|Left to Right: Sophie Neuborg, Suzanne Jeffery, Martin Francis (Chair) Ruth London, Murad Qureshi|
Suzanne Jeffery, from One Million Climate Jobs, said that the Coalition Government had been exposed by the recent floods. The recognition of the connection between extreme weather events and climate change revealed Cameron's dismissal of 'green crap' as particularly ill-timed. In fact the government had locked the country into rising emissions that accelerated climate change through the 'dash for gas' and fracking, and Osborn's collusion with the oil and energy industries in his budget statement. Deregulation of planning regulations and cuts to the Environment Agency had worsened the impact of the highest ever rainfall last month.
With scientists predicting devastating consequences of a failure to act, campaigners had to use this period of heightened awareness to press home the message that there is still, just, time to act. There needed to be investment in renewable energy and a massive programme of insulation and other green measures through the creation of one million climate change jobs. As well as contributing to reducing energy usage and thus carbon emissions, they would also boost the economy.
Ruth London, from Fuel Poverty Action, said that 'climate change is poverty' as people unable to heat their homes or cook their food because of the high costs of energy were impacted by cold and damp and resulting ill-health and strain on relationships. Education was affected when children did not have a comfortable place to do their homework. Fossil energy is subsidised and renewables are actually cheaper. The London Pensioners' Association had recognised this when they had passed a resolution calling for safe, clean energy.
Government policy meant that Housing Associations were scrapping insulation schemes and that some attempts at market solutions to the problem had been abandoned. She said that the probloems was built into the nature of the market where the primary purpose was acculumation. The market was the opposite of caring:: 'what's good for thje market has nothing to do with what's good for people'.
Sophie Neuborg of Friends of the Earth said that there was a major crisis with 7 million people paying over 10% of their income to keep their houses warm and this would be 9m by 2016. FoE believed that energy saving measures should be supported from general taxation rather than levies on fuel bills. More incentives were needed to persuade landlords to make their properties energy efficient and hypothecated carbon taxes needed. She called for a revolution in the way energy was produced through community production of renewable energy.
Link to FoE actions including petition on fracking HERE
Murad Qureshi, London Assembly Member and chair of its Environment Committee, spoke about the highest rainfall levelo for 250 years, record river flows and rising ground water levels. The Thames Barrier, which had saved London from major flooding, and built by the GLC, would not have been built in current times.
He called for work envisaged for the future on flood defences to be brought forward. The Thames should be seen as an extension of the sea into London to bring home the issue. River restoration was needed in terms of London's hidden culverted rivers to protect the 24,000 London homes at high risk of flooding and there needed to be a stop to the concreting over of gardens that had removed the equivalent of 18 Hyde Parks from the capital.* We have to learn with live with water through adaptation and mitigations. Surveys had shown that 80% of the population were concerned not with housing or transport but with the high costs of gas, electricity and water. 68% had reduced their energy consumption because of the cost and half a million were depednent on food backs.
Boris Johnson had failed to take on the energy companies with EDF failing to deliver on their Olympic promises. The Mayor's retrofitting scheme had failed to meet its target with only 99,000 properties tackled amongst the millions in London.
In the discussion that followed there were calls for mass demonstrations on climate change, re-nationalisation of the energy and water companies on a more participative and response model that previously, action against British Gas in particular, campaigns against pre-payment meters and how they make the poor pay more - including Can't Pay-Won't Pay, pickets of the BBC over their insistence on 'balancing' discussion over climate change giving equal time to the sceptics, demand new housing incorporates solar ppwer roof tiles, and the need to reach out to faith groups about the issue.
Videos of the event can be found here:
Sophie Neuberg http://youtu.be/RbyATRY5NFYQuestions and discussion 2