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Mr Cameron: will it be heating or eating this winter?

John Sinfield


John Sinfield

The MD of Britain's largest insulation company demands: back warm, efficient homes now, or condemn millions to cold, damp and sky-rocketting fuel bills.

Dear Mr Cameron

I write to you to inform you of the wholly devastating impact already being caused to the energy efficiency industry, further to your announcement on green levies at Prime Minister's Questions a fortnight ago.

Solutions to the very real problem of ever-rising energy prices have come thick and fast. We've had suggestions of a price freeze, a windfall tax on suppliers, switching, group switching and the wearing of jumpers all thrown in to the mix.

While some are dubious to say the least, others may be part of a solution, but they cannot be the whole solution. The long-term proposition must include addressing the energy efficiency of our homes - this is the only route which offers permanent savings year on year.

So I struggle with the perverse idea that seems to have gained the most traction within Number 10; reducing or cancelling the wrongly labeled 'green levy' that requires energy companies to cut heating bills in people's homes.

... Read More...

Peak soil: act now or the very ground beneath us will die

8th November, 2013


plant and soil

The health of our soils is more important now than ever, says the Soil Association’s Helen Browning - especially with the challenges that climate change will bring ...

As a farmer, my foremost responsibility is to protect and enhance the soil in my care. It can take more than 500 years to generate an inch of soil, yet our farming activity can erode or degrade it in a decade or two if we are not careful.

Even as an organic farmer, where the system is designed to protect and build soils, I’m aware that the move to bigger machinery, the need to cultivate and plough to control weeds, and our seemingly ever more volatile weather can put soils at risk.

At agricultural college, we were taught much more about the chemistry and physics of soils than we were about the biology, and given scientists have recently admitted that they know about maybe only around 20% of the soil’s microbial population, that’s probably still true today.

But soil always fascinated me, and as a research student on the first Government funded project on organic farming in 1984, it quickly became clear to me that the yield and health of... Read More...

Owen Paterson: the minister for GM hype

Zac Goldsmith MP


The environment secretary's stance on GM food is grotesque, argues Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.

GM has never been about feeding the world. It is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations.

Asked recently about 'golden rice', genetically modified to tackle blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency, Britain's environment secretary responded: "It's just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology. I think what they do is absolutely wicked."

It was a staggering thing to say. For one thing, the developers of golden rice have said that it is not even ready for commercial planting. For another, it will be assessed in the Philippines, not Europe. So the suggestion that anyone has died because campaigners have hindered progress is grotesque.

What's more, commentators everywhere are wondering why hi-tech... Read More...

Putting people at the heart of the sustainable food debate

Dr Naomi Salmon


Naomi Salmon argues that human rights law can - and should - have a crucial role in the fight to green our food systems ...

Our food system is broken. The way we eat is making us fat and sick. It is depleting the Earth’s resources, contributing to (domestic and global) economic and social injustice, and making a disproportionate contribution to the nation’s GHG emissions. Numerous reports and strategy documents detailing the emerging crisis in food and farming have been published in recent years.  But still, despite the increasing urgency of the situation, agri-food policy reform continues to be painfully slow.   

Overall, government seems to have very little appetite for the drastic policy shifts necessary to genuinely ‘green' our food system - from farm, to table to waste stream. The reasons for this are wide-ranging and complex.  One key barrier to reform is the fact that long-term sustainability is a policy goal that cannot easily be reconciled with the trade... Read More...

Staying the course on the environment

Nick Clegg


Nick Clegg

As the UK Government's green policies come under sustained attack from Tory and UKIP right-wingers, Lib-Dem Leader Nick Clegg nails his green colours to the mast.

Over the years, I've heard the green agenda described in a number of ways: vote winner, vote loser; niche interest; minority sport; middle class luxury; Lib Dem obsession, even.

For a long time, politically-speaking, the environment was up. Tony Blair entered Downing Street on a promise to put it right at the heart of government. The Conservatives asked us to vote blue in order to go green. And yet these days, across much of the Westminster village at least, the environment is being written off by campaign chiefs on both left and right: too expensive in hard times; a distraction from more pressing debates.

On no other issue has the political establishment proved more fickle. Just look at the current debate on energy bills and green levies. The same Conservative and Labour politicians who used to shout at one another across the Despatch Box: ‘you don't care about the environment, we're the greenest' now turn the accusation on its head: ‘you care too much... Read More...

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