Posts Tagged 'DEFRA'

UK supports sustainable trade in ‘endangered’ Polar Bear parts

No, really.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), believes that the Polar Bear is ‘vulnerable’ therefore at a high risk of extinction in the wild. Apparently it’s climate change and big oil to blame in case you were wondering. Although populations are reported to be growing or stable in many areas various agencies are convinced climate change could impact their numbers in the future.

Despite this we learn that DEFRA works through the UK’s membership of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to ensure that the international trade in polar bears or their parts is sustainable and does not further threaten the species’ survival in the wild. This inexplicable contradiction was revealed in a written answer to a question in Parliament shown below.

(click to enlarge)

So this is how animals we are told are at a high risk of extinction are protected?  Is it only the idiots in government circles who fail to see the irony of their contradictions and flatulent opinions?

Fair Trade, ethics and gesture politics

An exchange on Twitter with the free thinking and autonomous @untwining (Lisa Amphlett) who authors the excellent blog All About The Voluntary recently led to a decision that one of us would blog about Fair Trade.

This being the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, Lisa pointed me to a must-read piece in yesterday’s Telegraph by Philip Booth who makes a powerful argument that Fair Trade is neither fair, nor good for trade. Booth points out that ‘researchers sympathetic to fair trade have suggested that only 25 per cent of the extra price paid by consumers finds its way back to producers’.  He also points out that:

Fair trade is supposed to bring better working conditions to poor producers, together with higher prices and better social infrastructure. Questions have been asked about whether monitoring in the supply chain is sufficiently robust, and examples of unsatisfactory practice have been found. Furthermore, there are costs for producers. Poor farmers have to pay considerable sums to join up and often have to organise their businesses in particular ways: it is not suitable for all producers, especially in the poorest countries.

This is a consequence of Fair Trade’s structure that seems to be swept under the carpet or simply unknown to people who want to feel they are doing something ethical and playing a part in tackling poverty by choosing to buy products labelled as Fair Trade.  Booth’s piece also highlights an anti-competitive element of Fair Trade as he explains:

Fairtrade schools and parishes have to commit themselves to selling Fairtrade products. This is unfortunate for producers – who may be as poor – for other schemes, such as the Rainforest Alliance or Bird Friendly, that are designed to protect the environment.  And, of course, if we transfer our allegiance to a fair trade producer from a non-fair trade producer in a poor country, what happens to the farmer who loses his customer base?

It appears that despite these justifiable concerns, the government is pressing ahead with a supposedly ethical Fair Trade policy at the expense of taxpayers who have no way of holding politicians to account for it.  The plan is to introduce a requirement to purchase a minimum of 50% Fair Trade tea and coffee, and it will apply to central Government departments, prisons and the armed forces under Government Buying Standards.  This was confirmed in a written answer from DEFRA in Parliament yesterday… (click to enlarge)

What really stands out here is that last paragraph, where there is a clear recognition that the policy will result in increased costs to the taxpayer and that the decision has been taken without prior evidence of equivalent costs having been submitted by the Fairtrade Foundation.  Convinced by the righteousness of the policy government is pressing ahead regardless.  The public is entitled to evidence based policy making which is not happening.

It should be a matter of concern to everyone that government is engaging in gesture politics at taxpayer expense to follow a supposedly ethical policy, that research shows has the capacity to harm people in poorer countries, by selecting produce generated within a system over which there are question marks that do not appear to have been critically evaluated.

Perhaps it is time for voters whose parish, borough or city councils have imposed a Fair Trade procurement policy to challenge their authority for evidence of the benefits to producers in poorer countries of Fair Trade – rather than anecdotes – and write to their MPs asking for the same to justify the additional cost being passed on to us.

DEFRA’s climate propaganda spending up 1650%

Readers in the UK will be familiar with the government’s ACT ON CO2 ‘Change how the story ends’ advertising campaign.  It featured a father reading his daughter a bedtime story in which bunnies were tearful about global warming and mass floods caused puppies and kittens to drown.

The reason for the sinister propaganda ACT ON CO2 explains is ‘It’s our children who’ll suffer if we don’t reduce CO2 emissions’.  So it may be of interest that quietly slipping through the House of Commons on Thursday was a written answer to this question from Grant Shapps MP:

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what advertising campaigns his Department has been responsible in each of the last three years; which such campaigns have (a) commenced and (b) continued in 2009-10 to date; and what the total cost of each such campaign has been.

The answer from Dan Norris MP, ,told how many of our tax pounds were devoted to this and other ACT ON CO2 campaigns:

Since the beginning of the current financial year DEFRA has spent around £2 million on campaign advertising. This was primarily on campaigns for conservation volunteering, water saving, waste and resource efficiency. A further £23,841 was spent on advertising vacancies within the same time period.

But that’s only part of the story.  As more and more of the ‘evidence’ supporting the global warming narrative that human CO2 emissions are heating the planet has been called into question, spending on the ACT ON CO2 campaign has actually increased by more than 1650%.  With the economy imploding, unemployment rising and tax revenues plummeting, the government not only kept its propaganda effort running, it channelled more of our money into it.  Got to justify the big business carbon trading bonanza somehow I suppose…

The tables below show the breakdown of DEFRA advertising spend and how it has doubled between 2007-08 and 2008-09, with the huge jump in money devoted to ACT ON CO2:

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EU Waste Implementation Agency to usurp councils

It’s interesting that only in the last week the media has actually taken notice of EU plans to create a waste implementation agency.

The plan was included in a release following the consideration of two reports by the European Commission in November 2009.  As the EU’s press release on the matter explained:

The Commission is also studying the feasibility of creating an EU Waste Implementation Agency to help address the problem of inadequate implementation and enforcement deficit.

It seems that, unless the UK government intends to oppose the implementation of this proposed agency, it’s not just the media that failed to take on board the EU’s plans.  Because in Parliament last Thursday, Labour’s Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dan Norris, fielded a question from Norman Baker MP about landfill and one about recycling from Adrian Sanders MP.  His answers to the follow up questions were interesting.

On the subject of landfill, Norris was asked if he would ‘take steps to discourage East Sussex County Council from creating landraise mountains in the countryside’.  Norris answered that the government will shortly be consulting on further restrictions on the landfilling of certain biodegradable and recyclable wastes.  The exchange continued:

Norman Baker: I welcome that statement, but in this day and age is it not unbelievable-and appalling-that my Conservative county council wants to build 60-acre wide and 80-foot high waste mountains in the lovely Sussex countryside? Will he draw the council’s attention to the Government’s waste hierarchy and suggest that it moves from the 15th century to the 21st?

Dan Norris: If I did not know better, I would think that a general election is imminent. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take part in our consultation to ensure that we produce as little waste as possible that needs to go into landfill. The truth is that we need to reduce, recycle and reuse at every possible opportunity, and allowing waste to go into landfill is not a good thing. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I both went to Sussex university, so we are very familiar with the beauty of the area, and we recognise people’s anger, but it is a local planning issue, plus a safety issue for the Environment Agency.

My emphasis.  That seems an unequivocal statement of fact.  Enter Sanders on recycling, who wanted to know ‘what steps [Norris’] Department is taking to encourage local authorities to recycle a greater range of materials’.  After Norris gave the party line on the work done with local authorities, the money spent and the increase in recycling as a result, Sanders continued the discussion:

Mr. Sanders: What specific support can the Government give to my own local authority, which has a recycling rate of just 27 per cent., to enable it to bring that rate up to the level of 57 per cent. that is being achieved by the next-door authority, Teignbridge?

Dan Norris: This really is a matter for local authorities. The recycling rate in the hon. Gentleman’s unitary authority, Torbay, is actually higher than he suggested, but it is still about 10 per cent. behind the average for local authorities in the west country. He certainly needs to talk to the local authority and ensure that it is getting the message that it needs to get on with this. It recycles five different forms of waste, which is to be encouraged-we suggest a minimum of two, but we want local authorities to go up to five-but it is clearly not doing as well as the best, and I suggest that he takes that up with the authority, as this is a local matter.

Again, my emphasis.  The consistent theme in both responses from Dan Norris is that actions on landfill and recycling are seen as local matters.  Clearly the EU has designs on changing the status quo.  Norris surely knew this but decided to say nothing about the proposed removal of local control over these areas by our masters in Brussels.  Also there was no acknowledgement of the expensive accumulation of recyclable material for which there is no market and for which the costs are being passed on to council tax payers.

The question is this; when will our Westminster government acknowledge the planned changes of our actual government, and at what point will residents in local authority areas that are still control waste collection and disposal (i.e. not members of unaccountable waste partnerships) be asked to give a democratic mandate to the transfer of control over waste from their elected representatives to an EU agency?  Is this what they call joined up government?

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