Are the BBC beginning to tell the truth?

Ever since Extinction Rebellion was formed in 2018 one of their major targets have been the BBC. In November that year on a cold wet winter morning they protested outside BBC Radio Sheffield. So why are the BBC a target, and have things begun to change?

In London climate activist Jon Fuller has regularly led protests outside BBC headquarters to demand they tell the truth. His complaints include

  1. There has been little or no coverage of major climate events.
  2. There has been little or no coverage of “the tipping points” which will lead to runaway climate change.
  3. There has been a lack of rigorous economic analysis.
Jon Fuller

In Sept 2017 there was a UN General Assembly Meeting immediately after Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica, St Croix, and Puerto Rico. It is regarded as the worst natural disaster in recorded history to affect those islands. Speaker after speaker called for immediate action to stop carbon emissions. One speaker asked “What’s next, the complete evacuation of the Carribean?” None of this was reported on the BBC.

In December 2017 there was another major conference called the One Planet Conference. Theresa May attended. President Macron of France gave a speech which he wanted the world to hear. He said  “If we decide not to change ….we will be responsible for billions of victims”.  This was totally ignored by the BBC.

In September 2018 the UN Secretary General António Guterres issued a major announcement on climate change in which he explained we are now approaching runaway climate change. He said this is a direct existential threat and we have to act now. Again the BBC completely failed to report it. 

There are many tipping points which we are frighteningly close to. Some may already be unavoidable. Each tipping point reached makes others more likely, making an ever increasing spiral of heating. There is evidence melting permafrost in the Arctic is producing  abrupt increases in emissions of CO2 and methane from the carbon rich soils. Methane is 30 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Ice sheet disintegration in Greenland and the Antarctic will not only lead to higher sea levels and coastal flooding, but could cause major disruption to our current weather patterns. The cool fresh water flowing from the ice into the sea will disrupt ecosystems and further change our weather. In the Amazon there is a danger that current deforestation will lead to hotter, drier conditions with more wildfires, causing dieback of the rainforest and a shift towards savannah. There are many more tipping points. The BBC hardly ever mention them, so are keeping the public in the dark about how serious the situation is.

XR demonstrate at the BBC

Jon’s third point is the economy. The Paris Agreement commits us to paying for negative emissions technologies in the future to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This massive debt will fall on the next generation and is estimated to be as much as £125,000 per person. Add to this the cost of adaption (building flood defences, rebuilding homes to replace those abandoned due to flooding, converting to renewables  etc) and destruction of homes, crops and businesses through extreme weather the cost of doing nothing now is ginormous. But when the BBC interviews advocates of HS2, or road building schemes or Heathrow expansion this economic fact is never mentioned. Clearly any project that increases use of fossil fuels is completely uneconomic. 

The BBC’s pension fund is mainly invested in fossil fuel industries. These will become stranded assets when Governments take the necessary action to stop emissions. So BBC personnel have a self interest in delaying the action we need to combat the climate emergency. Perhaps that is why they are so reluctant to ask the difficult questions. 

But there are signs of hope. David Attenborough’s outstanding documentary A life on our Planet was shown on prime time BBC and although not as hard-hitting as some would have liked, it began to tell the truth about what is happening to our planet.  Women’s Hour interviewed Gail Bradbrook, one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion, and let her explain that we are on course for the death of billions of people.  Panorama has examined how UK weather is becoming more extreme leading to more flooding, loss of crops and people overheating in their own homes that were not designed for the temperatures we are now experiencing. <a href=”https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000pzlx/countryfile-plant-britain?fbclid=IwAR2aEzok21B2LmFZnCWLHmULCe_660XAJOd_YL2pxVwqu1ThFI6ZBBR5KE”>https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000pzlx/countryfile-plant-britain?fbclid=IwAR2aEzok21B2LmFZnCWLHmULCe_660XAJOd_YL2pxVwqu1ThFI6ZBBR5KE</a>Q</p&gt; Countryfile reported that a million species are now at threat of extinction. As I write I am hearing the BBC report that high emitting countries like the UK will be accused of climate genocide if we don’t change course,  by the Prime Minister of Barbados

It is only when the general public realise the massive threat we are facing that they will demand Governments take the necessary emergency action. The BBC must continue to do better and inform us what is happening to our only home, planet earth. 

References

Countryfile

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000pzlx/countryfile-plant-britain?fbclid=IwAR2aEzok21B2LmFZnCWLHmULCe_660XAJOd_YL2pxVwqu1ThFI6ZBBR5KEQ

Jonathon Fuller speech

Womens Hour Gail Bradbrook

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000q3lc?fbclid=IwAR3-fVnAXSpROABDol5XKudKw0PNV_GrFf1HQypB4tSUSoIo5YdIWzJCPzk

Panorama

DEFRA article

Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/07/snow-may-not-settle-in-most-of-uk-by-end-of-century-study-suggests

Tipping Points

Climate tipping points-too risky to bet against

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0

Prime Minister of Barbados

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/high-emitting-countries-committing-climate-genocide-without-bigger-reductions-barbados-pm-says

What should have been in the headlines, but you may have missed.

With the papers concentrating on Covid and the American election, there’s a good chance you may have missed some of the recent news about the climate. Most important must be Donald Trump’s last act as President, to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Fortunately, President-elect Biden has pledged to rejoin as soon as he takes office. Biden’s policy is a target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. He plans for a $1.7tn investment in a green recovery from the Covid crisis, which would reduce US emissions in the next 30 years by about 75 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide or its equivalents. This is great news, but unfortunately, Bidens plans don’t go far enough to keep us safe. 

Boris Johnson has also come up with a 10 point plan to tackle the climate crisis. Nearly as soon as it had been published, it turned into a 9 point plan as the pledges to convert our gas boilers to air and ground source heat pumps by 2023  disappeared! The 10 point plan has been widely criticised for being far too little too late. 

Green MP Caroline Lucas compared the “paltry” sum of new money ( sources disagree on how much this is, but £4 billion seems a fair consensus) with the £27 billion earmarked for roads and the £36 billion being invested in a green recovery in Germany. Compared to Biden’s $1.7 trillion (£1.3 trillion) it is just 0.3% of the American plan.

Green Party leader Jonathan Bartley  commented, “It’s like dialling 999 when your house is on fire, but Boris Johnson turns up hours late with a garden hose.”

 What Biden’s and Johnson’s plans have in common is that they are both aiming to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  A 2050 target means the earth is likely to exceed 2 degrees warming, so there is a great danger that global heating will spiral out of control, as numerous feedback loops kick in.

The goals of the Paris Agreement are to limit warming to “well-below 2C above preindustrial levels” and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C. Unless our politician’s economic plans match what the science is telling us is needed to save us from climate breakdown, they are futile.

Recent global news reveals many continued signs of the planet reaching breaking point.  Temperatures in the arctic this November have been 6.8oC degrees above the average for 1990. Hurricanes are on the increase. Local climate scientist John Grant tweeted “Just read on the NOAA Hurricane Centre website that #Iota is now a hurricane!  It is already a record-breaking storm as it’s the 30th for the Atlantic this year (the largest number ever recorded). Terrifyingly this might NOT be the new normal but the beginning of an ongoing change?”

In the Antarctic, scientists continue to warn of the catastrophic effects we would face if the Thwaites glacier continues to melt. It could lead to a 12-foot increase in sea levels. Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist Jeffrey Severinghaus compares the glacier to a boulder rolling down a hill. It is already being pushed, but soon it could gain its own momentum, and when this happens nothing will be able to stop its fall into the ocean. The scientists say this is not yet inevitable, but it depends on how quickly we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. 

Leading climate scientist  Kevin Anderson says that it is the lifestyles of a relatively wealthy few that gave rise to the lion’s share of emissions.

“Globally the wealthiest 10% are responsible for half of all emissions, the wealthiest 20% for 70% of emissions. If regulations forced the top 10% to cut their emissions to the level of the average EU citizen, and the other 90% made no change in their lifestyles, that would still cut total emissions by a third.

Greta Thunberg recently commented on “Frequent-flying “‘super emitters” who represent just 1% of the world’s population caused half of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018.” 11% of the world’s population flew in 2018. Everyone is not equally responsible for causing the climate crisis. “

We need to do far better than Johnson’s or Biden’s plans. Locally an impressive coalition of Green and Trade Union groups called the Green New Deal UK (South Yorkshire hub), are calling on the Sheffield Regional Mayor Dan Jarvis to invest in our colleges. We need to get  Further Education colleges across the region gearing up now to teach the skills needed for making our existing housing stock energy-efficient, for the nature restoration work to reduce flooding risks and protect biodiversity, and to install and maintain new energy technologies – be that heat pumps, on-shore solar and wind capacity, or zero-emission buses.  Planning for the longer-term future is clearly the right thing to do, but we need to take action now. 

References

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/08/joe-biden-paris-climate-goals-0-1c

Kevin Anderson on Johnson’s 10 point plan

Jonathan Bartley on the 10 point plan

Carbon Brief on Johnson 10 point plan

Arctic temperatures

Johnson pledge vanishes

John Grant on Twitter

Yale Scientists on Thwaites Glacier

Greta Thunberg

Why an inquiry into the street tree debacle is necessary.

Julie Dore eventually gave an apology at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 21st October.  It is an “unreserved apology” but fails to mention many of the things she has done wrong. She says “the dispute shouldn’t have been allowed to get to the point it did” and that the “council’s poor practice in managing the issue did contribute to the opposition to the programme”.

She obviously hopes this will be the end of it, but it can’t end here. Is she sorry for the arrests of peaceful campaigners, the stressful and expensive court cases,  the attempts to imprison and bankrupt campaigners, the false accusations of assault or the assaults on campaigners by Amey security, none of which were investigated?

Is Julie Dore sorry for the way she treated Councillor Alison Teal? I remember the day she was expelled from the Council Chamber, for calling out the lies of the ruling administration. All of the opposition politicians left the chamber to show their solidarity with her.

Alison wrote “Three years ago today I faced the possibility of going to prison for allegedly breaking the Council Injunction to prevent the use of Non Violent Direct Action to protect street trees. The evidence against me was fabricated. Camera angles, altered timings, contributed to the ‘misleading’ picture that Amey and the Labour Council chose to paint. Mr Justice Males heard the evidence against me and then dismissed the case. I didn’t even have to take the stand, and yet, the Council PR spin team said:  “The dismissal of the case against Ms Teal was clearly on a technicality.” Wrong. The case against me was clearly politically motivated. As more of the truth about the depths of their deceit comes to light, the calls for an inquiry will continue to grow. This Labour administration must be held to account for their actions.”

Russell Johnson from Sheffield Tree Action Groups demanded that the Council pay back the costs that had been incurred by campaigners who broke the injunction.  This injunction was designed to stop people protecting the street trees that we now know should never have been targeted for felling. He listed five reasons for compensation to be paid.

1. “The injunctions were granted by the High Court based on dishonest submissions on behalf of, or by, Sheffield City Council.” The court was told the Council was obliged to fell healthy street trees under Highways legislation. This was later shown to be untrue. The court was told that there was ‘wild speculation’ that the Streets Ahead contract called for the removal of half of City’s street trees. Freedom of information requests later revealed that this was true.

2. “The felling of thousands of healthy trees was almost certainly illegal.” The Forestry Commission found that 600 trees may have been felled illegally.  Felling without a licence where it is required is an offence that can result in large fines. Due to the Council’s poor record-keeping and failure to provide information, there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

3. “The grounds invented by Sheffield City Council for ‘last resort’ fellings were largely spurious.” Joint Tree Investigations, where campaigners accompanied Amey personnel to inspect trees, found that most of the trees threatened with felling could be saved with very simple engineering solutions. The Council insisted on felling trees to ensure perfectly straight kerbs, when leaving out a kerbstone would have been a perfectly good alternative. Trees surrounded by big humps of tarmac, assumed to be caused by roots, were actually caused by build-up of tarmac from previous repairs. 

4. “SCC’s approach to decision making and communication was/is deeply flawed.” The Local Government Ombudsman Report found the Council had made misleading responses, misrepresented specialist advice,  listed solutions to retain trees that were not part of the contract with Amey and not considered residents distress and outrage for starting work without warning at 4.30am in the morning.

5. Large sums of public money were squandered on expensive barristers and intimidating peaceful campaigners, both in the use of police, sometimes 30 at a time,  and “bouncers” who were employed to physically prevent members of the public protesting.

Meersbrook Park Road by Russell Johnson

Thousands of pounds were extracted from tree defenders with no legitimacy. If Sheffield Council is sorry, reimbursement of costs will give some credibility to the apology. 

Russell Johnson’s suggestion is that reimbursed monies that had been crowdfunded by tree campaigners should be placed in a new tree planting fund for the City. Tree campaigners have already raised £5000 to plant trees along Abbeydale Road. Hundreds of new trees throughout Sheffield would be a marvellous tribute to the massive efforts to save our glorious street trees. 

Policing at a tree felling by Russell Johnson

Sheffielders are eagerly awaiting  genuine green shoots of a ‘new dawn’ of honest and open governance. An independently chaired Inquiry with full Council cooperation would go a long way to restoring citizens’ confidence.

Footnote

Unfortunately, the Sheffield Telegraph did not publish this article, but Now Then magazine published this update.

References

Julie Dore Apology

https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/it-shouldnt-have-got-point-it-did-sheffield-council-leader-julie-dore-issues-tree-felling-apology-3010911

Review of Tree Investigations

https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/dam/sheffield/docs/roads-and-pavements/managingtrees/Review%20of%20Tree%20Investigations%20Lessons%20Learned%20and%20Actions.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3m3ybpfNATrv_ED7CJ6gHSm1g3m-0YCqPcbimpVQ0tPqfLJ3oo9Tm6Arw

Ombudsman’s Reports

https://www.lgo.org.uk/information-centre/news/2020/oct/council-should-apologise-for-tree-controversy-ombudsman-says

https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/environment-and-regulation/trees/17-016-034

Illegal felling of trees-Forestry Commission

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/five-damning-findings-sheffield-trees-investigation-485487

Abbeydale Road Trees

Alison Teal on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1671181199725629/

Correction-Sheffield City Council Elections

Please can I correct a mistake I made in last week’s column “We must defend democracy“? I stated that next May, two-thirds of the Councillors will need to defend their seats in the Sheffield City Council elections. This is incorrect, as 2021 was due to be a “fallow” year, with no elections. The postponed 2020 election is now due next May, and one-third of the seats will be contested as usual.
This does not change the fact that these elections are crucial, as the ruling Labour group could easily lose control of the Council. The current make up of the Council is Labour 46 seats, Lib Dems 26, Green Party 8, Independent 1. There are currently 3 vacancies, all from previously Labour-held seats. So if 8 seats change hands from Labour to opposition parties, they will lose overall control of the Council.
Many thanks to the sharp-eyed readers that pointed out my mistake.

Sheffield- Where democracy goes to die.

At last, Sheffield City Council has been forced to apologise to the people of the city over its handling of the destruction of thousands of street trees. Forced apologies never seem sincere, especially when the first attempt doesn’t include the word “sorry”. Now Councillor Mark Jones has rephrased his apology and there are even murmurings of a public inquiry. That is what is needed. Those that have lied in court should be facing prosecution, those that were responsible for the lies and malfeasance outlined in the report should resign. Campaigners who risked their liberty to protect street trees should not just receive an apology and compensation for their costs, but should also be honoured by the city. A plaque at the front of the town hall, near the memorial for the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932, would be a great idea!  

A forthcoming book by tree activists Calvin Payne and Simon Crump is eagerly awaited so we can all read the inside story of those on the frontline of the dispute.  

I would be more charitable about the Council apology if it was clear that they had learnt their lesson regarding lack of transparency and openness. Last week I attended my first virtual Sheffield City Council meeting. Having submitted my questions within the 2-day notice, I went fully expecting to hear some answers. I wanted to understand what is happening regarding the plans to build a new dual carriageway from Park Square to Granville Square, through Sheaf Valley Park. I asked

1.What alternative plans are being considered? 

2, Where can these plans be viewed? 

3.How can citizens influence this decision? 

4.Will the Council commit not to build a new dual carriageway?

No answers were forthcoming as Cllr Iqbal was not well. I  hope he is now feeling better. But surely he is not the only one in the cabinet aware of the proposals to spend £1.5 billion on our city centre? I was promised a full written answer, but I am still waiting and have experience of being fobbed off like this before. I suspect, now that the Eastern leg of HS2 has been “paused” the plans for the Sheaf Valley are no longer being considered. But it would be good to hear that from the Council, as well as what alternatives might now be considered.

This might seem bad, but what followed in the Council meeting was extraordinary. The ruling Labour group decided to ban any debates in the Council chamber until next March. They appear to be using the pandemic as an excuse to completely avoid scrutiny of their decisions. With no more debate until the budget in March, the Council are proceeding in a completely dictatorial fashion. This follows the earlier decision to use emergency powers to shut down all scrutiny of executive decisions, so opposition councillors have not been able to question decisions like the massive bailouts to Sheffield International Venues.

Women of Steel statue with placard saying "Sheffield, where democracy goes to die!"

Reaction to this included Green Cllr Paul Turpin tweeting “@SheffLabour deny scrutiny and block all alternate views till after the election next May. No motions. No debate. Nothing that could highlight their failings. This council is a dictatorship. This leader is a dictator.” 

Lib Dem Cllr Joe Otten retweeted It’s Our City. “Today Sheffield Council’s ruling group (voted in by <10% of the electorate) pushed through a vote preventing the city’s councillors from proposing, debating or voting on any decisions until March 2021! Many councils have maintained democracy during the pandemic. Why not Sheffield?

So what is it the Council are so scared to debate that they are willing to impose such draconian measures? 

Is it the cover-up regarding the Hanover Tower cladding? 

Is it the findings of the Ombudsman’s Report on the trees?

Is it the Councils complete inability to address the issues surrounding the Climate Emergency? Since they declared an Emergency in February 2019 they have done very little to reduce emissions. On their website they have written “for Sheffield to make its fair contribution to global climate goals, the city must not exceed a ‘budget’ of 16 million tonnes of carbon emissions over the next 2 decades. At current rates of energy consumption, Sheffield would use this entire budget in less than 6 years.” We have already used one-quarter of the time to sort out this problem, yet progress is not being made. 

Next May, Covid regulations permitting, the Council face elections that will include those seats not contested last May. Also the long-awaited “It’s our City” referendum will take place, challenging the Council’s current “strong leader” model where just 10 Councillors out of 84 have any power to make decisions. Sheffielders must defend democracy in these elections.

Graham Wroe October 2020

This article previously stated two thirds of the Sheffield Council seats will be contested in May 2021. See correction here.

References

Green World

https://greenworld.org.uk/article/sheffield-councillors-undemocratic-use-covid-19-powers

Yorkshire Post on Ombudsman’s Report

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-council-misled-public-and-acted-lack-honesty-over-tree-felling-scandal-damning-investigation-finds-3002854

Hanover Tower cladding

Labour are afraid of scrutiny

Yorkshire Post article on the tree apology

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-council-misled-public-and-acted-lack-honesty-over-tree-felling-scandal-damning-investigation-finds-3002854

Questions to Council concerning the planned new ring road.

I went to Full Council this afternoon to ask these questions.

In the Draft Development Framework, there are plans to build a new dual carriageway from Park Square to Granville Square, behind the station through Sheaf Valley Park. This will be extremely unpopular with the residents of Park Hill and Norfolk Park, due to increased noise and air pollution, the decrease of walking routes into town, the loss of green space and the end of the useful life of the Amphitheatre which would now be so close to a noisy road, audiences would not be able to hear performers. A petition against the road proposal was launched very recently and already has 639 signatures. The petition is here. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/…/stop-the-new-dual…A Council that was serious about the climate emergency would not be considering such a proposal. A new dual carriageway will encourage more drivers to drive. What we need to do is improve the public transport system to encourage drivers to leave their cars at home. Swopping the tram and the road routes will do very little to improve public transport.

1.What alternative plans are being considered?

2, Where can these plans be viewed?

3.How can citizens influence this decision?

4.Please, give a commitment not to build a new dual carriageway today.

Unfortunately no answers were forthcoming. The reason given for this was Cllr Mazher Iqbal was not well, so was not able to answer. Surely the leader of the Council could have answered on his behalf, especially as all questions have to be submitted at least 2 days before the meeting. I have been promised a full written response, was will keep you all informed.

Graham Wroe at Sheaf Valley Park with trees that may be felled to make way for the ring road.

Stop the new dual carriageway in Sheffield

A new dual carriageway is being proposed, to run from Park Square to Granville Square, behind the station through Sheaf Valley Park. It is part of a £1.5 billion scheme to revamp the Sheaf Valley area of the city centre. 

Map of new road

City planners have had the gall to proclaim that this will help meet our climate targets! Although the aims for pedestrianised streets and better public transport to the front of the station are laudable, to say that a new road will reduce emissions is laughable. The carbon footprint of the building plans will be humongous. The construction industry accounts for an incredible 36% of worldwide energy usage, and 40% of our CO2 emissions. Swapping the tram tracks for dual carriageway behind the station and vice versa in front of the station will be massively expensive in terms of money, carbon emissions and disruption to the public, but will give no real improvement to the transport system. Demolishing the relatively new Cross Turner Street car park, only to rebuild it at Granville Square, is wasteful not only in money but in the carbon already embodied in the building.

Any big transport plan should encourage drivers to opt for less polluting means of transport, be it tram, bus, train, bike or walking. Only reducing traffic will lead to fewer emissions which needs a carrot and stick approach. 

The carrot should be looking at expanding the tram and rail systems, reopening old stations like Heeley and Stocksbridge, and expanding the tram network to where people want to travel, such as the hospitals and the commuter belt, bringing the transport system under Council control and subsidising fares. Only then will people start to leave their car at home. The stick would be introducing road pricing, to discourage driving in polluted areas like the city centre at peak times. The Council are discussing their Clean Air Zone, but they are only proposing charging taxis and buses, not the cars which make up the majority of the traffic. Sheffield should also consider a workplace parking levy that has worked very successfully in Nottingham.

Residents in Park Hill and Norfolk Park will be faced with the pollution and noise from the new road. Sheffield Station is one of the most polluted places in the country, especially for Nitrogen Dioxide as the diesel fumes from the trains and taxis combine with the road traffic. NO2 is responsible for increasing lung problems, asthma, cancer and stillbirths. Moving the road may move some of this pollution away from the front of the station, but it will be closer to the residents of Park Hill and Norfolk Park. A sensible solution would stop the pollution, not move it from one place to another. 

Covid has dramatically changed our city. The aftermath of the illness is leaving many with respiratory problems. Covid has, however, had some positive effects. Businesses have found that many of their workers can work from home, and do so very productively. Why then are the Council proposing building even more new office blocks? The green space at Park Square roundabout for instance, where I recently watched a kestrel,  will be filled with office blocks between 10 and 14 storeys tall. Where is the demand for these offices?

The new road will cut deep into Sheaf Valley Park, presumably taking out many of the trees that have been planted in recent years. It will ruin the Amphitheatre, as the road will be so close to it that audiences will no longer be able to hear the performers. Now the survival of theatres is seriously threatened, this outdoor performing space should be greatly valued.  Open-air performances are far safer than in the theatres. 

A Handlebards production at Sheaf Valley Amphitheatre

The scheme is being proposed to accommodate the hugely destructive HS2 project. Only this week HS2 destroyed a 300-year-old oak tree at Hunningham. The tree wasn’t even in the path of the track, it was felled to make way for a service road. Throughout the length of the route, tree protectors are currently camped out to try to save nature, but they are meeting strong and sometimes extremely dangerous force from security,  ensuring the destruction continues. HS2 is the most expensive and environmentally destructive infrastructure project in UK history. The project is set to destroy 108 ancient woodlands and almost 700 wildlife sites. As well as costing the UK taxpayer well over £200 billion, the high-speed rail project is causing extensive and irreversible damage to the environment and will be a vast new source of carbon emissions for at least the next 120 years. The money would be far better spent on improving local transport, making it sensible for commuters to leave their cars at home. Don’t let HS2 ruin Sheaf Valley Park.

If you are opposed to the dual carriageway please sign the petition here. http://bit.ly/stopringroad

References

Draft Development Framework

 The construction industry accounts for an incredible 36% of worldwide energy usage, and 40% of CO2 emissions.

https://www.british-assessment.co.uk/insights/what-is-sustainable-construction-and-why-is-it-important/

Recycle and reuse buildings to curb climate change, report insists

https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2020/02/recyle-and-reuse-buildings-to-curb-climate-change-report-insists/

Clean Air Zone

https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/pollution-nuisance/clean-air-zone

Work place parking levy. Nottingham City Council

http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/wpl

Government Committee on the Medical effects of Air Pollutants

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411756/COMEAP_The_evidence_for_the_effects_of_nitrogen_dioxide.pdf.

HS2 Rebellion

Stop HS2

Cabinet Minutes (see point 18)

Another day, another ancient tree felled: 300-year-old Hunningham Oak near Leamington is knocked down to make way for HS2https://www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/news/environment/another-day-another-ancient-tree-felled-300-year-old-hunningham-oak-near-leamington-knocked-down-make-way-hs2-2984031

Do we really have a free press?

Extinction Rebellion has taken a great deal of flack recently, for preventing Rupert Murdoch’s papers from leaving the printers on 3rd September. Much of the argument has concentrated on the assertion that it is anti-democratic to disrupt the free press. But do we really have a free press in this country? 

 Empty newspaper shelves in Sheffield containing XR leaflets. Thanks to Luke for the photo.

Five billionaires control approximately 80% of our media. Rupert Murdoch runs the Times and the Sunday Times, The Sun and the Sun on Sunday. He lives in the States and avoids paying tax in the UK. His papers consistently support the Conservative Party in elections (apart from Scotland where they support the SNP). Murdoch has financial interests in oil, and his News Corporation often spread mistruths about renewable energy. Even his own son, James, has criticised News Corp for downplaying the impact the climate crisis is having, particularly in spreading forest fires in Australia. He and his wife, Kathryn, issued a joint statement directly criticising his father’s businesses for their “ongoing denial” on the issue, which has been reflected in the family’s newspapers, repeatedly casting doubt on the link between the climate emergency and the forest fires. These fires resulted in the death of 2 billion animals. 

Most of our press is anything but “free”. It has continually ignored the climate crisis, and when it has mentioned climate change it has confused and misinformed us about the threat we face. This has delayed the action Governments need to take to prevent us from hurtling towards extinction.   

Rupert Read from Extinction Rebellion said “we caused a tiny disruption, to warn about the vast, permanent disruption that’s coming if humanity doesn’t completely change path. We need to drastically re-localise our world, to protect ourselves against climate-chaos and coronaviruses alike.”

What XR did in Broxbourne, Knowsley and Glasgow was a huge shock to the super-rich tax-exiles who largely control the press. Rupert Murdoch wants you to be angry at XR, while he pretends that global heating is not wrecking our world. 

All three party leaders condemned the XR action, with Kier Starmer the Labour leader saying “the free press is the cornerstone of democracy and we must do all we can to protect it.” Green politicians defended XR, with former MEP Molly Scott-Cato saying “A genuinely free press means one where all views have open access. This is why the Green Party will campaign to restrict ownership so that no individual or company owns more than 20 per cent of a media market”.

After the protest, government briefings proposed classifying XR as an “organised crime group” threatening peaceful protestors with 5 years in prison. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel said: “The very criminals who disrupt our free society must be stopped and together we must all stand firm against the guerilla tactics of Extinction Rebellion.” But Shahrar Ali, Green Party home affairs spokesperson, said: “Patel may not like XR’s tactics but her threat to criminalise them is disproportionate in the extreme. We must fight for the democratic right of all to demonstrate peacefully.” 

Ironically these government threats came in the same week as the Prime Minister proposed the Internal Market Bill, which will break international law. 

In my view, it’s the press barons, not the protestors, who are the criminals. They know that the UN Secretary-General has warned the public that we now face “runaway climate change” and said this is “a direct existential threat”. They know that NASA has revised their forecasts for the ice-free Arctic Ocean from the 2060s to the year 2034, indicating that we are now approaching climate breakdown. They know that Prof Sir David King has warned that billions of people could be killed. And they know that specialists, like Sir David Attenborough, warn we risk the runaway effect within around 20 years, which would cause a collapse in the food supply, which risks the collapse of civilisation.

The press barons are also well aware that MPs have decided that the vast cost of stabilising climate, through yet to be invented negative emissions technologies, must fall upon the young. The Paris COP21 agreement means that the young will have to pay to remove all the CO2 now being emitted and do so between 2050 and 2100. This war on the young is hidden by most media outlets.

Despite knowing that billions of people will be killed unless we make dramatic and immediate cuts to emissions, the press barons lobby relentlessly for the maintenance of high carbon lifestyles, even supporting the expansion of aviation. Their papers incite politicians to deliver policies that will cause mass loss of life and suppress the information the young need to defend themselves against those who will make their future deadly. The press barons are far closer to the definition of “terrorist” than any of the peaceful protestors who were willingly arrested to bring attention to this planetary crisis. 

Here is a video made by those on the protest. Please excuse the strong language which I think is justified in this case. Also see this statement from XR North here.

References

Five reasons why we don’t have a free press. Open Democracy.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/five-reasons-why-we-don-t-have-free-and-independent-press-in-uk-and-what-we-can-do-about/

https://reneweconomy.com.au/why-the-murdoch-media-hates-renewable-energy-so-much-43022/

James Murdoch criticises father’s news outlets for climate crisis denial https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jan/14/james-murdoch-criticises-fathers-news-outlets-for-climate-crisis-denial

Rupert Murdoch says ‘no climate change deniers around’ – but his writers prove him wrong https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/15/rupert-murdoch-says-no-climate-change-deniers-around-but-his-writers-prove-him-wrong

Rupert Read:  One day’s disruption, a tiny price to pay for our future?

https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/prof-rupert-read-why-extinction-rebellion-targeted-print-works-1-6825944

XR: “Spine-chilling” and “Stalinist” – Baroness, MPs and former counter-terrorism policeman speak out against reclassifying Extinction Rebellion as serious organised crime

Extinction Rebellion ‘criminals’ threaten UK way of life, says Priti Patel https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/08/extinction-rebellion-criminals-threaten-uks-way-of-life-says-priti-patel

Alan Storey in Green World: XR printers blockade: How free is our free press?

https://greenworld.org.uk/article/xr-printers-blockade-how-free-our-free-press

Priti Patel in the Independent

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/priti-patel-extinction-rebellion-newspapers-protest-sun-climate-crisis-b418295.html

UK Government formerly warned over lack of Press Freedom by Council of Europe

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/press-freedom-uk-government-council-europe-alert-boris-johnson-priti-patel-a9706741.html

What do West Ham, Southampton, Chelsea and Norwich City have in common?

(A letter to the Star and Telegraph)

Football fans, what do West Ham, Southampton, Chelsea and Norwich City have in common? They are the 4 Premier League clubs who will be at risk of flooding every season within the next 3 decades. A report by the Rapid Transition Alliance found that a quarter of all football league grounds will be regularly threatened with flooding due to the climate crisis. In the Championship there are seven grounds threatened, including Hull’s KCOM Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium, both of which are predicted to be entirely underwater by 2050. Nearer to home, Doncaster Rover’s Keepmoat stadium can expect an annual partial flood by 2050.

International sporting competitions have already been affected by climate events. 2019’s Rugby World Cup was hit by a typhoon and this year’s Australian Open was affected by smoke from the region’s bush fires. With Arctic ice now melting rapidly, we can expect things to get far worse. 

Footballers are currently doing a great job to bring peoples attention to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Which star will do for the climate crisis what Marcus Rashford is doing for child poverty? My recent letters to the directors of SUFC and SWFC (which were published in the Sheffield Telegraph) have so far gone unanswered, but I continue to hope that they will up their game and be a powerful force within the sport to highlight the urgent action needed to prevent climate catastrophe.  

Graham Wroe

Full report here