Our members can change the world

There can be little doubt that tackling environmental issues is the greatest challenge facing us in the 21st Century.

There can be little doubt that tackling environmental issues is the greatest challenge facing us in the 21st Century.

Sir Nicholas Stern's review of the economic effects of climate change shows us that unless we take action now, we will all be worse off, with the poorest of us suffering the most.

Everywhere we turn we hear about the new three Rs - Recycle, Re-use and Reduce. But what about the world of work?

Over two thirds of United Kingdom carbon dioxide emissions are work-related.

The public sector alone accounts for approximately five million tons of carbon dioxide emission every year.

That's why Unison, with 1.4 million members across the public services, transport and utilities, believes we should take the lead and have a major role in greening the workplace.

Changing the way we work won't happen overnight, but there is overwhelming support for the introduction of green measures.

The scale of the problem seems immense and individuals might think that there is little they can do to make a difference but, just like the steps we take in our own homes, there are small, simple things we can do at work that will help.

Switch off all computer equipment, appliances, motors and machinery when they are not being used - for example, at lunchtime.

If you can, think about using the stairs rather than the lift.

It is often quicker and has the added advantage of helping you to keep fit.

If your workplace is hot enough to wear summer clothes in winter, turn the heating down. If it is too cold, then make sure radiators and heaters aren't obstructed or talk to your employer about better insulation.

Check if lighting is on unnecessarily in the middle of the day, particularly near windows: 80% of the UK's lighting energy is used at work, much of it wasted.

Make sure that it is someone's responsibility to turn everything off once everyone has left, including drinks machines, fans, lights and suchlike.

Talk to your workmates and your employer about setting up a green travel plan. Some employers now offer incentives for lower energy ways of travelling, eg cycling, public transport, car-sharing and walking.

If you have to drive think about more efficient driving techniques and lower emission vehicles.

Recycling is great - and vital - but reducing waste and re-using is even better.

Print on both sides of paper, re-use envelopes or, better still, use email or voice mail instead.

Water is a precious resource, even in the UK, and pumping and heating it also uses energy. Look at how water is used in your workplace and whether it can be reduced.

None of this is rocket science, but we need to start acting straight away.

Our workplaces all burn energy, consume resources and produce waste. If we act together we can be part of the solution, but we need to raise our game, and we need to raise it now.

GILL HALE, Unison North Regional Secretary, 140-150 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6TH

This attack on Gordon Brown is really unfair

YOUR criticism in the editorial column of Gordon Brown over the Government's Planning White Paper ("It's the same old story", The Journal, May 24) is doubly misplaced.

In the first place, he's not yet prime minister, and second, on major issues such as national energy policy, transport, airport or port developments there is obviously a public interest aspect. And we have to find a way of dealing with the planning issues better than the present system, under which it has taken eight years to reach a conclusion about a new terminal at Heathrow Airport.

You would have been on stronger ground if you had complained about proposals in the White Paper to make it easier to develop large out-of-town supermarkets. But a White Paper provides the opportunity to debate the issues and persuade Government and Parliament that particular proposals need to be changed.

COUN SIR JEREMY BEECHAM, Labour, Scotswood and Benwell Ward, Newcastle City Council, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne

Let's keep a sense of proportion here

AFTER the boring FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United at the new Wembley stadium, the Academy final between Sunderland and Leicester at the Stadium of Light was a breath of fresh air.

Why is it that the media, and especially the television companies, give such poor coverage to the stars of the future?

I remember seeing Lee Clark on BBC TV, making his debut in a tremendous England Schoolboys international against Scotland in which he scored in a brilliant 4-2 victory (year about 1980, I believe).

Perhaps the money-men are worried that the youngsters will put the stars in the shade with their enthusiasm for the game.

D MITCHELL, Gateshead

PS. I notice The Journal did give adequate coverage to the young stars; not exactly pages of it, but enough.

This advert left us all stunned

IF ever there was an advert to turn tourists off visiting the popular town of Amble, Robin Thompson's letter is surely it ("Testing ground for stun guns?", Voice of the North, May 21). He writes as though this resort is a cross between Basra, Beirut or the 1969 riots in Northern Ireland when, in reality, it is no different to most towns and villages across Britain.

Of course, "crime" is something that just appeared when Labour won the election in 1997. When the Conservatives were last in office it didn't exist in any shape or form, did it Mr Thompson?.

G WILLIAMS, Wallsend, North Tyneside

ID card fiasco is an Orwellian nightmare

WE in the Liberal Party wonder how much longer this Government proposes to persist with its illiberal, oppressive and ill-thought-out identity cards scheme.

Before the scheme has even got off the ground, the Home Office admits that the cost of this huge oppressive white elephant has ballooned to £5.4bn (against initial estimates of £1.3bn to £3.1bn). Some estimate that the final cost will be nearer £20bn of our money.

The Government expects us to foot the inflated cost of this Orwellian nightmare.

On Monday, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights expressed grave concerns that ID cards may lead to "de-facto racial profiling". We in the Liberal Party share such concerns.

Now a senior police officer has shown considerable courage and leadership and has criticised the Government's plans to force us all to register with the state.

Colin Langham-Fitt, Chief Constable of Suffolk, has said that rather than improve security the national ID database poses a massive security threat by creating an identity "gold standard" which once subverted would allow criminals and terrorists to use false identities undisturbed. He described as "fatuous" the argument that identity cards would fight terrorism.

The Liberal Party supports and echoes Mr Langham-Fitt's call for a wider debate into the erosion of our civil liberties.

The "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" argument is founded on a false premise. It assumes that it is right for the citizen to answer to the state.

The vast majority of people would have nothing to hide if the police turned up at their house and carried out a search, but this is not an argument for giving the police such powers. It is the state which such should answer to its citizens - always - and down any other path, tyranny lies.

We must all ask what sort of country it is in which we wish to live. One where the police are the servants of the people and in return citizens cheerfully offer every assistance to the police to help them carry out their duties; or one in which the police are continually challenging the public, become alienated from the community - or certain sections of it - and coercion rather than voluntary assistance is the reality.

We in the Liberal Party would prefer the former. ID cards are the road to the latter.

DANIEL WOOD, Chair of the Policy Committee, The Liberal Party, Warrington, Cheshire WA5 7XS

Scots voted against independence

ONE thing is clear from the Scottish Parliamentary election: although the SNP may be the largest party, the majority of voters in Scotland voted for Unionist parties.

With this overwhelming vote of confidence in the Union, it is now time for Scots to start paying our way instead of continuing to indulge ourselves in the traditional Scottish dependency culture.

If it is true that independence would cost every Scot £5,000 a year (as was suggested during the election campaign), then we should no longer be accepting this subsidy from the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom, many of which exhibit far greater poverty and worse social conditions than we have in Scotland.

Instead, the money should be evenly spread on a per capita basis, with perhaps a little more going to the capital, London, where the forthcoming Olympics are sure to benefit every part of the UK by fostering an atmosphere of national pride and unity.

JOHN EOIN DOUGLAS, Edinburgh

N-plant cover-up is a warning to us all

TR Manley's example of the Torness nuclear plant providing energy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, doesn't hold water ("Nuclear energy dirty legacy claim nonsense", Voice of the North, May 19).

To quote the BBC's December 2006 File on 4 programme: "Only a few months ago, British Energy's chief executive complained publicly about poor performance at the Torness nuclear plant in Scotland. He pointed to staff mishandling the gas cooling system there.

"But File on 4 has learned that mistakes with that system go back at least four years. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information ... revealed a chaotic response when the gas cooling system at Torness went wrong one Friday night in May 2002."

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate concluded that shift maintenance engineers had been removed from shift staff teams for cost-cutting reasons.

The very people needed to issue correct advice in a serious situation were not available on site.

Over a period of seven hours, in which staff reaction to vibrations and alarms resulted in British Energy receiving "excoriating criticism" in the Nuclear Inspectors investigation report, the reactor suffered damage that resulted in its shutdown for six months.

According to File on 4, that "contributed to British Energy's near collapse later that year", which forced the Government - that is we the taxpayer - to take a controlling 65% interest of the company and assume liabilities of £5bn.

The initial reports of this incident failed to reflect its true gravity until the FOI request was made and the true picture emerged.

It is a glimpse into an unmanageable technology where the temptation to cover up serious incidents is rarely overcome, due to public concern over a possible catastrophic event for which no meaningful recovery would be possible.

DEREK ROBERTSON, Gateshead

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer