Lead shot

Independent on Sunday, 28 February 2016:

Why on Earth are we still arguing about lead shot? (Hunters retain lead shot despite danger to food Feb 21) In 1983 the Ninth Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Lead in the Environment, recommended : “Lead shot from spent cartridges and lead fishing weights poison wildlife. We recommend that as soon as substitutes are available, the Government should legislate  to ensure their adoption and use” (Para 8.35) The  only reason this has not happened is because of the rearguard action fought by groups such as the Countryside Alliance who represent the most extreme reactionary elements in rural society. Thus they are  prepared  to ignore the toxic effects on wild-life and potential harm to children eating game,  just so long as their membership can continue practices that have remained largely unchanged since the 18th century.

Sadly this is true of many such organisations that profess concern for the environment but whose main aim is  conservation at all costs. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, for example, has produced some sensible policy statements on renewable energy, but  local CPRE groups ignore national policy in favour the Daily Mail or the Sunday Telegraph, and adopt the same unthinking approach to onshore wind, the cheapest form of renewable energy.

Rather than spoil the view of their well-heeled members, they ignore the effects of climate change which will wreak far more havoc than any number of wind turbines. When your farm land is under 10 feet of water, what price then the view  or the land value?

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

 

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The duplicitous nature of the Government’s energy policy

Independent on Sunday, 30 January 2016 (text in bold not published):

Geoffrey Lean has laid bare the duplicitous nature of the Government’s energy policy in trashing renewables to achieve minimal savings for consumers, whilst saddling the UK with  massive subsidies to keep nuclear afloat (Consumers are dying for lower bills, Jan 17; “Panic” over nuclear cost, Jan 24) However the Big Six have done more than just connive in this deception. They have also played a major role in preventing progress towards a low carbon future.

 Thus they have provided up to 50 experts in Whitehall who work on energy related matters whereas the renewables sector has no representatives in Government. Greg Barker, the Minister of State at DECC who was responsible for implementing the Green Deal has accused the Big Six of sabotaging the programme. Talking on Radio 4 (You and Yours March 2 2015) he stated that the energy companies had appeared keen to become involved in energy conservation, but that they had done  nothing to implement the programme apart from fulfilling their statutory obligation in fuel-poor households. 

The only reason that HMG had reached its targets was because of input from smaller eco-friendly firms. In addition he accused British Gas of reporting misleading surveys which concluded that the public were not interested in energy conservation , whereas smaller firms had achieved 95% uptake on some schemes. 

Of course DECC are not blameless. It was extremely naive for the Coalition to have devolved responsibility for the Green Deal to companies whose main purpose is to sell as much energy as possible.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges,Buckinghamshire

Over-generous to Richard Branson

Independent on Sunday, 10 January 16 (text in bold not published):

I think Steve Connor is being over-generous to Richard Branson (Our space planes will help save the planet Jan 3) In 2006 Branson met with Al Gore and estimated he would spend 3 billion dollars over the next decade developing biofuels and other carbon saving technologies for the air-line business. Nine years later Branson has invested less than one fifth of that sum and there is no sign of any viable  alternative to fossil fuels. Indeed Branson seems to have added significantly to carbon emissions by expanding his airline business, putting 160 additional planes into service, and offering seats at nil cost. Furthermore a study of fuel efficiency amongst 15 US airlines placed Virgin America in ninth place.

Virgin Galactic offers trips into space, another enterprise with a massive carbon footprint and no discernible benefit  to mankind. Billionaires like Branson can furbish their green image by offering techno-fixes for climate change, but their real agenda is cheap PR for their carbon-producing businesses.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges,Buckinghamshire

Could he be called George Osborne by any chance?

Independent on Sunday, 20 December 15:

Following the climate deal in Paris, David Cameron stated “We have secured our planet for many, many generations to come- and there is nothing more important than that” (World leaders agree historic action plan on climate Dec 13) So this must be the same David Cameron whose government has cancelled the Green Deal, stopped on-shore wind, slashed subsidies for solar, and  abandoned carbon capture and storage, all in the 6 months leading up to the Paris summit. It also appears to be the same David Cameron who is subsidising the development of yet another fossil fuel, shale gas, and bypassing local  authorities over fracking applications. Presumably he has a twin brother who is doing all these unspeakable things behind his back. Could he be called George Osborne by any chance?

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges,Buckinghamshire

France bans marches and protest meetings at the upcoming UN summit on climate change

Independent on Sunday, 29 Nov 2015:

John Lichfield’s eulogy about Paris should not obscure the regrettable decision by President Hollande to ban all marches and protest meetings at the upcoming UN summit on climate change (Paris declares itself battered–but still afloat Nov 22) I thought the idea was that life should go on as normal; certainly that was the message surrounding the friendly football match between England and France; so why cancel the democratic part of a summit that is likely to determine the future of human civilisation?

And why have French climate activists been placed under house arrest ?

Perhaps the French security forces have not changed much since 1985, when  the French Secret Service blew up  Greenpeace’s  boat, The  Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour, killing a Portugese photographer in the process. People should ask themselves who represents the greater threat to democracy, and to the planet.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

China’s appalling record on health and safety

Independent on Sunday, 4 Oct 2015:

George Osborne’s determination to ignore human rights is only part of the problem (This Tory China syndrome is a new low Sept 27). The real issue is that he appears completely oblivious to China’s appalling record on health and safety.

The recent explosion at Tianjin in Northern China  killed over 100 people. The site contained illegal stores of Sodium cyanide which has contaminated the local water In October David Cameron is scheduled to sign a deal with President Xi Jinping  which will allow Chinese companies to  secure a significant stake in the building  of nuclear power plants in the UK. It is even more difficult  to build and operate nuclear facilities safely. Over the past 60 years we have witnessed major accidents  at  Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. These all occurred in  nations with advanced technologies and well developed health and safety programmes.  No doubt the Chinese deal will be accompanied by the usual fanfare over British jobs, but it should also be seen as the ultimate triumph of free market ideology over the safety of the UK population.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Tory position on climate change is completely contradictory

Independent on Sunday, 28 June 2015:

The Tory position on climate change is completely contradictory. In the face of a papal encyclical and a G7 declaration calling on global leaders to totally decarbonise the world’s economy, the government is withdrawing subsidies for on-shore wind farms a year early, and has devolved consenting powers to the local planning authorities, thus increasing the length and complexity of the process (Lincoln locals blow hot and cold over a test-case wind turbine June 21).

So NIMBYism is being encouraged for renewables whilst the local community is being by-passed when it comes to fracking. This is particularly hypocritical when one considers that the majority of the UK population support on-shore wind whilst only a small minority support fracking. Amber Rudd argues that decisions on renewable energy will be “more democratic”, but seems to have a completely different set of principles when it comes to the extraction of fossil fuels.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

The Lib Dems had their chance to make a difference and it may not come again

Independent on Sunday, 3 May 2015:

Undoubtedly the Coalition’s environmental record would have been much worse without the Lib Dems in charge at DECC (Keep Clegg in coalition, says green industry April 26). However the reactionary wing of the Conservative Party, better known as the fossil fuel lobby, can claim greater success. Over the past 5 years the cheapest form of renewable energy, onshore wind, has been stopped, feed-in tariffs for solar energy have been cut, tighter building standards were scrapped, fracking companies have been offered generous tax breaks, and planning restrictions irksome to oil and gas companies have been lifted. More damaging still is that the UK government opposed EU proposals on carbon emissions, so that the target of providing 27% of electricity using renewables by 2030 now applies to the EU as a whole and is not country specific. This makes it unenforceable. The Lib Dems had their chance to make a difference and it may not come again.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Air pollution

The Independent on Sunday, 19 April 2015:

Air pollution, causing 30,000 deaths each year in the UK, is not a new problem (“Supreme Court to rule on illegal pollution levels”, 12 April). In 1984 I gave evidence to a House of Lords select committee on the health effects of traffic pollution and presented United States data which showed higher rates of lung cancer in urban areas, even among non-smokers. Their lordships recommended catalytic converters, but the main problem was particulates from diesel engines and this problem has continued unabated.

For four years, the UK government has been resisting legal challenges to reduce pollution. The World Health Organisation recommends 25 micrograms per cubic metre as the maximum 24-hour level for small particulates, but this is regularly breached in UK cities. A recent study in The Lancet showed deleterious effects on the foetus at levels below 25, so the Government seems prepared to hazard the welfare of pregnant women rather than inconvenience car manufacturers. Why has no one made this an election issue?

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Former chair, Campaign for Lead-Free Air

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Fracking as an unproven technology

The Independent on Sunday, 7 December 2014:

Opponents of fracking in North Yorkshire have received critical support from the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Mark Walport, whose recent report described fracking as an unproven technology carrying similar risks to CFCs, asbestos, smoking and lead in petrol (“Fracking firm’s plans criticised”, 30 November). This fatally undermines the Government’s current policy which is to promote fracking at the expense of energy conservation and renewables. But Government policy does not stop at promoting the wrong business model. It also seeks to remove environment-friendly MPs from the ranks of the Conservative Party. Both Tim Yeo, chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, and Anne McIntosh, chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, have been deselected by their local Conservative Associations. Ms McIntosh is the local Yorkshire MP who has opposed fracking in her constituency, while Mr Yeo has been outspoken in his support for renewables. It appears that sustainable development is incompatible with being a Conservative MP.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire