, in that they are expensive, not as warm, and not as easy to use as other methods.

Train use needs to be increased. Beeching cuts to railways were a mistake. Train fares are expensive, it needs to be affordable in order to allow people to make environmentally positive choices. Bus services also need to be reappraised, possibly by instituting a London-style flat rate for their use in other cities or even nationwide. The UK has developed a strong ‘car culture’ which will be difficult to break. Efforts would have to be made to raise even the awareness of bus services. The safety and security of using buses will have to be improved, especially for women.

There has been a lot of talk about mitigating climate change, but adapting to a changing climate has been given far less consideration, and it will be needed. Warming temperatures will encourage the movement of people in affected areas away from the countryside and into cities, which alone brings up a whole host of necessary actions.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this meeting. This write-up will be sent to Labour’s Environment, Energy and Culture Policy Commission to help inform their policy decisions. Our next meeting- the final one of the year- is taking place on Thursday 9th December at 19:30 at Wickham Community Centre, so please come along to join the discussion.

Daniel Reid

MVCLP Secretary.

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