Brighton turns off for WWF’s Earth Hour

It was lights out in the streets of Brighton last night (March 19) as the city celebrated Earth Hour — a global movement against climate change.

At 8.30pm, the city’s most famous brightly lit landmarks, including the Palace Pier, the Brighton Dome, the Brighton Wheel, the Theatre Royal and the Royal Pavilion turned off or dimmed their lights in support of the international environmental campaign — brainchild of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Originally established in Australia in 2007, Earth Hour is now celebrated across 178 different countries, with some of the world’s most iconic buildings — Big Ben, Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower — taking part.

Supporters enjoyed the annual blackout with an atmospheric torch-lit walk along the seafront, from Hove bandstand to the Brighton Wheel, which was organised as part of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Heathwalks scheme.

But it was not just local residents who turned off for climate change.

Environmentally conscious businesses around Brighton also embraced the opportunity to raise awareness of the campaign, holding events especially for the hour-long darkness.

Zero-waste restaurant Silo, in the North Laines, held a special Earth Hour dinner service. The meals were cooked using as little energy as possible, and the tables were lit by recycled candles.

Brighton Dome also took part in the campaign by programming Joel Scott’s play The Devil Speaks True, which is principally performed in the darkness using binaural technology.

Emma Robertson, Head of Press & PR at Brighton Dome, said: “The initiative was part of our Green team activity, which seeks opportunities to improve the organisation’s environmental sustainability.”

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Boris thanks Green climate change ‘leader’

Boris Johnson settled an old rivalry today (March 16) as he thanked the woman who has pushed forward his policies on climate change.

The Mayor of London, who spoke at the Greater London Authority (GLA) for his final Mayor’s Question Time, said that Jenny Jones, London Assembly member for the Green Party, had been a significant driving force in London’s action on climate change.

But their exchanges have not always been so amicable.

Cllr Jones has repeatedly argued that climate change has slipped from the Tories’ agenda, and this has resulted in some sharp words between the two at previous GLA meetings.

Last July, she was publicly critical of Mr Johnson’s failure to attend a two-day climate change meeting organised by Pope Francis.

But today, Mr Johnson thanked Cllr Jones for the effort she’s put into lowering London’s carbon footprint.

He said: “You’re right, and you’ve been right over many years. You’ve been hounding me on this issue. In your nice way, you have hounded me. I think very often, actually, the kicking I get round this horseshoe does make a difference to the policies that we make and the energy we put into things.

“On climate change, you have been the leader, and I think London has done very well.”

His comment came after Cllr Jones criticised his failure to meet his own climate change targets. She gave the example of his target for 1,700,000 cavity wall insulations, which he missed by 1,620,000.

She said: “That’s pretty dismal.”

But Mr Johnson was adamant that, since the term began, carbon dioxide emissions were down 14 per cent, while London’s economy was up 50 per cent. He also claimed that nitrogen oxides (NOx) had fallen by 25 per cent, and particulate matter (PM) 2.5 by 27 per cent.

In 2008, he set a target to reduce the city’s CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2025 by providing cleaner public transport, retrofitting boilers, providing cavity wall insulation and introducing an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), but Cllr Jones said there had been a lack of action on climate change.

Taking a more emphatic approach, she said that Mr Johnson’s targets had been “totally, fatally undermined” by the government’s withdrawal of schemes such as Green Deal – to which the Mayor gave a mumbled reply.

She went on to contrast him with other leaders, including ex-Governer Arnold Schwarzneggar and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who she said have been world leaders in combatting climate change.

She said: “You’ve actually pushed climate-sceptic views. You have not put energy into fighting.”

But Mr Johnson laughed off the accusation. He said: “Just because we don’t go around swanking doesn’t mean that we haven’t done better than other big cities. We’ve done great. Just because I don’t swan off around the world on climate change junkies, just because I don’t rack up air miles spewing vapour into the ether, bragging about everything we’re doing, doesn’t mean that we aren’t achieving a huge amount.”

“We have CO2 output per capita at half of that of the rest of the country. And we’ve increased GDP by 20 per cent. Those are astonishing figures. It shows that we’ve been able to generate fantastic economic growth and cut CO2 emissions.”

 

Gay rights activist condemns ‘no-platform’ policies

A veteran human rights activist has spoken out against a prevailing culture of ‘no-platforming’ that is rapidly becoming a barrier to freedom of speech.

Peter Tatchell, 64, spoke to students at Lambeth College last Wednesday (March 9). In his discussion of human rights, he made reference to Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1988 – the right to freedom of expression.

Last month, Mr Tatchell was refused a platform with NUS LGBT representative Fran Cowling at Canterbury Christ Church University after she accused him of racism and transphobia, because of his views against the no-platform policy.

On Wednesday, Mr Tatchell said: “The National Union of Students’ no-platform and safe space policy is well intended. The purpose is to protect weak and vulnerable and marginalised individuals and communities, and that’s entirely laudable.

“The problem is the way it’s often being interpreted is actually closing down free speech and open debate.”

Last year, ex-Muslim human rights activist Maryam Namazie was refused a platform at Warwick University for fears her critique of Islamism would be offensive to Muslim students. She also had a speech disrupted by Goldsmith University’s Islamic Society.

Attempts to stop controversial feminist writer Germain Greer from speaking, because of her unpopular comments about transgender women, were also condemned by Mr Tatchell.

He said: “I agree with trans people that she is vile in some of the things she’s said about trans people – really, really wrong; really, really offensive. But I think banning her is not the way to go. I think debating her is better.”

Mr Tatchell said that, by interrogating controversial views publicly, people are entitled to come to reasonable, informed decisions about a topic – a more effective strategy than stopping them from being expressed.

A protest organised by The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain will take place on 17 March outside the NUS headquarters in London, calling for a revision of the no-platform and safe space policies.