The need to confront climate change locally

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Gazette & Herald Column 20 Aug 15

I BELIEVE in people – in individuals, local residents and their ability to make their own decisions. I do not want to have the situation where we have an enormous, overwhelming, overpowering government.

This is what conservatism is to me. Across all issues – from education, creating new academy schools, free to spend more time and resources on teaching to an exceptional standard; in taxation, ensuring that workers keep more of the money they earn, or in environmental issues less synonymous with traditional conservatism.

What is obvious to me is that we must confront environmental issues head on. Last week I met a group dedicated to reducing carbon emissions in Bradford on Avon and promoting the ‘green agenda’ to discuss what steps need to be taken to improve the environment for everyone.

People should be free to make their own choices, but I recognise at the same time that the ‘market’, left to itself without any kind of interference, is incapable of solving some of the biggest problems we face today. Climate change is one of these issues.

We must do more to improve the education of young and old. Teaching about climate change is not just a nice thing to do, it is vital for the future of our children and the future of all life. Given the right information, it is very easy to make small changes to our lives that make a huge difference. Switching off a light when we leave a room, reducing drafts in our homes to keep the heat in allowing us to turn down the central heating or, most simply, recycling as much as we can. Chippenham-based Good Energy are an energy supplier who provide electricity from 100 per cent renewable sources. I would encourage all constituents to get an energy quote from their website goodenergy.co.uk – you could save yourself money and help the environment at the same time.

I know how sensitive planning issues around solar farms and wind turbines are and do not want to see all of Wiltshire’s beautiful countryside and agricultural land turned over to solar panels. We need to see investment in offshore wind and, most importantly, ensure that more public buildings, schools, farms and factories place solar panels on their vast roofs.

This is an international problem and the UK cannot do it alone. Each year China’s CO2 emissions are 11 times that of the UK, for the USA it is ten times as much and even supposedly ‘green’ Canada creates more CO2 than we do.

Where the UK does play a vital role is as a global leader, working towards a binding global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels. Britain led the push to achieve agreement within Europe on a historic deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and I hope that this is a first step towards achieving an international climate agreement at the key Paris conference later this year, when all the world’s leaders will gather to discuss climate change. Ignoring the issue is not an option.