Robert's Weekly Column - 23rd April 2019

It was great to celebrate Easter here in Swindon, but like many of us, I was deeply shocked and saddened by the attacks in Sri Lanka, which were an attack on the peace and happiness of Easter. Our thoughts and prayers from Swindon continue to go to all who were affected, as the UK stands in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world and with the Government and people of Sri Lanka.

During last week, I have been talking to local residents and supporting our excellent Conservative Borough and Parish Candidates who work hard all year round with me for our Swindon community, dealing with local issues from West Swindon right over to Eldene and Liden.  

As we marked Earth Day on Monday, I watched Sir David Attenborough’s recent programme on Climate Change. Programmes such as this and Blue Planet have captivated very many of us and brought to our attention the importance of protecting the world that we live in.

In the past week, we have seen protests in London about climate change.  I understand the message and its urgency, but seriously question the methods used by the demonstrators and the disruption caused.  Our police have much else to be doing, frankly, and important environmental action is already being taken.  Britain was the first country in the world to legislate to deal with carbon emissions and climate change. The Government will shortly consider whether to shift the UK's long-term climate target to virtually zero emissions by 2050 - that's tougher than the current 80% reduction by 2050.

Over the weekend, we saw the UK’s longest spell without coal power since the Industrial Revolution.  Between 2010 and 2018, total greenhouse gases fell by 25 per cent. Government investment has meant that there are almost 400,000 people working in low carbon businesses and their supply chains across the country. Since 2010, with the support of the Conservative Government, businesses have invested £92 billion in renewable energy, meaning renewables now make up a record amount of our electricity and enabling the UK to become a world leader in clean technology.  

The Government’s approach shows that it is possible to reduce emissions whilst growing the economy. But as ever, we must not rest on our laurels and that’s why the Conservatives will use this progress to go further and to ensure our ambitions come to fruition.

Here in Swindon, I am pleased that we are leading the way by working towards installing England’s first Advanced Plastic Recycling Facility, but more needs to be done to reduce the use of single waste plastic we use, which is causing suffering to animals and damaging vital habitats.

I was glad to add my support to the Swindon Refill Campaign when it launched last September.  This project has real potential to help reduce plastic waste output in our community.  The scheme is a simple idea, where cafes, local businesses and anywhere with a tap are encouraged to allow passers-by to refill their plastic water bottles for free, and where participating outlets will eventually be shown on a ‘refill app’ which can be downloaded to many devices. I am encouraging all local businesses to sign up to the scheme. If you would like to find out more, ‘refill.org.uk’ is the website address which can provide a more in-depth guide to the programme.

As part of our commitment to leave a better country for the next generations, the Conservative Government has set out a 25 Year Plan to improve the environment.  We will introduce new legislation this year, and draft clauses to be included in the Bill on environmental principles and governance have now been published. These proposals will be central to the new Environment Bill and will place environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government. I am encouraged that these clauses are only part of a broader Bill, which will include measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management.