Monday, December 28, 2015

Why is this Government so blinkered and obstinate when it comes to environmental matters?

I'd originally intended to wait until the New Year and then start "blogging with intent", but the current dreadful flooding problems in various parts of the UK and the repeated , predictable response from our Greenest Government Ever have persuaded me otherwise.

You know, I live in a pretty wild part of the UK in a sense. Heavy seas sometimes preventing access to the mainland, loss of electric power for five days on one occasion and two or three periods of extreme winds, i.e in excess of 110 mph,  have all occurred within the last fifteen years I've been here. It's mostly a question of gritting your teeth and waiting things out, but I've also had part of a roof taken off and all that entails in the aftermath in terms of damage, repair, stress and insurance claims. Often these are totally unexpected events but, elsewhere in the UK, given we've allowed development in flood plains over the years, are more than aware where flood risk areas are located,  yet have avoided proper timely provision for accompanying prevention measures in a general context, but have generally relied on reactive "after the event" schemes, the Government's track record, whatever its complexion, has not been great.

When will the Government accept that, very probably as a consequence of Climate Change, we appear to be getting far more frequent severe storms of a greater ferocity than ever before. Event periodicity is now a bit of a moveable feast!!  Whatever the cause of such events, they are actually happening more frequently and bringing suffering and hardship in their wake. So should our Government be paying greater heed to the needs of our environment or not?   Well, yes, of course, but they seem incapable of doing so. Not very long ago the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Patterson , was a Climate Change denier and a self declared opponent of anyone who might be deemed "green".  A rather bizarre choice one might suggest. We've now got his replacement who, according to rumour, really wants to be in the Treasury and who is clearly unsuited and unsympathetic to the needs of the job.  When do we get someone who is best suited to the task and who isn't a lightweight, accepting of repeated cuts to the DEFRA budget and generally presiding over a function which is seen ripe for cuts every time the "environmental Luddite" that is our Chancellor sees fit to reduce departmental allocations.

I actually feel sorry for the Environmental Agency who ends up being the fall guy on all such occasions. Whatever "PR Dave" says about budgets the available funds have reduced dramatically since 2011 and yet the demands have grown. There was an increase in the wake of the floods in SW England and it can also be demonstrated that the current budget is beyond that of the previous Government. But is that the real question to be asked and to answer?  Surely it should be , "Is the budget adequate and does it reflect real circumstances?".. In advance of the Climate Change talks in Paris the current Government received a report recommending that, where flood prevention was concerned,  future action should be based on full catchment management measures and that such adaptive techniques should become widespread.  It was rejected and a "we know best, we'll rely on the old ways" approach was agreed. Whilst the Environment Agency very often comes out badly in circumstances such as those arising at present, it carries a good reputation for knowledge of potential adaptive management, but is beholden to the Government for its budget, Not the best situation to occupy I'd suggest.

This Government clearly has no understanding or empathy with environmental matters and sees the function and policies as being ripe for savings/cuts at every juncture. This will only end when the electorate remembers the abyssmal track record which is now in place, reminds them of the consequences and votes against them. The Government should be taking far more notice of the advice it receives from academics and other advisors.  Assuming real leadership and taking forward necessary action is what people both need and want from Government , not to witness the endless pursuance of policies that grudgingly pay lip service to  problems but never get to the bottom of them despite the available evidence.