|Posted by Mark Cantrell on May 7, 2016 at 1:15 PM|
Backwards march will urge Government to about face on climate change retreat
CLIMATE change campaigners and environmentalists will be marching – backwards – from Trafalgar Square down to Whitehall tomorrow in protest at the Government's retreat from the green agenda it once loudly trumpeted, writes Mark Cantrell.
In 2010, as the Conservative-led coalition with the LibDems came to power, David Cameron vowed to lead the “greenest government ever” but since securing a majority government in last year's general election, the Prime Minister is accused of going backwards when it comes to tackling climate change and other green issues.
Yet that hasn't stopped the Prime Minister staking out the rhetorical highground. At the Paris climate change summit last year, Cameron said: “Instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today.”
But the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC), which is orchestrating tomorrow's demonstration, has taken issue with the kind of 'action' Cameron's government has taken during its first year in office.
Since winning the 2015 election, the Conservative Government has scrapped the Code for Sustainable Homes, a measure intended to build-in greater energy efficiency into new homes. It also slashed or abolished measures intended to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes.
Support for a range of domestic renewable energy systems is also being cut back – much to the chagrin of the nascent solar industry. Meanwhile it has opened the door to fracking, and granted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.
Meanwhile, support for flood defences for homes and businesses has been deemed too little too late by many of the communities affected.
All told, the Government is accused of having gone backwards on the climate change agenda; hence the protesters' intention to follow suit in their march to Whitehall, in an effort to further ram the point home.
“Record-breaking temperatures and a melting Arctic might seem a long way away from the UK but the impacts of climate change are here now, and we're running out of time to act,” said the CACC's Suzanne Jeffery. “People hit by 'once in a generation' winter floods in Somerset, York, Cumbria, and other vulnerable parts of the UK are all too aware that things are changing.”
The march is backed by a host of organisations. Greenpeace, Biofuelwatch, War on Want, Campaign for Better Transport, Climate Revolution, Fuel Poverty Action, Frack Off London, the Solar Trade Association, and others will be making their presence known.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett is among those speaking at the event, along with shadow minister for energy and climate change, Barry Gardiner; Asad Rehman, of Friends of the Earth; and Suzanne Jeffery, CACC.
London isn't the only focal point for protest, however; other 'Going Backwards' events are being held in Bristol, Leicester, Leeds, Nottingham, and Manchester.
The action is intended to link together the different ways the Government has “backtracked” on its policies to tackle climate change in an effort to challenge Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, to rethink their approach.
Campaigners hope to highlight the Government's “short-sighted” approach to infrastructure, for instance, citing the planned spend of £15 billion on new roads at a time when bus services are being cut.
“Air pollution is now a public health crisis across our country, with 40,000 people dying prematurely, and children and the elderly the most affected by breathing toxic and illegal air,” said James Thornton, from the organisation ClientEarth. “ClientEarth will take the Government back to court because of its failure to clean up the air we breathe and we are going to show them people want action.”
Cold and damp homes are another critical health issue. The ill-effects of such homes place a heavy burden on the NHS and it also takes a toll on children's educational performance. The UK has some of the oldest – and consequently least well-insulated – housing stock in Europe. This includes a significant proportion of homes built before 1919 that are difficult to treat because they have a solid wall rather than cavity wall construction.
Such homes can be treated, but funding cuts for retrofit improvements have reduced the capability to bring such homes to a standard where they are easier and cheaper to keep warm.
“Homes that leak heat are bad news for our fuel bills, damaging to our health – last winter 15,000 people died from living in cold homes – and also very bad news for the climate,” said Becky Methven from Fuel Poverty Action. “The cuts to public funding really are terrifying.”
Claire James, from CACC, added: “As the Government blocks the cheapest forms of clean energy – onshore wind and solar – other countries are benefiting from new technologies. Green jobs are lost while money is wasted subsidising dirty fossil fuels. Ultimately, this means that as the planet heats up we are missing that vital window to act on climate change.”
Protesters will gather at Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square from 12pm tomorrow, Sunday 8 May 2016. The event will be tweeted under the hashtag #GoingBackwards. CACC has produced a briefing document, outlining its argument and aims. The document can be found at www.campaigncc.org/backwards