COP26 Open Letter to my MP (1 year on)
In August 2021, I wrote the following open letter to my MP ahead of COP26. I’ve sat on it a year as I’m not sure what response I would get from those who read my blog to my views on changes that are required to reduce emmissions, but given the unprecedented heatwave we have had this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that not publishing is worse.
From: Victoria Scales
Sent: August 9 2021
To: HEALD, Oliver
CC: Steve Jarvis
(Open letter – will also be published on my blog along with any responses received)
Dear Sir Oliver Heald MP,
I’m writing to you this time with a completely personal plea rather than through a Greenpeace or 38 Degrees campaign. I suspect I’ll get a stock answer back, but I have to try…
We are now less than 100 days from possibly one of the most important summits of our lifetimes – I’m talking about COP26 of course.
I’ve believed for a good two decades that humankind is on a course for destroying our own planet. I’ve made crucial differences in how I consume electricity, the car I drive and how much I recycle. I have tried to educate others and encourage uptake of emerging green technologies, but without the government encouraging (and in some cases forcing) others to do the same, I believe we are on course for a world that in 20 years will not be recognisable to us now.
Back in 2011 I bought solar panels for our house even though I had to take out a loan and never thought I’d get my money back. I did so because I was horrified to learn we as a family consumed twice the average household’s electricity usage despite only being a family of four. The solar panels have reduced our electricity consumption by around 50% and saved nearly 5,000kg* of carbon dioxide! It amazes me that the government hasn’t made solar panels on every new build house a mandatory requirement!
I want to see the government make solar panels a mandatory requirement on all new build houses. Make housebuilders fill the available roof space on all East to West through south facing rooves.
I want to see the government set a date by which open fires and wood burning stoves usage will be banned. As much as I love to sit round an open fire – we have one at home – in order to reduce emissions and switch to cleaner heating sources, I think it’s time we ban these methods of heating. Perhaps an incentive to scrap a wood burning stove or permanently block up a chimney and remove the chimney stack would be in order?
In 2018, when electric cars weren’t very popular (they still aren’t which boggles my mind!), I bought an electric car. Although it cost me a lot of money compared to my first car (that it replaced, having driven that car pretty much to its limit – 165,000 miles), the benefit of reduced emissions per mile was the primary reason for purchasing it. At times I can run the car at zero (yes zero) grams of carbon dioxide per mile, having charged it from my spare solar power or on particularly windy days when the grid is being powered by 100% renewable energy sources. The government should be setting the trend and travelling and buying ULE vehicles for government and personal use. Government spokespersons saying they’d prefer to drive a 3rd hand diesel car does set the wrong tone in a year when we say we are serious about making a difference in the fight against climate change…
I want to see the government bringing forward the date by which cars and vans must be zero emissions at the tailpipe to 2030. Allowing companies to produce plugins and hybrids past 2030 seems unnecessary given the speed of new technology coming onto the market – it merely allows companies which in the past have produced high polluting cars to continue to do so for another 5 years.
I want to see the government set a deadline of 2035 (at the latest) by which all HGVs need to be zero emissions from the tailpipe and setup a strategy in the next year on how the UK will setup enough hydrogen refuelling stations plug generate the necessary hydrogen from zero emission energy sources.
I also want to see the government increase the take up of cycling by building more cycle lanes, making town centres no go areas for cars and vans to encourage people to walk, cycle or take public transport.
In 2019, I tried to add another solar array to my house to reduce our usage to net zero but the DNO refused the application for a 6kWp array because the infrastructure locally couldn’t take the extra load… (I was allowed 2kWp but for the money, it wasn’t worth the investment) When we’re being encouraged to reduce our consumption, it’s seems illogical to me to be denied the opportunity to install as many solar panels as I want on my roof because of ageing power infrastructure.
I want to see the government set out a strategy for upgrading our aging electric network, allowing for more renewable generation sources to be added to homes and commercial buildings.
I want the government to make it mandatory for new tarmac carparks to have overhead solar panels to generate electricity or require they have a green roof that is checked yearly to make sure it’s still alive! Car parks are an underutilised area of space in our country that could be used to generate electricity or provide a haven for insects.
For over six years we collected type 4 plastic in a large box in the loft and every year, we took the plastic to a company called Polyprint in Norfolk who accepted public dropoffs and recycled it. We did this to reduce the amount of plastic we sent to landfill partly because it was the right thing to do but mostly because a box as big as me, full of plastic being thrown away each year was a shocking thought. Unfortunately Polyprint no longer accept public dropoffs and that plastic now goes to Tesco who haven’t exactly had the best of press this year for what they do with that recycling… (shipping it to Turkey where it’s burnt).
I want the government to make it mandatory for businesses to recycle packaging waste within the UK rather than ship the problem abroad.
I want to see the government restricting what can be shipped abroad to be “recycled” and making the list of companies and the type of waste they have exported available publicly online for all to scrutinise.
I want the government to set high standards on how much recycled material must be used in new goods and items of 50% by 2030.
And I also want the government to ban supermarkets putting fresh fruit and veg in single use plastic bags or tubs!
There isn’t much in this household that we don’t recycle. I remember from my early childhood going with mum and dad to the local recycling banks and throwing glass bottles into the box. We know though that we need to do more – we aren’t perfect. There are many things the British public needs to be encouraged to change about the ways they travel, eat and consume. Some of those conversations are going to upset people… but if we keep on consuming more than the planet can cope with, we will eventually ruin our only planet and there is no plan[et] B…
Three years ago, whilst at a colleague’s leaving lunch and discussing climate change with some climate change denying colleagues, one of my colleagues said to them “can you afford to be wrong?”. I do believe this is the year where that quote has a lot more meaning than it did in past years. Future generations will look back on the government’s pledges from COP26 as well as its actions right now. Do you think those actions are good enough?
* Based on 3400kWh times ten years times an average of 145g of CO2 per kWh if consumed from the grid
From: HEALD, Oliver
Sent: 11 August 2021
To: Victoria Scales
Tackling climate change is the top priority of the Government and we have been leading the way internationally. Below are a list of some achievements, but there is much more to do, not least to persuade other countries to join in this huge task.
You can follow my own activities https://www.oliverheald.com/campaigns/olivers-eco-news-tips-and-green-guide
Rt Hon Sir Oliver Heald QC MP
Member of Parliament for North East Hertfordshire
Solar panels and renewable energy:
- Solar: The solar capacity in the UK increased from 5.4 GW in 2014 to 13.4GW in January 2020. There were 992,065 new solar panel installations under the Feed-in Tariff. The UK also broke the all-time peak generation record for solar in April 2020, with a peak of 9.68 GW. The CCC projects that 40GW of installed solar capacity will be needed by 2030 to keep on track to achieve net zero by 2050. Installing solar panels currently costs around £5,000, but will generate power for the household for 9p/kWh, 6p less than buying power from the grid (15p/kWh).
- Renewable energy has been a Conservative success story: The UK’s electricity supply has been transformed over the past decade. Renewables share of electricity generation was 41.6 per cent in Quarter 1 2021, the third highest quarterly share on record. Renewables have now generated more than fossil fuels in four of the last five quarters. Meanwhile, coal has fallen from 40% of the generation mix in 2010 to under 2% now. The mainstay of Britain’s future energy mix, offshore wind, is set to power more than 30% of British electricity by 2030.
Fires and wood burning stoves:
- Restrictions on the sale of coal, wet wood and manufactured solid fuels for burning in the home came into force on 1 May. People with log burners and open fires can still use them, but will be required to buy cleaner alternative fuels – if they are not already – such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels which produce less smoke. Burning dry wood also produces more heat and less soot than wet wood and can reduce emissions by up to 50%.
- A 2030 phase-out date: Accelerating the shift to EVs was point four of the Prime Minister’s plan at the end of last year. The headlining policy of a 2030 phase-out date for petrol and diesel vehicles is being supported by an accompanying package of £2.8 billion (comprising the three below policies). It’s a world-leading policy which brought forward the phase-out date ten years earlier than planned (hybrids will remain on sale until 2035). It reflected the Climate Change Committee’s favoured and most ambitious recommendation.
- Electrification of supply chains: The government’s supporting package for the 2030 phase-out includes £1 billion to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains, including developing gigafactories in the UK to produce the batteries needed at scale (Britishvolt is building the UK’s first gigafactory in Northumberland, while a planned £2billion battery production facility will create thousands of jobs in the West Midlands). The government has committed the first £500m of this investment through the Automotive Transformation Fund to put the UK at the forefront of the design, development, and manufacturing of EVs.
- Chargepoint infrastructure investment: The package also contains £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure, targeting support on rapid charge points on motorways and major roads to dash any anxiety around long journeys, and installing more on-street charge points near homes and workplaces to make charging as easy as refuelling a petrol or diesel car. The charging network has increased to 25,000 charge points
- Consultations: Government is consulting on a Zero Emission Mandate to encourage car manufacturers to expand their range of EVs
- EV take up: EVs now account for 10% of UK car sales.
- Gear Change: The government’s walking and cycling plan will invest £2billion over the next 5 years to increase cycling and walking infrastructure. The Government has committed to making active travel options the natural first choice for many journeys, with half of all journeys in towns and cities being cycled or walked by 2030.
- Phase out consultation: The government is consulting on a phase out date for sale of non-zero emission HGVs and encouraging a modal shift for freight from road to more sustainable options like rail and inland waterways.
Waste and recycling:
- Plastic waste exports: The Environment Bill includes a power which will enable the government to deliver its manifesto pledge to ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries.
- Deposit return scheme (DRS): The Environment Bill will give ministers powers to introduce charges on single use plastic items. There will also be new powers to ensure producers take responsibility for their waste, as well as powers to ensure a consistent approach to recycling, tackle waste crime, and more effectively enforce littering offences. scope of the scheme will be established following the second consultation which closed on 4 June 2021. The Government is yet to decide whether it will adopt an ‘on-the-go’ system, which will exclude certain containers above a particular size, or an ‘all-in’ system which will capture all containers. CPRE are calling for an ‘all-in’ DRS which would capture more than three times as many containers as an ‘on-the-go’ system, and have a 20 times greater net economic benefit.
Other measures in the Environment Bill: The Bill will give ministers powers to introduce charges on single use plastic items. There will also be new powers to ensure producers take responsibility for their waste, as well as powers to ensure a consistent approach to recycling, tackle waste crime, and more effectively enforce littering offences.
COP26: As you know, the UK will host COP26 in November. We go into that conference with world-leading targets to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035 (on 1990 levels), building on our strong record of cutting emissions by nearly 50% already since 1990. While I agree with you that we have much more to do, other countries look to the UK’s leadership on this issue and most lag a long way behind us in cutting emissions. In addition to domestic action, we have a huge task in driving ambition across the world on many of the issues you mention – if every country committed to the same targets as the UK, and bold action like banning the sale of diesel cars or the use of coal for power, the world would be on a significantly better course.