Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Green Energy Spokesperson to attend COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco

Kirklees Councillor Andrew Cooper is to attend an International Summit on Climate Change in Morocco in November. Andrew is the Green Party's Energy Spokesperson.

COP22 (Conference of the Parties) includes representatives from most Countries in the world working together to develop policies and programmes to address climate change. Councillor Cooper will be attending as a member of the European Union's Committee of the Regions where he is a leading member of the the ENVE Commission, that leads on Climate Change and Energy policies.The EU Committee of the Regions is the body that leads on the role of local and regional authorities and their role in delivering policies agreed at a European level.

" The negotiations in Paris last year established the targets for reducing greenhouse gases. The talks in Morocco are all about the practical steps we will need to take to make those targets a reality" Councillor Cooper said

" The UK signed up to the EU target in the Paris agreement and we will have to play our role in acheiving that target whether in or out of the EU. The UK may have voted for Brexit but we can't opt out of the world and the consequences of an ever warming planet."

" Each country that signed the Paris Agreement agreed their own Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to acheiving that target. Government's may decide targets but it is at the local and regional level where planning policies, energy efficiency programmes and renewable energy projects can play a big role in making those targets a reality. Our practical experience at the community level is vital. We have to think global but we have to act at the local level".

Friday, 29 July 2016

Speech to "Yorkshire says NO to Fracking Demo" - York 30th July

I’m Andrew Cooper, a Councillor in Huddersfield and the Green Party’s National Energy Spokesperson.

I was in Northallerton when the Kirby Misperton Fracking Application was being considered. The evidence was poured over for 2 days and North Yorkshire County Council were well prepared. They set up 2 enclosed areas outside County Hall in Northallerton both were considerately provided with Portaloos. One area was set aside for the Protestors and another area was set aside for the Fracking supporters. Now I’m pretty sure that no one used the Portaloos on the Fracking supporters side due to the simple fact that there was no one there to make use of these facilities. What did happen in Northallerton to the shame of the County Council was the decision to allow Fracking near the village of Kirby Misperton. The decision was met with disbelief. Of course given the same evidence as a Councillor with years of planning experience I would have voted against.

On my own Council, Kirklees, I am proposing an addition to our Local Plan documents so when 3rd Energy or Cuadrilla put an application in our area,  to extract shale gas they will have to demonstrate that their application will not result in a net addition to CO2 emissions. Now I don’t think that’s possible but at a time when we have the 14th or 15th highest global temperatures ever, I believe they should have to prove it as a part of any planning application.

Now a word for my Labour opposite number Lisa Nandy MP the Labour Opposition Energy and Climate Change Secretary (Is she still? I don’t know) Her response to the Kirby Misperton decision was this,

“ We need robust rules to offer communities reassurance that the environmental risks will be properly managed.”

Labour doesn’t get it. Even if you trusted the companies reassurances, even if you regulated  it to somehow or other make it safe, you still cannot manage the environmental risks of extracting and burning more fossil fuels when we need to keep those fuels in the ground.  Our local and global environments simply cannot afford to let fracking happen. It must not happen.

The alternatives to fracking are available now. Energy efficiency, insulation are the way we should be ensuring our energy security, by making homes warmer and reducing energy demand, but Government has cut funding massively for these measures while keeping energy demand high and reducing costs for those poor hard pressed energy companies.

So we have the wrong energy priorities from Government, a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem with fracking from the opposition. So it comes down to us. We are the people and we are the ones who are going to have to stand tall, to speak truth to power. Simply being right is not enough. We must challenge robustly every application, every proposal, exercise our right to peaceful civil disobedience and protest, refuse to pay fines. Make a nuisance of ourselves.

2016 has been a bloody awful year so far. Friends let us come together, let us be united and let’s tell them NO Fracking Way!


Friday, 15 July 2016

DECC decked!

There is a perverse logic to the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Since 2010 when David Cameron famously declared, in the DECC building, that his would be the 'Greenest Government Ever' there has been a constant reduction in financial support  for measures to address climate change. We have had catastrophic reductions in Feed In Tariff rates for renewable technologies and for energy efficiency through cuts to the Energy Company Obligation. The Zero Carbon Homes standard due to be introduced this year for new homes was dropped by George Osborne. Planning rules for onshore wind turbines have been made so restrictive that they are as good as a ban. One of the few drivers that remained for investment in renewables was the UK being a signatory to the EU Renewable Energy Directive which required us to produce 15% of our total energy from renewable sources by 2020. Even though many of our EU partners had higher targets that they were exceeding the UK was shamefully set to fail to reach our 15% renewables target. Then Brexit happened and the threat of the UK being fined by the EU for failing to achieve a target we had voluntarily signed up to began to diminish. With a lack of commitment to energy efficiency and renewables in the UK Govt it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how we will be able to achieve our carbon reduction commitments made in Paris last December. With the significance of DECC being diminished as a direct result of Government policy the abolition of the department is consistent with the Conservatives ambivalence to action to address carbon emissions. To all intents and purposes the Conservatives are Climate Change Deniers in all but name.

We know that Government will say that addressing climate change has been 'mainstreamed' into an important Government Department but it has in fact being sidelined with no Cabinet minister acting as 'champion' following a decline in financial and policy support over the last 6 years. The irony is that one of the Ministers who managed that decline, Amber Rudd has been promoted to Home Secretary which as we know is only a short step to Number 10. Who would have thought the 'Aristocracy Advisor' on the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' could have come so far.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

My 7 Priorities as Deputy Leader

Supporting Local Parties to win elections

Winning elections at all levels of Government is important to convey our ideas and to put them into practice. We need to value the people who work on the ground to make our Target to Win Strategy a reality. We also need to celebrate good practice and electoral success much more in the Party to build a culture of contesting elections professionally and to' demonstrate that we can win to a wider proportion of the electorate. Andrew has organised successful election campaigns in Kirklees for over 20 years. As a Target to Win Pioneer he will be a strong and informed advocate for those needing support for their election campaigns.

Giving a voice to the Regions

Some good progress has been made through the appointment of Regional Campaigns Coordinators to help build the capacity and capability of the Green Party at the local and Regional level. The Party needs a perspective in the Leadership Team that can speak with experience and authority from outside London and the South East. As a Councillor From Yorkshire with 17 years experience as a Local Cllr, Andrew is ideally placed to fulfil that role.

Involving members

An active political party needs to be able to respond quickly to changing events. We should also ensure we involve our Party bodies and members in strategic decisions as much as possible. The Green Party needs to avoid situations where our position on key issues are made by pronouncement. One very practical issue Andrew would pursue if elected as Deputy Leader is to initiate a consultation with local parties on 'Progressive Alliances' asking for views and opinions to feedback to relevant Party bodies so your views are taken into account.

Widening our reach.

The Green Party's support is often perceived as being white and middle class. There are some good examples around the UK where that stereotype is challenged due to dedicated work by local Parties but we need to do more. Andrew is already working closely with groups like Muslim Engagement and Development MEND to challenge Islamaphobia and the Governments ill conceived 'Prevent Strategy'. As someone who has been elected to an ethnically diverse area of Huddersfield Andrew has strong links to community organisations representing BME communities at the local and national level. We also need to show how we are relevant to the many communities who are suffering most from our deteriorating services. We need to demonstrate that Green policies provide workable solutions addressing the need for secure affordable housing, worthwhile rewarding employment and ensuring the people with the greatest needs have good support and good services.

The benefits of a Councillor as our Deputy Leader

The Leadership of the Green Party is likely to have a strong Parliamentary focus. As Deputy Leader and an experienced Local Councillor Andrew would provide knowledge of the impact of Government policy on the ground. Andrew will provide practical input based on the real life experience of implementing policy at the local level. Elected politicians bring an additional degree of credibility to our Leadership Team whether they are an MP or a Councillor.

Working with others to address Climate Change

Developing workable plans and policies to address climate change should be a top priority for the Green Party. As Deputy Leader Andrew would forge stronger relations with NGOs and businesses that share our objectives to build our credibility and provide a robust challenge to Government and other Parliamentary parties on practical action to achieve the Paris Climate targets and beyond. Andrew has worked for over 20 years in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector and has strong connections with key organisations.

'Progressive Alliances'

The idea of a Progressive Alliances is on the Green Party's agenda as a Strategy being considered in the run up to the next General Election, whether that is in 2020 or possibly much sooner. To be successful a Progressive Alliance will need to have a popular programme that can draw support across a large proportion of the population. It will need to have more broadly based policies than being simply about achieving Electoral Reform. If it is to have wide appeal we will need to demonstrate that Green policies can provide jobs, tackle climate change address poverty and provide secure and affordable homes. Acheiving policies which reflect Green Party values will need to be a key part of any deal. Andrew is a skilled and experienced negotiator who has delivered Green policies on the ground on a Council that has been hung for 17 years.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Referendum 2? 'Deep Thought' required.

Something flashed into my head this morning. The result of the EU Referendum is like that scene in The HitchhikersGuide to the Galaxy where a supercomputer called 'Deep Thought' is built to answer the ultimate question of life the universe and everything. It takes many years to process the answer and of course the answer is, rather frustratingly, 42. To the perplexed masses the egghead programmers explain that they have provided the answer but not how it is achieved, that would require asking another question. So it is with the referendum. We have an answer but not the how we achieve it. In effect we've only had half the question answered hence the rationale for a second referendum.

What is done cannot be undone. The referendum has been held, the question asked and an answer given. We can discuss the many shortcomings of the Leave (and Remain) campaigns and the negative and often misleading approach they both took but to run the whole thing in the same way to hope for a different result would not bring our country together, it might tear it further apart. We need a different approach.

It has become apparent following the result that neither the Leave nor Remain campaigns had any plan for implementing Brexit. Without this Brexit plan people did not appreciate the implications of their vote. So though Brexit may have been agreed in principle, by 52%, the 'in practice' has not been agreed. In effect the UK has only being asked half the Brexit question. The second question (once we appreciate what the Brexit deal actually is) could be,

"The principle of leaving the EU was agreed on 23/6/16. Do you believe it should be implemented?"

YES.      NO

So yes there should be a 2nd Referendum but with a different question. If the answer is YES then we press ahead with Brexit. If the answer is NO then the outcome of the original 23/6/16 is set aside and we remain members of the EU

With economic chaos breaking out all around us, hate crime rising and people's jobs under threat now it is difficult to take the advice in friendly letters on the cover of The Hichhikers Guide to the Galaxy - "Don't Panic" Let's not panic but we desperately need Political Leadership right now.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Andrew Cooper – Another Europe is Possible Speech - Newcastle 2/6/16


 I’m Andrew Cooper. I’ve been a Green Party Councillor in Kirklees, in West Yorkshire for the last 17 years.. One of my more recent roles is as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions. This little known body informs the EU about the impact of its policies at a local level. I was appointed to the politically balanced 24 member UK delegation last year as the nominee of the Independent Group of Cllrs on the Local Government Association. As such I represent Independent, Green and UKIP Cllrs. I guess that makes me Nigel Farage’s Spokesperson in Europe on Local Government. Fortunately I don’t think he knows this.

The Referendum Campaign has been eventful. The bit I found most amusing was when the Vote Leave Campaign Bus visited Harrogate and parked illegally. They were duly ticketed by the local Council. Vote Leave rejected the ticket saying that as they were part of the Referendum Campaign and therefore were exempt. Now my brother is the Conservative Leader of Harrogate Borough Council and he tweeted the following “Let's see if they pay like everyone else has to. It's day one and counting #votepayup”- so the Brexitters don’t just have a problem with EU Laws but seemingly some UK ones as well!

In the last European Parliament Elections the Green Party took a 3 yeses approach to the EU.

Yes to Reform

Yes to Remaining

Yes to a Referendum

Yes Yes Yes! The last time I heard 3 yeses in the same sentence was in the film ‘When Harry met Sally’  Somehow our 3 yeses never reached the same level of enthusiasm.

Yes to Reform because we know that the EU is by no means a perfect institution, the undue influence of big business over decision making, there’s TTIP that puts the interests of big business before democracy,  there was the heavy handed authoritarian austerity driven approach that was taken by the EU with the Greek Government.  These are just 3 examples that we could spend an entire conference talking about.

But if an institution needs reforming I’d start with one where a Government can get elected by 24% of the electorate yet wield 100% of the power. I’d start with one where an unelected House of Lords wields power with the support of religious clerics – just like they do in Iran. I’d start with the UK Government. At least in the EU MEPs are elected by a form of Proportional Representation, those who aren’t elected in the European Commission need the support of the democratically elected European Parliament to be appointed.  So personally (and this isn’t Green Party policy) I’d like a referendum on whether Yorkshire should remain part of the UK or in fact become part of Scotland because I don’t know about you but I feel more affinity with Scotland than with a Government led by Etonian Toffs.

Yes to Remaining

Because fundamentally I believe that people forget that the binding together of our nations is more than simply an economic union but one that demonstrates the old Churchillian  truism that “Jaw Jaw is better than War War”. If we break those bonds of cooperation and friendship where that unravelling will end doesn’t bear thinking about.

Yes to remaining because we live in a globalised world with the impacts of big issues such as climate change, tax avoidance and crime not stopping at political boundaries. They require action by nations across borders.

Renewable Energy is a classic example. The UK has an EU target of achieving 13% of our total energy from Renewable Sources by 2020. Other nations are already exceeding their much higher targets, while we in the UK slip behind. This is due to a lack of UK Govt support for renewable energy. In the EU only Malta and Luxembourg are producing less of their energy from Renewable sources than the UK. The point of the EU target is that it makes the UK accountable, it compares us with others, and unfortunately it shames us and if there’s one thing this lousy Government needs it is shaming.

When the Paris agreement on Climate Change was signed the agreed EU Carbon reduction targets came as an amalgamation of different countries contributions. I regarded this as a huge positive but the negative fly in the ointment was again our own Government NOT the EU. At no point did they ask for the input of local Councils or Devolved Administrations on how to reach this target, nor for our assistance or ideas on how targets might be achieved. It’s almost as though we were irrelevant. UK Government was behaving remotely as if we didn’t exist in pretty much the same way that the Brexiteers regard the European Union treating the UK and its interests.

 If another Europe is to be possible I would want it to be one where achieving EU targets is more strongly linked to action on the ground. So where the EU has a target for improving energy efficiency I want that to relate directly to warmer, healthier homes and working together to end the misery of fuel poverty. This would be an example of a Europe that is relevant to be peoples everyday lives. A Europe that has a common sense of purpose for Social and Environmental Good. This is why I believe a better Europe is not only possible but would be hugely popular.

We also said ‘Yes to A Referendum’ and that is the big uncertainty. There are those who say we shouldn’t have done it. Why are our nations being used to try to solve an internal dispute in the Conservative Party? Thats not going to work!
Of course there are risks. With the EU Referendum we do not know the outcome, peoples votes may be influenced by negative feelings or cherry picked facts but we will have our shot at getting our message across with a positive vision of a sustainable and progressive Europe. In my experience what wins votes is passion, belief and shoe leather. So between now and June 23rd let us use all these to get the result we need.

It is possible. Another Europe is possible!