Greens Call for Urgent Action on Steel

News that more than 1000 jobs are to be lost in South Wales steelmaking is devastating for the local economy, the supply chain and the affected communities.

It is not just cheap labour, but massive government subsidies which are keeping the prices down, particularly on energy, which in Chinese terms means coal. These issues have been known since 2005 when the Harvard Business Review spotted a powerful statistical correlation between growing subsidies and growing exports in China.

Pippa Bartolotti, candidate for Newport West and the South East Wales Regional List said, “The Welsh government has had 11 years notice of these job losses, and now it pleads impotence. I call on Carwyn Jones to take action now to prevent future losses. The market will not solve the problem, changing state aid rules will.

“Cheap Chinese Steel has been flooding the UK market for some years now. This steel is being sold at a loss, and the Welsh government, together with the UK Government and the EU needs to step in urgently if we are not to lose steel-making capability in Wales.”

One thing which is not being discussed is the effect of steel making industries on pollution. If we buy steel from China we not only create the associated, and higher, pollution Chinese people have to suffer, we increase CO2 through the transportation of the product halfway round the world.

Pippa Bartolotti added, “This is why steel making needs to stay in Wales. It is less polluting, our standards our higher, and it is delivered locally. We must ask Welsh businesses to support Welsh steelmaking, and ask Welsh consumers to buy Welsh products. It will be cheaper in the long run as we ensure that 1000’s of jobs are saved and our communities remain intact.”

China produces as much steel as the rest of the world combined. As China’s growth slows, the excess steel that Chinese industry doesn’t need is being marketed overseas, filling Chinese coffers with desirable foreign currency.

What a Waste

Waste for recycling
Waste for recycling

In Newport we are recycling a mere 52% of our total waste. I guess that’s the easy 52% – representing the people who are willing to recycle that which can be easily recycled.

The question is: How do we get to recycle 100% of our waste?

To have a productive closed loop system and recycle everything we buy or make is the goal. After all, why are we manufacturing anything which is not recyclable? Manufacturing products or packaging which cannot be broken back to their natural forms, or which have no further use, is surely stacking up trouble, (or piles of rubbish) for the future.

Burn it, I hear you say! It turns out that that is not a good idea either. Burning plastics release poisonous fumes. The air we breathe is not in good shape because of traffic fumes and the burning of fuel such as oil or gas, so adding to that problem should rightly be out.

There has to be a plan to tackle that stubborn 48% of  waste, and I suggest the following:

  1. Ban non recyclable packaging, like polystyrene, by law. We can manage without
  2. Allow only biodegadable nappies and incontinence pads
  3. Encourage Welsh companies to manufacture compostable ‘plastic’ film
  4. Ban plastic bottles. San Francisco has already done this, why not Wales
  5. Quantify how many jobs we are helping to sustain and create through the recycling industries. E.g. our metals go to Tata Steel which supports 6000 jobs in S Wales
  6. Look at best practice across the world and use it. Germany recycles 87% of all waste through a bar code payment scheme. In Norway they recycle 93% of bottles in a cashback scheme
  7.  Make less waste! Estonian people make 50% less waste that we do. We have to ask ourselves why we buy so much that we don’t need or use.

It is entirely possible to waste less, and recycle more. We are supposed to be heading for a circular economy where everything we buy and use can be recycled. We can’t keep mining for more metals and plastics (oil) for ever. These things are a finite resource. And then there’s the pollution caused by burning them in incinerators together with the health impacts of the toxic fumes. If we truly care about leaving something tolerable for the next generation, we have to think about what happens to our waste when it leaves our home.

Pippa

N.B. The links shown are indicative. Often there are many types of these items available. Shop around!

 

It will only be a happy new year if the money drowns before we do

It’s very hard to wish you all a happy new year when so many are experiencing hardship. Whether you are trying to get muddy water out of what used to be your home, digging your children  out of the rubble of an air strike in Syria, fighting forest fires in drought ridden Spain, or contemplating the failed COP 21 agreement, I am thinking of you.

The climate has changed, but people haven’t. The anguish of the inhabitants of low lying lands has not made as much as a dent in the profit driven consumerist society we all help to feed. In Paris the agreement was marked by what it did not include. Missing was action on compensation for poor countries unable to invest in adjusting to low carbon technologies, missing was any measure at all to clarify the status of climate refugees, missing was any attempt to make fine words legally binding.

Continue reading It will only be a happy new year if the money drowns before we do

Wales Fair Trade Festival October 2015

Official-opening-Wales-Fair-Trade-fair[1]

Welcome everyone to the 9th Wales Fair Trade fair, and especially to David and Martha for inviting me to come and ‘do the honours’.

For years I have wondered, often aloud ‘what is the reasoning behind unfair trade’. What is the concept? Why do we punish and torture, people, animals and planet. Is it really because only money is god?

We all know about slavery and poverty. We all know too many are living below the bread line both here and abroad. We all know about suffering and malnutrition. Yet we are in a world of plenty. The cake is large, but cut so unfairly.

And there is another unfairness. When we buy potatoes (for example from Egypt ), we steal their water and poison the atmosphere with untold miles of polluting transport. In May last year Britain imported nearly 20,000 tonnes of cauliflower and broccoli, and in April we imported over 50,000 tonnes of potatoes.  Our livestock and dairy industry is heavily dependent on imported soybean for animal feed, taking food and water from hungry mouths in India and Africa.

When we buy goods from China and Bangladesh we are in effect outsourcing our own pollution, our own greenhouse gasses and our own toxic chemicals. The bleach from our jeans runs foul down the rivers of China. Yet it is all too easy to wash our hands in our own clean water and turn away from the harm our own consumerism creates.

Of course I know I am preaching to the converted here today, but when we build nuclear we are in effect outsourcing the radioactive waste to the next 10 generations or more. How are they supposed to deal with it? Will they even know what is in those dilapidated yellow canisters in 500 years time?

Too often, it seems, our culture is only interested in ourselves. Jam today. And like nuclear, climate change and poverty will impose huge costs on future generations, impacting heavily on migration, political stability, food and water scarcity. These are costs this generation shows no inclination to fix, for we have talked about poverty, suffering and climate change before.

These things will not change for as long as the god is money.

There is no justification for unfair trade, no justification for climate change, no justification for poverty.

Those of us who can pay a little more to ensure our food, our goods and our services are fairly traded should be happy to. Those of us who know about the suffering of animals in factory farms and testing laboratories, should not turn their face away. It is only we, ourselves, you and me, who can fix the problem.

Whether its people, or animals, or planet in the firing line, of one thing we can be sure: when money is god, ethics and morality become unaffordable.

So please everyone, open your pockets and your hearts today. There are wonderful things here to buy and to do, excellent speakers and fabulous music. Let us for one day rejoice in the bounty of being without harming, loving without hurting, and buying without spoiling.

In the words of Zacharia Tutu, father of Desmond, ‘Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument’. That is what we Greens, and all who share our concerns, must go out and do!

My speech at the Green Party conference September 2015

Hello conference, Prynhawn Dda
We have had an incredible year in Wales. Our membership has gone up 10 fold since the last Assembly elections, we have 9 new Local Parties, making a total of 14, and we gained six times more votes in the General Election than last time.
We took part in the televised Welsh leader debates, had unprecedented coverage in the press and media, and gained new support from right across Wales.
Yes we are feeling buoyant! And with the Welsh Assembly elections coming up on May 5th 2016, we have every reason to be so, because we are tipped to get as many as 3 Welsh Assembly seats.

Continue reading My speech at the Green Party conference September 2015

Swansea Syrian Refugee Crisis (September 2015)

In 2010 I stayed, pretty much accidentally, for 3 weeks in Syria, and I want to paint you a picture:

Of the beautiful souks of Aleppo, the silks, the spices, the smells and the lamps and the jewels, a fabulous Aladdin’s cave running for miles under the city.

All gone now. Just ruins.

Of the young people crowded into the café’s of Lattakia at night. Chatting over their pizzas and coffee without a care in the world…

Of the shoe shop owner who would not let me pay for shoes because of the tiny Palestinian badge I wore…

Of the families who took us in and fed us round their kitchen tables, who offered us hot showers because ours were cold…

Of the orange groves and the beaches, and the glorious daily markets bursting with food in this self-sufficient land…

And the livery companies, the carpenters, the bakers, who fed us every night for almost 3 weeks when we could not get visas to Egypt…

All gone, almost everything gone. I have seen the pictures.

These people did not want a war, were not prepared for war. They were just like us, living their lives. They were not especially unhappy with Assad, but they did draw my attention to the US sponsored TV stations. Propaganda they said, shrugging their shoulders.

Now, as a result of our government medalling in the Middle East, as a result of WMD which did not exist, and the cruel war on the people of Iraq, followed by the disbanding of their army and police force, a vacuum was created. And there is nothing a vacuum likes more than to be filled. That’s elementary science, and ISIS filled the vacuum, and they grew.

Now, millions are on the move, and sensibly they are moving to lands of peace. Sensibly mothers are sending their sons and daughters first, the ones who are fit and able, who can work, and build a new life. The ones most likely to survive the journey.

But lately it has got worse. With the Syrian army bombarding on one side, ISIS indiscriminately cutting throats, and now the UK bombing from above, nowhere is safe. We have seen whole families, desperation in their faces, turn to traffickers for help, because no one else would. We have stood by and let them drown. Worse, our government has enacted policies NOT to rescue people coming across the Med. So we have been forced to watch helplessly, wringing our hands as little bodies are washed up on the shore of the Mediterranean. We could launch a modern day Dunkirk to rescue them, but we have not. We could extend a corridor of humanitarian help across Europe, but we have not.

People talk to me about looking after our own homeless first. But I tell you that the plight of our own homeless is a political choice. Our government chooses not to help them, just like it chooses to let innocent families drown. Our government chooses to bomb Syria, knowing full well that pouring violence on to violence has never been a solution to anything.

The money is there, just ask the 10% who own almost half the wealth. The money is there, just look at the £375 billion in QE to bail out – not flimsy little boats full of desperate humanity – but to bail out the already rich bankers.

I want to live in a country which looks after the homeless, the disabled and the old. I want to live in a country prepared to share its riches evenly as a matter of course.

This is our chance. This is our chance to forget the soap operas, the racism, the phobias and the selfishness. This is our chance to be human.

We can make room for more than 20 Syrian families. We can make room for 20,000 Syrian families. Forget the Thatcherite selfishness that has been drummed into you. Move over a little and take these war torn people into your hearts.

You know, and I know, that David Cameron’s 5 a day is barely a drop in the ocean. Let’s not build a fence around Wales; let’s not put barbed wire round our hearts; let’s be the best we can be, and open our arms to those in their hour of need.

I know it’s not just Syrians in trouble. People are escaping war in Iraq, in Libya, Eritrea and more. But the UN says the Syrians are the most vulnerable group of all

Today we are asking for 20 Syrian families to come to Swansea. No one can refuse that – but we can do so much better!

Budget Day Speech Newport (8th July 2015)

If the budget was about working people, it was only about rich working people. Those on low incomes are going to lose billions from tax credits. Some of those tax credits will be halved.

You never want to be poor under a Tory government, or young, or disabled.

The National Living Wage ( new national minimum wage by another name)– sounds good, but not if you are under 25. Let’s remember the Living Wage Commission included Tax Credits in their calculation, so this is not the gift it seems at first sight. In fact it could make some families up to £3000 a year worse off.

Welfare spending cuts will hit Wales hard, Climate Levy abolition and more road building will make it almost impossible to cut carbon emissions. It certainly won’t help the 50 coastal communities in Wales already earmarked by the WG to be abandoned to the rising sea.

This was an awful budget for the Under 25’s. No wonder the Tories don’t want to lower the voting age. The scrapping of student maintenance grants on top of exorbitant tuition fees, will bring a depressing new level of debt. Young people courageous enough to invest in their own education will be paying too much for an education from which society will ultimately benefit.

This was a budget for rich people running rich companies. Nothing for carers who save the Health Service billions a year; nothing to give us good public transport and help us lower our carbon emissions.

It was a definite heads up to roadbuilding, yet the £1b to be spent on the M4 in Newport is just creating more emissions and devastating the Gwent levels. The money should be diverted to the SE Wales Light Rail network where it will help us all, and the climate.

If the budget was about security, it failed on every count. Pouring more money into warfare and weapons of mass destruction has a horrible habit of backfiring into violence on our doorstep. Pouring no money into climate change measures will increase the tide of immigration from war zones as other countries become uninhabitable.

Climate change is here to stay, and we should morally and practically be doing our bit to stop its worst effects. But Money is God, ethics and morality have become unaffordable.

The Greens stood up to be counted, and costed a manifesto which not only mitigated the effects of Climate Change , not only put in place a £10 Living wage, not only decreased the deficit, but kept our precious welfare system intact whilst improving and expanding our Health Services.

Wales is a poor country. £1m Inheritance tax thresholds are not going to affect us, but we are not going to let the poor take the pain again. Where is the opposition? Where is Welsh Labour when it’s not busily doling out the Tory cuts?

There is an election next year. Look at our manifesto. Next time vote for a party with a bit of spine, and Vote Green.