Category Archives: Environment

“Don’t write off Labour”, warns Robert Shrimsley, Editorial Director of the FT

“Mr Corbyn comes to life on the stump”

Above: Corbyn in Trafford, May 2019

Mr Shrimsley estimates that a vote share above 30% may be enough to prevent a Tory majority adding that, given likely losses in Remain strongholds, Mr Johnson needs 40-50 gains.

Other points made include those summarised below.

Having alienated the Democratic Unionists, the Conservatives have no natural coalition partners and face the ‘potentially wrecking impact’ of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Several other parties might support Labour or at least tolerate an anti-Johnson administration. The early evidence is that Remainers may be reconciling themselves to voting Labour where necessary.

Labour has a coherent narrative. The last three years have been no advert for Tory efficiency and the last nine have not left most people feeling better off

It has a raft of policies with appeal to core groups. It has baubles for young and old, tenants and workers. It will not be outbid on public services.

Voters’ current experiences are of austerity and cuts. Labour can, for example, note that Mr Johnson’s promised 20,000 extra police will only restore numbers to their 2010 level.

Plans to nationalise water and rail companies will play well, as will promises to give workers more say and more pay.

Labour also has a radical agenda on the environment, perhaps the most salient issue for younger voters.

And the wild card? As Camilla Cavendish (former No10 adviser) points out: “Mr Corbyn comes to life on the stump; Mr Johnson doesn’t always seem to do his homework”

 

 

 

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Leaks reveal Corbyn’s campaign themes and Johnson’s post Brexit intentions

A provisional Labour election “grid” which was leaked to the Sunday Times is said to reveal that while Mr Johnson is framing this as “a Brexit election” Jeremy Corbyn will continue with two main themes.

Mr Corbyn will first focus on the National Health Service, described by the FT’s George Parker and Laura Hughes as “traditionally Labour’s strongest suit”.

He sees Brexit leading to a “toxic Trump trade deal”, opening up the health service to rapacious US corporations and will challenge PM Boris Johnson about the claims in a recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme, alleging that the Tory government was secretly discussing NHS drug pricing in the context of a possible post Brexit US trade deal.

The FT journalists say that the risk that voting might take place against the backdrop of one of the NHS’s periodic winter crises, “keeps Tory strategists awake at night”.

The second campaigning focus will be on evidence that post-Brexit workers’ rights and regulations will be changed for the worse

The BBC and Financial Times have seen a leaked internal government document marked “Official Sensitive”. This “Update to EPSG (Economic Partnership Steering Group) on level playing field negotiations” was drafted by DExEU, the government department for exiting the EU.

The document suggests that Mr Johnson – a persistent critic of what he sees as unnecessary regulation from Brussels – wants to diverge ‘significantly’ from the EU on regulation and workers’ rights after Brexit, despite a pledge to maintain a “level playing field”.

The FT reports that it was told by one senior adviser to Mr Johnson, “We’re not confident at all. Of course this is a gamble. But it’s the least worst option.” Mr Corbyn’s supporters expressed confidence in his campaigning ability, first shown in the 2017 election, when he captured 40% of the vote.

 

 

 

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Will the rising tide of youthful voters sweep away selfish politics?

A surge in number of young people registering to vote has been reported as more than 300,000 applications were submitted in two days. There was a big spike on the day the election was announced. 

        • A third were from people under 25.
        • Nearly two-thirds of applications were from people aged 34 and under
        • and 4% came from those aged 65 and over.

Dr James Sloam is co-director of Centre for European Politics at Royal Holloway University, currently leading a project for the Greater London Assembly investigating the key policy issues for young people and questions of civic and political engagement and their relevance to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr Sloam argues that there has been a step-change in youth political participation, as young people have been attracted in large numbers to Jeremy Corbyn’s message. In the 2017 general election, turnout amongst 18-24 year olds rose from 43% in 2015 to 54% and polling data showed that most of them voted Labour.

BBC journalist Laura Lea points out that this is the generation that has borne the brunt of the financial crisis with uncertainty, unemployment and wage freezes being a staple of their adult life. Young people have experienced the tightest pay squeeze in the wake of the financial crisis – with real pay falling by 13%, according to the Resolution Foundation.

And – we add – they will have to face the increasing hazards of climate change.

 

 

 

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LEFT WINGERS AND GREENS OF THE WORLD UNITE: Paul Halas

Over the past few years we’ve seen a trend in which the Labour Party has become Greener and the Green Party has become “Leftier”. I fervently wish for further rapprochement.

While feeling despair at the head-in-sand attitudes and empty rhetoric in much of Westminster, Whitehall and the City – especially the City – I was enthralled by a presentation given in my constituency of Stroud last month by Alan Simpson, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s advisor on climate change and sustainable economics. If anyone is unfamiliar with his policy ideas, I urge them to look him up and read these essays.

A future Labour government will do its utmost to adopt Simpson’s plans, which include:  

  • local renewal energy cooperatives,
  • an agricultural policy reset to penalise high greenhouse gas emissions,
  • a far more locally-based economy (community wealth building – thriving in many locations and now to be adopted in Stroud),
  • a far more integrated, publicly-owned transport system…
  • and of course real measures to curb tax “avoidance” by the heavyweight national and global corporations, and tackle our hideous income inequality.
  • First and foremost though – greenhouse emissions must be HALVED every ten years.

We should all be taking notice of the wonderful Greta Thunberg’s message

We have to tackle the problems of already having done inestimable damage to the planet right now – but under the Tories there isn’t a hope.

Real change can’t come too soon, and the only way we’re ever going to see real change in the UK is to put a Labour/Green government? into power at the earliest possible opportunity.

I can’t see how diluting the non-Conservative vote at the next general election is going to achieve anything except more Tory-led acceleration to destruction. 

I realise some will find their tribal loyalties tested – but the nightmare we’ve created transcends such petty concerns.

 

 

 

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Media 104: The fight-back? Seriously flawed FT article on the next 30 years of fossil fuelled energy

The message from the article’s author, Nick Butler: “Loved or not, the energy companies will still be giving us products we need and they will thrive over the next three decades . . . Wind and solar power are of limited value in meeting industrial energy requirements”.

He stresses the continuing weighting of investment in favour of oil and gas against renewables and focuses on the latest long-term international outlook, which “paints a picture of the world to 2050, on the basis of current policy, reasonable expectations of economic and population growth across the world”.

Sounds good: but this report “comes from the US Energy Information Administration — an independent agency in September”. However, according to its hyperlink and Investopedia, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a government agency formed in 1977.

In addition to this incorrect information, the author attribution – ‘energy commentator for the FT and chair of The Policy Institute at King’s College London’ – fails to add his significant previous employment as Senior Policy Adviser in the Prime Ministers policy unit and BP’s Group Vice President for Strategy and Policy.

He then asserts that the EIA report reflects the view of the main companies in the sector as reported in the BP Energy Outlook, 2019 edition.

Wishful thinking?

Not so: a scroll through the report saw no input from such companies and a word search of the report, using the names of three of the largest oil companies, found ‘no results’.

He concedes that the energy transition is indeed happening (see Bloomberg, above) but asserts that its impact is small and “on this analysis will largely remain focused on the generation of electricity”.

The report, Butler continues, gives a picture of two very different worlds.

“On the one hand, in the developed OECD countries energy demand in volume terms thanks to efficiency gains, minimal population growth and public policy — is static to falling and the supply is getting progressively cleaner. In the rapidly growing Asian economies, population increases and the desire to escape poverty are pushing up both demand and emissions shows an inherently unsustainable future. The trends it describes are a recipe for serious global warming and climate instability.”

As the website of UK Oil & Gas PLC (UKOG) reminds us, there is no alternative (TINA): oil is indispensable: it heats homes, provides fuel for water, air and road transport and is used in plastics, fertilisers, detergents, paints and medicines.

Is Butler unaware of research under way to redesign many of these products to eliminate oil use. The use of electric heating is growing and of electric road and waterway transport, mainly ferries? And though emissions will be reduced by increasing localisation of supplies, there will be some need for clean shipping; for nearly three years the first Chinese 2000-tonne electric cargo ship has been in business. Japan and Norway are also working in this sector, with Japan’s Komatsu Ltd developing its first electric-powered digger.

Many commentators see the need to phase out long-distance air travel, but there will always be the need for some air transport during emergencies and the BBC reports progress towards such a capability: July’s Paris Airshow saw the launch of the world’s first all-electric nine-passenger aircraft for which orders are now being placed

Years ago, Dave Lindorff wrote about ‘ecological cataclysm’: “it is useful to look at the hypocrisy of the energy companies when it comes to an even worse crisis threatening life itself on the planet – rapid climate change due to increasing carbon in the atmosphere”.

His advice is more reliable than Butler’s: Watch What Big Oil Does, Not What It Pays to Have Said.

 

 

 

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The ultimate power-play? Trump celebrates the Space Force’s ‘new warfighting domain’

The flag for the new the US Space Command revealed in the White House Rose Garden

In March 2018, the Military Times reported another of Trump’s apparently casual observations that ‘space is becoming a “war-fighting domain”, adding later that at first he wasn’t serious when he floated the concept, but “then I said what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.”

Five months later the Department of Defense released a report explaining how it intends to create the Space Force and Trump repeatedly stressed the need for American dominance in space.

In a January 2019 White House government briefing announcing his vision, though liberally using terms like protection and defense, President Trump said “we will recognize that space is a new warfighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way.” This ‘Unified Combatant Command’ will ‘protect US interests’ in space.

The voice of sanity:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronautics professor and former NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman said she prefers space to be as peaceful as possible: “Space is for exploration and lifting up humanity. We should learn from our mistakes on Earth and keep space peaceful.”

Good for business – developing a new arsenal, Star Wars 2 ?

On October 6th, in The Spectator’s inaugural US edition, James Adams comments: “In the new space race, victory won’t mean landing on the moon or sending a rocket to Mars, but developing a new arsenal to wage and win war in space”. This would include extending the range of orbital surveillance networks and producing weapons to attack space systems in orbit (anti-satellite weapons), to attack targets on the earth from space or to disable missiles travelling through space. Read more here.

Space Force’s stated mission is to protect American space assets and, in the first stages of a new war, destroy enemy satellites. All US military communications are dependent on satellites, as are 90% of communications intercepts and other forms of intelligence gathering. If they were knocked out, it would be almost impossible for the Pentagon to wage war.

Mr Adams reminds us that the militarization of space is regulated, in theory, by the Outer Space Treaty, created in 1967 by the United States, Russia and Britain, and signed subsequently by another 106 countries. He adds: “It governs the peaceful exploration of space and bans the placing of nuclear weapons there. But it didn’t ban the placement of conventional weapons in orbit, and it could not foresee all of the technological changes that, by altering the balance of power in space, threaten to alter the geopolitical balance on earth”.

Since 2013, Russia has launched three satellites that US intelligence believes may carry Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapons and Adams reports that ‘sources’ have told him that the US intelligence community is certain that Russia, China and India already have ASAT capabilities, and that North Korea and Iran have programs in development.

The most recent official announcement:(29.8.19): “Department of Defense Establishes U.S. Space Command says: “At the direction of the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper established U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) today as the eleventh Unified Combatant Command”. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. said, “This step puts us on a path to maintain a competitive advantage in this critical war fighting domain.”

USSPACECOM standup ceremony at Petersen Air Force base

The United States Space Command website reports that ‘Joint and coalition’ space officials from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States attended a ceremony to recognize the establishment of Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC) at Vandenberg on Oct. 1, 2019

More detailed information can be found by following the press links given and at  https://www.spacecom.mil; though the latter’s alarmingly childish video is better avoided.

Only Peter Lazenby, in the Morning Star, in two recent articles, appears to think that this news is of any significance. He writes, “The British government is complicit in the US military’s plans, partly by its association with the NATO military alliance and partly by the presence of US military bases within the country, which will be involved in the space militarisation project.”.

He reported that a nationwide week of action to “Keep Space for Peace” was launched last Saturday as part of worldwide protests against extra-planetary militarisation. Oxfordshire Peace Campaign targeted the US intelligence-gathering base at RAF Croughton, on the Oxfordshire-Northamptonshire border.

Today, Lazenby reports, campaigners will hold a peace vigil outside RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, a US base run by the US National Security Agency, which gathers military, political and financial information communicated by spy satellites circling the Earth and feeds it to the Pentagon. (Right: meticulous report by Steven Schofield)

The Spectator’s James Adams’ sardonic comment: “Down here on the ground, it’s a good idea to buy a wind-up radio and keep that landline phone connection. And get a road atlas, just in case”.

Many will fear far more extensive repercussions from President Trump’s latest inspiration

 

 

 

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Time for change: move more freight by rail and waterways to reduce air pollution and road accidents

Money Supermarket reports that more than half of fatal accidents on British roads involve HGVs, though lorries make up only 10% of the traffic. HGVs are involved in one in five fatal crashes on A-roads and an HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic.

Department for Transport figures are quoted, showing that 82% of articulated heavy goods vehicles exceeded the 50-mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% broke the 40-mph limit on single carriageways in 2013. Despite this, in 2015 government raised the speed limit for HGVs travelling on single and dual carriageways in England and Wales. An HGV over 7.5 tonnes can now travel along a single carriageway at 50 mph, up from 40mph. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways increased from 50mph to 60mph.

The arrival of even bigger HGVs (double articulated mega-trucks) and ‘platooning’ trials pending with a driver in the first cab, controlling the following vehicles has raised further safety concerns. Last year, the Government announced that trials of partially self-driving platoons of lorries were set to take place on roads in the UK by the end of 2018.

Edmund King, president of the AA pointed out that we have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries – and that platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.

 

A few recent accidents:

12.9.19

The northbound carriageway between junctions 38 (Huddersfield) and 39 (Wakefield) was closed after an HGV overturned following an earlier collision with a car. The HGV was fully laden with glass bottles that had to be unloaded and diesel that had spilled across all three carriageway lanes had to be cleared.

11.9.19

M6 was shut after lorry crash between J12 and J13, near Cannock. The HGV hit the central reservation and later caught fire. Three lanes reopened southbound just after 12:30. Northbound remained closed most of day.

3.9.19

The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.

13.8.19

The A38 was closed in both directions, between the A513 near Fradley and B5016 near Burton on Trent due to a crash and an overturned HGV. Around 40 tonnes of grain were spilled in the carriageway.

9.8.19

Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.

6.8.19

An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.

5.8.19

There were severe delays on the M6 southbound between Junction 16 and Junction 15 due to two lanes being closed following an HGV fire. There was approximately seven miles congestion back to J16.

 

There is an alternative:

 

 

A Route One article reviewed reports by continental researchers who believe that their findings offer some support to policies being developed at Pan-European level to promote new multimodal transport corridors. These involve rail, inland waterways, short-sea (coastal) shipping. The researchers concluded that shifting a greater proportion of freight from roads to rail, boat and/or ship for part of its journey would be a sustainable way of meeting continuing rises in freight demand and reducing numbers of road accidents.

The Freight by Water 2018 conference, part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions. Inland waterways across the world have proved to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials.

The conference highlighted several success stories and discussed several opportunities for freight by water, including the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. Its conclusion:

The time is right to increase freight using inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe as an alternative to road and rail freight.

 

 

 

 

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DSEI arms exhibition protestors call for government spending on peace, adequate public services and addressing climate change

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators, who used a signature XR boat to block access to the DSEI arms fair  to be held in the Excel Centre in Royal Albert Way said that war creates devastating environmental damage and with a warming climate leading to more extreme weather and causing more failed harvests and droughts, as food and water runs out, we can expect more conflict and a much bigger refugee crisis. They added:

“The UK has to own up to its part in creating these global problems, take real leadership in reducing warming and conflict, and create deliberative democracies which can solve this emergency.”

West Ham MP Lyn Brown said: “The DSEI arms fair causes a massive inconvenience for local residents every two years, from the added traffic and security it always requires. Added to the inconvenience to local people, the arms fair also piles an unwanted and unneeded burden on our local public services, like our police, ambulances, hospitals and transport, all already massively overstretched due to nine long years of Tory austerity cuts. Despite asking questions in Parliament for months, the Government haven’t been able to reassure me that we won’t be seeking to sell weapons to regimes that abuse human rights or are killing innocents in places like Yemen. I’m proud to stand with the Newham residents who are raising their voices against the arms fair this year, and I hope that together we can stop the DSEI from returning to our borough in 2021.”

Demonstrators advocated that instead of helping to promote and subsidise the sales of armaments, government should be creating an emergency budget:

  • to bring down emissions and increase biodiversity,
  • to transfer jobs from the arms industry into the sustainable economy now
  • to stop fuelling conflict around the world
  • and instead support ‘peace diplomacy’.

Extinction Rebellion’s Liam Geary Baulch said: “We envision a world where people have a right to a future and a right to live in peace with a home, food, and water – all things that are put at risk by fuelling conflict and the climate and ecological emergency around the world.

 

 

 

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FT in the dock 2: a host of economists say our failing economic model demands Labour’s bold ideas

ft jc a (2)

(Ed) Is Jim Pickard’s language in this articleseize, confiscate, state raid, expropriate – actually adding to Project Fear, which is becoming Project Cold Hard Reality according to the Scotsman – no doubt thinking of the number of jobs and assets moving to continental Europe?

In a letter today signed by over eighty economists, including Richard Wilkinson, Guy Standing, Prem Sikka, Kate Raworth, Richard Murphy, Steve Keen, Joseph Huber, John Christensen, Dani Rodrik, Thomas Piketty and lead signatory, David Blanchflower, the FT is charged with failing to appreciate the severity of the UK’s current economic condition. The indications include:

  • the country’s ‘meagre recovery’ from the 2008 banking crisis, fuelled by rising household debt,
  • stagnating earnings,
  • a housing market crisis,
  • the wealthiest disproportionately benefiting from growth since the 1980s and
  • a failure to take adequate action to prevent climate and environmental breakdown and prepare for their effects.

They point out that all political parties in the UK are proposing increases in public spending to meet these challenges – and charge the FT with reproducing a number of misconceptions:

Labour’s proposals are affordable: the FT’s source, an Office for Budget Responsibility analysis, “ignored the impact of public spending on growth, and thus on tax receipts” – a critical relationship noted by senior IMF economists in their critique of austerity.

The economists pointed out that government can borrow at negative real interest rates to fund pressing infrastructure, education and environment projects, many of which offer returns well above zero, generating higher future tax receipts to spend on social and environmental needs such as those listed above. At present, they observe, taxation levels in the UK remain lower than in most well-provided European countries.

They corrected the implication that a mechanism such as an Inclusive Ownership Fund (p.42) would require companies to pay out cash out; companies would issue new shares to be placed in a mutual fund – just as shares are now issued for executive compensation.

After being reminded that in the 1940s and 1980s, major policy changes were made in response to a failed economic model – at first seen as overly radical but later accepted across the political spectrum – the FT editor might heed the advice of the critical reader whom he invited to write a letter:

“There needs to be a revolution in the FT — not the communist type of revolution, but a revolution that turns the mindset to see the world beyond a white middle-class neo-liberal tinted lens.”

 

 

 

 

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A reader comments. “The FT seems to be taking the prospect of a Labour government seriously”

Over the next week, the Financial Times will be examining the impact of a prospective Corbyn government on the UK economy as memories of the financial crisis have reinforced the public’s perception of a system rigged against them – despite the ongoing exposures of the excesses of the financial services industry.

 FT: “A Corbyn government promises a genuine revolution in the British economy”

It looks at the plans already announced, describing them as “breathtaking in scope”. These include:

  • the nationalisation of rail, water, mail and electricity distribution companies,
  • significantly higher taxes on the rich,
  • the transfer of 10% of shares in every big company to workers (with a maximum annual £500 dividend,
  • reform of tenant rights, including a “right to buy” for private tenants,
  • borrowing to fund public investment.
  • a four-day week,
  • pay caps on executives,
  • an end to City bonuses,
  • a universal basic income,
  • £250bn to fund a National Investment Bank to build 1m social homes,
  • an increase in the minimum wage,
  • higher income tax for those earning over £80,000,
  • a new “excessive pay levy”,
  • a £5bn-a-year financial transactions tax,
  • a corporation tax rise from 19p to 26p in the pound,
  • the break-up of the Big Four auditors,
  • a ban on all share options and golden handshakes,
  • curbs on the voting rights of short-term shareholders,
  • the public naming of all workers on over £150,000 a year,
  • the nationalisation of parts of the struggling steel industry,
  • opposition to the Trident nuclear deterrent and
  • delisting of companies that fail to meet environmental criteria from the London Stock Exchange.

Thatcherism reversed

Mr Corbyn’s supporters see rebalancing of control from shareholders, landlords and other vested interests to workers, consumers and tenants, “reorienting an economy that works for those at the top but not for the young, the unemployed or those struggling on zero-hours contracts” as “fairness”. But to political opponents, high-earners, business owners, investors and landlords, it is alarming.

On September 1st, the FT declared: “A Corbyn government is no longer a remote prospect. With UK politics scrambled by Brexit, the landscape is unrecognisable”.

Lord David Willetts, a former Conservative cabinet minister who now chairs the Resolution Foundation think-tank, comments: “Brexit is so radical and such a massive gamble, breaking a 40-year trading arrangement, that it’s hard for Tories to say to people ‘don’t gamble on Labour”. They just think: ‘who’s the gambler?’”

Brexit as an opportunity: in his speech to the 2018 Labour conference, Shadow Chancellor John Donnell noted: “The greater the mess we inherit, the more radical we have to be.” 

Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the civil service, who is helping Labour to prepare for government, believes Labour’s manifesto pledges are indeed ‘radical’ but can be delivered. He realises that there are questions about how much of the Corbyn-McDonnell policy platform can be carried out if there is a minority government and stresses the need to make significant progress on it in a first term.

As the FT wrote:Polling data show that voters currently evince little enthusiasm for a Corbyn government. And yet the existential shock of Brexit, combined with his appeal to younger voters and families fatigued by nearly a decade of austerity, could still deliver the unexpected”. 

 

 

 

 

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