Dozens of civil society groups to stand with Extinction Rebellion for days of protest at Houses of Parliament

14.11.22_XR Docs_City of London Mags_Helena Smith_7224
14.11.22_XR Docs_City of London Mags_Helena Smith_7224

NHS Workers Say No and Public and Commercial Services Union, one of the UK’s largest, among dozens of groups forming alliance with climate movement

NHS workers, trade unionists, anti-racism campaigners and climate activists will stand together in their thousands next month to protest the UK government’s apathetic and failed response to tackle interlocking crises, The Independent can reveal today.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has called on 100,000 people to join days of demonstration dubbed “The Big One” at the Houses of Parliament in London from 21 to 24 April.

On Monday, the event received a major boost after dozens of groups, representing a diverse cross-section of society and interests, confirmed their participation.

XR said it would focus on “attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks” to call for the UK government to adequately address a multitude of interwoven crises – climate change, the cost of living, attacks on democratic norms, and the shredding of essential public services.

Continue ReadingDozens of civil society groups to stand with Extinction Rebellion for days of protest at Houses of Parliament

Airlines downplayed science on climate impact to block new regulations

Original article by Ben Webster and Lucas Amin republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Campaigners say the lobbying tactics used to argue against tougher measures on emissions echo those of the 20th century tobacco industry

Image of a dirty passenger aircraft

Airlines have been accused of using a “typical climate denialist” strategy after downplaying decades of scientific research on aviation emissions to block tougher regulations.

Campaigners said the lobbying tactics echoed those of the 20th century tobacco industry, which fought stricter measures by magnifying minor doubts on the health risks of smoking.

Documents obtained by openDemocracy show airlines and airports privately told the government there was too much uncertainty about the additional warming effects of flights to justify introducing new policies to tackle them.

But senior climate scientists contradicted the industry’s claims, saying the science is well established on what are known as aviation’s “non-CO2 effects”.

These are caused by emissions at high altitude of water, nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, with aircraft vapour trails, also known as contrails, a particular problem because they form clouds at high altitude that trap heat radiated from the Earth.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in a special report in 1999 that the total historic impact of aviation on the climate was two to four times greater than from its CO2 emissions alone.

Research in 2021 largely confirmed those findings and concluded aviation emissions were warming the climate at “approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone”. An EU study from 2020 also found non-CO2 emissions warm the planet about twice as much as CO2 emissions, but acknowledged there were “significant uncertainties”.

The Department for Transport considered regulating these non-CO2 impacts and asked for views on the issue in a consultation in 2021 on its proposed “Jet Zero strategy”.

Responses from airlines and airports, obtained under FOI by openDemocracy, reveal several used the same tactic of arguing the science was too uncertain to justify policies to address non-CO2 effects. Several recommended instead that the government should limit its action on the issue to funding further research into it.

‘A bit of a joke’

Airlines UK, a trade body that lobbies for airlines including British Airways (BA), easyJet and Virgin Atlantic, told the DfT that “the science around these [non-CO2 impacts] is not yet robust enough to form reduction targets”.

When asked during the Jet Zero consultation what could be done to tackle non-CO2 impacts, Ryanair said it was “too early to say until impact is better understood”.

Low-cost airline Wizz Air told the DfT: “There is too high a level of uncertainty of non-CO2 emission contribution to climate change for a policy to be formed.”

Airlines UK, Ryanair and Wizz – alongside others across the industry – called on the DfT to instead fund further research into the science of non-CO2 impacts.

The tactic appears to have worked, with the DfT announcing in the Jet Zero strategy last year that more work would be done with scientists and the industry to understand the issue.

The DfT did, however, say the government was “exploring whether and how non-CO2 impacts could be included in the scope of the UK ETS (emissions trading scheme)”.

Professor Piers Forster, an atmospheric physicist and member of the independent Climate Change Committee, told openDemocracy it was “completely wrong” for the aviation industry to claim the science on aviation’s non-CO2 effects was too uncertain to address them.

He said: “It’s a bit of a joke to say the effects are too uncertain to do anything about. We see their contrails and we’ve known for over 20 years that they are warming the planet. The industry should not hide behind uncertainty.”

He added that “the non-CO2 effects absolutely have to be accounted for in some way and action should be taken to reduce them”.

Milan Klöwer, a climate physicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said airlines were adopting a “typical climate denialist strategy” by overstating the level of uncertainty about non-CO2 effects.

“Even in the best case they roughly double the effect of CO2 emissions on the climate,” he said.

He called on airlines to start accounting for their non CO2 effects and invest more in solutions, such as alternative fuels, which reduced those effects.

Rob Bryher, aviation campaigner at climate charity Possible, said: “These documents show that airlines cannot be trusted to decarbonise on their own. Demand management solutions like a frequent flyer levy, introducing fuel duty, carbon pricing, or management of airport capacity are going to be crucial.”

Matt Finch, UK policy manager of campaign group Transport & Environment, said: “Aviation’s non-CO2 impacts are somewhere between huge and absolutely massive. But the industry doesn’t want you to know that. Instead of confronting its environmental problems head-on, the industry copies the tobacco industry of the ’50s and the oil industry of the ’70s in casting doubt and disbelief around the science.”

BA said it was working with academics and experts on non-CO2 impacts of flying while Sustainable Aviation, an industry group that includes airlines, said it was committing to addressing them but reiterated more research was needed. Wizz Air said it was already addressing the impacts through a range of measures.

Some airlines ignore non-CO2 effects in schemes they support to help passengers calculate and offset the emissions of their flights.

BA’s emissions calculator states a one way flight from London Heathrow to New York emits 348kg CO2E (carbon dioxide equivalent) and charges £3.97 for offsetting.

Atmosfair, a German non-profit organisation which supports the decarbonisation of flying, calculates the same journey on a Boeing 777-200 – an aircraft type used by BA – emits 896kg and charges 21 euros (£18.37) for offsetting. Atmosfair’s emissions total comprises 308kg of CO2 emissions and 587 kg equivalent for “climate impact of contrails, ozone formation etc”.

While the DfT has so far failed to act on non-CO2 effects, they are mentioned in official advice to companies from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy on how to report their emissions.

It says: “Organisations should include the indirect effects of non-CO2 emissions when reporting air travel emissions to capture the full climate impact of their travel.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “Our Jet Zero Strategy confirmed our aim of addressing the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, by developing our understanding of their impact and possible solutions, and the UK is one of the leading countries working to address this issue.”

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns BA, Vueling and Aer Lingus, told DfT’s Jet Zero consultation it could address non-CO2 emissions by supporting “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF).

SAF is a jet fuel made from sources which the industry claims are sustainable, including cooking oil and animal fat. It performs in a similar way to kerosene but can produce up to 80% less CO2 depending on how it is made. It potentially also reduces contrails.

IAG told the Jet Zero consultation SAF was “the only viable solution for decarbonising medium and long haul flights”, which account for about 70% of global aviation emissions.

But further documents obtained by openDemocracy reveal IAG then lobbied the DfT to water down its SAF mandate.

In response to a separate consultation, IAG argued the SAF mandate should only cover flights within the UK or to the EU, and not the long haul flights on which British Airways makes most of its profits.

IAG also lobbied against a proposal to ban airlines from dodging the mandate by filling their tanks with cheap kerosene at overseas airports – a practice known as “tankering”.

A BBC Panorama investigation in 2019 revealed tankering by BA and other airlines was creating small financial savings but unnecessary carbon emissions.

IAG also argued against a proposal aimed at building demand for “power-to-liquid” jet fuel, which is produced by combining hydrogen made by renewable energy with carbon captured from the atmosphere.

Unlike other so-called sustainable jet fuels, power-to-liquid fuel does not involve a feedstock needed by other industries to decarbonise, such as used cooking oil or animal fat.

IAG called it “a very expensive pathway to directly decarbonise aviation”.

Sustainable Aviation, an industry group that includes airlines, said: “We are committed to addressing [non-CO2] impacts based on the scientific evidence, but further research is key to developing effective mitigation solutions, for example the use of sustainable aviation fuels (which contain lower contrail forming particulates), alongside steps such as optimising flight routes to avoid contrail formation.”

BA, IAG’s principal airline, said: “We are actively engaging with academics, experts within the industry and the government’s Jet Zero Council to take proactive steps to look into non-CO2 impact.”

Wizz Air said it was mitigating non-CO2 effects “through route optimisation and jet fuel improvements” and by using Airbus A321neo aircraft which reduced NOx emissions by 50%.

Ryanair did not respond to a request for comment.

Original article by Ben Webster and Lucas Amin republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingAirlines downplayed science on climate impact to block new regulations

Why Palantir’s latest NHS land-grab is such bad news for patients

Original article by Cori Crider republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

OPINION: Once Palantir is inside our health service, it will be hard to get rid of. The NHS should think carefully

NHS sign

This week I debated the future of the NHS with a cardboard cutout. This was, I confess, a bit of a let-down: Louis Mosley, the UK head of Palantir, looked very fine in 2D, watermelon cocktail in hand, but we’d hoped for the man himself. He’d agreed to debate Foxglove about the NHS’s massive new plans for our health data, only to pull out at the last minute, citing ‘commitments in eastern Europe’. I suspect the real reason is that the government leant on him – and the conference organisers – to scuttle the debate. So much for public engagement.

Funny cutouts aside, this is a serious matter. The NHS, as we can see from the strikes this week, is in a historic crisis. As well as 120,000 care vacancies, the NHS has over 3,000 vacant tech roles – which stops the service from evolving to meet future needs. But instead of gripping this crisis with a credible workforce plan, the government proposes to spend nearly half a billion pounds on a database.

This is what I was hoping to debate with Louis. The government wants to give his spy-tech firm, Palantir, the contract to manage a vast new ‘Federated Data Platform’. If it goes ahead as envisaged, the FDP will be the largest single point of access to patient data this country has ever seen. It’s a pity it was left to me and Dr Marcus Baw, a GP and health IT specialist, to debate this system – because there’s so much the government won’t say about it. Like exactly what shape it will take or what purposes it will eventually serve; what it will eventually cost; who will have access; or how patient choice and consent will be honoured.

The proposed system is vast. The aim is for it to sweep in hospital, GP, even social care records – and make all this patient data available to government planners and others.

Now, parts of this are all to the good. The NHS badly needs to make better and more efficient use of patient data for the good of the NHS and of patients; there are inefficiencies in the system that urgently need fixing. But we, and many experts within the NHS we speak to, have serious concerns about the design of this contract: about whether the procurement has been fair; whether the system will work as designed; and whether Palantir, which is mainly known for supporting CIA drone attacks, predictive policing and deportation raids, is a remotely appropriate partner for the NHS.

That’s why Foxglove (with openDemocracy) brought multiple legal cases seeking to shed light on this shadowy spy-tech firm’s beachhead in the NHS since their very first £1 no-bid pandemic contract. It’s also why 50 other groups have signed the ‘No Palantir’ pledge, saying a company whose values are so manifestly opposed to those of the NHS has no place handling so much sensitive patient data.

Having one supplier to join up data and analyse it risks creating a dangerous private monopoly over vital NHS infrastructure

But there are deeper issues with the FDP. It runs the risk of stealing oxygen – and funding – from other critical work already underway to help the NHS join up its patient data for good. For example, openSafely, a flagship national data platform for health research, was developed by Ben Goldacre and a team at Oxford and was used for vital Covid research. It’s completely open source, safe and lights a way forward for trustworthy health research. It also costs a fraction of what Palantir does.

What’s more, pushing so much access and control to the centre may not make sense. For some issues – vaccination, workforce planning – there is a clear case for a national solution. But ultimately, most care is delivered locally and planned regionally. There are already places, such as London, that have pioneered solutions to pool patient data to plan care better – at a fraction of the FDP’s cost. It is far from clear how this will interact with the FDP, or whether it can survive the new system.

Other competitors – like a UK consortium of universities and open-source firms that are apparently bidding for the deal – would have loved a fair crack at the FDP contract. But let’s be honest: they probably haven’t got a snowball’s chance at beating Palantir’s incumbent advantage, won through a mixture of insider influence and watermelon cocktail lobbying.

Once Palantir’s in, it will be hard to get it out. The technical architecture is proprietary – and other government agencies have struggled to get off Palantir when they’ve tried. Having a single supplier to help you join up data and analyse it also risks creating a dangerous private monopoly over vital NHS infrastructure.

Indeed, if you take Palantir chief executive Alex Karp at his word, that’s the plan. “We are working towards a future where all large institutions in the United States and its allies abroad are running significant segments of their operations, if not their operations as a whole, on Palantir,” he wrote. “Most other companies are targeting small segments of the market. We see and intend to capture the whole.” That reads like an express statement of an intention to seek monopoly power.

It’s also clear they’re in it to profit. Their chief technology officer, Shyam Shankar, recently wrote: “The problem with defen[c]e contracting is not the popular narrative that contractors make too much money. It is actually that they make too little money… Innovators will need outsized profits to motivate progress.” Monopoly and profiteering may be good for Palantir’s share price, but they sit uncomfortably with the ethos of a public health service.

Joining up the NHS’s disparate health data systems better will present stiff challenges, and the NHS will face trade-offs – buying in consultants may be easier in the short term, for example, but may prove more expensive in the long run. But at the moment the government is stonewalling legal letters asking even basic questions about the FDP. And they are also creating facts on the ground that could be seen to favour Palantir. The legal basis for all of this, now that the pandemic’s suspension of protections for patient data has lapsed, is unclear.

People care deeply about how their health data is used. We go to the doctor to share our worries, our fears, and our pain – and if we don’t trust that conversation to be private, we may not go at all. People want to feel safe to contribute their health data for the good of the NHS – but when the government runs out ahead of patient trust, overhauling patient data systems without explaining what it wants to do, who will see the data, and what safeguards there are, people baulk. In 2021 more than a million people in a month opted out of sharing their health data because they didn’t trust the government’s last plans to pool their GP records. The history of the NHS is a boneyard of such schemes: massive, expensive white elephants that all failed because the government didn’t take the time to get the governance or consent right.

It is past time for the government to learn from these mistakes. We can build a better future for our patient data – if we take the time to design carefully, honouring patient choice and thinking about what system will serve the NHS for the long haul. Anything less is likely to fail and set the cause of progress back another five years.

Original article by Cori Crider republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingWhy Palantir’s latest NHS land-grab is such bad news for patients

Civicus rates UK civil liberties and democracy alongside Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary and Burkina Faso in annual survey, amid government’s war on civil rights – but there will be no improvement under a Starmer government

Original article republished from the Skwawkbox for non-Commercial use.

The map of Civicus-rated countries

The UK’s democracy and civil life have been downgraded to ‘obstructed’ in the Civicus annual survey of almost two hundred countries, because of the Tories’ assault on rights of protest and strike. ‘Obstructed’ is just one level above the ‘repressed’ status of countries such as Kazakhstan, Guatemala or Jordan and puts the UK on a par with countries like Burkina Faso, Hungary and Kyrgyzstan.

In fact, the UK’s rating should arguably be worse, as the Civicus index does not appear to take into account the importance of functional political media to hold governments to account and the UK’s media structure is fundamentally broken, with most media acting as Establishment mouthpieces, apologists and cheerleaders on many issues, keeping the public in the dark and suppressing unrest.

Tragically for the people of this country, the situation is likely to get worse rather than better. ‘Opposition’ leader Keir Starmer, a ‘long-time servant of the security state’ has amply demonstrated that is fully on board with the government’s attacks on democratic and civil rights and on proper journalism.

Since the assault on Corbyn’s Labour succeeded, the UK continues to slide into fascism.

Original article republished from the Skwawkbox for non-Commercial use.

Continue ReadingCivicus rates UK civil liberties and democracy alongside Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary and Burkina Faso in annual survey, amid government’s war on civil rights – but there will be no improvement under a Starmer government

Caroline Lucas explains how we are governed by millionaires in the interest of millionaires

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion

On the latest episode of Radio 4‘s Any Questions Green Party MP Caroline Lucas made this exact point. Responding to an audience member who asked, “How have we got a situation where strikes are effecting the majority of public sector services?”, Lucas explained that the government is “made up of millionaires and is running the country for the millionaires”.

She told the audience in Sussex: “Well, we’ve had 13 years of austerity, and a government that frankly is made up of millionaires and is running the country for the millionaires, and doesn’t much care about the rest of us.”

“I think there’s a real concern that they were just hoping they could sit out these strikes weren’t they. They were hoping that there wouldn’t be enough public support for public sector workers and that they would just be able to tough it out.”

“And when you see as well, the government’s priorities – that they will find the money for the richest, but they won’t find the money for some of the poorest.”

Continue ReadingCaroline Lucas explains how we are governed by millionaires in the interest of millionaires

NHS hospitals told to share patient data with US ‘spy-tech’ firm

Original exclusive article by Lucas Amin and openDemocracy republished under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Palantir, whose owner claimed the NHS ‘makes people sick’, will ‘collect and process confidential patient information’

Hundreds of NHS hospitals have been ordered to share people’s confidential medical records with an American spy-tech company owned by a billionaire Trump donor, openDemocracy can reveal.

Palantir Technologies – the secretive Silicon Valley firm first funded by the CIA – will collect patient information from all hospitals in England, according to internal NHS documents.

In a letter sent last month, the health service finance chief Julian Kelly gave NHS trusts until the end of March to begin uploading patient information to a new central database that uses Palantir’s Foundry software.

The instruction came despite a government pledge, made after openDemocracy sued the Department of Health and Social Care in 2021, to consult the public before agreeing to work with Palantir again.

The new database, called ‘Faster Data Flows’, collects daily information about hospital patients – including their dates of birth, postcodes and detailed medical histories – that was previously held by individual trusts and shared less frequently.

NHS England told openDemocracy it would alter or remove identifiable personal information before it was passed to Palantir – a process referred to by the health service as “pseudonymisation”. Palantir also insisted that it does not have access to any “identifiable medical records”.

But an NHS document obtained by openDemocracy admits that the company will “collect and process confidential patient information”. It is not clear what, precisely, this processing entails.

Lawyers for three patient advocacy groups said that NHS England had not addressed vital legal and privacy concerns. “Slapping a sticker over your NHS number doesn’t suddenly mean your health record needs no protection,” said Cori Crider, a lawyer at Foxglove Legal. “People are very easy to re-identify from pseudonymised data.”

The news also raises fresh concerns that Palantir is being lined up to win a contentious £480m contract to process unprecedented amounts of NHS data without patient consent.

Palantir was originally funded by the CIA and has been heavily criticised for producing surveillance tech for police forces that allegedly creates “racist feedback loops” and has helped the US government to track and deport undocumented migrants.

The company’s founder, Peter Thiel, donated $1.25m to Donald Trump’s election campaign. Earlier this year he said the NHS “makes people sick” and claimed British affection for the health service was akin to “Stockholm syndrome”.

Tory MP David Davis told openDemocracy he was concerned “by the NHS appearing to be favouring an organisation with the provenance of Palantir”.

“NHS England should not be attempting to do this without explicit approval from Parliament,” he said, calling on the health secretary Steve Barclay to “explain himself” to MPs “before further action is taken”.

‘Faster data’

The pilot to trial Faster Data Flows to “support decision making” by doctors was launched in June 2022, with 21 “early adopters” joining.

The information it captured – including “admission, inpatient, discharge and outpatient activity” as well as personal details – was uploaded daily to a central portal built by Palantir. Palantir itself was described in pilot documents as a “sub-processor” of the data, which is a legal term given to a third party that has permission to process information gathered by others.

NHS execs knew their work with Palantir carried a “reputational risk”. The pilot documents state: “The use of Palantir to collect and process data… is likely to be perceived by some privacy campaigners as contentious and therefore there is a relatively high risk of media coverage and adverse comment about this”.

In November, lawyers working for Foxglove wrote to NHS England on behalf of the National Pensioners’ Convention, Just Treatment and the Doctors Association UK, to raise concerns about the sharing of pseudonymised data.

The lawyers questioned whether consent requirements – which are needed to process pseudonymised data – had been violated, and what safeguards, if any, had been put in place to protect patient privacy.

NHS England has still not sent a substantive reply after more than three months but has now instructed all trusts to implement Faster Data Flows.


Palantir is considered a “strong frontrunner” for a controversial new IT contract worth £480m to build a database that is expected to include all health information currently held by the NHS, including GP and social care records.

There are concerns that the rollout of Palantir’s Foundry to hospitals now – during the tendering process – may provide the tech firm with an incumbent advantage.

“Every trust in England will be forced to integrate Foundry into their workflows,” said GP IT consultant and clinical informatics expert Marcus Baw. “This means there has already been significant taxpayer investment in using Foundry.

“Trusts are busy, with limited IT team capacity, so they cannot afford to redo work. To me this means that the system will already have significant momentum towards Palantir and Foundry.”

A Department for Health and Social Care minister stated last month that whoever wins the contract will need to migrate data from Foundry into the new FDP system.

Labour MP Clive Lewis told openDemocracy that “the bid looks rigged… politicians of all parties should be screaming to the rafters about this”.

Revolving door

Palantir was first given an NHS contract in 2020 – without tender – to help manage the Covid-19 vaccine rollout while Matt Hancock was health secretary. Hancock used special ministerial powers to bypass patient confidentiality rules and allow the company to process patient data.

It won a further contract that was neither published nor tendered for – leading openDemocracy to sue the DHSC. After this legal action, the government released its contracts with Palantir and promised to consult the public before making further deals.

But our leaked documents reveal that NHS bosses have now ordered a rollout of Palantir software to hospitals across England, in a seeming breach of that promise.

The firm has also exploited a weakly regulated ‘revolving door’ in the NHS – poaching at least three former NHS data experts – as it chases the “must-win” contract. One of its recent hires, Indra Joshi, served as head of artificial intelligence for the NHS and helped launch the Covid-19 datastore – the first NHS project to use Foundry – before quitting the health service and joining Palantir in April 2022.

Harjeet Dhaliwal, who was previously deputy director of data services at NHS England, joined the firm later that same year.

The two ex-NHS staffers joined Paul Howells at Palantir, the company’s “health and care director”, who previously led a national data programme for NHS Wales.

Palantir did not respond to questions about whether the trio now work on NHS-related projects.

Palantir has lobbied the government extensively, famously entertaining the NHS executive Lord Prior with watermelon cocktails. The company also considered a contentious strategy described as ‘Buying Our Way In’. Emails sent by Louis Mosley, Palantir’s UK chief, said the company would try “hoovering up” smaller businesses with NHS contracts to “take a lot of ground and take down a lot of political resistance”, according to Bloomberg News.

NHS England did not respond to openDemocracy’s questions about whether the processing of patient data on Palantir’s Foundry platform was lawful.

A spokesperson said: “By collecting data in a more streamlined way, the NHS is better able to plan and allocate resources to maximise outcomes for patients, while ensuring that their personal data remains protected and within the NHS at all times.

“Ultimately, it will help all NHS organisations to better understand their waiting lists and pressures in near real time, work as systems, and significantly reduce the burden of manual reporting on staff.”

A Palantir Spokesperson said: “Any claim that Palantir has access to identifiable medical records through the Faster Data Flow programme is false – not a single Palantir employee does.

“We have simply built software that is being used to make a programme that already existed work faster – much like our software has been used during Covid to deliver the vaccine rollout and, subsequently, to cut waiting lists and speed up cancer diagnosis.”

Original exclusive article by Lucas Amin and openDemocracy republished under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

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Continue ReadingNHS hospitals told to share patient data with US ‘spy-tech’ firm

Breaking: new Labour Files episode sees Forde respond to Labour racism

Republished from the Skwawkbox for non-Commercial use.

The Al Jazeera ‘Labour Files’ documentary series exposed afresh the rampant racism and war on democracy of the Labour right, both to sabotage the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and to purge the left from the party under Keir Starmer.

Now a new episode sees Martin Forde – the barrister Starmer reluctantly commissioned to investigate the report’s allegations and whose findings have been ignored by the Labour right and their media allies ever since – respond to the programme’s evidence and conclusions:

Watch and share widely.

The Labour Files – The Forde Response I Al Jazeera Investigations

Republished from the Skwawkbox for non-Commercial use.

Continue ReadingBreaking: new Labour Files episode sees Forde respond to Labour racism

UK government lets airlines off the hook for £300m air pollution bill

Original article by Lucas Amin and Ben Webster at openDemocracy republished under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

The government wrote off emissions equivalent to 400,000 passengers flying from London to Sydney and back in one year

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels:

The government gave more than £300m worth of free ‘pollution permits’ to airline companies including British Airways, RyanAir and EasyJet under a scheme designed to tackle climate change.

The UK’s Emissions Trading Scheme is meant to reduce carbon emissions by forcing big polluters to buy a permit for each tonne of carbon they emit, with the money going into the public purse.

But data obtained by openDemocracy reveals the UK’s aviation sector was handed more than four million “pollution permits” last year, free of charge.

The 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 they represent are equivalent to the emissions of more than 400,000 passengers flying economy-class from London to Sydney and back. The free permits saved airlines the equivalent of £336m based on the annual average carbon price – 39% more than the previous year, 2021.

EasyJet, RyanAir and British Airways were the big winners of the handouts, bagging permits worth £84m, £73m and £58m respectively. The companies all made heavy losses during the pandemic but have since become profitable again: British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG) announced profits of £1.3bn last month, while RyanAir just enjoyed its “most profitable December quarter on record” and easyJet is reporting “record-breaking sales”.

openDemocracy has previously revealed how oil and gas companies including Shell and BP were similarly handed more than £1bn worth of free pollution permits during 2022.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, told openDemocracy the government was “letting aviation companies get away with it” and “forcing the public to pick up the tab”.

“Ministers must bring an end to these free pollution permits immediately, and make high-carbon companies pay for the climate-wrecking damage they’re causing,” she added.

The Department for Net Zero and Energy Security is now analysing the results of a consultation on phasing out free permits for the aviation sector – but policy changes will not take effect until at least 2026.

The government has already allocated 12.2 million free permits for the next three years, which at last year’s carbon price will be worth a further £965m.

A government spokesperson told openDemocracy the UK was giving away free permits because it was “committed to tackling climate change” but also to “protecting our industry from carbon leakage”.

But the risk of carbon leakage – when companies relocate to countries that do not have carbon pricing – is “minimal”, according to research commissioned by the government itself.

The study by Frontier Economics on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also found that ending permit giveaways would lead to a decrease in airline profits and improve market competition.

Daniele de Rao, an aviation expert at Carbon Market Watch, told openDemocracy: “Despite several studies showing that the risk of carbon leakage in the aviation sector is insignificant, airlines are still receiving an enormous amount of free allocation.

“The United Kingdom should apply the ‘polluters pay’ principle in its own ETS and, following the European Union’s example, should end the handout of free pollution permits to airlines as soon as possible.”

Matt Finch, UK policy manager of campaign group Transport & Environment, added: “The nation is up in arms about sewage pollution, but at the same time our government is paying airlines millions of pounds a year to pollute. Are these the actions of a climate leader? No. Free allowances should be phased out of the ETS as quickly as possible.”

The remaining £120m in free permits was carved up among the rest of the UK airline industry – with even the owners of private jets getting handouts.

Ineos Aviation, the company owned by oil and gas billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, was given free permits worth around £2,000.

The government has claimed that “our UK ETS is more ambitious than the EU system it replaces”.

But the EU has voted to phase out free permit allocations from 2026. It also redistributes the revenues raised by permit sales to environmental projects – whereas in the UK the proceeds are retained by the Treasury.

A government spokesperson told openDemocracy: “The UK is committed to tackling climate change while protecting our industry from carbon leakage. That is why a proportion of allowances are allocated for free to businesses under the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.”

They claimed handing free permits to airline giants would “support industry in the transition to net zero in the context of high global energy prices while incentivising long term decarbonisation”.

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Original article by Lucas Amin and Ben Webster at openDemocracy republished under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingUK government lets airlines off the hook for £300m air pollution bill

The case for a British state-owned electricity generation company

A state-owned electricity generation company could save Britons £21bn ($24.8bn) a year (or £252 per household) while accelerating the transition to green energy, according to new analysis published by the think tank Common Wealth on 6 March. 

In the report, Common Wealth analyses a range of proposals recently set out by other stakeholders including government agencies, industry commentators and think tanks to reform the wholesale electricity market, whose fragmented design and over-exposure to natural gas has led to Britain experiencing disproportionately high energy bills since Russia invaded Ukraine, while renewable generators have reaped windfall profits

Analysing the pros and cons of a publicly owned generator compared with five other proposals recently tabled by various stakeholders – a wholesale price cap for low-carbon generators; a windfall tax on low-carbon generators; a voluntary shift to contracts for difference; splitting the electricity market; and establishing a single buyer of electricity – Common Wealth finds that the option of a state-owned electricity company comes out on top, both in terms of cost-savings potential and also which is most likely to incentivise greater investment in renewables. 

The generator would purchase the portfolio of existing UK low-carbon generation assets, including biomass and nuclear but not natural gas, in order to generate and sell electricity to households and businesses through an integrated public company using a power purchase agreement between the public generator and supplier, and would therefore, unlike many of the other options, “provide a long-term solution” to the wholesale pricing system while passing the savings directly back to households and businesses.

Continue ReadingThe case for a British state-owned electricity generation company

Corbyn: We need to stand up for the future of our NHS

Image of Jeremy Corbyn and Hugo Chavez
Image of Jeremy Corbyn and Hugo Chavez

Labour’s former leader spoke to the Morning Star’s CEREN SAGIR this weekend on the party’s current trajectory on the NHS, during a huge demonstration against further privatisation of the health service

WHEN Peace and Justice Project founder and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn warned the public by revealing evidence of the Tory government’s secret dealings with US companies selling off the NHS, the media labelled it “a Russian conspiracy.”

But it seems that Labour’s current leadership is determined to follow in the Tories’ footsteps, with Keir Starmer declaring that nothing is “off limits” when it comes to the NHS.

When asked if the NHS would be safe in the hands of the opposition if it were to win the next general election, Corbyn said: “I’d like to think so, but I’m very worried — because our NHS is a very precious institution: healthcare, universal and free at the point of need.

“If we go into an election pledged to continue the private operation within the NHS and farming services out to the private sector, then that is a form of privatisation.

Continue ReadingCorbyn: We need to stand up for the future of our NHS