Author Archives: Alastair Harper

Boris’s big failure: why is London still killing its citizens?

Emissions of a starting diesel engineA little over five years ago, my daughter was born in central London, in an area where the nearest air quality monitoring station recorded particulates as having reached dangerous levels 55 times that year. When 35 bad days are exceeded, the UK falls foul of European air rules, which means it faces court cases and fines until the problem is rectified. Read more

Letter from America: no man is an island

Small Island in HawaiiAlastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He participated in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change. This is the final report of his trip.

My visit to the United States ended where the current president began; Barack Obama grew up just a few miles north of Waikiki Beach, his parents meeting at the University of Hawaii. I find his effortless cool more understandable now I’ve experienced the sea turtles, basketball courts and island-time attitude of his old neighbourhood. Read more

Letter from America: how cowboys cope with climate change

Alastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He’s currently participating in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change. This is his third report on his experiences.

As we make our journey over the shale wells and wind farms of the Great Plains to Colorado, we are joined by the pope. On the airport TV screens, on the front covers of the newspapers and in the conversations overheard in the terminal shuttle, his encyclical on climate change dominates our journey. As we are now in the early stages of the presidential nominations, His Holiness has also featured as a political debate starter on talk shows. Read more

Letter from America: the US’s secret green test site

welcome to verrmontAlastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He’s currently participating in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change. This is his second dispatch reporting on his experiences.

There is no typical America or American, but Vermont makes a particular effort to be untypical. Our tour group’s van driver is a polite, thoughtful man named Reg Godin. He normally waits in the van, but when we visit Montpelier for a meeting in the grand State House, he decides to join us. The place is shut down except for a few offices, but Reg shakes hands with the security guard, then ushers us through to the State’s Senate floor, where he allows us to take pictures of ourselves brandishing the gavel. Before the last election, Reg explains, he was a Democratic state representative, serving as one of the 150 in this state. That was his job for a while, he says; now he has another one. His modest attitude is in profound contrast to the power-chasing world of DC. Read more

Letter from America: Washington and the art of compromise

The capitol building in WashingtonAlastair Harper is head of politics at Green Alliance. He’s participating in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme on climate change and will be sending dispatches over the next couple of weeks based on his experiences.

Washington is a city that changes startlingly from block to block. Take the Capitol Building, which looms over its surroundings like the younger, stockier brother of St Paul’s Cathedral, reflected in the water landscaped in front with the Washington monument in the distance. Dotted around it are countless police, tourists and lobbyists. You are vividly aware of where you are. Read more

Can the Prime Minister deliver his climate pledges?

climate planThis post first appeared on BusinessGreen.

Many didn’t believe the Prime Minister would ever agree to make a pledge on climate change. Not in the middle of a general election. And not when Lynton Crosby was so busy getting any barnacles off the boat to ensure that nothing distracted from the long term economic plan. Colleagues inquired what we would do when he didn’t sign. Did we have we a backup plan? Read more

Five things we learned from the Greener Britain Hustings

16728491850_8f26167fe8_zAt the Greener Britain Hustings, senior party representatives debated with the general public what they will do, if they get into power at the next election, to create a greener Britain. Unlike some of the other election debates on offer, they did so in the same room and at the same time.

Here’s five things we learned: Read more

Why the EU2030 climate agreement is progress

Coal powerplant view - chimneys and fumesThe new EU 2030 climate package is a messy compromise, just like every other negotiated agreement in history, but it constitutes real progress.

It is progress because we now have the most ambitious regional agreement on emissions reduction anywhere in the world. At the start of this week, five members of the European Union had a 2030 target for greenhouse gasses. At the end of this week, all 28 members had one.  Read more

Why the Prime Minister is going to the New York climate summit  

Global deal_CoverA version of this post was first published by the New Statesman.

A new joint report from Green Alliance, WWF, Christian Aid, RSPB and Greenpeace believes we will have a global agreement on tackling climate change by the end of next year. If we do, it will be an exceptional event. Nations working together is no longer the fashionable way to deal with  problems. The UN is looked upon as indecisive, the EU is seen as technocratic and even the United Kingdom is barely living up to its name. And yet the prime minister has just announced he will be heading to New York later this month to meet with other world leaders to discuss getting a global agreement. Why would he bother?

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