Green Party conference: nuclear power, environmental governance, and a visit from Minister Attwood

Updatepost covering the content of the Green Party conference now published, including audio of the speeches and debates.

Environmental governance and nuclear power … these nearly seem like clichéd themes for the Green Party NI to discuss at their annual conference next weekend. While the two leaders’ speeches will no doubt cover other aspects of Green Party policy, including economic and social issues, the main thrust of the agenda is focussed on traditional ‘green’ topics.

SDLP Environment Minster (and leadership candidate) Alex Attwood will deliver a keynote speech to the Green Party delegates and visitors to share his vision for environment governance in Northern Ireland.

(It is as if the SDLP are deliberately reaching out beyond their traditional voter base! I’ve mentioned elsewhere that SDLP vice-chair Fearghal Mckinney turned in Armagh to chair a Q&A panel at the UUP conference.)

On Saturday, the Green party will get a chance to listen to and challenge Executive environmental policy directly from the politician in charge. Green Party leader Steven Agnew comments:

I think it is important that politicians are mature enough to recognise when others are doing good work – regardless of party affiliations. The Green Party in Northern Ireland is willing to work in co-operation with all other parties to ensure the best outcome for the people of Northern Ireland. While we are a party in opposition, I want to ensure that we are playing a constructive role.

Following his speech, the Alex Attwood will take questions from Green Party delegates “which indicates his willingness to listen to the views of people who passionately care about our environment”.

Steven Agnew goes on to say:

There is a real sense that the Environment Minister is willing to listen to advice on what needs to be done locally to afford the most effective environmental management and protection. This is certainly in sharp contrast to what we have experienced in the past. I applaud Mr Attwood’s commitment to good environmental governance in his tenure so far. This is not to say I won’t be prepared to criticise him and hold him to account if he gets things wrong.

As well as a speech from NI party leader and MLA Steven Agnew, there will be remarks from Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party in Ireland.

It’s certainly a cunning way of attracting media interest to a smaller party conference that would perhaps otherwise have been ignored (or relegates to 50 words or an ‘And finally’ on a radio bulletin).

The final business is a panel debate asking: Should Nuclear Energy Be Part of the Solution to Climate Change?

Recently, the Green Party have been keen to stress their triangle of concern: economy for people and the environment. While nuclear power is an interesting question – and Sellafield has been confirmed as a site suitable for a new nuclear reactor to be built by 2025 – I do wonder whether this is a wasted opportunity. Surely planning, and the balance between the building trade (economy), housing (people) and the countryside (environment) would have been a more practical topic that could have fed into the planning changes being discussed for Northern Ireland?

The Green Party’s conference is being held in Belfast’s Ramada Encore hotel (just behind St Anne’s Cathedral) on Saturday 29 October between 2pm and 5pm. You don’t have to be a party member to attend. (And it’s free!)

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  • Rory Carr

    Asking the old question:

    “What have the Green Party ever done for us?”

    comes back the ringing reply:

    “Nuthin’, bleedin nuthin,mate !, Bar allowing the supermarkets charge me extra for carrier bags that is. Oh, and don’t get me goin’ on the refuse recycling bollocks. ”

    The only thing recycled as a result of all this trickery has been the earnings of the masses into the coffers of the few.

    So no change there then.

  • quality

    Environment Minister speaks at environmentally-focused party’s conference, not sure its necessarily a vote grabbing exercise. May get him a bit of press though.

    Rory

    As the rain yesterday annihilated my paper bag from Holland and Barretts I cursed the implementing plastic bag levy. Must get one of those big bags for life.

  • Reader

    Alan in Belfast: While nuclear power is an interesting question – and Sellafield has been confirmed as a site suitable for a new nuclear reactor to be built by 2025 – I do wonder whether this is a wasted opportunity. Surely planning, and the balance between the building trade (economy), housing (people) and the countryside (environment) would have been a more practical topic that could have fed into the planning changes being discussed for Northern Ireland?
    It depends whether they are a pressure group or a political party. There’s a natural ceiling on their electoral appeal while they oppose nuclear power and GM crops; and voters are watching their fuel bills and food bills rocketing.
    The plastic bag business isn’t a dealbreaker for me, though.

  • michael-mcivor

    The Greens could be Attwoods new party when he is beat in the s.d.l.p leadership race [ remember that election ]

    You heard it here first-

  • Sluggerposter

    Rory, given that the Green Party arnt in governemnt, they won’t have done anything for you. You have to put a party in government before it can implement its policies. As for plastic bags – that was originally a Sinn Fein private members bill which was then adopted by and is now being implemented by the 5-party executive. Reuse and Recycling is important and economically efficient. The social and environmental cost of extracting, producing, transporting and disposing of waste is not captured in the price. If we want to enhance economy and save money (which is particularly important when we are faced with budgetry constraints) we need to move beyond a disposable and unsustainable model.

  • Sluggerposter

    Reader, nuclear power is exactly a debate about economy, people and environment. Our economy fundamentally depends on energy and the prices are rising. People convieniently forget that. Nuclear power affects people and this debate is also about environmental impact of whatever fuel source we choice.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The plastic bags policy has been very successful in the RoI. It wasn’t necessarily a matter of green credentials, it was a matter of plastic bags littering the place everywhere. That problem went away overnight when the tax came in.

    Up here, the big supermarkets have pre-empted this by actively encouraging people not to use bags, so I’m not quite so convinced that we will see a similar step change here.

  • quality

    Comrade Stalin

    The difference is the Executive aren’t sure whether they want to stop people using plastic bags, or tax them for doing so (I believe the estimated £12m generated is supposed to go to the Green New Deal).

    I don’t know where they’ve plucked that £12m figure from, or what that amount of money is supposed to do exactly bar insulate a few houses. Clarity of purpose from the Executive would be a bonus because, failing a massive culture change, it will amount to a tax on the consumer.

    Where there not problems in the south to do with people using bin bags, which are obviously less degradable than your typical supermarket plastic bag?

  • Nuclear power is very much a topical issue and the Greens have shown courage and integrity by having a debate on it at their AGM. Since NI imports 98% of its energy, costing £2 billion every year, and all of that is fossil fuel which ends up as pollution in the atmosphere, there is a strong case for building a medium-sized nuclear power station to provide clean power for the whole island. Of course there are risks involved. But we cannot go on burning coal, oil and gas, destabilising weather systems and wrecking the planet, and kid ourselves that there are no risks in that strategy too. The peat that the ROI burns in its power stations is even more polluting than oil.

    It shows how little understanding people have of this issue that the comments above skim past the nuclear power debate and focus instead on polythene bags. That’s like discussing the colour of the deck-chairs while the Titanic keels over.

  • I’ve posted some coverage of the conference, including audio of the speeches and debates. The use of contradictory statistics in the nuclear debate was fascinating!