Around 150 people packed in to Haxby and Wigginton Methodist Church on Sunday evening to hear the prospective parliamentary candidates, Julian Sturdy (Conservative), James Alexander (Labour) and Madeleine Kirk (Liberal Democrat) for marginal York Outer constituency reply to a set of pre-submitted questions.
Hundreds of questions were submitted in advance of the meeting. An encouraging sign that people’s interest in politics and their desire to challenge their politicians is still high. But, of course, this meant that not every question, however important, could be answered.
On behalf of the Ask the Climate Question coalition and CAFOD, we submitted many questions on climate change, asking how the major parties plan to tackle it over the next parliament. The one that was selected was:
“What do you think of the idea that the next UK Government needs to support work towards a fair and legally binding global climate deal as a top priority, with reductions in emissions of at least 40 per cent by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050. What action would you take to press for this if elected?”
So how did they answer? CAFOD parish contact for Haxby, Miriam Sigston, summed it up like this:
“There was a degree of consensus among the candidates in that they all agreed that the UK needs to take a lead in forging a legally binding global climate deal. Both Labour and Conservatives are committed to a 34 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80 per cent cut by 2050. The LibDems are committed to a 40 per cent reduction by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2050.
All parties are committed to ensuring the energy efficiency of people’s homes with commitments on effective insulation. Labour is committed to a ‘pay as you save’ home insulation scheme and wants a ban on biodegradable and recyclable material from going into landfill.
The LibDems want to raise fuel duty in line with economic growth and oppose new nuclear power plants.
The Conservatives aim to speed up the planning process for new nuclear power stations and aim to cut central government’s carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months. All parties are committed to the introduction of smart meter technology and to encourage greater take up of renewable energy.
All three candidates said that we need an international conference to thrash out an agreement on climate change.
James Alexander (Labour) said ‘One of the things we can do is draw up a set of guidelines for British companies that go abroad to avoid adhering to greenhouse gas emissions targets’.
Conservative, Julian Sturdy said that his party was not in favour of windfarms springing up everywhere but would provide government backing for a network of large-scale Marine Energy Parks.
Madeleine Kirk (Liberal Democrat) pointed out that we should not underestimate the power of Europe to bring about a commitment on climate change: ‘Europe is the largest economic structure in the world and can make a significant impact’. She also pointed out that the LibDems would seek to replace air passenger duty with a per plane tax.”
Overall, the evening gave us the chance to see what our local candidates stand for in light of their national parties’ manifestos. The sheer number of people attending tells us that they haven’t given up on the political process and that people do want to see change – but change that is managed in a just and fair manner.
And what does this mean for people who don’t live in York Outer, or in any of 51 marginal seats where candidates are being put on the spot about climate change by Ask the Climate Question?
Well, if climate change becomes a voting and debating issue in marginal seats, like York Outer, it means that the main parties know that people genuinely care about climate change and want to see action. So what we do locally, can have a truly national – and global – effect. Let’s keep up the pressur – there’s still a week to contact your candidates before the election.
Posted by David Cross, CAFOD Middlesborough diocesan manager