Thursday, 28 June 2012

Energy and Jobs in Yorkshire

Last week, a public consultation began on a proposed project to build the UK's first power station using carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Yorkshire. Local residents and other interested parties are invited to give their views on the building of the new £3 billion Don Valley Power Project in Hatfield.

The week before, I met with a representative of the project who explained that while the project is still in development, it looks to be on its way to receiving sufficient investment for 2013/14. This investment includes funding from the EU research programme 'The European Energy Programme for Recovery'.

The power station in Hatfield will capture millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide which would then be stored on North Sea oil fields. In a recently published report by the National Grid, it was predicted that at least 90% of the carbon dioxide emitted by the coal-fired plant will be captured. 

Following recent innovations in the US, the project also involves plans to extract the remaining oil from the North Sea using carbon dioxide which will be stored in those fields. Traditionally large oil firms have abandoned fields shortly after they have reached peak production levels. This new technology will enable extraction of any remaining reserves.

The development is also aimed at becoming the ‘hub’ of a cluster of other CCS projects in the region.  The Yorkshire and Humber region is an ideal location for kick-starting a global CCS industry, due to its high concentration of power stations and large industrial plants that release a large amount of carbon dioxide.

The building of the Don Valley Power Project is potentially good news for our region, as not only will to decrease the region's carbon footprint, it will also create employment. It is estimated that around 2800 temporary jobs will be created to build the infrastructure needed and another 500 permanent roles to run the operations. 

A pipeline will have to be constructed to carry carbon dioxide from Hatfield, across the River Humber and over Hull through the Holderness Coast. Local residents can put their views across during the consultation, and it goes without saying that all environmental factors must be considered.

Yorkshire is at the forefront of a renewable energy revolution.  Our region has topped the UK renewable investment league for the last year. I am proud that our region has invested almost two billion pounds in renewable energy projects, creating over 5,400 jobs in the process.  

Useful links

Media coverage

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Olympic flame passes through Yorkshire

This week, the Olympic flame was carried by various Torch Bearers through many parts of Yorkshire, on its long journey to London where the 2012 Games will begin.

Over the last few days, the flame has made its way across the border from Greater Manchester to pass through Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford, Keighley, Skipton, Burley in Wharfdale and Headingley among other places, before arriving in Temple Newsom park in Leeds on Sunday evening where it was greeted by 40,000 people.

Early this morning (at about 07.15), the flame began its journey from Leeds to Sheffield, starting at the Town Hall. I was lucky that the route it took passed very close to where I live.

I got up and dressed early and took my cup of tea with me to the end of the road, where many other people were gathered waiting for Torch Bearer 005 to run past. Some local residents were still wearing pyjamas!

Here is the Olympic flame going past the end of Dock Street in Leeds. The Torch Bearer is I believe Mr Tony King from Bradford (cannot verify 100% I'm afraid as his profile doesn't have a photo on it, but age, gender & route stage seem to match).

As you can see, the good folks of Leeds and this morning's Torch Bearers were quite lucky with the weather; there wasn't a drop of rain to be found : )


Olympic flame route

Bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2016!

As a keen cyclist and a proud Yorkshirewoman, I am very happy to announce my support for the Welcome to Yorkshire "Back Le Bid" campaign to host the opening stage (called the "grand départ") of the Tour de France in 2016.

The Tour has its grand départ outside of France every two years, for example London and Amsterdam have hosted it in the past, and the Back Le Bid campaign aims to bring it to Yorkshire.

As well as providing a stunning backdrop for the Tour de France, the many steep hills in our region should be able to challenge even the world's best cyclists. Hosting the Tour will also bring economic benefits to Yorkshire as fans, participants and organisers will visit the region and experience our great hospitality.

In addition, TV coverage of the Tour de France (which has an estimated 2 billion viewers) will showcase Yorkshire to those who follow the race on TV and no doubt persuade some of them to visit our region.

Yorkshire has a long history with the Tour de France as the region had generated more stage winners than any other region in England. These stage winners include Brian Robinson from Huddersfield who was the first British winner of a Tour de France stage in 1958, and Barry Hoban from Wakefield who won eight stages between 1967 & 1975. Both Brian and Barry are naturally backing the Yorkshire bid to host the opening stage in 2016, as are current leading British cyclists Mark Cavendish, whose mother comes from Yorkshire, and Ben Swift who hails from Rotherham.

If you would like to see the opening stage of the 2016 Tour de France, please sign up to "Back Le Bid" as I did.

Rebecca and her bike near the Hull constituency office (I cycle there from the train station!)


The Back le Bid campaign is gathering pace and has now hit the national media:

Sky Sports

The Guardian


Back le Bid

Tour de France

Welcome to Yorkshire

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Pakistan Travel Problems - a positive response from the European Commission

Following up on the post I made last week about the problems that have hit Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) over the last few months; I can now update readers further. 

The European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas has now responded to the letter that I and several other Liberal Democrat MEPs wrote last week, informing us about the current state of affairs.

Commissioner Kallas described how, although PIA have displayed serious problems in the past and have been monitored for a lengthy period, they have responded positively to the Commission's concerns.

Subsequently, the airline has now taken significant steps to ensure that the safety and flight-worthiness of their aircraft measure up to international standards.

In the response to our letter, the Commissioner expressed concern that the European Aviation Society had suspended the airline's Air Security Certificate earlier this year.  However, he assured me that this was not a pre-requisite for operating within the EU. So long as improvement is shown at the next check, PIA will still be able to fly within the EU.

This is good news for Yorkshire passengers who fly with PIA through Leeds Bradford Airport, as the Commission has confirmed that they will be able to continue to visit Pakistan safely using PIA.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Improving disaster response in Europe

As part of my parliamentary duties on the European Parliament's "environment" committee (environment, public health and food safety) , I am following a proposal on the European Union's "civil protection mechanism".

Yesterday I met the European Commissioner for  Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva to discuss the proposal.

Rebecca meets Commissioner Georgieva

"Civil protection" is the term used to describe what countries do to protect citizens and infrastructure against man-made and natural disasters such as floods, forest fires, earthquakes, oil spills and bioterrorist attacks.

In recent years, the number of disasters being experienced by EU countries, particularly those related to climate change such as floods and forest fires, have increased in number and severity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on extreme weather unfortunately concludes that climate change related disasters are likely to increase everywhere.

When a natural or man-made disaster occurs, many EU countries can manage the disaster,  but increasingly as disasters become more severe and more frequent, countries are calling on each other for assistance.

Up until now, any European cooperation has been ad-hoc and hastily agreed once the disaster has occurred. The proposal now going before the environment committee seeks to improve this cooperation by creating a framework (called the "civil protection mechanism") within which it will take place.

The mechanism will enable countries to agree in advance what assistance and resources they can make available to each other (and third countries when necessary) in the event of a disaster. In addition, it will require countries to produce and share disaster risk management plans to allow gaps in capacity to be identified, which can help countries improve their civil protection capabilities, as well as guiding other countries as to the kind of assistance that country might need should a disaster occur.

This may sound a little dry and technical and you may wonder how that could be relevant to Yorkshire and the Humber. It may be indeed very relevant when it comes to floods, which sadly our region has suffered from in recent years.

The UK authorities are generally (and certainly compared to some other EU countries) well prepared and able to act in the event of floods. However, as residents of places like Hull and York can confirm, there is still room for improvement in flood response.

One aspect which I am particularly keen to see in the Report, is an increased responsibility for the UK to assess their own risk management plans. One of the key problems of the 2007 Hull floods was that the drains designed to carry off flood water were badly blocked. This even led to the loss of a life when a local man attempted to clear drains himself during the worst of the flood. Hopefully the damage Hull experienced in 2007 will not be repeated if the UK and other countries are brought up to a common standard and sufficiently assess any gaps in their civil protection capabilities .

The river Ouse floods parts of York in April 2012

The creation of this mechanism will allow the UK authorities to call for assistance from other EU countries with experience of dealing with disasters such as floods. In doing so, the UK authorities would know in advance what kind of assistance different countries could provide. Anyone who has experienced a flood knows that time is of the essence and a commonly made complaint is the delay in help reaching those who need it, rather than the assistance eventually received. The civil protection mechanism could prove extremely useful in this respect.

If anyone has any questions or would like further information on the civil protection mechanism, please contact me.


Background on the EU civil protection mechanism

European Commission proposal for a civil protection mechanism

Civil protection in the UK

IPCC report on extreme weather