Saturday 7th May 2011
In March 2011 Kirklees Campaign against Climate Change decided to organise a ‘Zero Carbon Tour’ of Kirklees. The basic idea was do a tour of the authority on bicycle, the lobby as many MPs as possible and to make links with others who were making progress towards a zero carbon future. The focus of each lobby was an Early Day Motion 853 which was proposed in October 2010 by John McDonnell MP, the latest ‘climate emergency’ EDM. We hoped to make links with community groups and individuals and to acknowledge the progress that Kirklees Council has made in promoting green energy. Finally, we set out to raise funds for the Campaign against Climate Change.
The Climate Emergency EDM reads as follows:
That this House recognises that there is a climate emergency and that the catastrophic destabilisation of the global climate represents one of the greatest threats that humanity faces; further recognises that there is a need to reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million or below; further believes it is impossible to predict how close the world is to dangerous tipping points, and that immediate action is required to enact a programme of emergency measures with substantial emissions reductions in the short term of the order of 10 per cent. within one year, with a longer-term goal of achieving a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030; further believes that at least two hours of prime time television per week should be used to explain the gravity of the crisis to the public, that domestic flights should be phased out, a speed limit of 55 miles per hour introduced and unabated coal usage reduced; further believes that investment in greening the economy can be an effective way of reviving the economy and,in that spirit, urgent investment should be made in energy efficiency and renewable energy, public transport and the retro-fitting of efficient insulation to existing housing stock, leading to the creation of a million green jobs within one year; and further believes that the introduction of such measures would send a positive signal to other countries in the negotiations for an international emissions reductions treaty.
The day began at 9am outside Marsden Mechanics Institute. Tim and Iain had cycled from Honley and were joined by Jean who is involved in MASTT (Marsden and Slaithwaite Transition Towns) and Chris who is the Director of the Green Building Store and Director of the Passivhaus Trust. The Green Building Store has recently built a Passivhaus in Denby Dale in Kirklees. As we got ourselves ready a cyclist who had lost his cycling group asked us for directions. It turned out he is involved in Sheffield Renewables and signed one of our petitions to MPs to support EDM 853.
At 9.15 am we had the first of our meetings with MPs- this time with Jason McCartney, the MP for Colne Valley. We presented Jason with a present - a model spitfire with the quotation from Tim Yeo attached to it.
"Cutting spending on low carbon technologies now, would be like cutting the budget for Spitfires in 1939. The UK was running an even bigger deficit in the 1930s, but we would never have won the battle of Britain if spending on defence had been sacrificed. Of course, today we are not faced with imminent invasion, but in many ways the destabilisation of the global climate also poses a grave threat to our long term national security. In future, climate change could jeopardise our food security, cause unprecedented mass migration and conceivably even spark wars. It would be folly, and something of a false economy, to cut investment on green infrastructure now."
Zero Carbon riders with Jason McCartney MP outside Marsden Mechanics’
The first part of our meeting was about Jason’s response to the Big Climate Reconnection, a nationwide lobby organised by Stop Climate Chaos. Some of us had met Jason about this on April 16th. Jason gave us feedback from his meeting with Chris Huhne and told us that he would be supporting in full the Big Climate Reconnection policy asks.
Jason McCartney agrees that the government should accept the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that the UK reduces its carbon pollution by 60 per cent by 2030.
He also said he would support changes to strengthen the Energy Bill which will soon be going through parliament. These changes would ensure that the government has a legal duty to implement policies to increase the energy efficiency of the UK’s buildings and would make emissions reductions to a core responsibility of councils.
Jason McCartney supports the campaigners’ call for the government to show greater leadership internationally on climate change. He agrees that there should be more help for developing countries to respond to climate change and reduce poverty.
Jason was not able to support EDM 853. He does not believe in signing EDMs. He also believed that the measures outlined in the EDM were too radical. Members of our group explained that many of the demands of the EDM were responding to the latest science, particularly that found in the Climate Safety Report which recommends a number of emergency measures. The Climate Safety report begins with these words….
“Recent climate science brings two important messages. The first is that climate change is accelerating more rapidly and dangerously than most of us in the scientific community had expected or that the IPCC in its 2007 Report
presented. The second is that, because political inaction has delayed progress for so long, the imperative for extremely urgent action on both national and global scales is now paramount.”
Sir John Houghton
Former Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Former Director General of the UK Met Office
We had a positive and constructive dialogue with Jason McCartney. He is an MP who takes climate change seriously and is prepared to make tangible commitments to address the crisis through legislation.
After meeting with Jason McCartney we cycled for thirty minutes to our first stop. This was a steep climb out of Marsden onto the Colne Valley cycle way.
View of Marsden from the road to Slacks Farm
We stopped at Duncan’s farm in West Slaithwaite and were welcomed by Duncan and members of Marsden and Slaithwaite Transition Towns. Members of the Transition Town group talked over refreshments to people on the tour about the work of MASTT including the ‘Edibles’ project and the new community co-operative, the Green Valley Grocer.
Zero Carbon riders with MASTT activists.
Duncan then gave a guided tour of the renewable energy on his farm including his wind turbine and his heat pump. It was great to see the efforts of individuals and community groups in helping to provide solutions to the climate emergency. We’re grateful to all who provided refreshments, gave up their time and told us about their work.
Learning about the heat pump.
For a number of reasons we were running a bit late at this point! Fortunately, our next MP, Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell had contacted us the day before to put our meeting in Dewsbury back from 12pm to 12.30 pm but we still had only one hour and forty minutes to get right across Kirklees! We phoned Julia who was meeting us in town to tell her we were delayed. We also took Chris’ good advice of going down the busier but faster Manchester Road to get to town.
View of Slaithwaite in the Colne Valley
We met Julia at 11.20am at the beginning of the Birkby to Bradley cycleway in Huddersfield. This is a great route that follows the line of a disused railway and is used by cyclists and pedestrians alike. As it is in the middle of town it is used as much for day to day use (like coming home with shopping) as it is for leisure.
The Birkby-Bradley Greenway
This route connects with the Calder Valley Greenway, another cycle route that goes along an old railway line. It passes through some wonderful countryside including woods and beside fields. There are great views as you cross over the Bradley Viaduct!
The Calder Valley Greenway rejoins the road in Mirfield and here we picked up Jeff. Jeff is the co-ordinator of the local Greenpeace group and is an activist in the region on supporting wind power projects. It was good to have his input for the lobby of the next two MPs.
Woods on the Calder Valley Greenway
From Mirfield we continued on the Calder Valley Greenway through Ravensthorpe and onto Dewsbury. We passed through the Crows Nest Park where there is a café. Julia stopped for a rest and a cup of tea while the rest of us went to meet local MP Simon Reevell.
Zero Carbon riders with Simon Reevell MP
We had an interesting discussion with Simon Reevell. Simon said that he wouldn’t support EDM 853 because the measures outlined in it would put people off acting on climate change and that it would be counter productive. He also expressed the view that warming may be part of a natural trend that carbon dioxide emissions are exaggerating but which would be happening anyway.
Here’s what Sir David King, the government’s Chief Scientific Officer in the last decade says in his book ‘The Hot Topic’
“In fact, the warming over the past few decades has human fingerprints all over it. There’s no natural cycle that can explain what we’ve seen, and the Sun has been going in the wrong direction (Left to itself, the Sun would have caused a slight cooling.) What’s more, models tell us that the increased greenhouse gas concentrations that we have had should cause exactly the changes that we have already seen. There’s no room for doubt in this. Wedunnit.”
Simon Reevell also raised the issue of the emissions produced by China. We agreed with him that ultimately the solution to climate change will have to be through an international deal and that there is already a system that has been proposed that allows for countries such as China to continue to emit for a period before declining – a system called Contraction and Convergence. We also put to him the importance of unilateral action. Through history –from the abolition of the Slave Trade to the ban on smoking in public places- one country has taken a lead and other countries have followed their example with unexpected speed. This is particularly appropriate for us as a nation with such a long history of industrialisation.
There are other things that we didn’t say to Mr Reevell about China that perhaps we should have done. Firstly, that the carbon footprint of the average Chinese citizen is still less than one third of the size of the average UK citizen and secondly that over 25% of China’s emissions result from producing goods for the West.
Our final point to Simon Reevell was about leadership. MPs to have a role in responding to the views of the people but historically, they have also shown leadership, particularly on moral and social issues. Liberal legislation in the 1960s on race relations, hanging and gay rights did not follow changes in attitudes. Rather changes in attitudes on those issues have changed slowly, partly as a result of changes in the law. (Although hanging would probably still be introduced today if there were a referendum on it).
The Spen Valley Greenway at Dewsbury
From meeting with Simon Reevell we made our way to Cleckheaton to meet with Batley and Spen MP, Mike Wood. Our journey was on another Greenway- the Spen Valley Greenway. This is another fantastic cycle route which features sculptures made from recycled materials such as seats made out of digger shovels and sheep made out of old ironwork. There are mock road signs warning of ‘Wild Birds Singing’ and ‘Dogs Sniffing’.
Sheep sculptures on the Spen Valley Greenway
Alternative road signs on the Spen Valley Greenway!
Sculpture using recycled materials.
There is a ‘perfect symmetry’ in our tour through this landscape promoting the race out of carbon. This part of West Yorkshire was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution and all through the day we were seeing evidence of it- disused mills, canals and railways. This area was one of the centres of Luddite activity in the 1810s, a movement which has been ridiculed but which was a protest - however misguided - against the social injustices of the time. The Spen Valley Greenway passed the site of Rawfold’s Mill where Luddites staged a full scale attack in 1812. It seemed fitting that we were promoting the race out of carbon because of our carbon debt in a landscape where the long history of the Industrial Revolution was so much in evidence!
Our meeting with Mike Wood went very well- not least because he kindly made us much needed drinks! Mike agreed to sign up to EDM 853. We had a very interesting discussion with him about what we hoped to achieve and about the work of the Campaign Against Climate Change. He was interested to hear about the Trade Union group and their Million Climate Jobs report and about the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report, produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology.
Zero Carbon riders with Mike Wood MP .
Later in the week, Mike Wood sent this letter to Tim:
I was very pleased to see you and your colleagues on Saturday last and have now appended my name to Motion 853. I will also have my staff turn up the information in regard to the Trade Union group which you introduced me to.
Thank you for all your efforts in arranging the visit and for what you are doing for the planet. I have taken the opportunity whilst writing to enclose a publication I received recently from the CBI which if you haven’t seen it might be an interesting take on the views of business on low carbon Britain.
Mike Wood MP.
After the meeting with Mike Wood we agreed to split up for the next section. Iain went ahead to make his appointment with North Light Art Gallery. North Light Art Gallery were showing an exhibition of the International Feltmakers Association called ‘The Climate is Changing’. Iain met with Mita and children and they played ‘Zero Carbon Snakes and Ladders’ game, a game that he has produced to explore the possible steps forwards and backwards on the journey to zero carbon Britain.
Playing Zero Carbon Snakes and Ladders at the North Light Gallery
Meanwhile the rest of the team had a much needed lunch break in Cleckheaton. After that they cycled through the back roads to Mirfield, back onto the Calder Valley Greenway and turned onto the canal. They followed this canal back into Huddersfield. In Huddersfield they cycled to Newsome.
Zero Carbon riders near Mirfield.
Newsome is a ward of Huddersfield that has led the way in progress towards a zero carbon future. All of its councillors are Green Party councillors and almost everywhere you look you will see solar panels on roofs. The final part of our tour was a walking tour of Newsome guided by Councillor Andrew Cooper and Diane who co-ordinates Growing Newsome, a community food growing project. We heard about the history of renewable energy in the area, visited a community allotment and heard about ways of engaging local residents.
PV panels on houses on Croflands, Newsome.
Andrew Cooper pointing out renewables on Castle Grange School.
The day ended at about 6.30 pm - over nine hours after the Zero Carbon Tour had started. We’d cycled over forty miles and were tired but very happy with the day. We’d met with MPs, engaged with the public and made links with community groups.