Sunday, 17 July 2016

Our new environment secretary

With the change in leadership of the country following the Referendum we now have a new minister for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Ignoring that fact that I fundamentally disagree with the lumping together of the environment with food and rural affairs I thought I ought to take a moment to reflect on this new appointment.

We have had poor luck in this appointment in the past, the last two ministers  (Liz Truss and Owen Patterson) have presided over a department that maintained the status quo and it is hard to find any positive things they did for the environment, we all remember the introduction of the badger cull and the proposal to sell off the forests, the list goes on.

It lies with Andrea Leadsom to break this mold and shows us a minister who actually wants to improve the environment and not just watch it from the sidelines whilst drawing a pay check.
So who exactly is this Brexiteer conservative leader candidate.

She is a relatively new MP having only joined parliament in 2010. This inexperience is not something I hold against her. She was previously an Energy Minister which at least has some relation to environmental matters.

I decided to try and pick apart her voting record to look for pointers:

Voted in favour of a Green Investment Bank twice  
Voted against reducing carbon emissions to 20% of 1990 levels
Voted to reform the energy market to reduce carbon dioxide emissions twice
Voted not to exempt electricity generation plants using carbon storage from carbon emission limits
Voted against setting a target range for the amount of carbon dioxide per unit price of electricity generation
Voted to apply the climate change levy to electricity generated from renewable sources twice
Voted against charging 1st year vehicle tax based on emissions
Voted against a decarbonisation target
Voted not to reduce permitted carbon dioxide rates in new homes
Voted in favour of selling public forests in 2011
Voted for high taxes on planes 
Voted in favour of the Badger Cull twice
Voted against explicit need for environmental permits for fracking
Voted for a more extensive set of conditions to be put in place prior to fracking
Voted for more restrictions on fracking in National Parks and AONB's

This is quite a confusing list on the face of it, there seems to be significant good and bad votes here. This could mean that Andrea is open to constructive advice and that she at least considers matters before voting rather than sitting solidly behind an opinion and refusing to change her position. This could work both ways.

What does this mean for the environment..? To be honest I m not sure, Andrea however needs to be given the benefit of the doubt for now. The biggest thing I want Andrea to accept is the need to weigh scientific advice more highly than previous ministers have and to leave the economy to the business and treasury, her role is to safeguard the environment and the rural community.

I will be writing to Andrea this week to urge her to consider some matters, mostly those I have raised in previous blogs such as Brexit -what now for nature conservation?

I would like everyone that reads this blog to write to her and to get your friends to do likewise, lets make the department more environmentally aware again.

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