Harriet Harman

Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election and I am no longer an MP

Southwark News column - Tackling environmental problems important for our future

Sometimes it seems that environmental challenges like global warming are so big we can’t possibly do anything about them as individuals. Or we are so busy and stressed in our everyday lives that we don’t have time to think about it, or to take action.But tackling environmental issues - from climate change to energy use, waste to transport - is important for our future and in our daily lives we can all be doing something to reduce the harmful impact of our actions on the environment.

Here are my five key points for action:

*Bring the tube to Camberwell and Peckham: Good public transport cuts car use, cuts noise and air pollution and cuts traffic jams. I strongly support extending the Bakerloo Line to Camberwell and Peckham. It would cut local traffic congestion especially along Walworth Road and Old Kent Road.

*Recycling household waste: Putting waste in landfill sites is very bad for the environment as some waste contains toxic substances that leak in to our soil and groundwater, and food or plant waste releases methane which contributes to global warming. Two thirds of our household waste could be recycled or composted. Recycling is easy in Southwark – your recycling, food and garden waste can be collected from your home or you can take it to the Council’s Reuse and Recycling Centre on Old Kent Road. In Southwark we've doubled our recycling rates since 2010 but we should aim to divert more than 95% of waste away from harmful landfill.

*Saving energy at home: Making small changes to the way you use energy can reduce your carbon footprint as well as saving money. Even small things make a big difference. Like turning off the lights when you leave a room, turning off your appliances at the wall rather than leaving them on standby, boiling your kettle with only as much water as you need, and drawing the curtains at night to stop the heat escaping. When Labour was in government we set up the ‘Warm Front’ scheme to properly insulate homes but the Tory-Lib Dem Government scrapped it. The next Labour government will have a major push on home insulation with at least 5 million homes upgraded over 10 years, saving the average household more than £270 a year in energy bills.

*Safer cycling: Cycling is a good thing. As well as being great exercise and a cheap way to travel, it cuts down on traffic jams and pollution. But cycling needs to be safer. Labour will make cycling safer in London and throughout the country. We have put forward a plan for tough new safety rules for HGVs. And in Southwark we want a ‘safe cycling hour’ with lorries banned from the roads at rush hour.

*Tackling environmental problems globally. The last Labour Government made progress in tackling climate change not just in the UK, but working with other governments in Europe and globally, and helping developing countries to develop more sustainably. More than ever Britain and the world need leadership on tackling the key global issues - climate change, poverty and inequality. 2015 is an important year for international action with a series of summits and conferences that can shape our future. Labour will seek a binding international agreement on climate change and global targets for cutting carbon emissions.

*The print version of this article is slightly shorter.

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