Mel Stride, the government and action on climate change

4 October 2020

Here follows a medium length saga of your Core Group's engagement with our MP Mel Stride, as we seek to develop a dialogue with him over the government's response to the climate emergency. The context is of rebuilding the economy after the pandemic, and the latest assessment by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) of the government's performance against its target of 'net zero' greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Lots of words and few pictures, I'm afraid, but please bear with, and then join with us in lobbying for urgent action.


Some background: the Committee on Climate Change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), is an independent, statutary body made up of members with relevant expertise, chaired by John Gummer, the conservative former secretary of state for the environment.

It was created under the terms of the 2008 Climate Change Act, which in turn committed the UK to fulfilling its duties under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The government of the time initially proposed a 60% cut in emissions by 2050, amended subsequently to an 80% cut.

The CCC produces an annual progress report to parliament, in which it assesses the government's performance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and recommends further action. Additionally, in May 2019 the Committee produced its 'net zero report' recommending the adoption of a revised target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In June 2019, the Prime Minister Theresa May enshrined the net zero target in UK law. There remain serious concerns about the mechanism by which this may be achieved, especially through the use of international carbon credits, and whether even this revised target is sufficient to avert disastrous global heating. It is however where the government is currently at.

The CCC's annual progress report published in June 2020, was not the first such report to be highly critical of the government's progress in reducing emissions; of which more, later.

The disaster of the global pandemic is seen by many as an opportunity to rebuild our economy and society in ways which address the current environmental crises.


Sustainable Crediton's response:

 In July, we wrote to Mel Stride as follows, drawing very much on the CCC's 2020 progress report:

'Dear Mel Stride,

We are writing as your constituents, and as the Core Team of Sustainable Crediton to urge you to do everything in your power to promote a green, sustainable, equitable recovery from the pandemic crisis, one that will protect communities and climate in as far as possible.

Sustainable Crediton, as you will know, is a well-established organisation within the constituency, whose mission is to help people to lead more sustainable lifestyles, and work towards a carbon-neutral future. Some ideas we share are set out below. We would like to ask you to meet a small group of our members to discuss both these broad ideas and also some of the practical ideas that we have for Central Devon.

We support the overarching ideas put forward by the Build Back Better movement and by the Committee on Climate Change. Firstly, the Build Back Better movement, as you'll know, is pushing for a New Deal that protects public services, tackles inequality, provides secure well-paid jobs and creates a shock-proof economy to fight the climate crisis. The New Deal needs to prioritise creating secure jobs in renewable energy and sustainable transport, and investing in initiatives that aim to end global injustice, conflict and environmental degradation.

And, whilst there are evidently some constructive ideas in the government's recovery plans as outlined so far, we are clear that much greater priority needs to be given to protecting us from the existential threat of global warming of more than 1.5o. As a start, following the 6 Key Principles agreed by the Committee on Climate Change:

1. Use climate investments to support economic recovery and jobs.

2. Lead a shift towards positive, long-term behaviours (eg home-working, remote medical consultations and improved safety for cyclists)

3. Tackle the wider 'resilience deficit' on climate change (reducing the UK's vulnerability to the destructive risks of climate change to bring benefits to health, well-being and national security.)

4. Embed fairness as a core principle.(the costs must not burden those who are least able to pay, or whose livelihoods are most at risk as the economy changes)

5. Ensure the recovery does not lock-in greenhouse gas emissions or increased risk. (Support for carbon-intensive sectors should be contingent on them taking real and lasting action on climate change)

6. Strengthen incentives to reduce emissions when considering tax changes.

More recently the Committee on Climate Change has identified five clear investment priorities for the months ahead:

1. Low-carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future

2. Tree planting, peatland restoration, and green infrastructure

3. Energy networks must be strengthened

4. Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle, and work remotely

5. Moving towards a circular economy.

The CCC also identified opportunities to support the transition and the recovery by investing in the UK's workforce, and in lower-carbon behaviours and innovation:

1. Reskilling and retraining programmes

2. Leading a move towards positive behaviours

3. Targeted science and innovation funding

Please will you let us know what support you can provide for these ideas, and please would you also agree to meet us to discuss them.

Yours sincerely,

Dee Ross EX17 1DS                                                                                      Esther Mann EX17 2DL

John Craythorne EX17 2DA                                                                        Caroline Romijn EX17 5NX'


Mel Stride's response:

In August, we received the following reply:

Dear Ms Romijn,

Thank you for your email.

In my capacity as Chair of the Treasury Select Committee I am involved in the Climate Assembly and the production of its report. I think that the publication of the report would be a good time for me to meet a small number of representatives so as to ensure all constituency climate change groups are involved.  You will appreciate that I have received several requests to meet from groups across the constituency.

On this basis I will come back to you shortly and would be grateful if you could convey this message to the others in your group.

Thank you again.

With best wishes,


Rt Hon. Mel Stride MP
Member of Parliament for Central Devon


A bit more context: the Climate Assembly UK

The Climate Assembly (CA) UK was set up by the government, bringing together 100+ people from all walks of life and of all shades of opinion to discuss how the UK should meet its 'net zero' emissions target.

The assembly members met over six weekends in Spring 2020. They heard balanced evidence on the choices the UK faces, discussed them, and made recommendations about what the UK should do to become net zero by 2050. Their final report was published on Thursday 10 September 2020.

The CA was convened by six select committees of the House of Commons, Mel Stride being chair of the Treasury Select Committee.


Mel's further letter: September

'Dear Ms Romijn,

I write further to my e-mail on the Climate Assembly (report) launch meeting, to which I, as Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, will contribute.

 The meeting will take place on Thursday, 10 September, commencing at 9am.  It will be available to view on the Parliamentary YouTube channel and potentially on, too.  There will be a Q & A session at which key stakeholders and the press will be given an opportunity to ask questions.

 In addition to this, the Treasury Committee announced on 24 July that it would relaunch its inquiry 'Decarbonisation of the UK Economy and Green Finance' to seek additional written evidence on how and whether the UK's response to coronavirus should take the Government's net zero carbon emissions target into account.

 My comments as Chair were as follows: 

 "The Committee has received a great deal of evidence since launching this inquiry over a year ago. But with the impact on the economy of coronavirus, clearly much has changed.  

The Climate Assembly's report published last month said that post-lockdown steps to aid economic recovery should drive progress to achieve net zero.

 So now is the time to ask whether the Government can seize the opportunity presented by the crisis to further green the economy to achieve net zero by 2050.

 Whether the level of HMT support should depend on how much companies pollute, or if it should directly fund green infrastructure, are some of the issues that we would like evidence on."

 I hope that you will be able to participate.  Submissions can be made until Tuesday 6 October on the Committee website here:

 I would be happy for you to share your submission with me as your Member of Parliament - and do share this information with the others in your group.

 Many thanks.

 With best wishes,


Rt Hon. Mel Stride MP
Member of Parliament for Central Devon'


Our response to the Treasury Select Committee, copied to Mel Stride, 5 October. Note that some of the on-line pro-forma details have been edited out for the sake of clarity.

 Organisation name:

Sustainable Crediton

Core Group comprises:

1. Dee Ross, Chair

2. Esther Mann, Treasurer

3. John Craythorne, Communications

4. Caroline Romijn, Secretary


Sustainable Crediton is a well-established organisation in the constituency of Central Devon, with a membership of 750 and a mission to help local people to lead more sustainable lifestyles and work towards a carbon-neutral future. We write now to support financial policies and investment that will help us to Build Back Better following the Coronavirus crisis.

We support measures that will protect public services, tackle inequality, provide secure well-paid jobs and create a shock-proof economy to fight the climate crisis. We need to create secure jobs in renewable energy and sustainable transport, and invest in initiatives that aim to end global injustice, conflict and environmental degradation , and to support biodiversity.

Response to Question 1: Should the Treasury's support package to business distinguish between companies based on how much they pollute?

Yes: the support package must distinguish between businesses on the basis of an agreed range of measures of impact & pollution, and should aim to develop a circular economy.

Carbon output & energy use: The Treasury should support businesses that use renewable energy sources/ low energy processes and sustainable (ideally local) distribution methods. Also businesses that directly provide sustainable public transport, and not airlines that promote unsustainable air travel. Also agricultural businesses that follow measures to decarbonise. There should be no support for building/ construction companies which do not comply with government's own Future Homes Standards.

Use of resources and materials: The Treasury should use the package to support and encourage innovation in new materials use, minimising usage of precious resources and materials, and the recycling and repurposing of materials.

Plastics and packaging: The Treasury should support only those businesses which reduce the amounts of plastic and packaging they use. This can include charging companies for plastic they produce, and introducing requirements for them to take back/ recycle their packaging. Support should be provided to companies that use or switch to more sustainable systems.

General environmental pollution and impact on biodiversity: The Treasury should disincentivise / avoid supporting badly polluting sectors eg coal mining, fossil fuel energy, businesses that use and discharge polluting chemicals. This should be accompanied by stronger regulation of manufacturing pollution and waste. Support should go to businesses which are seriously investing in cleaning up their act and reducing their negative impact on biodiversity.

Response to Question 2: Should the Treasury be directly funding Green infrastructure as part of its coronavirus spending package

Yes: in our view the Treasury should definitely fund green infrastructure projects.

Energy: The Treasury should directly fund renewable energy projects (wind, solar, tidal, ground and air heat source etc). We need investment in large scale projects and also incentives/ support for individuals/ small companies to install. Also investment in research and development in the new technologies including battery design, and investment in a network of car charging points.

Housing & construction: As a minimum, the treasury should use funds to incentivise builders and construction companies to meet or exceed the Future Homes Standard, in its entirety, with immediate effect, before the statutory implementation in 2025. Even better if the Future Homes Standard could be introduced with immediate effect for new starts, and applied not only to new housing, but also to industrial and commercial buildings. Also greater use of wood and local building materials (zero energy building) to be incentivised or mandated. We also need funding or compulsion to ensure that the layout of new housing developments prioritises pedestrian, cyclist and public transport access over private transport. Funding should also be made available for retro-fitting housing with insulation and sustainable heating systems.

Transport: The treasury should use funds to re-prioritise public transport (to make it adequate and affordable) and to pay for 'coronavirus' adaptations to current bus and train stock: spaced seating, improved ventilation, and new cleaning standards, to make travel covid-safe so that usage levels rise again. And, as coronavirus has driven many public transport users to use private vehicles again, the Treasury should support measures to reduce fossil fuel vehicles, promote the use of electric vehicles, and support investment in charging points. In fact this is a good opportunity to invest in the development and introduction of electric/ other energy for all vehicles: cars, lorries, air travel and shipping. Alongside this the Treasury should invest in cycle routes, and promote cycling with investment in secure cycle parks, cycle purchase schemes and funding for Cycling Proficiency Training.

Local Shopping: During the pandemic there has been a beneficial rise in the use of 'local' shops, with the advantage of reducing food miles, reducing shopping miles, and promoting sales of local products. We need the Treasury to support this trend with tax breaks/ incentives to support small traders.

Home working/ flexible working/ access to high speed internet: In order that the benefits of increased home working and flexible working (less time wasted on commuting, less carbon output from travel) can be sustained, we need the Treasury to support more rapid development of High Speed Broadband.

Reforestation, farming and fisheries. The importance of woodlands, peatland and gorselands in carbon storage is well understood. Additional arguments for providing financial support for tree planting and 'managed biodiversity' in this era of coronavirus are that , with travel overseas reduced, the amenity value and health benefits of green spaces and woodland for recreation and for 'holidays-at-home' are now more widely appreciated. Treasury should definitely invest in this, as well as in support for organic farming and fisheries protection.

Social behaviours: Coronavirus has revealed that the public are open to adopting more ethical and altruistic, community-minded behaviours. The Treasury could invest directly in education campaigns to

promote green and ethical behaviours. Recycling requirements for businesses could be made more stringent and promoted. The Treasury could fund local councils/ local assemblies to address local issues.

Investment in school buildings, sports buildings, medical centres - with new designs to allow distancing and ventilation

Question 3: Are there any green-related policies that the Treasury should change or commence due to the Coronavirus in order to facilitate the transition to meeting net zero?

Planning legislation: Recent proposals to reduce local authority control of Planning should be reversed; in the interim until 2025 when the Future Homes Standard is introduced, local councils are unable to stipulate that new builds should be carbon neutral.

Public Transport fares and subsidies: Government needs to set an affordable level for fares, and subsidise as necessary in order to get people back onto public transport. Aircraft fuel should be taxed at the same or a higher level than other fuels, so that airfares become more realistic, and train fares are competitive. The Treasury could set targets for usage levels on public transport, once affordable fares are in place.

Recycling incentives: Requirements for recycling by businesses should be stepped up, with financial incentives.

Agriculture: Farm subsidies to be dependent on both biodiversity measures and also on progress towards decarbonisation of agriculture.

Question 4: In which ways will the new economy post-coronavirus allow the government to change the way it finances meeting the Net Zero target?

Supporting new business start-ups and social enterprises: Increased financial support for new green businesses and social enterprises which meet sustainability targets. Such new businesses will be much needed to replace businesses which have gone bankrupt during coronavirus. Bottom up consultation via democratic participation so as to include public investment in and adoption of greener practices is the way forward. We should revisit LA21 process, enabling participation and understanding of problems and solutions.

International dimension - cooperation and diversification: Coronavirus has brought home the interdependency of countries in tackling the virus. Nobody's economy will improve until all do. Similarly for climate change and Net Zero. Therefore we need international cooperation, continuing funding of aid budgets, and investment in thorough preparations to make COP26 a success. National specialisation in specific sectors (eg financial services for the UK) is no longer sustainable; we need to diversify the economy and increase 'sustainable' manufacturing.

Question 5: Are there outcomes from the coronavirus that will enable the treasury and HMRC to meet the Net Zero target more easily?

Tax rises: It seems inevitable that tax rises will be necessary post coronavirus. Just now, while there is awareness that the low-paid, who have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, should not be further penalised, this is the right moment to introduce Wealth Taxes and higher taxes on luxury spending. It is also a time when political will may be found to change taxation to favour greener behaviour: stiffer penalties for non-compliance with green regulations; taxes on polluters and on businesses with an excessive carbon footprint including airlines and oil-tankers.

Home and flexible working: Helps by reducing emissions from commuting, as long as continuing encouragement/ incentivisation is provided. Home working during the winter will entail greater use of household heating; therefore Treasury needs to invest in support for house insulation and retrofitting.

What happens next?

It's hard not to be concerned at the apparent lack of actual action. It is concerning that the Treasury Select Committee is not only asking how, but 'whether' the Government can seize the opportunity presented by the (Covid) crisis to further green the economy to achieve net zero by 2050: as if it is optional, if we are to avoid climate breakdown and bearing in mind that the government as reported by the CCC, is currently well off course from achieving its net zero goal.

Presumably all of the six select committees which convened the Climate Assembly will now be considering their response to its report.

In October 2016, Boris Johnson set up the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change. What role that will play in decisions about 'greening' the economic recovery is unknown.

We will continue to be asking questions and making contributions to the debate, on behalf of our membership.


 What we want you to do

Firstly, thanks for staying with this to the end of the rabbit hole! What we really want you to do however is to now press the case for change in whatever ways are available to you:

firstly, by emailing your thoughts to Mel Stride: . It only takes 15 minutes to put an email together, so why not do it now?!

secondly, do whatever else you can to call for action on climate change. How about the local paper: Crediton Courier:

Or, if you aren't already, get active within Sustainable Crediton and help with this stuff. It all takes time, but the more people who are active the less there is for everyone to do: good, eh?