Report on Danny Kruger MP’s Climate Talk in Marlborough on Thursday 10 November 2022

Danny Kruger climate talk by James Wallace

Thanks to Hayley Lambert from Packaging Not Included for her report on Danny Kruger MP’s Climate Meeting hosted by Marlborough Quakers on Thursday 10 November 2022.

Entering St Peter’s on Thursday evening, I was heartened and excited to see hundreds of people eagerly awaiting the start of the Climate Meeting with the MP for Devizes, Danny Kruger, organised by Marlborough Quakers.

There was standing room only and, as I surveyed the crowd from the back of the church, I was thrilled to see so many generations of our local community coming together to show their desire for the government to act more urgently on reducing our CO2 emissions; also to honour its financial commitments to loss and damage payments in order to limit global heating, protect nature and help vulnerable countries to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change.

Rachel Rosedale from Marlborough Quakers set out some firm ground rules and threatened to ring her bell if anyone stepped out of line. It didn’t seem like a rowdy bunch, but the subject matter was (quite rightly) almost guaranteed to get passions running high.

Marlborough Quakers had asked Mr Kruger to talk at the start of the meeting and specifically requested him to tell us about the Conservative Party’s policies for reaching the UK’s net zero 2050 targets and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Many of us, however, were disappointed that Mr Kruger instead decided to use this time to wax lyrical about the beauty of Wiltshire and the history of Morgan’s Hill and its unique geographical characteristics (it marks the hydrological triple divide of Great Britain).

It is of course great to hear anyone talking passionately about nature and our need to reconnect with it. However, this somehow felt like an off-the-cuff diversionary presentation, perhaps because the dog had eaten his homework. He did express his desire for our waterways to be cleaner and less polluted by sewage and other pollutants and declared his desire for our agriculture and food systems to be reformed. Mr Kruger also talked about the government’s need to smooth what will be a challenging transition.

While he was speaking, an Extinction Rebellion protester silently donned a white lab coat, left his seat and stood behind Mr Kruger holding a sign that made a very reasonable request: “JUST START TO ACT ON THE SCIENCE”

The protester then turned the sign around to state a fact: ‘DANNY KRUGER ‘GENERALLY VOTED AGAINST MEASURES TO PREVENT CLIMATE CHANGE”. The protester then sat down as we heard from the next speaker.

If you look at Mr Kruger’s voting record, it is absolutely true that he generally voted against measures to prevent Climate Change. I was therefore very disappointed when I read his 13 November newsletter this week, where he recounted the event in an inaccurate way, possibly with the aim of causing division? You can see the protester’s signs in the photos here. Mr Kruger was not accused of “environmental desecration” and the protester only stood there for around 12 minutes of a 90 minute meeting. 

We all need to work together, for the benefit of everyone, so trying to divide people (further) is very counterproductive. We need some cross-party policies and cooperation from politicians, leaders, businesses, communities and individuals.

There were 13 questions from the public covering topics of onshore wind, biofuels, heat pumps, “loss and damage” payments, investment in net zero, river pollution, why Mr Kruger isn’t supporting the Climate and Ecology Bill, the legal requirement for new builds to have solar panels and how we stay closer to the target of 1.5 degrees of warming when we’re currently headed for closer to 2.5 degrees. Two young people also passionately challenged Mr Kruger on his lack of knowledge around climate science and his seeming disinterest and unwillingness to learn more about the topic.

Danny Kruger XR sign by James Wallace

Climate spending – unaffordable cost or intelligent investment?

Mr Kruger referenced the £400 billion that the government spent on Covid 19 as a reason why it can’t invest more in achieving net zero and argued that “blindly” following science is no way forward, challenging the scientists to set up a “science party” to see if they can get themselves elected. I wasn’t sure if this was a joke or not.

He goes further in his 13 November newsletter (excerpted below), blaming “the science” for the levels of Covid 19 spending. I’m not sure that procuring unusable PPE (£4bn-worth of PPE was burned) or spending £37bn on a test and trace system that proved not to be fit for purpose was part of the Sage recommendations. Indeed, it could be argued that the government didn’t follow “the science” by delaying lock downs and not implementing ‘circuit breakers’ – but let’s not get off topic.

The Office for Budget Responsibility stated in October 2021 that “unmitigated climate change would ultimately have catastrophic economic and fiscal consequences for the UK. By contrast, while the fiscal costs of getting to net zero could be significant, adding around 21 per cent of GDP to public debt by 2050 in our ‘early action scenario’, they are not exceptional relative to the costs of other recent global shocks, such as the financial crisis and the pandemic. And there is a range of scenarios for getting to net zero, some of which could even improve the public finances over the next thirty years were the Government to accommodate net zero investment within its existing spending plans and find a replacement for declining fuel and other hydrocarbon revenues. We also concluded that acting early could halve the net fiscal cost of getting to net zero by 2050 compared to acting late.”

Acting early could halve the net fiscal cost. This isn’t even really a cost, it’s an investment – the benefits will far outweigh any negatives. Moreover, many of these benefits fit with Mr Kruger’s own priorities as outlined in his 12 Propositions for a New Social Covenant: cleaner air, less pollution in our rivers, more connection with nature, less reliance on consumption and imports, energy security, stronger and more resilient communities, more local jobs, better public transport infrastructure, healthier diets, food security – I could go on…

I don’t recall anyone suggesting that we should “stop the economy” (it certainly didn’t make it into my notebook if they did), but I do remember a suggestion that we need to consume less. This came not only from an audience member but also from Mr Kruger himself. There was some heated discussion around growth, reflecting that which takes place elsewhere. A green economic policy is often cited as being anti-growth but there’s also evidence that economies will thrive more as a result of this transition than if life continues as usual.

According to former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore’s independent net zero review published on 26 September 2022, “The UK has already managed to grow its economy by 76%, while cutting its emissions by over 44% since 1990 – decarbonising faster than any other G7 country.  Official statistics also show there are already around 400,000 jobs in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains across the UK, with turnover estimated at £41.2 billion in 2020.  Both the British Energy Security Strategy and Net Zero Strategy aim to leverage an additional and unprecedented £100 billion of private investment, while supporting an additional 480,000 British jobs by 2030”.

I hope that Chris Skidmore’s net-zero review will have some solid recommendations for how we put planning and policy in place to effectively direct the private sector, how we design policies to ensure that the transition is fair and helps to level up and how we fill the huge gaps in policy around farming and land and decarbonising buildings.

In his book Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction, Professor Mark Maslin reminds us that “Science is not a belief system. It is a rational, logical methodology that moves forward by using detailed observation and experiments to constantly test and retest ideas and theories. It is the very foundation of our global society. So you cannot pick and choose which bits of scientific evidence you want to believe in and which bits you want to reject. For example you cannot decide that you believe in antibiotics (as they may save your life) or that heavy metal tubes with wings can fly (because you want to go on holiday), and yet at the same time deny that smoking causes cancer, or that HIV causes AIDS, or that GHGs cause climate change.” 

Climate Change in The Gambia

It was moving and pertinent to also hear Masireh Touray, originally from Gunjur, The Gambia, talk about the devastating effects that her family and friends are experiencing as a result of climate change. 

She recalled how, as a child, abundant rice crops would come from local fields and the sweet taste of this local staple. Now the country’s staple crop is failing and most rice is imported, making it more expensive. Droughts and erratic rainfall have also caused many other crops to fail: this combined with deforestation is causing land to become desertified. Masireh said that the availability of fish has also become a huge problem – this was once given away because of its abundance but  is now unaffordable. 

In the UK, we may not (yet) feel that the impacts of climate change are significant. However, many countries in the Global South are already experiencing extreme environmental events and having to drastically adapt with very limited resources.

Learn about the science behind climate change

If anyone would like to learn more about the science behind climate change and what difference we can make as individuals, please consider signing up to Sustainable Marlborough’s four-week Climate Convos course in January. It’s an accessible, inspiring, practical and empowering carbon-literacy training course that’s accredited by The Carbon Literacy Project.

Perhaps I should invite Mr Kruger along…?

Hayley Lambert
Packaging Not Included Zero Waste Shop, Marlborough
Sustainable Marlborough

• Photo credit: James Wallace, CEO of River Action UK

• Excerpt from Danny Kruger’s 13 November newsletter:

“I don’t think the objectives of economic growth and environmental stewardship are in fundamental conflict, though they certainly create tensions. I felt this at a meeting organised by Dr Nick Maurice and Rachel Rosedale of the Quakers, held at a packed St Peter’s Church in Marlborough on Thursday night. A gentleman in a white coat with a badge on it reading ‘I’m a scientist’, stood behind me for most of the meeting holding up a placard accusing me of environmental desecration; others at the meeting also insisted that we should simply do whatever ‘the science’, that omniscient divinity, says needs doing to save the planet. I suggested that ‘the science’ told us to spend £400 billion mitigating the effects of Covid-19, and as a result we simply can’t stop the economy in order to eliminate carbon emissions immediately.

“Nevertheless, I was impressed by the seriousness and expertise of the audience (which included a man who, after I had cast doubt on heat pumps, explained he was the boss of the Heat Pump Federation and told me I was wrong, which I may have been). I share the general dismay at the state of our rivers, the devastation that 20th century agriculture wrought on the biodiversity of farmland, and the terrible consequences of the changing climate in the developing world, and I undertook to represent their views to ministers.”

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