Over the summer I wrote to people who had been in touch with me about climate change, the environment and animal rights issues. I told them about the work I had been doing in Parliament on these subjects, and asked them to complete a survey so that I could understand priority areas and hear more about their ideas for future action.

Top Environmental Priorities

I asked people to choose their top environmental priority. Tackling climate change was the most important option; selected by 71.96% of people. The next most popular option was “protecting local wildlife” with 9.35% of the vote. Of course, urgent action on climate change will also create positive change for our wildlife, water, and green industries.

The survey asked about your top environmental priorities
The survey asked about your top environmental priorities

Individual & Government Responsibility

The survey asked “how willing are you to change your lifestyle to protect the environment?” Most people said that they were either “extremely willing” (47.66%) or “very willing” (45.79%) to make lifestyle changes for the sake of the environment.

The following question, “should adopting a greener lifestyle be voluntary, or should governments intervene in personal consumer choices” had a similarly weighted response. 91.59% said that they though governments should intervene. Government intervention in this context would include measures such as banning plastic straws, or the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags.

The answers to these two questions suggest that a two-pronged approach to green issues is really important, combining education and personal responsibility with government legislation to tackle environmental challenges. Your feedback on this survey highlighted that people want to make consumer choices that are good for the environment, but are finding it increasingly difficult to do so – this was mentioned frequently in relation to plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables at supermarkets.

What Changes Do You Want To See?

The next question was completely open, and asked people to share their own ideas for protecting the environment, including what new measures they would like to see introduced, or anything harmful to the environment that they would like to put a stop to.

Your ideas covered everything from removing single-use plastics, to tree planting, green building regulations, investment in renewables, improved waste management facilities, ending fossil fuel subsidies, improving public transport networks to reduce car usage, and regulating industry to reduce non-recyclable waste. I will continue to prioritise these issues when Parliament returns from prorogation.

Here’s a snippet of what you suggested:

Agriculture

“More help for sustainable, organic farmers”

“greater incentives for farmers to farm in less intensive, more sustainable ways, e.g. wild areas, herbal leys, fallow fields, natural meadows

“Ban factory farming”

“More tree planting with thickets at edges on marginal farmland”

Building & Planning

“Put the environment first. Green building regulations – new builds should be passive houses.”

“Build on brownfield sites before greenfield sites.”

“Make new housing environmentally friendly including less ground coverage of concrete etc. Protect green spaces. Protect access to the countryside.”

“When building new property I would like it to be compulsory that something is put in place for nature e.g. trees, bird/bat boxes, green spaces that are looked after and not just left to deteriorate.”

“Solar panels designed as a roof not as an addition to a roof. Over time reduction in electricity demand would be colossal.”

Education

“David Attenborough has done a brilliant job in bringing the problem of plastic to public attention, and it has resulted in action. There are other problems that are no as obvious so may be harder to tackle. If more people were aware of the effect of methane on the atmosphere, would they reduce their meat/dairy consumption?”

Energy

“End fracking, opencast coal, oil exploration. Promote tidal energy, flood prevention, tree planting”

“Subsidise green power not fossil fuels”

“Stop fossil fuel subsidies! Continue to lobby government toward anti-fracking”

“1. Ban oil exploration. 2. End subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. 3. Resume subsidies for renewable energy. 4. invest in technologies needed to make renewables a reality (e.g. energy storage, smart grid, hydrogen fuel cells)”

Plastics

“Reduce plastic in supermarkets/manufacturing”

“Legislation to restrict and eliminate single use plastics”

“Dealing with plastic pollution e.g. using cartons instead of plastic bottles. Challenging industry to find alternatives to plastics in their products.”

“Plastic bottle deposit scheme”

Regulation of Industry

“Manufacturers and suppliers should ensure all packaging is recyclable”

“Tackle fast fashion”

“Fast food outlets should have to be more responsible for their packaging and litter.”

Transport

“Investment in railways. Make travelling by train cheaper and better in the North East. Make electric cars more affordable, e.g. scrappage schemes.”

“Who needs to drive a car in London when there is such an efficient public transport system? The rest of the country needs investment in public transport systems so we do not have to rely so heavily on private cars.”

“Climate change should underpin all decisions in transport, construction etc. Increased subsidies for electric vehicles and public investment in comprehensive charging network.”

“Discontinue subsidy on airline fuel”

Waste Management

“We need to take responsiblity for our own waste instead of shipping it to developing countries.”

“Business should be subsides to recycle not penalised by being charged extortionate rates to collect recycling.”

“Better information about recycling, increased recycling facilities, make it easier to recycle, especially plastics.”

Action In Parliament

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and we must take meaningful action on this quickly. I was proud to support the motion declaring a Climate Emergency, and have spoken in Parliament to advocate for stronger, legally binding international targets to cut carbon emissions.

I have called for investment in our local geothermal resources. This would create a green energy industry across our former coalfields, extracting heat energy from mine-water. This summer, I was elected Vice-Chair of a brand new All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sustainable Clothing and Textiles. I have also spoken about ocean conservation, extreme weather and polar ice melt.

However, we need action – not more warm words. It’s time for a Green Industrial Revolution.

Labour’s plan for a Green Industrial Revolution will build clean energy for the many, kick-start growth and tackle climate change:

  • Creating over 400,000 good, sustainable jobs
  • Installing solar panels on nearly 2 million homes
  • Investing in public transport across the country
  • Creating a new Clean Air Act
  • Net zero emissions before 2020

Labour have published an environment policy document, The Green Transformation, which establishes tackling climate change, creating high air and water quality, and reversing biodiversity decline as three priority areas. These policies will be enacted based on the latest science, with scale and scope defined by what is necessary, not by political compromise.

Action in Bishop Auckland Constituency

There is a lot that you, as an individual, business or organisation, can do to put the environment on the local agenda and take action against climate change.

  1. Sign up to Durham County Council’s Single Use Plastic Pledge
  2. Join Bishop Auckland Climate Action Group
  3. Complete the Green Industrial Revolution Consultation (open until 31st December 2019).
Helen attended the Bishop Auckland climate strike
Helen attended the Bishop Auckland climate strike
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