The main event at last night’s council meeting was a debate on climate change.
Labour member Bassam Mahfouz had put up a motion as follows:
This Council welcomes the Government’s pioneering Climate Change Bill which has now been released in draft form for consultation.
It notes and welcomes the Council’s decision to sign the Nottingham Declaration.
It moves to encourage the residents of Ealing to take steps that will help make a difference in tackling climate change.
The Conservative group were broadly supportive of this motion but did have problems with the Government’s Climate Change Bill. The problems are more than just point scoring. This draft bill is seriously flawed. See some comments on the bill here and here.
Three major flaws are:
- the bill proposes fixed five year targets. This is inflexible and dumb. What if we are overperforming? By law we would not be able to make the targets tougher. The Conservatives propose rolling targets
- the targets would be set by Government not an independent body – the current government has made no progress on reducing CO2 emissions in ten years in power. We need an independent body to drive the process
- the proposed independent committee, set up to merely monitor progress rather than to set targets, would be appointed by the Secretary of State so not exactly independent then.
The Ealing Conservative group accepted the last two paragraphs of Mahfouz’s motion but wanted the first paragraph to read:
This Council welcomes the principles behind the Government’s Climate Change Bill which has now been released in draft form, and we look forward to the final version which we hope will include a system of annual targets, scrutiny procedures to check on progress, and the establishment of an independent body to set, monitor and enforce these targets, taking the politics out of climate change.
Mahfouz used the platform offered by proposing this motion to witter on about how green the London Mayor was. He specifically mentioned the Congestion Charge and the Low Emission Zone, neither of which was conceived as CO2 mitigation schemes and were thus irrelevant to the debate.
New Tory councillor Greg Stafford made an excellent maiden speech. He had clearly done his homework and was able to critique the bill in detail. He dwelt in particular with the draft bill’s monitoring committee with it membership appointed by the Government.
I had not intended to speak on this matter until I heard Mahfouz’s attempts to talk up Livingstone’s green credentials. I pointed out that the Congestion Charge had wasted pretty much all the Â£930 million collected, it had nothing to do with climate change or it would not have been called a Congestion Charge and that the Mayor had spent Â£1.1137 million trying to rebrand it is as a climate change measure, in reality just electioneering paid for by us.
Similarly the Low Emission Zone has nothing to do with climate change. It is an expensive and inefficient health measure designed to bring down levels of NOX and particulates and bring forward by a few years health benefits that would accrue automatically in any case as commercial vehicles are replaced with more up to-date vehicles.
By all means let us tackle climate change but the Mayor’s schemes are irrelevant and a waste of money.
In the end the Conservative Group voted for the Conservative motion with both the Labour and LibDem groups voting against. This then became the substantive motion which was unaminously agreed.