The Big Questions: How do we make cycling safer? What are the lessons of the Paul Flowers affair?

This week's questions are answered by leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett

Share

What is your response to the Campaign to Protect Rural England coming out in favour of fracking?

Surprise. Although given the qualification that it wants it restricted to brownfield sites, of which there’d be few, not too worried. I’m confident we won’t see significant fracking in Britain. We need to work out how to leave more than half of our known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, not go looking for more. That might seem simple – just don’t dig – but there’s the “carbon bubble”. Our share markets are underpinned by valuations of fossil fuel reserves that can’t be used.

The World Forum on Natural Capital thinks that the way to protect the environment is to give it a financial value. Do you agree?

No. That suggests that we could trade off bits in return for cash, when it is genuinely invaluable. It’s worth reflecting that our economy is an entire subset of our environment – our lives are entirely dependent on it. We need every bit of healthy soil, clean water and diverse species that we haven’t yet trashed or lost. We’ve already so depleted the Earth that to feed and clothe ourselves and to have a liveable climate we have to protect every scrap of what we haven’t yet trashed, and restore lost treasures where we can.

Downing Street says it “does not recognise” reports that David Cameron told aides to “get rid of all the green crap” from energy bills. But does the quote ring true from the Prime Minister who promised “the greenest government ever”?

It’s interesting that this came from a Tory source in a Tory-friendly newspaper. It shows Mr Cameron is rattled, both by the struggle of more households in trying to pay their bills in our low-wage economy, and his party’s “millionaire Etonite” image problem. But it does give us a headline-friendly dismissal of the “greenest ever” claim, which has become a sad, sick joke. This zombie road-building, would-be greenbelt-destroying, shale gas-loving, renewable energy-resistant government deserves many labels.

How else – apart from by reducing environmental subsidies – can energy bills be lowered while still investing in necessary infrastructure upgrades?

There’s one huge area of action missing – energy conservation. The Energy Bill Revolution campaign has calculated that taking the income from carbon taxes and putting it into treating our leaky, hard-to-heat homes would lift nine out of 10 households out of fuel poverty, create up to 200,000 jobs and cut greenhouse gas emissions. That wouldn’t just cut bills temporarily, but permanently. Combine that with investment in renewable energy through community ownership, and a smart grid that manages demand as well as supply, and you’ve got a plan for a secure, environmentally friendly, affordable energy future.

What are the lessons to be learned from the debacle over Rev Paul Flowers?

First, it’s worth noting that this happened in what was actually a private bank that happened to be owned by a co-operative, so this shouldn’t stand against the advantages of co-operatives in general. But it is clear that we still don’t have any kind of handle on our financial sector. This scandal is a stark reminder of the need to scrutinise each and every bank. The industry has been able to say that continuing revelations of market rigging, mis-selling of products and the Bernie Madoff fraud relate to events before the financial crash. This claim came after.

Did the UN Climate Convention that ended in Warsaw yesterday do what it needed to do?

Sadly, no. It’s telling that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org and representatives of indigenous and women’s groups walked out. The influence of the fossil-fuel industries was evident. But we are seeing global progress – President Obama’s climate action plan is a start; the Chinese are getting serious – and the pressure on them to tackle their air pollution crisis will have positive side effects on climate change. Germany and Denmark are showing the possibilities of renewables.

The Government’s plans for new garden cities have stalled, but the Opposition is reviving the idea. What would be your solution to the housing crisis?

We have to stop hoping that private developers will build us out of this crisis. We would focus on building council homes for affordable rent and co-operative homes for genuinely affordable ownership, wherever possible on brownfield sites. We would also aim to ensure renting from private landlords is a stable, affordable option for the many who need it. Long term, we need to rebalance economic opportunities so that we make use of the 200,000 homes outside of London and the South-east that have been left empty for long periods of time.

Six cyclists have died in London in the past two weeks. What is the problem and what is the solution?

The problems are streets designed and run for the maximum benefit of motorised road users, at the cost of the safety of pedestrians and cyclists; HGVs and large lorries where they have no need to be; inadequate safety provisions on those lorries; excessive speed; and a legal framework that should be especially protective of vulnerable road users. Solutions: ban unnecessary HGVs and large lorries; ensure those remaining have all possible safety measures, cut speed limits, introduce strict liability, improve driver education and enforcement.

Monty Python are re-forming. Who else would you like to see stage a comeback?

Redgum, an Australian folk/rock band. Their anti-Vietnam War song “I Was Only 19” could be updated for the Afghan/Iraq wars, and their “One More Boring Night in Adelaide”, about discrimination against Aborigines, could be reshaped to mark the struggles of migrants. And hearing them would make me feel 18 again.

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Crabtreeof the San Francisco 49ers misses a catch during 2013's Super Bowl XLVII  

Super Bowl 2015: It's the most ridiculous sporting event of the year, but I absolutely love it

John Rentoul
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would halt the charitable status enjoyed by private schools

Rosie Millard
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links