SEAMU.S. DARK: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Seamus Dark, coming to you from London. Today is the 29th of April, 2017, when the People’s Climate Movement in the United States will be marching and protesting in Washington DC against what they perceive to be their government’s dark and dangerous vision for America.
In the UK and only a few weeks away from a general election, hundreds of people are gathering here by the Houses of Parliament to send out a warning that Theresa May and her government may well be following Donald Trump down the road to climate disaster. Today protestors will be forming a human chain across Westminster Bridge, with giant placards spelling out the message “Trump and May: Climate Disaster”.
I’m with Susanne Jeffrey who is Chair of the Campaign against Climate Change. Susanne, can you tell us a little bit more about what’s happening today?
SU.S.ANNE JEFFREY: Yes, today we’re here in solidarity with the U.S. Climate Movement, who is going to be on the streets protesting out of the fear of what Trump will mean in terms of the climate. He’s made some very clear pronouncements that he regards climate as irrelevant and the kind of policies he intends to pursue are policies that will further wreck the climate through use of fossil fuels.
So, we’re here in solidarity but we also have a general election in the UK, and it’s clear that the government — Theresa May’s government, and the government before it have back-tracked on any of the kind of policies which will help us solve this crisis. They’re pushing ahead with fracking, a new third runway at Heathrow. And these are the kinds of policies, which will just increase our emissions and they’ll do nothing to solve the problem.
So, we want to send a loud and clear message that the climate matters, the people that live on the planet matter, and it’s time for the action that is going to tackle these problems.
SEAMU.S. DARK: And do you have any other activities planned for this year with the Campaign against Climate Change?
SU.S.ANNE JEFFREY: So, we do think that the protest movement is very important. The protest movement, people being on the streets, ensures that we are seen to be greater than the sum of our parts. It’s a very empowering experience to be with other activists. And we want to also push over the work that we’ve been doing with Trade Unions.
The politicians, Trump and May, will often pose a false alternative between jobs and the climate — that if you’re going to look after ordinary people’s jobs then that compromises the climate. And the work that we’ve done with Trade Unions, says that this is absolutely false… polarization. Jobs can be created in the kind of industries that help us reduce emissions and renewable energy and a decent public transport system, in ensuring that our homes are properly insulated and we reduce energy use.
So, our publication, “A Million Climate Jobs”, outlines how that could be achieved. How quickly that could be achieved. And we’re hoping that that also and the work that we do around that will help counter that narrative of counter-posing jobs in the environment that Trump’s done, that May’s done, that a whole number of right-wing politicians have done: Euphyllia Pending in France. And it’s a very damaging inaccurate and frightening way of responding to the crisis that we’re in — both a crisis for ordinary people and a crisis for the climate.
MAN: Yes. Divest London is an organization that’s existed for a couple of years and what it looks to do is divest big financial institutions like, for example, the London Pension Fund Authority, which has 4.6 billion pounds from its fossil fuel investments, and also to put some of its money, in the case of the LPFA, for example, into green investments.
SEAMU.S. DARK: And what progress is fossil fuel divestment making in London?
MAN: Well, Seamus, it’s making pretty good progress. The London Pension Fund Authority is considering divestments and four London boroughs have either completely divested from fossil fuels, or have partially divested. So, starting with Wolf & Forrest, and Southwick — we had two complete divestments. And then we had a partial divestment in Harringey who also set up an innovative 200 million pound green investment fund. And we had a divestment proposal from Hackney to sell half of their fossil fuels. And now they’re going to do that.
SEAMU.S. DARK: That’s great. And can you tell us anything about what’s going on in the rest of the country?
MAN: Well, let’s start with the rest of London. There are now up to 18 boroughs that have active fossil fuel divestment campaigns. And we’re looking to get the full 32 involved, so that we can get money out of fossil fuels and into renewables.
And nationally, divestment is becoming really big — up to 100 institutions have already divested. These include universities, faith groups, and increasingly, borough and county councils. And what we say to people is, “Get involved in your local campaign and make the change to a renewable world.”
GROUP: (singing) We are singing for a cleaner atmosphere…
MAN: I’ve been an environmental climate campaigner for 25 years. Over the last number of years, I came to the conclusion, looking at the difficulties the movement was facing, that the single largest obstacle to climate action in the United Kingdom is the fact that the five media billionaires who own most of the United Kingdom press are all blocking climate action. So, what I decided to do is if the climate movement didn’t tackle that, we wouldn’t succeed.
So, we set up an organization to help lobby the climate movement to take this on as an issue that they needed to take on, but also to lobby the corporations who state that they are pro-climate action. And we’re saying to people like Marks & Spencer’s, British Telecom — those sort of companies — that, “If you are saying to the public that you care about climate change, but you’re advertising with newspapers that are opposing climate change, you’ve got a problem and we’ve got a problem.” And so, we’re calling on people to email those companies to pull their advertising from the climate-denying press, because if we don’t, we won’t save the planet in time.
SEAMU.S. DARK: You mentioned five billionaire moguls in charge of the newspapers. Could you say a bit more about the way that they block the climate change debate in this country?
MAN: Sure, of course, I suppose and it’s probably better to let you know who they are?
SEAMU.S. DARK: That’s a good idea, yeah.
MAN: Rupert Murdock owns “The Sun”, “The Times” and “Sky News”. He also owns “Top Talk Sports Radio”. He owns the… then you’ve got Northcliffe and Rothermere owns “The Daily Mail”, then you’ve got Richard Desmond owns “The Express”, and you’ve got the two Barclay brothers who own “The Telegraph”. Between them almost everything you listen to, read, or hear in British media are either put out by these five men, or is influenced by these five men.
And so how it works is all of them are opposed to climate action. So, they use their papers to promote climate skepticism — non-science based climate assessed skepticism. In British media today there are around ten columnists writing about the issue. Nine of them are climate skeptics, only one is actually writing based on the science. They employ and they pay people who are attacking climate science.
TEENAGED GIRL #1: I just think it’s because there’s not really a lot of awareness and because we’re teenagers, it’s going to affect us more, like we’re, like, 30 because when we’re 30 we’re going to see, like, the physical changes of the climate changing. So, a lot of people aren’t really aware of that.
TEENAGED GIRL #2: Yeah, we’ve come to spread awareness and to help people realize that climate change is real and it’s affecting everybody; that the changes are happening now and they’ll just continue to get worse if we don’t do anything. So, we’ve come to spread awareness and to maybe help to find a way to fix the problem.
WOMAN: It’s really important to raise awareness on the issues and there are some people that are actually fortunate enough to not even see the changes and effects of it. So, it’s important to make sure everyone knows about it and tries to do something about it.
SEAMU.S. DARK: I’m with Peter Ward, who is Chairman of the Ealing Green Party. And he’s here to tell us why the Green Party will not be contesting the Ealing Acton constituency at the general election that’s coming up in June. Peter thank you for talking to us.
PETER WARD: Yes, you’re very welcome, Seamus. Thanks very much indeed. Ealing has three constituencies: Ealing Southhall, North Ealing and Ealing Acton. Now, the sitting MP at Ealing Acton is Rupa Huq She’s Labour. She’s got a very, very small majority. But one great thing about her is that she is determined to stop Heathrow expansion, as indeed, we all are.
We have made a unilateral decision, the members of Ealing Green Party not to stand against her because she has given a number of promises in return. And one of them, and it’s a promise that we accept, is that she will continue to oppose Heathrow expansion. And she will continue to do so.
Other politicians, including Virenda Sharma, who is the MP, the Labour MP for Ealing Southhall, he’s back-tracked on that. He was once against that, now he supports Heathrow expansion. But we’ve got that promise from Rupa and we accept it, that she will continue to oppose it.
And so, for that reason we’re not going to stand against her. The last thing we want to do is to split the vote and get the Conservatives in, and so that’s why we’ve done that. She’s responded positively and we even think it started something of a trend. It’s these little alliances that are starting to take place, but that’s the main reason why. It’s a one-off gesture for the greater good.
SEAMU.S. DARK: After all the speeches and address to crowd, in Old Palace Yard, it was time to gather all the placard holders together and get the letter sin the right order.
Then it was a short walk to Westminster Bridge where the placards were to be displayed.
Here are the placard holders getting into position on Westminster Bridge.
MAN: Labelled by the government and by industry as “renewable energy”, and it is subsidized by the taxpayer, and it is subsidized by bill payers — energy, electricity bill payers — pay a levy and that is supposed to be for green renewable energy. But biomass — burning of trees — is anything but renewable. And the recent China Post Report, which the government tried to suppress for over three years, has been published in February of this year. And it explicitly demonstrates beyond contention that burning trees for energy is certainly not renewable. And actually the report ends with the conclusion that it causes more harm than coal.
And this — the renewable myth — persists because people believe that when you burn one tree, you can plant another. Unfortunately, a tree can be burned in seconds and there are 13½ million tons of trees being imported from the United States, which is a further green travesty because they have to be shipped. The energy is put into turning whole trees into pellets, and then they’re shipped across the Atlantic — to be burned at Drax Power Station by the millions of tons, and Drax has been subsidized by the taxpayer to the tune of 1.6 million pounds every single day for this greatly harmful activity.
On the Campaign Against Climate Change website we have a biofuels page but I also campaign with a group “Biofuel Watch” and we have a website: biofuelwatch.org.uk. We do in-depth analysis both from scientific, legal and a social point-of-view. So, any information you need you will find there.
SEAMU.S. DARK: The government seems to think that we can get all of our gas from fracking. How true is that?
WOMAN: There are already more than enough discovered fossil fuel reserves to take us over two degrees of warming, which is a dangerous level. In order for fracking to happen, unconventional gas reserves are explored. And in order to get enough gas out of unconventional reserves we would need a new well to be drilled in the UK every two hours.
The number of vehicle movements that are needed just to build a frack site, the impact that that has on the local economy, on the agriculture economy, on local tourism, and the polluting effects make it totally unviable, especially in a country where the gas comes in and out of pipelines to Europe. We buy and sell gas on the European market in the UK.
There simply isn’t enough landmass to drill enough wells to make the UK have a sustainable gas supply. And an unconventional gas well, a well that is drilled by fracking, produces for maybe five, six years and then it’s gone and you need another well, and another well, and another well. A conventional gas well, can keep producing for between 30 to 50 years. It’s not sustainable. It’s not safe. And it’s not happening.